NJPW: Kensuke Sasaki vs. Toshiaki Kawada (January 4, 2001)

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

This is the finals of a tournament, meaning that both guys have already wrestled on this show.

This is similar to the Sasaki/Tenryu match from the year before; just swap Kawada’s kicks in for Tenryu’s punches and take out any top rope moves. They hate each other and express this with chops, punches, and kicks. Lots of heat, not a lot of downtime. They both play their greatest hits to big reactions (except there’s no Strangle Hold). Kawada seems to have the most time on top, but I guess the difference is negligible.

Good finishing stretch, as expected. Sasaki wins with only one Northern Lights Bomb this time!

Winner – Kensuke Sasaki

Rating – Good

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NJPW: Genichiro Tenryu vs. Kensuke Sasaki (January 4, 2000)

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

I don’t think I need too many words to describe this one. Tenryu attacks Sasaki right away. Sasaki fires back. They pretty much just beat on each other back and forth most of the time. There’s not a lot of holds attempted (I just remember a headlock and a variation of the Strangle Hold). Sasaki gets sick of Tenryu jabbing and chopping him, so he unloads with closed-fist punches. Tenryu hits a spider German suplex from the top. He gets super bombed attempting a Frankensteiner, but Sasaki manages to pull of a Frankensteiner when he tries. Tenryu hits his scoop brainbuster, but Sasaki beats that with two Northern Lights Bombs and pins him.

Winner – Kensuke Sasaki

Rating – Good

Pretty good thanks to how heated it was. The finishing stretch is the best part.

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: Kensuke Sasaki vs. Shinya Hashimoto (January 4, 1995)

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

Sasaki looking to reboot the New Breed with that hair.

This is a slow one. It’s a little tense at the beginning, especially when Sasaki staggers Hashimoto but the ref keeps him from following him into the corner, and Hashimoto uses that to come back with his trademark kicks. Similarly, The ref breaks Hashimoto away from Sasaki in the corner, and Sasaki takes advantage with a lariat. From there, it’s a lot of kicking and going for leg locks and sleepers. I kind of zoned out and missed which strike causes Hashimoto to bleed from the mouth.

The crowd comes alive when Sasaki puts on the Strangle Hold Gamma deep into the match. Then Hashimoto plants him on his shoulder with the most dangerous-looking side belly-to-belly I’ve seen in some time. Sasaki pays him back later by dropping him on his head with a sloppy arm drag. But after that, Hashimoto hits him with a few moves and eventually gets the pin with a fisherman’s buster.

Winner – Shinya Hashimoto

Rating – OK

This one was kind of a slog. The finish was like, do a move, lie there, do a move, lie there, do a move, win. A lot of the stuff before was in the same vein. I know both guys are considered legends, but I don’t think I’d be interested in seeing this again.