Inside The Ropes magazine (in issues 24 and 25) recently printed a two part feature on the 100 Greatest Matches of the Decade 2011 to 2021 . The WWE matches included are nothing new to me…but their NJPW matches? Some of them I hadn’t watched during my new odyssey of NJPW World. So, I started from the beginning of the list! The list is in date order, not quality order, by. the way.
The first NJPW on the list was Hiroshi Tanahashi and Minoru Suzuki. And jt was one the best technical showcases of wrestling I’ve seen in years (click here for my review). Perfect in-ring psychology and selling. The next match on the list, coming in at no.12, was between Katsuyori Shibata and Tomohiro Ishii at G1 Climax 23 (2013). It couldn’t have been any more different to the Tanahashi/Suzuki wrestling match. This was simply two men beating the stuffing out of each other, with little in the way of wrestling or storytelling.
And sometimes… that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it? Don’t expect sophisticated chain wrestling or fancy flips. Just expect two men brutally assaulting each other with strikes that leaves massive welts. Early on in the match, they even beg each other to strike as hard as they can. Ishii looks like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark allet, and his strikes are notoriously fierce. Shibata looks like a regular guy, but his strikes are just as ferocious. This is the first bout I’ve seen him in, and he bloody terrified me!
In the modern era, there’s always a routine, towards the end of the bout, where the wrestlers breathlessly exchange strikes (usually forearms). This is that writ large, in under fifteen minutes. Its brevity is its strength, as any more of the action would leave the viewer exhausted. Just the right amount of time for two men to pummel each other.
Hard to watch at times, this bout is essential viewing for anyone starting to get into NJPW. This, and the Tanahashi/Suzuki bout before it, prime the new NJPW viewer for the type of wrestling you can expect from the company. I wouldn’t quite say this is a 5* bout, but it is very close.
Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)
(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)