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Katsuyori Shibata vs Hirooki Goto (NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 11 01/04/17)

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I was excited to hear this was worked differently than their usual matches but after watching it I don't think that was such a good idea after all. In the typical Shibata/Goto match you'd get 1-2 no-sell sequences, usually one in the middle of a match and one to tease a double KO since that's how one of their matches finished, but here it was just non-stop. I quite liked the opening and how Shibata dominated, his headlock escape was lovely, but the terrible no-sell sequence in which Goto came back to control turned me off big time (seriously. he didn't even bother selling Shibata's corners Forearms by falling down to convince you Shibata could hit his corner dropkick, which in turn also made Shibata look stupid for running to the other corner instead of hitting Goto some more). They play to the worst and most predictable tendencies of the modern New Japan style  that I've brought up a million times before (rope running when there's no move to be hit just to eat a move, questionable selling where counters delete all damage previously accumulated-unless of course you're doing a sequence or hit your finisher too early; then both wrestlers fall down). I enjoyed Shibata's offence as I always do, but Goto's was just terrible here as it always is, his Headbutts aren't really shoot headbutts, they can make impact but Goto's really hitting the chest/shoulders of his opponent and it's the sudden surprise of them that makes them work. When he's doing a flurry of those headbutts it looks really ridiculous, someone like Makabe would be dragged endlessly on all the hip social media if he were to do the same thing. Not a fan of all the backbreakers/neckbreakers that rely on him driving the opponent on his knee either, they look like he'd have to botch them for them to hit clean. I'd say your enjoyment of this depends on how much you like/tolerate modern New Japan cliches but that's where ratings for the match have quite surprised me. Maybe it sounds like I'm super negative on this but it's easier for me to write about things I think are bad than it is to write about five sentences about how Shibata hits hard, and I don't think the match had much other going for it. **3/4

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"I quite liked the opening and how Shibata dominated, his headlock escape was lovely, but the terrible no-sell sequence in which Goto came back to control turned me off big time"

 

Echoes my thoughts exactly.  Thought for a few minutes it was going to be a really good to great match and then it goes to hell with the pop up bullshit

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I did not have an issue with the pop up stuff since this seemed to me to be an intrinsic part of Shibata's character. I believe the phrase I used was "cock measuring stuff". The no selling was clearly -- at least to my eyes -- a form of goading on. "Come on then! Come on then! Come and give me your best shot you fucking loser!"

And the first few times Shibata rode that out, whatever Goto could give him to save face / show he could take it, and then cut Goto off to dominate more.

But in the end Goto whacked him so hard with enough truly brutal shots / drops on his knee that Shibata was literally dazed KO'd. You could almost see the birds around his head. And it seemed a fitting pay off for such a bullying prick.

To complain about these moments of no selling to me seems to sell the story arc and character work short.

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Shibata works like a rabid dog. It's such an adrenaline-frenzied way of working that his "no selling" doesn't bother me and I think his long-term selling pays off in the end after all the shit he's endured catches up with him. The W1 Akiyama match is a perfect example of that. I thought this match was great, the only one that had me hooked in from start to finish. I don't get too excited by Goto and I think he was decent to good for most of the match but they built heat and escalated the violence in a believable way that by the finish, he looked really strong and pissed off. Shibata's selling and facials were terrific down the stretch and made Goto look even more dominant coming out as champ. 

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I did not have an issue with the pop up stuff since this seemed to me to be an intrinsic part of Shibata's character. I believe the phrase I used was "cock measuring stuff". The no selling was clearly -- at least to my eyes -- a form of goading on. "Come on then! Come on then! Come and give me your best shot you fucking loser!"

And the first few times Shibata rode that out, whatever Goto could give him to save face / show he could take it, and then cut Goto off to dominate more.

But in the end Goto whacked him so hard with enough truly brutal shots / drops on his knee that Shibata was literally dazed KO'd. You could almost see the birds around his head. And it seemed a fitting pay off for such a bullying prick.

To complain about these moments of no selling to me seems to sell the story arc and character work short.

 

Will be interesting to see if you have the same take after seeing more from Shibata.  Could very well be the case or you may have a different view with more his matches under your belt.

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Running the ropes against a stunned opponent just to eat a move is the most overused transition in modern Japanese wrestling. I swear you'll see some matches where it's the only transition they use at all. I've honestly been reluctant to point it out to people because once you start noticing it, it irritates the hell out of you.

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I'm not entirely sure how to tackle this. Let me try with two background comments and then to go from there.

 

Background comments:

1.) I have never seen Goto before and I've only seen one Shibata match, the tag vs Taue from far, far earlier in his career. I can connect those dots to some degree as both performances centered around a sense of attitude and full dedication to, if not a character, than an ideal. I do appreciate that.

2.) My understanding and enjoyment of this match was heavily colored by the commentary. I'm not 100% sure it's accurate. I'm not sure if the company gave them talking points or not. I'm not entirely sure that the crowd reactions they were describing at times were accurate. It didn't feel that way. I never got a sense that the crowd was disappointed in Goto. I also don't know if I'd consider the commentary objectively "good." It was, however, effective, in that I bought into the story they were telling and overlaid it over I was seeing. I may have understood this match very differently and engaged with it far less without the commentary.

 

Ultimately, I liked the first third and I liked the last third, and I was into the finish. I didn't know how this ended and the announcers built it up well enough (likely too well) and Shibata proved himself to be such a force in the match that I didn't think Goto was going to be able to pull it off. That's a testament to the total package, that I was engaged in the finish and popped at least a little for Goto overcoming what was presented to me as "the odds." 

 

With how the match was presented, I was absolutely okay with the early arm work being blown off. Here's why. As presented, everything in the first third, or so, until they started doing the corner run assaults back and forth, was Shibata bullying Goto, being disappointed in him, trying to wake him up and make him really fight, to awaken his inner spirit. As such, once it was obvious from the opening moments that this was not happening, Shibata went to the arm not to control him or break him down, but to show him what this match would be like if he didn't wake up. It was a form of bullying, of trying to push him. It was Shibata saying "If you're not going to really fight me, I'm not going to fight you. I'm just going to twist at this body part and break it down and there's nothing you can do about it." It was the pro wrestling equivalent of stuffing him in a locker basically and it made total sense to me that once Goto really started to fight, Shibata wouldn't go back to it. He didn't WANT to go back to it. He never wanted to go to it in the first place. He wanted the fight and by pushing him with the arm work, he got it.

 

I was ALSO okay with that corner back and forth with delayed selling. When it occurred, not enough damage had been done that I couldn't believe they wouldn't fight through it. The point of the match, at that point of the match, was that they were TRYING to fight through it. If they spent the next ten minutes acting that way I would have had problems with it but it led to a moment of selling. With that exchange, I was ok.

 

I was also okay with Shibata popping up. This is what he wanted, at least according to the commentary. This is what he reveled in. When it came to strikes, I could buy it to a degree. He was goading Goto. He was pushing Goto, and once he pushed him there, he had to show that it was his own turf, where he belonged. It wasn't quite "Cactus Jack loves pain!" but it was why he got out of bed this morning, and in that regard, it made sense for him to pop up and prove his toughness. With that bit, I was ok,

 

With the subsequent no selling of suplexes, I wasn't. That's where the match lost me. I was able to suspend my sense of disbelief, was able to go along for a ride that I don't usually enjoy going on due to the back story the announcers fed me, the fact I haven't seen this particular match six other times so it was novel, and the sense of commitment from both guys, but it all fell apart when the escalated things but still did the delayed, two-moves later, selling. I don't think it was necessary to tell the story they were trying to tell. I think they could have accomplished all the more by playing up the wear and tear on their bodies and having each move mean more at this point. 

 

And then, they more or less did just that, going into the forearm exchanges (which for once worked for the reasons I mentioned before), and the story that Shibata, MAYBE, shouldn't have woken a dragon when he was so banged up and when that dragon had whiplash inducing offense as his trademark/specialty. Every one of Goto's goofy flip moves was exactly the bane to Shibata's taped up neck and shoulders. And after every one, Shibata would try to fight his way back in it to the point where I thought he'd be just too much for Goto but Goto hung on and it was a nice little moment when he won it.

 

I'm fairly glad I saw this. I don't think it was five stars. I think watching Shibata would get old quickly. This style walks a definite tightrope of appropriateness and the line between grisly and awesome and believable and the whole thing just falling apart is very, very thin. Good on them for getting it back after it did, but the fact that it did in the first place was a problem to me. From a personal standpoint, I'm also not entirely comfortable having relied upon commentary so much for something I might not have seen or believed on my own.

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I watched this a couple days after WK11 so I knew the result, but damn if it didn't matter at all. I'm not normally a big fan of the style here, but I was completely hooked with the Goto story helping carry things. I loved how it escalated and despite an expectation it would fall in the upper 3s for me, I was blown away. I loved this. ****1/2

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I generally liked Shibata's performance here. As much as I hate the pop up and no selling stuff, the lariat stuff established his neck as a weak spot. But, Goto wasn't anything special to me. He had a few good spots to move that story forward, but, it was Shibata doing the heavy lifting here.

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Why I like this match as much as I do (****5/8, I MAKE MY OWN DAMNED RULES) is that if there's a NEVER style, it's about decisiveness. So in a good enough of a sprint, I kinda like the bullshit, it's gratuitous. It's hard to pull off; Ishii-Shibata at WK10 is great, but Ishii-Shibata the next month in Osaka is kind of an embarrassment. This felt INCREDIBLY decisive about things that actually matter, not just "who throws the better German or has the harder sternum kick".

 

This just checked off a lot of things that I like about the style, there wasn't much crap and hot damn I really do love Goto's final combination. 

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This was just absolutely wonderful. You got your classic NEVER style stuff with them trading stiff strikes, but what put this over as a true classic was the fantastic way they built into those big moments in the match w/ the chain wrestling which had a great sense of urgency, the counters, the transitions etc. Just everything I wanted out of this match up. MOTN. ****3/4

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