Shinjiro Ohtani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka (NJPW Summer Struggle N1 6/25/00)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by OGTHRAXXKILLA over on my Ko-fi account. As of this writing commissions are still open, they’re going for $10 a pop.

In much of the writing I’ve done about professional wrestling through the years, structure is something I come back to repeatedly. In the past, I’ve been asked by people what are matches that they can watch to understand structure better, and I will pretty consistently point them to tag matches. Tag team wrestling is an ideal entryway to pro wrestling because of all the baked-in story beats one can tell with the genre. As far as structure goes, it also has what’s essentially a codified three-act narrative that’s easy for anybody to understand via the classic 80s southern tag. Neat segments that tell clear stories in a tight package.

This match is not that. It is not neat or structured, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. Luckily, that doesn’t matter in the slightest because this whips a truly ridiculous amount of ass.

Holy shit, what a thing.

What this match lacks in well-defined control segments, it makes up for with a rough, petty, and violent in-ring struggle running through the entire runtime. Nobody gets isolated for lengthy periods of time, building up to a hot tag. But rather, there’s a constant strife on display between all four men with offensive spurts grabbed for at every turn.

Much of that, I have to contribute to the champions in Ohtani and Takaiwa. They’re just absolute bastards in this match. They give no quarter whatsoever and apply themselves in such brutal ways. Take for example the very first bout of offense from Ohtani when he gets tagged in. He fires off some truly wicked punches right to Kanemoto’s face. Watch the pure physicality of how Ohtani does it, the guy is putting his whole body weight behind the strike. Whether or not he actually pulls on impact doesn’t even matter, because he looks his putting his entire fucking soul behind trying to punch Kanemoto’s lights out.

The match is filled with that kind of focused violence. At multiple points, Takaiwa and Ohtani will grab at the hair, throw a mean kick, or chopping right in the throat. The challenges are forced to react in kind. While I’m less taken in by Kanemoto and Tanaka’s wild leaping kicks, that’s not to say they don’t bring the violence when necessary. When forced into closed quarters, they’re right in there, smothering noses and throwing solid shots as well. And when their kicks do land, boy do they land. Kanemoto throws an especially impressive downward kick to Takaiwa’s dome. Later on, Tanaka hits a sweet thrust kick in the corner that does a great job stunning one of the champions as well.

The match plays out in this way for so long, that when breakthroughs start happening they feel massive. The already free-flowing match starts to break down when Tanaka and Kanemoto get the chance to come off the ropes to hit some aerial offense and start staking their claim. It finally feels like they’ve burst through the domineering control of the champions for long enough to make victory plausible. The fact that these four are able to continue in this vein with mean cut offs from the champions forcing the challengers to re-earn their comeback is stunning. There’s some real nail-biters as far as nearfalls are concerned, made even more thrilling with the competitors just leaping in to break up pins instead of just tapping their opponents on the back. What starts as just a really gross riff fest, suddenly transforms into a high stakes bomb throwing battle where my allegiances can’t help but shift to the more sympathetic challengers.

By the time Tanaka and Kanemoto actually secure the victory, I found myself actively cheering them on, pumping my fist in celebration. That’s pro wrestling, baby. Feels so good when it’s done this well.

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