Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Saturday, June 10, 2017

2017 Doesn't Make the List: 4 1/2 & 5 Star Edition

1. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee (NJPW 2/11/17)

What a stupid little match. I genuinely like a lot of their CMLL matches, and I think their 3/4/16 match should land on our MOTY list (but Phil refuses to watch it so we likely won't ever know). But now the moves keep getting bigger and the actual point just skipped town. The Mexico matches had a strong tecnico/rudo leanings, with Kamaitachi being the despised foreigner. Here both guys take turns playing heel, and it's only one of the reasons that none of the moves here meant a damn thing. One minute Lee would do these great dickish condescending kicks to a downed Takahashi, and right after Takahashi would be yanking at Lee's mask. It all rang hollow when they would then fighting spirit their way through some suplexes. Both men were too wimpy to commit to a persona, and it made all of their spots look like geek show exhibition than two guys trying to win; it's that Kurt Angle "We're going to have a 5 star match" said during a supposedly heated promo. One-upsmanship can be compelling, but not nearly as much when neither guy is working a consistent emotion. The Mexico matches benefitted greatly from the 2/3 falls structure, as it gave some natural breathing time (which these two have shown they are incapable of doing, rushing through huge spots as if there was a madman threatening to blow up the arena if they work below a certain speed), and most importantly it allowed 2 extra pinfalls, so that at least a couple of their finishers actually got to finish something. There are some genuinely spectacular spots in this match, and some genuinely stupid ones, often spectacularly stupid. I'd be shocked if Lee could keep a straight train of thought and wasn't slurring speech postmatch after taking that sunset flip powerbomb, getting thrown off the top to the floor while setting up a double stomp, and later getting brained into the guardrail catching Takahashi's wild senton. The problem is that it sure never felt like it was affecting him that much, as he would always go immediately back on offense. The fans didn't even seem to react to much of this until Takahashi awesomely unmasked Lee. Shocking, that actually committing to being a dick lead to an actual emotional reaction. Many moves were done, neither man struggled to do any of the moves, both men were heels until they weren't, many moves were kicked out of, eventually one of the moves was not kicked out of.

2. Michael Elgin vs. Tetsuya Naito (NJPW 2/11/17)

Damn. This one had me, until it lost me. And then after it lost me, it continued existing for another 10 minutes. I was hooked, really into it. Elgin isn't a guy I love but I was really loving his performance. His early power stuff was awesome, and I loved Naito's bug eyed desperation as he had no clue what to do to actually stop the beast. Elgin catching Naito's tope was far and away the most impressive I have ever seen that spot. On paper it's always an impressive spot, but it's really difficult to make it look like the diver didn't know he was being caught ahead of time. Here, with Naito's facials and Elgin's strength, it looked like Naito hit a dive the exact same way he normally would have, and Elgin  unexpectedly caught him and suplexed him (AND sold the suplex himself, as it WOULD hurt to suplex a guy on the floor). So I was pretty sold on the match at that point. And then Naito started working over Elgin's knee, and Elgin sold it really great. Not just limping around, but doing neat things like hitting a german and bridging on his good leg, and two different times using the ropes to assist him in doing a kick (an enziguiri and later a superkick). There were a couple of minor lapses but overall the selling was really spot on, and gave Naito important openings. Elgin was still catching him with some brutal standing shots (including those great standing lariats) and Naito was starting to pull ahead. It was good. It was a smooth, turbulence-free landing on the MOTY list. And then Elgin started doing some rope running spots, some of his big lifts, knee unaffected. Which, okay, nobody is perfect. And then it happened the rest of the match, even when Naito locked in a leg bar, and the crazy moves to Naito ramped up, which means he was kicking out of everything that looked deadly, and then the thing just shot past the end zone and kept running out of the stadium, Gump style. The overkill went on too long, past the point of interest. I could not call it a bad match, as the first 60% had tons of value, but man did they work really really hard to undo all of that. I really loved the build and tone this match had, which makes it a huge disappointment that they went the direction they did. And that's arguably a worse offense than just being a bad match from the bell.

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Blogger Discotortoise said...

I have a significantly greater tolerance for Modern Puro Horseshit than you guys and loved both matches (****3/4 for the juniors which actually only makes it my third-best in their extended series and ****5/8 for the heavies, yes I am now using 1/8 stars, though ****7/8 WOULD be a bridge too far).

The booking of Hiromu, while effective as hell because he's just so wildly charismatic, has been weird. He & Naito are possibly the two most over guys in the company because Gedo has done such a bad job in establishing exactly what they are (they're basically the middle point if you put the five big groups in order). And the feud kicked back off with Dragon ambushing Hiromu after a match. It's very, very much about the "mongoose vs. snake, I will kill myself in order to kill you" theme that CMLL established but with Dragon as the foreigner here which screws alignment up even more. So for me, it all works very well, but I am obviously very invested in just watching them go through continuously-evolving their spots and just finding new ways to try to kill themselves to kill each other. It's not about it as an exhibition but it probably IS a very thin line and if you don't think that the two are as truly talented or have the chem as someone like me does (or just hates Gedo's booking enough that I can't blame the workers), then I get it.

As for Elgin-Naito, what just brought it down for me was the big nearfall sequence for Elgin with the consecutive apron/guardrail/sitout powerbombs which was the only time that I REALLY felt like that he cut out on the selling but more importantly, holy shit does that need to end a match especially with no delay on the cover after a brutal series. An obvious bubble-popping moment for me. Really disappointing as much as I really did like the rest of the match.

I think that both reviews are very fair, though. DDT is the only company in Japan that I think almost always either truly delivers or overdelivers on its major feature matches.

11:09 AM  

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