This match is about The Great Sasuke’s leg.
This is just a little more than a month after the last match we covered for the project. Yet again, our heroes take on a Kaientai Deluxe contingent. This time it’s MEN’s Teioh and Dick Togo standing opposite them in the ring. Luckily, the tecnicos retain some of the lessons that served them so well at the end of 96 and decide to take matters into their own hands early. Both Sasuke and Delfin attack at the bell, ensuring a heated pace from the go.
Although KDX are able to brawl with the best of them on the floor, things swing back in the favor of the babyfaces in the ring. That’s where Sasuke and Delfin are able to use their quickness and technique to flummox the heels and maintain the early control. Of course that all changes when Teioh and Togo finally get the chance to go for Sasuke’s leg.
Much with the November 97 tag, the heels are vicious with their leg work here. Swapping out Funaki for Togo means that it’s a less scientific attack, and far more in line with Teioh’s more direct and brutal approach. They are ruthless going after that limb, so much so that the babyface seconds at ringside are scrambling to blast Sasuke’s knee with cold spray to give him even a prayer of surviving the match.
Something that struck me about watching this match is how effective traditional heel tactics were in Japan in the hands of the KDX wrestlers. Many things that are derided as hack and cliche today when enacted by the Bullet Club, for example, feel so earnestly threatening in the moment here. I think that’s because the earnestness is the key factor.
I feel like there’s this ironic veneer over the heel tactics as done by the likes of Bullet Club-era Young Bucks and brought forward by that stable into today that keeps it from ever feeling truly menacing and infuriating in the moment. Yet when Dick Togo grabs some cold spray and fires it off into Sasuke’s eyes in this match, it feels genuine and truly mean on Togo’s part.
The main thing that separates this match from the November tag finals though is Sasuke’s performance. Does Sasuke still hit big handspring offense when making his comebacks? Sure does. But it’s really much more about what he ends up doing between the big offense and the heels going back on the attack that makes the difference. For example, his initial comeback sees him far less lightfooted than the November attack. He’s far more hesitant and there’s a stutter in his step when he does go for his big offense. Then there’s the big ole nerdbait of crumbling to the mat when his knee gives out on an attempted handspring. That’s the good shit.
Delfin again plays the role he’s shown to be adept at: hot tag. He gets a big old comeback throwing some great punches against the heel. Otherwise, he’s mostly relegated to trying to keep the match together, saving Sasuke from the overwhelming onslaught of Teioh and Togo.
Where the tecnicos learned to be more vicious to close out 96 with a big victory, in this match Kaientai Deluxe continue to escalate the matter. It’s their dogged targeting of Sasuke’s leg that forces a referee stoppage when it was deemed Sasuke could no longer safely continue. Fantastic finish when it seemed that Teioh was about to literally rip Sasuke’s leg out of his body.
Great match here, probably the best of all of Delfin’s 97 work, even though he doesn’t take all that central of a role in it.