Every week on Place to Be Nation, a bevy of collaborators review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!
This match is available on the RealHero Archive.
I love this. Okabayashi and Suzuki delivered a better told, more compact version of the story that was attempted by the two Suzuki and Sekimoto matches previous to this. The story of Hideki sticking to the basics against these heavy hitters in the Strong Division. Not playing their game, going with what brought him to the dance and that’s his grappling. The work on Okabayashi’s arm here is what Hideki is all about. Finding a weakness and grinding his opponent out. It was smart, nasty and most of all, looked efficient. Hideki doesn’t do anything here that doesn’t look effective. Punching his arm, throwing it into the turnbuckle, remembering the gameplan and going right after it every chance he got. Okabayashi is up there in the elite category for people with the best facial expressions in professional wrestling. For such a bulky dude who’s character is just being strong as hell, he shows vulnerability just as well as anyone in wrestling and here he made Hideki’s attacks look like the most devastating things possible with how his face twisted and grimaced in pain. When he mounts offense it feels like a real struggle for him to even be able to operate with all the damage done to his arm, but he keeps fighting. It’s straight to the point, limb focused and doesn’t go anywhere near excess while still delivering the hard hitting action you want from the guys in this scene. ****1/2
Hideki Suzuki vs. Yuji Okabayashi was one hell of a professional wrestling match. And it didn’t take much complexity or finesse to pull off, which just adds to its charm.
Suzuki plays cold calculated technician so well in these title matches. He made his move early on the left arm of Yuji Okabayashi, after feeling him out in the opening minutes through some rudimentary wrestling. An absolute treat of a spot I loved in this was when Yuji grabbed Hideki in a camel clutch, in which the wise Hideki grabbed a hold of the weakened arm to free himself, yet Okabayahi held on to the clutch with ONE hand, telling a story of his unbelievable strength and determination.
The vibe I got from this was that Suzuki always seemed one chess move ahead of Okabayashi, no matter how many times Yuji would power through some of Suzuki’s knot tying and mat expertise, he never could maintain that control over the champ. Okabayashi’s frustration, angst and pain is displayed remarkably well throughout and really furthers that talking point.
The finish, although sudden, felt satisfying to me. Hideki is the type of guy to me where I feel it’s best his finishes come out of nowhere because it’s befitting of his ring acumen and technique. It’s an absolute monster of a submission hold he has on Okabayashi here too, one arm trapped in Hideki’s legs while he stretched and manipulated the joints of the other in a standing position. You could feel the pain on Yuji’s face during this until he had no choice but to give in, as strong as he is. He just couldn’t win the chess match on this day with one of the best chess players in the game. Fantastic match.
The opening of this match symbolically identified how strong style mat work can look like and be effective. The first five minutes are almost exclusively a test of strength and a Yuji headlock. Everything was snug and both guys exemplified the struggle they went through to gain the advantage. Yuji takes the advantage with some strikes on the outside but is overtaken back inside the ring and Suzuki looks after the arm of Yuji. The work here from Hideki was done well and it wasn’t so overt that I wasn’t too bothered by the lack of long term selling we got by Yuji when he goes back on the advantage. Suzuki does revisit the arm attack at opportune times and Yuji is having to play the powerful monster performer that is not going to back down. Because this is a Big Japan strong style match, we get a bit of no selling with Okabayashi popping up from a dragon suplex to deliver a lariat. He does sell immediately afterward and is favoring that arm that has been worked over. The finale plays beautifully into the story of the match as Yuji fights out of a nasty submission to gain the advantage with a big time lariat but then misses the big splash. Suzuki is then able to lock in the submission and the match is stopped when Yuji is unable to escape. A really violent match that also told a cohesive story. ****1/4