This is the rematch to this match and is probably the more memorable encounter between these teams. Izumida of course brings a lot of headbutts early on, aside from a delightful criss-cross bit with Hayabusa, although I don’t think anyone else finds wrestlers doing the criss-cross as inherently amusing as I do. Especially a boring bastard like Izumida, it’s like Hayabusa tricked him into doing something fancy and Izumida had no choice but to participate in this charade. Anyway, these headbutts had an absolutely devastating effect early on, however, splitting Shinzaki open and causing him to piss blood from his forehead. This allowed for a couple of things. One, the overuse of headbutts became a genuinely effective tactic. Two, lots of shots of Shinzaki grimacing as his face increasingly resembled a murder scene. Blood in wrestling is kinda gross but it took this to another level.

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Shinzaki played the face in peril, taking all manner of strikes and suplexes and kicking out of the lot. Eventually he managed to tag Hayabusa in, giving Shinzaki the chance to coagulate on the apron for a bit while his mad friend hit all his cool shit, including a springboard plancha over the guardrail about 20 seconds after he tagged in. Hayabusa’s role in these matches was to come in and be spectacular and he did that extremely well. It may sound like faint praise but there’s a skill in knowing your place. It’s extremely effective when his partner’s just been dissected for ten minutes. Honda tried to calm him the fuck down with some big boy lariats but Shinzaki was ready for more by this point and the first nearfall of note came after the challengers’ murder death kill combo of springboard attacks. After a big back and forth, including more cool double teams from Hayabusa and Shinzaki, Honda repeatedly suplexed the fuck out of Shinzaki and pinned him to retain the titles.

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The blood absolutely added to the drama of this match, turning the headbutt from an overused signature strike into an actual tactic building off the injury to one of the participants, and pushing this above the rematch a few weeks later. It actually gave some of the stuff Izumida did a bit of edge, which I can’t say I expected. Honda eventually pulverizing Shinzaki to death was cool too. He won but he really had to earn it against a man who wasn’t gonna quit. ****

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