We’re going east for this week’s set of Random Reviews, with a handful of matches from the Japanese scene… and Curry Man too!

Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomohiro Ishii (New Japan, G1 Climax 24 – day 10, August 6, 2014)
Shibata came into this with a 5-3 record in block A, whilst Ishii was rocking an even 4-4 record. Bell rings, and they start trading slaps and forearms, because of course they do! After taking a stereo-forearm, the pair collapse to the mat and we start all over again.

Shibata wins the next battle of forearm shots, and they move to their sarcastic “go on, do this move to me, it won’t hurt” sequence. It’s both awesome for breaking the fourth wall and for each guys’ sheer arrogance at the same time. They eventually give, with a Shibata PK making Ishii slump backwards, but once he gets back to his feet, Ishii starts quasi-no-selling forearms again.

They actually do this routine to varying moves, to the point where it almost gets boring and predictable. And yes, if the Young Bucks ever did this, I’d be the first to complain, but here, these guys make it look believable. Ishii sells his heavily-taped shoulder more than Shibata’s strikes at times, well, at least until he spun Shibata around and was met with a firm slap.

Ishii rolls to the outside after using a rope break to get out of a cross armbreaker, and the crowd applauds when Shibata brings him back in, not wanting to take a count-out win. Ishii immediately went back out again to get checked over, but Shibata again throws him back inside.

Shibata then mockingly offers a free shot whilst one-armed, as this turns into a battle of stiff right forearms, which ends, surprisingly, in a release German suplex and a lariat that gets Ishii… a one count.

Shibata gets a one-count from a lazy lateral press following a kick to the chest, but a spinning back-fist floors Ishii, and sets him up for the Go To Sleep and a PK for the win.

Suitably hard-hitting stuff from these two guys – you get exactly what you expect coming in, and it’s good stuff! ***¾

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji (Pro Wrestling NOAH, One Night Navigation, March 3, 2001)
We’re jumping over to NOAH for this, and despite holding the ropes open for him, Marufuji sneak attacks Misawa before hitting a leaping dropkick over the referee to keep Misawa on the outside. Shame that the diving dropkick to the floor saw him eat more of the guard railings than Misawa!

Another missile dropkick follows inside the ring, with Marufuji getting a count of two, before Marufuji unloads with forearms and finally knocks him down again with a flying elbow.

After a very brief spell of offence, Misawa finds himself on defence again, and catches Marufuji’s Asai moonsault onto the entrance ramp, before Misawa back body drops the youngster back into the ring. Misawa gives Marufuji a free ride into the middle of the ring, courtesy of a monkey flip, then locks in a camel clutch to try and get the submission.

A Lion Tamer-style Boston Crab follows for Misawa, who holds Marufuji almost upside down for a spell. Marufuji nearly steals it with a roll-up, but ends up DDTing Misawa and then connecting with a frog splash for another near-fall.

At the second attempt, Marufuji connects with the Shiranui (Sliced Bread #2), before catching a corkscrew moonsault off the top for another two-count. Misawa rolls away from a 450 Splash, but drills Marufuji with a forearm as he went up top for another move.

On the floor now, Misawa repeatedly rams Marufuji’s head into the entrance ramp, and keeps up the pressure back in the ring with forearms and a senton for a two-count. A frog splash from the middle rope got another two-count for Misawa, who immediately went for a Tiger Driver, but saw it blocked.

Marufuji gets turned inside out with a running forearm, then eats a second one as Misawa gets the win. The match was technically solid, but it felt like Marufuji was being forced to wrestle at half-speed – with the change in his style really hurting things. **¾

TAKA Michinoku vs. Shinjiro Otani (Pro Wrestling ZERO-ONE, Fire Festival – Day 1, July 28, 2002)
Across to ZERO-ONE – a promotion founded by the late Shinya Hashimoto – and the first day in 2002’s Fire Festival round robin tournament. The match we’re checking out is the battle of inaugural cruiserweights, as TAKA Michinoku – the first WWE Light Heavyweight champion – faces Shinjiro Otani, the first WCW Cruiserweight champion. To state the bleeding obvious, this match has potential!

You can kinda guess what we’re in for when the first two moves of the match are a snap release German suplex and a superkick from TAKA. Thankfully he slows down the pace with some headscissors, but Otani gets mad when TAKA uses a big boot to choke him in the corner and literally pushes him to the mat. Good stuff.

TAKA gets grounded with a rear-naked choke, before rolling around into a camel clutch as TAKA gets humbled, before popping out of the hold and returning the favour with some fish-hooking for good measure. Otani bites his way free and delivers a stiff slap to TAKA in the corner, where he follows up with a brutal running boot to the former WWE competitor, leaving TAKA prone on the bottom rope.

A missed running Yakuza kick lets TAKA get back into the match with a tornado DDT, before scoring a cross-face in the middle of the ring that Otani had to stretch to get a rope break out of, before dropping TAKA with repeated release belly to back suplexes.

Otani traps TAKA in a single-leg Boston crab for ages, with an incredible amount of torque, but TAKA fought to the ropes and eventually sent Otani into the crowd, following up with a springboard plancha off the top rope into the front row. The pair tease a double count-out, with TAKA trying his damndest to hold Otani outside for the duration, but they return so that TAKA can superkick the back of Otani’s head and go for another crossface.

Another rope break saves Otani, who manages to float over a Michinoku driver attempt, before taking down TAKA with another release belly-to-back suplex. TAKA fires back, but in the end is overcome once more… although he does kick out of a powerbomb at the count of one! A springboard dropkick to the back of TAKA’s head comes next, as does a spinning powerbomb, and that secures the win for Otani, making him the King of the Late 90s Monday Night Cruiserweights. For now. ***½

Curry Man vs. Jushin Liger (New Japan, Best of the Super Junior IX – day 10, May 30, 2002)
We finish up in New Japan, with a match from Block A of 2002’s Best of the Super Junior tournament, featuring Christopher Daniels’ Japanese alternate persona, Curry Man, so this should be quite good. Liger came out to not-his-usual-theme, which threw me somewhat.

After an opening skirmish, they trade holds on the mat, with Curry Man repeatedly delivering knees to the kidneys of Liger whilst trapping him in a hammerlock. Liger escapes with headscissors, but Curry Man manages to escape, only to leap back into the same hold.

Escaping a second time, Curry Man floats over into a headlock, and keeps it after Liger stands up, only to be rolled into a two-count. Liger then escapes and goes for a rear chinlock, and things finally pick-up when Liger back body drops Curry Man to the outside, and follows up with a plancha.

Curry Man eventually brings Liger back in with a superplex (on the third attempt), then scores just a one-count from a back suplex. A springboard moonsault off the top rope gets another two-count, as Curry Man immediately switches to a crossface, with Liger making the ropes.

Liger successfully blocks a second superplex attempt, crotching Curry Man on the ropes before scoring a frog splash for a count of two. A Liger Bomb gets a two-count, but he runs into a kick from Curry Man, who delivers a front suplex and a last chancery submission. Of course, Liger makes the ropes, but goes straight into a Blue Thunder Bomb for a near-fall, with the-move-that-would-later-be-called the Best Moonsault Ever getting a similar two-count.

After shaking off a roll-up, Liger connected with a Shotei and a brainbuster to score the win in just under thirteen minutes. That came somewhat out of nowhere, but the match was solid for what it was ***¼

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