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

NJPW Tadakai no Wonderland ~Jushin Thunder Liger Hen~
#17 7/30/00

6/12/96 Osaka Furitsu Taiikukaikan, Best of the Super Junior III Final: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Black Tiger 18:44. The best of the Liger vs. Guerrero matches, but as much as I like these two guys individually, they just don't seem to click in singles. Tiger always has moments of brilliance, but he tends to meander, and they just have a hard time finding a rhythm and taking advantage of their individual skills. What irks me about their matches is I can never seem to shake the feeling that they are teasing me with flashes of greatness while untimately holding back. The first twelve minutes of this match show several reasons why the Liger vs. Tiger should be great, but ultimately isn't, though two stand out in particular. First, they do a good job of showing the athletic moves are hard to get off, but they don't do much of interest in the meantime and then suddenly they flip a switch and it's fireworks, so really there's two matches here, one contradicting the other. Second, they wisely use the body work to set up a key spots down the stretch for each, but they don't actually focus on said body work enough during the overextended portion they are devoting to it, thus making it too obvious they are really killing time to truly pull it off as anything late beyond a cute ode to the opening minutes. Tiger's kneework is the more developed body attack, but since he's doing a chinlock when he could be doing a 1/2 crab or even just stomping the knee, I don't feel any particular threat when he does an innovative counter where he stops Liger's swinging DDT by slamming him on his knees. And Liger's armwork is so underdeveloped that the spot where he hits a diving footstomp when Tiger is using the ropes to pull himself back to his feet is more a reminder that Liger weakened it early than a threat that his followup armbar is going to finish. In general, the last six minutes were top drawer stuff. We know what these guys are capable of individually, and for the most part this was finally it, together. It was the kind of spectacular wrestling you see from Liger vs. Kanemoto, except those two do way more before that, and keep it up for a lot longer. Just highlight reel offense back and forth between two of the best pure workers in the sport. But then it ended, and you had that same feeling old feeling, even if less so than in the past, particularly their ludicrously short 2/3/96 title match, that so much heavy artillery went undetinated for no particular reason. I often have issues with Dean Malenko for forcing the same style of slow matwork on everyone, but I greatly prefer his American matches against Guerrero because the matwork seemed to have more craft and purpose, and frankly was just far more entertaining than what these guys were doing for the first 2/3 of the match. But most importantly, those two had a lot better chemistry and far more interplay, it felt like two guys who were always on the same page working together to make a greater match rather than the Liger/Guerrero matches where you feel Liger keeps waiting on Guerrero to really go for it, and since that never really happens they simply wind up with a match where they trading the advantage but Guerrero ultimately controls 2/3. ***3/4

6/17/96 Tokyo Nippon Budokan, 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. Considering the SKY DIVING-J is one of the most famous junior shows in history, he certainly 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

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