Damn, I was almost giddy with excitement about getting to check this one out. Ishii and Shibata are two of my favourite wrestlers of all time, yet, somehow, I’ve never seen this match. Time to change that.
The tone for this war was set before the bell even rang. Ishii and Shibata stood in their separate corners crouched forward like sprinters, bouncing on their toes and ready to charge across the ring. Before the ding that sent them off had even faded out, they were meeting in the middle, throwing themselves at each other in a desperate struggle to prove who the tougher man was.
What followed was a fight. Plain and simple. These two beat each other black and blue, the dull thud of kicks, chops and elbows echoing around the Osaka building with the only thing matching it in volume being the yells of the crowd as they roared these two warriors on. You could call this wrestling, but it looked a lot more like a brawl.
And Shibata and Ishii loved it. There were moments in the match where they were stepping back and inviting each other to have a swing – at one point even going as far as taking it in turns to drop to a knee. Ishii to accept a kick and Shibata a chop. They revelled in pushing each other to the limit, seeing how much they could take before falling back. By the end, both men were staggering around the ring, still throwing elbows even as they could barely stand.
An observation that points to this match’s secret weapon, it might have been a war with two hard as nails bastards beating each other senseless, but the selling was incredible. Both men made it very clear that those strikes hurt, which made it all the more incredible when they kept coming forward. The kick outs at one seem unbelievable because we’ve seen them both reel back, eyes rolling into their foreheads and legs turning to jelly after a simple kick or elbow, so the Lariats and Suplexes look like death blows.
The truly mindblowing thing? It only lasts twelve minutes. All of that is crammed into a time which would merely be the first act of many a New Japan main event. Ishii and Shibata ram their feet down on the accelerators and get more into those twelve minutes than some get into a career. It’s astonishing.
I’ve made it kind of obvious that I loved this match. However, I will say that there was one moment that made me flinch, as they took it in turns to headbutt each other. Obviously, at the time, there were no lasting repercussions, but with what happened to Shibata later, I can’t watch him do that without grimacing. It doesn’t take away from what this match is, though, a battle between two of the best.
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