Shinya Hashimoto vs. Big Van Vader
24 April, 1989
Tokyo Dome; Tokyo, Japan
IWGP Championship Tournament Finals
So, this match was a pretty big deal. It was the finals of a tournament for the vacated IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and it was the first Tokyo Dome show that New Japan ever had. It drew 44000 fans, which is impressive by any means.
At this point, Vader was running roughshod thru NJPW, having made his debut completely destroying Antonio Inoki, and then beating everyone else who got in his way. It is hard to explain just how big of a deal that was.
Hashimoto was one of the "Three Musketeers" (Chono & Mutoh being the others) who would dominate NJPW in the 1990's, and this was the first real opportunity one of them would have to be the top dog in NJPW. The three men would signify a "passing of the guard" of sorts, with the Chosu/Fujinami/Inoki generation fading to the background.
In the first two legs of this tournament, Vader had beaten Chono and then Fujinami, while Hashimoto has bested Chosu and Victor Zangiev.
The match starts as many of Vader's matches at this time did - with Vader punching Hashimoto in the face and then continuing to beat on him for awhile. Hashimoto makes a few brief comebacks, but when he does he focuses on Vader's arm, mostly with a Ki-lock.
The crowd is very much behind Hashimoto in this match - which is unusual for a Japanese crowd. That just goes to show the effectiveness of Vader, and how hated he was in Japan. You do not often have the entire crowd cheering for comebacks, or even for one singular wrestler at all - but it seemed every single person sitting in that dome was behind Hashimoto as he made his comebacks.
At the climax of the match, the crowd is rabid as Hashimoto is just taking it to Vader, and displaying his "fighting spirit". Hashimoto has actually made the crowd think he can win, and they are behind him so much... but then Vader destroys everyone's hopes and dreams by smashing Hashimoto good and getting the pin.
One great thing about this match - there are not a lot of "highspots". This match is two big guys duking it out, for the most part. Not many bodyslams, or suplexes, or anything but two guys bashing each other. And, while that would be boring if every match were like that, this is an awesome example of a match that makes that style work.