An old man comes to the ring. There’s no question to it, he IS an old man, and he looks older than ever. That old man is Riki Choshu.
Once among the most coveted wrestlers in Japan, Riki is now a shadow of his younger self. He is no longer the popular star New Japan and All Japan fought for back in the 80s. He is no longer the difference-maker, the huger draw, the undeniable champion. He is just an old man coming to the ring for the last time.
On the other side of the ring, we can see some big stars from the past. Three former IWGP champions now hold the distinction of being Choshu’s last opponents. Tatsumi Fujinami, Keiji Mutoh, and Togi Makabe play the role very well. Like his teammates, Riki chooses two figures that are no strangers to professional fans themselves. Shiro Koshinaka, the first IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion and arguably one of the most valiant men in the history of the business, is there. There would be no one better to have your back in your last match.
Well, maybe there’s one more person.
When Choshu enters the ring, there’s a man holding the ropes apart. This man was trained by Choshu himself. In his eyes, we can see the younger Riki, that huge ferocious thirst for violence that filled the spirit of the Revolution Warrior in his youth. In his face, you can see the same expressionless features that mad Choshu the badass in his time. That man is the “Stone Pitbull” Tomohiro Ishii, arguably the best in-ring worker in the last five years.
As the ring bells, the violence starts. It’s not what you would expect as violence, though (not the kind that involves blood, at least). It’s a different kind of violence. It’s violence against history, perpetrated by time itself.
Aside from Ishii and Makabe, every wrestler in that ring is on their last days. Their time will come soon, they now. Their days as pro-wrestlers are counted. However, there’s a sense of honor that still surrounds them, an aura of respect in every single move. The audience recognizes that, and react to every hit played. Koshinaka’s hip attack, Fujinami’s dragon screw, Mutoh’s shining wizard, Riki’s lariat… You hear the clock striking twelve and it’s time to go home.
Choshu valiantly fights. He wants to walk into the sunset with a boom, and he gives his all in order to do so, but if time forgives no one, neither does the ring. On the other side, there is a man called Makabe, a beach blonde Japanese gorilla that cares for nothing when it comes to the squared circle. We see proof of that when he puts Choshu down and hits him with the king kong knee drop. Riki kicks out. It’s his final breath. Makabe goes for another KKND, but Choshu kicks out again. Then he hits another, and another…
Meanwhile, outside the ring, Koshinaka and Ishii are trying to save their partner. The Stone Pitbull, in particular, seems eager to get into the ring. Desperately, his hand tries to reach for his master’s, but he is held back by his opponents. He fights and fights, but it’s all in vain. In the ring, Makabe hits another knee drop. The ref counts 1…2…3… There’s silence in the arena.
The badass Makabe doesn’t give a damn. He walks backstage like it was just another match. In the ring, Choshu gets the compliments of his other opponents, as well as his partners. But it’s the sight of Ishii that breaks your heart.
The Stone Pitbull, the expressionless tough son of a gun that put fear in the hearts of many throughout his career is in tears. He can’t take the fact that his mentor in going away. He headbutts the top turnbuckle like he would do to an opponent. It’s pointless, though. For the first time, Ishii can’t use his hard-hitting strikes to beat an opponent. Time never sells.
He finally walks backstage himself, leaving Choshu for his emotional farewell. In the commentary table, Genichiro Tenryu watches as he welcomes Riki into the world of retirement.
Choshu goes away without showing much emotion. He understands time forgives no one. Not even legends.