New Japan World Gems #4: Masahiro Chono Vs. Atsushi Onita
In this next installment of NJPW World Gems series, we travel back to April of 1999. In a rare flash of excessive violence as an equally rare gimmick-based match in NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING, Atsushi Onita and Masahiro Chono clashed in front of sixty-three thousand NJPW fans in a sold-out Tokyo Dome. It wouldn’t be any ordinary match, though… The taboo stipulation was to be an Electric Dynamite Barbed Wire match! With Chono at the top of his game as a world-travelled talent and Onita appearing for the company he fought the most against, I was very interested to see where this one would go! But, why was it worth the watch? Find out now!
So, let’s just get right into this one. I’ve been looking forward to sitting down and giving this match a watch. I mean, talk about a unique video for NJPW World… A deathmatch!? That is almost sacrilegious, as we all know due to the deliberate lack, or at least very rare usage, of stipulation matches within the company’s history. Now, a ladder match, last man standing, or lumberjack is one thing… But, an F’N FMW special in the Tokyo Dome promoted by NJPW?! I had no idea this even existed, honestly. So, that was reason one for me to watch. I was also interested to see how Onita and Chono worked together, as at their core, they were very different, in my opinion. One was considered a juniorwieght by a major promotion, the other being a heavyweight. Onita tended to outlast his opponents in will as an unorthodox brawler, as Chono was a more methodical, calculated worker. Though, they were both two tough guys who won’t back down or hold back… Chono with his reputation on the line and Onita feeling as though he had to uphold that hardcore banner of his FMW promotion, has to be a recipe for destruction!
I didn’t really know what to expect for this one. From what I understand, during this time, Onita kept challenging Riki Choshu to step out of retirement to face him during hiatus from FMW (due to vision differences for the company’s future), but Choshu refused, and instead made Onita challenge other company contenders. Enter Masa Chono. Choshu wanted Onita to prove himself as a worthy challenge to come out of retirement for, and who better to test Onita than Chono? Yeah, my thoughts exactly… And that is about all I knew before watching! So, let’s just get down to business and jump right in!
I noticed a few things right off the bat that made me wonder. First, the entrances have been skipped. Now, from what I had read of this match before-hand, both Chono and Onita had badass entrances. I was pretty bummed to see those cut out. Though, I wasn’t really surprised, NJPW World seems to do this a lot with their classic content. Anyway, Chono as the ‘home’ guy got far more of a reaction during the prematch announcement, eighties dancer attire and all. Hey, if anybody can pull off that NASA-developed jacket, it is Masa Chono. Maybe the NEW JAPAN audience respected Onita for all he sacrificed, just not his style? Seen as an outsider and reportedly being pelted with garbage on the way to the ring, I thought, was weird. I expected a little louder of a reaction for one of Japan’s most infamous stars at that time. We also got a NJPW referee (Tiger Hattori) and a WAR referee (Red Shoes, oddly enough) officiating this one, so I suspect this event was co-promoted. By the way, both referees having giant skiing goggles on kept cracking me up for being fantastically ridiculous! What a circus-of-a-scene it has been already!
The crowd buzz ramped up as the two circled each other. The tension came across huge as Masahiro Chono almost became the first man to be tossed into the barbed wire. Then, all of a sudden, a graphic of The Great Sasuke on commentary popped up in the corner of the video! Hell yeah! Though, now we have NJPW, FMW, Michinoku Pro, and WAR represented? Alrighty, then.
Onita hit powerbomb on the bigger man, to start the heavy offense. Chono returned the favor with a Yakuza Kick that got the crowd excited. At this moment, the sirens began to sound. Chono ignored this and went to work on Onita with a chair before slapping on an STF. The alarms ceased and Chono continued his chair-based assault. Until he threw it at Onita and missed, that is! The chair hit the barbed wire and set off a cracking explosion. Onita capitalized, laying chairs shots in on Chono, ultimately leading him to be the first man to be whipped into the explosive wire. In an attempt to take control, Onita applied a sloppy sharpshooter, which was reversed by Chono to break the hold. The two traded crushing slaps and headbutts before Masa side-stepped Atsushi which sent him into the wire for another loud explosion. Atsushi Onita suffered a nasty, deep looking gash on the outside of his bicep and Red Shoes backed Masa up. Masa charged forward and immediately started attacking the wounded arm. While in an arm submission, Masa shouted at the pestering ref “this is not wrestling!” as he specifically pulled and squished the gash on Onita’s arm. Sick bastard!
A matching set of low blows put both men down as the crowd again rallied behind Chono. I knew these two were going to beat the crap out of each other! Then, they had a directly contacting headbutt test of will. Again, brutal. Especially knowing the damage headbutts can do following Shibata’s injury earlier this year…
Onita would meet the barbed wire twice more, and on the second time, pulled both Chono and Red Shoes in with him! As Tiger attended to Red Shoes, he missed most of a pin attempt on Onita, awarding Chono only a near fall. Add two Kenka Kicks on top of that, as well as two more near falls for Chono! Frustration began to set in for him as his battered FMW opponent refused to stay down. Both men met the wire yet again (with Onita taking the brunt of it), and it always amazes me with how much punishment Atsushi Onita is more than willing to take for a crowd.
The ending came up relatively quick as somewhat of a surprise. I was slightly disappointed with it, but the finish made sense to me. Mutual respect was shone, as once both men returned to their feet, Chono placed Onita’s leather jacket on him and gave him a congratulatory slap on the back. He proved himself to Masahiro Chono, and therefore, Masa felt that he should be granted the match with Riki Choshu.
So, why was it worth the watch? Simply because it was more than just a garbage-style match. Through the brutality, a story was told. So, if you don’t mind a little bloodshed, for this being Onita’s second match in NJPW, it was a redemption of the first (of which wasn’t very good). Also, this match was important, as it would usher in several like it later in the same year, all involving Onita. Most famously, his match with Choshu and the Great Muta (as Onita donned his Great Nita gimmick). It only further solidified Chono’s star power in the company as well, upholding NJPW standards of quality even in match such as this with an unpredictable opponent.
Long-story-short, watch this one for its violence, story telling, uniqueness, and historical importance! You won’t be disappointed.