Thursday, June 23, 2016
Kotaro Suzuki vs Roderick Strong, 26 June 2011 (Pro Wrestling NOAH)
Strong plays up his image as cocky American in this challenge to Suzuki's belt. He's always exuded a certain something that makes me want to knock him down a peg or two. It's equal parts attitude and appearance. The attitude is easy to decipher--the sneer, his propensity for cowardly attacks and evasions, his flagrant lack of respect for any of his opponents.
Somehow, though, these behaviors are implicit in his physiognomy, even before he does or says anything. The conservative cut of his hair, the pouty lips, his empty black eyes, his body, muscular but boyishly slack--these are the physical traits that would define him as a heel even if he were playing the babyface.
The last trait especially seems to suggest, despite the name and his evident strength in and out of the ring, a weakness in character that his viciousness is meant to disguise. That vulnerability paired with meanness makes Strong perfect for Japanese strong-style tactics because he expresses the pain and the struggle so keenly.
And Suzuki is a fine adversary for him, similar in build, yet possessing the calm durability of a seasoned warrior. After a long struggle, brutal and frustratingly even, it's exhilarating to watch Suzuki at last put the challenger down. It's messy because of the profusion of sweat, but the climactic pile driver kayos the cocky foreigner and saves the belt for Suzuki and Japan.