by Jeremy Cundiff
5. Bas Rutten vs. Koji Kanemoto from NJPW, October 26, 2002
Thank you for your bandwidth. I’m Madman Szalinski, wishing you all a Merry Chr-what? Oh yeah, that’s right. Christmas already happened. I’ll put videos of my presents up on YouTube someday. Well, whatever holiday is up next…New Year’s. Happy New Year’s. And oh yeah, we’re going to Japan to watch Bas Rutten do some professional wrestling. (And for all you workrate marks out there who haven’t busted one yet to this match, Daniel Bryan is in Bas Rutten’s corner.)
I love Bas. Not only as a fighter who has won many matches for many companies with many sets of rules, but as an entertainer. He has a great sense of humor and a rather down-to-earth personality about him. Bas has the mindset to succeed in this business. Problem is, he’s spent his whole life knocking people around with intent to kill. In pro wrestling, you’re not exactly fluffing your opponent like a pillow…but you must protect your fellow wrestlers, because all of you have to go out there and do it again the next week, or maybe the next night. None of you can do that if someone tries to show off and take unnecessary liberties in the ring, because that’s how people get injured. Bas Rutten understood that, I believe. And in Japan, the lines between work and shoot in the ring are so blurred, that the doors are not only open for an MMA fighter to make the transition to pro wrestling, there’s probably a piece of paper with an arrow drawn on it taped to said door. Bas’ colorful personality coupled with his in-ring ability made him a natural for puroresu.
His opponent for this match is Koji Kanemoto, also known as Tiger Mask III. No slouch. While he, unlike many of his fellow Japanese wrestlers, is actually not known for his shooting capabilities, he is known for being a good all-around worker, who was able to change his style as needed when age and injuries prevented him from working the light heavyweight style associated with the Tiger Mask gimmick. As he had been fitted with a shooter gimmick in recent times before this match, the setup made a lot of sense to me, who does not follow any Japanese promotions regularly enough to get the storylines, or even any of the commentary. It’s just a nod to how you don’t even have to know the language to be entertained by what you see in the ring.
The stage is set: a pro wrestler trying out being a shooter versus a shooter trying out pro wrestling. This should be interesting. It’s clear about a minute into the contest that Bas is not a worker. He’s an awesome wrestler, a tremendous athlete, and a very stiff striker. But he is not much of a worker. Thankfully, Kanemoto doesn’t give a fuck. Bas isn’t too much for selling either, although he’s not no-selling in a disrespectful “burying you for political reasons” way. It’s more of a “come on, we both know you’re going to need a pick axe to break that bone.” And again, thankfully, Kanemoto happens to have pick axes for legs and Bas has no choice but to sell some of Kanemoto’s offense as Father Physics whispered in his ear “sorry, sir, it’s the law.” That or Bas is selling just to see the look on people’s faces. “Frank Shamrock couldn’t do shit to this man, but Tiger Mask III just put him on his ass? WOWZA!” Roughly halfway into the match, the two begin to trade kicks until Bas briefly forgets that he can’t actually kill his opponent in this sport. Kudos to the ring crew for New Japan, any wrestling ring in America would have fallen apart and flown off into the crowd at that kind of impact.
On the ground, there are plenty of restholds. So many, that they don’t really rest…they just transition from one hold to the next, cranking for a second or two here and there on each hold. So I guess you can’t call them restholds, or not really holds at all as nobody seemed to keep anything for any period of time. It was just seamless transition on the mat. But at 8:41, things take a turn. THINGS TAKE A FUCKING TURN. You see, so far, we’ve been watching two men doing some bad ass moves in there. Bas Rutten is making a decent transition, if a tad green, from competition fighting to professional wrestling. Koji Kamenoto has been his usual self, reminding us why he once donned the Tiger Mask. Until 8:41. That is when Koji Kanemoto did this.
I swear I’ve seen this spot before…
Dead serious, that’s exactly what it looked like. Watch the tape of this match, then go dig up the Sharmell/Jenna match and fast forward to that spot. THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. Koji Kanemoto, a man who had been going toe-to-toe both on the ground and on their feet with Bas fucking Rutten, was now reduced to slap fighting with all the technique and intensity of a six year old girl whose brother just fed her favorite Barbie to the dog. At this point, I had to pause the video. My wife thought I was dying and it took five Brawny paper towels to get all the Kool-Aid off my monitor. I finally quit laughing and hit play on the window to finish the match, and Koji quickly went for a triangle choke within a second or two afterwards in order to make people forget what the fuck he just did. Bas powerbombed the shit out of him, dead lifting Kanemoto from the mat while in the hold, and we all went back to watching two bad ass guys do their thing. Pretty good match-WHAT THE FUCK BAS JUST KICKED HIM IN THE HEAD WITH BOTH FEET AT THE SAME TIME!
You know what…just watch the match. It’s obvious why I put it in this list by now. Bas Rutten in wrestling. Against Koji Kanemoto. And Koji SLAP FIGHTS THE MAN. If that isn’t a great match, then there is no such thing.
Next week, we end this series with a bang. And by bang, I mean something other than an exploding ring match. DDP being involved is a possibility. I’m Madman Szalinski, and in the words of New Jack…”yes, I’m under the influence right now, and I’m not givin’ a fuck. I gotta do a show tonight, catch a red eye, fly to Atlantic City, then go over to Detroit, then go home and lay down, and let my girl suck on my thing-thing.”
See the match for yourself here!
I refuse to post a link to that Sharmell/Jenna debacle. You know where to find it.
Photos 1-3: youtube.com
Categories: Wrestling Lists