New Japan “Wrestling World 1997”
review by Jason Manning

Date: January 4th, 1997
Location: Tokyo Dome

Ah, the annual 1/4 Dome show. Nagata’s farewell match, New Japan vs. Big Japan (with OTANI VS. TAJIRI!), Chono & Tenzan defending the tag titles against Fujinami & Kimura, SUPER LIGER!, Ultimo defending the J Crown against The Original and Best Liger!, Muta vs. Power Warrior, Hash defending his IWGP Heavyweight Title against Choshu, and a buncha’ other stuff are on the menu. Rambling: COMMENCE. Review: BEGIN.

Yuji Nagata Farewell Match
Junji Hirata, Manabu Nakanishi, Osamu Nishimura & Satoshi Kojima vs. Kazuo Yamazaki, Osamu Kido, Takashi Iizuka & Yuji Nagata

Nagata’s off to WCW and this is his last match with New Japan for a while. This is sorta’ fun for the whole aspect of the professional wrestler vs. the shoot-stylist. It’s not the usual fast-paced throwaway Dome tag, as they try their best to work in a mini-story. Yamazaki’s crew applies a leglock, and it’s replied with a lariat. Yamazaki’s crew hits an armbreaker, and it’s replied with an elbow. Yamazaki’s crew throws a kick, and it’s replied with a chop. Yamazaki’s boys also heel it up at points which is a nice element in a seemingly throwaway tag like this. Kojima’s high-pitched voice pleases the crowd. The Yamazaki team (I’m trying to find different ways to say his team here...) busts out a nice combo in the middle on poor Hirata; Yamazaki and Nagata giving him dual cross armbreakers and Iizuka slapping on a leglock. Hey, Nakanishi really wasn’t in this much. I don’t mind that. He puts Nagata in an Argentine backbreaker near the end and then sloppily drops him on his knee. Awww, poor Nak. Everyone gets involved for the finish and after a couple near falls, Hirata eventually hits a lariat on Yuji, asking him to come back to Japan with something more (11:21). HEY! That was pretty good.

New Japan vs. Big Japan
Shinjiro Otani vs. Yoshihiro Tajiri

HEY! This’ll be a tad better than pretty good, I am willing to bet. This is Tajiri before the mist and the trip to ECW, so he offers a handshake to start. But he FAKES OTANI OUT! and takes it right to him and the story has been set in place: Tajiri is the young invading punk and Otani does not like him very much. Tajiri busts out a neat rolling jujigatame and then a great German suplex hold for a really close near fall, setting him up as a threat. And the crowd buzzes for like 20 straight seconds about it. Otani gets in a waistlock, but Tajiri neatly pushes him away and manages a ‘rana for another nice near fall. And Otani’s all “Whaaaaaaaa!?” He knows what he has to do and catches Tajiri with a dropkick to the kneecap, and then goes right to work on the leg, trying to ground the spunky young invader. This all sets up a cross knee scissors hold and they get a nice struggle out of it before Tajiri reaches the ropes and Otani refuses to let go! LOVE. Otani brings the boot scrapes and the ass-beating begins. Both guy’s begin to slap each other silly before they both fall at the same time, which I wuuuuv. Back up Otani acts quickly with a hard bodyslam and then goes for the springboard dropkick, which Tajiri AVOIDS! Tajiri quickly acts with a picture perfect Dragon suplex hold for another fine near fall, and Otani rolls outside. Tajiri then follows with an AWE-INSPIRING Asai moonsault! Fucking AWESOME. This kid was the shit. Otani gets back on the apron and Tajiri tries to knock him back out with a high kick, but Otani catches him in TERRIFIC fashion with a heel hold on the HURTING LEG! MEGA LOVE. Otani then hits the springboard dropkick and tries for a Dragon suplex, but Tajiri fights out and catches him with a sunset flip and then busts out the rolling cradles for heated near fall. Tajiri sits the hurting Otani up top and basically trips down, but he wins back the crowd’s approval with a nice hurricanrana for two. Otani manages a powerbomb and then tries to break Tajiri with a sit-out version for just one. Tajiri seems kinda’ dazed and Otani simply follows it up with a springboard kneel kick for the win (8:30). Reaaallly great. Tajiri was not afraid to amaze the crowd and Otani was really into giving him offense and making him look credible. The finish came a little too sudden, but other than that this was a load of fun and they packed a lot of action into eight and a half minutes.

New Japan vs. Big Japan
Tatsutoshi Goto vs. Kendo Nagasaki

I guess New Japan felt the need to give Big Japan at least one win in this series, and Tatsutoshi gets to do the job. And you do not ever want to see this here match. You can just see them talking to each other, “Man... they gave us nine and a half minutes... I can’t kill time for THIS long...” The crowd is paying no attention to the match and the action is painfully boring. They kill time on the mat, brawl outside, blah blah blah. Nagasaki uses a chair a bunch and then a piledriver on it to win (9:23).

New Japan vs. Big Japan
Masahiro Chono vs. Shoji Nakamaki

Nakamaki’s all pumped up for a DEATH MATCH baby, bringing out the barbed wire board and a barbed wire baseball bat. Chono simply runs out, kicks Nakamaki’s ass while no-selling Nakamaki’s two offensive moves, and hits a Yakuza kick for the win (1:07). Chono and Hiro continue to kill Nakamaki post-match and Nakamaki takes a bunch of back bumps into the barbed wire board after Chono leaves. Anything for exposure I guess. One of the most humiliating moments you’ll see in pro wrestling...

New Japan vs. Big Japan
Masa Saito vs. Great Kojika

This is an extended version of the last match as Saito squashes Kojika (who’s wrestling in a tuxedo tonight) and no-sells any attempt of offense from him. Saito even gets to kill all of Kojika’s pals. Fun for all! Kojika chokes Saito with something but soon taps to an ankle hold (4:25). This whole series really blew minus the awesome Otani/Tajiri match.

IWGP Tag Team Title
Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan [c] vs. Tatsumi Fujinami & Kengo Kimura

Chono & Tenzan heel it up for a bit before the old men take advantage of Tenzan and begin isolating him. Tenzan gets the tag to Chono and Chono mostly controls, giving Tenzan the opportunity to control when he comes in. Chono completely misses Kimura on a diving shoulderblock but Kengo sells anyways. Chono & Tenzan double team Kimura for a while before Fujinami gets in and hands out a couple dragon screws. He holds Chono in place for the Inazuma leg lariat but Fujinami gets hit. DISSENSION! does not come up as the old men are above that. Kengo comes back with a Yakuza kick of his own and then hits the Inazuma leg lariat followed by a folding powerbomb for barely a count as Tenzan breaks it. The old men continue their comeback as Kimura superplexes Chono and tags in Fujinami, who puts Chono in a sleeper. Tenzan breaks that with a kneel kick and is thrown outside, but Chono hands the old men a pair of low blows and Yakuza kicks Fujinami for barely two. Fujinami catches Chono with a Dragon sleeper and Tenzan tries breaking it with a diving headbutt, but Fujinami rolls out of the way and Chono gets hit and the champs are in trouble now. Kengo with the Inazuma leg lariat to Chono and Fujinami hits a backdrop. He follows it up with the Dragon sleeper as Kengo takes care of Tenzan and the old guys pull out the win for the titles (16:10). They kept the match interesting throughout with the heeling it up by the champs and the isolation by the old men and then the isolation by the champs and finally they pretty much sprinted for the finish and this was a FIIIIINE batch of wrestling.

Inoki Final Countdown 6th
Antonio Inoki vs. Willie Williams

Inoki falls down once or twice, they wrestle on the mat for a few seconds, Inoki’s hands are up a lot, Williams seems afraid to hurt Inoki, and Inoki manages the ground Cobra Twist for the tap (4:19). Yep. Williams’ post match promo is great: “I would like to, fight, Mr. Antonio Inoki, THIRD TIME! I want fight, AGAIN! Because uh, not finish! Mr. Inoki and I have to... square ring, again! Oneee. One more, time, I want, to fight Mr. Inoki. *eyes widen*” And it’s all amidst some sign language or something. Now THAT was good. The match however, sucked in a crazy suck way.

Koji Kanemoto vs. Super Liger
Ahhh, the one and only Super Liger match. New Japan somehow thought that an “improved” version of Liger as Liger’s rival would get over. Jericho’s under the mask, and the story goes that he was really uncomfortable in the bodysuit and mask, so he couldn’t do much good. They keep it on the mat to start with Kanemoto bringing a little legwork to the table before Jericho throws Kanemoto outside and jumps to the top (where he planned to leap onto Koji), but he trips and falls backwards. Ouch. The crowd completely turns on him and even after a missile dropkick to the outside, they’re not liking the match. He gets back in and poses, and the crowd boos him. Oh man. Kanemoto just says fuck it and runs through his stuff to keep the crowd interested, but only grabs their interest by reversing a ‘rana from the top with a powerbomb. Everything else, even the moonsault, gets no love. He pulls Jericho up at 2 after the moonsault and does get a fine reaction from that, and then delivers a Tiger suplex hold, but Jericho kicks out. Jericho is somehow all better now and lets out a weak scream before hitting a lariat for two. Jericho tries a superplex but Koji throws him outside and goes for a plancha, but Jericho counters that with a dropkick. He hits a double underhook suplex from the top but pulls Kanemoto up at 2 (not smart; the crowd just wants this to end by now), and then gets in a little shot at Koji by following it up with a (crappy) Tiger suplex hold for the win (11:11). The crowd hated the whole Super Liger character and it never came back. The match had no chance of succeeding because of that, but it really was just average junior stuff anyways, with Jericho being sloppy and them just basically trading moves until the finish.

Michiyoshi Ohara vs. Jinsei Shinzaki
Ohara’s dressed like Shinzaki, but in BLACK! He hits the Praying powerbomb right off the bat and I cry. Ohara controls most of this and is sooooo the lowest grade heel in the world. Poor guy has to control almost all the offense and can’t keep it interesting if his life depended on it. He does like every move twice. Ishingun comes in for no real reason (Ohara was controlling almost the whole time...) near the end and their interference backfires, leading to Shinzaki running through the Praying shoulderblock, diving headbutt, and finally powerbomb for the win (9:17). Blah.

J Crown
Ultimo Dragon [c] vs. Jushin Thunder Liger

The crowd is STOKED to see the real Jushin Thunder Liger after the heatless abomination that was Super Liger. He is wearing INSANELY stylish gear tonight, with a monster version of his mask (pre-match) and a bitching gold suit. Liger and Ultimo are awesome wrestlers and this match is awesome because they are awesome. It’s eighteen and a half minutes of consistently great action, and they even play off their J Crown tournament match from a little bit ago (with the la magistrals by Ultimo) and it RULES. Liger looked great stretching Ultimo and then Ultimo went for his leg for a little bit. After that they picked the match up and it was non-stop action from there, just really great stuff. Liger tried to slap Ultimo on the top and Ultimo countered it with his FOOT and Liger sold like a man. Liger brought a bunch of nice moves to the table, trying to commit murder with a release German and spiking Dragon with a Fisherman’s buster. Ultimo got in a couple nifty spots near the end and it almost looked like Ultimo had the match in the bag with a Tiger suplex hold, but it wasn’t over. Ultimo controlled most of the finish before Liger surprisingly caught him with a la magistral (!) and then killed him dead with the Steiner Screwdriver for alllllll the gold (18:21). Really great stuff from two of the best. The Dome is never a great place for juniors matches but they tried their best to give this match some love. Just a bunch of great action from start to finish, the awesome playing off of the J Crown tourney match, and a closing sequence that kept you guessing. Awesome.

Great Muta vs. Power Warrior
Both guy’s are looking fairly stylish tonight with their pre-match gear, especially Mr. Sasaki. Anyways, this is MUTA 101! Be excited. Or something. Kensuke throws him around for a bit and Muta sells it by rolling outside and stalling. This repeats a few times. Muta then piles a bunch of tables and chairs on Warrior to kill some time. Then the match just kinda’ plods along for too long and once in a while they do a spot to pop the crowd. Just typical lazy Muta garbage here and no crazy blade jobs or Japanese story-telling to save it. Muta runs through his three-move flurry + tables for some near falls and Warrior hits a lariat and the Northern Lights bomb on a table for the win (16:09). This blew! Yeah! It really, really did! Their pre-match gear was cool though. I’d say the stylist was the best worker of the match. Kensuke did seem to be trying at times, but Muta was not afraid to bring the suck and drag him down. Plus, saying the stylish was the better worker sounds cooooool...

IWGP Heavyweight Title
Shinya Hashimoto [c] vs. Riki Choshu

Choshu overpowers Hash for a bit before Hash decides to just strike the living shit out of him and that works for a while. Choshu comes back however by managing to kick Hash down, and Hash sells the leg, so Choshu kicks away at it and locks the Scorpion Deathlock on for a whiiiiiile. He then hits the Riki lariat a couple times to knock Hash down, but a third does the job for 2. Choshu then hits the Riki lariat three MORE times to knock Hash down, and this again gets just a near fall. Choshu then hits the lariat AGAIN and then switches things up with an enzuilariat. ANOTHER Riki lariat follows and this is NINE Riki lariats like ten minutes into the match. This gets a pretty hot near fall. Choshu realizes that the counts are getting closer and closer to 3 so maybe four hundred more lariats could put Hash away, and he goes for another one, but Hash thankfully chops his arm really, really hard, and YOU! LOVE! IT!. Hash then kicks away at Choshu’s arm (thank GOD) and falls down, selling the power of the lariat. Hash viciously kicks away at Riki’s lariat arm and it makes me a happy wrestling fan. Hash kicks Choshu full force in the chest in the corner and Choshu is not afraid to just stand there and take it like a man. Hash slugs away at Choshu in the corner and the referee tries to back Hashimoto off, which gives Choshu the opportunity to burst out of the corner and chop Hash down. Choshu busts out a superplex and then lariats Hash two more times and it saddens me that he does this and Hash falls down. Riki heads up top but Hash catches him and brings him down with a superplex. Now the match has got that nice back-and-forth feeling to it. It’s real nice. Yes, it is. Hash then DDT’s Choshu and gets barely a 1 count off of it. Oooooh Choshu, how I can hate you so. Hash then delivers a jumping DDT and this gets a nice near fall. Hash goes for the brainbuster and Riki knows his fate so he tries his best to avoid it and it’s reaaaalllllllyyyyyy heated, but Hash manages it and spikes Riki on his head for the 3 count (18:04). This had a bunch of Choshu Pisses You Off instances, but other than that it was quite the fun heated slugfest and was a worthy main event.

Final Analysis: Ehhhh. This had some really fun matches in Otani/Tajiri and Liger/Ultimo, and some fine matches in the opener, the tag title match, and the main event, but there’s like 12 matches and five out of twelve is not the best ratio. Try to find the Otani/Tajiri and J Crown matches on a comp or something and you may want to see the awfulness that was Super Liger, but other than that this gets a Not Recommended from me.

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