NJPW Battlefield In Tokyo Dome
Great Kabuki/Kengo Kimura/Kuniaki Kobayashi/Michiyoshi Ohara/Shiro Koshinaka vs El Samurai/Manabu Nakanishi/Osamu Kido/Satoshi Kojima/Yuji Nagata
The "get everyone on the card" match for the 1/4 dome show goes back 20 years. Interesting seeing baby Kojima/Nagata/Nakanishi. The opposite team are all in purple. Just 5 Japanese dudes hanging out in purple gi pants. Koshinaka goes AT it with the rookies. And they give it right back. Tired of his ass bumps. Pretty nondescript match. Nagata got pinned after two chokeslams. Of the young guys, Kojima seemed like the one most ready to break out. I think Nagata and Nakanishi might have still be in the young lion phase. Kido was the most over guy of the match, having been an original member of the NJPW roster in 1972, heading off to UWF, and then back to NJPW.
Akira Nogami/Takayuki Iizuka vs Akitoshi Saito/Masashi Aoyagi
More dudes in purple. I guess purple was just very in at the time. 9 out of 14 competitors have been in purple so far. I assume Saito and Aoyagi are part of the group from the first match, considering the matching purple gis. Saito is probably best known for killing Mitsuharu Misawa with a backdrop in the ring. Good job, pal. This seems like a weird karate guys vs Japanese Rockers type of thing. Karate guys dominate, just kicking the shit out of these young bucks. The Roppongi Rockers do leg work to counter the kicks and get the win with a gnarly uranagi, Superfly Splash, and German suplex combo.
Brutus Beefcake vs Black Cat
Let it be known that Hulk Hogan is the best wrassle bro. Got Beefcake an 8 year run in the WWF, 4 years in WCW (plus a Starrcade main event), and a NJ dome show pay off. And let me tell you, there was NO reaction at all to the Beefer. And he sucks. God damn does he suck. This match is awful. NJPW going from bringing in Thesz and Gotch to Beefcake. Hard times, daddy. The Beefer wins with a HINEY. Garbage.
Super Strong Machine vs Tatsutoshi Goto
Goto is another dude in purple gi pants. Was there a stable I'm not aware of? Oh. There was. It was called Heisei Ishigun. Super Strong Machine basically had his gimmick and mask stolen for a bit in 1986 WWF. I wonder if he or NJPW got paid for that. I think the NJPW/WWF relationship had died by that point, so maybe it was a fuck you to Inoki. Who knows. This is a pretty slow, almost American 80s style big man match. Which is a kind way of saying boring. There are some strong lariats and suplexes, so it wasn't all rest holds. SSM won with a diving headbutt.
Jushin Thunder Liger vs Tiger Mask 3 Mask vs Mask
I expect this to be the point where the show kicks it up a few notches. Both guys seem ready to get dicky right from the start, so this should be fun. I wonder if Liger and OG Tiger Mask ever had a match. Probably sometime in like 2008 with fat as shit Sayama or something. Tiger kicks Liger right in the MOUTH. He's a real dick for a Tiger Mask character. This has a lot of heavy, heavy strikes from both guys, probably more than what you'd expect from juniors if they were anyone besides Liger and a Tiger Mask. Not that there aren't dives and moonsaults. Liger gets the win with the shooting star press, the move he invented in 1987. Tiger Mask unmasks to reveal his real identity: Koji Kanemoto. He throws the mask at Liger, but eventually does show respect. Kanemoto was TM3 for not even 2 years, and seems like he was way too much of a dick head for the character to begin with. He had a far more successful career without the mask, winning 9 titles in NJPW, winning the Best of the Super Juniors 3 times, plus titles in AJPW, UWA, and NOAH.
Jurassic Powers vs Hellraisers IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
The Jurassic Powers are Scott Norton and Hercules. The Hellrasisers are Hawk and Kensuke Sasaki under his Power Warrior gimmick. Herc appears to be bigger than he ever was, which is saying something. He's not quite as barrel-chested as Norton, but he's not far off. Hawk is also fucking huge. Should be some fun HOSS stuff. Kensuke looks tiny in comparison. Lol, Hawk no sells a piledriver. I'm stunned. As big as Herc is, he also looks old, tired, and just having a hard time getting around. Norton's mullet is tremendous. Kensuke gets a ton of shine in this, never backing down against the much bigger men, and actually knocking the shit out of both. Actually, it kind of feels like he gets more offense than Hawk. Fans also react a lot more to his offense than Hawk's, and when Hawk is in the ring, both guys just no sell each other. Hawk settles into the FIP role, but instead of a hot tag, he just...recovers and controls the match. Kensuke gets the pin after a powerslam and Ipponzeoi. New champions! This was definitely a showcase for Kensuke Sasaki, and the crowd popped for his offense way more than anyone else in the match.
Steiner Brothers vs Hiroshi Hase/Keiji Mutoh
At this point, the Steiners were still WWF employees, which makes it pretty interesting they got to work this show. For one, WWF wasn't really ever cool with their talent working other promotions. Secondly, NJPW had the working relationship with WCW at the time, although there was no WCW involvement this year. Lots of mat wrestling and suplexes in this, as you'd imagine. Poor Hase gets murdered on most of the suplexes. This features the most brutal Steiner Screwdiver of all time. A JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZUS moment if there ever was one. As if the screwdriver wasn't enough, they hit Hase with the Steiner DDT AND bulldog. That's overkill, guys. Steiners win. Hase was never the same, probably concussed, and likely a couple of inches shorter. A bad night for him.
Hulk Hogan vs Tatsumi Fujinami
This kind of makes the Steiner involvement even more weird. While Hogan wasn't in WCW yet, you'd think Vince wouldn't want his talent on shows with Hogan after Hulk left the company and the steroid trial thing. Such is the power of Inoki, I guess. Hulk looks so weird. His hair is just...bizarre looking. Almost like an undercut skullet. Hulk has his Japan working boots on, which means more technical wrestling and a faster pace. Fujinami works Hogan's arm for most of the match, trying to prevent the AX BOMBA from knocking him out. I'm kind of annoyed that Hulk's boots and trunks are different shades of yellow. His trucks are almost canary yellow, compared to the mustard boots and wrist bands. Hulk DOES hit the AX BOMBA, which sends Dragon over the ropes and on to the ramp. He hits two more in the ring to score the win.
Riki Choshu vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara
Fujiwara already looks old as shit here, and he was still popping up in matches for NJPW in 2016. Choshu always looks old, but at least he doesn't have spindly old man legs yet. Two surly old dudes in Japan. My favorite. This is almost shoot style. And at times, Fujiwara just no sells shit. Choshu wins after three lariatos. This was awkward as shit, as neither guy really seemed to want to sell for the other. Fujiwara could still rock a mean ass Fujiwara armbar, though.
Masahiro Chono vs Shinya Hashimoto IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Chono's body still worked fully at this point, so this has some very good potential. I've never seen a Chono match better than the won he had against Mutoh at the 1991 G1, but I'm open to the possibility of something coming close. I never really understood why Chono seemed to be most pushed of the Three Musketeers (Chono/Mutoh/Hashimoto) when he was clearly the least good in the ring. Which is not to say he wasn't good, but he was definitely not as good as Hash or Mutoh. This is pretty heated from the start. Maybe Hashimoto is getting pissed at Chono's push. Hashimoto is an unrepentant dick in this, which...I love. He's obviously at his best when being a dick head and hitting dudes with strikes that are just a little too hard in just barely the wrong spot. Chono hits a BLATANT low blow, which allows him to get Hashimoto in the STF for an extended amount of time, but is unable to get the tap out. Finlay Roll from Hash! That had to suck. Hashimoto, with busted nose and all, defeats Chono with a jumping DDT. New champion! There was a lot of hatred in this, which is what I hope for in all Hashimoto matches. Even though Hashimoto came out of the match with a busted up face, Chono was the one that got the shit knocked out of him the most.
Antonio Inoki vs Genichiro Tenryu
This is a dream match and could either be awkward as shit, or awesome. Inoki IS getting up there in age, and Tenryu, as dope as he is, can have some pretty weird matches with the wrong opponents. Inoki had kind of wonky style that wouldn't mesh up super well with certain guys as well. So we'll see how this turns out. Kind of seems like Inoki realizes he's a bit outmatched, so he throws some kind of cheap shots Tenryu's way. Tenryu is not really the person to try that shit with. Fans pop huge for EVERYTHING Inoki does. Tenryu appears to literally die after a sleeper hold. He's completely out, even though he made it to the ropes in the hold. Inoki slaps the ref who prevents him from attacking the lifeless Tenryu. Tenryu is out for like...minutes. No idea why the match wasn't called off at that point. I don't even know if he was breathing. He eventually wakes up, after a slap from Riki Choshu. From that point on, Tenryu is still groggy as shit, which takes him a while to recover from. Tenryu's chopping arm gets worked over, hindering his chopping ability. Not that he stops chopping, but they aren't at full power. At one point, Tenryu just straight up punts Inoki in the face. This has a super weird finish, where Tenryu wins with a powerbomb that appears to be a 2 count, and then Inoki tries to pin Tenryu but is told he lost. The two show respect to each other after the match.
This was an...interesting show. As is normal with the dome shows, the show doesn't really start to ramp up until 4-5 matches in. I really enjoyed Liger/TM3, the Steiners tag, and Inoki/Tenryu, which was a pretty weird spectacle match. Everything before the mask match is entirely skipable, the tag title match was odd considering how Norton/Herc no sold Hawk yet would bump around for the much smaller Sasaki, Hogan/Fujinami was whatever, and Choshu/Fujiwara was awkward as shit. I would say Inoki/Tenryu was awkward as well, but in an entertaining way, where was Choshu/Fujiwara was just weird. I do find it odd that all the outsiders won on this card. Tenryu, Steiners, Beefcake, and Hogan all won against NJPW guys. You'd expect at least one of those matches to go to NJPW guys on the biggest NJPW show of the year. Interesting booking.
And god damn, Heisei Ishingun must have had more members than the nWo.