El Desperado vs Jun Kasai: Choosing Life Over Death

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All of us have our heroes, inspirations. Me, you and everyone in this world. Very few of us get to meet them and even fewer get to work with them whilst chasing our dreams. But what happens when you actually get to do both of those things? Then you pour you heart out into it to make it worth your entire lifetime. You make magic. We talk about one such story today that wrestling gave us this year. What is professional wrestling if not amazing stories that make us feel?

On 7th May of 2019, El Desperado faced his wrestling hero, the man he idolizes, Deathmatch legend, Jun Kasai in a war which was unfortunately cut short as it had to be stopped since Despe broke his jaw. A moment with his hero that he had dreamed of all his life, snatched away from him. Understandably, that stuck with him all this time. Then earlier this year, he teamed up with his fellow Suzuki Gun member DOUKI, to take on the team of Kasai and Tomoaki Honma and came up short after a hard fought war. After the match, Kasai gifted Despe a rose and challenged him to a rematch 3 years in the making and so it was set. Despe was finally going to get another shot at the moment and the match he longed for at the first ever TakaTaichiDespe Mania event in a No DQ special singles Deathmatch.

The event featured one of the first few cheering crowds in Japan in over 2.5 years since COVID hit and as a result had the best atmosphere you could ask for with a raucous audience. From the get go, with the crowd collectively chanting Kasai’s name for his entrance and Despe himself jamming to his theme not at all hiding how hyped he was for this, the crazy monkey felt like a mythical godlike figure with his incredible aura. We already know that hardcore/Deathmatches of this kind are very rare in NJPW and Despe being a New Japan guy, this is a foreign setting for him. With the black rolling cradle mat and the FREEDOMS guys present ringside, it was him walking into Kasai’s den, his wheelhouse. Make no mistake, it doesn’t matter if the event featured Despe’s name, this is Jun Kasai’s territory. And that’s what the story of the match was. A very early chair exchange that Kasai would win and throw Despe into a barbed wire board. The match features Despe being unmasked immediately after, a direct contrast to his 2020 BOSJ final with Hiromu where it was built up to a big moment. Despe was thrown into deep waters very early but he was the one who wanted this too so he had no choice but sink or swim.

Despe is completely overwhelmed by what he got himself into and retreats to the outside to no avail. Jun Kasai continues to torture him with any weapon he finds. That’s one element that is really admirable about this match. The weapons aren’t used to just use them, they’re used to give the match an additional dimension as a storytelling device. Kasai’s control segments are absolutely brutal, painful. He’s fighting his hero but the problem for him happens to be that his hero is an absolute nutjob who hurts his opponents in any way possible.

Despe was a tremendous underdog here. His comebacks don’t feature the use of any of the major weapons that you won’t usually find in a NJPW environment nor does he ever introduce one at any point in the match, never moving away from the narrative of the match He tries to fight this absolute madman with his regular wrestling arsenal and fails to stay in control for long. The first incredible nearfall comes when Despe kicks out of Kasai’s pearl Harbor splash. Like I said he had gotten himself into this predicament and had no choice but to sink or swim. And man did he swim. Surviving the onslaught that his opponent brought.

When I mean Kasai went to every length to try to end Despe, I mean it. When Despe was in control after hitting a frog splash onto the table, he ate a low blow that he wasn’t ready for at all. Kasai hits him with a top rope reverse tiger destroyer, another pearl Harbor splash, a lariat, another reverse tiger driver but no matter what he does, Despe just kept kicking out over and over! He wasn’t going to let his moment be taken from him. He was fighting to live. To defeat his idol. And he was going to do it at any cost. They trade strikes, shoot headbutts and Despe gets a nearfall with his finishing move, the Pinche Loco followed by another incredible strike exchange, Despe hits Kasai with his own reverse tiger destroyer and a second Pinche Loco to surpass his idol after a surreal match!

This was completely unbelievable to me. I am not a Deathmatch guy at all but it was far from them just blading for the sake of it. This was a greatly wrestled match with a clear narrative and like I mentioned the weapons just being used to add to that singular narrative. The attention to detail was tremendous. Really appreciated Despe bringing out the special big match white gear and dying his hair blonde for this so that blood stands out even more. This match embodies fighting spirit. Continuing to do your best to stay alive in the face of what feels like imminent defeat just in the hope of a chance to fight back.

That’s what El Desperado, no, that’s what Kyosuke Mikami did here. He survived the Crazy monkey in his own environment to get what I’m sure is THE career highlight for him. The post match comments with Kasai teaching Despe the value of life adds an even more special meaning to the story of this entire match. An emotional war that will go down in the books as one of the greatest matches of the year and Despe finally got the moment that he had yearned for so long. A truly visceral experience that gets a high recommendation.

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