review by Jason Manning
Date: January 4th, 1995
Location: Tokyo Dome
New Japan’s annual 1/4 Tokyo Dome show for 1995 was titled “BATTLE 7”, and NJ put out a big 14-match card for it. A BUNCH of notable stuff here, including: Hiroyoshi Yamamoto’s return as Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Otani defending his UWA Welterweight Title against El Samurai, Honaga defending his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title against Great Sasuke, Chono & *SABU* teaming up, Hashimoto defending his IWGP Heavyweight Title against Sasaki, Tiger Jeet Singh and son in a tag match, Muto & Hase defending their IWGP Tag Team Title against the Steiner Brothers, and to close out the show (these commercial tapes are always setup differently than the actual card - Hash/Sasaki was the real main event), a mini-tournament called “Final Countdown BVD Tournament” that’s basically just a way to put Inoki over some more. ONTO THE SHOW.
Osamu Kido, Takayuki Iizuka & Akira Nogami vs. Great Kabuki, Kobayashi & Akitoshi Saito
This is fine as an undercard 6-man since there’s enough guys here to cover up the handicaps such as Kabuki and Saito, or guy’s like Iizuka and Nogami who are fine, but nowhere near their peaks here. Nogami and Kobayashi do some nice stuff early on, and other than that this is just kind of “wrestle a bit, tag out, wrestle a bit, tag out” and so on and so forth. It’s almost like one big batch of watchable undercard matches, as two guys will work together briefly and then one will tag out, giving you your new pairing. So really, it’s better than your everyday watchable undercard match as you don’t have to watch just two of these guys wrestle for 10 minutes or so (although I wouldn’t mind Kobayashi against any of his opposition for that long...) - you get some fresh pairings every one and a half minutes or so. Or something like that, yeah. Kido goes wakigatame crazy later on by busting it out on Kabuki and Kobayashi, but Saito quickly breaks it both times. They cap things off with a nice little closing sequence that sees J-Jacks bust out the teamwork and everyone running around, and Kobayashi soon prevents Nogami from giving Kabuki a German. Kobayashi then gives Nogami a backdrop and goes to take care of Kido, leaving Kabuki to quickly lariat Nogami for the win (13:12). Perfectly fine undercard 6-man capped off by a fine closing sequence. Zero problems here, and it did end up pretty entertaining. Moving along...
Hiroyoshi Yamamoto Return Match
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Manabu Nakanishi
Hiroyoshi’s return from his excursion to Europe, and now he’s got a new look and new last name. Now, if you like strikes, this is your match, as they strike... A LOT. Lots and lots and lots of striking. Lots. Lots and lots. And then the occasional power move or a hold thrown in, but mostly it’s striking. Lots of it. This is basically like your everyday rookie match but they seem a bit more fired up than your average rookie, so the match has a faster pace. Nakanishi doesn’t really do a whole lot here as it’s mostly an extended squash for Tenzan with some strike exchanges (lots and lots), and Nakanishi’s offensive segments are too short to drag the match down. Tenzan shows off his apparent newly found power at times, picking up Nak with a gorilla press slam as if Nak was nothing or pushing up out of a Scorpion Deathlock with ease. He also almost nearly kills Nak with a powerbomb near the end. Tenzan controls the finish with a bunch of stuff, even busting out a moonsault, and then brings out the Mongolian chops before delivering a Mountain bomb for the abrupt win (7:40). Ehhhhh. Nothing much, although I think it got the job done as Tenzan basically squashed Nakanishi in the last few minutes. Lots of striking, though. Lots of it.
UWA Welterweight Title
Shinjiro Otani [c] vs. El Samurai
Samurai is sporting his beyond badass red costume here. Anyways, this match... well, to call this match a disappointment may be an understatement. To put it bluntly, the first ten minutes or so of this STINKS. It STINKS, I say. After some matwork, they literally just take turns on offense with the crappiest transitions imaginable. I know this pro wrestling stuff is fake, but I’d at least like the wrestling I watch to look SOMEWHAT realistic. Otani makes the most of his offensive portion by working the leg, and then Samurai gets a turn on offense by... countering a rear chinlock with a jawbreaker. After Samurai does some random moves, Otani goes onto offense by... avoiding a dropkick. The selling really stinks, too (well, beyond the fact that they forget about the leg work seconds after Otani stops it - but that’s almost expected), as Samurai will get out of an Otani hold and stretch him for a couple seconds, and then Otani’s suddenly weakened enough where Samurai can lift him to the top turnbuckle for a superplex. NO SENSE. In addition to that, they show absolutely no emotion. Samurai’s just... slow, while Otani - yes - Shinjiro Otani, is completely EXPRESSIONLESS. It’s like these two were just doing stuff without a care in the world. The dead crowd doesn’t help matters, either. They do try to salvage things with a nice finish, and it could be argued that they built up to it well by not doing anything too crazy in the first 10 minutes, but they could’ve damn well been laying on their backs the first 10 minutes and then exploded into the same finish, and it wouldn’t have been all that worse. The finish begins when Samurai busts out a tope (which has me exclaiming “finally, SOMETHING!”) and back in he controls with a couple more high-impact moves for a couple near falls, before Otani uses his springboarding techniques (the plancha and the dropkick) to gain back the control. Samurai begins controlling things again soon enough (and the crowd heat increases a bit for the near falls), but makes a mistake by trying a vertical suplex, as Otani lands on his feet and after a couple waistlock counters, manages a Dragon suplex hold for the... win (15:17). I guess they built up the match fine enough, but the first 10 minutes or so of this was just BAD. Useless leg work + lame selling + crappy transitions + no emotion + zero crowd heat = me not happy. The finish was nice enough, but it was like they were just doing absolutely nothing before things picked up for the last few minutes or so. But then they got to the actual end, which really stunk. Samurai kicks Otani’s ass and then all of the sudden a Dragon suplex hold by Otani ends it? ACK. I really did want to like this as Otani and Sammy are two favorites of mine, but even beyond the flaws I was just BORED SILLY by it. I could be overly nice and call this solid or I could be overly mean and call it crappy. I’ll just go for the happy medium and say it was incredibly disappointing and now I’ll move along.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title
Norio Honaga [c] vs. Great Sasuke
Much like the previous match, this kicks off with some brief matwork before Honaga decides to attack a limb. His limb of choice is the arm and he varies his attacks quite well, all while playing the heel as he’s quite reckless with it and seems to enjoy testing the point of rope breaks. Sasuke sells only as Sasuke can, screaming and all. They do a nice little tease of Sasuke getting back on offense before Honaga neatly shoots him down with a jumping neckbreaker, but Sasuke’s soon on offense and HEY, he works over Honaga’s arm. I guess he thinks that if Honaga could tear apart his arm, then Sasuke can do it better, EH? The mat stuff is a bit more back-and-forth now though, so Sasuke’s arm work portion doesn’t last too long, and Honaga thankfully remembers his own arm work and reverts back to it at times. Honaga plays the dick-on-offense for a little bit before Sasuke decides to fly around, as he catches Honaga with the handspring back elbow which leads to the COMPLETELY NUTTY tope con hilo. Back inside Sasuke simply hits Honaga with a dropkick which leads to an Asai moonsault on the rampway. They go back inside and Sasuke’s in control briefly before Honaga uses that darn jumping neckbreaker to stop him in his tracks again. Hell yeah, I dig Honaga here. Honaga heads up top but Sasuke follows him and brings him down with a superplex for 2, but when Sasuke heads up top and goes for a rounding body press, Honaga puts his knees up. Honaga then simply cradles Sasuke for the 3 count (14:39). Uh... OK. This was a slight improvement over the last match in a few departments, mostly because they actually defined some roles (Honaga = heel, Sasuke = underdog face). Other than that though, it wasn’t anything special. There was no real payoff to the arm work (I’m all for limb work... but I really hate it when they work a limb and then it’s just completely forgotten about when the guy isn’t in the process of doing it) and after Sasuke’s spots it was like they were building to a finish, but all of the sudden Honaga just cradles Sasuke for the win. Honaga’s a really fun heel and Sasuke’s two-spot chain was neat, but besides that, the match was just... kinda’ there.
Masahiro Chono & Sabu vs. Tatsumi Fujinami & Junji Hirata
Chono and Sabu attack as they enter the ring, so the first minute or so of this is one big brawl with Sabu busting out the expected chair spots. Fujinami and Hirata soon drag them into a wrestling match, and it just kind of rolls along after this. Tag in, tag out, that’s what it’s all about. HEY, that could be a hit. Hirata wrestles the bulk of the match as Fujinami’s mostly on the apron and Chono and Sabu just don’t do a whole lot of anything. They’re on offense a lot, but they just... don’t... do... much. Kick, stomp, shoulderblock, yeah. Chono and Sabu eventually gain the advantage over Hirata before Fujinami gets pissed and goes crazy on them, but he’s taken care of quickly. Sabu then tries to grab a chair from the crowd and in a funny moment the fans REFUSE to give him one. Chono finds a table and Sabu eventually gets his chair, which leads to him standing atop it on the top turnbuckle and hitting a leg drop on Hirata (who’s on the table), but the TABLE WON’T BREAK~! Chono and Hirata are soon left alone to wrap things up and Hirata actually controls the offense before Sabu hits him with a chair from behind, and Chono follows up with a Yakuza kick for the win (11:18). If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s that Junji Hirata should just stick to lariats and NOT be allowed to hit anyone with a chair. Pretty much a throwaway tag, although I found Sabu not being able to get that chair strangely entertaining.
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Shinya Hashimoto [c] vs. Kensuke Sasaki
Witness Hashimoto build everything up very nicely. Witness Hashimoto put everything Sasaki does over so, so well. Witness Hashimoto be simply awesome, and witness Hashimoto become your lord and savior by taking Sasaki by the hand and carrying him to quite the good match. Yeah, this is good. The first portion is nice as they make it evident that the focused Hashimoto is the more powerful of the two, although Sasaki can hold his own and when he gets the chance, he can put the hurt on Hash. Simple things like Sasaki surprisingly winning a slap exchange and then Hash destroying him with an enzuigiri, or Sasaki taking advantage of Hashimoto having to push the referee away and NAILING Hash with a lariat, which does its damage. It’s all so logical and great and shit. When Sasaki gets that opportunity to control things (after the lariat), he takes full advantage of it and refuses to let Hash get back on offense. He also goes for the arm briefly, building to the Strange Hold Gamma, and Hash sells everything to PERFECTION. Hash is eventually all “Why am I looking like a chump for Kensuke Sasaki?” and goes batshit on him to gain back the control. He then goes for the arm, which makes sense since Sasaki uses the lariat a lot. After some arm work and other neat stuff by Hash (including a missile dropkick), Sasaki catches him up top and brings him down with a bodyslam of sorts. Then Sasaki hits the lariat, which kinda sucks, but whatever. From here on, it’s mostly all Sasaki. Actually, I’ll rephrase that. It’s mostly Sasaki on offense, but the actual match is all Hashimoto as he puts everything over like a CHAMP. Hash gets a bloody nose somewhere within Sasaki’s offense and it adds to his struggle. Sasaki focuses on the arm a bunch (he goes for the Strange Hold Gamma A LOT too, which gets over big) as they head into the closing stretch, and he eventually manages the Strange Hold Gamma to MAJOR heat. Hash’s facial expressions in the hold are just gold, and he works his way out of it soon enough. Hash eventually makes the fun comeback and they work in some near falls to major crowd heat. This is where the Tokyo Dome crowd works. When there are matches they really do care about, they pop big time and it comes off as a true spectacle. It rules. Hash eventually picks Sasaki up and spikes him with the vertical drop brainbuster, which gets the 3 count (19:36). This was a batch of fun. Hash totally carried Sasaki to a match that wasn’t THAT great of a pro wrestling match, but it was more of a battle between two guys you could tell WANTED that belt and were going to keep going at it until one fell. I like wrestling like that. I dig that kinda’ stuff. And I dug this. Before I end this review, I must stress it once more: Hashimoto rules it here. Sasaki was pretty much the equivalent of a broom with the ability to apply a Strange Hold Gamma and hit an ipponzei, and Hash carried him to a really enjoyable match. Good stuff. [***]
Koji Kanemoto vs. Yuji Nagata
Kanemoto’s sporting the always swanky karate kid pants here. This is like another “fired-up-to-be-in-the-Tokyo Dome” young lions match. They get in their spots, they do some fine matwork, they show intensity, they kick - it’s all nice. There’s also some really neat out-of-nowhere counters in between as well. And the crowd seems to actually enjoy what they’re watching, which is always a plus. It’s not that great of a match, but it’s quite good considering that these two won’t be expected to carry the company for another six years or so (but it actually does get legitimately good at points). Nagata eventually starts handling the offense before Kanemoto catches him on the run with a dropkick. Koji then kicks Nagata around before hitting a kneel kick off the top, and then performs a BAD Shooting Star Press (he overshoots Nagata and lands on his shoulder... ouchies) for the win (14:43). Rock solid match that got really enjoyable at points.
Shiro Koshinaka & Michiyoshi Ohara vs. Tiger Jeet Singh Sr. & Tiger Jeet Singh Jr.
Tiger Jeet Singh... AND his son? Oh cripes, this can’t be good. And it isn’t. This match sucks, plain and simple. Beyond the no-selling by the Singhs and the ego stroking by the Singhs and all that in between it’s SO FREAKING BORING, too. Ohara gets in a few seconds of offense on Singh Sr. before we go back to reality and daddy Singh no-sells everything before choking him down to the mat for the 3 count (11:23). At least Koshinaka hit a couple hip attacks.
Hawk Warrior vs. Scott Norton
Well, OF COURSE the only logical way to follow Tiger Jeet Singh on a tape is to have some NEW JAPAN GAIJIN ACTION, daddy! And YES, has ALL the action you need. Weak shoulderblocks, backbreakers, powerbombs, lariats, and even Scott Norton talking trash to Animal! Fuck yeah! This is motherfucking great, baby! Animal distracts Norton, which leads to Animal hitting an enzuilariat off the top for the win (7:41). YEAH! THIS SUCKED! YEAH!
Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu vs. Kengo Kimura & Tatsutoshi Goto
Four old guys put together a decent batch of wrestling and I DIG IT. They keep things moving well enough considering who’s in there, and it’s just simple tag wrestling that rolls along nicely from start to finish with no real bad portions in between. Choshu lariats Kimura two times for the win (12:32). Completely watchable.
IWGP Tag Team Title
Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase [c] vs. Rick Steiner & Scott Steiner
This follows that excellent forgotten art known as the underdog natives vs. strong gaijin story. The formula’s done to death in this day and age and it usually stinks, but when done right, it really rules. And this match does it quite right. This is basically the Steiners controlling the offense for legitimately the whole match. It’s obvious that they’re the strongest of the two teams and Muto and Hase’s only chances at a win is to be fast and smart. They try working Scott’s leg, but that doesn’t work out too well for them. All they can do is outsmart the Steiners at times and hope something works. Yeah, the real great part of this is the hint at comebacks. Muto and Hase will get on offense for about thirty seconds before one of the Steiners drops them on their heads and it’s back to defense for our heroes. You WANT Muto and Hase to make the comeback. Badly. The Steiners offense does get pretty slow at times, and every ounce of offense the natives get is where the match starts to pick up, but then, as I said, the Steiners drop them on their head and the match slows down again as the Steiners suplex them a bunch. You’re eventually demanding Muto and Hase’s comeback, and that works so well. The Steiners are supposed to be the heels. You want Muto and Hase to win. Yes. Yes you do. The Steiners offense isn’t bad or anything though - there’s enough demolishing of Muto and Hase to keep it interesting. Muto and Hase sell all of their suplexes and rest holds and etc. really well, and you really get into their potential comeback. They eventually move into the closing stretch, which rocks. Muto and Hase catch the Steiners with hurricanranas, but the Steiners manage the control again. Scotty calls for the finish with a Steiner Screwdriver, but Muto refuses it and manages a tombstone. Hase gets tagged in and the match picks up again, but the Steiners manage the control again. Rick eventually puts Hase on his shoulders and Scott goes for a Frankensteiner possibly, but Hase brings Rick down with a victory roll for 2 and Muto Frankensteiner’s Scott off the top. Rick however drops Hase on his head with a German. He then goes for one on Muto, but Muto lands on his feet and manages a dropkick. Hase then quickly follows up with a Northern Lights suplex hold as Muto blocks Scott from stopping the pin, and the natives win (25:12). 20+ minutes building to the natives big comeback and the payoff was grand. Quite the good match. It got a bit slow at times, but it was worked really smartly. The hints at the natives actually having the match in their favor for once were absolute gold, and like I said, there was enough of Muto and Hase dying for you to keep it fun. You could argue that the finish was a tad sudden, but I’d say fuck you. Or something nicer. Rick was outsmarted and the natives quickly capitalized on it, Hase hitting him with a credible move that kept the shoulders down for the win. Check this out. [***¼]
And now we head to the ANTONIO INOKI PORTION of our show to end things on an... Antonio Inoki note. Tony says he’s going for Sting’s legs. Gordeau opens his mini-interview with a nice ol’ “Uh... you know me. I’m Gerard Gordeau.” That guy... I swear. Sting says we will see how a wrestler fares against a kickboxer. The chance to face Inoki is a big deal for him. Then Inoki speaks and I can’t understand what he’s saying. Because it’s Japanese, and I don’t know Japanese. Yeah. We then get to see Inoki practicing in the ring a bit, and now we head into the one-night tournament...
Final Countdown BVD Tournament - Semi Final
Sting vs. Tony Palmore
Hey, this is mostly clips. That’s nice of them. Besides a hiptoss, Sting has his shields up for the whole match as Palmore kicks and weakly punches him around before he EXPLODES~! and trips Palmore down. Scorpion Deathlock. Tap (4:29).
Final Countdown BVD Tournament - Semi Final
Antonio Inoki vs. Gerard Gordeau
See, you know a match sucks when it’s on a commercial tape and it involves Antonio Inoki and it’s actually clipped. Gordeau gets in some crappy shooter offense on Inoki before Inoki manages to counter a takedown with a sleeper hold for the win (6:37).
Final Countdown BVD Tournament - Final
Antonio Inoki vs. Sting
Hey, more clipping. Hurrah. Sting gets the Scorpion Deathlock on but the crowd doesn’t really pick up on Inoki’s struggle to the ropes. Sting goes for his second powerslam of the match but Inoki counters it with a sleeper hold for the win (10:26).
Final Analysis: Well, the two big title matches (Heavyweight and Tag) were good and there was some nice enough undercard stuff (6-man, Kanemoto-Nagata, Choshu/Yatsu vs. Kengo/Goto, and even the junior matches no matter how disappointing), but there’s nothing really essential here. A solid show, but for a show with 14 matches, you’d expect more than two good matches. You may want to check out the Tag Title match and possibly Hash’s great carry job of Sasaki on a comp, but other than those two, this is Not Recommended.
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