NJPW stars make their mark at Pro Wrestling Masters!

On Friday August 30, Jyushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan were all in action at the Pro Wrestling Masters event in Korakuen Hall. 

The Keiji Muto produced Masters card, which gathers veteran masters of their craft under one roof, saw Tenzan and Kojima team together in the semi-final with Hiro Saito and Scott Norton. Accompanied to the ring by Masahiro Chono, this was a reunion of the TEAM2000 faction that ran wild in the early 2000s. Opposite them was a classic Heisei Ishingun combination of Shiro Koshinaka, AKIRA, Masashi Aoyagi and Akitoshi Saito, accompanied by the Great Kabuki. The Heisei Ishingun was in themselves one of the great factions of the early part of the Heisei era, competing in several promotions in the 1990s. 

Chono, talking up his team’s status as former IWGP Heavyweight, and Tag Team Champions, as well as G1 winners  and an influential figure in junior heavyweight history in the form of Saito, and was dismissive of Heisei Ishingun. T2000 started on the early offense, and while Kojima would take a hip attack from original master of the move Koshinaka, Tenzan would fire off Mongolian Chops to AKIRA, followed by a trademark Saito senton, and Norton showing off his power. 

Tencozy would gain the upper hand on the Ishingun, with double team maneuvers, and then machine gun chops and a signature elbow from Kojima to AKIRA. Heisei Ishingun were still in the hunt though, and Kojima would fall victim to a train of attacks in the corner. 

The punishment for T2000 would continue as Aoyagi and Koshinaka worked over Saito. It was Chono that would make the difference for his team, getting involved and yanking Koshinaka’s leg from outside the ring, allowing for the break as Saito delivered another senton. It looked like a TEAM2000 victory, but Kabuki would get on the apron and spray mist in Saito’s face. The distracted Saito would fall to a Koshinaka schoolboy, giving the win to Heisei Ishingun. Post match, Chono would confront Koshinaka in the ring, only to be hit with a hip attack himself.  

Post match comments

Koshinaka: ‘Running your mouth! Instead of running your mouth, get in the ring! Hey Chono, if you like flapping your gums, how about I knock your teeth out, moron!’

Tenzan: ‘I never once thought, that these guys would be escorted out of their damn old folks’ home, come here and beat us! But hey, one more time’s fine with me! Heisei Ishingun, eat sh**, assholes!’ 

Chono: ‘I said in the ring, but the difference between these TEAM2000 members and those guys is night and day. Something’s up with that booking. Next time, a little more conditioning, and it’ll be no problem. Only thing is, next time, if we have Heisei Ishingun again, we’ll come prepared for that mist of Kabuki’s. Everything else, we can dictate the pace, and it’s no problem. And Scott Norton? This was his first match in two years? You didn’t notice a bit of ring rust on him. If we get the chance, I’m happy to have Norton in T2000 again. But if we do, I want us wrestling Keiji Muto levels of competition. Kojima?’

Kojima: ‘I’m doing good!’

Chono ‘And on October 25, in Korakuen Hall, it’ll be Hiro Saito’s 40th anniversary. You’d better check that out’

In the main event, Jyushin Thunder Liger formed a dream trio with two 1990s main event stars in the shape of Keiji Muto and Hiroshi Hase. They took on a Third Generation team of Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Osamu Nishimura. 

When Liger made his entrance, he was greeted by former rival El Samurai, who presented the retiring Liger with a bunch of flowers before staying in the corner of Liger, Hase and Muto. Liger and the always technically gifted Nishimura traded holds and impressive bridges in ring, while Nakanishi held nothing back from his teacher Hase. 

Nagata would fall prey to a Muto Flashing Elbow, followed by the humiliation of being put in his own Nagata Lock II, alternately by Muto, Hase and Liger. Yet the Third Generation weren’t out of the hunt. Nakanishi would strike with an atomic drop, Iron Claw and bearhug to Liger, with Nishimura following with an elbow. 

Liger would break free and tag in Hase, who would use his trademark Giant Swing on Nagata. Nagata and Hase would trade three Exploder Suplexes each in turn, before the Third Generation took over on Muto. Muto fell foul of Nagata and Nakanishi’s double team flying chop and enzuigiri combination, and Nakanishi would work over his artificially replaced knee. 

Nishimura would block a Muto Shining Wizard into a Cobra Twist, but the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion escaped to hit the move and then a second for the victory.

Post match comments: 

Muto: ‘Thank you. Wrestling’s great. It just gives you power.’

Hase: ‘I’m sweating, but it’s a good sweat’.

Muto: ‘I thought we were done for when Nakanishi came in. I mean, he stinks. But sensei (Hase) you struck first’

Hase: ‘As long as there’s a ring to wrestle in, I’ll give it my all.’

Liger: ‘Samurai, when you first came out, I wasn’t sure it was you, but when you spoke, I knew it was (laughs). I hope, just like you said you would, that you’ll come for a Masters match again.’

Muto: ‘I’ll  introduce him to the guy that did my artificial knee.’

–Your knee took some punishment in that match, how’s it going?

Muto: ‘I was worried, but I withstood it. It’s still hard to get an exact idea of how it’s going. There’s a lot of room for growth until next time. But then, before the next time, there’s a lot of matches I’m scheduled for. I’m wrestling in Yokohama Cultural Gymnaisum, and then the next week in Kanazawa. After that, NOAH. If I keep wrestling though, that gives me a lot of confidence, makes me give it my best.’

–Were you fired up seeing Hase and Nagata go at it?

Muto: ‘Oh, absolutely. Right now, I’m getting old, and I’ve been doing this for a long time, but it means every little thing that moves me gives me strength. The sight of my colleagues, or the younger guys trying hard, the sight of my family doing their best. All of that stuff gives me motivation to try my hardest as well.’

Nishimura: ‘This was my first match in a while, to be in this big event and important match, all I can say is I feel it was a waste. I wanted to push myself harder. I’ll want to do this again.’

— Nagata, how was it wrestling with your master Hase again?

Nagata: ‘That team really brought out the best in me. When we were younger, we were taught how to take each match as it comes, take it with feeling and give it all you have. This match was faithful to those teachings. It really had that old school flavour, was really true to all that we were taught back in the day. The give and take, throwing everything you get hit with back at the other guy. Finding a way to stand even when you’re knocked loopy. That’s very Hase. I didn’t get in there with Muto very much, but Liger… Liger has been the guy the Third Generation have always chased. Hase and Muto left New Japan, and we occasionally get events like this to see that taste of the old days, but for 27 years, Liger has always been in NJPW, and has always been the guy to chase for so many, always been leading by example. 

Now, after January 4 and 5, Liger will be retired. It’s time for us to be the example for everyone. I’m sure we are to some guys already, but it shouldn’t be about a few guys following us, but everybody following our example. On September 27, I’ll be teaming with Liger against the BULLET CLUB guys. Today it was against Liger but next time it’s with him that I want to feel that New Japan-ism’.

Nakanishi: ‘Well said. Quite the propogandist! But Hase, he was the oldest guy in that match, but he was the one that was most into the fight. His chops were awesome! This was my first match in a while, and I’d like to do this again after I’ve had a few more matches in between. It’s like the first time in a while I’ve been in a like for like battle; the younger wrestlers today are so fast. I definitely want to do this again.’

 Nishimura: ‘There’s so much history and tradition in wrestling, and that’s something I felt strongly tonight. Even now, there’s guys like 78 year old Dory Funk Junior showing the way. Just like Muto said himself in the ring, in many ways, we’re still green. Those leaders will always be those leaders in five years, ten years, or forever. I’d like all the fans to know that, even the ones that haven’t stepped in the veteran’s domain, or haven’t sampled that classical style for themselves. I’d love to do this again.’

–Nagata, you’ve said you’d like to team with Hase against Tenzan and Kojima.

Nagata: ‘I did. But then, there’s Nakanishi. I think Nakanishi is the right partner for me really, but if the fans want to see me and Hase, that’d be pretty neat right? We could do it here, or even in New Japan. We have a couple of big shows at the Tokyo Dome on January 4 and 5 right? I think that would be pretty fun. Maybe not the smartest proposition though (laughs).’