Mike’s Mini Review – NJPW Toukon V: Volumes 39 & 40 (September 1997)

Hello You!

I had a dig around in my tape collection recently and found this DVD that a friend burnt off for me probably 15 years ago now. I actually haven’t ever properly sat down to watch this, so I decided to do so now seeing as New Japan was really hot around this period and I thought there would be some good matches to enjoy.

I’ve decided to class this as a “mini review” because I am not going to go into lots of detail and instead just give a brief overview of the tape. I will include match ratings if I feel they are relevant, but aside from that this is going to be a more relaxed review that you can hopefully blow through relatively easily whilst enjoying a nice biscuit and a brew.

This tape contains two volumes of match selections from New Japan’s post G1 tour in the autumn of 97. It means we get to see some less fancy venues where they’ve taped stuff with a roaming cam only, which is a nice change of pace. Reminds me a bit of the fan cam tapes I’d get of ECW events, except the video quality is much better.

If reading about Japanese Wrestling is your thing then I highly suggest checking out Rick’s archives, as he is the Blog’s main reviewer of modern Japanese stuff and he’s darn good at his job!

Volume 39

A lot of this Volume focuses on the NWO Japan faction, so if you really like NWO Sting then this is the tape for you!

Match One
11th September 1997
Manabu Nakanishi Vs Kazuyuki Fujita

This was mostly on the mat in the early stages until Nakanishi started throwing some strikes and it became a more traditional Puro Style bout. Fujita was still pretty green here, whereas Nakanishi had already been out on excursion so he controlled the match for the most part. Fujita looked okay though and did some nice submission holds, but eventually Nakanishi was too much for him and won with the Argentine Backbreaker (Torture Wrack)

WINNER: MANABU NAKANISHI
RATING: **

Good effort from both and Nakanishi really looked the part

Match Two
15th September 1997
Elimination Match
The Great Muta, Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, NWO Sting and Hiro Saito
Vs
IWGP Champ Kensuke Sasaki, Shinya Hashimoto, Junji Hirata, Takashi Iizuka and Tadao Yasuda

This one started out as a wild brawl with all ten guys going all over the building. It was all kinds of fun and had fantastic heat from the crowd. It eventually settled into a more standard tag match, and that part was enjoyable too, with some really good work from NWO Sting of all people. It’s funny because I never really thought of NWO Sting as a particularly big guy due to every American wrestler being seemingly roided to the gills in the late 90’s, but amongst the slightly smaller guys in Japan he looked like an absolute monster.

NWO Japan worked really well as a heel unit, constantly coming in to quintuple team whenever the opportunity arose. Muta in particular looked like he was having a ball getting the chance to heel it up so much. Eventually Sasaki and Hashimoto were the final two guys left against the entire NWO Team, which I guess made sense as they were the two biggest stars and it gave them a mountain to climb.

Hashimoto was great as the fired up babyface who was sick of the heels’ chicanery and Sasaki was good as the gutsy babyface who kept fighting on despite the odds, and the crowd was into their struggle. They managed to take out Saito, but he came back to illegally attack Sasaki behind the referees back, which led to Muta eliminating him to put Hashimoto 1 on 4.

Hash gave it the old college try, but eventually the numbers were too much and Chono ended up finishing him off with the STF. Wow, even in Japan during this period it was still #LolNwoWins!

WINNERS: NWO JAPAN
RATING: ***1/4

This was good action with some strong storytelling too. It would have been nice for Hashimoto to catch at least one NWO member before getting beat, but he looked brave in defeat and didn’t lose anything from it

Match Three
15th September 1997
Kazuo Yamazaki Vs Kazuyuki Fujita

This was mostly shoot style, with Yamazaki looking good and Fujita holding his own due to his legitimate credentials. Yamazaki is a low-key great worker that had to bow out due to injury just as he was really starting to break out of the pack thanks to his excellent Finals run in the 98 G1. He ended up winning here with an arm bar.

WINNER: KAZUO YAMAZAKI
RATING: **

Pretty short, lasting just over 6 minutes, but it was a decent match for how long it lasted

Match Four
19th September 1997
The Great Muta, Masahiro Chono and NWO Sting
Vs
Tatsumi Fujinami, Kengo Kimura and Akira Nogami

A lot of this was heat on Nogami and heel antics from Muta. Nogami sold well and Muta was very entertaining in his role, so it was a watchable outing. There was a bit of heel miscommunication, but they overcame it and NWO ended up pinning Kimura with a top rope clothesline.

WINNERS: NWO JAPAN
RATING: **

Standard 6 man designed to give the heels a win whilst protecting Fujinami by having one of the two fodder guys take the pin

Muta stormed off post-match to tease dissension and Chono wasn’t happy.

Match Five
21st September 199
Masahiro Chono, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Buff Bagwell
Vs
Kensuke Sasaki, Kazuo Yamazaki and Takashi Iizuka

There was some wild brawling here, with Sasaki pulling a row of about three chairs out of the crowd at one stage. Yamazaki looked good again, and there was yet more heel miscommunication, with Tenzan accidentally hitting Chono. Bagwell wasn’t in it much, but what he did do looked decent as he usually put in the effort when over in Japan. He eventually hit Iizuka with the Buff Blockbuster for the win.

WINNERS: NWO JAPAN
RATING: **

Yet another NWO victory, as they were clearly trying to build them up here whilst laying the groundwork for future issues due to the miscommunication spots

We get a Chono promo following that, probably to address the issues, but that’s just a guess on my part.

Match Six
22nd September 1997
The Great Muta and NWO Sting Vs Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima

This had a lot of good action, with Kojima displaying his usual energy and Nakanishi throwing the massive NWO Sting around with unnerving ease. Muta heeled it up again by spitting mist in Kojima’s face and getting his trademark face buster for the three count.

WINNERS: NWO JAPAN
RATING: **1/2

Decent tag action, with the two babyfaces looking good and teasing a victory until the more experienced heel Muta caught them out.

Volume 40

This volume is dedicated to the Junior Heavyweights, and focuses on Kendo Ka Shin quite a bit.

Match One
12th September 1997
Jushin Thunder Liger and Kendo Ka Shin Vs Koji Kanemoto and Dr. Wagner Jr.

This was good, with Wagner taking the lion’s share of the spotlight and looking impressive in the process with his character work and high flying. Wagner and Kanemoto worked some heat on Ka Shin, but he survived it and made the hot tag to Liger, who promptly took it home with a Liger Bomb on Wagner.

WINNERS: LIGER & KA SHIN
RATING: **1/2

Decent, but a more exciting finishing stretch would have been nice

Match Two
15th September 1997
Koji Kanemoto Vs Kendo Ka Shin

Kanemoto was pure heel here, jumping Ka Shin at the bell and just generally being the insufferable jerk he’s so good at playing. It was just weird to see Ka Shin as the face fighting from underneath because I always think of him as a total heel also. Ka Shin did eventually fight back and it turned into a real good scrap with submission teases mixed in with some striking and even some brawling. Kanemoto even busted out a moonsault at one stage, but Ka Shin was able to kick out in a nicely executed near fall. Ka Shin got the big submission tease with an arm bar, but Kanemoto made the ropes and won it soon after with a Tiger Suplex.

WINNER: KOJI KANEMOTO
RATING: ***3/4

Good action that had a real edge to it, with Kanemoto being a total jerk and Ka Shin giving it right back to him. Some of the near falls were excellent and I exclaimed out loud more than once at some of the snug shots getting thrown

Kanemoto gets in Ka Shin’s face following that and the Young Lions have to separate them, with one being a young Togi Makabe.

Match Three
19th September 1997
Kendo Ka Shin Vs Kuniaki Kobayashi

This one was pretty heavily clipped, with Kobayashi getting a flurry only for Ka Shin to catch him with an arm bar for the flash submission.

WINNER: KENDO KA SHIN
RATING: N/A

Kobayashi actually looked alright there from what we saw. Better than I expected from him anyway, as he was in his early 40’s by 1997

Match Four
21st September 1997
Shinjiro Ohtani, Koji Kanemoto and Tatsuhito Takaiwa Vs Jushin Liger, El Samurai and Kendo Ka Shin

This was really good, although I am slightly biased due to Samurai and Ohtani being two of my favourite New Japan Junior Heavyweights from this era. Ohtani in particular was really on form here, delivering crisp offence and pulling off slick counters with ease. The heel trio worked some heat on Ka Shin, at times looking like a more refined and all-business Kai-En-Tai, and he sold it well.

Everyone got a chance to do something, with Takaiwa busting out his multiple powerbombs spot that you could do on WWF No Mercy for the N64. The finishing sequence was great, with the faces having it won more than once, only for the heels to break up the pin or submission attempt. Eventually Ohtani pinned Ka Shin with a nice German Suplex

WINNERS: OHTANI, KANEMOTO & TAKAIWA
RATING: ***1/4

Fun six man Jr action, with everyone looking good and Ka Shin dropping another fall to keep his feud with the heels alive

There is another pull apart following that, with Ka Shin instigating it this time.

Match Five
22nd September 1997
Shinjiro Ohtani, Koji Kanemoto, Chris Jericho and Tatsuhito Takaiwa Vs Jushin Liger, El Samurai, Chris Benoit and Kendo Ka Shin

The crowd was jazzed for this one, and having the WCW guys involved spiced things up a bit. Everyone’s work was really good, with the heels doing some excellent triple teaming again. Jericho was kind of the odd man out on the heel side, whilst Benoit seemed to mesh with his teammates more smoothly. Ohtani was great once again, both selling and on offence.

It’s funny because Ohtani looked like he should have been the most generic guy ever just to look at him, but he had a genuine charisma that really came across in his work, with some of his facial expressions being absolutely spot on. All the faces got a chance to take a shot at him, with both Liger and Benoit folding him up with powerbombs.

Eventually things broke down into the expected near fall fest, and that was done really well also, with plenty of big moves. It’s wild to think good matches like this were happening almost every night at the time due to just how strong this Junior Heavyweight division was. Don’t get me wrong, the current roster of Junior Heavyweights in New Japan has a lot of really good wrestlers, but back in the 90’s it was on a whole other level. The finish came when Takaiwa did his frankly ludicrous finishing move of delivering three powerbombs in a row to Samurai before heaving him up into a Spicolli Driver for the three count.

WINNERS: OHTANI, KANEMOTO, JERICHO & TAKAIWA
RATING: ****

The fact you got wrestling this good on what was basically a house show is kind of mind blowing

In Conclusion

The first part with all the NWO Japan stuff was fine, but the Junior Heavyweight section was where it was at, with some really fun matches from a golden era of the division. That section alone makes the tape a thumbs up all by itself!

I had a look and IVP Videos are selling this one if you fancy it. It also helped with me finding the match list as all my mate had written on the front of the disc was “G1 Climax Special 97”