When the words Minoru Suzuki leave my lips, a plethora of words spring to mind. Sadistic. Intimidating. Ferocious. Brutal. Legendary. Perhaps even, the greatest of all time.
The style he has carried throughout his well-documented career is one of uniqueness. I would argue, it’s particularly unrivalled by all other pro wrestlers.
Suzuki has performed some of the very best matches ever, against the likes of Hiroshi Tanahashi, Takashi Sugiura, AJ Styles, and Tomohiro Ishii. While it may not be the greatest one of his many matches that I’m going to write about today, it is certainly the most unique.
Minoru Suzuki vs Kazuchika Okada – June 23rd 2018, for Suzuki’s 30th Anniversary.
From a purely technical standpoint the match isn’t his best, it isn’t even the best he’s had with Okada, but it’s still exemplary. The match told a compelling story, while the whole occasion and atmosphere crafted a tantalising sporting drama around them. In the torrential rain of Yokohama (Suzuki’s hometown), he celebrated the 30th Anniversary of his career, wrestling in front of the staggering Red Brick Warehouse.
It was pure defiance to not cancel the event in the face of shocking weather, but Suzuki was even more defiant in the style he employed throughout.
Perhaps it does the match a disservice to say it was “wrestled”, because more aptly it was fought – like a war between two bitter and eternally locked rivals.
Rain poured profusely (as it had done for most of the day) as Ayumi Nakamura serenaded the King on his way to the ring. He wore white boots, trunks, and towel, as an homage to his UWF tenure in the late 1980s and early 90s, but I think the white also symbolises something stronger. Symbolically, the colour white has always embodied purity. Perhaps this is why Suzuki chose to wear all white for the event, as it brings forth his purity as a wrestler – a commodity never diluted through his decades-spanning career. Suzuki is a pure wrestler in the grandest sense of the word.
This is one of the many reasons I am drawn to him. Suzuki offers a pure style which few can match, one which breathes pro wrestling grandeur and prestige. While Rainmaker notes flutter in the piercing Yokohama air, the contrast Kazuchika Okada offers is apparent as soon as he steps onto the stage, because he is everything Suzuki isn’t.
The glitz and the glamour of Okada’s trademark eccentric entrance, wore a tinge of arrogance which clashed with Suzuki’s intimidating persona perfectly. He terrorised kids in the front row and tortured Okada, with vicious boots, while the weather blackened more.
Umbrellas and ponchos protected the fans only in vain, as we could see and hear the extent of the weather. We could see the camera lenses fill with raindrops and we could hear the downpour fall on the mat. Truly, as unique as they come.
Okada played his part perfectly, but the fan favourite and hometown hero, Suzuki, was the star of the show. “Minoru, Minoru” chants filled the air, as the match truly became one of the most unconventionally beautiful matches in history.
As I have mentioned, the King of Pro Wrestling is one of the most unique competitors in wrestling history. So, it is incredibly fitting that his 30th Anniversary in wrestling was marked by such an unconventional, and wholly unique, match. No clearer was this uniqueness, than around the 13 minute mark when the Rainmaker unfortunately slipped on the soaked canvas when bouncing off the ropes. Suzuki proved his skill by taking advantage of this “botch” to lock in his brutish signature Rear Naked Choke.
Suzuki himself slipped when bouncing off the rope, but he still managed to connect enough on a big boot attempt. The rain tarnished ropes made Okada’s later advancements to the top turnbuckle ill-advised, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
As the ringside camera lenses clouded more and more, the crowd reached an even greater pitch, and Suzuki became his sadistic best, firing his beautiful offence at Okada. At one point, Suzuki put his hands behind his back – opening himself up to a flurry of Okada forearms – showing once again his admirable defiance.
When Okada was being brutalised by Suzuki the fans turned in his favour, but the ‘King’ regained his faithful’s support soon after with a smattering of impressive attacks. One such offensive manoeuvre was a creative submission – Suzuki’s variation of the Stretch Muffler. However, it wasn’t quite enough, as Okada wouldn’t tap. The fairy tail ending wasn’t going to come: it was a draw.
Perhaps it being a draw is fitting to Suzuki’s “nearly man” positioning during his ongoing time with New Japan Pro Wrestling. The one buckle missing from his Puroresu Triple Crown belt has been the IWGP Heavyweight title. He’s always been tantalisingly close to the top prize, to being the undisputed best, but he just fails to reach the pinnacle by the smallest of margins.
Suzuki’s trademark fuse of sadistic character work, ferocious offence and striking look, make him a very special wrestler. He’s a wrestler I fell in love with the very first time I saw him. He stands out as a fierce, intimidating and enthralling athlete. Whether it be his furious kicks, unrivalled elbow strikes or thunderous chops – he is truly one of the best to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots. As unique as they come.
A match like the ‘Draw in the Downpour’ will never happen again, much in the same way a wrestler like Minoru Suzuki will never grace the pro wrestling industry again. He is a once in a lifetime wrestler – the best of the best.