New Japan “Strong Style Evolution”
review by Jason Manning

Date: May 3rd, 1997
Location: Osaka Dome

“STRONG STYLE EVOLUTION!” This is a pretty friggin’ stacked show, with a New Japan/WCW vs. nWo series, Inoki/Sayama vs. Fujiwara/Liger, a fantabulous-looking New Japan/Michinoku Pro 10-man 2/3 falls match, Tokimitsu Ishizawa’s return and the Japanese debut of his Kendo Kashin persona, Fujinami vs. Tenzan, Choshu and Sasaki defending the tag belts against Nakanishi and Kojima, AAAAAND Hashimoto vs. Ogawa for the IWGP Title. YES. I will review now.

Kengo Kimura vs. Shiro Koshinaka
Well JEEZ! This match is surprisingly GRRREAT! Or at least GOOOOD! Both guys FIGHT! before the ring introductions and then hit their respective strikes (Inazuma and the hip attack) before they settle down and have a fine little professional wrestling match. Koshinaka lets you know that old Kengo can kick his ass by taking a bunch of hard slaps to the side of the face. The majority of this is Koshinaka selling his ass off for Kimura and it’s a really joyful watch. Kengo heads to some leg work for a little while building to a somewhat anti-climatic submission hold, and then Koshinaka kips up, but before he can get any momentum going his hip attack is GREATLY countered by Kengo with a slam of sorts and the crowd is totally into this match now. Kengo hits a pair of powerbombs for a pair of near falls and Kosh hits the hip attack before countering an Inazuma leg lariat with another hip attack. He delivers the powerbomb for two before busting out a Dragon suplex hold and even that gets two. He goes for the top rope hip attack and its blocked so he delivers the German suplex hold but Kengo won’t stay down! Kengo charges at him in the corner and then they go off and exchange a batch of cradles before Koshinaka counters a backdrop and hits the hip attack from the top and HEY! It actually looks like it just may hurt a little! And then a powerbomb from Shiro ends it (13:34). Koshinaka is AWESOME in this and this was a really fun way to kick off this here tape.

Buff, Norton, and Chono are backstage to put over the nWo and I can’t figure out what the best part of this is: Buff’s promo work or Chono’s “Everybody Wishes They Could Dress Like Me” STYYYYYYLE.

New Japan vs. nWo
Takashi Iizuka & Tadao Yasuda vs. Syxx & nWo String

This was perfectly OK. Syxx was in there most of the time, bumping allll around for the New Japan guys, and when Sting got the chance to do something he was not afraid to reaaallyyy lay into his strikes. Yasuda is the best worst wrestler on earth (in ’97). He’s so bad that it’s fun watching him. He does pull out a hurty double foot stomp from the top too though. Iizuka is a fine wrestler, but doesn’t make much of an impact. Syxx takes it with a Northern Lights suplex on him (12:23). Fine lil’ match.

WCW vs. nWo
The Giant & Lex Luger vs. Scott Norton & Buff Bagwell

Would you not like me anymore if I said this wasn’t that bad? Well, it ain’t. Hate me. This is one big Play To The Crowd-fest and it actually isn’t too bad because of it. Buff is a freaking heat MACHINE as he poses a bunch and the large crowd laughs a whole lot. Him noticing the media camera and stopping as if to say, “I just HAVE to pose for that” after you thought he was finally done with the posing is GREAT. Luger gets to mock him and the crowd laughs too. Then Giant comes in and wows the crowd with a kick-up, a crappy enzuigiri, and a dropkick, and Norton gets his shot at wow’ing them too by suplexing the big guy. Buff is actually fun selling big for Giant too. Then Luger comes in and sucks. Loses Norton on a powerslam, applies a crappy Torture Rack - come on maaaan, this was actually somewhat OK until you involved yourself! Hiro Saito and Tenzan do a run-in to join the nWo which leads to a Norton elbow drop on Lex for the win (10:09). This was NOT that bad! I swear! Lex Luger really does suck a whole lot of penis though.

Eric Bischoff is doing commentary (translated by Masa Saito) for this next match and looks hilllllllllarious as the Japanese commentator talks and talks and talks and talks and talks. Bisch wants some talking too, y’know.

New Japan & WCW vs. nWo
Keiji Muto, Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner vs. Masahiro Chono, Kevin Nash & Scott Hall
This was OK. Nothing much in terms of focus, nobody exactly worked all that hard,
but they still managed to produced a solid 6-man tag team wrestling match. It at least kept moving at a fine pace and had a couple bursts of fun. Nothing special, but I’ve got no problems with it. Yes, one of THOSE kinda’ matches. Nash powerbombs Rick for the win (14:31). ‘Twas solid, yes it was. I liked it enough to keep it in a positive light.

Tenzan and Saito join the nWo post-match. They get a free t-shirt for doing so too. HURRAH!

Antonio Inoki & Tiger King vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Jushin Thunder Liger
Tiger King is the original Tiger Mask (Sayama) without a copyright on the Tiger Mask name. The Liger/Sayama parts here are real cool because it’s Tiger Mask and Jushin Thunder Liger wrestling against each other in front of your widened eyes. Sayama’s not holding back on his kicks here either. The Inoki/Fujiwara parts are quite the lesson in crappiness but there’s enough Liger vs. Sayama and you even get Liger hitting Antonio Inoki with a rolling koppou kick. Inoki ends up submitting Fujiwara with a sleeper (10:42). Perfectly acceptable wrestling, and for the most part a fun watch.

2/3 Falls Match
El Samurai, Norio Honaga, Great Sasuke, Super Delfin & Gran Hamada vs. Koji Kanemoto, Shinjiro Otani, Dick Togo, MEN's Teioh & Hanzo Nakajima

THIS MATCH IS SO GREAT THAT I AM GOING TO RECAP MOST OF IT BECAUSE YOU NEED TO HEAR ABOUT ALL THE GREATNESS THAT HAPPENS IN IT. Alright? OK! This starts out with Nakajima and Honaga doing some stuff before Sammy gets in their and Kaientai DX + Otani/Kanemoto do their thing on him with some brief, bitching isolation. Lotsa’ somersault sentons, baby. Togo vs. Delfin is fun but Kanemoto vs. Hamada is funner as Kanemoto tries stiffing the old man and he just goes batshit in beating the crap out of this young punk. Sasuke gets in there and Kanemoto tries slapping his mask off and Sasuke is next on the list to receive an assbeating from the rudos. Teioh puts Sasuke in a camel clutch and everybody gets in something before a POSE! and goddamn do Kanemoto and Otani fit in great with Kaientai Deluxe! The boot scrapes are brought by Otani but Sasuke eventually tags in Hamada who is the first individual of the match that I absolutely wuuuuuuuuv as he is wonderful here in New Japan as the old man who won’t let anybody be disrespectful to HIM. Hamada manages a wakigatame but Nakajima makes the save and the Osaka Dome boos accordingly. Hamada outsmarts Teioh and Nakajima but Teioh avoids a ‘rana off the top by smashing Hamada’s balls to bit with an inverted atomic drop allll the way to the mat. Kanemoto and Sasuke are next up and they slap each other and Sasuke sells his fall down perfectly. I am amazed at the greatness of this. AMAZED! Sasuke avoids a moonsault and Delfin goes for a missile dropkick on Koji, but Sasuke gets hit and the twisting senton is dropped upon Delfin. Delfin brings a tornado DDT and the DELFIN CLUTCH! but Teioh’s immediately there for the save. Otani hits a springboard dropkick in conjunction with Kanemoto’s standing dropkick and then alllll of the rudos come in to take care of business. Kaientai drops Delfin with a BIIIIG triple powerbomb and all the faces are knocked off the apron. Kanemoto delivers a Tiger suplex hold to Delfin and I *LOSE IT* as everyone of the rudos count along with the three in an amaaaazing visual (9:00). This match is already *awesome* but HEY! It’s 2/3 falls and there’s MORE! Delfin gets isolated briefly and in a really neat spot, Otani goes for a suplex but Delfin tries pushing him into the good guy corner. Otani uses all of his strength to keep him from getting closer, but Delfin spikes him with a brainbuster that Otani sells like a man for a near fall and then Sammy is tagged in and he punishes Otani with a few neckbreakers. He gives a big Fuck You! to the rudos with a tree-of-woe baseball slide dropkick and I fall in love with Otani as he tries his best to climb the turnbuckle to get away. Kanemoto and Sasuke get in there and it’s a GOLDEN pairing as these two HAAATE! each other. HATE!

Honaga returns and slides Kanemoto’s face across the ropes to give another big Fuck You! to the rudos and Honaga has finally left an impression on this match. Honaga heads up top but Kanemoto brings him down with a pretty much brainbuster and then Togo comes in and chokes Honaga a whole bunch. Honaga drags Togo’s face across the ropes too and tags in Hamada but Togo catches him with an enzuigiri. Hamada manages a fantastic hurricanrana cradle but Nakajima quickly makes the save. Sasuke puts Togo in a single-leg crab hold but Kanemoto kicks his chest in and Sasuke sells it ever so wonderfully. Nakajima, the only man to make not that much of an impression in this match, comes on in and he has a fine fast-paced exchange with Sasuke. Sasuke hints a dive but doesn’t deliver and Teioh gets in with Delfin and they have another fun fast-pace exchange and we’re in Michinoku Pro town now. Otani gets mauled in the face corner as does Kanemoto and a really fun hate-filled brawl erupts between just Otani and Kanemoto and the entire face side and Sammy goes for the Samurai bomb but Otani avoids it and subtly low blows him. Kanemoto and Sasuke get in the ring together again (!) but Kanemoto disappoints me as he forces Sasuke into the rudo corner. The rudos go for a triple powerbomb but Sasuke counters it with a hurricanrana on Teioh for two and then Sasuke avoids a union lariat from Togo and Kanemoto and beautifully hits a quebrada! Honaga and Hamada hit a pair of pescados and it looks like the good guys just may take this as Sammy drops a diving headbutt on Teioh but the rudos make the save. More pescados, this time from Delfin and Sammy, and now it’s just Sasuke and Teioh. Sasuke hits a handspring elbow that knocks Teioh outside, and we get an Asai moonsault! Back inside Teioh blocks a quebrada by simply pulling Sasuke down but Sasuke counters a chokeslam with an armdrag and manages the quebrada. Then he goes for the Fire Thunder Driver but Nakajima is quick to stop that. Honaga and Togo tag in and Honaga strikes quick with the jumping neckbreaker. Otani quickly hits Honaga with a springboard kneel kick and Otani and Kanemoto do dual pescados. Inside the ring Togo powerslam and Honaga and Delfin gets there just in time for the save. Nakajima hits a tope suicida on Delfin and Togo drops the senton on Honaga for the WIN (19:11) Good lord this was freaking incredible. The Michinoku Pro 10-man came to New Japan and it delivered huuuuge. Boatloads of great action and Kanemoto, Otani, and Kaientai being perfect rudo pricks with the face side being a lot of fun in their role too. This was one of those orgasmic feuds that never really took off as later in the year Sasuke sold his soul to WWE and Michinoku Pro was never really the same. But at least we still got this match. I cannot really explain it anymore how much I loved this match but I really, really, really loved it and YOU WANT TO SEE THIS. ZILLLLLLLLLLIONS OF STARS. YES!

Tokimitsu Ishizawa Return Match
Kendo Kashin vs. Kazuo Yamazaki

This was sorta’ not very good. Pretty by-the-numbers shoot-style work with one too many eternal mounted punch flurries by Kashin. Technically OK but sooooo just kinda’ there. I dug the finish somewhat though, as Yamazaki surprised Kashin with a sleeper for the tap (8:06). Nothing offensive but HELL, it was following up *THE TEN-MAN* and anything following up *THE TEN-MAN* will look bad. And when something isn’t too good to begin with, then you have problems.

Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
The main story here is that Tenzan is the young heel punk trying to make a difference (like Fatu, but better), and Fujinami is the old home team boy who wants to prevent this. Tenzan suckers Fujinami into a handshake and attacks, but Fujinami makes a comeback with the Dragon screw. Tenzan manages a Dragon sleeper however and then controls for a while with some reaaaally standard heel stuff before Fujinami slaps him like he wants to break somebody’s cheekbone tonight. Tenzan controls some more and GOSH! is he not very entertaining on offense. At least he starts bringing out some signature offense in the later parts of the match though. Tenzan goes for the moonsault and Fujinami tries to avoid it but still kinda’ hit and then Fujinami does a bunch of cradles before a ground Cobra Twist gets the job done (9:03). WELL!, Tenzan’s extended offense was not very entertaining but it got its job done by getting you thinkin’ “HEY! THAT THERE TENZAN PUNK IS BEATING THE CRUD OUT OF FUJINAMI! HE MUST MEAN SOMETHIN’!” Or something like that. This was a fine match. Tenzan with cooler offense would’ve made this a whole lot better though.

IWGP Tag Team Title
Riki Choshu & Kensuke Sasaki [c] vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojima

Early on, this is a whole lot of beatdown on poor Nakanishi. Like, damn. It’s a whole lot. The majority of the match is. The beatdown isn’t really bad or anything, but damn. Choshu and Kensuke are not into giving Nak *any* offense. Weird considering how much Choshu ended up pushing him. I know he’s the underdog and all, but damn. Let him at least get in a spunky flurry of elbows or something. But then Kojima comes in and gets in a WAAAAAY too fun burst of offense on his opponents and even slaps Nak around, telling him to make the tag. The hot tag is made and this match actually picks up into something real fun as Choshu sells for Kojima who looks REALLY great here and makes this match the surprising fun it ends up being. I dig Kojima’s subtle building to the Dragon sleeper too. Choshu can go fuck himself for kicking out at 1 off of two lariats though. The young guys eventually do the double submissions spot with Sasaki in an Argentine backbreaker and Choshu in Kojima’s Dragon sleeper, and the youngin’s get the huge upset win as Choshu taps (11:34). I dug this a whole lot. Nakanishi, no matter how much I dislike the guy, should’ve gotten in at least a little offense at the start, but when Kojima came in the match got really fun. I liked Kojima a whole lot here.

IWGP Heavyweight Title
Shinya Hashimoto [c] vs. Naoya Ogawa

It’s late, so LAUGH at my weak review: This is a real fun match. They work a really great shoot-style match here that smokes the Kashin in every possible way. The match is all about Ogawa being a threat but Hash fiiiighting and coming back out on top. It’s short, but probably doesn’t need anymore time. It’s got a bunch of hard strikes, a lot of submissions that are totally believable, and the heat is GREAT. Hash nails Ogawa in the head with a kick and Sayama throws in the towel for the win (10:20). HA! That did end up a really shitty review, didn’t it? But I did like this match a whole lot. A real hot main event match to close out a real fun show.

Final Analysis: Well hot damn, this was a reaaalllyyy fun show to just sit back, watch, and suck in its greatness. *Every* match was for the most part fun minus the Kashin match which was still kinda’ OK. And you even get something blowaway in the absolutely FABULOUS NJ/MPro 10-man tag which is must-see wrestling for everyone that calls themselves a fan of it. I really, really dug this show, and my recommendation is that you get it NOWWW!

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