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Daily Watchlist (11.1.19)

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The Daily Watchlist is where I highlight the matches I watch on a daily basis. Sometimes the matches will be current and other times they’ll be classics. Today I watched six matches, all from NJPW. Five Super Jr. Tag League matches and Liger vs Sano from January 31, 1990.

NJPW 10/30
Roppongi 3K vs Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura – Recommended
An absolutely stellar match layout brought this match to a level where it can be debated as the tournament’s best. SHO and Uemura having a grapple exchange in the first half set a nice foundation for the second half where Uemura was able to hit a series of believable near falls. The shoulder tackles between Uemura and SHO made gross noises, everything between the two was intense. Tiger helping the young lion all he could in the closing stages was a nice touch as Uemura’s intensity with the half crab. There was no flipping around, not some grand spot, everything was grounded and paced excellently from start to finish. I won’t fight you if you want to tell me this is the tournament’s best match to this point.

NJPW 10/31
TJP & Clark Connors vs Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura
Connors and Uemura brought their intensity left off from their brutal and tournament stealing match from the Young Lion Cup. We also got more Tiger here than any other night of the tournament, likely due to TJP’s Tiger Mask tattoo. This didn’t have the strong structure that the previous night’s match did but there were some highlights. Uemura’s intensity is great to watch and Tiger’s logical limb focus is something sorely missing in so much of this company that it makes him a treat to watch. While having a handful of highs, the match felt disjointed and kind of a flat finish to both team’s tournament. In Shibata’s interview before the Young Lion Cup he mentioned the NJPW crew play to the crowd too much. He needs to get into Connors ear because he was beginning to show signs of falling into that trap as well.

NJPW 11/1
Volador Jr. & Titán vs Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi

Terrible comedy early negates the match from receiving a recommendation despite a fantastic second half. The comedy in the early portion of the match was embarrassing and some of the worst of the tournament. Two Taguchi pass out spots, a grundle stomp and butt play. This was such a shame because you know these guys are Volador and Titán’s best opponents in terms of style and it was on full display in the closing stretch. Volador came to play for the final night and had silky smooth exchanges with Taguchi. There is a whole lot to enjoy in this match but you have to get through some horrifically played out and bad comedy in the first five minutes to get to the good stuff.

El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Birds of Prey
I made a statement on Twitter a couple of days ago saying the problem with Ospreay in the junior division is he works best fighting from underneath but he’s above everyone in the division so they dynamic is off. When he wrestles on top he’s not nearly as exciting as when he’s coming back. Here there isn’t that problem because the Suzuki-Gun attack makes him fight from underneath and the comeback feels deserved.

This was a match that played to everyone’s strengths but did get a little overdramatic with an extended Ron Miller Special hold that went just a little too long. Taichi and BUSHI both getting involved to cause the loss made sense for both stories and puts Ospreay behind the 8-ball. I won’t recommend the match because it wasn’t the most exciting but in terms of the stories there are several key moments that get you invested.

Roppongi 3K vs El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori
Now for a match that played to no one’s strengths. SHO must be the worst seller in New Japan. The guy’s selling is over the top that it’s on par with Johnny Gargano in NXT. The entire match revolved around going after his back until he overcame with the Shock Arrow. The finish came out of nowhere and there was little reaction to him hitting it because the crowd had no idea the direction the match was trying to go. You want to goon on SHO for the comeback meaning we see absolutely nothing of note from Ishimori, everything about this was either bad or boring. Terrible ending to the block section of the tournament and an absolutely flat finish.

NJPW 1/31/90
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Naoki Sano (c) vs Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger – Recommended

I wanted to watch this match before starting POST Wrestling’s Thunderstruck series which is a podcast all about Liger. I first saw this match around this time last year when going through all of the junior title matches made available on NJPW World.

Sano was Liger’s first big rival after his transformation into the character. Liger’s first reign began just six months prior in a win over Hiroshi Hase. He was challenged by Sano in a match that went to a double KO decision. Their rematch happened in the same building, Sumo Hall, a month later and saw Sano win the title from Liger. Sano was then able to defend the title the following month, putting Liger in the back of the line.

Liger had to fight through a #1 Contendership Tournament in order to earn another shot at Sano and the title which is what lead to this match.

Immediately we start off with a slap from Liger. The two brawl outside where Sano is able to gain the advantage and rips Liger’s mask nearly all the way off as a way to expose Yamada’s face which is covered in blood from Sano’s actions.

The match then shifts gears as Sano starts showcasing his technique with a variety of bridging suplex hold. Starting with the fisherman buster, he then goes German, dragon and tiger, all holds that only get him a two count. Liger’s comebacks feature the flash of the match. He hits a pair of headscissors and a dive to the outside to bring the crowd to life.

Sano is able to sit on a hurricanrana for two and takes Liger to the top rope where he looks for Liger’s patented brainbuster. Liger comes down on top of Sano and catches Sano running in with the Liger Bomb for a near fall that causes the fans to start stomping with excitement. Liger is then quick to position Sano in the corner and finish him with the shooting star press.

This was a textbook early 90s junior heavyweight match. At the time, it was these guys who were writing the textbook and it’s a great look back into the early stages of junior wrestling. This wasn’t a match built off flash. These two had a blood feud that felt personal. Liger discarding the title after the match shows this was about much more than a championship.

If you care about the history of NJPW, junior heavyweight wrestling or Liger, there is a lot to unpack and enjoy about this match.

Recommended Matches
Roppongi 3K vs Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger vs Naoki Sano

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.

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