MUGA Black Cat Memorial on 8/2/06
review by Mike Campbell
“Some say MUGA is bland. Some say MUGA is archaic. Some say it has no place in the modern world. I say GO TO HELL! MUGA is about freakish adherence to a wrestling style that has gone by the wayside.” (Dean Rasmussen - DVDVR Issue #160)
Tatsumi Fujinami . . . and not Matt Striker is ‘your teacher,’ and today’s lesson is the way of Muga.
TATSUMI FUJINAMI vs. MARK McKAY
My initial impression of this match was wondering if McKay was booked for any reason beyond his Fujinami fandom (which was the topic of his interview clip). The few things that McKay is able to show off are done with an assist from Fujinami. The only real offense that McKay has comes in the form of forearms and jumping attacks to Fujinami’s back, but Fujinami is the one who makes it really mean anything by slowing his pace in order to put over the damage. McKay also takes a few nice bumps, but the Muga style isn’t designed for much bumping. Fujinami works circles around McKay, catching him in several nice submissions and pulling out a few fun reversals. Fujinami even lets him out of the Dragon sleeper just for fun, before finishing him off with a backslide. It’s enjoyable for what it is, which is essentially Muga 101 with Professor Fujinami.
TATSUTOSHI GOTO vs. KATSUSHI TAKEMURA
Unlike the previous match, this isn’t completely one-sided, although it appears to be. From strictly an offensive standpoint, it looks like the match is all Goto. It looks that way, since he brings almost all of the offense, and the grumpiness that comes from being a grizzled veteran. Where Takemura differs from McKay, is that he’s able to work with Goto, and does some nice selling and shows a lot of spunkiness, to offset the grumpiness. Takemura’s selling is the cause of the two best moments of the match. The first comes when Goto hits a running lariat, normally a fairly low-end spot nowadays, but Takemura puts it over like he just leveled with a running lariat by Stan Hansen. The next moment comes almost directly afterwards, when Goto does one of his staple spots, the chair shot. Instead of the usual big swinging chair shot, Goto does something akin to a sledgehammer strike from HHH, and Takemura also sells it huge.
It’s a bit surprising to see them start off with a chain-wrestling sequence, considering they both made their names in New Japan by being cheating brawlers, but it’s nice to see that their chain-wrestling isn’t hard on the eyes. Takemura shows some spunkiness by trying to go toe to toe with Goto and trade chops, as well as attempting a tope (which the referee actually stops him from doing), and a moonsault (which Goto cuts him off from). He also gets hot near falls from a sunset flip, and his counter to Goto’s backdrop. Goto’s experience wins out in the end though, he sneaks in a low kick behind the ref’s back (which actually gets him a face pop), and scores a near fall of his own with a backslide. Takemura’s spunkiness is what does him in though, his attempted moonsault gets him leveled with a German suplex, which stuns him, and Goto lives up to his nickname by planting him with a backdrop for the win. It’s really the same principle as the 4/23 GHC Title match at work. Limited workers telling a story and playing to their strengths, if all limited workers from New Japan can come to this promotion and have fun matches, then all I have to say is Viva Muga!
YUTAKA YOSHIE vs. MITSUYA NAGAI
At first this looked like an extended version of a special weekly TV type of challenge, like a bodyslam challenge, arm wrestling challenge, masterlock challenge, etc. But then this degenerates down to the typical mediocre midcard match they would have had in New Japan. Nagai brings some fun offense, but still loses, and Yoshie wins, thanks to his being morbidly obese. At first Nagai has no luck at all in doing anything to Yoshie, he can’t slam him, and the kicks to his legs and midsection has no effect on Yoshie. Nagai finally finds success with busting up Yoshie’s arm. He pastes away at it with kicks and some freaky submissions. Yoshie even does a respectable job of putting it over. Nagai’s mistake is that he doesn’t stick with it, and frequently moves away from busting up the arm, only for failed attempts at slamming or suplexing Yoshie. That’s eventually what causes him to lose, because (A. Yoshie catches on to what he’s going for, and (B. When he finally is able to do a suplex or bodyslam, Yoshie isn’t worn down enough for it to have much effect anyway.
When Nagai moves away from the arm work for good, Yoshie’s previous passable selling goes out the window. Yoshie uses power moves to wear down Nagai, and throws around his weight, before finishing him off with his splash off the top, and just to put the icing on the cake, the ex RINGS fighter has to sell a standing back-fist strike like a KO. Aside from the bits where Nagai was taking Yoshie’s arm apart, there’s nothing to see here.
HIRO SAITO vs. OSAMU NISHIMURA
Not surprisingly, this is the most Muga-like match of the show. Nishimura’s participation in the match doesn’t make that surprising. What is surprising is how well Saito works with Nishimura when working this match style. The opening moments seem to only exist for Nishimura and Saito to work in their usual bits, which really have no impact on the match as a whole. Saito goes for the chair early, and gets cut off by the ref. Nishimura gets his clean break in the corner, and gets to bridge out of the knuckle lock. The crowd pops for the familiar bits, but once those are out of the way the fun really begins.
Nishimura and Saito both get their chances to control the action, and show a sense of dominance over each other. Saito’s comes with working over Nishimura’s arm with basic armbars and the wrist clutching surfboard. And no matter what he attempts to do, Nishimura is unable to escape. His early attempts to armdrag Saito are met with Saito rolling through and maintaining the hold. The wrist clutching surfboard hold is easily reversible, all one has to do is around and the pressure is reversed, it’s all about leverage. For a good four minutes, Nishimura attempts to unsuccessfully reverse the hold, and when he finally does it gets a decent sized pop. What makes the sequence work so well is both of their facials, and how well they were able to convey the big effort they were both applying to win the struggle. When Nishimura finally escapes the hold, he gets his chance to control Saito, and he keeps it simple by working a headlock. The key word is ‘working’ and Nishimura does an excellent job. It’s not just a rest hold, it’s Nishimura’s way of maintaining control, and he makes sure to really crank on it. When Saito climbs to his feet (while still in the hold) Nishimura keeps the pressure on by alternating which arm he uses, and when he takes Saito back down and over, he pulls on Saito’s head in a similar fashion to Tenzan’s Anaconda Vice.
Nishimura’s mistake is letting Saito get back to his feet and putting on a sleeper, which Saito counters with a jaw breaker. Saito targets Nishimura’s neck with several hotshot variations and a slingshot under the bottom rope. Nishimura and Saito also work a couple more trademark Muga spots, such as the battle for the abdominal stretch (won by Saito) and Saito does a nice bridge of his own to escape Nishimura’s pin attempt. Nishimura sends Saito to the floor, where he hurts his knee on the fall, and the shoe is instantly on the other foot after Saito’s heelish attack on Nishimura’s neck area. Nishimura tears away at Saito’s knee, the same heelish sort of ways that Saito was targeting his neck. At one point Nishimura does a diving stomp from the apron to the floor, right on Saito’s leg. Nishimura also works over the leg with submissions, such as the Indian Deathlock and Figure Four (which Saito really puts over by quickly rolling to the ropes). Nishimura’s mistake is thinking too much about further hurting Saito’s leg, and not winning the match. He tries coming off the top, and misses, which lets Saito plant him with a German suplex for two, and a second one for the win, and he sells his knee the whole time. The finish works in the context of Saito outsmarting a master of Muga, and keeping the neck in focus, although it’d have come off a bit better if he’d done something else instead of the first German suplex, such as his trademark senton, and then finished him off, or even totally taken him by surprise with a roll-up. Minor quibbles concerning the finish aside, this is a great example of how simple and effective work can go a long way toward a great match. ***1/2
Conclusion: If you can appreciate the simple nature of the Muga style, then you’ll love this stuff, as much as Dean and I do. Muga style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though. Everyone should at least see the main event in some form or another. A high recommendation to those who love Muga style, and a simple recommendation to everyone else.
For more of Mike Campbell's reviews, visit his site at http://splashmountain.150m.com