Segunda Caida

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

New Footage Friday: WE DECLARE WAR!!! 6/25/93

WAR 6/25/93

This is a six match series with WAR vs. Heisei Ishingun. Sort of a border skirmish in the WAR vs. NJ conflict, with Koshinaka's band of outsiders taking on a group of WAR defenders. Weird show, having a WAR card in 93 with no Tenryu, but tubby interpromotional asskicking is about the best thing in wrestling and this had it in spades

Show starts with sort of a drawing of straws to set up the match ups


Koki Kitahara vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi

PAS: This was the longest of the matches on the show, and goes into several different phases, all of them pretty great. It opens with both guys throwing taters at each other, they spill to the floor and wildly fling chairs. One of the things that made this match so great is the raggedness of it. There isn't very many smooth exchanges, and lots of the time they are just grabbing each other by the hair and sneaking in punches and headbutts. Large parts of this feel  bar fight, where both guys are a little unskilled and a little unsteady. I loved Kobayashi just throwing multiple fisherman's suplexes and not going for the pin and Kitahara's dickish little kicks to the head. Finish was cool with Kitahara DDTing Kobayashi on the floor, rolling him in and locking in a bodyscissors sleeper for a but until Kobayashi passes out, it wasn't really a dramatic pass out, and it almost felt like a questionable UFC stoppage, I loved the shoving and the "hold me back" from both camps. Thought it worked really well for the opening of a series like this.

MD: I love the dissonance of a tug of war rolling right into this match. It's a twenty minute match that's almost entirely uncooperative all the way through, which feels pretty long for this sort of thing. It's brutal and it's great. Kitahara took the brunt of this, coming off like an absolute killer, with nasty headbutts, chair shots, and kicks, but throughout most of it, he couldn't really lock in a hold. Midway through Kobayashi comes back with these amazing running headbutts, really just a momentum-laden collision and then finally locks in a leglock which feels like a big deal given the struggle up to there. They roll into the finishing stretch not long after with Kitahara hitting a German, Northern Lights, and Backdrop Driver all in a row. It felt like a clear moment of escalation which means Kobayashi popping up almost immediately thereafter to hit three fisherman's suplexes of his own felt a little unearned. It was somewhat forgivable due to the unclear death match rules but it did take me out of the match a bit. Thankfully, it set up the further escalation with the three DDTs on the floor and the rear naked choke to close it all out so it more or less worked out in the end. Anyway, the sheer brutality more than makes up for that. What a way to start a show.

Ashura Hara vs. Akitoshi Saito

ER: Tenryu may not be on this show (which is weird for a WAR show, but I see Tenryu worked a Hashimoto singles match a week before this show and then didn't work again for a month, so taking a month off work after 20 minutes opposite Hash does make sense) but Hara is clearly the Tenryu proxy as he works this match almost exactly like I think Tenryu would have, and even has a bunch of great Tenryu selling moments. It's almost as if Hara was ALSO great or something. This is the kind of match you want out of a WAR/NJ showdown, Hara roughing up the relative newbie, beating him down with chairshots on the floor and lariats to the neck, and there's a great moment where you hear the buzz of the crowd building as they anticipate Saito finally hitting his first big spinkick of the match. Hara is running to set up a killshot lariat, and the crowd knows exactly the mistake he's making, and Saito hits that spinning heel kick that is arguably the best spinning heel kick of anyone who does a spinning heel kick, and that sets up the next several minutes of Saito kicking Hara a TON. Hara's selling of Saito's kicks is downright lordly. He leans into brutal baseball bat shots to the chest, Saito comes off the ropes with a punch right to the guy that sends Hara staggering beautifully into the ropes. Saito stops him in his tracks with a couple high kicks, throws a couple of crescent kicks that glance off Hara's temple (loved Hara's selling of a glancing blow) and Hara gets literally moved back on his feet like a tackling dummy by a couple of Saito lariats. We get a couple great moments of Hara eating kicks and occasionally catching one, only able to toss Saito away to get a couple seconds or reprieve before eating more kicks. And the longer Saito kicked him I knew Hara wasn't just going to just keep getting kicked and NOT pay him back for it, and when we got to the Hara payback it delivered. Hara throws the three meanest kicks of the entire match, one to Saito's ribs and two more right to the face - the kind of thing that would make Futen main eventers blush - and then gets to show off a couple more lariats of his own. This is the match I want to see when I sit down to watch WAR.

MD: Great, straightforward nine minute match. Hara's initial demolishing of Saito was great, straight up to the nonchalance in his nasty clotheslines and chairshots. I liked how he kept tossing him out of the ring. There was just so much personality to the violence. Saito's comeback spin kick was a thing of beauty. I'm a sucker for matches that can turn on a dime on one big move like that. Speaking of personality, Saito losing the gi and then posing before every kick like he was charging up was definitely memorable and seemed to work for the crowd. Hara willfully absorbing kicks (gritting through) is a much preferred method of selling than just eating three suplexes with no real effect and the finishing flurry of clotheslines felt like the inevitable destination the match had to go.

PAS: This was pretty much a poor man's Tenryu vs. a poor man's Hashimoto, but you can match up poor man's versions of those two and have it still be fucking incredible. I loved Hara hurling Saito to the floor and plastering him with chairs, Saito's big spin kick was incredible, and he really leaned into those body kicks, those are the kind of things which would turn ribs into popcorn. Hara just grumping his way out and chucking lariats was great stuff too, I love a larait to the back of the head and Hara was just cracking Saito with them. WAR as fuck.

Masashi Aoyagi vs. Super Strong Machine

ER: I both liked this, and was disappointed by this. I didn't love the layout, there were a couple dodgy moments from Aoyagi, and the finish is literally the exact same finish as the Hara/Saito match that happened right before this match. What I liked, is further evidence that Super Strong Machine may be one of the more under discussed ass kickers of this era. He is not flashy, his offense is simple, but he executes the offense with a Finlayesque reasonable recklessness, hitting his body slams hard, sitting down fast on his piledriver, throwing running and standing lariats with a full arm, the kind of guy with a vertical suplex you can set your watch to. He's a real bully in this, beating Aoyagi through the crowd and battering him with a chair. Now that I think about it maybe the entire layout of this match is a lesser executed version of Hara/Saito. But SSM is a fun smotherer, I can really get into a guy with a nice headlock or chinlock, and he really looks like he's hooking that arm to suffocate Aoyagi. Aoyagi throwing fast kicks over his head to escape was a great touch. Aoyagi's kick section isn't as nice as Saito's, he even whiffs a kick over SSM's head by several inches, but he hits a couple really nice rolling kicks and I always love his out of control corner spinkick that ends him spilling to the apron. The leaping knee to the back of Strong Machine's head is just icing. It is strange to me that Machine finishes this in the exact same way as Hara, even bouncing off the same ropes in the same order. And the match had flaws, but really played as a nice Super Strong Machine showcase for me, made me want to dive into some more.

MD: Context has an impact on this one. As a standalone match, it was definitely good, but following the two matches that it followed, it came up a bit lacking. I liked the opening exchange with Aoyagi rushing SSM and the paralleled violence on the outside, though the punctuation of the DDT on concrete felt like it came a bit early, especially considering how it was used to end the first match. I suppose it did set the stage for Aoyagi working from underneath for most of the rest of the match, though with no particular focused selling. I like SSM because he stands out relatively with the clubbering and power moves and presence, but I don't necessarily want to see Aoyagi fighting from underneath because his stuff is so good (like that knee to the back of the skull off the ropes!). The best parts of this was when they were going toe-to-toe and there just wasn't enough of that. At least Aoyagi got to take it out on the ref after the match. Again, still good, just not "this card" great.


PAS: I agree with Matt and Eric, this basically felt like the same match we just saw, just not as great. I dug chunks of this, Aoyagi is a C+A guy, one of our all time favorites, and had a bunch of fun athletic spin kicks and I loved his early bum rush. There was a great heads up section with both guys throwing bombs at each other, but man was that finish hurt by comparing it to the previous match. Hara is looking to decapitate with his clotheslines, and SSM just didn't deliver that. This was solid WAR undercard stuff, but we are getting bigger and better then solid on this show.

Tatsutoshi Goto vs The Great Kabuki

MD: Whereas the SSM vs Aoyagi was more of the same as the first two matches, just not as good, I thought this was a nice palette cleanser on the card. Goto rushed in early (though instead of a killer knee to rush in on, it was more hugging and rolling) and took an early advantage on the outside. He pressed that into the armwork that would take up the entirety of the match. There was a great consequence-laden hope spot early into this where Kabuki punches with the bad hand/arm and immediately drops down selling it. Past that, Goto working on the arm wasn't super varied but it was focused and mean with Kabuki selling well. When he finally was able to fire back, late in the match, the crowd was definitely into, but then things sort of meandered to an out-of-nowhere finish. If they had tightened this up by a couple of minutes or let Kabuki get a more sustained comeback at the end, it would have been better. I liked most of it for what it was though.

PAS: Very different match with this being mostly just Goto working over the arm of Kabuki and Kabuki selling. The arm work was fine, and Kabuki's selling was great, the moment where he finally hits his uppercut only to collapse in pain was awesome. Still Kabuki is a so much more dynamic offensive wrestler then Goto, it was a bit of a bummer to see him smothered for most of the match. I liked the surprise roll up pin, but I just felt a little robbed of a big Kabuki explosion. 

Hiro Saito vs Kengo Kimura

MD: Another very solid match. This one felt just as violent as the others (especially everything that happened on the outside), but at the same time, somehow more cooperative, or at least conventional. I think that says more about the rest of the card than about this match in and of itself. The first third of the match was focused around chairs, beatings on the outside, one brutal whip into a tiny table, and the setpiece of the exposed corner buckle (Kimura's attempt to expose it partially lets Saito come back, Kimura cements one transition by tossing Saito into it, etc.). The exposed buckle is a non-factor for the rest of the match, which is a shame. The finish is set up by Saito missing a top rope senton out of that exact corner. Kimura diving to crotch him on it to set up the exact same finish would have been more rewarding. Small thing. Also, this was probably a good spot on the show for color with Saito's head rammed into the buckle a few times. (Note after the fact: PWO's Jetlag got to these before we did and I went to check his review on this and he had the exact same notion. That makes me feel less monstrous). Some of Kimura's jumping knee offense looked muddy with the fancam, but I really love his double axe-handle clubber. He throws himself into it more than anyone I've seen. This was a good mix of brawling and more conventional moves and transitions.

PAS: I dug this, there is something very appropriate about sitting in the front row of a WAR show and having fat ass Hiro Saito flying over the railing and landing on top of you. No reason to think that this feud should respect the fans anymore then the wrestlers respect each other. Hiro Saito doesn't do a lot of different things, but does the things he does exceedingly well. His senton is honestly one of the greatest looking individual wrestling moves ever, just pulverisingly beautiful, the standing one looked bad enough, but that second rope one was like an anvil hitting Wile E. Coyote. If Kimura didn't move out of the way of the tope rope attempt he would have looked like spilled condiments. I do think this was the match that could have used blood, but otherwise this show keeps delivering. 

Shiro Koshinaka vs Takashi Ishikawa

MD: This was one-third a really good match and two thirds an excellent one. I loved how Koshinaka took it right to Ishikawa to start, but that first third got dragged down a bit by holds that lacked struggle (though, once the armwork started, not necessarily direction). What it did manage to have, however was Koshinaka being the only guy on the card really to play to the crowd and just enough brutality to keep things somewhat interesting. They get way more interesting when Ishikawa takes over. Everything he does here is great. He can't transition from one piece of offense to another without making sure to pepper in a stomp on Koshinaka's face. In the middle here, it breaks down to a lumberjack match of sorts with both camps going at it. We only see bits and pieces of this as the camera stays with Koshinaka's selling. That's ok, I think, because that was another strong part of the match. He's definitely a guy who could get the crowd behind him and they pop big when he hits his comeback butt bump (and as goofy a move as that always is, it has a symbolic power with the crowd so it absolutely works). His offense on the back half was a lot better with nothing seeming meandering in the least. Instead we get some nice knee drops and an unforgiving double stomp off the top.

I liked how smart the end of the match was too, with clever use of repetition and payoff. As much as anything else, the key moments of the match were the transition points: Ishikawa armdragging his way out of an armbar (followed by a huge stomp, of course), Koshinaka countering a three point stance clothesline attempt with a butt bump, and then late, when Ishikawa turned the third butt bump attempt in the match into a snap clotheslining on the top rope which allowed him to set up a series of chokeslams and the second three point stance attempt clothesline (this time successful for the win; I need to work in how great his rapid fire clotheslines to the front and back of the head were earlier in the match so I'm sticking that here). A match like this didn't need that sort of narrative cleverness. It could have just been these two guys killing one another. It's a testament how good this was and how well it closed out the show that they went a step beyond.

PAS: Takashi Ishikawa's WAR run was one of the great short term wrestling runs of all time. He was there from 92-94 and was uniformly excellent including several all-time level matches. This was a step below that level, but not a huge step and his performance was excellent. Koshinaka was really great as a underdog babyface (which is weird because this was a WAR show) and takes a big time bloody beating from Ishikawa and really rallies the crowd behind him. Matt is right about how awesome that butt but is as a momentum shifter. I loved all of Ishikawa's nasty stomps, he really looked like he was trying to extinguish a brush fire on Koshinaka's head. The spot were Ishikawa blocks a hip toss, lands a judo throw and just stomps Koshinaka in the eye was good stuff. Loved the die on his sword performance by Koshinaka at the end, as he is able to string some big stuff together before getting absolutely smashed by a big clothesline.


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