NJPW Battle Hold Arena 9/23/1992

Written by: Mike Campbell

BATTLE HOLD ARENA
September 23, 1992

Life can just be full of surprises. Just when you think that you’ve seen it all and that you know the drill, a show like this comes along and catches you off guard.

Osamu Nishimura . . . gains victory with some very non-MUGA style offense.

The Steiner Brothers . . . have a boring tag match against Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki.

Steve Austin . . . causes a serious neck injury with a Tombstone piledriver gone wrong.

OSAMU NISHIMURA vs. SATOSHI KOJIMA

Kojima being decked out all in green for this match seems fitting. Watching matches like this nowadays really only serves a ‘where are they now’ type of purpose. It’s also clipped up in places, so it’s hard to really gage what was going on. From what we’re shown Nishimura had things well in hand, and at one time possessed a hell of a dropkick, which is used liberally here, including one in the corner like Austin Aries does. The only thing that Kojima really gets to show off is the elbow off the top, which would always be a staple of his. Nishimura gets a submission with the prerequisite crab hold, which always seems to be the finish in the Young Lion matches.

HIRO SAITO vs. BLACK CAT

Like the last match, this is really clipped up, so it’s hard to gage all of what was really going on. Hiro actually looked very serviceable at times, moving at a decent pace and doing some nice bumping for Black Cat. Black Cat had a few nice moves, including a DDT off the second rope. The only near fall shown came after an extended abdominal stretch from Black Cat, and he segued it nicely into a cradle. Saito counters another cradle attempt with one of his own to steal the win. If nothing else, this makes me want to see some more of Saito’s work, which is more than I can say for any other match of his I’ve ever seen.

SUPER STRONG MACHINE/TATSUTOSHI GOTO vs. SAMU/KOKINA

The Samoans were both WWF-bound at this point, Samu as one of the Headshrinkers and Kokina as Yokozuna. In addition, Goto is dressed up like a Strong Machine as well. And something tells me that those two factoids are going to be more interesting than anything that happens here. Of course I’m right! The Wild Samoans do a couple of double teams but nothing very exciting and nothing that takes any great amount of teamwork to accomplish. Kokina no-sells and Samu uses a side kick like it’s the only move he can do. What is shown is basically a squash for the Wild Samoans, until Kokina accidentally splashes Samu, and SSM does his diving headbutt for the win. I’d much rather see the Wild Samoans against a pair of New Japan rookies, as I’m sure it’d be a lot more entertaining.

HIROYOSHI YAMAMOTO/JYUSHIN “THUNDER” LYGER vs. EL SAMURAI/KOJI KANEMOTO

As expected this is mostly the Lyger show, as he brought most of the good offense and always kept things interesting. The future Tenzan wasn’t good for much else than dishing out the Mongolian Chops and taking a bunch of kicks from Kanemoto. Even this early into his career, Kanemoto was showing the attitude and nastiness that would define him, which makes for some entertaining moments, but not the greatest match. El Samurai wasn’t bad at all, although it was odd that he didn’t get to look like the top dog. Lyger and Samurai have a couple of fun exchanges, but nothing very intense, especially considering their Super Juniors final in June.

There isn’t a whole lot as far as real story goes, although whenever Yamamoto is in the ring, it looks like his team is losing for sure, and when it’s Lyger in the ring, things do a total 180. Lyger gives Kanemoto some nice near falls, even letting him kick out of the Lygerbomb, it’s a nice gesture but what’s missing is Kanemoto getting a nice run of near falls on Lyger to show he can really hang with him. The same rings true for El Samurai getting the pin on Lyger. It’s nice idea to show that Samurai’s title win over Lyger wasn’t a fluke, but it doesn’t really prove it by giving him a decisive win. The rana counter to the Lygerbomb is a nice surprise finish, especially since it seemed for sure that it was going to be Yamamoto doing the job, but it’d have been nicer if some form of elevation for Samurai or Kanemoto went with it. ***

TONY HALME vs. SCOTT NORTON (IWGP Heavyweight Title #1 Contenders match)

Surprisingly, this isn’t the worst thing ever, although that’s about as far as the praise for this match can really go. When Norton gets something easy to do, like put over Halme’s boxing jabs, he looks decent. They both more or less forego any attempt at telling a story, in favor of showing off their strength with power moves. Some of the spots are impressive, like Halme’s Samoan drop, and Norton using Chono’s diving shoulder block off the top. The powerslam is used frequently by both, which makes the fact that Norton uses it to get the win a bit odd, when it didn’t do him any good the other three times he’d done it. I shouldn’t complain though, Norton has shown me before that he can do far more harm than he did here.

KOSHINAKA/KIMURA/SAITO/AOYAGI vs. CHOSYU/FUJINAMI/KIDO/IIZUKA

I spent most of this match wondering why Kimura was the only one on his team who didn’t have a shaved head, and after seeing Koshinaka as a skinhead, I was hoping he’d keep his crewcut forever. Aside from the submissions being treated like they were capable of ending the match, there isn’t anything here that you couldn’t see in one of NOAH’s random eight-man tags. There’s nothing here as far as story and nobody really stands out as much of a weak link. The only real direction comes when Kido surprises Saito with a Fujiwara armbar, and the NJPW team all start to go after the arm, with even Chosyu dropping his usual routine in favor of a chickenwing armlock. Other than that, it’s all go-go-go and the goal is simply to kill time, with everyone doing their own routine. Aoyagi’s cheap shot kick on Kido, that leads to Kimura scoring the win would have been nice, if Aoyagi hadn’t spent give or take the entire match firing off that exact same style of kick.

GREAT MUTA © vs. SHINYA HASHIMOTO (IWGP Heavyweight Title and Greatest 18 Club Title)

If this had been Mutoh vs. Hashimoto then it may have had a shot at being pretty good. But with Muta, forget about it. When it’s Hashimoto in control, the crowd gets a fun show. He heaps the abuse on Muta, with an array of kicks, suplexes, a nice armbar, and looks to set up for the DDT for the victory. It’s almost a total squash. All Muta really shows off are a few kicks, the fact that his choice mist of this evening is white, and the ability to bail to the floor and stall. To his credit, Muta does do a decent job at putting over the abuse that Hashimoto is dishing out, but once it’s time for Muta to control things, it’s all downhill. After bailing from the DDT Muta’s great strategy is to stick a crowbar in his pant leg and hit a few kicks on Hashimoto to drop him. That by itself is fine, Muta had gotten a few kicks on Hashimoto to no real avail, so he finds a shortcut to weaken Hashimoto. Once he’s in firm control though, Muta doesn’t take advantage of his advantage very well, he hits the power drive elbow, a bulldog (with the aid of a chair), a few knee drops off the top (using the crowbar still up his pant leg), finally sprays the mist, and does a moonsault (that doesn’t make decent contact) for the win. It’s similar to Lyger jobbing to El Samurai. It’s fine that it happened, but the events leading up to the happening itself don’t paint the best picture to make the victory look decisive.

RICK STEINER/SCOTT STEINER © vs. KENSUKE SASAKI/HIROSHI HASE (IWGP Tag Team Titles)

Considering the level that Hase and the Steiners were working at, and potential Kensuke was showing during this time period. This comes off very disappointing. It’s mostly worked in the southern tag format, with Kensuke being the big hot tag. Unfortunately, the Steiners aren’t very good about giving Hase openings to try the big tag, and there’s only one good instance where Kensuke gets baited into the ring. And for a team that spent three plus years in World Championship Wrestling, they really don’t give a very inspired beat down.

What made the initial meeting (3/21/91 Tokyo Dome) between these two teams so good was how similar a team they were, and how well they worked together, and it was largely based upon their working a similar style. So working the southern tag style here is almost a step backwards for them, and not working the style very well doesn’t help either. There isn’t any real story or flow to what goes on. Isolating Hase makes sense since he’s the senior member of the team and the one who’s got the best shot at beating them, but instead of finding a solid focus for it, they just throw him around a bunch and wear him down chin locks. And they don’t do much to play off Kensuke’s inexperience other than the one instance he’s baited into the ring. The action noticeably picks up after Kensuke hot tags in, and hits Rick with his own powerslam. It’s not really any better though because they simply throw each other around with suplexes, and don’t do anything else to establish why either team really has an edge over the other. Hase gets put down for good with an overhead belly to belly on the floor and the Steiners rattle off a really nice Doomsday Device, with Sasaki taking a nice flat back bump. The two Frankensteiners that Scotty hits Kensuke with are beyond ugly though, and it’s a good thing Rick kept it simple with the Steiner-line to finish him off, before Scotty killed the match, the crowd, or Kensuke himself.

MASAHIRO CHONO © vs. STEVE AUSTIN (NWA World Heavyweight Title)

If this happened in 2002 rather than 1992, it’d be a much different match for sure. For the most part it’s kept pretty simple. There are a few times when a combination of being unfamiliar with each other and the language barrier causes some awkward moments. Aside from the use of both the STF and Stun Gun in the first thirty seconds of the match, things are fairly simple and straightforward. Chono and Austin both wind up targeting the neck area, which makes sense since both of their finishers target that area. The offense they use isn’t always the most exciting, with lots of chinlocks and headlocks from them both. A few nice moments do come out of them though, specifically Chono’s ability to keep the holds applied, despite Austin’s best efforts to escape. Austin works over Chono’s neck with some typical clubbing forearms, and also some not-so-typical offense with the Rude Awakening, and even an attempt at the Canadian Backbreaker. The Tombstone reversal spot is eerily similar to what happened at Summerslam ‘97, right down to Austin landing in a sitting position, rather than on his knees. It’s also eerily appropriate given the mutual attack on the neck area going on. The initial STF looking like fecal matter is forgivable considering how messed up Chono must have been, and Austin thankfully goes right for the ropes, so that Chono can reapply the hold, so that it doesn’t look awful, and they can get the match finished.

Conclusion: I honestly only got this show for the Chono/Austin match, which is more good for historical (and ironic) purposes than any merits as a match. The card as a whole does have its fun stuff in the early going, and a good juniors tag, but nothing really worth going out of your way to seek out.

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