Takuya Nomura vs. Fuminori Abe (We are the Fighting Detectives 10/12/23)

Match Reviews

Featured image by @nantokaGM

This review was commissioned by Hippoboy281 over on my Ko-fi account.

First reviewed here.

It’s difficult for me to separate my love for this match from the experience of seeing it for the first time. That’s something that will naturally fade with time, and only more distance will show just how enduring this match will be two, three, maybe even ten years down the line. However, having seen it twice now, roughly three months apart, I can confirm that this has yet to lose any of its power over me.

I’ll have time to talk about that experience of finding this match in real time elsewhere, but for now I want to focus on the actual form of it. As with so many things that has received such powerful, overwhelming praise from its fans, there’s already been some fairly light pushback to this match. Chief among the criticisms levied against it would be that as far as matches under the BattlArts umbrella go, this might not crack the elite offerings of that particular style and promotion. That’s a criticism I can’t really speak to as someone who’s only just begun exploring BattlArts (in large part due to how this match struck me). One thing I can say for this match though is that I don’t think it’s strictly tied to BattlArts as closely as it may seem.

Yes, the Fighting Detectives name gestures towards BattlArts, and Ishikawa and Ikeda make appearances in the semi-main event, but the Astronauts present us with something different here. It’s not a direct continuation of the BattlArts lineage, but rather their own particular offshoot that carries their own signature touch with it. “Inspired by BattlArts” perhaps might be a better descriptor here, very much the “Based on a true story” of pro wrestling matches.

What that means in practice is that we get a lot of the signature elements of BattlArts here–the stiff striking being chief among them–combined with a more Astronauts forward touch. What Abe and Nomura bring most heavily in this regard is a little more emphasis comedy. That’s not to say that the match is filled to the brim with bits and hahas, but rather that there’s a lightness to the early action here that should be rather familiar to fans of their work together as a team. What I enjoy about this too is that it isn’t done just for the sake of it, but serves a purpose to the match’s larger narrative as well.

While the action is pretty much always crisp and the hits incredibly hard the entire time, Abe and Nomura masterfully manipulate the emotional landscape of the match here using that early comedy. Abe’s the one who’s perhaps being a little flashy and cheeky early on–feinting at Nomura with big hand swipes, biting at Nomura’s nipple, sticking a finger in Nomura’s ass to break up a hold. It’s fun and games, but still rather violent in execution, but things really do take a shift when Nomura starts laying in his kicks. When he’s able to get Abe down on the mat, he’s relentless with those big kicks that even send Abe scurrying out to the floor just to recover.

It’s around then that this takes on much more of a do or die feeling to it.

When Abe starts fooling around, there’s a greater sense of urgency to his actions here. He lays in his own kicks, punches his way through Nomura’s skull constantly. When he has Nomura down on the mat, he never really allows himself to rest on his laurels. At different points in the match, he’s either repeatedly leaping into the grossest headbutts you’ve ever seen or perhaps kicking and kneeing him so hard to try to keep him down. By the time Abe’s blood is flowing in this–perhaps from a Nomura punch? maybe from his own forceful headbutts?–one can’t help but actively root for him to finally pull off the big victory here. When he finally does grab that climactic leg submission at the end, he seems to be basically clinging on for dear life until Nomura gives.

All that are the bigger things at play here, but on a more micro level, my god. My fucking god.

This match FUCKS.

When these two punch each other so hard that they have to sell their own hands, well one questions just how much is selling and how much is true. The more exaggerated expressiveness these two bring feels so goddamn justified because they hit so hard. Crunchy, thudding elbows, solid punches to the dome, a whole boatload of shoot headbutts. It’s just so visceral, so real! One can’t help but react to it so powerfully. It’s something that I’ve always come back to with the Astronauts: they can do bits if they want because outside of that they deliver ass whoopings.

It’s such a massive victory not just for Abe, but for the Astronauts together. This match reads like such a powerful statement–a planting of the flag, a mission declared, a vision shared. It’s unbelievable passion on display here from two wrestlers sharing what they think pro wrestling should be. They’re proclaiming a vision of vicious competition that doesn’t shatter bonds, but somehow makes them stronger.

It’s perfect, best I’ve seen all decade long.

IS IT BETTER THAN 6/9/94? Yeah, man. Maybe Kawada should have stuck a finger up Misawa’s ass.

Rating: *****

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