Match Reviews: Current and Former WWE Stars in Japan (MVP, Shelton Benjamin, Terry Gordy, more)

njpw mvp tanaka

Have you ever watched your favorite wrestlers and wondered if what was on TV was them at their best? Did you ever ask yourself if they were being held back, asked to tone things down, or not give chance to showcase the best of their abilities? If so, then you’re in luck, because I’ve found five more matches involving current and former WWE wrestlers in Japan.

Since wrestlers are usually given more freedom to focus on athletic stuff instead of gimmicks and promos, that has led to a general assumption that those wrestlers perform better in Japan. But that hasn’t always been the case. Some of them have done very well over there while others have not. And which wrestlers belong in which category? Read on to find out.


5. IWGP Intercontinental Title Match: MVP [c] vs. Masato Tanaka – NJPW Destruction 2011

Background: MVP won a tournament to become the first IWGP Intercontinental Champion and used that to become a regular wrestler in New Japan during the early 2010s. That said, his title was still very low on the totem pole and was thus not taken as seriously as other titles. That was shown with one of his first challengers: Masato Tanaka, a mainstay of the hardcore wrestling scene who, despite being solid in the ring, wasn’t seen as a top-level competitor in New Japan.

The Match: Before the match even starts, MVP and Tanaka lightsaber duel with MVP using his title belt and Tanaka using a kendo stick. The referee pushes both of them back and walks up to MVP to take the title to start the match, but Tanaka rushes him with the stick anyway. MVP blocks and hits a combination of kicks and slams, and then boots Tanaka to the floor. He follows with a plancha and goes for some pins in the ring. he gets a one-count and tries again, but the referee stops counting to throw the kendo stick out. MVP maintains control with a sidewalk slam and jackknife covers but Tanaka kicks out again. He sends Tanaka into a corner and charges, but Tanaka blocks with a kick and lands a tornado DDT. MVP blocks a superplex so Tanaka drops him neck-first on the top rope and hits a running clothesline that sends MVP from the apron to the floor.

At ringside, Tanaka tosses MVP into the barricade and pulls out a table. They brawl a bit until MVP ends up on the table and Tanaka lands a diving splash onto it. The table breaks much more easily than expected and Tanaka takes on half of the broken wood and drives it into MVP’s gut. MVP’s lucky the table broke so cleanly, otherwise he’d have a major problem on his hands.

Tanaka tosses MVP back into the ring and targets his ribs with kneedrops and a camel clutch. He follows with a big corner clothesline and continues dropping his knee into MVP’s ribs and back. Then he lands some chops and runs into the ropes, but MVP sidesteps and lands triple German suplexes. He lands a corner clothesline flurry and follows with an Exploder suplex, and then the crowd sings along as he lands his Ballin’ elbow. A Perfect-plex gets MVP a two-count and he boots Tanaka to the floor. He teases a suplex but then changes his mind and pulls out another table and props it up against the barricade. He goes for a powerbomb but Tanaka blocks and pushes him back-first into the ringpost. Tanaka tries to suplex MVP into the table but MVP sends him into the ringpost. MVP’s powerbomb connects with the table. But it doesn’t break and Tanaka hits hard. MVP throws him back into the ring, lands some forearms, and drops him with a lariat and a folding powerbomb for a two-count. He charges into a corner but Tanaka elbows him first and lands a lariat of his own. Tanaka starts his comeback with elbows and another lariat. MVP cuts him off in the corner and lands a top-rope superplex but Tanaka no-sells and lands a sliding elbow to the back of MVP’s head. Both men fight to their feet and have a brutal elbow exchange. Tanaka lands a running elbow smash and pins for two. Sliding laria – no, MVP counters with an armtrap crossface. Tanaka gets a ropebreak so MVP goes for his Playmaker finisher. Tanaka counters with a Brainbuster and lands another lariat. One, two, MVP kicks out. Tanaka lands two more Misawa rolling elbows follows with a sliding elbow smash and pins again. One, two, three! Tanaka beats MVP and wins the title!

Winner and NEW IWGP Intercontinental champion after 12:30: Masato Tanaka

Review: Solid match given the circumstances. The IWGP Intercontinental title was treated as a lower-card belt at the time so it wasn’t fought over in the most serious of matches. MVP did a great job fighting as the valiant champion, but he fell victim to Tanaka’s hardcore silliness. The hardcore spots came across as silly instead of serious and didn’t really add much to the match once MVP’s ribs became a non-issue for Tanaka. The match was decently competitive for most of it until Tanaka no-sold a big superplex and spammed big moves to win. At least Tanaka went out of his way to make MVP look hard to beat in the end, which made up for him losing the title.

Final Rating: **3/4


4. Shelton ‘X’ Benjamin vs. Katsuyori Shibata – NJPW G1 Climax 2014

Background: Benjamin wrestled in New Japan for three years, first as a tag team wrestler then as a singles star. During his singles run, Benjamin joined the villainous Suzuki-gun stable and renamed himself ‘Shelton X Benjamin’ after Suzuki had announced that a new wrestler named ‘X’ would join his group. Though Benjamin was mostly relegated to the stables mid-card feuds, he did get his chance to brush elbows with bigger stars in the 2014 G1 Climax tournament. That led to him crossing paths with Shibata, who was arguably the entire company’s stiffest striker and best submission expert (and that says a lot).

The Match: A great technical grappling sequence starts things off and ends with Benjamin in control. They lock-up again and the next great sequence ends with Shibata pushing Benjamin on the ropes. Shibata applies a deep headlock and keeps it cinched in even on irish whips. But despite Shibata’s solid guard, Benjamin finds enough space to land a forearm to his gut to break the headlock. Benjamin goes for an ankle lock but Shibata gets to the ropes quickly. A brief strike exchange occurs and Benjamin catches Shibata’s leg and lands a spinebuster. It looks like the impact hurt Shibata’s head so he goes to the floor but Benjamin’s right behind him. Benjamin lifts him by his legs and smashes his head back-and-forth into different sides of the steel barricade. He gets back into the ring as the ref begins his count and Shibata makes it in at the count of eighteen.

Benjamin maintains control with kicks to Shibata’s face and a hard corner Irish whip that get Benjamin a two-count. He gets another two-count off a snap suplex and locks in a sleeper with bodyscissors, only for Shibata to roll to the ropes. Benjamin lands a corner splash and charges again but Shibata cuts him off on the second charge with a dropkick. Both men get to their feet and start trading elbows. Shibata gets the upper hand and lands a running corner dropkick, followed by a single-underhook suplex and pins for a two-count. Shibata lifts Benjamin up but Benjamin lands his spinning counter dragon whip kick and gets a two-count of his own. Benjamin follows with a delayed butterfly suplex but that only gets two as well. Shibata blocks another wind-up kick and it’s back to the standing elbow exchange. Benjamin looks like he’s getting more hits in when Shibata smashes him with a spinning backfist. Aja Kong would be so proud. Shibata goes for Go To Sleep. Benjamin blocks and counters with an ankle lock. The fans chant for Shibata as Benjamin does his best Kurt Angle impression. Shibata struggles but he makes it to the ropes.

Benjamin goes for a suplex but Shibata lands behind him and locks in a sleeper. He gets a ropebreak so Shibata hits a German suplex. Shibata goes for a Penalty Kick (PK) but Benjamin dodges and lands a thrust kick of his own. He lands a second one right to Shibata’s head and Shibata staggers. Benjamin goes for his Paydirt finisher. Shibata blocks and locks in a sleeper and rolls to the mat, taking Benjamin with him. Benjamin backs Shibata into the corner to release the hold and goes for another kick. Shibata ducks that and his follow-up kick. Back to the sleeper. Benjamin starts fading but still has some strength left so Shibata puts him in a seated position. PK connects. One, two, three! Shibata wins!

Winner after 14:01: Katsuyori Shibata

Review: This was way better than I thought it would be. I went into this expecting Shibata to just beat the crap out of Benjamin and put him away easily because New Japan was desperate to re-establish Shibata as a solid main-eventer. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Benjamin hung with Shibata and actually had a few close moments when he could’ve actually won. Benjamin busted out his amateur skills and took that fight to Shibata and never slowed down. He grappled with Shibata, traded strikes with him, and even tried to out-do him at submission holds. For a while, it looked like Benjamin could pull off a major upset. That is, until Shibata started hitting back with elbows. Benjamin tried to tough it out, but not even he could survive Shibata’s vicious offense. Both Shibata and Benjamin able to change the direction of the match so quickly and effortlessly; sometimes all it took was one quick counter or blocked move for things to take a big turn and swing the contest in either man’s favor. But despite Benjamin putting on one of the best matches of his career and showcasing his own incredible amateur pedigree, Shibata was the better man here. Benjamin took a nasty beating and lost to a combination of superior submission and striking skills. I just wish Benjamin did a bit more to take this match to the next level. Still, a very solid match all around.

Final Rating: ***3/4


3. 1996 AJPW Champion Carnival Tournament Final: ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams vs. Akira Taue

Background: 1996 saw some interesting stories take place in All Japan, and that was a company that didn’t really run ‘storylines’ or ‘angles’ in the same way as in North America. First, Toshiaki Kawada spent the first half of the year in Giant Baba’s doghouse over some public statements he made, which cost him his singles push. Because he wasn’t in a position to do win the Champion Carnival, his tag partner, Akira Taue, was given a more prominent push than ever before. Second, this tournament marked the return of ‘Dr. Death’ Steve Williams, who was suspending from All Japan for a year following a drug arrest. He missed the 1995 Champion Carnival entirely, and now he hoped to make his big return and reclaim his status as top gaijin in the company.

The Match: Doc rushes Taue as the bell rings leading to some scuffles against the ropes. He overpowers Taue on their second lock-up and goes nose-to-nose with him. Doc taunts Taue and knocks him down with a shoulder tackle. Taue fires back with a big boot. Doc returns with a lariat and a powerslam that get a two-count. Doc tries shutting Taue down with a sleeper but Taue gets a ropebreak. Doc lands some stiff kicks and goes for another sleeper but Taue counters with a Backdrop suplex. Great counter. Taue drapes Doc throat-first on the top rope twice and applies a chinlock. Doc gets a ropebreak and tries to fight back chops (while gasping for air), but Taue shuts him down with a dropkick and a corner boot. Doc tries making a comeback but can’t manage more than one move at a time due to the damage from the guillotine drop on the ropes, which allows Taue to hit some big elbows. Taue goes for a powerbomb but Doc powers out and then dumps Taue to the floor. Doc sees Taue on the apron and knocks him off. That pisses Taue off so much he roars and runs back into the ring. he charges at Doc and they start brawling like wildmen. Doc lands some shoulder tackles and goes for a corner football tackle but Taue blocks with a high kick. Then Taue charges but Doc catches him in the powerslam position. He goes for the Oklahoma Stampede. Taue holds onto the ropes for dear life so Doc stomps the hell out of his chest. Then Doc connects with that move fully and pins, but only gets a two-count.

Doc gets another two-count off an elbow drop and locks in a Boston crab. Taue gets a ropebreak so Doc starts stiffing him in the small of his back but Taue remains defiant. They hit each other back-and-forth until Doc double-legs him for another two-count. Doc goes for a corner stinger splash but Taue sidesteps and hits a DDT. He hits another big boot and goes for his Nodowa Otoshi chokeslam but Doc blocks and hits a snap suplex. Doc follows with a combination of a stinger splash, corner dropkick and a spinebuster, all of which get a two-count. Doc goes for the Dangerous Backdrop. Taue rushes to the safety of the ropes. Doc pulls him back and hits a Tiger Suplex. Taue rolls to the floor and both men take time to recover.

Doc lifts Taue over the ropes and powerslams him to the mat for a two-count. Taue tries fighting back with an enzuigiri but Doc knocks him back down with a jab combo. Doc charges again but Taue blocks and teases a German suplex. Doc elbows out but Taue chops his throat and then connects with a German. Taue tries another chokeslam. Doc counters with a judo arm throw. Taue hits two big boots and Doc falls to the floor, so Taue follows him and DDTs him on the ringside mats. Taue tries to drag Doc to the apron for some big move but Doc cuts him off and sends him into the barricade. Doc throws him into the ring and lands a top-rope diving shoulder tackle. He starts making his comeback as he lifts Taue over his head and guillotine drops Taue throat-first on the rope. Doc gets revenge for earlier. Doc locks in a full nelson but Taue holds onto the ropes until Doc lands a stiff kneelift. He tries the full nelson again but Taue throws him off, then lands a high kick and a running neckbreaker. Chokeslam connects. Doc kicks out at one and rolls to the floor. Suicide dive by Taue. But he’s not done. He drags doc to the apron for the apron chokeslam. They struggle but Taue manages to get some of it at least. Taue tosses Doc into the ring and pins but only gets two.

Taue tries another chokeslam but Doc elbows out. Doc dodges a boot and a lariat…and spikes Taue with the Dangerous Backdrop! The crowd goes nuts.

Both men struggle to their feet and Doc hits first with a shoulder tackle. He hulks up Oklahoma-style and drops Taue with a gutwrench powerbomb. One, two, Taue kicks out. Doc tries the same move again. Taue counters into a pin in midair that Doc barely escapes. Taue gets up first and lands a Dynamic/Batista Bomb. One, two, Doc kicks out. Doc resists a chokeslam so Taue choke-tosses him into the corner. Doc blocks a lariat and goes for a German but Taue blocks and both men go down in a heap. Taue takes advantage and hits a running jumping big boot. That’s followed by one more chokeslam. One, two, and three! Taue beats Doc to win the tournament!

Winner of the match and the 1996 Champion Carnival after 21:41: Akira Taue

Review: Classic, violent brawl between two wrestlers than wanted to destroy each other. The goal of the match was to establish Taue as a believable main-eventer, and who better for him to beat than ‘Dr. Death’, the man that, at one point or another, mangled and mauled the other three of the Four Pillars. There was no way for Taue to match Doc in raw power, conditioning, or technique. To make up for that, Taue relied on his craftiness and some key big spots. He took away Doc’s football conditioning by attacking his throat, making it harder for Doc to breathe and get enough oxygen in his lungs to make use of his trademark power advantage. From there Taue faked Doc out by pretending to go down the power route, only to switch things up and attack his neck until he got the win. There were a few off moments when some moves looked like they didn’t hit properly, but those only made the realistic brawl aspects of the match even better. It was competitive until the very end, which made the twenty minutes fly by. It’s not either man’s best match, but it’s surprisingly good for two wrestlers that was basically the All Japan version of a heel vs. heel match.

Final Rating: ****1/4


2. Terry Gordy vs. Kenta Kobashi – AJPW, May 21st, 1993

Background: Just as All Japan had its fabled four native pillars (Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi, and Taue), it also had what were sometimes called its four gaijin (foreign) pillars: Stan Hansen, Steve Williams, Terry Gordy, and Dan Spivey. For each of the native pillars to reach the top, they had to overcome one of the gaijin pillars. The biggest one to date had been Misawa beating Hansen to win the Triple Crown in 1992, and now it was Kobashi’s turn to get a big win. This was especially critical for him since Toshiaki Kawada turned on Misawa a week or so earlier to join forces with Akira Taue. Since Misawa needed people to believe that Kobashi deserved to be his new right-hand man, he needed to score a big win over someone important. The person that fit that bill here was Gordy, who was a former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion and one of the best wrestlers in the world during the 1980s.

The Match: They lock-up and Kobashi starts with a headlock. Gordy powers out and they have a nice chain grappling exchange. Gordy sends Kobashi to the ropes and they do the immovable object shoulder tackle spot. Kobashi ducks a clothesline and hits a jumping shoulder tackle, followed by a rolling cradle that gets two. They follow with the Greco-Roman knuckle lock which leads to an exchange in armlocks and then the double-arm strength battle. Kobashi fights hard to maintain control until Gordy gets a ropebreak. They lock up again and start trading very stiff strikes. Neither man goes down and they have a tense stare-down. Gordy takes control with some nasty kicks to Kobashi’s arm and his bad left leg. Kobashi shakes him off with an enzuigiri but Gordy maintains the pressure with an STF attempt but Kobashi rolls to the ropes.

Gordy goes for a suplex but Kobashi counters into his own. After some stalling, Kobashi chops the hell out of Gordy’s chest and then kicks him so hard he falls to the floor. He follows with an Irish whip into the barricade and a DDT onto the floor, then hits more chops in the ring. He goes for another Irish whip but Gordy counters and hits a back elbow. Kobashi goes into the ropes again but this time he hits first with a kick combination and Gordy goes to the floor again. Kobashi follows with a plancha to the floor and sends Gordy into the barricade again. He goes for an elevated DDT using the barricade but Gordy knocks him down to the floor first. Gordy tosses Kobashi into the ring and pins for two.

The fans chant for Kobashi as Gordy nails him with hard strikes. He kicks out of two lariats and the crowd’s so happy they clap and stomp their feet. Gordy shuts down another Kobashi attempt at a comeback with forearm clubs and a kneedrop that gets a two-count. Gordy locks in a chinlock but Kobashi escapes using a stunner. He goes for a diving shoulder tackle but Gordy sidesteps and pins for yet another two-count. A short-range lariat gets Gordy yet another two-count, so he locks in a sleeperhold with bodyscissors. Kobashi gets a ropebreak so Gordy drops a leg across his neck and lands an ax kick. He pins following a dropkick, but Kobashi gets his feet on the ropes. Gordy gets him in the corner for another lariat but this time Kobashi gets his foot up. He lands a dropkick of his own that makes Gordy stagger and then Kobashi drops him with a lariat. Both men collapse.

Kobashi starts his comeback with machine gun chops in the corner. He sends Gordy into the opposite corner and goes for a jumping knee butt Gordy catches and drops him. Gordy regains control with a facecrusher and not one but two Backdrop suplex. Kobashi hits the mat hard. Gordy pins but only gets two. Kobashi fights out of a piledriver and counters a lariat with a sleeper of his own. Gordy escapes by running into the corner and driving Kobashi’s face into the turnbuckle. But that only delays Kobashi’s assault as he lands a jumping knee in the corner, followed by an enzuigiri. Bridging German suplex. Gordy kicks out. Scoop slam/leg drop combo. Kobashi goes to the top rope. Diving moonsault connects. One, two, no, Gordy kicks out. Kobashi tries again. Gordy holds him back by his ankle and lands multiple leg drops. Gordy cuts him off again and lands an elevated Backdrop suplex.

Both men struggle to their feet and Kobashi hits first with chops. Gordy blocks one chop and Kobashi ducks one lariat, but Gordy connects with a second lariat to the back of Kobashi’s head. One, two, Kobashi kicks out. Gordy goes for a powerbomb. Kobashi rolls over into a counter pin that gets two. Kobashi lands a rolling kick and a stungun into the ropes. Giant Baba-style running neckbreaker. Gordy kicks out of a pin again. One more scoop slam and Kobashi goes back to the top rope. Diving moonsault connects again. One, two, three! Kobashi beats Gordy! People are going absolutely nuts screaming and cheering!

Winner after 19:39: Kenta Kobashi

Review: Tremendous match. It was a straightforward brawl with a classic underdog story from Kobashi. Gordy didn’t do anything needlessly complex and just overpowered Kobashi with his old school brawling style until Kobashi mustered enough fighting spirit to overcome the odds. Gordy controlled the match and did whatever he could to try and stop Kobashi’s push forward, but failed in the end. It was a case of right place, right time. Gordy was on the downswing in his career while Kobashi was rising faster and higher. Kobashi busted out a wide variety of moves and ultimately overcame Gordy’s raw power to score a pinfall victory that not only solidified him as a future top star, but also sent the crowd into a frenzy. Even though it wasn’t as big of a match as other AJPW classics, this match had an amazing crowd that made so much noise that they made it sound like a thunderstorm was happening in the arena. They were so happy to see him beat a legend of the past. Wrestling booking can be hard to do properly, but here everything went off without a hitch. The right guy won at the right time in the right place in front of the right audience.

Final Rating: ****1/4


1. Stan Hansen vs. Toshiaki Kawada – AJPW, February 28th, 1993

Background: Hansen was the ultimate gaijin threat in All Japan for many years. He was one of a very small handful of men who held pinfall victories over both Giant Baba and Antonio Inoki. And in All Japan, he was revered as the old guard from the 1980s that was very hard to kill. As the 1990s continued and a new generation of stars came in, those old guard wrestlers – including Hansen – found themselves trying to preserve their spots. By the time this match took place, only Misawa was able to pin Hansen. None of the other Four Pillars was able to achieve this, so Kawada hoped to change this. He also wanted a measure of revenge because he challenged Hansen for the Triple Crown title in June 1992 but failed to win.

The Match: Hansen rushes Kawada before pre-match introductions are done. They brawl all around the ring and inside it, with Hansen hitting whatever he can and Kawada trying to take the big man out with kicks to his calf. Kawada gains control with a scoop slam and then soccer kicks Hansen’s spine. Several times. He tries a headlock and some trademark Kawada stepkicks, but Hansen fires back with some quick jabs that stun Kawada and make him stagger. God, Kawada’s selling is awesome.

Hansen punts Kawada’s spine and Kawada falls to the floor. Hansen tr4ies to back suplex Kawada onto the barricade or the exposed floor but Kawada blocks and smashes Hansen’s head into the ringpost. Hansen tries to re-enter the ring but Kawada attacks him before he can. He tries to double-leg Hansen but Hansen boots him and hits a back elbow for a two-count.

A diving elbow gets Hansen another two-count and he continues hitting Kawada as hard as he can. Hansen goes for a powerbomb but Kawada blocks and lands some brutal kicks to Hansen’s chest and head for another two-count. Despite Hansen’s best efforts, Kawada locks in a single leg crab on the bad leg. Hansen eventually gets a ropebreak and goes after Kawada’s bad leg, which leads to a kick exchange that Hansen wins. Hansen locks in his own single leg crab and lands a knee crusher/calf stomp combo but Kawada fights on. In response, Hansen punts Kawada’s leg and then stretches it through the ropes. Kawada pushes him off but Hansen remains focused and locks in a heel hook. Kawada’s only way to escape is by kicking Hansen’s head with his free leg. Hansen’s strategy angers Kawada so much he punts Hansen’s spine again, but falls back down right after because he can’t hold himself up on one leg.

Kawada tries different things to attack Hansen but nothing works because Kawada can’t maintain a sustained attack and Hansen’s too close to the ropes. Hansen gets up and elbows Kawada to stop a charge and then kicks him right in the jaw, then follows with a kneedrop for another two-count. A back suplex gets Hansen another two-count, and when Kawada blocks a powerbomb Hansen stiff him right in the back some more. A DDT gets Hansen another two-count, and when Kawada tries to mount a comeback with an Irish whip reversal, Hansen sends him down easily with a shoulder tackle. Kawada falls to the floor but Hansen goes after him with a bottom-rope suicide dive. Hansen rips off the ringside mats and goes to suplex Kawada onto the concrete floor. But Kawada counters and suplexes Hansen instead.

Kawada starts making a comeback with forearms, an enzuigiri, and a lariat to the back of Hansen’s head as Hansen stands on the apron. Kawada drags him back into the ring and pins for a two-count, then lends a second-rope kneedrop that also gets two. He somehow manages to suplex Hansen again and locks in the Stretch Plum submission hold. The crowd grows louder as Kawada wrenches that hold as much as he can. Hansen starts fading but Kawada knows he hasn’t done enough damage yet, so he stepkicks Hansen’s head. Kawada targets Hansen’s head with more strikes and then bitchslaps him. Does Kawada have a death-wish or something? Hansen blocks a slap and punches Kawada and he goes down.

Hansen lifts Kawada up and lands some head-butts. Kawada fires back with chops to the head and head-butts of his own but Hansen throws him down. Kawada bounces back up and fires back with elbow smashes. Hansen pushes him down again and hits knees after pulling off his kneepad. Kawada kicks out of a pin following an elbow drop so Hansen drops him with a powerbomb. Hansen follows with a second-rope splash but Kawada kicks out of his pin once again. Hansen teases the lariat and charges. Kawada ducks and hits a yakuza kick and a lariat of his own. One, two, Hansen kicks out. Hansen rolls out of another Stretch Plum so Kawada boots him. Kawada lands two more lariats and pins but Hansen kicks out yet again. Kawada goes for a rope-assisted corner jump kick but Hansen blocks and slams Kawada down. He charges again…and runs into a gamengiri kick. Hansen staggers…and charges forward with the Western Lariat. Hansen drills Kawada but he runs so hard he falls to the floor.

Hansen crawls into the ring and picks Kawada up but he hits first with a spinkick that gets another two-count. Kawada hits another calf kick but can’t keep himself standing so Hansen drops him with a shoulder tackle. Hansen follows with a Western Lariat to the back of Kawada’s head. One, two, three! Hansen wins!

Winner after 24:02: Stan Hansen

Review: That was an awesome old-school brawl from two of the hardest-hitting wrestlers ever. Although it was mostly exciting and realistic brawling, it also featured some decent psychology in it that saw Kawada try and claw his way to victory against the grizzled veteran Hansen. Both guys tried to take each other’s legs out but Hansen was more successful because he was able to both slow Kawada down and weaken Kawada’s kicks and knees. Kawada tried to overcome that early challenge but couldn’t because Hansen maintained pressure on him, even after he got suplexed onto the floor. Once Kawada realized his strategy wasn’t working, he resorted to throwing bombs and brawling with Hansen. But that approach backfired as Hansen was basically able to brush him off with little effort. And once the finishing stretch began, both men fought tooth-and-nail to get the slightest advantage.

Kawada fought well as an underneath guy, but he was no match for Hansen’s raw power. He neglected to do anything about Hansen’s lariat arm, which made the final few minutes extra dangerous and exciting. Hansen’s first lariat hit so hard that Hansen’s own momentum sent him tumbling out of the ring. Yet even after almost a minute Kawada almost got pinned right then and there. Kawada survived a bit longer, only to have his skull caved in with an enzui lariat. The match could’ve been better with a bit more excitement and tension in the middle, but the psychologically-sound submission holds and tense final stretch more than made up for that.

Final Rating: ****1/2


Thanks for reading. You can reach me at 9atp1@queensu.ca for any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my regular 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.