Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

NJPW THE SKY DIVING-J Junior 8 Big Title Match
Commercial Tape 6/17/96 Tokyo Nippon Budokan

International Junior Heavyweight Tag Title Match: Yuji Yasuraoka & Lance Storm (WAR team) vs. Norio Honaga & El Samurai 13:28. NJPW worked a program with WAR around Storm & Yasuraoka’s junior tag titles in 1996-1997, but they always seemed a bit overwhelmed in New Japan rings. This was one of the earliest matches, and it was quite obvious these guys weren't familiar with each other. It was good in spots, but sloppy in others, though my problem is mostly how undeveloped the bout was. Storm is on one hand a great athlete, but as the typical overmuscled American he’s a bit too rigid and mechanical to utilize his natural ability to pull off the high level sequences. Thus, while he undoubtedly would have seemed really good even in the late 1980’s when you could still get away with only having a high altitude dropkick and body attack, in the mid 1990’s he winds up coming off as a guy who is a decade behind the times. Yasuraoka might have less ability, but he moves far more fluidly and controls his body so much better he is capable of a wide variety of sequences and bumps. The downfall of this match is Yasaraoka was actually the star. I don’t know what happened to Samurai, but while he’s often had trouble stepping up and carrying a match when he was the only one capable, he’s rarely given such a nondescript performance. Honaga was simply a bad fit, as you knew he’d take the contest in the most basic direction, and even if you replaced him with a showoff you figured they’d have a hard time matching the speed and complexity of the rest of the show. **3/4

NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Masayoshi Motegi (Wrestle Yume Factory) vs. Shiryu (Michinoku Pro) 11:51. The once illustrious NWA – the league of Thesz, Race, Funk, Flair, & Steamboat – is now represented by Armory all-star Motegi whose contribution was, well, nothing. He came close to a good minute when he finally took over to finish Shiryu off, but couldn’t get his footing on the second rope, and thus badly botched his gutwrench suplex finisher. Shiryu carried the match, doing all his hot moves, and it would have been good if Motegi wasn’t two steps slow. Shiryu is a really exciting athlete who knows how to flaunt that strength, but he quickly realized he had to tone his act down because Motegi was screwing everything up. It wasn’t a boring match to watch, but thanks to Motegi it didn’t look very professional. *3/4

WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Title Match: Gran Hamada (Michinoku Pro) vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa 12:05. Takaiwa was in the midst of his first push, a near playoff finish in his first Best of the Super Juniors league earlier in the month propelling him to his first junior title shot. Hamada was a good opponent for the upstart because he keeps it simple, carrying the young punk to his breakout match, although Takaiwa wasn’t really a great opponent for Hamada because his lack of offense forces Hamada to provide almost all the flying and hot moves. While an excellent tag wrestler, Hamada is merely a professional singles wrestler. When he’s not doing a lucha sequence, he keeps his opponent close so there’s not a lot of room to commit errors. He crafted a very solid match, taking it to his overmatched foe, but allowing him enough power moves and counters to hang in. Takaiwa had one big run after countering a huracanrana with a Ligerbomb to allow the audience to believe in him, but they made two costly errors on crucial highspots right before Hamada finished him with the swinging DDT. ***

UWA World Light Heavyweight Championship Decision Match: Shinjiro Otani vs. Kazushi Sakuraba (UWF-I) 8:13. After so many NJPW matches designed to destroy every shred of UWF-I’s credibility, it was refreshing to see one that did it’s best to honor their “legitimacy”. Almost everything that wasn’t a submission was designed to prove the match wasn’t worked, from Sakuraba coming out with a dangerous headdrop to him refusing to run the ropes and nearly defeating Otani when he tried to pull out a missile kick. The rest of the match consisted of some of the best transitions into submissions you’ll see, the ease and fluidity making it a breathtaking ground display. Both wrestlers played their parts to perfection with Sakuraba as the fiery and aggressive real deal here to put the faker in his place, while Otani was the competent but a bit overwhelmed pro wrestler trying to beat his opponent at their own game. Otani’s acting can be a bit overdone at times, but today it added tremendously to the legitimacy and danger of the submissions. Maybe his spitting and frothing at the mouth while in Sakuraba’s rear naked choke was a bit much, but that was the sort of intense and dramatic contest they were able to pull off. Sakuraba was a good worker to be certain, but Otani gave a great performance, proving himself the master of the pro wrestler vs. shooter match in spite of his few attempts. Despite being nearly bereft of highspots in the usual junior sense – Otani did hit his swandive missile kick to lead to the finish – the super movement and intense drama made it the most exciting match thusfar by a wide margin ****

CMLL World Welterweight Title Match: Super Delfin (Michinoku Pro) vs. TAKA Michinoku (Michinoku Pro) 16:09. In a sense, every big match should be similar to this one. It may not have been the most solid, diverse, or best thought out match, but they held nothing in reserve. All anyone can ask for is the effort, and there’s no denying these two tried for their best match, emptying the arsenal for near falls. It certainly didn’t hurt that in the process, they delivered the sort of spectacle the audience paid to see. There’s always something to be said for guys who “get it” and even if Liger stole the show as usual, that cliche applies to this match more than any other. TAKA was pretty close to the fastest and most athletic wrestler in the world at this point. It often wasn’t so much what he did, but that when he did it you were blown away by his athleticism. His double springboard plancha, switching from one side of the corner to the other to still catch his hopefully evading opponent, was the crown jewel of many things of beauty in this great high flying Puro-Lucha match. While TAKA & Delfin aren’t the greatest singles wrestlers, they know each other like the back of their hand, so the timing and chemistry made up for some of the missing direction and focus. Delfin was very unselfish here, as though he’s the technico, he knows he can’t match Michinoku’s spectacle and is willing to take a back seat for the good of the match. Maybe I overrate this match, but it was tremendously exciting and it’s hard to argue against it being the best that they were capable of. ****1/2

International Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Ultimo Dragon (WAR) vs. Gran Naniwa (Michinoku Pro) 13:58. Naniwa have the stature to didn’t present enough of a challenge to force Dragon to dig deep, but Dragon still gave an inspired performance, putting his best foot forward in an effort to claim the crown for cream of the junior crop. I seemed to only remember the blown spots - the match nearly fell apart at the end with Naniwa sitting on the top turnbuckle - but overall this was far better than I recalled. Naniwa might not have been on the level of garnering such a big singles match, but the slick counters and quick transitions seemed to show someone forgot to tell him that. They came out like a house on fire trading the advantage through fast lucha sequences, and if Naniwa wasn’t on Dragon’s level throughout, it was more due to Dragon being able to chain holds together on a level few others can approach. Naniwa still looks better with an opponent he’s used to, but while no one will attach the poetry in motion label they’d give Dragon, I felt he at least held up his end. ***3/4

British Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Dick Togo vs. Jushin Thunder Liger 15:56. Liger didn’t book himself into the main event, but flipped the bird to anyone stupid enough to believe he didn’t deserve it, ascending Dick Mania to the match quality heavens. Though Togo became a great singles wrestler later on, he’s rarely if ever approached this level of brilliance. What’s more surprising is this may actually be Liger’s most underrated match. He has better ones that are more obscure, but to have one that’s so clearly the standard bearer on a great junior card everyone has seen not be suitably worshipped to even the extent of his arguably lesser and certainly more overshadowed SUPER J-CUP matches against The Great Sasuke on 4/16/94 and Ultimo Dragon on 12/13/95 is more than a bit puzzling. They shot out of the block with several big spots before settling into the body of the match with Liger attacking Togo’s left arm unmercifully. Liger was as proficient with his arm attack as he is with his usual knee attack, mixing nasty spots such as running a chickenwinged Togo into the turnbuckle with surprising ones such as allowing a nearly defeated Togo to slowly crawl to the ropes and begin to pull himself up only to take a diving footstomp to the arm holding the rope then slap on the armbar. I’m not sure what’s more impressive, the sheer diversity of a match where Liger is able to leave his arm attack whenever it’s to his advantage while actually gaining momentum for it due to finding such clever and effective ways to always bring it back in or the fact that the super over king of the juniors is so malevolent he actually babyfaces king Dick! The best way to describe the offense is probably surgical, but I never want to give doctors too much credit. Liger’s offense was mostly of the precision high impact variety, but since Togo wasn’t playing heel he was able to revert back to the flying he used to display when he was Sasuke’s Sekigun buddy SATO. There were certainly enough aerial moves interspersed, highlighted by a sequence where Togo did a senton atomico to the floor then bounded off the apron for a huracanrana only to get splatted with a powerbomb. Togo probably needed to push Liger a little more than he was able/allowed to, but he sold really well, and Liger did a great job of carrying him to a match of the year candidate. ****3/4

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match: The Great Sasuke (Michinoku Pro) vs. Black Tiger 16:54. New Japan has been known to deliver some inexplicable nothing big show main events where you have to wonder if the performers were on drugs, or simply drugged to offer so little after so many high level matches. The Shinya Hashimoto vs. Masahiro Chono headliner to the amazing 4/2/95 Shukan Puroresu multipromotional show is an example, but this poorly constructed headscratcher may take the cake. Here you have two hall of fame wrestlers in arguably the biggest match of their great careers acting as if it were the 3rd match on some obscure Okinawa house show rather than delivering the needed showstopping main event to justify the rare juniors only show. I’m hardly Mr. Highspot, but even I was falling asleep during their undistilled opening that consisted of 11 straight minutes of largely pointless matwork. Tiger attacked arm and leg to little effect, trying to bring the arm back a few times in the final minutes to just as immeasurably small reaction. The beginning was so slow and uninspiring that even when they went to 6 minutes of mostly great spots, the match never seemed to fire or inspire. Sure, it’s impressive to see Sasuke’s rider kick, but this was almost as bad a match as they were capable of having. They not only worked poorly together, bringing surprising sloppiness, but what was so disturbing is they mainly just stalled. **

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* Puroresu Review Copyright 2008 Quebrada *