review by Kevin Wilson
The Date: January 4th, 1997
The Location: Tokyo Dome, Japan
Ah yes, the annual New Japan Tokyo Dome Show. For better or worse, New Japan is guaranteed to put it all on the line during their equivalent of WrestleMania. For their January Dome Shows, New Japan likes to have a theme, and this event was no different. In early 1997, New Japan was in the midst of a feud with Big Japan Pro Wrestling. It was lopsided of course since New Japan was the largest promotion in Japan and Big Japan was a small hardcore promotion, but it did lead to some unique matchups. We also see for the first (and last) time ever..... SUPER LIGER! More importantly, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto defends against Riki Choshu. Here is the full card:
- Hirata, Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima and Nishimura vs. Yamazaki, Kido, Iizuka and Yuji Nagata
- Koji Kanemoto vs. Super Liger
- Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Michiyoshi Ohara
- New Japan vs. Big Japan: Shinjiro Otani vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri
- New Japan vs. Big Japan: Tatsutoshi Goto vs. Kendo Nagasaki
- New Japan vs. Big Japan: Masahiro Chono vs. Shoji Nakamaki
- New Japan vs. Big Japan: Masa Saito vs. Great Kojika
- Inoki Final Countdown 6th: Antonio Inoki vs. Willie Williams
- J Crown Championship: Ultimo Dragon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
- IWGP Tag Championship: Masahiro Chono and Tenzan vs. Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura
- Great Muta vs. Power Warrior
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Shinya Hashimoto vs. Riki Choshu
Course, New Japan put the matches out of order, but I put them back in order for you. You're welcome.
Hirata, Nakanishi, Kojima and Osamu Nishimura vs. Yamazaki, Osamu Kido, Iizuka and Yuji Nagata
Unlike when I first doing these reviews, now I actually know who these guys are so it will make it a lot easier. Nagata and Nakanishi start things off. Tie-up, elbow by Nagata but Nakanishi returns fire. They trade blows, with Nakanishi getting the better of it with a lariat. Nakanishi picks up Nagata and hits the Cobra Clutch Giant Swing. Nagata avoids the leg drop however and goes for the leg, but Nakanishi rolls to the ropes. Nagata tags in Iizuka, snapmare by Iizuka but Nakanishi applies a wristlock. Back up they trade chops, and Nakanishi tags in Kojima. Kojima and Iizuka circle each other, tie-up, side headlock by Kojima, Iizuka Irish whips out of it but Kojima shoulderblocks him down. Kojima goes off the ropes and delivers a lariat, but Iizuka gets up and hits a backdrop suplex. Rolling senton by Iizuka but Kojima gets back to his feet. Kojima tags in Nishimura, tie-up, and Iizuka makes the tag to Yamazaki. Tie-up, Yamazaki gets Nishimura into the ropes but Nishimura reverses positions with him and clubs him in the chest. They trade blows in the middle of the ring, Irish whip by Nishimura but Yamazaki avoids the dropkick and applies a leglock. Nishimura quickly rolls to the ropes, Yamazaki picks him up and tags in Nagata. Kick by Nagata and he gives Nishimura an armbreaker. Nishimura tags in Hirata, Irish whip by Hirata and he hits a back elbow. Vertical suplex by Hirata and he hits a senton, cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Hirata from the corner and he hits a lariat. Hirata picks up Nagata and applies a reverse chinlock, but Yamazaki breaks it up. Nagata tags in Kido, Kido picks up Hirata, snapmare, and he stomps Hirata in the face. Neck crank by Kido and he applies the Fujiwara Armbar, but it is quickly broken up. Kido tags in Iizuka, Irish whip by Iizuka to Hirata and he is kicked by Nagata and Yamazaki. Nagata and Yamazaki apply armbreakers but the hold is broken up.
Iizuka stays in but Hirata makes the tag to Kojima. Kojima chops Iizuka, Irish whip to the corner and he hits a lariat. Irish whip again and he delivers the jumping elbow strike followed by an elbow drop off the top rope. Cover, but it gets two. Back up, elbows by Iizuka and he tags in Yamazaki. Kicks to the chest by Yamazaki, he goes for a piledriver but Kojima backdrops out of it. Kojima tags in Nakanishi, Irish whip by Nakanishi from the corner and he delivers a dropkick. Northern Lights Suplex by Nakanishi but Yamazaki rolls through and applies a cross armbreaker. It is quickly broken up though and Nakanishi tags in Kojima as Yamazaki tags in Kido. Kojima chops Kido into the corner but Kido kicks him to the mat. Irish whip by Kido and he delivers a neckbreaker. Cover, but Kojima kicks out. Kido tags in Nagata, who kicks Kojima in the chest before hitting an enzigieri. Nagata picks up Kojima, Irish whip and he hits a kick with Yamazaki. Iizuka runs in to hit an uranage, then Nagata applies the cross armbreaker. It is eventually broken up by Nakanishi, and Kojima levels Nagata with a lariat. Kojima tags in Nakanishi, he puts Nagata in the Argentine Backbreaker before dropping him with a backbreaker. Nakanishi picks up Nagata and Nishimura comes off the top turnbuckle with a dropkick. Hirata is tagged in, he goes off the ropes but Nagata catches him with an overhead belly to belly suplex before slapping on the cross armbreaker. Nakanishi again breaks it up, Hirata picks up Nagata and hits a butterfly suplex hold for a two count. A melee ensues as all eight men brawl in the ring, Hirata picks up Nagata and hits a sit-down powerbomb for a two count cover. Hirata waits for Nagata to get up, he goes off the ropes and he levels him with a lariat. Cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Hirata, Nakanishi, Kojima and Osamu Nishimura
Match Thoughts: About what you'd expect. I was amused that Nakanishi always seemed to be the one that broke up submissions as he was the largest person on his team and in theory should have taken longer to get into the ring, but beyond that the match was pretty tame. I guess they like to get wrestlers on the card to give them experience in front of a large crowd, which is fair, but these matches are obviously not that critical in the grand scheme of things. Score: 4.0
Koji Kanemoto vs. Super Liger
Super Liger makes his debut! Tie-up to start, side headlock by Kanemoto but Super Liger backdrops out of the hold. Kick by Super Liger and he goes for a suplex, Kanemoto tries to block it but Super Liger eventually hits it. Kicks by Kanemoto and he hits a snapmare followed by a reverse chinlock. Hammerlock by Super Liger and he hits Kanemoto in the back while maintaining the hold. Kick to the back by Super Liger, but Kanemoto hits a snapmare and returns the favor. Elbow to the back of the head by Kanemoto and the two trade chops, with Super Liger getting the better of it. Running kick to the face by Super Liger, he picks up Kanemoto and knees him in the stomach. Irish whip by Super Liger and he dropkicks Kanemoto in the knee. Knee lock by Super Liger but Kanemoto kicks his way out of it. Hard slap by Kanemoto and he kicks Super Liger in the back. Enzigieri by Super Liger but Kanemoto grabs his leg and applies a leg lock but Super Liger gets to the ropes to force a break. Super Liger goes for a kick, Kanemoto catches it but Super Liger hits an enzigieri. Scoop slam by Super Liger, he goes out to the apron and hits a springboard splash for a two count. Dragon Sleeper by Super Liger, he picks up Kanemoto and suplexes him onto the top rope. Kanemoto struggles back to his feet, Super Liger picks him up and applies a side headlock, Kanemoto Irish whips out of it but Super Liger shoulderblocks him down. Spinning heel kick by Super Liger, Kanemoto lands out on the apron, Super Liger runs towards the side ropes to do a rebound dropkick but he misses the ropes and falls to the mat (getting the first crowd reaction of the match). Super Liger gets up and dropkicks Kanemoto, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick down to the floor. Super Liger gets back in the ring with Kanemoto slowly following, Super Liger tries to suplex him back into the ring but Kanemoto reverses it and he suplexes Super Liger down to the floor. While still on the apron Kanemoto hits a springboard corkscrew senton down to the floor onto Super Liger before getting back in the ring and waiting for Super Liger. Super Liger gets back up to the apron and Kanemoto tries to suplex him in, but Super Liger lands on his feet. Shoulderblock by Super Liger, he goes for the Lionsault but Kanemoto moves. Both wrestlers attempt dropkicks with neither being successful and they slowly get back to their feet together. Irish whip by Super Liger from the corner, reversed, Super Liger puts Kanemoto onto the top turnbuckle and joins him, but Kanemoto reverses his Frankensteiner attempt with a powerbomb. Kicks by Kanemoto to the downed Super Liger, he picks him up, scoop slam, and he hits a corner corkscrew senton. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kanemoto picks up Super Liger, Irish whip, and he delivers a kick to the stomach. Scoop slam by Kanemoto, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a moonsault. Cover, but Kanemoto picks him up at two. Kanemoto hits a Tiger Suplex hold, but Super Liger gets a shoulder up in time. Super Liger kicks Kanemoto into the ropes, Irish whip, and Super Liger delivers a lariat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Super Liger puts Kanemoto onto the top turnbuckle, but Kanemoto tosses him off when he joins him and Super Liger lands on the floor. Kanemoto goes for a plancha off the top turnbuckle to the floor, but Super Liger dropkicks him while he is on the way down. Back in the ring, Super Liger puts Kanemoto onto the top turnbuckle and he hits an avalanche double underhook suplex for a two count. Super Liger picks up Kanemoto and hits the Tiger Suplex hold, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner: Super Liger
Match Thoughts: Super Liger was, of course, the great Chris Jericho in his only appearance as Super Liger. Jericho gave this match an "F" in his book, which if he was looking at the big picture was probably accurate. He didn't look comfortable, the match wasn't good, and the crowd didn't buy it. But I still wouldn't rate it quite that low, as there were some decent parts. The high spots seemed really out of place since they were getting no reaction (really the Tokyo Dome isn't known for giving loud reactions for Jr. Heavyweights anyway) and since the match was so early on the card it came across as desperate. The selling was abysmal in places as they weren't really selling their high spots at all, and Jericho messed up one of his signature moves partly due to the mask and partly due to the pressure of having his first New Japan appearance be as a Liger Super Villain at the Tokyo Dome. Interesting for historical purposes but not a good match. Score: 3.5
Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Michiyoshi Ohara
Ohara charges Shinzaki to start the match, kicking him in the corner. Irish whip by Ohara and he hits an elbow in the opposite corner. Another Irish whip and Ohara hits a Nenbutsu Powerbomb, Shinzaki's signature move. Ohara goes off the ropes and hits an elbow drop, cover, but it gets a two count. Headbutt by Ohara and he hits a chop followed by a throat thrust. Irish whip by Ohara but Shinzaki ducks the lariat attempt and delivers a back kick. Shinzaki picks up Ohara and chops him down followed by a throat thrust. Irish whip by Shinzaki and he delivers a dropkick. Cover, but it gets a two count. Shinzaki waits for Ohara to get up and charges but, but Ohara back bodydrops him over the top rope to the floor. On the floor he is beaten up by Ohara's posse, including a spike piledriver (with Akitoshi Saito) onto the exposed concrete. Ohara picks up Shinzaki and throws him into the ring post before throwing him into the guard rail. Ohara slides back into the ring but Shinzaki makes it in before the 20 count. Vertical suplex by Ohara, cover, but it gets a two count. Ohara picks up Shinzaki, Irish whip, and he hits a back bodydrop. Another cover but again it gets a two. Ohara stops Shinzaki in the back before giving him a headbutt. Knee to the back of the head by Ohara and he chokes Shinzaki against the ropes. Back up, chops by Ohara and he rakes Shinzaki in the eyes. Ohara chokes Shinzaki against the top rope before throwing him out of the ring, Saito tries to jump Shinzaki but Shinzaki throws him into the railing and walks towards his corner to recover (where Great Sasuke was). Shinzaki eventually returns to the ring but Ohara punches him as he gets to the apron. Shinzaki blocks one of the punches however and delivers the Rope Walk Head Chop. Shinzaki picks up Ohara, scoop slam in front of the corner and he hits a Reverse Splash for a two count. Back up, snapmare by Shinzaki and he applies the neck death grip. Throat thrust by Shinzaki, cover, but Ohara kicks out. Shinzaki goes up to the top turnbuckle and goes for a diving lariat, but Ohara catches him and hits a chokeslam for a two count. Ohara waits for Shinzaki to get up and hits a Jumping Neckbreaker Drop, cover, but again it gets two. Ohara goes for another Nenbutsu Powerbomb, but Shinzaki reverses it with a hurricanrana. Irish whip by Ohara and he goes for a second chokeslam, but Shinzaki elbows out of it. Low blow by Ohara, he picks up Shinzaki and hits a chokeslam, cover, but Shinzaki kicks out at two. Saito comes in the ring to help, but he accidentally hits Ohara with a spinning heel kick. Shinzaki goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving shoulderblock, cover, but it only gets a two. Shinzaki goes back up top and delivers a diving headbutt, he then picks up Ohara and nails a Nenbutsu Powerbomb. Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner: Jinsei Shinzaki
Match Thoughts: Unlike the last match, the crowd was really into this one which definitely helped it. The match started hot and ended well, the problem in the middle section was that Ohara did nothing to finish off Shinzaki after the spike piledriver to the floor. Shinzaki acted out of it for several minutes afterwards, so I can't blame him, but Ohara only did things like eye gouges and clubs to the back instead of going for the kill. The story here was bigger then the in-ring work, which wasn't actively bad, and the crowd getting into it showed that they were getting the story across as they had been relatively quiet for the first two matches. Score: 6.0
Shinjiro Otani vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri
The first match in the New Japan vs. Big Japan series. Tajiri asks for a handshake before the match but moves his hand when Otani goes to accept it. Spinning heel kick by Otani to start the match and he kicks Otani into the corner. Tajiri picks up Otani, Irish whip from the corner, reversed, but Tajiri jumps out to the apron and kicks Otani in the head as he charges in. More kicks by Tajiri, he picks up Otani and hits an armdrag. He throws Otani around the ring before hitting a German suplex hold for a two count. Tajiri picks up Otani, but Otani stumbles back to the mat. Tajiri goes for another German suplex, but Otani gets out of it. Kip-up by Tajiri and he hits a hurricanrana for a two count. Tajiri elbows Otani in the head, Irish whip, Otani ducks the lariat attempt and dropkicks Tajiri in the knee. Stomps to the knee by Otani, he puts Tajiri's leg over the bottom rope and stomps on it some more. Otani slams Tajiri's leg into the mat before applying a leg lock, but Tajiri eventually makes it to the ropes. Otani kicks Tajiri in the corner before giving him some bootscrapes. Otani picks up Tajiri and hits a jumping back kick, he waits for Tajiri to get up and slaps him in the face. Tajiri slaps him back and the two trade blows, with both being knocked to the mat at the same time. Otani is up first, he picks up Tajiri and hits a scoop slam before going out to the apron. Tajiri blocks the missile dropkick however and hits a German suplex hold for a two count cover. Otani rolls out of the ring but Tajiri goes out to the apron and hits an Asai Moonsault. Tajiri is back in the ring first with Otani eventually following him, Tajiri goes for a kick while Otani is on the apron but Otani grabs his ankle and applies an ankle lock. He releases it after a moment and hits a springboard missile dropkick from the apron, he then goes for the dragon suplex by Tajiri blocks it. Tajiri goes off the ropes and hits a sunset flip into the Oklahoma Roll, cover, but it gets a two count. Tajiri picks up Otani and puts him onto the top turnbuckle before joining him and connecting with the Frankensteiner. Cover, but it gets a two count. Tajiri goes off the ropes and goes for another hurricanrana, but Otani pushes him off. Otani picks up Tajiri and hits a sit-down powerbomb, he then goes out to the apron and waits for Tajiri to get up. Swan dive kneel kick by Otani, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner: Shinjiro Otani
Post Match: Otani helps up Tajiri, but he is having trouble standing, so Otani shakes his hand and heads for the back.
Match Thoughts: A pretty even match, either New Japan or Otani has respect for Tajiri to give him a chance to showcase himself. Remember, in 1997 Tajiri was not the Japanese Buzzsaw and at the time he was pretty new to Big Japan (he had wrestled in smaller promotions up to that point). So I was pleasantly surprised that this was a competitive match, my only major complaint is that it ended rather abruptly. I guess with 12 matches on the card they couldn't go long but it was building to be a longer match when suddenly it ended less then 30 seconds after Tajiri had a nearfall of his own and appeared in control of the match. Still, it was entertaining to watch a younger Tajiri, and it was a solid start to the New Japan vs. Big Japan series. Score: 6.5
Tatsutoshi Goto vs. Kendo Nagasaki
This is the second match in the New Japan vs. Big Japan series. Tie-up to start, Nagasaki gets Goto into the corner and he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, Nagasaki takes Goto to the mat and applies a reverse chinlock, but Goto makes it to the ropes and Nagasaki breaks the hold. Goto goes for a single leg takedown but Nagasaki blocks it and applies a leg lock. Again Goto makes it to the ropes, he slowly gets back to his feet and they tie-up once again. Kick to the stomach by Goto and the two trade blows, as Nagasaki elbows Goto into the corner. Knee to the stomach by Goto and he chops Nagasaki against the ropes. Headbutts by Goto but Nagasaki elbows him back into the corner. Keylock by Nagasaki back on the mat but Goto makes it to the ropes. Mounted elbows by Goto and he applies a cross armbreaker, but Nagasaki gets out of it and goes back to the leg. Goto reverses it and stands back up, but Nagasaki tosses him out of the ring and joins him on the outside. Nagasaki throws Goto into the guard rail and hits a series of elbows, but Goto absorbs most of the blows. Nagasaki slides Goto back into the ring and applies a reverse chinlock, but Goto elbows out of it. Lariat by Goto, he picks up Nagasaki and pulls him out onto the ramp. Vertical suplex by Goto on the ramp, he runs to the top of the rampway and then charges back, hitting Nagasaki with another lariat. Goto throws Nagasaki back into the ring and goes for the backdrop suplex, but Nagasaki elbows out of it. Irish whip by Nagasaki to the corner and he delivers a superkick followed by a piledriver. Cover, but Goto kicks out. Back up, Goto ducks a Nagasaki punch and goes for the backdrop suplex, but again Nagasaki gets out of it and he applies an armbar. Goto makes it to the ropes, but Nagasaki pulls him out of the ring and throws him into the railing. Nagasaki grabs a chair from ringside and smacks a dojo boy before leveling Goto with it repeatedly. Nagasaki slides Goto back into the ring and hits Goto again with the chair. Nagasaki picks up Goto and hits a side slam onto the chair, he then picks up Goto and hits a piledriver onto the steel chair. Cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner: Kendo Nagasaki
Match Thoughts: Some of you with awesome memories might know Nagasaki best as The Dragon Master in WCW, and he was also mentioned on Bret Hart's WWE DVD since he wrestled in the early 70s in Stampede Wrestling. Here he is an old man, but a very respected old man, thus he can hang with career mid-carder Goto. About what you'd expect, meaning it was slow and plodding, but once they got past the pointless matwork it was pretty good. I can't hate on them though since Nagasaki was no young pup and they tried to make things interesting with some great piledrivers and chair shots. It was also a very definite "oh shit" ending, which I enjoyed. It made sense that Big Japan would be given one match, and this was the obvious one to do it in since Nagasaki is such a respected old-school wrestler. It started really slow but it picked up towards the end and overall it wasn't bad. Score: 5.0
Masahiro Chono vs. Shoji Nakamaki
This is the third match in the New Japan vs. Big Japan series, and no doubt will be the least competitive. Nakamaki walks down with a barbed wire board, but the referee tells him he can't come in the ring with it. Chono runs down and slams Nakamaki, causing him to drop the board, and the two brawl on the ramp. Chono gets the better of it and he throws Nakamaki off the ramp, and the crowd is loving it. Chono throws Nakamaki back onto the ramp and brings him back towards the ring, finally throwing him in so that the match can officially start. Kicks by Chono and he challenges Nakamaki to get up. Another kick by Chono, he picks up Nakamaki and slams him to the mat. Chono gets up to the top turnbuckle and challenges Nakamaki to get up. Nakamaki does and superplexes Chono off the top turnbuckle, but Chono pops back up. Nakamaki goes off the ropes but the two collide with no result. Nakamaki goes off the ropes again and he is caught with the Yakuza Kick, cover, and Chono picks up the three count! Your winner: Masahiro Chono
Post match: Chono slaps on the STF and Saito comes down to join in the fun, giving Nakamaki two sentons. Chono gets the barbed wire board and brings it into the ring, draping it into the corner. Chono goes back in the ring and picks up Nakamaki, but Nakamaki headbutts him back. Irish whip by Nakamaki and he hits a lariat, it has no impact, the second one doesn't work either, but the third lariat finally knocks Chono down. Nakamaki picks up Chono and tries to Irish whip him into the barbed wire board, but Chono reverses it and Nakamaki goes flying into it instead. After Nakamaki is freed from the barbed wire, Chono picks him up and puts him onto the top turnbuckle. Chono then joins him and hits a superplex down into the barbed wire board. This was a bizarre segment, as Nakamaki was encouraging him to do it the whole time and then jumps into the barbed wire some more after Chono leaves.
Match Thoughts: Odd little match. At first glance it appears to be a squash, which it is... obviously when one of the biggest stars in Japan wrestles a beloved jobber from a smaller promotion it isn't going to be competitive. But beyond that the match was really strange as both were inviting the other to hurt them and then mostly no-selling the offense. Both wrestlers, for example, invited the other to superplex them off the top turnbuckle. Chono didn't sell it at all, and Nakamaki didn't really sell it either. Nakamaki then jumps repeatedly into the barbed wire, as if to show up Chono, demonstrating that he feels no pain as Chono walks back up the ramp. I think it boiled down to both wrestlers wanting to show up the other one, but in the end it just came off as bizarre. I enjoyed the destroying of Nakamaki but the post-match just seemed off. Score: 4.0
Masa Saito vs. Great Kojika
This is the fourth and final match in the New Japan vs. Big Japan series. Tie-up to start, Saito gets Kojika into the corner and kicks him to the mat. Kojika escapes, kicks to the chest by Saito and Kojika falls to the mat. Saito chokes Kojika with his boot until the referee gets him off, Mongolian chops by Saito and Kojika rolls out of the ring. After a moment Kojika gets back in, punches to the stomach by Kojika but Saito absorbs the blows. Mongolian chop by Saito and he stomps Kojika to the mat. Again Kojika bails out of the ring but he returns after a minute, Saito stomps Kojika down into the corner as Big Japan wrestlers come in the ring to help. Saito takes care of all of them, which allows Kojika to get a chain and he hits Saito repeatedly in the head with it. Kojika chokes Saito with the chain but the referee slaps and kicks Kojika until he lets go. Back up, Mongolian chops by Saito and he slams Kojika to the mat. Ankle hold by Saito and Kojika submits! Your winner: Masa Saito
Most match: Saito beats up the Big Japan wrestlers again before leaving the ring.
Match Thoughts: Matsunaga was supposed to be in his match, but refused, so Big Japan owner Great Kojika took his place. By this time Kojika was mostly retired and actually wrestled in business attire. Not really a match, as Kojika was clearly out-matched and needed help from his crew and a chain to even look somewhat respectable. I did like though that the Big Japan wrestlers were helping, since Kojika is their boss, and I also thought it made sense that the referee was more forceful then usual as he is a New Japan employee as well. An odd final match to end the series, obviously Saito can defeat an old mostly-retired wrestler, I would have liked to have seen a more competitive match to end the "war." Score: 3.0
Antonio Inoki vs. Willie Williams
This is the "Inoki Countdown Final Sixth," meaning Inoki's sixth match in his eight match retirement tour (which took four years). Williams rushes Inoki to start the match, punching and kicking him back into the corner. The referee gets Williams off and starts a 10 count, but Inoki is up at 8. Williams goes for a kick but Inoki catches his leg and takes him to the mat. Inoki gets in the mount position but Williams gets to the ropes and Inoki is forced to break the hold (which he does after a moment). Kick by Williams, but Inoki mostly blocks the second attempt. Williams applies a front facelock and gets Inoki to the mat, but Inoki gets out of it and the two struggle for position. Inoki manages to get behind Williams but Williams gets a foot on the ropes. Inoki allows Williams back up and avoids a series of Williams's kicks, but Williams pushes Inoki back into the corner. The referee forces a break and they both go back to the middle of the ring, Williams gets Inoki in the corner again but Inoki avoids a Williams punch and applies the Cobra Twist. Inoki takes the move to the ground and Williams has no choice but to submit! Your winner: Antonio Inoki
Match Thoughts: This match wasn't designed to be "good," per se, but rather to show that Inoki could still beat any fighter in the world. Willie Williams was a karate champion, and the two had wrestled on February 27th, 1980 in a match that ended in a draw. The crowd was quiet since nothing happened but popped for the end, Williams didn't look completely clueless, and overall it was a short match that helped heat the crowd up for the three title matches coming up. If this was the final match on the card I would been annoyed, but it was placed properly and did no harm to the bigger matches coming up afterwards. Score: 4.5
(c) Ultimo Dragon vs. Jushin Thunder Liger
This match is for the J Crown Championship. Tie-up to start, Liger pushes Ultimo Dragon into the corner, Ultimo Dragon reverses positions with him but he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, Liger pushes Ultimo Dragon into the ropes, Irish whip, reversed, they trade move attempts with neither having any luck, La Magistral by Ultimo Dragon but Liger rolls out of the ring. Fake dive by Ultimo Dragon and he swings himself back into the ring. Liger joins him after a moment, kicks by Ultimo Dragon, Irish whip, reversed, and Liger hits a spinning backbreaker. Romero Special by Liger, he releases the hold after a moment and picks up Ultimo Dragon before nailing a powerbomb. Stretch hold by Liger but Ultimo Dragon makes it to the ropes. Liger drags Ultimo Dragon back a bit and applies the Camel Clutch, but Ultimo Dragon makes it to the ropes again. Liger picks up Ultimo Dragon, snapmare, and he applies another stretch hold into a pin attempt for a two count. Ultimo Dragon reverses it with a leg lock, he picks up Liger, Irish whip, and Ultimo Dragon delivers a dropkick. Cover, but Liger gets a foot on the ropes. Back to the leg by Ultimo Dragon but Liger reverses it into a cross armbreaker attempt. Ultimo Dragon gets out of it and applies a modified Indian Deathlock and he kicks Liger in the back. Irish whip by Ultimo Dragon, sunset flip by Liger but it gets two. Inside Cradle by Ultimo Dragon but Liger reverses it into his own pin attempt for a two count. Ultimo Dragon goes back to the leg as he applies a leg lock but Liger gets a hand on the ropes. Back up, kick in the corner by Liger and he delivers a chop. Ultimo Dragon returns fire as they trade blows, but Liger gets the better of it. Irish whip by Liger and he nails a Liger Kick in the corner. Liger rakes Ultimo Dragon's face in the corner with his boot, Irish whip, reversed, and Ultimo Dragon hits a monkey flip followed by a dropkick. He goes for a second monkey flip, but Liger catches him and puts him on the top turnbuckle. Liger goes for a shotei but Ultimo Dragon blocks it and hits a headscissors back down to the mat. Ultimo Dragon goes off the ropes and hits a quebrada, cover, but it gets a two count.
Ultimo Dragon goes off the ropes again and goes for a cartwheel elbow strike, but Liger catches him and hits a release German suplex. Cover by Liger but it gets a two count. Liger picks up Ultimo Dragon, Irish whip, but Ultimo Dragon avoids the dropkick attempt. Liger catches him with a Liger Kick however, which sends Ultimo Dragon out to the floor. Liger then goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a plancha suicida down onto Ultimo Dragon. Liger gets back into the ring first with Ultimo Dragon slowly following, Irish whip by Liger and he hits the Fisherman Buster. Cover, but Ultimo Dragon kicks out. Liger picks up Ultimo Dragon and goes for a brainbuster but Ultimo Dragon reverses it into La Magistral for a two count. Ultimo Dragon goes off the ropes and both wrestlers hit a lariat on each other. Ultimo Dragon is up first but Liger nails him with a shotei! Cover, but Ultimo Dragon kicks out at two. Liger picks up Ultimo Dragon and puts him up onto the top turnbuckle before joining him, but Ultimo Dragon hangs on when Liger goes for a Frankensteiner. Diving Hurricanrana by Ultimo Dragon and he then hits a second one over the top turnbuckle to the floor. Ultimo Dragon charges the ropes but flips himself back in when Liger sees him and hits a tope suicida. Ultimo Dragon then goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a somersault plancha suicida. Both wrestlers slowly get back into the ring, slam in front of the corner by Ultimo Dragon and he nails a moonsault. Ultimo Dragon picks up Liger and goes for a Tiger Suplex, Liger blocks it at first, but Ultimo Dragon hits it anyway for a long two count. Ultimo Dragon picks up Liger again and goes for a tombstone piledriver, but Liger reverses it into one of his own. Liger goes up to the top turnbuckle but Ultimo Dragon is up in time and joins him up top. After getting knocked to the apron Ultimo Dragon climbs back up and hits the Dragonsteiner. Cover, but Liger barely gets a shoulder up. Ultimo Dragon picks up Liger and hits a running powerbomb, cover, but again it gets a two count. Back up, scoop slam by Ultimo Dragon and he goes for a Lionsault, but Liger rolls out of the way and applies La Magistral for a two count cover. Both wrestlers slowly get up, kick by Ultimo Dragon but Liger hits a hurricanrana when Ultimo Dragon goes for a powerbomb. Liger picks up Ultimo Dragon and hits the Steiner Screwdriver, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner: Jushin Thunder Liger
Match Thoughts: Any match with Liger + Ultimo Dragon from 1997 is going to be good, there is no way around that. So this match was good. But that was all, which is obviously a disappointment. The beginning mat work was normal but it dragged and was ultimately not important in any way as they didn't even pretend to sell it. The middle to the end was very entertaining but they were a bit sloppy as a few moves were not hit very crisply (such as the Dragonsteiner, Liger's Hurricanrana, and the Steiner Screwdriver). The ending was sudden as Ultimo Dragon had been dominating the last few minutes but was put away rather quickly, without Liger going through his normal signature moves. It was still a good match, the crowd was into it and they overall work together very well. It just wasn't as good as I was hoping it would be. Score: 7.0
(c) Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. The champions attack the challengers to start the match and throw them out of the ring. Finally the match starts with Tenzan squaring off with Kimura, he backs him into the corner and tags in Chono. Chono and Tenzan stomp down Kimura in the corner, Chono picks up Kimura and holds him so that Tenzan can hit a series of Mongolian chops. Yakuza Kick by Chono, he picks up Kimura and makes the tag to Tenzan. Snapmare by Tenzan and he chops Kimura in the throat. Kimura rolls to the corner to tag in Fujinami, Fujinami pushes Tenzan against the ropes and hits a series of strikes. Snapmare by Fujinami, he picks up Tenzan and applies a side headlock, but Tenzan pushes him back into the corner and tags in Chono. Chono and Fujinami circle each other, tie-up, but Tenzan hits Fujinami from behind. Kicks by Chono and he rakes Fujinami in the eyes. Single leg takedown by Chono and he begins to work on the leg. Chono tags in Tenzan, and they make a wish with Fujinami's legs. Takedown by Tenzan and he applies a single leg crab hold. Tenzan headbutts Fujinami but Fujinami hits him back and he tags in Kimura. Stomps by Kimura and Fujinami in the corner, Irish whip by Kimura and he knees Tenzan in the stomach. Kimura hits a double stomp, he picks up Tenzan, Irish whip, and he knees him in the stomach again. Rake of the face by Kimura, he picks up Tenzan and slams him in front of the corner. Kimura tags in Tenzan, who comes in the ring with a diving knee drop. Kimura then hits a diving knee drop as well, takedown by Fujinami and he applies a leg submission hold. Tenzan slowly crawls tot he ropes and Fujinami breaks the hold, side headlock by Fujinami and he tags in Kimura. Snapmare by Kimura and he kicks Tenzan in the back. Kimura applies a reverse chinlock before applying a headscissors hold. Choke by Kimura, and the referee breaks the hold after a five count. Mounted punches by Kimura, he picks up Tenzan and makes the tag to Fujinami. Fujinami goes for a vertical suplex but Tenzan reverses it into one of his own. Fujinami quickly recovers but Tenzan pushes him back into his corner and tags in Chono. Snapmare by Chono and he hits a Yakuza Kick, which knocks Fujinami back into his corner and allows him to tag in Kimura. Tie-up, armbar by Kimura but Chono takes him down and applies a leg lock. Knees to the leg by Chono and he applies another leg lock before making the tag to Tenzan.
Tenzan picks up Kimura and gives him a Mongolian chop, but Kimura comes back with a kick. Irish whip by Kimura but Tenzan reverses it and hits the Mountain Bomb. Cover, but it picks up a two count. Tenzan tags in Chono, Chono picks up Kimura and hits a neckbreaker, cover, but it gets a two count. Tenzan comes in the ring, double Irish whip to Kimura and they hit a double shoulderblock. Chono picks up Kimura, Tenzan comes in the ring again and goes up to the second rope, hitting a Mongolian chop onto Kimura. Tenzan stays in the ring as the legal man, he picks up Kimura and holds him so that Chono can hit a shoulderblock off the second rope. Chono stays in, he picks up Kimura and puts him in the corner. Tenzan comes in again, Irish whip by Chono and they hit an atomic drop/lariat combination. Chono slaps on the STF, but Fujinami breaks it up. Irish whip by Chono onto Fujinami, Tenzan hits a running lariat but Fujinami reverses Chono's Yakuza Kick with a dragon screw. Tenzan goes for a kick but he gets the dragon screw as well, Fujinami holds Tenzan for Kimura but when Kimura charges them Tenzan ducks and Kimura accidentally kicks Fujinami. Chono picks up Kimura, Irish whip, but Kimura kicks him in the head. Irish whip by Kimura and he delivers the Inazuma Leg Lariat, he picks up Chono and nails a powerbomb. Cover, but Tenzan breaks it up. Tenzan picks up Kimura and holds him for Chono who climbs to the top turnbuckle, but Fujinami hits Tenzan from behind. Superplex by Kimura onto Chono as Fujinami slams Tenzan to the mat. Kimura tags in Tenzan, who kicks Chono repeatedly in the leg. He throws Tenzan out of the ring before going back to Chono, Irish whip by Fujinami and he applies a sleeper hold. Tenzan breaks free from Kimura and breaks up the hold with a heel kick, but Kimura comes back and throws Tenzan to ringside again. Fujinami goes for a backdrop suplex onto Chono but Chono kicks him low and delivers the Yakuza Kick. Cover, but it gets a two count. Chono goes off the ropes but Fujinami applies the Dragon Sleeper. Cover, Tenzan tries to break it up with a diving headbutt, but Fujinami moves and Tenzan accidentally headbutts Chono. Kimura throws Tenzan out of the ring again and hits his Inazuma Leg Lariat onto Chono. backdrop suplex by Fujinami and he re-applies the Dragon Sleeper onto Chono. With Tenzan unable to break it up, Chono has no choice but to submit! Your winners and new champions: Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura
Match Thoughts: Better then I was expecting, but that is damning the match with faint praise as I wasn't expecting much in the first place. It started slow but the last five minutes or so were hot, and the crowd really got into it as the nearfalls started. I was surprised with how many (worked) miscues both teams had, as they were both steady tag teams and not two thrown together singles wrestlers. A good old-school tag team match that showed that the old guard wasn't quite done yet. Score: 6.0
Great Muta vs. Power Warrior
Tie-up to start, Power Warrior gets Muta into the corner but he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, waistlock by Muta but Power Warrior breaks the hold. Tie-up again, side headlock by Power Warrior, Muta Irish whips out of it but Power Warrior shoulderblocks him down. Elbow by Muta and he connects with a kick, knocking Power Warrior into the corner. Irish whip by Muta but Power Warrior fires out of the corner with a lariat. Military Press Slam by Power Warrior and Muta rolls out of the ring to get a breather. He returns after a moment, stomps by Power Warrior, Irish whip by Muta rolls out of the way of the lariat and delivers a back kick. Vertical suplex by Muta, cover, but it gets a two count and again Muta bails out of the ring. Power Warrior stomps on Muta when he rolls back in the ring, Irish whip by Power Warrior, reversed, but Power Warrior hits a powerslam. Once again Muta rolls to the floor to recover, and he rolls back in at around a 10 count. Kick to the stomach by Muta and he throws Power Warrior out of the ring. Muta joins him and throws him onto the table on the other side of the railing. Muta joins him on the table, picks him up, and nails a piledriver (not breaking the table). Muta hits the table with chairs and then throws tables and chairs onto Power Warrior as he lays on the floor. Power Warrior powers up however out of the wreckage and chases after Muta, catching up with him at ringside and throwing him into the ring post. Power Warrior chases him to another table, picks him up on the table and slams Muta down onto it, breaking the table. Power Warrior slides Muta back into the ring, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock with eye raking. Irish whip by Power Warrior but Muta avoids the dropkick and delivers the Flash Elbow.
Muta throws Power Warrior out to the ramp and hits a face crusher. Muta then runs up the ramp so that he can hit his ramp running lariat. Muta gets back in first with Power Warrior slowly following, Irish whip by Muta to the corner but Power Warrior catches him when he goes for the cartwheel elbow strike. Muta elbows out of the suplex attempt and goes to the top turnbuckle, but Power Warrior joins him and dumps Muta down to the floor. Muta grabs a chair and chucks it in the ring and then throws a few more. Power Warrior eventually gets tired of waiting and comes out of the ring, but Muta throws him into the railing. Muta gets back in and grabs a chair, hitting Power Warrior in the head with it when he returns. Power Warrior isn't effected by the chair shot however and levels Muta with a lariat. Muta goes for the Red Mist, but Power Warrior blocks it with a steel chair and hits Muta with it. While the referee yells at Power Warrior, Muta rolls out of the ring and goes under it to pop out on the other side. Muta jumps off the top turnbuckle but Power Warrior hits him as he jumps off. Powerslam by Power Warrior, cover, but it gets a two count. Power Warrior goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, but that also gets a two count. Powerbomb by Power Warrior, but that doesn't work either as Muta sprays Green Mist in his face! Muta goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a head chop, moonsault by Muta but Power Warrior kicks out of the pin attempt. Muta rolls out of the ring to get a table and he throws it into the ring. After setting up the table in the corner, Muta throws Power Warrior into it and hits his Cartwheel Elbow Strike. Muta puts the table on the mat, puts Power Warrior onto the top turnbuckle and hits a Frankensteiner onto the table. Muta puts Power Warrior onto the table (laying on the mat) and goes to the top turnbuckle, but Power Warrior rolls out of the way of the moonsault attempt. Power Warrior is up first, he goes off the ropes and hits a lariat. He then picks up Muta and nails the Northern Lights Bomb onto the table! Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner: Power Warrior
Match Thoughts: Naturally this match was more about story then anything else, and I thought that it told the story very well. In essence, Sasaki was trying to out-Muta Muta by using his old Power Warrior persona, and it did the trick. Throughout the match Muta was picking as his paint as Sasaki picked at it as well, almost showing that the paint didn't matter. Sasaki's normal big moves weren't working but when he used the tables and chairs like Muta was then he found success. The crowd was entertained as was I, people make the mistake of thinking that Mutoh is lazy as Muta, when really the slow style and rolling out of the ring are simply mind games Muta uses to lure his opponent of the ring (which eventually worked in this match towards the end). It was also a good buffer between title matches as it put on a very different style then what they were going for. Overall it was just wholesome fun, no one would confuse this with a technical masterpiece but it achieved what they were going for and put on a good gimmick match. Score: 6.5
(c) Shinya Hashimoto vs. Riki Choshu
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Tie-up to start, Choshu gets Hashimoto into the ropes but he gives a clean break. Tie-up again, side headlock by Choshu into a front chancery, Hashimoto gets Choshu into the corner but he gives a clean break also. Side headlock by Hashimoto but Choshu pushes him into the ropes to force a break. Back in the middle of the ring they go into a Test of Strength which Choshu wins, and he holds Hashimoto against the mat until Hashimoto gets a foot on the ropes. Choshu lets Hashimoto back up and Hashimoto kicks Choshu in the leg. Another kick to the leg by Hashimoto and he connects with a third. Choshu fires back with punches however, knocking Hashimoto to the mat. Another punch by Choshu and he knocks Hashimoto back into the corner. Choshu grabs Hashimoto and hits a front vertical suplex. Choshu knocks Hashimoto into the corner again but Hashimoto fires back with chops to regain the advantage. Mid Kick by Hashimoto and Choshu drops to the mat. Hashimoto kicks Choshu repeatedly in the shoulder and chest before stomping him down in the corner. More kicks by Hashimoto but the referee finally gets him back. Choshu gets back up and trades kicks with Hashimoto, with Choshu getting the better of it. Running kick to the knee by Choshu and he stomps Hashimoto in the leg. Scorpion Deathlock by Choshu but after several minutes Choshu releases the hold. Choshu goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, but Hashimoto stays on his feet. Choshu goes off the ropes again and hits a second one, but again Hashimoto doesn't go down. A third lariat by Choshu, cover, but Hashimoto kicks out at two. Choshu goes off the ropes and hits a lariat followed by a second one, but Hashimoto still stays on his feet. A third lariat by Choshu, Hashimoto goes down and Choshu makes a quick cover, but Hashimoto gets a shoulder up. Choshu goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, the second lariat he hits from behind, and again he hits a third lariat to knock Hashimoto off his feet. Cover, but once again it only gets a two count. Hashimoto slowly gets to his feet, Choshu goes off the ropes but Hashimoto chops his arm when he goes for a lariat. Kicks to the arm by Hashimoto and he chops Choshu in the shoulder. More hard kicks by Hashimoto, but Choshu finally fires back with his own chops. Choshu puts Hashimoto onto the top turnbuckle, joins him, and he delivers a superplex. Lariat by Choshu, he goes off the ropes again and he delivers a second one which knocks Hashimoto to the mat. Choshu goes up to the top turnbuckle but Hashimoto recovers and superplexes him off. Kick to the chest by Hashimoto, he picks up Choshu and delivers a DDT. Cover, but Choshu kicks out at one. A second DDT by Hashimoto, cover, and this time he gets a two count before Choshu gets a shoulder up. Hashimoto picks up Choshu, Choshu fights off Hashimoto for a moment but Hashimoto finally gets him up and nails the brainbuster. Cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winner and still champion: Shinya Hashimoto
Match Thoughts: A good old-fashioned brawl, this match is pretty much the perfect example of what "Strong Style" is if you ever wanted to see it in action. Love it or hate it this style was often used in heavy vs. heavy title matches in the late eightys to mid-90s, and even though it takes some getting used to it is quite entertaining once you understand what they are doing. Nine lariats might seem excessive but it was done to put over how damn tough it is to put away the champion Hashimoto. Choshu got desperate (going to the top turnbuckle) after the lariats and Scorpion Deathlock didn't work, and it cost him the match as Hashimoto wore him down with his stiff kicks and DDTs. The crowd was very amped for the match as it had a real championship feel to it, something lacking a lot these days. It had its faults, such as the leg work and the two minute Scorpion Deathlock being meaningless, but overall it was a match worthy of the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Score: 7.5
This is a hard show to call. The New Japan vs. Big Japan matches would have seemed better fitted on one of their lesser big shows, as none of the bigger matches were at all competitive and it didn't do anything to help the card. Liger/Dragon was very good but nothing worth going out of your way to see and no match on the card is a must-see match. On the other hand, I ranked 6 out of 12 matches as a 6.0 or higher, which basically means that 6 of the matches were good and entertaining on some level. Due to that I will recommend the event as overall it was an entertaining show, but I can't recommend it too loudly since the main theme was a waste and none of the matches stuck out.
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review completed on 4/13/08