The week that was in NJPW World history (September 14-20)

Destruction in Kobe is right around the corner! Before watching Takagi vs Goto and White vs Naito on NJPW World live this Sunday, why not check out some matches from the thousands on offer in the archives? Matches like the below: 

September 14 1990: A Great Bloodbath for Hase 

Without argument one of the biggest stories of 1990 in New Japan was the return of Keiji Muto from excursion, and with him, his demonic alter-ego of the Great Muta. Muto made his return from a successful spell in America in April, and fans who had already been impressed with his exploits as a Young Lion were ready to cheer on the handsome, charismatic, orange clad young star. Success was instant, in fact, as on Muto’s first appearance back he would team with Dojo cohort Masahiro Chono to defeat Masa Saito and Shinya Hashimoto and lift the IWGP Tag Team Championships. 

Yet underneath this fan favourite exterior beat the heart of a dangerous monster who brutally attacked the likes of Sting and Ric Flair in WCW. On September 7, the Great Muta made his first NJPW appearance, making defeating Samurai Shiro in Osaka. The next few days on the road, Muta was nowhere to be seen, as Muto and Chono teamed up as usual. Then, on the 14th in Hiroshima, he appeared again, taking on Hiroshi Hase. 

Hase was similarly beloved by the NJPW faithful, having turned heavyweight after his success in the early days of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. What would have been a clash of two fast rising young fan favourites turned into a brutal encounter not for the faint of heart.

Relive the match here!


September 16 1986: Osaka Castle Clash

On April 18, 1985, the very first wrestling event in Ryogoku Sumo Hall was highlighted by the fearsome and surprising sight of Bruiser Brody wrestling in NJPW for the first time, and against the very top dog, Antonio Inoki. Seeking to make an impact out of the gate in his new surroundings, Brody charged backstage with his signature chain before his main event bout, striking Inoki and injuring his arm. 

Inoki was hardly going to let an incident like that slide, and his rage was evident in what would turn out to be a double count out. It started a bitter and bloody feud between Inoki and Brody, with six matches over the next six months from Osaka to Honolulu, all ending in double countouts or disqualifications. 

The feud between the two would grow more personal in the winter of 1985. Brody would partner with Jimmy Snuka in the IWGP Tag League, a formidable team indeed, and one that racked up enough points to meet Inoki and partner Seiji Sakaguchi in the final. Then, suddenly, Brody and Snuka bailed, flying home rather than wrestle their final match. As a replacement, Tatsumi Fujinami and Kengo Kimura would take the final spot as next points scorers, a match that led to a landmark victory for Fujinami, as he upset Inoki clean in the middle of the ring. 

Inoki was furious at Brody for walking away from their tag match, but against all odds, the Bruiser would show up once more in New Japan in September 1985 for two nights to wrestle the man who replaced him that December night, Fujinami, and the man he felt he should have beaten, Inoki. Osaka Jo Hall was to be the place, and this time, DQs and countouts weren’t going to be a factor; just 60 minutes, one fall to a finish.

Relive the match here!


September 17 2016: B-U-S-H-IWGP

Destruction in Tokyo in 2016 saw a watershed moment for the junior heavyweight division; the first time in the modern era that the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship headlined a major event was something champion KUSHIDA took deep pride in. It was a dream, the champion would state, to main event in a junior heavyweight championship match, and KUSHIDA had the added motivator of the match taking place in his own back yard of the Ota district of Tokyo. 

BUSHI would be there to spoil the party however. Champion and challenger had taken similar paths to the Destruction main event; the same age, they took routes through Mexico and other Japanese promotions before reaching New Japan a few months removed from one another. BUSHI didn’t get the junior ace status that would be bestowed upon his Ota opponent though, and was affronted by the junior title being ‘painted in his colours’. 

Declaring that he would instead ‘paint the junior heavyweight division ungovernable’, BUSHI walked into the Ota Gymnasium, and not alone. A mysterious masked ‘pareja’ would lead him to ringside, but this would prove to be a double bluff for Tetsuya Naito to get physically involved with the referee indisposed. Naito would be seen off, but BUSHI had an MX up his sleeve…

Relive the match here!


September 18, 1985: Young Lions Can Fly

One door closes, another one opens. When changes have happened through history in NJPW, and when established wrestlers move afield, it’s always provided an opportunity for new members to fill the gap. 

In 1984, the departure of young stars like Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda for the upstart UWF promotion left just such a gap for three men to fill. They may only have debuted in October 1984, but over a twelve month span, Masahiro Chono, Shinya Hashimoto and Keiji Muto would be granted opportunities not many Young Lions before or since would have, and would make the very most of every single chance. 

Muto’s chance at Challenge Spirit in Fukuoka in 1985 would come against Tony Saint Clair. A 20 year veteran of the game having debuted at just 16, Saint Clair had dominated Joint Promotions in the UK through the 1970s, a time where the British scene was evolving and innovating at rapid speed. 

Muto was undergoing his own rapid evolution meanwhile and had recently added a huge top rope maneuver to his arsenal. It was, at the time, being labelled by announcers as a ‘Sunset Flip’ until Muto would be inspired by Japanese Olympic gymnasts, and their name for the crescent shape of their bodies as they took to the air, to call the move a Moonsault. While Saint Clair would get the win in Fukuoka, it was Muto that pushed the former British Heavyweight Champion to the limit, and his would be the name that fans would go home remembering.

Relive the match here!

September 20, 1989: Liger’s Rival

After Jyushin Thunder Liger made his April 1989 debut, his first year in NJPW would be shaped by two rivals; Kuniaki Kobayashi, who he debuted opposite, and who would begin a dangerous obsession with opponents trying to take Liger’s mask, and his opponent 30 years ago in Osaka Jo Hall, Naoki Sano. 

Sano lacked the body suit and mask of Liger, but was of a similar background and hybrid style. After coming into the Dojo in 1984, he would head on excursion to Mexico through ’87 and ’88, and returned to Japan  at the start of the year. that gave him enough time to enter the Young Tokyo Dome Cup, a single elimination tournament for wrestlers under the age of 30 with the finals taking place at the Tokyo Dome’s first ever wrestling event, in the opening match. 

Sano would win the cup, and thus bears the distinction of being the first ever wrestler to have their hand raised in victory in Japan’s most famous stadium. Yet his victory would be overshadowed in the headlines by the sudden phenomenon that was Liger, as he emerged victorious from his bout with Kobayashi later that night, and shot to the top of his division, beating Hiroshi Hase to start his first of 11 IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship reigns just one month later. 

Sano believed the spotlight should be his, and chased Liger with the kind of intensity that would bring about a golden age in the junior heavyweight division. In Ryogoku in July, the first Sano and Liger meeting ended with a back suplex from the top rope from Sano that saw neither man stand up after the count of ten, Liger retaining his title on a double KO. Sano demanded a rematch, and was granted it the next month, this time emerging on top. With the score at 1-0-1 for Sano,  Liger was looking to balance the record at Super Power Battle in Osaka, and more importantly, take back the IWGP gold. The resulting match? A certifiable classic.

Relive the match here!