And there was me thinking that the quality of matches this year wasn't that good. It turns out that I just wasn't looking far enough.
Up until this week the only bit of New Japan Pro Wrestling I watched was when Prince Devitt was competing. I always knew of the great stuff in the heavyweight division, and also throughout most of their cards as well, but it was something I always held out on.
Thankfully, I took that step and checked out a bit of more New Japan this week. I started off by watching the highly rated Hiroshi Tanashi vs. Kazuchika Okada match from this past April, followed by two matches from their yearly Dominion show, Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Prince Devitt vs. Hiroshi Tanashi. Did these matches impress me? Well you'll have to wait to find out... or just quickly scroll down and see the ratings put in bold.
Also this week I watched the terrific series of matches between Bryan Danielson and Takeshi Morishima from Ring of Honor in 07 and 08. I saw some of the matches already, but together with the rest it makes for a really watch.
Again, if you have any recommendations as to what I should watch next week you can hit me up on Twitter @3CountBlog or leave a comment below. Anything is welcome!
Hiroshi Tanashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - NJPW Invasion Attack (2013)
A lot of you may have heard about this match, some of you may not. I heard about it after it happened in April but was never really pushed on seeing it. Between not really knowing either man, and how good they are, I decided to just assume that it wasn't worth the hype.
It was worth the hype. Every single bit of it. Wrestling matches like this are hard to come by, and I'm extremely happy with myself for deciding to watch (a shout out goes to J712 and his Mid-Year Awards, because I think that's where I first started to consider to watch it.)
This match tells such a great story that it was really easy to pick up on why Tanashi went after the right arm of Okada, even though I don't know either man's move set. It was also clear what their big moves were, through just seeing their reactions and reason behind every move.
The psychology involved is also a joy to watch. As noted above the arm of Okada was worked on extremely well by Tanasahi, but was also sold brilliantly as well. Okada did this for almost the entire match, and really made it look like he was desperately fighting through the pain. Okada also did some tremendous work on the neck of Tanashi as well, as he looked to set him up for his patented Tombstone or Lariat.
Besides all of that though, the action is also top notch. The moves are crisp and with a purpose, and in the final few minutes of the match they had the crowd in the palm of their hands, as put on some really good sequences and nearfalls.
This right here is wrestling perfection, and although we're already half way through the year I'm pretty certain you won't find a better match than this. 10/10
Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata - NJPW Dominion 2013
Taken place just a couple of weeks ago, Goto and Shibata put on an awesomely hard-hitting match, that while didn't last that long, still served up some brilliant action.
Again, I've never seen these two wrestle before but the story of this match was easy to grasp; both men wanted to beat the shit out of each other. That was it. And while that may be a bit off putting for some, there was just something about the action in this match that was just so gripping.
For 13 minutes or so both men delivered some vicious shots, and took part in some great sequences which had the crowd reacting to every single move. It can be extremely hard to pull off matches this this. They can go overboard in the way they are handled or become a bit too messy, but everything in this match just seemed to work. The physicality was out right shocking at times, but you knew both men could handle it, and that's probably what makes this match such a success.
For pure action, it'll be hard to find a whole lot better. One of the best matches of the year. 9/10
Prince Devitt vs. Hiroshi Tanashi - NJPW Dominion 2013
Although it only happened a few months ago, Prince Devitt's heel run has been really fun to watch. I didn't think he'd be able to pull off the brash 'Rock n' Rolla' type of character, but he's done it with flying colours.
This match against Tanashi really showcased how much he's changed, as his posse stood at ringside interfering every chance they got. it made for a really good dynamic in the end, with Tanashi desperately trying to cope with all of Devitt's men, while Devitt himself broke nearly every rule in the book.
The action was also very good though. Sometimes matches can be too top heavy on interferences and look a bit overbooked, but this one found the right kind of balance. Once Tanashi took care of business on the outside, both he and Devitt turned it up a notch and exchanged in some fun moments near the end.
Both men are probably capable of more together, but overall this was still a really solid bout. 8/10
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Manhattan Mayhem II (2007)
The match that started it all, and arguably the best match in the series. If your looking for a big man vs. little man kind of dynamic that actually looks realistic, this is the match you should watch. Both men put on a brilliant back-and-forth bout which shows Danielson stand toe-to-toe with the big man Morishima.
Another thing that makes this match so great is when you consider how much pain Danielson must have fought through, as he tears his retina just a few minutes into the match. It really exemplifies the physicality of this match, as it continues for another good 15 minutes and never slows down.
Besides all the hard-hitting action, we also see Danielson work the left leg of Morishima, which really adds some great drama to the fight. The leg work got the crowd firmly behind him, as he relentlessly tried to make the then ROH world champion submit. That kind of balance of stiff action and close calls makes for a highly entertaining match with the kind of atmosphere that makes it feel that much more special. Excellent stuff all round. 9/10
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Man Up (2007)
An very good following bout here which pretty much continues on from their match at Manhattan Mayhem. Bryan Danielson, eye-patch and all, changes his tactics slightly as he goes all guns blazing against Morishima. This makes for really exciting stuff as both guys trade stiff blows for the entire match. Takeshi sticks to his strengths by using his signature Lariat and Back Drop Driver, while Danielson tires to build up some momentum after constantly being put down.
He also see first sings of a heelish attitude from Morishima as he eventually goes after the injured eye of Danielson, even though he vowed not to. This brings a certain edge to their rivalry as the focus turns from being about the ROH World title to about hurting one another. They had to highlight how personal their feud had gotten and in the end they execute it perfectly. 8/10
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Glory By Honor VI (2007)
With the heated feud already rolling this is another match which once again finds a way to kick it up another gear in terms of that grudge-like feel. Bryan Danielson, the normally technically sound kind of wrestling known for being patient and calculating, changes his style completely into a man looking out to inflict pain.
Both men do an excellent job of getting that hatred across, and although the match doesn't last very long, they get their story across and develop their feud even further. Takeshi turns full fledged heel, plays the hurt underdog, and the crowd are left watching even more. While this match was only used to heat things up for future matches, they do a fantastic job at doing that. 7/10
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Rising Above 2007
See above. It's the same kind of match, with the same crowd in the same venue, expect the rolls of both men change near the end (I'm trying not to spoil anything here...). Once again it's both guys throwing caution to the wind, and not holding back with the 'relaxed rules' from officials put in place.
Same kind of match as above, but the same kind of results. 7/10
Bryan Danielson vs. Takeshi Morishima - ROH Final Battle 2008
This is the match I've seen the most from this series (3, I think) and it still holds up pretty well. Even though this match took place a year after their last encounter both guys still brought off the immense intensity from their matches in 2007. There was high drama, stiff shots, and fought at a pretty fast pace.
There were also good call backs to previous matches as well, such as Danielson going after the eye of Morishima, delivering some low blows, and Morishima delivering those nasty lariats every time Danielson tried to build up some momentum.
It's not the best match of their series, but it's still a really enjoyable match that caps off a fantastic feud very nicely. 8/10