NJPW: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Keiji Muto (January 4, 2009)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

After a lot of feeling out, Tanahashi starts work on Muto’s leg. Muto turns the tables and tries to destroy Tanahashi’s, giving him a Dragon Screw off the apron, one on the floor, and one over the guardrail, not to mention all the ones he pulls off in the ring. Much like Nakamura in 2008, now it’s Tanahashi’s turn to courageously fight through the pain. And does he ever, as Muto tries just about everything within the rules to wreck his challenger’s leg.

It’s actually an interesting contrast to the Nakamura/Tanahashi match from the year before. In that match, Tanahashi went after Nakamura’s shoulder like a jerk, striking when the ref told him not to and slapping his opponent around. Muto never disrespects or taunts Tanahashi in any way; he’s just trying to win.

After surviving the massive amount of punishment Muto gives, as well as tweaking his knee a couple times during how own offense, Tanahashi is ultimately able to recover from a Shining Wizard, avoid a moonsault, and hit two High Fly Flows to win back the IWGP title.

Winner – Hiroshi Tanahashi

Rating – Good

There are a lot of Sling Blades, too. But you probably knew that.

 

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NJPW: Masahiro Chono and Keiji Muto vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima (January 4, 2007)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

This is interpromotional in the sense that Muto and Kojima were in All Japan at the time, though they both had been in New Japan until 2002. So this is like a reunion of two classic teams.

This is a lot better than the previous year’s match even though it also don’t follow the standard tag formula. Muto takes out Kojima and Tenzan with shining wizards immediately, and they have to regroup. They come back with some offense for a bit, but Chono and Muto sort of make them look like fools by outsmarting them and putting them in each other’s signature holds (Muto with an STF, Chono with a figure four). TenKoji do get some shine back by beating on the old dudes. Despite their history as a team, Tenzan seems to really go after Chono, stomping him on the outside.

I think everyone uses all of their respective signature moves. The last several minutes really tell the story of the match when TenKoji throw Muto from the ring and unload on Chono. They hit him with with an elevated Koji Cutter and a Kojima lariat. Tenzan plants him with a Tenzan Tombstone Driver, and it’s as good as over, but Tenzan pulls Chono up at two. Chono then kicks out after Tenzan’s moonsault, and Muto comes back in so the old guys can get their revenge. They sandwich Tenzan between a Shining Wizard and a Shining Yakuza kick, and then Tenzan taps to the STF while Kojima is in Muto’s figure four.

Winners – Masahiro Chono and Keiji Muto

Rating – Good

Oh, and after the match, they put on headbands in tribute to the late Shinya Hashimoto.

NJPW: Scott Norton vs. Keiji Muto (January 4, 1999)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

Muto’s not NWO anymore, but Norton is.

The early part of this match involves mat wrestling – the slow, waiting-for-an-opening kind. Then Muto has trouble overcoming Norton’s size – until Norton hits him with a shoulder breaker, and Muto notices him shaking out his right leg afterwards.

Muto gets an opening after reversing a powerbomb into a Frankensteiner. He hits a dropkick from the top to Norton’s tree trunk of a leg, then gets him with a Dragon Screw off the apron (really, he’s just yanking his leg and pulling him to the floor). After that, there are a lot of figure four leg locks. Like, at least four. Norton still puts up a fight. He hits lariats and a powerbomb, but hurts his leg and can’t really capitalize. He even goes up top (to a big reaction) and hits a flying shoulder block. But Muto moonsaults onto his legs, dropkicks him in the chest, and finally locks in one too many figure fours for Norton to take. Scott submits and loses his title.

Winner – Keiji Muto

Rating – Good

I like Scott Norton, and I like Muto having to work really hard to hurt his leg enough to submit him. This was interesting, though my excitement didn’t hold for long periods. I think it got too predictable with all the figure fours.

NJPW: Kensuke Sasaki vs. Keiji Muto (January 4, 1998)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

The is the era of NWO Japan, which Muto is a member of, so there are NWO shirts at ringside. Kensuke is not the Power Warrior anymore, so his mullet is less “futuristic.”

It may be that I watched this match at a time when I wasn’t really in the mood for it, but I don’t think it gets interesting until it’s almost over. The bulk of it is really slow. Either both guys are sitting with legs entangled, hoping to get a leglock advantage, or they’re hitting each other with a move and then looking out at the crowd instead of following up. Maybe Muto was trying to play up his cockiness, but I wasn’t enthralled. The crowd wasn’t, either, until Sasaki pulled out one of those arm drags that almost dropped Muto on his head.

The crowd really starts caring once Muto dropkicks Sasaki’s leg as he’s running. With long pauses in between, Muto dropkicks and Dragon Screws Sasaki’s leg, then puts on the figure four. Sasaki pulls himself to the ropes, but Muto just puts it on again. Sasaki gets the ropes again. Muto does a rib breaker and a moonsault (the shortest time between moves), but Sasaki kicks out. A missile dropkick connects, but Sasaki counters a Frankensteiner into a super bomb, and now he’s finally fired up. Muto escapes a Northern Lights Bomb with a knee to the head, but Sasaki still recovers faster than him and hits him with two Northern Lights Bombs to get the pin.

Winner – Kensuke Sasaki

Rating – OK

I’m not interested in seeing this kind of match again.

NJPW: Keiji Muto vs. Nobuhiko Takada (January 4, 1996)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

What’s funny is that I’m most familiar with Takada from his days in HUSTLE as an M. Bison cosplayer. Anyway…

The first half of the match is similar to the UWF shoot style that Takada specializes in. Lots of grappling and attempts at kimuras and arm bars. But then Muto just gets frustrated and starts stomping Takada. After that, it gets good. Muto does his special elbow and a moonsault to soften Takada up for the kimura, but Takada won’t let him get it all in. Takada fires back with stiff kicks and a back drop suplex. He hooks in a nasty leg/ankle lock that Muto really has to fight to break. Then Muto comes back with a dragon screw and a figure four, and Takada has to reach the ropes. Another dragon screw, and Takada just barely stops the figure four from getting locked back in. They end up knotted in a dueling ankle lock/figure four hybrid and both roll into the ropes.

Muay Thai knees. Takada avoids another dragon screw, takes Muto down, and locks in an armbar. Muto gets the ropes. Takada gets him down again and cranks the armbar. After much drama, Muto finally taps.

Winner – Nobuhiko Takada

Rating – Good

I would totally watch this match again, but I’d skip the first half and just get to the good stuff. That portion is probably my favorite piece out of all these matches so far.

 

Winner – 

Did He Hook the Leg, Man? –