Dr Wagner Jr. vs. Koji Kanemoto
3 June, 1998
Final - 1998 Best of the Super Juniors
Part 2 Part 3
I had never seen this match before today, and I sure am glad that I came across this chunk of gold. How this match is not held up as an example of how to wrestle a match is beyond me. I cannot emphasize that enough. I imagine since this was the first Super Junior Tournament that was lacking Benoit-Sasuke-Ultimo Dragon-Jericho type name value, it is over looked. It shouldn't be.
Dr. Wagner Jr. is one of my favorites in the world of lucha libre. When I first started watching lucha regularly, he was having solid but unspectacular matches as a main event tecnico in CMLL. What made me like him was his ring presence and his schtick. He obviously had a connection with the audience and knew how to work it. I started watching ore and more Wagner stuff, and I thought he really delivered when he was in there with guys that could wrestle a solid match. Plus, he had that great ability that is so important in Mexico to work a crowd. I will fully admit though that the last few years Wagner has been a lazy bastard just going thru the motions - even in big matches. The Triplemania match with Mesias and his Arena Mexico match with Mistico being exceptions.
Kanemoto is a guy I am familiar with from watching matches from Super Junior Tournaments, like this one. I would see him in matches with Benoit or Liger or someone on tapes, and they would usually be pretty good, but since I am not the hardcore watch every puroresu tape that comes out, that is about what my Kanemoto experience is limited to. But, he did win three of the things, so it isn't like they weren't good matches.
Here is why this match rocks - Wagner is the foreign rudo, and he lays a beating into Kanemoto for about twenty minutes. He strikes him down, puts him on the mat and stretches him, and Kanemoto fights back. He will fight back and have just the very beginning of a comeback, but then that dastardly Wagner will cut him off or reverse him and then go right back to bringing the pain. In a lot of ways, this match reminds me of Vader vs. Flair from Starrcade '93, in that the stronger overpowering Wagner just controls the match and dominates the smaller fan favorite. The beauty of both of those matches is that eventually the rudo punches themselves out, and the fan favorite pulls the win out of nowhere.
The crowd gets so behind Kanemoto as he just keeps kicking out and coming back from everything Wagner throws at him. He nailed him with two sick looking Wagner Drivers, and ties him up and crazy submissions, but Wagner cannot get the pinfall or submission. Wagner even takes him outside the ring and works him over with a chair, to no avail. After about 17 minutes, you can see the despair in Wagner, as he brilliantly expresses thru the mask the feeling of "What do I have to do to pin this guy?!?!!?". The crowd is eating every bit of it up, and the other wrestlers who were in the tournament are at ringside cheering Kanemoto on. Finally Kanemoto hits a Tiger Suplex after a short series of offensive moves, and an exhausted Wagner cannot kick out.
Amazing match. A great example of fighting spirit.
I wish Wagner was having more of these types of matches now.