Segunda Caida

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Friday, September 30, 2016

All Time MOTY List HEAD to HEAD: 2005: Kenta v. SUWA VS. Ikeda v. Ishikawa

KENTA v. SUWA NOAH 9/18/2005

PAS: This match was all about SUWA as the kind of shitbag Southern heel that Japanese wrestling didn't really see much of in 2005. Now this kind of thing got totally played out by the Bullet Club, but you normally didn't see a guy get DQ'ed on purpose or shove Joe Higuchi. SUWA had this short but awesome run as a nasty asskicker who bumped huge and had nice punches, this was probably his apex point. I loved him as a desperate pockmarked creep above his pay grade, but desperate to take his shot. The spot where he countered the springboard by just hurling the ref at the ropes was great. KENTA's role in this was to land all of his spots, and they looked fine, his kicks really thudded as did the GTS. KENTA isn't a very natural babyface, and this would have been better with someone who evinced more sympathy. Still a great match, and as a long time SUWA fan, something I really enjoyed re-watching.

ER: I have an unabashed love for SUWA, and there's a fair chance that I love him more than anyone. I - perhaps foolishly - didn't contribute to PWO's Greatest Wrestler Ever poll because I missed the nominating process and realized SUWA didn't get nominated, and therefore I wouldn't have been able to vote for SUWA. And there was just no way I could turn in a ballot without SUWA's name on it. He meant too much to my late 90s to mid 2000s wrestling fandom. He was a great composite of so many things I love about pro wrestling. A disrespectful southern heel operating in front of a super serious backdrop, and this match was him doing his thing on his biggest stage. Minoru Suzuki brought a different brand of irreverence to large Japanese feds, and a few years later The Bullet Club would bring awful Attitude era cheating to New Japan. But SUWA didn't feel like an impression of a southern heel in any way. He seemed like a man oddly rebelling against his culture, a man out of place and a man with different goals than the goals presented by NOAH and that fans of NOAH accepted and respected. NOAH was a simply booked fed with a hierarchy and more respectful face/heel interactions. There weren't really traditional American heels in NOAH, it was all respectful athletes who merely disagreed over who deserved a title more. "I've worked hard and *I* deserve the title." "Well, I also feel that I've worked hard and deserve the title. Let's showcase our hard work and determination and see who is the victor." And in this match SUWA showed the crowd that he didn't care about a title, didn't care that he was in a big spot on a big show, didn't have a need to put aside his personal grievances with people who weren't a part of the match; to the crowd he was a guy who didn't respect them, didn't respect the brand, didn't respect the ideals of his employer. He acted like a guy who worked comfortably doing his thing under the radar, and when faced with more spotlight said "Okay, but you may regret this." The employee who loves his job when he's able to dick around without being noticed, but the second he's given responsibility he tries anything he can to get shunted back down to how things were.

I remember my friends' reactions when I showed this to them within a year of it airing, and telling them how great it was - but not why. The confusion within the first minute when it looks to end in a DQ was hilarious, and watching it back now I think it works great as a non-gimmick performance. SUWA coming out, ripping up Higuchi's proclamation, and then immediately getting himself DQ'd at the first sign of trouble, that got a genuine reaction. And you just didn't get genuine heel heat in a major Japanese fed at that time. SUWA's fist raise the second the DQ bell rings is classic, really rubbing the ideals of the promotion and fans back in their face. He stalks around the ring, arm raised, pointing at fans, soaking up the jeers. His walk to the back is the best, shrugging his way to the back while still laughing at people. The fans had seen SUWA be a dick before, but not in a title match on a major show. And by the time the match is restarted and KENTA is kicking SUWA back to the ring, the fans are more behind KENTA than they would have ever been before. KENTA is mostly a zero from a personality standpoint, and SUWA did all of his babyface work for him. He was such a dickhead that KENTA became a mega face just by doing what he would have done anyway. And SUWA adds these things throughout the match, kicking KENTA right in the balls twice, ramming him balls first into the ringpost at another point. KENTA could have been a debuting stranger and the crowd would have gotten behind him. SUWA makes a flat out babyface out of any person even tangentially related to the match. When he spills to the floor and screams at Higuchi, and Higuchi starts to take off his ring jacket? Listen to the crowd. SUWA gives Higuchi the biggest pop of his career, 10 years after his retirement. I bet there were people who went home talking about Higuchi removing his jacket, before talking about the Misawa title match or big Tenryu tag match that came after. Later on SUWA boots Kikuchi in the face and spits on him as he tries to replace the turnbuckle pad SUWA had just ripped off, and later in an all time great spot he shoves the referee halfway across the ring to interrupt a KENTA springboard spot. We've seen that kind of spot since, but I've never seen it come off more genuine or been used so effectively. The ref flew into those ropes as if he had zero clue he was about to fly into ropes, and further cemented how little shit SUWA gave.

SUWA being a tremendous asshole really elevates things, but I think even without him being who he is, the match itself would be very good. Strip out any sort of character work and just look at how the match builds, and it's really a wonderful match. The one drawback is that SUWA seemed like he could have this match with practically anybody, and just didn't normally have the stage to do so. He was so great at crafting openings for KENTA's comebacks that KENTA just had to hit his marks. It's a total one man show, and that's not a real diss to KENTA. KENTA was KENTA, SUWA just found a way to craft the best KENTA match. He lead KENTA to every great babyface comeback, bullying him around the ring would always lead to KENTA firing back with bigger shots, only broken up by a kick to the dick or something else untoward. SUWA bullying him in the corner with chops, the best punches and a huge dropkick lead to KENTA doing all the same to the bully. The build around SUWA hitting his finisher was classic Kings Road, with KENTA doing everything he could to sandbag himself, eventually leading to KENTA flipping out of it and hitting his G2S. And SUWA gets into ring position far better than any opponent KENTA ever faced. Look no further than the finishing stretch. KENTA hits his big running knee, and watch SUWA stand up and fall into the bottom rope, steadying himself against the middle rope, stepping on his own feet. He's drunk me standing up out of a chair and realizing how drunk I am. KENTA sets him up for the knee that will finish things, and runs off the opposite ropes fully expecting SUWA to just stand still in the center of the ring for 6 seconds while KENTA runs back and forth before hitting the knee. SUWA stumbles, expertly drops to a knee and struggles back to his feet just in time to take that knee, occupying himself more interestingly than any other KENTA opponent before or since. And really the fans don't care. They would have reacted the same to that knee no matter how SUWA occupied himself in the meantime. He laid the groundwork for the big reactions, and the match build delivered. He didn't need to pay this extra attention to what happened in the seconds leading up to the finish. But he did. And that really sums up SUWA. He was a guy who knew how to occupy himself, his matches, and his surroundings, from opening match status, to his one big match.

Verdict

PAS: I think Ishikawa v. Ikeda still holds the belt. I enjoy heel shtick more then most, but parts of SUWA's stuff felt a little cosplayish, the most awesome version ever of Ziggler having HEEL in his twitter handle. Nothing felt winking about the grotesque violence of Ikeda v. Ishikawa and that kind of war will always have an edge up for me.

ER: This still ranks as one of my very favorite all time matches. I don't rightly know that I could say whether or not this was better than Ikeda/Ishikawa. They both scratch very different itches for me, but they each scratch those itches like the best possible backscratcher. The horrific violence of one versus much of what I love about wrestling in the other. One might be the most brutal war in wrestling history, the other hits me on a more personal level. It's the old "Greatest" versus "Favorite" argument. Is your favorite movie the same as what you think is the greatest movie? Favorite album the same as greatest album? SUWA/KENTA is one of my favorite matches. It's one I'll watch more often over the course of my life than this specific Ikeda/Ishikawa match. Both of these matches feel like #1 to me. And since I can't decide I will yield to Phil, who has a clearer feeling which match is better. However, if we were to do an All Time Match list some day I feel there's a good chance KENTA/SUWA finishes above some matches that finished #1 in their respective year. Or at least I'll argue for it to be.

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