1) Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa - NOAH - 1/3/03
I've heard so much about the series of matches between these two and this bout in particular. So much so that I skipped ahead on my Best of 2000's set to watch it and I'm extremely glad I did. Things started off with both men basically trying to be the first to hit a back drop driver. Misawa countered out of Kobashi's first attempt with a body press into a pin attempt. The two traded various locks before Misawa nailed a back drop driver out of nowhere to gain the advantage. I loved how they built that up. Only five or six minutes in and I'm already digging this match. That one manuever gave Misawa the momentum and he began throwing caution to the wind by hitting multiple high flying moves and dives off the apron onto Kobashi. You could tell that Misawa would do anything to win here. They spilled back into the ring where Misawa continued to wear Kobashi down with submissions and strikes. Kobashi would get the advantage back however by pushing Misawa off the apron onto the ringside railing which left him with a bloody mouth. Kobashi was like a shark that smelled blood in the water as he slid to the outside and hit a vicious half and half suplex on Misawa on the floor! That leads us to the next little thing that I loved about this match. From that point on, the focal point of Kobashi's offense was the neck and head of Misawa. Whether it was elbows to the back of the neck, a DDT on the entrance ramp, a variety of submissions such as a sleeper hold & a full nelson, back drop drivers and various suplexes, everything was directed towards the neck/head that Kobashi injured on the outside during his assault on Misawa. After some time on top, Kobashi would eventually lose the advantage and this would become a back and forth affair with both men throwing EVERYTHING they had at one another. It was absolutely epic to watch. The most astounding moment of this exchange came when Misawa hit a dragon suplex on Kobashi OFF THE ENTRANCE RAMP! This isn't one of those little entrance ramps either, this is one that was a good four or five feet off the floor. I have no idea how Kobashi survived that much less kick out of it like he ended up doing. It left me speechless. The faces on the people in the crowd told the whole story as nearly everyone stood with their jaw dropped as these two continued to battle. I won't spoil who won because this match is on YouTube therefore I included it above and I want you to see it for yourself because it's an awesome bout. Five star classic!
Match rating - *****
2) Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Tomoaki Honma - Barbed Wire Board/Spiked Nail Death Match for the Big Japan Heavyweight Title - 1/2/2000
This is another match from the Best of 2000's DVD that I have. When I saw that it was a "barbed wire board, spiked nail death match", I really wasn't sure if I wanted to check it out or not. I'm new to the deathmatch stuff and while I enjoy some of it, I don't wanna see someone falling onto nails or anything like that. Luckily, I decided to watch it and I'm glad I did because it was an awesome match. It wasn't too overly brutal as the majority of the spots were with the barbed wire boards and the nails were only used once. The two men battled around the arena, even running down the hall which was pretty hilarious. Just as I'm new to deathmatches, I'm also new to Japanese wrestling so this was pretty fresh to me and I really enjoyed it. Some spots include various slams into barbed wire boards, a powerbomb into a barbed wire board, and great displays of athleticism from both guys. Fantastic match.
Match rating - ****1/4
3) CM Punk vs. Chris Hero - 2/3 Falls Match - 90 Minute Time Limit - IWA Mid South
Being someone who isn't typically a fan of long matches, I didn't know how this one would go for me. I'm a huge fan of both guys, particularly Punk, but I even had trouble making myself watch his 60 min draws with Samoa Joe. Much less this 90 minute match. However, there was something about this one that kept me intrigued from the start. It just felt special despite the fact that I didn't know much backstory. That's where the commentary of Dave Prazak came into play as he ran down the history of the men throughout the entire match. From their first meetings in 2001 to this match here. It was definitely interesting and added to the match for me. I learned that the story leading into this match in their series was that every time they wrestle each other, the matches get longer because of how much more well they know each other in the ring. They ran down the times of their previous contests and they started at 20 minutes got to 50 minutes then to the 60 minute draw, now to here. The other big story was that of Chris Hero NEVER being able to beat CM Punk in one on one action in an IWA Mid South ring. The only time he's ever pinned Punk was in an elimination tag in 2001. Both of these stories were told extremely well during the match as the first 38 minutes were purely holds and submissions. It showed how well the two know each other as the feeling out process went even longer than it had in the past. This opening portion of the bout isn't that entertaining, but for the story they were telling it was perfect so I had no complaints about it. Around the 40 minute mark, strikes began being thrown. Things slowly began building up and by the time 50 minutes had passed, we saw Hero nailing Punk with a release german suplex that planted him on the back of his head. Punk would recover however and go for a Shining Wizard, HERO DUCKS, PUNK COMES BACK WITH A KICK FROM BEHIND! 1..2..3. - Punk wins the first fall at 56 minutes. It was during that sequence that I realized that this match was about to get epic. After a good 40 minutes of feeling out and trying to wear each other down, both men were starting to go for the kill, so to speak. From this point on, the match was absolutely awesome. Everything these two did in the final 35-40 minutes was phenomenal. But I don't want to jump ahead because after that first fall, the story of Hero not being able to pin Punk truly came to life as we saw Chris reach a desperation point. Hero's Welcome after Hero's Welcome, strike after strike, it didn't matter he couldn't put Punk away! The crowd is really into things at this point. There was only say 50-100 people there, but they were making a ton of noise and the commentary did a great job of excintuating what was taking place in the ring thus giving it a big time feel. Punk cut off everything that Hero attempted even nailing a flying head scissors from the apron to the floor. Hero's desperation leads him to the top rope with Punk in hand. What's he going for? A tiger driver? A powerbomb? NO! IT'S THE PEPSI PLUNGE FROM THE TOP ROPE! HERO JUST NAILED PUNK WITH HIS OWN MOVE! 1..2..3! Hero wins the second fall at 68 minutes in. I LOVED that sequence, they built the story of Hero not being able to pin Punk so much that you truly thought he couldn't do it. He hit all his signature moves, what else could he do? There's nothing else he can do, you thought. He's hit everything in his playbook THEN Hero resorts to Punk's playback and scores big time. Epic stuff there. The craziness continued as the minutes winded down as they both slugged it out as the clock ran down. The crowd gets louder and louder as they trade shots. There's under one minute left and Hero climbs up on the top rope with Punk. SIT OUT POWERBOMB FROM THE TOP TURNBUCKLE! OH MY! After laying limp, both men cover one another with 10 seconds left. DOUBLE PIN! Its 2-2 as the time limit expires. Ian Rotten comes out and says it's now sudden death. First man to get a fall wins the match. This leads to three more minutes of action and one thing I also have to mention is that even when things picked up in this final 40 minutes, both men still resorted to their same submission holds that they did in the opening 30 minutes. Punk on the legs of Hero, Hero mainly targeting the head of Punk with cravats as well as trying to wear him down with a leg scissors hold in the center of the ring. I mention that because all those holds and all those submissions, and all the time spent wearing each other down paid off here as Hero locked Punk in the hangman's clutch yet another time and Punk is forced to tap. The atmosphere was electric in that final three minutes. Hell, the crowd was phenomenal during the entire final stretch of that match. They popped for everything that they should've popped for, the reaction was perfect at certain moments here. In a way, this match was just perfect. These two executed everything without flaw and told multiple stories in one minblowing match. The fact that they went 93 minutes alone is outstanding. The commentary did it's job. Everything just felt right here. I watched this bout in one sitting, surprisingly, and it's safe to say I loved it. I've learned that if you take the time to appreciate the story two men are telling in the ring, you won't mind the feeling out process and hold trading like we saw in the first 38 minutes, especially when everything they were building towards hits and it feels absolutely monumental because they didn't just throw it out there. And they didn't throw it all out at once either. They took their time putting all their big exchanges out there and timed it just right. So to sum it all up, between the story, the build to the spots, the counters, and callbacks to stuff earlier in the match - this match was just about perfect. In fact, for what this was, it was perfect. And what this was, was a classic. A once in a life time match. Prior to this, the last 90 minute long match was in the 1970's. This is a groundbreaking historical match that delivers in just about every aspect. Highly recommend checking this out although if you're not used to long matches you may need a break or two.
Match rating - ****1/2
4) Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki - NOAH: 1/8/05
I've just recently discovered the legend that is Kenta Kobashi so I know that he was at a high point around this time. However, I don't know as much about Minoru Suzuki's past so I have no clue if he had the same hype around him that he does now, but just knowing how awesome both guys are, I was pumped for this. As soon as the bell rang, the story of this match was revealed as Suzuki went for a flurry of strikes as well as a cross arm breaker submission only to be shut down by Kobashi. Throughout the entire match, Kobashi relied on his strikes while Suzuki repeatedly worked on the arm whenever he got the chance which was a smart strategy considering Kobashi's chops are a focal point of his offense. Speaking of chops, jeez, Kobashi completely laid into Suzuki at one point in the first 10 minutes of this encounter - it was an intense flurry of those signature ear-ringing, chest splitting chops that Kenta Kobashi is known for. Both guys clearly played to their strengths in the formatting of this match which made for a fantastic bout. Kobashi's brutality & suplex throws were as on point as ever and Suzuki's arm work was crisp and calculated. In the end, it was a repeated assault of lariats and strikes from Kobashi that would put away Suzuki. Not without a fight though. This was a great showing for Suzuki against the puroresu icon. Awesome match.
Match rating - ****
5) Batista vs. Triple H - Hell In A Cell Match - WWE: Vengeance 2005
This is a match that I'm really surprised I hadn't seen until now. I was a kid and was watching when it took place, but for whatever reason, I never saw it. So when I found an old Triple H DVD I had and noticed it was on it, I figured it'd be the perfect match to conlude this edition of MMR with. The backstory is simple and you probably already know it. Triple H & Batista were in Evolution together, Batista hears of HHH & Flair's plan to get Batista to go to Smackdown so he won't cash in his title shot against Hunter, Batista plays dumb only to turn face and plant HHH through a table. This leads to WrestleMania 21 where Batista defeats Triple H for the World Title which leads us to here - Triple H's final shot at the belt. I didn't really know how much I would enjoy this considering I'm not a big fan of either guy by any means however as the match got going, I found myself completely focused on the match. That's one thing that can really set a match apart for me. You can have a balls out finishing run, some sick spots, a cool moment or two, but you know a true classic when you become lost in the match. That happened here even though I didn't think it would. From the moment the barbwire covered chair came into play, I became emotionally invested in this match. I call it a match, but it was really just a war. A very well thought out war from psychological stand point. Some little things I loved that I have to mention include how they built towards HHH finally hitting the pedigree and the spot where Batista hit HHH in the throat with the sledgehammer on his way down from the top rope. The visual of Hunter spitting a dark colored blood from his mouth was cringeworthy and really took this match to another level from my viewing point. It was then that you realized how personal this one was. The other thing I liked is that they spaced all the big spots out and took time to sell all the brutal moments. Alot of times in matches like these, you get spot after spot after spot and while that's entertaining, I'd much rather see a logically based match that tells a good story which is exactly what this did. If you've never seen this, I'd highly recommend going back and checking it out. The newcomer proved once again that he could hang with the veteran and handed him his first ever Hell In A Cell loss after a brutal battle. One of the best matches of 2005 in WWE.
Match rating - ****1/2