On Sunday March, 15, NOAH will be holding a show to be produced and booked by Naomichi Marifuji at the Differ Ariake in Tokyo. Marifuji has promoted two cards in the last six months, so the company felt it might be worth seeing what he can do with a few house show cards. To say the least, he’s put together a really interesting card. Of note, Kenta Kobashi will be re-united with Burning member Tamon Honda to take on the team of Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Also booked, is a Yone Army v. Kensuke Office match, where Rikio, Yone, Kotaru Suzuki and ?Legend Heel? Momota (which is the latest addition by the way) will be taking on Kensuke Sasaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Takashi Okita and Kento Miyahara.
Marufuji, known for his love of the preposterous, has a Takuma Sano 25th anniversary match slated that will have three people trying to Marufuji, not Sano. Masao Inoue, one of the more interesting and entertaining characters will be dressing up as ?Naomichi Masaofuji? and Ricky Marvin is said to be getting his ?Ricky Maruvin? act down. Sano of course, is known for being easily annoyed and irritated, and when get gets angry, people get kicked hard. A bunch of young guys tryin’ to whip up the old man… kids these days.
The main event looks really, really interesting as GHC Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama will be paired with GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion KENTA. They’ll be taking on Go Shiozaki & Makoto Hashi. Shiozaki is in the midst of a big push currently. Hashi has been jobbing his whole life, but he’s the lovable, sympathetic jobber who tries so hard, yet seems doomed to failure. One of the more compelling angles in NOAH history was with Hashi and Akiyama leading into the 2005 ?Destiny? show at the Tokyo Dome. Akiyama was the head of the STERNESS faction at the time and Hashi was the #5 in the group, dead last on the totem pole. Akiyama was verbally and often times physically abusive of Hashi and his failure to win matches. Hashi was more or less bumbling and would make mistakes and cost his faction mates matches. To ‘prove’ himself to his boss, Akiyama, he challenged then tag champions Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji for the tag team titles, vowing that he would help bring the tag belts to STERNESS. Akiyama gave him a hard time leading up to the match, questioning whether or not Hashi was ready for that level of a match. Hashi gave one of the more compelling, gutsy performances in his career, bumping dumping and fighting his heart out. Alas though, the champions were too much and Hashi took the pin fall. After the match, Hashi stared at Akiyama humiliated, crying over failing his leader. In a storyline they only pull off well in Japan, Akiyama picked up Hashi and gave him a ‘mini-hug’ and that was all that was needed to get the angle over huge. Akiyama acknowledged the effort and gave Hashi props. The problem with it was that they never followed up on it, and Hashi was quickly forgotten about. This will be the two in the ring together for the first time in a long time. Expect KENTA and Akiyama to ‘bring the bully’.
Marufuji Produce/NOAH 15/03/09
1. Legendary Singles Match: Yoshinari Ogawa vs Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
2. Former Sumo vs SDF Original: Akira Taue & Jun Izumida vs Takashi Sugiura & Shuhei Taniguchi
3. Heavy vs Junior: Mitsuharu Misawa, Takeshi Morishima, Akitoshi Saito & Kishin Kawabata vs Taiji Ishimori, Atsushi Aoki, Hiroyuki Ito & Ippei Ota
4. Kentaro Shiga 15th Anniversary: Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Kenta Kobashi & Tamon Honda
5. Yone Army vs Kensuke Office All Out War: Takeshi Rikio, Mohammed Yone, Kotaro Suzuki & Legend Heel Momota vs Kensuke Sasaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Takashi Okita & Kento Miyahara
6. Takuma Sano 25th Anniversary: Takuma Sano & Naomichi Marufuji? vs Naomichi Marufuji (Masao Inoue dressed up as Marifuji) and Ricky Maruvin (Ricky Marvin)
7. GHC Title Holders & Go: Jun Akiyama & KENTA vs Go Shiozaki & Makoto Hashi
37th Anniversal Show a Success
New Japan Pro Wrestling celebrated its 37th anniversary last Friday night at the Korakuen Hall to a packed house of 1,800. The card wasn’t particularly spectacular, but was a lot of fun and worked in a very similar way to the way Raw worked its 15th anniversary show a few years ago. The main event was a champions of the present v. Past heroes pitting IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi with Junior Champion Tiger Mask IV against the ‘legends’ team of Jusin ?Thunder? Liger & Masahiro Chono. Tanahashi pinned Liger for the victory. Many recent New Japan Alumni showed up and were showcased throughout the under card including Yutaka Yoshie and Shiro Koshinaka (both are no longer full time New Japan talents). The big news however, was prior to the opening bell, as New Japan held its ?Greatest Wrestlers? ceremony. Shoji Kai, Kuniaki Kobayashi and the late Black Cat were all honored. The most attention however, was the presence of Akira Maeda, who was returning to his old haunt for the first time in years. His presence was certainly a sign that the wrestling culture has really changed over the past few years.
Maeda’s appearance in general was pretty interesting. Maeda was primarily a shoot fighter and was put over as such. He was fired in 1988 for refusing to go to Mexico as punishment for kicking Riki Chosu’s head into the 188th row at the Korakuen in November of 1987. Its a particularly noteworthy event in pro wrestling history, because it would of course lead to the introduction of Mixed Martial Artists into wrestling and into the Japanese main stream. The whole incident stemmed from a match that Maeda had with Kerry Von Erich at the Korakuen in late 1987. Maeda of course was billed as being a legitimate fighter due to his background in the shoot-based UWF from 1984-85. When he was basically roughed up pretty bad by Von Erich, his fans didn’t take well to it, as they expected him to pretty much steamroll Von Erich, who wasn’t as ‘legitimate’ as their man. When that didn’t happen, they got pretty angry and Maeda saw this. Worried about the direction they began to take his character, Maeda more or less had a huge falling out with New Japan booker Riki Chosu. He got his revenge for the bad booking when he shoot kicked Chosu in a six man tag match so hard, that he broke his orbital bone. He was originally suspended and then fired.
So Maeda left New Japan and went on to re-form the old UWF, with the help of some investors. This promotion is commonly known to most as the UWFi, with the ‘I’ tacked on to the end to signify the international. This is not the same promotion that Bill Watts formed in Oklahoma, or that Herb Abrams would form in the early 90s. UWFi was essentially all based on shoot-style, which was worked, but was much more realistic and stiff. Kicks really connected and so did punches. However the outcome was obviously pre-determined. Out of this, promotions like Pancrase, BATTLarts and others spawned. Maeda brought Ken Shamrock to his promotion and Minoru Suzuki and Funaki would also get their starts in UWFi. Later on, he brought and introduced into the mainstream, huge mixed martial arts names like Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
After the falling out with Inoki, the two never worked with each other again, with the exception of a retirement show for Kazuo Yamakazi, who was a former UWFi wrestler. With Inoki more or less out of the fold entirely and Chosu’s duties essentially reduced to a fun side act, Maeda was comfortable enough to come back to the promotion and accept the honor.
NJPW ?STRONG STYLE 37TH ANNIVERSARY?, 3/6/09 (Samurai! TV)
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
Dark Match: Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari beat Kazuchika Okada & Nobuo Yoshihashi (7:37) when Milano used a thrust kick on Yoshihashi.
1. Super Strong Machine 25th Anniversary Match: Riki Choshu, Super Strong Machine & Hiro Saito beat Shiro Koshinaka, Akira Nogami & Masashi Aoyagi (7:27) when Machine used a Devil Windmill suplex hold on Nogami.
2. Takashi Iizuka, Jado & Gedo beat Yuji Nagata, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt (11:03) when Iizuka used a Jigoku Tsuki on Devitt.
3. Manabu Nakanishi, Yutaka Yoshie , Wataru Inoue & Koji Kanemoto beat Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Tomoaki Honma (14:46) when Nakanishi used an Argentine backbreaker on Honma.
4. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hirooki Goto beat Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson (12:29) when Nakamura used a flying cross armbreaker on Anderson.
5. 37th Anniversary Special Tag Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tiger Mask beat Masahiro Chono & Jushin Thunder Liger (17:22) when Tanahashi used the High Fly Flow on Liger.
New Japan Cup Kicks Off
The annual New Japan Cup Tournament held its first round matches in Nagoya on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 7,500. The winner of the Cup of course gets a crack at the champion. This year’s winner will face the winner of the Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Kurt Angle match from next month’s Sumo Hall show on May 3rd in Fukuoka. The booking is something worth noting, as Fukuoka is NOT generally speaking, as strong territory for New Japan. However, the city has had its moments, including be the place where Keji Mutoh won his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship. However, despite that, the city has never been a strong draw and at times, has flat out bombed.
While some consider this show a risk, New Japan management feel that its important for them to begin expanding their base a bit, and running some shows in more un-friendly markets. The idea is that if they can draw in Fukuoka, they can draw anywhere, and thus it will serve as a tremendous benchmark if they could fill the 10,000 seat venue for the show. Even if its not a sell-out, and is mildly successful, they feel as if they’ll have a better idea of where they really stand in terms of their rebound and overall position as a business.
Because of that, one would expect the winner of the New Japan Cup to be a reliable draw and likely someone who would work well with either Angle or Tanahashi. Yuji Nagata has had some very big matches with both, and coming off a strong run with the Zero-One World title, they’ve had him working promos of late, putting over the fact that he’s determined to win the tournament and show everyone why he’s the best again. Many within the company feel that Nagata would likely be the best choice for that spot. He’s a reasonable draw as well, so the thought is he’d be a safe choice.
The other choice would be Shinsuke Nakamura, whose been on somewhat of a losing streak of late. The argument against him is that he’s more or less been a major part of the title picture for the last two years. He faced Tanahashi in the main event of the Tokyo Dome show from 2008, winning the title. He held the belt for four months last year before dropping the title to Keji Mutoh. He relentlessly chased Mutoh before challenging him to a title match in October where luck was again, not on his side. His most recent challenge of Tanahashi was last month at the Sumo Hall, where he was defeated rather decisively. Coupled with the fact that at least on the New Japan side of things, he seems to be the center of attention in the NOAH invasion, they feel like a title shot in Fukuoka would be a bit much, although he’d certainly draw and has worked with both in the past.
The two wild cards are the Giant Bernard and Hirooki Gotoh. Both are huge favorites in the locker room and look in line for a big push, and at this point its not a matter of ‘if’ as it is ‘when’. Bernard has fantastic chemistry with Tanahashi however its felt that their match up has been done to death, and it may be time for a breather, at least until the end of the year. Gotoh won the G1 Climax in August and has been on a steady climb from there, being featured high up in the card. The issue with both is that a title match push would detract from other festering things they’ve been involved with. Gotoh looks headed towards a program with NOAH’s young gun Takashi Sugiura, while Bernard was paired with Val Venis at the opening round show, and managed to pin Tanahashi for the decision, pretty much making the two the top foreign tag team in the company almost instantly. So there may be plans for these two, but for now they seem to be on hold, but again, plans always change. Togi Makabe was considered a third wild card, but after dropping a decision to Nakamura in the first round, that’s obviously out.
The first round results were pretty interesting and seem to point to a very entertaining second round:
Milano Collection AT seems to be working a gimmick where he’s ‘woken up’ recently since his big match in NOAH with Nakamura. He defeated Toru Yano in the first round. His opponent will be the Giant Bernard in what has the potential to be a really fun match. Also, Hirooki Gotoh will be facing Shinsuke Nakamura in a battle between tag partners and the RISE faction’s #1 and #2 in charge. Its no doubt the two biggest names clashing, but still yet, it may not be the most intriguing. The match of the first round was supposedly Manabu Nakanishi’s defeat at the hands of Yutaka Yoshie. Yoshie is sort of the ‘gentle giant’ of New Japan. He carries a lot of weight around and wears pink. Nakanishi is pretty much the polar opposite, looking good, highly athletic, and a G1 tournament victory to his credit in 1999. Yoshie moves on to face Tomohiro Ishii in the next round. Yuji Nagata enjoyed a first round bye and he’ll get ready for Takashi Iizuka, who defeated Tomoaki Honma in the first round.
Next week, we’re hoping to have a full review up of at least the first round, hopefully the second as well! Stay tuned!
Tour Results, Update on Upcoming Sumo Hall Show
All Japan has been pretty quiet recently, with the exception the house show circuit! So here’ your results. Also, next week we’re looking to provide a Sumo Hall-Sized All Japan review of their Sumo Hall show! Yes, I’ll give All Japan some love, too! Here’s the update on the card:
AJPW ?PRO-WRESTLING LOVE in RYOGOKU vol. 7″, 3/14/09 (PPV)
Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan
Masanobu Fuchi vs. Kikutaro
2. Nobutaka Araya & Seiya Sanada vs. NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA
3. Satoshi Kojima, KAI & Hiroshi Yamato vs. TARU, Hate & Toshizo
4. Akebono & Ryota Hama vs. Joe Doering & ZODIAC
5. Osamu Nishimura & Manabu Soya vs. Riki Choshu & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
6. AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kaz Hayashi (c) vs. Minoru
7. AJPW World Tag Team Title: Taiyo Kea & Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Suwama & Shuji Kondo
8. Triple Crown: Great Muta (c) vs. Yoshihiro Takayama
Tochigi City Center Sub Arena
520 Fans – No Vacancy
1. ZODIAC beat Manabu Soya (7:36) with the Tiger Driver.
2. Osamu Nishimura & Ryota Hama beat Yoshihiro Takayama & NOSAWA Rongai (14:06) when Nishimura used a spinning toehold on Rongai.
3. TARU, Minoru & Hate beat Kaz Hayashi, Nobutaka Araya & KAI (19:10) when Hate used a horizontal cradle on Araya.
4. Great Muta beat Seiya Sanada (5:48) with the Shining Wizard.
5. Suwama & Shuji Kondo beat Joe Doering & Toshizo (9:38) when Suwama used the Last Ride on Toshizo.
6. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroshi Yamato beat Minoru Suzuki & MAZADA (19:12) when Kojima used the Western lariat on MAZADA.
Tatebayashi Citizen Gymnasium
1,350 Fans – Super No Vacancy
1. Ryota Hama beat Manabu Soya (11:11) with the Ryota Hammer.
2. ZODIAC, Hate & Toshizo beat Masanobu Fuchi, Nobutaka Araya & Masayoshi Motegi (10:48) when Toshizo used a kneelift on Araya.
3. Yoshihiro Takayama & MAZADA beat Osamu Nishimura & Seiya Sanada (13:18) when Takayama used a running kneelift on Sanada.
4. Great Muta beat KAI (4:51) with the Shining Wizard.
5. Suwama & Shuji Kondo beat Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai (10:48) when Suwama used the Last Ride on Suzuki.
6. Satoshi Kojima, Kaz Hayashi & Hiroshi Yamato beat TARU, Minoru & Joe Doering (22:22) when Hayashi used the Final Cut on Minoru.
Kesen-numa City Gymnasium
1. Seiya Sanada beat Hate (12:24) by disqualification.
2. TARU & Joe Doering beat Nobutaka Araya & Shuji Kondo (13:27) when Doering used a cast away powerbomb on Araya.
3. Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai beat Suwama & Manabu Soya (0:30) by referee stop when Suzuki used a sleeper hold on Suwama.
4. Great Muta beat Hiroshi Yamato (6:34) with the Shining Wizard.
5. Minoru, ZODIAC & Toshizo beat Osamu Nishimura, Kaz Hayashi & Ryota Hama (22:09) when ZODIAC used a diving lariat on Hama.
6. Satoshi Kojima & KAI beat Yoshihiro Takayama & MAZADA (18:41) when KAI used a splash plancha on MAZADA.
Hachinohe City Gymnasium
1. Seiya Sanada beat Hiroshi Yamato (9:13) with a Dragon suplex hold.
2. Joe Doering, ZODIAC & Toshizo beat Osamu Nishimura, Manabu Soya & Ryota Hama (12:24) when Doering used the Revolution Bomb on Soya.
3. Yoshihiro Takayama beat Nobutaka Araya (5:10) with a running knee lift.
4. Great Muta beat NOSAWA Rongai (6:18) with the Shining Wizard.
5. Suwama & Shuji Kondo beat Minoru Suzuki & MAZADA (13:43) when Suwama used the Last Ride on MAZADA.
6. Satoshi Kojima, Kaz Hayashi & KAI beat TARU, Minoru & Hate (26:15) when Kojima used a lariat on Hate.
The Inoki Genome Federation is running Hiroshima this weekend and as of now, only has two matches announced. Being this is Antonio Inoki, its not much of a surprise. Atsushi Sawada will be taking on the Necro Butcher while Taka Kunou is facing John Anderson. That’s it.
With Shinjiro Otani recently defeated New Japan’s Yuji Nagata for the Zero One World Championship. The next big show was announced for Match 15th and it looks like Otani will already be making his first defense, facing Orlando Colon. Ikuto Hidaka will be wrestling Sonjay Dutt, formerly of TNA. Steve Corino and Mr. Wrestling III are a tag team now (despite the fact that Corino usually plays that role) and they’ll be facing Osamu Namiguchi and Ryoji Sai to determine who will be the new NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Champions.
Dragon Gate is scheduled to run the Sumo Hall on the 22nd of this month. TV Tokyo is planning on running the show a week later at midnight.
W*ANG used to be the second biggest ‘hardcore’ fed in Japan (next to FMW). They’re having a reunion show on May 28th. The main two wrestlers that will be featured will be Mr. Pogo and Kintaro Kanemura.