Bill Goldberg vs. Naoya Ogawa
4 January, 2004
Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan
I thought that this match was going to be a total turd, and it wasn't. I would say it was actually a good match, except that horrid finish killed it for me in a few ways.
If you are unfamiliar, Ogawa was Inoki's protege, and was part of Inoki's first foray into what is now known as mixed martial arts. Ogawa was a very accomplished Judo fighter, and won a medal at the 1992 Olympics. Inoki talked him into becoming a professional wrestler, and this was one of Inoki's earliest attempts to have "shooters" work both in New Japan, and in shoot fighting promotions. The idea here would be that the shootfghters would lend credibility to puroresu, and that the fighters representing puroresu in their shoots would increase the popularity and legitimacy of puroresu. It didn't quite work out that way.
At this point in time, Bill Goldberg was actually still wrestling for the WWE. If I had to put hard money down, I am willing to bet that he was not under contract to the WWE at this time, and that he was brought back shortly after this to do a program with Brock Lesnar up until Wrestlemania.
What you have here in this match is a legitimate shooter that never really panned out as a professional wrestler despite being pushed to the moon, squaring off with a professional wrestler who made a ton of money, but always had questionable in-ring skills, and liked to talk a big game about being a shooter.
Even though Ogawa is smaller than Goldberg, he quickly establishes that he isn't taking any of Bill's bullshit, and stiffs him with some shots, followed by a series of judo throws. Then, Ogawa simply grounds Goldberg and keeps him locked down on the mat - first with an arm hold, then with a leg lock.
To the untrained eye, it may just look like the two are keeping it simple and working an MMA-style match, but in reality Ogawa is gassing Goldberg out on the mat. He isn't shooting on Goldberg by any means, but he is making sure that he doesn't get put in a position to be tossed around by Goldberg. When they get up off the mat Goldberg is fully prepared to work, as he knows enough about shooting to know what Ogawa is up to. Goldberg blows his first spot though, when he overhead presses Ogawa, but rather than drop him down for a powerslam like he always does, he drops him down the other way and delivers the worlds worst spinebuster ever.
Goldberg and Ogawa end up working a series of holds in the corner, which is where the match goes down hill. The ref is pushed by both Ogawa and Goldberg, but the second push by Goldberg keep him down on the mat for waaaaaaaay too long. Long enough for Goldberg to hit a spear (and not be able to revive the ref) followed by Ogawa nailing Goldberg with two STOs, with no ref in sight to count the pinfalls. For some reason this inexplicably brings Giant Silva to ringside, who gets on the ring apron and slaps Ogawa. This brings Goldberg back up, who hist a spear and Jackhammer. The ref then comes alive when Goldberg pulls on his shirt, and counts the pinfall.
Odd match. No wonder Hustle went out of business.....