Wrestle Kingdom Rewind: Ultimate Dynamism 【WK18】

January 4 1995 saw two of the decades toughest heavyweights clash.


<– A year in the making                      NJPW takes on UWFI–>

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After 1993 and 1994 saw WAR’s Genichiro Tenryu take on Riki Choshu and Antonio Inoki in the main event on January 4, 1995 once more saw the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of the year’s biggest event, and this would remain the case until 1996. Defending the title in that main event was a man who had a stranglehold on it for a year and a half in Shinya Hashimoto.

While his fellow ‘Musketeers of the Fighting Spirit’ in Masahiro Chono and Keiji Muto had quicker singles success with G1 and IWGP Heavyweight victories respectively, Hashimoto took several years to make it to the top spot in NJPW, but once there, was unshakeable. Winning his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship in September of 1993, only a brief upset from Tatsumi Fujinami cost the ‘King of Destruction’ the gold for less than a month before Hashimoto swiftly took the title back.    

Hashimoto was more than living up to his nickname, but he had tough competition on January 4 1995 in the form of Kensuke Sasaki. Sasaki was a devotee of 1993 Tokyo Dome main eventer Riki Choshu, having joined Japan Pro Wrestling during his mentor’s time as an independent in the mid 1980s. It was in that phase that he formed a close friendship with Hiroshi Hase, and both would enter the NJPW Dojo system when Choshu returned to the company. 

Sasaki and Hase would win the IWGP Tag Team Championships together twice in two years, before Hase focused on singles action and Sasaki formed another powerful partnership. Road Warrior Hawk was without an injured Animal in New Japan, and that led to the birth of Power Warrior and a fearsomely dominant team: the Hell Raisers. 

Power and Hawk Warrior won the tag titles a further two times, their last reign of nearly a year only coming to an end in November 1994. With speculation mounting as to just who could possibly take the IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Hashimoto, Sasaki as a singles wrestler seemed to have the potential to do so, as heavyweight powerful fire fought fire at Battle 7. A vicious and violent affair saw Sasaki bloody the champion, but it was a flying heel kick and Fisherman’s Buster that ended the main event, Hashimoto awarded his title by Antonio Inoki before shaking Sasaki’s hand in mutual respect. 

Speaking of the IWGP Tag Team Championships, they would be defended in the semi main event of a massive 14 match card, and Sasaki’s former partner Hiroshi Hase would be back in the tag ranks, and back holding the gold. Hase and rival Keiji Muto had been bloody rivals, but came together to defeat the Steiner Brothers in March 1991 to capture the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Years later, and as fate had it, Muto and Hase would end the Hell Raisers’ near year long reign in November 1994, to face the challenge of the Steiners on January 4. It was the athleticism of Muto and the grappling ability of Hase, facing the terrifying suplexes of the Steiners.

Muto would be flung from pillar to post, including taking a suplex on the entrance ramp before being serves up for a top rope powerslam. But a Tombstone would see a much needed tag in to Hase, the amateur great landing an explosive Uranage suplex to Scott Steiner, and then taking Rick for a Giant Swing. The Steiners rallied to try and land a Doomsday DDT to end the match, but Muto would defuse the attempt with a Frankensteiner of his own to Scott, while Hase connected with a Northern Lights Suplex for the champions to retain.  

In 1992, Muto had teamed with Sting in another Dome victory against the Steiners. Three years on, and Sting had another iconic opponent in Antonio Inoki. The iconic Inoki, in the midst of his retirement final countdown, was selecting opponents and situations that reflected his remarkable in ring career. Many of those highlights had surrounded the World Martial Arts Championship, matches over which being widely considered the genesis of modern mixed martial arts. That led to the Battle 7 card including a mixed rules mini tournament. 

Sting had defeated Tony Palmoure, while Gerard Gordeau fell to Inoki in the first round of the four man single elimination affair, leading to a unique match indeed. Years later Sting would remark on the ‘tremendous honor for a young wrestler to step in the ring in Tokyo with Antonio Inoki’, but despite pressuring the veteran with a half crab, he would eventually fall to a rear naked choke, Inoki starting 1995 right after beginning the prior year with a defeat to Genichiro Tenryu. 

With the Steiners facing Hase and Muto for the IWGP Tag Team Championships, and with his Hell Raisers partner Power Warrior in the main event, Hawk was left alone heading into Battle 7. That led Hawk to face another former IWGP Tag Team Champion in Scott Norton. A year after the Jurassic Powers of Norton and Hercules Hernandez lost the gold, ‘Flash’ Norton and Hawk went at it in a super heavyweight power fight. Present in Hawk’s corner was Road Warrior Animal, a presence that distracted Norton who constantly looked to agitate the big man. When Norton overstepped the line, it was the turning point in a match that had been all Norton; a lariat off the top from Hawk finishing the job.