Sumo Hall Sells Out, Tanahashi Leaves No Doubt as to Who’s #1
New Japan Pro Wrestling put on its first non-Tokyo Dome major show this year on Sunday, selling out the 9,500 seat Sumo Hall. New Japan officials couldn’t have possibly asked for a better result, as this was the first show that also hasn’t been headlined by Keiji Mutoh in the last year, so the positive result was a really good sign that the Tokyo Dome transition f rom Mutoh to Tanahashi really did work.
The main event featured Tanahashi successfully defending his IWGP Heavyweight Championship, beating Shinsuke Nakamura in a match between the two wrestlers who are viewed as the #1 and #2 man in the promotion. These two have always had good chemistry, but this might have been their best effort to date, as they played off a lot of past history, but also worked in a lot of stuff f rom recent history, specifically their encounters with Mutoh. After winning the match, it is believed that Tanahashi is the ‘official’ ace of the company. Tanahashi is a fun personality, and often rather sensational in much of what he says and does. He held out on his contract in exchange for naked pictures of his favorite Japanese celebrities (kayfabe of course), talks about how pretty he is and was even photographed riding a bicycle through Tokyo with the IWGP belt in a basket. So as expected, he said some pretty zany things after the match, declaring himself ‘the ace of the universe’.
Coming out of the back, Angle stepped forward to challenge Tanahashi for his belt this coming April and the champion accepted, setting up the next big defense for the New Japan ace. With the New Japan Cup coming up soon, the winner of that tournament will likely get a shot at whomever the champion is, Angle or Tanahashi, at the Toyota Center in Fukuoka. Fukuoka isn’t considered ?New Japan turf? so to speak, and they haven’t run a successful show there in years, so they’ll need a strong-drawing match for the event, and they feel a strong build will help insure that. Ironically, Fukuoka was the same place that Keiji Mutoh won his first IWGP Championship. However, Fukuoka will really go a long way to letting us know just how successful New Japan’s turnaround has been.
Angle was not the only TNA star on the show. As many of you know, New Japan and TNA have been working quite closely in the past few months. New Japan like the appeal that many of the TNA stars will have in Japan, while its the feeling in TNA, that Japan can really help supplement a mid card that is full of talent, but has very little direction and veteran workers to help guide and develop them. So for the most part, the relationship has been mutually beneficial.
New Japan showed its confidence by putting the IWGP Tag Team Championships on Team 3D at last month’s Tokyo Dome show and allowing TNA Wrestling to bring the belts to North America to be defended. TNA has returned the favor, and is loaning out Kurt Angle to headline New Japan’s next pay per view with Tanahashi, a match in which its expected that Angle will likely do the job. The win would probably put Tanahashi over the top, especially with wins over Mutoh at the Tokyo Dome, and then of course Nakamura this past Sunday.
TNA were not the only promotion sending stars to TNA, as Mexican sensation and CMLL World Champion Mistico was also featured on the card, defending his title against Mephisto. The match itself was a bit of a train wreck though, with Mistico blowing his knee out early on in a fairly menial exchange. Mephisto really didn’t hold up his end of the bargain, and everything just sort of fell apart. That being said, they were able to get over enough of Mistico’s stuff that its probably a safe bet that the crowd was feeling positively about him.
While naysayers predicted the demise of New Japan for years, and while the decade has been a very difficult one for the promotion, the company can safely be said to be back on its feet despite the current economic mess that of course has hit Japan. This past Sunday’s Sumo Hall show was one of five planned for the year and April 5th will be the second.
A review of the major matches f rom the show are included at the end of the New Japan Section. I apologize, as I have not been sent the Beer Money match quite yet, so its not featured. However, like you all, I have an unusual desire to see BEERMONY OMG~ in Japan as well, and will have a ‘bits and pieces’ review up next week, where I’ll include the match. Also featured in there will be some matches f rom NOAH’s last tour, including some of KENTA’s better offerings. So stay tuned!
New Japan Signs Val Venis
We learned to day that Val Venis will be joining New Japan Pro Wrestling on its next tour. The plan right now is to bring him in in the GBH heel group with Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Giant Bernard and Ken Anderson. New Japan officials view Venis as a guy with a lot of strong years left in him, and as a guy who can come to Japan and really beef up their mid card with a strong worker.
Venis is a former WWE Intercontinental Champion, European Champion, and Tag Team Champion among others.
New Japan Cup Participants and Schedule Set
The New Japan Cup will be a very homogeneous cast this year, with a few exceptions. Yutaka Yoshie will be coming in, as he was an old favorite years ago. He’ll be facing Manabu Nakanishi, in what looks to be one of the most entertaining matches on paper of the first round. Other big first round match ups involve Shinsuke Nakamura taking on GBH faction leader Togi Makabe. And finally, the Hiwasawa-Honma feud will finally come to a head in a singles match at the Korakuen on the 28th, with the winner being awarded the final spot in the tournament.
Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
1. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Winner of Hirasawa/Honma vs. Takashi Iizuka
2. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Milano Collection AT vs. Toru Yano
3. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Wataru Inoue vs. Tomohiro Ishii
4. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Hirooki Goto vs. Karl Anderson
5. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Manabu Nakanishi vs. Yutaka Yoshie
6. New Japan Cup – Round 1: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Togi Makabe
Hunter’s BIG A$$ SUMO HALL REVIEWLOL~
MATCH #1: Yuji Nagata v. Hirooki Gotoh
Gotoh added an ‘h’ to his last name. Like Keji MutoH… get it! Get it!
Anyways, pretty good stuff here. Gotoh seems to be a guy that New Japan wants to get over, take their time with getting him over, but at the same time having him do enough so you don’t forget he’s a guy we’re all supposed to buy as someone who’ll be a major player relatively soon. They protect him by keeping him in fairly straight forward matches and have been really selective about whom they place him in matches with.
So its no surprise that his opponent on this show is Yuji Nagata, whose SUCH a company guy through and through, that he wears their chief sponsor on his a$$. Nagata is the Shawn Michaels of New Japan. A guy known more for his emotional performances and being the guy who is the heart and soul of the promotion, so its no surprise they have him as the guy they’re looking to groom.
They have a nice video package to open things up, showing how Yuji Nagata is a guy who overcomes adversity and injuries, and that now, Gotoh’s got one of his own to overcome, thanks to a big Nagata kick at the Korakuen show two weeks earlier in a tag match.
The first few moments of this are really, really great, where they exchange chucking each other to the outside. Gotoh does it first then Nagata gives him a receipt, only for Gotoh to come back and do it AGAIN, to show us all that ‘hey, I’m not your typical youngster whose going to take crap like that, because I’ve got TALENT!~’. They then settle into a really basic story where Gotoh comes up with lots of ways to kill Nagata’s arm. Nagata in turn, goes after Gotoh’s legs, sticking with the story in order to stack the deck on Gotoh and get the crowd behind the youngster and it all works really well. The transitions are pretty great here, and they do a good job of giving Gotoh enough strong comebacks to make it look like he’s really pushing a top guy move for move. The finishing stretch is pretty good, but Nagata comes out on top in that department, because of course, while they want us to think Goto’s good, he’s not THAT GOOD just yet.
There are some issues here, primarily on Gotoh’s part as there are sections where he flat out forgets to sell his leg injury, and has to be reigned in a bit by Nagata, who doesn’t let him forget about it thankfully. Nagata has earned a reputation of his own over the years as being a guy who sometimes gets carried away, and while there is a LITTLE nonsense in the match, he keeps his wits about him for the most part, and sticks to his guns of making this kid look good. Its a simple straight forward match that’s oddly A LOT like the Undertaker-Shelton match f rom Smackdown last month in that you’ve got a well known company guy vet who is mostly good, but has a few holes in his game guiding a young, inconsistent guy whom the company has plans for to a good, simple match. Goto has an answer for most of Nagata’s signature stuff, but doesn’t quite have it put together enough yet to be able to counter or kick out of the big stuff. Good match. ***
MATCH #2: Mistico v. Mephisto
This match pretty much falls apart f rom the get-go, when Mistico blows his knee out in what looked like it was a pretty menial exchange between the two, which has got to be frustrating. Mistico sticks to his guns though and for the most part, is able to hit his spots enough to keep the crowd rumbling and interested. Unfortunately, despite Mistico trying to scrap and pull anything good out of a really horrible situation, Mephisto’s on the phone. He’s flat out to lunch here.
When a guy gets hurt, it usually falls on the other guy to carry the lion’s share of the spots and take some bumps to get done what needs to get done, all while keeping things f rom getting worse. Mephisto does almost none of that, leaving Mistico to try and carry the thing on his own. When he’s got the chance to maybe do some loopy stuff to keep us going, he just kind of stooges, and doesn’t even do a good job of that. He’s constantly out of place and at one point, forgets the stairs are there when he hits an asai moonsault on Mistico that looked like it could’ve broken the guy’s back.
Then the finish gets COMPLETELY botched. This really isn’t Mistico’s fault, and no, I don’t think Mephisto is a terrible worker, but here, he’s clearly here to run through the motions as all his job was heading in, was to basically be a dummy for Mistico to throw around so they can get him over some more in front of the crowd. Poor Mistico is forced to go at it alone. Thankfully, he does enough to get a positive reaction, but for the most part, this was a train wreck. 1/2*
MATCH #3: Tiger Mask v. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Tiger Mask is one of those guys who just bores me to tears. Its not that he does anything actively bad or that his execution is bad or anything, he’s just not a very entertaining worker. Compound that with the fact that he’s got the personality and natural charisma of a thumb tac, and it just makes everything worse. That’s the bad news here, I guess.
The good news though, is that he’s facing Jushin Liger, which in case you’ve been living in a whole for the last 20 years, is perhaps one of, if not THE best Juniors wrestler ever. Liger’s lost a step or five over the years, but the dude can still go and still put on some awesome matches, and this one’s no different.
Basically, they map the match out with Liger aggressively going after Tiger Mask and maintaining control. In between, they chunk out a lot of Tiger Mask comebacks, where Tiger Mask gets to hit his better looking stuff. It definitely worked for the most part, with Liger hitting a lot of his big stuff and letting Tiger Mask kick out of it and then totally bumping like a madman for most of Tiger’s Signature Spot comebacks. And to give credit where its due, Tiger brings it here and shows a heck of a lot more gusto than he’s probably ever show, really throwing himself at Liger on the tope’s and doing a very strong job of selling the crap out of Liger’s signatures.
This ends a bit quickly, maybe even a little bit out of nowhere, but for the most part, it does the job it set out to do, which was for someone to finally effectively showcase Tiger Mask’s good stuff and give him a strong win to put as a notch on his belt. This won’t blow your doors off, but its one heck of a carry job. **3/4
MATCH #4: Kurt Angle v. The Giant Bernard
A lot of people know my trepidations regarding Kurt Angle, but most don’t, so for those of you who haven’t been privy to my rants regarding him, I’ll outline that, because in this match, its kind of crucial.
Angle’s a guy who for years, I felt the WWE did almost TOO good of a job of protecting. He had the gimmick of being an ‘authentic’ wrestler and used a lot of those moves in his matches, and for the most part, racked up a pretty impressive list of accomplishments while he was with the big company. However, when he left, I felt many of his shortcomings became exposed once he didn’t have the luxury of having guys like the Undertaker, Rey Mysterio, Eddie Guererro and Steve Austin to work with.
There are a lot of issues, too, but the two biggest ones are his ability to effectively pace his matches, move a crowd up and down, and secondly, his inability to know when to say ‘enough is enough’ in particular spots. Blowing out five German suplexes on super heavyweights is dumb. Letting people hang out in your finisher for 30 minutes doesn’t really make your finisher look like, well, a finisher. Swiftly bringing out big moves like the Angle slam in the early moments of a match and having your opponent kick out at 1, doesn’t make me think that if you use it later on, you’ll get three. A lot of that has to do with Angle’s background. Because the guy is freakishly athletic, he tends to fall back on that or take it overboard. His matches as a result, especially many of the ones in TNA and in his later years in the WWE, became centered on showing us how ‘athletic’ he was, how much ‘stuff’ he could do BECAUSE of that athleticism. He’d blow off the ‘story of the match’ half way through just to start popping out huge strings of suplexes and counters that didn’t amount to anything other than, well, showing us how athletic he was.
In his defense however, Angle can be VERY GOOD if he’s got someone to kind of keep him in line. He had some great matches with the Undertaker in 2006, and Rey Mysterio was really able to effectively showcase him on a number of occasions. Steve Austin made him look like a million bucks back in 2001, and they popped out about five suplexes in the span of 3 matches. Thus proving that Angle doesn’t have to go out and throw people over his head to be ‘good’. If he just would stick with the story, let things unfold rather than forcing them, his matches would be a lot better.
This match up in particular, really intrigued me, just because of whom Angle would be facing. Giant Bernard, known by many here in the US as A-Train or the Giant Bernard, is a guy who had a lot of solid, raw talent when he got picked up in the WWE in 2000, but was rushed to the main show far too quickly. He bounced around in some truly ridiculous tag teams and while nothing he did was particularly bad per sae, he never really developed. Those things happen when your partner is Test. By the time 2002-2003 came around they re-pushed him as A-Train, and while he was greatly improved, his credibility was so shot at that point that not even a Wrestlemania feud with the Undertaker and Big Show and a program and great match with Chris Benoit could save him.
So Bernard moved over seas and came into New Japan around the same time Brock Lesnar showed up in 2005. He was featured prominently and got a lot of higher profile match ups, but over that time, really began to turn the corner. With a decent place in the roster and a strong group of vets to work with, he finally blossomed. In the last two-three years in particular, he’s gone f rom a guy with a lot of talent, to a guy whose pretty good, to arguably the best big man in wrestling today, and clearly the best gaijin in Japan.
So needless to say, this is a totally fascinating match to watch, ESPECIALLY if you watched a lot of these two in the WWE a few years ago. Why? Because it illustrates almost to the ‘T’ what I’ve just talked about. Bernard clearly shows us all why he’s so good and Angle shows us some of his issues.
Back at the Tokyo Dome Show in January, Bernard, pissed he lost his match, came back in the ring and hit a big shoulder back breaker on Angle. Angle in turn, got pissed and swears a lot in his most awesomely crazy Kurtie promo since he left the WWE, saying that he’s flown over just to beat Bernard up. He doesn’t even care if he wins. Bernard rips up a promotional photograph and it is ON~.
After some opening back and forth and some great looking punches by both, Bernard takes control. And it stays this way almost the whole way through the rest of the match. But what’s funny is that whenever Bernard lets Angle get some offense in, Kurt just wants to OBVIOUSLY take it a step further. One more suplex, one more stomp, one more nutty athletic Kurt Angle thing. And EVERY SINGLE TIME he does it, Bernard pops the choke chain, and says ‘no Kurtie, we’re in Japan and I call the shots here. This is how you wrestle well.’
Perhaps the funniest example of this is about 8 minutes in, where Bernard goes for a big kick to the mid section. Angle blocks the kick, and then you see his hands move to Bernard’s ankle like he’s going to slap his finishing hold on. 8 minutes in. Bernard kind of looks at him like he’s a dolt, and promptly stiffs him right on the chin and MAKES Angle sell his stuff. f rom there, Angle sticks to the program well. Bernard hits some quality shoulder thrusts, plays the pan flute on his knuckles before punching Angle in the mouth in the corner and all sorts of big man fun.
It all builds to a spot where Bernard goes for the good old Vader bomb, and Angle gets his feet up, allowing him to get back into the match. Immediately, instead of maybe chopping Bernard down or striking him a bit, he goes for a German suplex. Bernard, knowing that its f-ing stupid for Angle to be suplexing a 7 foot 350 lb guy easily, tries to dead weight it to make Angle work for it. Angle’s way too willing to oblige and tries to jerk him up, only for Bernard to dead weight himself enough. He smartly calls his stooge up onto the apron, knowing Angle HAS to do this spot, and does a fun heel prevention spot before letting Angle hit the spot. He saves the spot.
f rom there though, Angle’s very much with it, and they go into a great finishing stretch, where Bernard avoids an appropriately placed Angle slam and flat out baldo bombs Angle’s bald a$$ to the mat so hard, it breaks. Yah. Angle finally slaps on the ankle lock and Bernard taps quickly, but the referee isn’t there thanks to Bernard’s buddy on the outside. Masahiro Chono, whose come out to help his main event mafia JAPON~ branch friend out, goes and clears out the henchman as things resume in the ring. We get some more good stuff heading down the stretch before Angle rolls out of the hold that injured him at the dome show, and with an assist f rom Chono, slaps on an ankle lock, and Bernard taps quickly.
While Angle tries to fly off the chain quite visibly here, Bernard never lets him. Angle seems pretty ok with things though, thankfully, and they give us a pretty darn good match. Angle comes away looking like a star but really, this is kind of a landmark match for Bernard because it shows JUST how good he’s become in the past few years as he does a pretty fantastic carry job here. Check this out. Its the best Angle match I’ve seen in forever, even if its not really ‘his’. ***
MATCH #5: Team 3D v. Toru Yano & Togi Makabe, IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
This match up is almost always bad, and produced two HUGE stinkers, one last year, and more recently, a strong candidate for worst match of the year in January at the Tokyo Dome show. It was 25 minutes of absolutely boring brawling, and even featured the spot that spawned the best .gif of the year, where D’Von missed his top rope head butt by a clean five feet. However, its made better only by the fact that he’s so overweight at this point and landed with so much force, that he actually BOUNCED off the mat and ended up hitting his target. Needless to say, it was almost so bad, that I couldn’t WAIT for the inevitably horrible rematch that would be following.
While I know I can be tough on the stuff I don’t like, I pride myself in being a guy who gives credit where its due, and this match is a big improvement over the last two encounters. Is this good? No. It sucks. But its at least fun and keeps your attention where as the last one made you wanted to shoot yourself in the sack with a nail gun.
Here, the stick with mostly ECW garbage brawling stuff. Now in Japan, while they have a lot of Indy feds that do that sort of stuff, you don’t see it a lot in the more mainstream promotions and its a lot of fun watching Japanese people react to Bubba hitting Makabe with their beer or saki bottle. They pair off and work around the arena, eventually meeting up at the same point where they come back into the ring. The Dudley’s of course, dominate most of this and once we’re back to ringside, give us the clear indication that they’re not stopping there, and pull out every piece of trash in Tokyo out f rom under the ring and chuck it into the ring. f rom there, we conveniently use the tag rule when fat Bubba and fat D’Von gas-out, and ignore it when they’ve drank a few sodas on the outside and are regenerated. They use cheese graters, tables that won’t break and Japanese traffic signs. Its quite the spectacle.
It is what it is, nothing spectacular. If you’ve seen any garbage brawl in ECW, you’ve seen this, and this isn’t even on that level, but hey, at least this one happens in Japan, and that’s fun enough on its own to make it worth checking out if you can stomach that stuff for a little while. *1/2
MATCH #6: Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Shinsuke Nakamura, IWGP Heavyweight Championship
For the last two years, these two have more or less been the stars of the New Japan show. Nakamura is your more stoic, workman like guy and Tanahashi is the equivalent of Terell Owens, being a great deal flashier. Nakamura rocks some awesome bed head, eats, breathes, and you know what’s New Japan Wrestling. He gets up in the morning and trains. Tanahashi, on the other hand, has the perfect hair-do, talks about how pretty he is, and recently held out in contract negotiations (kayfabed) for naked pictures of various Japanese celebrities. Quite the contrast to say the least.
While the two have been more or less neck and neck the past two years in terms of development and talent, New Japan has been equally coy about who it is they’re really going to ‘go for it’ with. Very similar to Mutoh, Hashimoto and Chono in the early 90s, where they kind of placed them all on equal footing more or less, before making Hashimoto more of the go-to guy. Likely due to the fact that he’s a little bit more of a box office draw, it seems they’ve gone with Tanahashi and this, his third run with the IWGP title, seems to be the reign where they’re really going to dive head first with Tanahashi holding the belt.
Its one thing to ‘establish’ someone, but its another thing to ‘cement’ them. John Cena had an establishment run in ’05 and a quickie run in ’06 that didn’t amount to much. Likely, it’ll be his incredible streak in 2007 that we look back on, where he was really cemented as THE GUY in the WWE. The way things are shaping up here, it looks like this run will be that run for Tanahashi. Whether he’s up to the task is yet to be seen.
Tanahashi defeated Keiji Mutoh last month for the title in the Tokyo Dome, finally pinning his one time mentor and former New Japan ace. With Hashimoto dead, Mutoh was probably the next guy to look to for that favor. Mutoh, like Chono, has broken down severely over the years, but not to the degree of Chono, and thus has been able to really maintain a strong sense of credibility, despite not being able to bend his knees. They drew the biggest gate at the Tokyo Dome in years, and the torch was passed.
Mutoh took the title f rom Nakamura in a shocking upset last year and then defeated him almost on dumb luck in their rematch in October. Nakamura had won HIS title f rom Tanahashi at 2008’s Tokyo Dome show. So we have an interesting cycle of life here. In wanting to maintain the momentum f rom the Tokyo Dome last month, they booked this little ditty.
These two, while both having their faults, really mix well and have given us a pretty good history to work off of. Their match in 2006 was considered the match that made it cool to like New Japan again, and perhaps signs that brighter days were ahead. They had a fun Tokyo Dome main event last year, where Nakamura avenged his 2006 loss to Tanahashi, and self proclaimed himself the ‘ace of the company’. Once Tanahashi dethroned Mutoh, he said it wasn’t Nakamura, but rather himself, who was the true ace of New Japan, because he beat the guy Nakamura couldn’t beat. So this match is set up with some pretty big implications behind it.
I really enjoyed the heck out of this, and it might be one of the top five matches I’ve seen anywhere this year. They really do a job of establishing the personalities of these two through the stuff they do, which is the kind of deep, sappy crap I like in Japanese wrestling. Tanahashi goes right to the leg out of the gate, just like he did against Mutoh. He does enough damage to it, that he constantly comes back to it whenever things seem like they might be getting out of hand. As a result, Nakamura isn’t ever able to really get rolling, and by the time he does, he’s just too banged up to get the job done.
The do a good job illustrating this as Tanahashi keeps on the leg, constantly doing things to frustrate his rival. There’s one point where Nakamura tries to get back in the ring a few times, only for Tanahashi to keep him down on the floor as if to say ‘you’ll come in when I say you come in, beyotch’. Finally Nakamura pegs the annoying Tanahashi, only for Tanahashi to kip up and crank his leg coming through the ropes with a dragon screw, the same thing that got him in super hot water in his match with Mutoh a month earlier.
Nakamura though, keeps on fighting and keeps on willing his way back into the match. Tanahashi, because he’s so easily able to thwart these comebacks, eventually becomes, well, the guy who was photographed on a bicycle in Tokyo with the championship belt in a basket. He gets caught up in himself and makes the mistake of thinking he can win a battle of wills strike battle, and not many people are going to out will Nakamura. He finally gets going and starts hitting some big bombs, knowing that he can’t let Tanahashi do his thing, or he could be in real trouble this time.
After Nakamura is unable to put Tanahashi away with the big stuff, we get into a pretty great back and forth, in particular, and AWESOME submission spot where Nakamura locks on a triangle. Its a hugely important spot in the match. Tanahashi FIGHTS the hold and shows that despite being a pretty cocky, relaxed guy, HE has a lot of fighting spirit and he too, has the will of a lion. He counters the triangle into an awesome Texas cloverleaf only for Nakamura to wiggle his way out of that hold and roll Tanahashi into his patented Fujiwawa arm bar (a former New Japan stud.. holy aces) for a molten near fall. Tanahashi breaks the hold by pounding Nakamura’s banged up leg and attempting a NUTTY near fall roll up.
They go into feigning finishers where Nakamura hits the set up over head exploder, but can’t hit the falcon arrow. On the second attempt, Tanahashi hits his first and shockingly ONLY sling blade of the match. Tanahashi hulks up and slams Nakamura and looks for the high fly flow frog splash, but Nakamura cuts him off. They do a great job of teasing the ’08 Tokyo Dome finish but this time, Tanahashi fights him off. He flies off the ropes only to EAT Nakamura’s knees. Problem is though, that even though Nakamura saved himself, Tanahashi landed on the leg and Nakamura lets us all know that.
Nakamura can’t keep him down on two suplex pinning combinations because of it, and then goes for the falcon arrow, but Tanahashi kicks out. Nakamura’s tapped. He goes for a double under hook something or other, only for Tanahashi to hit the Frankensteiner, the move Mutoh’s used so many times, a move that pinned Nakamura in October and cost him the title. But Nakamura kicks out. He’s not quite done yet. Tanahashi tries a few suplexes and those don’t get the job done, but you know the ends near. He mounts the buckles and hits the high fly flow and just to be sure, he hits one more, and vanquishes his rival.
This is just such a fantastic match, it might be my favorite match of the year thus far. There’s very little no-selling silliness and there’s a lot of back story here that they play up super well: The finish f rom their Dome match a year ago, the finish f rom the Mutoh-Nakamura match f rom October, showing how Tanahashi ‘learned’ some effective new tricks, tricks that can make him a real ‘ace’, f rom his match with Mutoh. What makes this even better though, is they don’t let the stuff in between slip at all. This is never close to boring at any one point, the counters are awesomely done, and the strikes look like money. Most importantly though, they did such a good job of juxtaposing the two as CHARACTERS, while being sure to uncover some new qualities about Tanahashi that we might not have realized he possessed. Qualities that now that he’s harnessed them, make him the guy to beat in New Japan quite clearly. This is a fantastic match and you should really go out of your way to see it. ****
March 1st Budokan Hall Show Begins to Take Shape
After taking the title f rom his Burning rival, Katsuhiko Nakajima will be putting his newly won belt on the line at the Budokan Hall on March 1st. Nakajima defeated KENTA last week for the title at a special Kensuke Office Show. As of now, it is the second scheduled title match for the card. In the main event, GHC Heavyweight Champion and Nakajima mentor Kensuke Sasaki will defend his title against Jun Akiyama.
Also, Takashi Sugiura & Go Shiozaki issued a challenge to New Japan star Shinsuke Nakamura and junior heavyweight Milano Collection A.T. It will be the first ‘New Japan Invasion’ of a Budokan Hall show in quite some time.
Second Navigation Tour Kicks Off
The Second Navigation opened on February 15th at the Differ Ariake in front of a strong sell out number of 1,800 fans. Ricky Steamboat made perhaps the biggest splash, teaming with former WWE star Bull Buchanan to take on the team of Akira Taue & Taiji Ishimori. Ishimori pinned Steamboat, but the match was a big deal for little Dragon, as being in a match with Taue is a big deal, especially right off the bat.
The main event of the show was the team of Shiozaki & Sugiura defeating Jun Akiyama & Shuhei Taniguch. They’re working a series of matches to supposedly ‘prepare’ themselves for the invaders. In other news, Mohommed Yone seems to be pushed into a ‘leader’ spot in the new heel faction called Kekigun. Former GHC Champion Takeshi Rikioh, GHC Jr. Champion Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Kotaro Suzuki & Genbar Hiraynanagi are also part of the group.
1800 fans (Super No-Vacancy)
1. Naoki Sano?d. Masao Inoue (11:38) with a Northern Lights Bomb.
2. Akira Taue & Taiji Ishimori d. Buchanan & Ricky Steamboat Jr. (9:27) when Ishimori used a Diving Body Attack on Steamboat.
3. Naomichi Marufuji, Atsushi Aoki & Akihiro Ito d. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Kotaro Suzuki & Genba Hirayanagi (14:38) when Aoki used a rotating school boy on Kanemaru.
4. KENTA & Ippei Ota d. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Kento Miyahara (13:38) when KENTA used an Octopus Hold on Miyahara.
5. Doug Williams, Roderick Strong & Davey Richards d. Mitsuharu Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa & Ricky Marvin (15:56) when Richards used the DR Driver on Marvin.
6. Bison Smith & Akitoshi Saito d. Kensuke Sasaki & Takashi Okita (18:33) when Saito used the Sickle of Death on Okita.
7. Takeshi Rikio & Mohammed Yone d. Takeshi Morishima & Makoto Hashi (5:43) when Yone used a volley kick on Hashi.
8. Takashi Sugiura & Go Shiozaki d. Jun Akiyama & Shuhei Taniguchi (21:02) when Shiozaki used a Short Ranged Lariat on Taniguchi.
NOAH President & Japanese wrestling legend Mitsuharu Misawa has taken many to school in the wrestling ring, but it seems he’s ready to make the jump into the classroom, too, at least part time. Misawa will be teaching a class at Hepeikyoheisai College in Tokyo on sports. What sports exactly, we have no idea, but Misawa said that Kenta Kobashi, Tamon Honda, Jun Akiyama, Takeshi Rikio, Satroru Asako and Ryu Nakata will all be making ‘guest appearances’ at the college to participate in speaking engagements in the coming academic year. Don’t be late to that class!
Brother ?Yasshi? Retires
Brother Yasshi retired at the 2/15 show at the Kyoto KBS Hall in, well, in a way that only he could. After a really fun match teaming with his longtime partner Shuji Kondo, Yasshi retired and then un-retired in exactly one minute. He said he was coming back for one match, issued a promo on blown out knees, and called out Keiji Mutoh to the ring for his last match. Mutoh squashed him in a minute, thirty three seconds. Wrestleview.com wishes Brother Yasshi a most glorious retirement.
AJPW, 2/15/09 (Samurai! TV)
Kyoto KBS Hall
1,200 Fans – Super No Vacancy
1. Masanobu Fuchi & Riki Sensyu beat Osamu Nishimura & Nobutaka Araya (12:30) when Fuchi used an inside cradle on Araya.
2. Ryuji Hijikata beat Hate (6:06) by disqualification.
3. Minoru, Michael Faith & Lance Hoyt beat Kaz Hayashi, Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya (16:37) when Minoru used the Firebird splash on Hayashi.
4. Satoshi Kojima, KAI & Hiroshi Yamato beat Minoru Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA (16:25) when KAI used a splash plancha on Rongai.
5. Taiyo Kea & Yoshihiro Takayama beat Keiji Muto & Ryota Hama (16:06) when Takayama used a running knee lift on Hama.
6. ?brother? YASSHI Final: Suwama & Shuji Kondo beat TARU & ?brother? YASSHI (18:01) when Kondo used the King Kong lariat on YASSHI.
7. Special Final: Keiji Muto beat ?brother? YASSHI (1:33) with the Shining Wizard.
Keiji Mutoh apparently has scratched himself out of all appearances for the ?HOLD OUT TOUR ’09?. He said in his stead, Triple Crown Champion Great Muta will be replacing him. He thanks the champion for being so flexible with his schedule.
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
– Champion Carnival Participation Determination: Seiya Sanada vs. Manabu Soya
– Kaz Hayashi & Ryuji Hijikata vs. TARU & Minoru
– Great Muta vs. MAZADA
– AJPW World Tag Team Title #1 Contendership: Suwama & Shuji Kondo vs. Joe Doering & ZODIAC
– All Asia Tag Team Title: Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai (c) vs. Satoshi Kojima & KAI
The ?GROWIN? UP? tour returns for the latter part of April.
4/17 @ Ishinomaki City Gymnasium
4/19 @ Fujioka Citizen Hall
4/22 @ Mie
4/24 @ Takamatsu City Gymnasium
4/25 @ Hiroshima Industrial Exchange Hall Big Rose
4/26 @ Okayama Wholesale Center Orange Hall
4/29 @ Tokyo Korakuen Hall
In a scary moment this past week, the Zero-One tour bus caught fire and was destroyed on its way out of Osaka. There were exactly 23 wrestlers and office employees on the bus, but thankfully, all were safe.
Additionally, Shinobu Takano, a former pro baseball player for the Tokyo Tomiuri Giants, made his debut on that same Osaka show. He only played 17 games with the Giants as an outfielder. He is the first baseball player since Shoei Baba to get involved in Wrestling. Of course the other well known baseball turned wrestler was Randy ?Macho Man? Savage, who for years, was part of the Cincinnati Reds farm system in the mid-late 70s.
Also, Yoshiyuki Nakamura said that the March 15th show at the Korakuen Hall, Takano will be facing ?Mr. Wrestling III? (Steve Corino) for the US Championship. The company is pushing the match as only the second time in history a wrestler’s received a title shot in his second match as a pro. Of course, in 1997, Naoya Ogawa faced the IWGP Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto in his second match. Obviously, it was a bit bigger deal, as it was the headlining match at the Osaka Dome that year.