Musings of a Mark #11
Puro Pleasures of 2008
By: Scott Webster
The theme of ?Musings of a Mark? is to provide my readers with a glimpse at a particular point in the career of a chosen performer. Sometimes I?ll push periods that I feel are under-rated or just plain awesome. Other times I?m being smug and sarcastic. But the greatest part of having this opportunity to write for WrestleView is the chance to motivate myself to explore professional wrestling that has thus far evaded me ?
This column isn?t about one specific performer. It's about a side to professional wrestling that I only had the chance to enjoy this year. That, my readers, is ?puro wresu? (Japanese wrestling for the young and the oblivious). I loved much of what I saw, but unfortunately not a lot of it traveled high into our MOTY 2008 Project. As much as I?m delighted that the BATTLarts elimination tag and Suwama / Tanahashi both attained spots on our annual listing, I can?t stand to let some other worthy performances fade away into obscurity.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is my love letter to those forgotten matches. Please, if the following five reviews have you craving for some fun from the Land of the Rising Sun, send myself an email and I?ll attempt to satisfy your needs. Also, please forgive my fat man fetish ? Enjoy!
Kengo Moshima / Madoka vs. MEN's Teioh / Shinobu ? BJPW 05.23.2008
When reviewing this on the WV boards, I began by declaring: ?[this is] probably the best straight-up tag I?ve seen this year?. That claim I stand by, and it's because of the admirable job Shinobu does of selling his shoulder injury. That focal point is alluded to even before the first grapple begins, during a lingering shot on the bandaged area as well as his partner's insistence that he be first to fight.
The opening minutes is almost vomit-inducing, with both teams being all lovey-dovey and respectful of each other. There aren?t any cheap shots, as Kengo and MEN's feel each other out with the obligatory Indy chain wrestling. Things quicken with Shinobu and Madoka enter the ring, but it's all nice and unremarkable. But things get nasty really quickly, as Shinobu's team gets on a role ?
The first kick to the shoulder almost feels as though the match's tone changes with it. All the fast-paced, double-teaming actions slows as Madoka and Moshima takes turns to really punish the injury. Shinobu's selling effectively gets across this ?face-in-peril? sequence, whilst the attacking team makes their limb work actually appear painful. Quality selling is often a rarity in independent promotions, which serves to make this performance all the more impressive.
As the shoulder is exploited, Shinobu's downfall becomes inevitable. MEN's barely saving his partner as he keeps getting caught in submission targeting the shoulder ups the suspense. But eventually he can?t come to Shinobu's aid, who succumbs to the agony ... GAME OVER! Great tag-team wrestling!
RATING: *** ?
Takeshi Morishima vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, GHC Heavyweight Championship ? NOAH 03.02.08
I?ve slightly cooled on this performance, though I still consider it a finely worked bigger man / smaller man match. My issues mainly concern Misawa's seemingly un-motivated selling. His expressions do not convey neither pain nor desperation, and fail to emphasise the impact of Morishima's offense. The 'stoic warrior? argument does hold ground in regards to Misawa disguising the extent of effect moves have on him, but I maintain that he should still promote the immediate effect of Morishima crushing him. To me, failing to do so speaks of laziness. Stoic or not, a sleeper hold is going to drain you, and Morishima landing on you will cause more than a flinch. Maybe I?m too used to seeing John Cena and Jeff Hardy bumpin? their butts off for Umaga ?
Surprisingly enough, despite suspect selling, these two DO deliver a satisfying performance based on the dynamic. Misawa doesn?t BS around, it's inevitable that Morishima is going to murder him. He takes it to the larger opponent, utilizing the outside environment to ascertain the advantage. However, Takeshi is just as good murdering people outside the squared circle as he is inside, with Misawa eventually falling prey. There are some BRILLIANT moments to be found, involving such things as Morishima launching himself off the top-rope etc. It picks up as it progresses, culminating in a great contest that's arguably as good as Batista / John Cena (which I thought was VERY good).
RATING: *** ?
Yutaka Yoshie vs. Yuji Nagata ? NJPW G1 Climax Tournament 08.13.08
Yoshie is freaking awesome. He's a slower, pink-tights-wearing version of Umaga, obviously minus the Samoan tribal face paint. It's such a joy to watch Nagata try to take down this fat dude, and subsequently get murdered for most of the match. Yutaka (much like Morishima) will surprise many with his offense, hinting at ability that most will think beyond him when they glimpse his large shape and pink attire.
Nagata is a stubborn son-of-a-gun though, and even though his first few kicks to the knee are brushed off, he KEEPS kicking away until his opponent is on the ground clutching the limb. Seriously, watching this idiot relentlessly use the same tactics to gradually hurt the big man is mega fun. The same applies for his attempts to side suplex the monster, not giving up until it eventually beats the man.
Unfortunately Nagata (like Misawa earlier) leaves a lot to be desired in the selling department. And I don?t just mean pain, despite him largely no-selling the damage done to his legs moments after escaping a submission hold. Nagata emphasises Yoshie's weight well, failing to lift the pink giant on the first couple of attempts. This makes his eventual success in his stubborn pursuit of suplexing Yoshie even more effective. But his facial expressions don?t really highlight his emotions in the battle, no real surprise at his trademark kicks initially being ineffective or desperation at trying to survive. Had Nagata's selling better, I wouldn?t hesitate to place this in my top ten matches of the year. I love watching fat guys squish stubborn fools!
RATING: *** ?
Giant Bernard vs. Shinjiro Otani ? NJPW G1 Climax Tournament 08.13.08
This match tells a pretty cool story pitting Bernard's dominance against Otani's manipulation. In the ring, Bernard eats up Otani. From no-selling the smaller opponent's strikes and responding with one effective uppercut, to just failing to budge and slamming Otani with ease, within the ropes is Bernard's territory.
Otani acknowledges this in quick order, and tries to lure Bernard outside. Eventually this results in Bernard hurting his shoulder, which he does a fine job selling throughout the remainder of the performance. Otani now has an angle to exploit, using dubious methods to bring the pain to his foe. Chairs are used, ropes are used, each drawing a convincing cry of pain from the man formerly known as A-Train. The submissions are particularly great, with Bernard fighting them, exuding desperation, trying to protect his vulnerable shoulder. Cool bits of storytelling, interlaced with an almost always fun dynamic (big man / small man duh?), make this another delight from the Land of the Rising Sun.
RATING: *** ?
Togi Makabe vs. Giant Bernard ? NJPW G1 Climax Tournament 08.16.08
Togi Makabe is similar to Edge here. He doesn?t do whole lot beyond playing up his character well, from his jacket with a rather offensive phrase on the back (CLUE: first word begins with ?F?, second word is ?OFF?!), to taunting the crowd when he can, to directing the involvement of his buddy by ringside. It's amusing stuff, but the real star of this performance is Giant Bernard.
More specifically, Giant Bernard's selling is GREAT here. Togi damages his knee with a chair on the outside, and Bernard emphasises the impact of that move throughout the rest of the performance. It gives out during moves, he's always limping around. Submission holds are delightful during this match, as Bernard makes certain to account for Makabe's actions. As Togi pulls harder, Bernard screams louder. He looks around desperately, struggles to escape the hold etc. He achieves an almost perfect middle ground between under-promoting the pain, and over-exaggerating the pain. These holds aren?t death, but they still HURT.
So really, check this out for Giant Bernard's selling. Otherwise, it's a fine match with a fun screw-job narrative.
RATING: *** ?
? Again, I apologize for the fat man fetish. I hope this edition grants everyone with a small, but decent, snippet into some of Japan's 2008 goodness. Despite the language barrier, it really isn?t that hard to track down or enjoy these performances. Professional wrestling is a universal speech after all!
I welcome all kinds of feedback, so if you have any thoughts regarding anything in the world of professional wrestling send me an email to:firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,