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By Liam Byrne. @tvtimelimit
Atsushi Onita vs Masahiro Chono
No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire Death Match
Compared to some of their contemporaries in the world of puroresu, New Japan has always been pretty straight-laced in terms of characters, storylines and gimmick matches. It was rare that New Japan booked a gimmick match of any kind, let alone a no rope explosive barbed wire death match of the kind you might expect in an FMW ring. However, when two of the biggest names in Japanese wrestling at the time, Masahiro Chono and Atsushi Onita, met in a New Japan ring, those were the rules for the match. Chono would have the advantage of home turf, but he had never stepped into a ring like this before; Onita, on the other hand, might as well have been born into this type of environment.
Before the match begins, the ring entrances themselves only serve to get the crowd jacked up as both men allow their core characteristics to show. Whilst being pelted with rubbish from the fans along the rampway, Onita would stop to sit on the chair he carries with him and light up a cigarette. Bedecked in a leather jacket and ignoring the molten heat his arrival in the Tokyo Dome has created, Onita just exudes coolness. It is rare that Chono even has someone challenging him in terms of all around charisma and he pulls out the big guns; a truck drops him at the top of the rampway as ‘Team 2000’ hits the PA system. The fans reaction to the song just shows how over it, and Chono, was at this time – they collectively lose their mind.
Before the bell, Onita ripped off most of the tape protecting his left shoulder, glaring at Chono in the process who himself is unmoved. The match is always going to be focused around attempting to utilise the explosive barbed wire, and Chono is the first man to be sent towards it meaningfully. Luckily for the crowd, their favourite would slide to avoid contact, throwing in a double bicep curl to show how little he was worried. A second attempt had Chono wobbling close to the metal and Onita continued to push the pressure, dropping Chono with a big DDT and a powerbomb. The one count off of the resulting pinfall only served to highlight Chono’s resilience.
Onita’s decision to try and introduce the chair backfires as he is nailed with a kick by Chono. A couple of chair shots and a short STF seems to have Onita in trouble, but he ducked a resulting chair throw that causes the first explosion, dropping all three men in the ring. This at least allows Onita to utilise the chair himself, cracking Chono several times before whipping him into the ropes for the first big explosion. Chono’s face contorted into a grimace that cracked the veneer of unflappability he had tried to create throughout the opening minutes.
After only a two count followed a modified facebuster, Onita’s attempts to get Chono back into the barbed wire would fail as a charging headbutt was ducked and Onita flew into the metal. As the fight progressed, the cuts on Onita’s arm particularly would look nasty and bleed heavily. Though he was losing a lot of blood, the next nearfall would come off of another attempted powerbomb, Chono almost folded in half by the rather haphazard landing.
Even the referee got in on the act. In a spot that took a little too long to play out, Onita’s use of the referee to keep him standing up ended when all three men collided with the barbed wire. Chono would go for a pinfall, only for Tiger Hattori to be too concerned with the other referee to make the count. When he finally did, it only received a two count, as did two attempts of the Yakuza Kick that Chono had used so devastatingly during this time period.
A fight over an attempted Onita headlock saw both men once again sent into the wire. This time, the referee would begin a ten count that Onita almost beat, only to collapse to the floor. The double knockout finish felt a bit anticlimactic, but somewhat felt the right result in the long run. Chono doesn’t lose face in his own promotion; Onita shows everyone what a badass he truly is.
The match itself is average at best, but for the spectacle alone, a historic match all round.