WAR Shin Nihon Puroresu vs. W.A.R.
Masao Orihara vs. Akitoshi Saito 11:14. Amazingly good wrestler vs. martial artist match, with fiery up and comer Orihara giving an all-star performance in carrying limited bruiser Saito to probably the most successful match of his career. Orihara was on the rise but far from exceptional at this point, and there are definitely some creaky moments where the fakeness was readily apparently, but as a whole they succeeded on desire, passion, and emotion. Everyone being jacked up for an early encounter in the NJPW vs. WAR interpromotional feud was a huge plus they were able to build the match around. From a technical standpoint, the match was no better than good, but the heat, hatred, and intensity coming from both the performers and the fans made it riveting and memorable.
One reason the atmosphere was so great is the WAR fans are completely rabid, taking offense to the idea of NJPW being the better league, and just going nuts for their boys. They structured the match to not only play into their strengths, but garner the loudest pops. Saito is the tougher more dominant fighter who thrives on kicking the stuffing out of his opposition, so he dominated the match, with Orihara displaying enough quickness and guile to always be in the match. Orihara did an excellent job of putting over Saito’s strikes, which when they connected were extra brutal because interpromotional matches are “real”, including a knee that busted Orihara’s mouth hard way. Orihara would transition into a submission at regular intervals, often enough to keep the fans, who were standing up and swinging their fists from bell to bell, believing in him. He played the fiesty underdog who wanted so badly to succeed, making every choke sleeper or Achilles’ tendon hold into an event by playing them for all they were worth. The controversial finish where Orihara claimed he kicked out was not my favorite, but the post match was well played with Orihara grabbing the ref and threatening him then Masashi Aoyagi coming in and cleaning house on the WAR guys. ***3/4
Shiro Koshinaka & Kengo Kimura vs. Genichiru Tenryu & Koki Kitahara 19:45. Tenryu & Koshinaka know exactly what they are doing in these heated situations, putting on a clinic in simple but effective brawling. They don’t deal in garbage; they brawl by serving up fistfuls of hatred. They are not merely stiff, but malicious with Tenryu putting that little extra into everything to the point he ran so hard he went flying over the top rope after his own lariat! What separates these two from so many others and makes them superb at these rivalry matches is they know 100 ways to incite each other as well as the fans, and implement one at every turn. The primary story was Kitahara getting pummelled, with Koshinaka & Kimura making no real attempt to pin him because they preferred to goad Tenryu by mercilessly slaughtering his boy.
There were only spurts of wrestling, almost all of which involved Tenryu vs. Koshinaka, and even then I’m mostly thinking of the finish, but this truly was a WAR. The bad blood from the earlier match carried over to this rival league must die match, as they started beating each other up from the moment the second team walked out. It didn’t take long for the blood to flow, with the seconds joining in from time to time, including Orihara gaining a measure of revenge by beating Saito & Aoyagi up with a chair. There was often too much going on to keep up with, but it was wild rather than chaotic.
The fans were very unruly by Japanese standards, regularly littering the ring with objects including a fan scoring a bullseye on Kimura to punish him for having the gall to make a save. Though Kimura was at his most savage, he was by far the weak link. He played a Masa Fuchi style irksome pest, but in a very bland manner as he can stomp, but lacks Fuchi’s craftiness and meanspirited nature. Though a totally different style from the previous match, it was another spiteful, intense and passionate interpromotional battle with massive heat. No one cared that the match ended, the feud was just beginning! Kimura wanted revenge, but Tenryu dispatched of him and kept giving Koshinaka powerbombs until Masa Saito made the save. ****