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Scout Report by Wrestlingscout

Best of Puroresu 2001 Review

Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
This is what I think a TV main event should be. Doesn't have to be a MOTYC, but should be an above average match at the least with none of the swerves, run-ins, unless it is a must. Now I understand this is Dome match, but it's also a quarterfinal and Savage-Valentine at Wrestlemania IV wasn't near this (even for its time). This match was just a lil' goodie with two guys not dogging even though neither's making it past the next round. The work is better than solid and there's a really nice slugfest before transitioning into the finish.
Rating: ***1/2

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
As much as their second match is All Japan style with the head-dropping at the end, this one is with strikes. The work is really good throughout with Kawada giving Tenzan a lot of offense and putting him over with his awesome selling. Things have some nastiness to them: Tenzan busts himself open with a headbutt, Kawada stiffs him with a punch (maybe the best I've ever seen), then kicks the holy hell out of him. For me I give big points on stiffness because it makes me mark out, but then I'd rate BattlARTS with mostly 4-stars and up. Outside of that this was good, but their second was better, I think the stiffness really makes this thing rock though.
Rating: ***1/2

Kensuke Sasaki vs. Toshiaki Kawada
I knew this match couldn't be as good as the first, just because it couldn't have that unreal atmosphere and the fact both had already been in there already doesn't help either. Their first match was IMO puroresu MOTY, unfortunately I haven't seen Atlantis-Villano III. Anyways on to the match...very good, sound match. Maybe a better wrestling match than the first, but it lacked a lot of the stiffness, heat and novelty that made it what it was. A clairvoyent booker would've given it to Kawada and not taken the power out of the NJ-AJ feud. But it didn't work and Kawada just went onto to have excellent non-title matches with Kojima and Tenzan. The ideal would've been to have Nagata take it off him that summer, but nope Fujita had to have it and the angle was killed for the most part. Sasaki winning and in the manner he did made this so anti-climatic, though their was definitely a big pop in the Dome. Very good match, despite questionable booking.
Rating: ***1/2

Taiyo Kea & Johnny Smith vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Masa Fuchi
Funny how the year shaped up for these for as all four seemed to be on the verge of career peaks, but only Taiyo Kea really got much done. Fuchi, who'd rose from the dead, returned to his grave. Smith, never really looked like the world class worker in anything I saw. Then Kawada was simply booked out of top spots. Nice lil' finish after a really solid match, which showed 2001 would be a huge year of growth for young Taiyo Kea.
Rating: ***1/4

Silver King, Dr. Wagner, El Samurai vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Koji Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka
Lots of junior excellence here, if you had Otani and Lyger in there you'd have 4 of the best junior tags...hell best tag teams period. I don't know if there are two better brothers in wrestling than Dr. Wagner & Silver King. This is just balls to the wall purolucha trios action at its best. Hmmm who was the best? 1. Silver King was the most the dynamic and got the most heat on his stuff. 2. The abominable Dr. Wagner looked just awesome, even if you hate the no-selling, you gotta love the tongue sticking out of the hood. 3. Kanemoto was in really good form here and I never understand why he's not more well-received. 4. El Samurai can't have a bad match only less good ones and this was very good. 5. Tanaka never looks that great in six-mans if you ask me, but he was his usually very good self. 6. Takaiwa kind of disappointed me as he seems to bring a good powerhouse junior role, but was under-used here. Excellent match overall.
Rating: ***1/2

Shinjiro Otani vs. Kensuke Sasaki
Excellent match with more traditional psychology and strong heat then I'd expect from a Sasaki match. Though Sasaki had proven to be capable when he won the title, this was the only title defense really worth anything. Otani, the junior turned heavy, works over Sasaki's lariatin' arm really well and does it like a heel. Sasaki fights him off and fights back to retain. The finish build was very good, but the actual finish seemed kind of mild. In spite of that this thing gave Otani a lot of creditability that he took elsewhere and gave Sasaki his last very good traditional match of the year.
Rating: ***3/4

Naohiro Hoshikawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Hoshikawa proved to me here that he's the type of junior that can make anyone with a shread of talent look better than they are. Marufuji, though still a lil' green, has a beautiful moveset and is able to look like a million bucks here. The pacing is perfect, the moves used are dead-on and the finish is excellent. Marufuji's break through match was something else and Hoshikawa proved his awesomeness as well.
Rating: ****

Jun Akiyama & Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Yuji Nagata & Shinya Hashimoto
Very cool main event in what was a year of dream tag matches like this one. Zero-One and NOAH could have had a better union with things like this, but it crumpled and we only got a few awesome junior matches out of the deal. Misawa-Hashimoto is the draw here as two giants of the 90s from AJ and NJ respectively meet in a tag match, since both have moved on with their own new companies. Nagata and Akiyama hold down the fort with an excellent match between them with Hashi and Misawa thrown in, but never together. They meet a few times, but without the real face-to-face encounter we really want. This is more to build a future singles blow-off between the two that never happened. Misawa pins Hashi in the end...a win Hashimoto has yet to mend. A solid main event and a dream tag match for sure. Work was good, but largely underwhelming, mostly because of unfamiliarities. These dream tags will draw and be good, but the top four guys in a promotion (i.e. Misawa/Kobashi-Kawada/Taue) should be able to have the better match.
Rating: ***3/4

Taiyo Kea vs. Genichiro Tenryu (Clipped)
Bald, energetic Kea and grizzled, not-yet-grumpy Tenryu have a dandy of a young/old battle. I liked this feud, but it was sort of third rate with the wrong booking a lot of the time. It is hard not to compare this to Tsurata-Misawa (maybe my all-time favorite feud) as neither of these guys ever were or ever will be IMO on the level with those two. Tenryu is slow, yet methodical, which can be a bore much of the time he's in the ring, some opponents make it work well though. Kea is spunky and hustles a lot, but still limited in his young age. This was a good match with the right outcome, just without a strong finish.
Rating: **3/4

Taiyo Kea vs. Genichiro Tenryu (Clipped)
Better than the last match, mostly because things are worked smarter. Tenryu isn't going to be bumping around much, so you've got to use better psychology. They did so with Kea attacking Tenryu's knees. Not as well done as it could've been, but sound. The booking killed this though with the same outcome and not for the sake of surprising us because Kea never got his big win.
Rating: ***

Keiji Muto vs. Toshiaki Kawada
Slow match with some matwork and headlock stuff before Kawada drops Muto with an ugly-looking back suplex. My brother always thinks it's funny how Kawada always sells stuff well even if his stuff is stiffer and the other stuff is sort of weak. He'd sure put the Rock over...or not. And I've said it before and I'll say it again - I hate Muto's selling, it seems nonchalant and too much like EVERYTHING dazes him. Kawada totally seemed like the man here, doing everything much better than Muto, who got put over in the end. Muto may have been WOTY, but Kawada just seems to be in another league talent-wise. After Muto targets the knee (over halfway through) this match really gets good, like MOTY good, but the first half was so mediocre and the finish is kind of weak, that it's hard to give it MOTY standing.
Rating: ***1/2

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
A totally weird and predictable final that really should've been Misawa-Akiyama. I really dug how much Takayama stepped it up and I can't believe he wasn't elevated more afterwards as a result. And it's matches like this that show me just why I sometimes think Misawa is selfish, but it's more he's "that damn good." Unfortunately NOAH's stuff just seems so sub-All Japan, even though it is often very good to excellent, it just never hits that next echelon that so many AJPW matches are on. The matwork is the best I've ever seen out of Misawa, though I think if he and Takayama had gone a more UWFI route this thing would've been unique and probably just as good, if not better. The finish is very good and the heat is good then, when it counts.
Rating: ***3/4

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Though they don’t compliment each other as well as Marufuji and Hoshikawa did, these two top juniors show why they were chosen to set the tempo of the show. I'm a huge Marufuji mark and his look and style really draw me into his matches. As for Takaiwa, I’ve always had a soft spot for Shinjiri Otani, so liking his balding partner came naturally. The two definite play the game of give and take as they successfully get the other’s style over as well as their own. Marufuji's Springboard Moonsault Suicida maybe the most exciting highspot of the night and Takaiwa gets all his heavyweight-style moves in. Despite the stylistic differences, they have an awesome pace that seems full-tilt for the whole match. It seems short, but it’s like a Benoit-Guerraro Nitro match - you know you won’t be disappointed in spite of the length of it.
Rating: ****1/4

Mitsuharu Misawa & Takeshi Rikio vs. Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murakami
With the storied past between Hashimoto and Ogawa, it just made sense that he and UFO protégé Murakami get involved with Zero-One. The end of the first PPV ended with a pull-apart that involved Misawa, Hashimoto, and both UFOers. While Hash was not involved this time, Misawa brought in NOAH wrestler, Rikio, to team with him. Misawa-Hashimoto seemed to be somewhere down the line, but that is a dead issue now. Murakami, who looked like the bad ass heel he is, pounded the crap out of Rikio. Misawa played the hero and his stiff elbows worked to level the playing field. This had a similar ending to Hash/Iizuka-Ogawa/Murakami with Ogawa distracted on the floor as his partner is finished off. This had a tinge of the Ogawa-Hashimoto charm, but Misawa's star made it shine differently. Another pull-apart ends a Zero-One PPV with Misawa and company facing off against Hashimoto and Ogawa, who are shoulder-to-shoulder!? The heat was through the roof throughout the match and even though it was kind of short and Ogawa-Misawa was never really fulfilled, it was an exceptional match and an intense main event.
Rating: ****

Minoru Tanaka vs. Takehiro Murahama
This gets my vote for junior match of the year. I've only ever seen Murahama in a wrestling ring once and I was kind of underwhelmed, while Tanaka is my favorite junior. After hearing all the hype and not knowing if it'd live up to it. This ended up being my personal favorite of the year. This was one of the few pro-wrestling meets MMA matches that clicked so well and should be an archetype of the style. It had stiff strikes (including hardway blood), realistic submissions, great matwork, a hot crowd and a strong finish. This is one of the most complete matches I've ever seen. The only flaw, in my opinion, was the underdone story (could've been a huge deal with Murahama's DEEP background). Otherwise this was gold and I'd contend one of the greatest junior and/or shoot-style matches to date.
Rating: ****1/2

Akira Hokuto vs. Meiko Satomura
It's matches like this that make me wish I had the time and money to follow joshi. This is so good and without question a MOTYC. After only seeing ARISON's mediocre-to-very good stuff, this blew me away. Hokuto is still a crazy lady, whose still awesome and Satomura is pretty great in her own right. The stiffness of this is what gets me, good gawd someone should been Iizuka'd here. This thing has a great finish and should make non-believers of joshi open their eyes to its supremecy. If I knew and was into the backstory I may give this 5-stars.
Rating: ****1/2

Momoe Nakanishi vs. Kumiko Maekawa
Another awesome joshi battle with a cool highflyer versus shooter gimmick that I really dug. Nakanishi is like a modern day Hokuto with all her craziness. Maekawa has that shooter appeal that I get into when done by someone this talented. This is cool little match that had me get my first taste of Maekawa and continued my adoration of Nakanishi. I liked her more in the Ito match (a few matches down), but prefer Maekawa as a bully-type.
Rating: ****1/4

Kauro Ito vs. Yumiko Hotta
A very good street fight by all accounts. I prefer mine shorter, but this has joshi appeal in that it's ass-kickin' and garbage appeal in that it's violent. These two gals fight all over the building and it's almost like an ECW Falls Count Anywhere match minus some of the usual flaws. There's a fair amount of protection, but they still beat the crap out of one another with ladders, tables, chairs and stiff strikes! I tend to feel joshi matches go about an extra 15 minutes, but this one seemed beyond that, the brutality just keeps going and going for over 50 minutes! I wish I was fully into the story, but it does stand well by itself.
Rating: ***1/2

Hayabusa & The Great Sasuke vs. Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Mr. Gannosuke
Unlikely a handful of the matches here I get to see (luckily I usually have a good memory) the backstory. I really like music videoes, but as I've realized with a lot of my late 90s WWF, I can't always remember things and that makes video packages much better. This way you can see Masked Sumo turning, bicycle attacks, doll explosions and Mr. Gannosuke in street clothes. On to the death match, which is like an octogon cage with land mine barrels...I'm not a big death match fan, sorry. Most of the match is Hayabusa/Gannosuke, which is quite good and Sasuke/Kuroda, who don't click half as well. The beginning was this was kind of plodding as death matches often are, but the middle picked up really well and the last big explosion was tense and cool (though I preferred Sasuke's top con hilo sending himself and Kuroda into the cage). The last leg is quite good as well, though one-sided. I liked this match and I'm sure it was one of FMW's best of the year, I just don't think that's saying a lot though.
Rating: ***1/4

Hayabusa vs. Tetsuhiro Kuroda (176 Bomb Deathmatch with Guest Referee "Kodo Fuyuki")
The saga continues into a blow-off death match, which may be recognized as Hayabusa's last very good match (not that I'd actually know). Fuyuki is the guest ref in his unique striped shirt and the ring is wired for death. They do the early explosion teases, which gets the crowd into a slow start. Then it turns into a nice wrestling match before the well-done first explosion. The second is very smartly done as well, logically evening up the damage. Then the third one is the the ref bump from hell (guess that explains why to have a guest referee). Finally we have them face an explosion together and it's still even. The last portion of the match really makes this match since it is exceptional good. Kuroda kind of hurts it with his damn no-selling, but that's just his thing. One of the better explosion death matches I've seen with a *** wrestling match and some excellent psychology and uniqueness to it.
Rating: ***1/2

Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (Shootfight)
An cool shootfight for pro wrestling fans, which Pride loves catering to a lot of the time. Takayama was obviously overmatched from the beginning and looks out-of-shape, but was game throughout. This was Fujita's big Pride main event and his last match from them for the rest of the year!? Takayama proved to be more interested in looking good than winning, which is often all it takes in Pride. He takes a beating though.
Rating: ***1/2

Keiji Muto vs. Satoshi Kojima
One of the overlooked gems of 2001 that was quite good. The Muto-Kojima relationship is well known and Muto made his boy look really good here. I forget the storyline around it other than it is BATT-Team 2000, but that doesn't matter as much. This was my first experience of seeing Koji look just awesome as a single and this was just one of Muto's classics of the year that was all his.
Rating: ****

Jushin Lyger vs. Minoru Tanaka (Best of the Super Juniors VIII Finals)
The early 90s versus the early 00s, too bad other promotions can't have matches of this caliber with that theme. Lyger, who was voted #1 by the DVDVR boys, showed why in an outstanding BOTSJ and this was the crowning moment. I'd argue Tanaka looked better though with a perfect offense and the best arm attack psychology I've seen out of him. This blew me away when I saw it and every time I rewatch it I get wondering about the best junior match of the year.
Rating: ****1/2

Minoru Tanaka vs. Masahito Kakihara
A very good match as I expected it would be. I knew the submission stuff was going to be excellent and this was the first Tanaka match one of my friends saw and he was really into it. Tanaka showed that he can work any style very well and this was a cool shooting junior meets UWF-I hybrid that clicked, despite the briefness of it.
Rating: n/a

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Satoshi Kojima
The match that made me a big Kojima fan as I hadn't seen him as single since like `99. Yes, I know Kawada could wrestle a broom, but Kojima really showed he was more than half of TenKoji. Personally I preferred Kawada-Tenzan II, since it was more AJ-style. This seemed more NJ-style to me, which isn't bad, but doesn't play to Kawada as well. An excellent match and I'm postive 2002 will give us and even better battle, probably for the Triple Crown and I can't wait.
Rating: n/a

Keiji Muto vs. Hiroshi Hase
The legendary Muta-Hase bloodbath is one of my favorite New Japan matches and I was intrigued in a rematch nearly a decade later. Instead of lots of color, this match has lots of matwork and it is as awesome as the the first one was bloody. Hase really looks like a million bucks and it his age that's really saying something. It was just another stellar match for Muto in an excellent year. The fact that this match went as long as it did is a true credit to both men and it was really the best pure wrestling match on an outstanding show.
Rating: n/a

Kazayuki Fujita vs. Yuji Nagata (IWGP Championship)
In my opinion this match could have totally changed the direction of New Japan and headed away from Inokiism and back to the wrestling we all love. Instead, Fujita won, fell to Crocop, got injured and was replaced by Yasuda. Nagata's loss dropped him down, but faith was put back in him by giving him the G-1 Climax win (over Muto nonetheless), then gambled away all that by throwing him a shoot with Crocop and he lost, now he must be rebuilt again. All those facts aside, this is IMO the best shoot-style match New Japan has done. Nagata shows he can carry people in even that style, which should have made him a top star and protected one as well.
Rating: n/a

Yuji Nagata & Shinya Makabe vs. Masahito Kakihara & Mitsuya Nagai (All Asian Tag Title Tournament Finals)
A really weird, but good match. Seems funny to see Nagata in All Japan and it not being a bigger deal and even stranger is that he was on a losing team. Perhaps even more bizarre is Kakihara (now a top NJ junior), not Nagai (a rising AJ heavyweight) challenging Nagata. The few Nagata-Nagai exchanges were good, I think they could tear the house down in a singles match. I do however like Team Strongs though and I don't know if anyone has a catchier theme then they do. Young Lion Makabe makes a good showing, but being the weakest link costs his team.
Rating: ***1/2

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
After having a very good match in the IWGP Title Tournament, these two met in a much better rematch in front of an All Japan crowd. I think these two match up wonderfully as they have similar body types are reasonably close on talent, but clash well in image, style and level. Though it was shorter than what I thought it would be, Tenzan looked very good, even taking those scary Dangerous Back Suplexes of Kawada. I think New Japan losing Tenzan would have been a huge coup for All Japan as I think he showed here that he can work the style very well and bring a little modern flavor to it in the process.
Rating: ***1/2

Keiji Muto vs. Genichiro Tenryu (Triple Crown Championship)
Perhaps no match this year had a better story behind it than this one. Tenryu seemed to be getting by on savvy and Muto was a hot commodity. I don’t think anyone was surprised by this title change and it proved to elevate the Triple Crown and the promotion behind it some. This match's place in history will be quite prevalent, so it is fitting the match itself was of this high-caliber. My only drawbacks were Muto’s selling, which I’ve never been too keen on and I think the finish could have been better. Not to say it was a bad match because it is was widely voted as MOTY, which it is deserving of for sure. These two veterans worked hard and showed people why experience can make up for a youthful workrate.
Rating: ****1/2

Dragon Kid, Ryo Saito, Ricky Marvin vs. Susumu Mochizuki, Yasushi Kanda, Darkness Dragon
I liked the lucha-isms in this match as I'm a big fan of the setup of the matches with the three-falls, which this didn't have but used the psychology. The early work was pretty typical with a break-neck speed that boggles the mind. I preferred the later fast work, but it was all good. Saito seemed underused, but did an excellent job selling the rudos' second advantage. Luckily Marvin's weaknesses were well-hidden as he did little more than his exciting spots, which is fine. All in all this was a pretty basic lucharesu six-man with awesome hieghts and one brief low. This was my favorite match in what was an awesome Toryumon PPV top-to-bottom.
Rating: ***1/2

Magnum TOKYO vs. Masaaki Mochizuki (British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship)
The main event of Toryumon's awesome July PPV. Though it was kind of short for a main event, but action-packed, so it didn't matter much. A few imperfections, but nothing so bad you'd really remember them, so again they take little away from things overall. The ref-bump, weapon use, and interference are the real big detractors in this one. At least the bump was cool with Magnum ducking an enzugiri. The weapon was the stupid plastic blue box, which no one can take seriously. Lastly the M2K boys got involved and so did Okumura, but in defense they didn't cost anyone the match like so much WWF. Faults aside, this was a well-done match and fitting of the top spot on this big show.
Rating: ***1/2

Keiji Muto vs. Steve Williams (Triple Crown Championship)
Seeing I didn't see Muto's Chono or Hall matches, this is probably the second worst TC match I've ever seen. Williams' limitations are dealt with quite well and he really brought his "A" game. Despite his broken down clumsiness and overconfidence, Dr. Death knows at one point he was one of the best big man going. I'd still rate him ahead of Norton because he seems more carriable and I am always surprised by Doc's selling. This match had a nice little ending and fans of Williams will see what I imagine is his last good match.
Rating: **3/4

Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Michael Modest (GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship)
Unfortunatly I haven't seen Modest's best matches, but I know what he can do for certain. Ogawa has long been one of my pet peeves of puroresu as I think he's totally overpushed and undeniable underwelming. This was just dynamite though with Modest displaying the bulk of skill and Ogawa picking his game up significantly (probably so he wouldn't get showed up by a new gaijin, even though he was). Modest has that deep indy moveset, though his is much more polished, while Ogawa is an All Japan vet, so he can sell a beating. This was just a fun match, in which Modest's years of hardwork paid off.
Rating: ***1/4

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Jun Akiyama (GHC Heavyweight Championship) I had mixed expectations for this one and gladly was able to see a Top Ten MOTY for certain. I thought Misawa worked his tired ass off and Akiyama did his part, but let Misawa have his day. I don’t recall their 2000 match as well as their 1998 one, which I thought this was superior to for sure. Complaints first: bad heat for a match of this magnitude, too many elbows for my liking (I’m estimating in the high twenties), and that Super Tiger Driver was enough to burn half a flake off my rating. The psychology was there and so were two of my favs: Kobashi and Nagata. I think anyone who knows these two know **** is not asking too much. I hate to dock points for not living up to potential, but when it’s of this caliber it must done. In comparison to Muto-Tenryu, who were working above their level, these two were slightly below.
Rating: ***3/4

Satoshi Kojima vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan (G1 Climax)
I always get a kick out of mocking tag team partner matches by saying "Team So-and-So Explode" to mock WWF's Wrestlemania V's "The Mega Powers Explode" line. Well when TenKoji explode they do it in the form of a classic match and to add coolness to it, it's all in competitive spirit and in fact these two went on to have their tag best match in December. This had that dynamic, them both being heels and two of the company's best workers to make this one of the year's best natural angle matches. The early work is overly clean for these too, but it quickly picks up and turns into textbook New Japan strong style. These guys really work on each other and sell beautifully before finishing this baby off with hot nearfalls as part of an excellent finish.
Rating: ***3/4

Yuji Nagata vs. Keiji Muto (G1 Climax Finals)
In a year of exceptional matches, this one stands out as the only significant one Muto lost, but it was after his bout with Tenryu his best. I actually enjoyed it more because the story involved my favorite heavyweight getting a huge career win and it was so long due. The early work was the puro-shoot stuff I really enjoy and these two knew how to do it right. Then it progressed into typical Muto with Nagata getting his moves in there and a hot contest being built in the process. The finish is good and the crowd loves it, Nagata was the man here and showed he's ready for the top spot in New Japan.
Rating: ****1/2

Great Sasuke & Tiger Mask IV vs. Jado & Gedo (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship)
One of the few MPro matches I saw for last year and it was not a letdown at the least. Everyone in there looked super and worked the kind of match one would expect from these three. Tiger Mask showed why he can be considered the best junior in the world, Gedo and Jado showed why they're junior rudo extrordinaires and Sasuke showed he's still something awesome to watch. This was put together very well with classic Southern tag matched wrapped in purolucha goodness.
Rating: ***1/2

Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga
Zero-One versus NOAH...sounds good to me. Hoshikawa is absolutely awesome, Takaiwa is a great powerhouse junior and this was my first good taste of these NOAH juniors' capabilities. I wasn't surprised that this was good, but I have to admit I didn't think it'd be quite so good. Hoshikawa's shooter/junior style and Takaiwa's Van Halen-esque music have always made me like them, but Kanemaru and Shiga made me a believer in them as well. This is what Zero-One's undercard should be like and NOAH's too for that matter, perhaps the best junior tag match of the year.
Rating: ***3/4

Momoe Nakanishi vs. Kaoru Ito (WWWA Championship)
In all her awesomeness, Nakanishi can be hard to watch because she is so reckless with her body who knows what state she'll be in in a few years. Ito plays the big bully here and though I'm unfamiliar with her, she seemed quite good at that role. Momoe is just busting with talent though and her big bumps, screaming selljobs and perfect highflying make her the typical joshi face, though she does everything twice as good as many of the girls. This match has viciousness to it, you only see in joshi and makes you want to watch more and more!
Rating: ****

Yuji Nagata vs. Osamu Nishimura
A fun match that some liked a lot, namely my buddy Brandon Thurston, but one others didn't really enjoy as much, me and Dave Meltzer. I've had a hard time taking to Nishimura's retro-style and I think it blended oddly with Nagata's shoot-style. This had very good matwork though and had me marking out for it. Few workers in the world could do a match this scientific and keep a crowd interested, but these two are top of the line grapplers.
Rating: ***1/4

Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Toshiaki Kawada & Mitsuya Nagai
My favorite tag match of the year not surprisingly had TenKoji, New Japan's super-team. The set up here is similar to NOAH's stable tag matches with the #1 & #4 taking on the #2 & #3. Kawada played the unbeatable veteran while Nagai was supposed to be the weakest link, a role he filled that role well as he is really the lowest star here. Tenzan played #2 and Koji played #3 and it all meshed beautifully. Kawada acted as a big brother-type for Nagai, who would do good, but not good enough. I loved the psychology here, tag match psychology is often underdone, here it was dead-on and made for a classic.
Rating: ****1/4

Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Tatsumi Fujinami & Osamu Nishimura (IWGP Tag Team Championship)
Another very good TenKoji match, only here their record tag title reign came to an unlikely end. After beating numerous great teams, they fell to the underdog due of oldman Fujinami and unestablished Nishimura. It was a well-done match with the underdogs using fast tags early to work on Tenzan, then Nishimura got caught and became TenKoji's prey for what seemed like just another win, until Koji's lariat is ducked and the retro-wrestler wins with a rollup! Fuji was kept out most of the time, which was smart, while the three rising stars did their thing. Cool psychology and big match for Nishimura.
Rating: ***1/4

Susumu Mochizuki vs. Ryo Saito (NWA Welterweight Championship)
As much as you've got to be disimpressed by Toryumon's turn towards a "sports entertainment" style, they still have great stuff. Here two of their best up-and-comers really steal the show in classic injured face versus ruthless heel battle. Susumu takes Saito's knee apart like Bret Hart with an inflated moveset. The psychology is so basic, but works very well and they bust out purolucha creativity to give us a dandy of a match (minus the interference).
Rating: ***1/2

Darkness Dragon vs. Dragon Kid vs. CIMA vs. Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Magnum TOKYO (Five-Way Gold Net Cage Match)
A cool lucha adaptation by Ultimo here, since I've saw many cage matches on AAA last year, but more often than not they were total messes (as in once the referee Tirantes lost the match?) anyway this is not one of those. The use of 3 teams with 2 men each is cool and makes for interesting psychology. Inevitably you have to leave 2 technicos and 1 rudo or vice-versa, then one escapes and you've got something interesting: technico-rudo, technico-technico, rudo-rudo, I've seen all three and think it's usually you have to balance best story and adequate talent above all. It continued the TOKYO-Maasaki feud, but I think Dragon Kid (with his mask on the line would mean more). This had interference as these matches tend to have (at least it wasn't Vatos Locos using torches), which probably annoyed some, I think it has a place here. I dug the finish and the revenge match will have to attract the girlies hehe. Seriously, this is the best multi-way cage match I've ever seen because these guys can work one better than straight luchadors and that made the difference.
Rating: ****

Kensuke Sasaki vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
Intense. Exciting. Ogawa-free. You can say a lot of good things about this match, which was Kensuke Sasaki's big return after a pretty long hiatus. This is a very good shoot-style match, despite the strange and I'd say incorrect booking. Fujita's reputation was gambled and they lost, in which case you have to push someone else and Sasaki should've been that very person. He showed he was excellent at working Inokiism and if he had become the champion a short while later, imagine how good a shoot-style match between he and Nagata could be. It would have perhaps stopped Inoki's "mediocre shooter over very good wrestler" garbage. Nevertheless it was stiff and fun, which makes for a classic in this often poorly executed style.
Rating: ***

Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata vs. Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase
This seemed like quite the dream match, except we all knew who the fallboy was unfortunately. Kind of cool to have 2/3 of the major champions and the G-1 Climax winner, not to mention a senator! I was kind of underwhelmed by this though, while no one looked bad, this coulda/shoulda been a top notch battle like Kawada & Taue vs. Misawa & Kobashi/Akiyama or Kawada & Fuchi vs. Nagata & Iizuka. The end sequence was excellent though and makes up for a lot of it's mediocrity. First Nagata hooks the Nagata Lock on Hase, bringing in Muto, who makes the save, but is quickly kicked into next week by the G-1 winner. Hase ducks one of Nagata's kicks and Muto springs off his back hitting the Shining Wizard, then Akiyama catches him with one, but Hase catches him with a Uranage from hell. Hase hits a Northern Lights Suplex on for a nearfall on Nagata, who comes right back with a Suplex of his own and Nagata Lock II, then Muto is caught in Aki's Scissored Guillotine. Then the two youngsters attacks the old man with a series of suplexes for the win. Great finish with the youngsters going over by just beating down the veterans with strikes, submissions and suplexes!
Rating: ***1/2

Heath Herring vs. Antonio Noguiera (Pride Heavyweight Championship Fight)
Perhaps Pride's best fight of 2001 and arguably the best MMA fight of the year as well, though I'd personally say Couture-Rizzo was better due to its drama. This one displays more skill and is more important in shaping the company. Though these two were not the biggest stars, they offered up an outstanding battle that stole the show in what was supposed to be Sakuraba-Silva's.
Rating: ****

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