Mike Reviews – New Japan Pro Wrestling from Sapporo (February 1991)
By Michael Fitzgerald on 8th June 2022
Happy Wednesday Everyone!
I decided to head to New Japan World to find some matches to review this week and wanted to search for bouts from 1991 just to see what came up. I ended up finding some battles from Sapporo in February. Now on the New Japan World website it says that all the matches took place on the 5th of February 1991, but a trip to CageMatch.Net would seem to suggest that only one of them took place on that date with the others taking place on the 6th. We’ll go off CageMatch for the purpose of this review.
Some of these matches legitimately look quite interesting so I thought they’d make for good review material. Let’s see if I’m right!
These matches are coming from Sapporo, Japan on the 5th and 6th February 1991
5th February 1991
Tony Halme Vs Shinya Hashimoto
This looks to be a shoot styled match as the ropes are set up more like a boxing ring and Halme has gloves on. Halme would eventually go to the WWF as Evil Finn Ludvig Borga before going into politics in real life once his wrestling career was over. Hashimoto takes Halme down a few times and tries for submissions. Halme of course is at a big disadvantage there as his gloves mean he has very little chance to working his own holds. This one appears to have rounds as well, and I’m guessing that to win you need to get a submission or knock out.
It’s not the most thrilling bout and it’s kind of clear that punches are getting pulled, which you can’t really do in shoot style as it’s all about trying to make it look realistic. Hashimoto’s kicks look better than Halme’s punches because he can just kick Halme in a meaty part of the body and doesn’t have to worry about pulling it too much, whereas Halme has to make sure he doesn’t do any real damage with the punches either to Hashimoto or to his own hands.
Halme gets some knock out teases by punching Hashimoto down a few times, with Hashimoto getting back up and going for more takedowns. The crowd has been kind of in to this actually, which has helped it a bit. As usual with New Japan World, the buffering on the classic content is awful and I’ve no idea why. Surprisingly they go with a Halme victory, as he knocks Hashimoto down and Hashimoto can’t answer the count. I thought for sure they’d put Hashimoto over there.
WINNER: TONY HALME
This had good crowd heat but it was kind of meh to watch. Hashimoto did a good job selling for Halme in order to make him look like a threat though
6th February 1991
Dave Finlay Vs Jushin Thunder Liger
Finlay often worked in the Junior Heavyweight division over in Japan, and I believe he even competed in the Best of the Super Juniors sometimes as well. Strangely he mostly worked as a heavyweight both in WCW and WWE though, as usually it’s the other way round where someone who works in the heavyweight ranks in Japan finds themselves working with the smaller guys when they come over to America.
This one does have the option for English commentary but I’ve decided to go with the Japanese commentary here. This one feels a bit like a World of Sport match at points, just in the way they pace and structure it. Liger used to work over in the UK as Flying Fuji Yamada, so he’s experienced with that sort of style and can hang with Finlay in that arena as a result. Finlay decides he’s had enough of this wrestling lark early on though and takes Liger outside to the floor, where he flings him into the metal railings and just generally beats the cheese out of him.
Liger sells all of that really well and it succeeds in getting the crowd behind him in the hope he will make a comeback. Finlay’s offence looks great and he does a good job playing to the crowd as well. Finlay takes most of the match really, working Liger over continuously whilst Liger gets the occasional hope spot to show the crowd that he isn’t completely out of the contest. This prevents it from being a spectacular exciting bout, but it’s still very watchable.
Liger does eventually try to start making a comeback, but Finlay dodges a cross body attempt and heads up. Liger brings Finlay down with a Superplex however and then heads up with a big cross body, only for Finlay to roll through for a two count. The finishing stretch is done well, with Finlay getting his trademark piledriver for two at one stage before missing a head butt from the top rope. Liger gets a rolling kicks and a German Suplex, which is enough for three in an impressive win for Liger considering how often he was on the back foot there.
This was a good match, with Finlay’s offence looking solid and Liger doing an excellent job selling. Liger being on the defensive so much meant that he wasn’t quite able to really cut loose and show what he could do, but Finlay worked well as the bigger bullying Heel of the contest and the bout ended up being a fun watch as a result
6th February 1991
Demolition Ax Vs Keiji Muto
Well this is certainly an interesting match. I think Ax was on the outs with the WWF at the time, even though he was still using the gimmick. I struggle with some of the chronology sometimes, as I know the WWF brought in Crush in 1990 to start teaming with Smash due to Ax’s health issues preventing him from working as regularly. Ax was also nowhere to be found at WrestleMania VII when Smash and Crush lost to Tenryu and Kitao, with the WWF working with SWS at the time and not New Japan so I can’t imagine them sanctioning an Ax tour in Japan using their IP like this. They’ve called him Ax Demolition possibly in a hope of getting around that, but he’s dressed completely the same so I doubt they would have much of a legal leg to stand on.
This is a solid mid-card match, with Muto trying to work holds in order to wear Ax down whilst Ax focuses on his usual clubbing offence of punches and hammer blows. The fight even heads outside at one stage, where Ax finds a sign on one of the railings and clobbers Muto with it. The crowd isn’t that into the match, but it’s not bad or anything like that, just kind of basic and a bit by the numbers at points. Muto eventually manages to fight back after spending a prolonged period on the defensive, getting a nice dropkick. Ax seems to forget that he’s supposed to storm out of a corner with a clothesline after taking a buckle, so they have to repeat the spot. It doesn’t really matter though as Muto soon gets the back breaker and heads up with a Moonsault for three.
WINNER: KEIJI MUTO
Seeing Great Muta wrestle one third of Demolition was certainly a fun novelty, but the match itself was kind of just “there”, with Ax not really showing much outside of some brawling and Muto seemingly having it in cruise control for most of the contest. For an 8 minute match on the under card with a clean finish then it was mostly inoffensive at least
6th February 1991
Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Scott Norton
Bigelow and Norton would have probably been the two top Americans in the company at the time. This one is a slugfest from the off, with Norton attacking Bigelow as he gets in the ring and walloping him with big punches and clotheslines. Bigelow sells all of that really well and is soon bleeding. The fight heads to the floor and that leads to Norton getting thrown into the ring post and bleeding as well, giving us double juice here in this battle of the bulls.
If you’re in to big lads battering one another then this will probably scratch that itch for you, and the match itself is similar in some ways to the better Brock/Goldberg matches in that it’s more of a sprint and just two very large men going heck for leather. Sadly we get a lame DQ finish, as the ref seems to throw it out at one stage, but it was a good fight up to that point and both men end up spilling into the crowd at the bouts’ conclusion for more brawling. A trip to CageMatch reveals Norton to be the winner, which makes sense as Bigelow shoved down the ref a bunch of times.
WINNER BY DQ: SCOTT NORTON
The finish was lame but the fight up to that point was a lot of fun. Bigelow appeared to be the guy that the crowd sided with there and they enjoyed the post-match when both men went at it again.
6th February 1991
Osamu Kido Vs Tatsumi Fujinami
This one should be a good technical wrestling contest if nothing else. Both men are dressed in the classic black tights look, although Kido is rocking white boots to differentiate things a bit. The crowd responds well to the wrestling going on before them due to Fujinami’s legendary status. This patient, almost 70’s styled, grappling was something Fujinami was really good at, although it might not be your own personal jam if grappling on the mat isn’t something that you enjoy. I’m all about this sort of stuff though, so it’s fun for me.
Kido keeps targeting the arm and going for a Fujiwara and double wrist lock amongst other holds, but Fujinami is able to hold on and doesn’t submit, eventually making the ropes in order to break the hold. Fujinami sells that his arm is hurting following that though and keeps his arm behind his back when circling Kido at one stage so that Kido can’t latch onto it again in a nice bit of psychology. Fujinami remains on the back foot a bit, but he manages to catch Kido in an abdominal stretch and turns it into a pinning hold for the hard fought three count.
This was a decent technical battle that told a simple story of how Kido kept trying to grab the arm to get the submission win and Fujinami kept trying to avoid it long enough in order to win. The story worked and the wrestling itself was solid, if a little unremarkable at points
6th February 1991
Tiger Jeet Singh Vs Riki Choshu
Singh had been a big rival of Inoki in New Japan and had even nipped over to All Japan to feud with Giant Baba at one stage, around the same time that Choshu was over in All Japan as well I believe. Singh was a pretty terrible wrestler even during his prime years, so by the 90’s he was very limited to just basic brawling and old school Heel techniques like biting and choking. However, because of his feuds with all the big stars in Japanese Wrestling over the years he was able to retain his overness even though his wrestling was pretty awful for the most part.
They smartly keep this one as a brawl for the most part, with Singh jumping Choshu at the bell and then taking him to the outside of the ring for some table and chair based attacks. Choshu sells it all really well and does a good job of bravely fighting from underneath against the despised Heel. Singh refuses to sell by comparison though, popping up instantly whenever Choshu gets even a hint of any offence and going back to his usual terrible array of chokes and bites. I could live with Singh’s horrible offence I think if he wasn’t also one of the most selfish wrestlers on the planet.
Someone tries jumping into the ring to attack Choshu when it finally looks like he might fight back, which leads to Choshu taking him out, only to then turn around into a concealed weapon shot from Singh, which gives us more choking and biting. The guy from earlier tries ot get involved again (Sorry, I don’t recognise him) but Heel miscommunication leads to Singh catching him by mistake and Choshu getting a sloppy inside cradle for three. This then leads to a massive brawl with allies of Choshu and Singh going at it in the ring.
Choshu did the best he could there, but he had absolutely nothing to work with
Nothing blow away here, but most of what we got to see was decent at least. If you have New Japan World then you probably only really need to seek out Finlay Vs Liger. For a 10 minute match it was very good and it was a fun novelty to see them go at it