Tenzan Released From the Hospital
In a bit of good news, Hiroyoshi Tenzan is out of the hospital after undergoing survery to repair a torn retina in his eye. As reported last week, they’re estimating anywhere from a three to four month layoff. The Doctors advised him to stay out of the ring until at least March or April, with a May return perhaps most likely.
End of the Month Korakuen Double Shot
On the 30th and 31st, New Japan will be running a double shot at the Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The primary focus of the show will be on building towards the big Sumo Hall main event between IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura. Zero One World Heavyweight Champion and rival Yuji Nagata, will be teaming up with the man whom he both defeated and lost the IWGP title to in 2007 for the main event of the first show. The headlining match for the second show will feature both Nakamura and Tanahashi teaming up with a pair of juniors as Tanahashi teams up with Yujiro and Tetsuya Naito and Nakamura will partner with Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi.
Keiji Mutoh’s Future in New Japan, Possible Match with Misawa on Horizon?
The Tokyo Dome show overall is still believed to be a big success. That’s thanks large in part to the drawing power of Keji Mutoh, who while obviously well past his prime, can seemingly still put a lot of people in one place. New Japan’s television ratings and attendance received a significant boost during his run as champion last year. The working plan right now is to keep him on New Japan shows, working some higher profile matches and programs.
There are discussions being held regarding a possible Mitsuharu Misawa-Keji Mutoh dream match. The two have never faced each other in single’s competition, and it’s one of the last big 90s dream matches to have never taken place. New Japan seems like a natural fit as the promotion to host the match. Misawa is the President of Pro Wrestling NOAH and Mutoh is President of All Japan Pro Wrestling. New Japan being both the neutral party and the best draw of the three, would probably make it the likely venue. While there aren’t plans set in stone yet, the companies would all like to see it happen this year.
New Japan and TNA, ???Sittin’ in a Tree???
The TNA Global iMPACT special won’t likely be airing until mid-February. As a result, Team 3D’s and the Motor City Machine Gun’s tag title victories at the Tokyo Dome will likely not be acknowledged until then. New Japan is working vigorously to build a strong relationship with TNA here in the US. They’re decision to put their tag titles on both Team 3D and The Motor City Machine Guns was done largely because they want to see some title defenses in the US that they can use for TV in Japan. They’re hoping to send some of their more promising juniors to TNA for some extra development. Currently, Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito are learning English in preparation for an extended run in TNA and what New Japan is hoping will be a feud with Alex Shelley & Chris Sabin.
Minoru Set to Leave New Japan
It’s seemed to be pretty obvious, but the New Japan Website confirmed today that Minoru will indeed, be leaving the company following a move from BattlARTS. Minoru has been one of the top juniors in the company this decade but of late, has taken a back seat, opting instead to mentor Prince Devitt in the Junior Tag ranks.
Minoru is going to wrestle his final match with new Japan on the 31st against Nobuo Yoshihashi at the Korakuen. He plans to address the crowd there, and while his future plans are unknown now, it’s expected that he will address the crowd at the show.
Koji Kanemoto will work the 1/23 Dragon Gate show at Korakuen Hall.
The company has scheduled a 37th anniversary show on 3/6 at Korakuen Hall.
The New Japan Cup will be ‘on’ again this year and is slated to start on March 8th in Nagoya and end on the 22nd in Armagasaki. The winner of the tournament is deemed #1 contender and earns a title shot at the IWGP heavyweight Champion, whomever that may be.
Marifuji Lobbying For Triple Crown Shot
NOAH Superstar Naomichi Marifuji has been recently lobbying for a title shot against the Great Muta sometime later this year. He currently holds their Junior title and has been working in All Japan a great deal. Yoshihiro Takayama is slated to face Muta at the March Sumo Hall show, but they haven’t been given much direction as to what direction they’re going to take. Muta has held the titles since September, when he upset Suwama to win the belts. His first defense was this past November, against former Champion Minoru Suzuki.
Speaking of Takayama, his title shot has been made ‘official’ so to speak after he won his five matches in a row required during the recent Shining Tour. He defeated both Zodiac and Joe Doering during the Korakuen double shot to open the year, before rolling through Managua Soya, Seiya Sanada and Nobutaka Araya on the 6th, 7th, and 10th.
Takayama is a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion and enjoyed a brief stint as Champion in Pro Wrestling NOAH, winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship. The Triple Crown is the only title he has yet to win. The running knee lift and Everest German Suplex are the two big moves they’re putting over in these tour matches, so it should be interesting to see how that plays out against Muta at the Sumo Hall.
And for those of you who want to know, Brother Yasshi’s ‘retirement’ match will be on the 15th, the day after Valentine’s Day in Kyoto. It will be the first retirement to take place before the age of 30.
OH HEY, It’s a review of the Korakuen Double Shot that opened the year! Enjoy!
AJPW “NEW YEAR SHINING SERIES 2009”, 1/2/09
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
2,100 Fans – Super No Vacancy
MATCH #1: Nobutaka Ariya v. Hiroshi Yamato
Fun opener for the most part. They dabble with some comedy stuff early on, especially between Ariya and the official. We get plenty of butt chops and other silliness. Once the match moves to the outside though, it kind of moves into more of your stereotypical big man v. little man match. Yamato struggles to move the larger Ariya and Ariya struggles to swat the pesky mosquito in Yamato. The end stretch I found to be a lot of fun, with Ariya absolutely pulverizing Yamato with as good a brain buster as I’ve seen thus far this year that gets him a two count. He hits a nasty lariat for another two and then decides to stop screwing around and slams to the mat and launches his fatness off the top rope with a pretty good looking moonsault for the win. Fun opener. **
MATCH #2: Taru & Joe Doering v. Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya
Holy smokes this is a bore-fest. Sanada and Soya don’t really get much of anything in here and go for such long stretches without offense that they totally lose any sympathy the crowd would have for them. Their comeback spots are pretty bland which isn’t helped by the fact that Doering is a really bland heavyweight at this point and Taru’s just a guy whose your stereotypical cheap heat kind of goth guy. They flip the crowd the bird and generally act way more heelish than they really need to and pretty much just kind of kill time. No idea why this went 15 minutes. On the positive side, Doering does bring the heat in the finishing stretch with a pretty sick lariat and a nice spinning power bomb. Other than that though, this was totally too long and altogether uninteresting. 1/2*
MATCH #3: Yoshihiro Takayama v. Zodiac
Zodiac, better known as Aaron Aguilera, is having his first match back since having his appendix out less than a month ago and is wearing a stomach protector. Holy crap, what a moron. Storyline here is that Takayama has won every major title in Japan. He won the IWGP title in New Japan off of Yuji Nagata and defeated Yoshinari Ogawa for NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Championship the following year. Since then, Tak’s been on a bit of a dry spell in terms of titles and is looking to get some gold. He popped up in New Japan to aid his friend Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki was defeated by Triple Crown Champion Great Muta. Tak didn’t like how Muta was treating Suzuki after the match and came to his aid. It was announced that Takayama could get a shot at Muta and his belts, but he’d have to win five matches in a row, first. This is his first match.
Zodiac is in some terrible shape here, wearing a stomach protector and I’m hoping (and Tak looks like he’s hoping, too by the looks of things) that his stomach doesn’t explode in the ring. This is a pretty quick match, and Tak just blows through some quick shoulder blocks and one or two slams, especially when it gets blatantly obvious that Zodiac’s got no business being here. This probably could have been fun, but man, Aguilera’s a moron. This is just a simple, gingerly worked squash. 1/4*
MATCH #4: All Asia Tag Team Championship Quarter Finals: Taiyo Kea & MAZADA v. Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura
The entrances, you’ve gotta love. One team comes out to the Short circuit 2 Classic ???I Need a Hero??? while the other comes out to ???Danger Zone???. I love wrestling. This is ok stuff even if at times, it’s a little plodding. Kea’s working with MAZADA, whose not nearly at his level. Kea’s booked super-dominant here, and he should, considering his two opponents are pushing 60. The old birds prove pretty crafty here and are able to pick their spots well enough to get a roll up shocker victory. Every team needs a Cinderella and this is probably the big shocker of the first round. Definitely worth a look see for the fun of it. *3/4
MATCH #5: All Asia Tag Team Championship Quarter Finals: Brother Yasshi & Hate v. Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai
Much more fun stuff here. Yasshi and Hate play good bumbling heels, with all sort of fun antics and back fire spots. They seem mostly able to deal with Rongai, but struggle immensely with Suzuki, who really more or less carries this deal. His does some fun slappy comedy spots, no sells a nut grab, etc. Suzuki’s always been a mixed bag for me, but he seems to excel in medium length tags. They do a good job of keeping Yasshi and Suzuki apart for the finishing stretch, and do a good job of having Suzuki look strong without having to throw Yasshi on the fire with the DQ finish. And after teasing the fire extinguisher half the match, thank god they used it. This won’t set your world on fire, but it’s a fun match for sure. **
MATCH #6: All Asia Tag Team Championship Quarter Finals: Shuji Kondo & Ryota Hama v. Keji Mutoh & Kaz Hayazhi
Sort of a tale of two matches. Everything kind of revolves around the huge frame of of Ryota Hama, a former Sumo Wrestler who recently signed with the company. He’s one fat guy. The highlights of the early going really revolved around young Kaz Hayazhi, whose a lot of fun here, sticking with the more experienced Kondo move for move until he tags out to Mutoh. Mutoh comes in to face Hama and that’s where this thing falls off the tracks a bit.
Rather than letting the guy stand on him, pound him, fat on him, Mutoh elects to take things to the mat, which is kind of weird. They exchange some really awkward looking grappling spots with Mutoh frequently falling off Hama and worse yet, losing contact. Just didn’t look good and I was surprised that Mutoh would take that angle. Pretty awful stuff.
Thankfully however, once they figure out this silliness isn’t working, Hayazhi tags in and Hama pretty much eats like 50 of him. He stands on him, some awesome pin fall sequences where Kaz struggles to get out from under him, etc. He plays a great mosquito, buzzing all about and being a total nuisance to Kondo and Hama.
They go home with an ok-ish sequence where Hama ends up in the ring alone with Mutoh and eats a big shining wizard as Mutoh finally figures out a way to handle the big man. Given Hama’s relative new-ness to the company, it’d have been nice had they waited a little while for someone to ‘figure him out’ so to speak, but I guess this works. Fun match and a runaway for the match of this show thus far. **1/4
MATCH #7: All Asia Tag Team Championship Quarter Finals: Suwama & Ryuji Hijikata v. Satoshi Kojima & KAI
Another very flat match. Suwama and Kijikata really don’t bring much mustard to their strikes and kind of seem to be going through the motions, which is weird given the fact that this is the last major match of the night. Kojima is a guy who never fails, but rarely impresses and this is very much a prototypical Kojima deal. This is a really long match, with both youngsters taking a beating and not bringing a whole lot of fire to the match. The tempo picks up by the end, but it really seems like it’s too little, too late. Nothing is offensive or anything, this is just a really flat, sort of mindless match. *1/2
NOAH has been dealt some pretty big blows in the past few months. Because of that, the company has instituted several cost-cutting measures to make the company more solvent in the coming year. IN addition to cutting down on the talent on tours, NOAH recently decided to make some additional changes to their 2009 schedule. The tours are going to be kept significantly shorter and will likely revolve mostly around the Tokyo area. This will significantly cut back on hotel and travel expenses.
As mentioned earlier, there has been talk of bringing in New Japan legend and All Japan President Keji Mutoh in for a possible dream match with Mitsuharu Misawa. However, Mutoh’s name isn’t the only outsider being thrown around. IWGP Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, G1 Climax tournament winner Hirooki Goto and IWGP Junior champion Tiger Mas, have all been mentioned. Goto at this point seems to be the most likely, as there are two natural matches with both Misawa and Takashi Sugiura that can be had coming off the big Tokyo Dome event. Either way, expect to see a lot of New Japan stars make their way to NOAH this year.
First NOAH Show of the New Year, Differ Ariaki Double Shot, Earns an ???I??? for ???Interesting???
NOAH’s first show of the year took place at the Differ Ariake in Tokyo and was co-promoted by Naomichi Marifuji in front of a sell out crowd of 1,800. Marifuji retained the All Japan Junior title by defeating Nosawa. Kyohei Wada, whose the famous All Japan referee, was also brought in to officiate the match, in order to give it more of an ‘authentic’ feel. After his victory, Marifuji was challenged by Kaz Hayashi, which should be a fun match. It was later added to the the February 6th All Japan show.
In sort of a weird chain of events, the match on the show that received the most attention was the KENTA/Segiura ??? Taue/Takayama tag match. The big news was that Takashi Segiura pinned Taue to win the match, which is a big deal. In the 1990s, Akira Taue was one of the ???Four Pillars of Heaven??? in All Japan along with Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada. While Taue is very much broken down and not the wrestler he was, he is still very much protected, as are most big name wrestlers in Japan. For Segiura to pin him is a big deal. The company toyed with pushing him the last two years, but seemed to come around to the idea after his very strong performance in the highly touted tag match at the Tokyo Dome show last week. So on it’s face, Segiura pinning Taue was the big news.
Well, turns out that might have not been planned, after all.
Takayama, as mentioned earlier, has really been booked to be a monster in All Japan of late, and that all of course is leading to his eventual title shot against the Great Muta.. During the match, KENTA hit a huge round house kick to Takayama’s head, and Tak sold the shot like he had been shot point blank. There were some frantic moments before they went right to the finish with Segiura pinning Taue.
They said Takayama was ok in the dressing room but it raised some big questions as to whether or not Takayama was legitimately knocked out or not. For one, this isn’t a time when All Japan would be ‘ok’ with that kind of a result, a 180 lb. Guy knocking out the 280 lb. Guy they’re pushing to the moon. Second, In Japan, those kinds of knock out spots are NEVER worked. And third, Segiura pinned Taue, which is a really rare result. In that kind of a match, Segiura is the obvious job guy. Misawa has booked some angles before, but they usually have a big purpose, and they rarely swerve someone for the sake of it. They hit their kicks hard in Japan, and it’s possible Tak got KO’d, but regardless, mishap or not, Segiura benefits greatly.
Mitsuo Momota, the 60 Year old son of Japanese wrestling Super-Legend Rikidozan, turned heel on the show with a new gimmick, calling himself ???Legend Heel Momota???. He’s got new garb and a shaved head. Momota has been a long time preliminary match job guy for the company.
The 1/12 show drew a slightly smaller crowd, around 1,600 paid. Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli, Bull Buchanan, Bobby Fish and Keith Walker popped up and are the scheduled foreigners for the tour. Hero and Castagnoli made a big splash, defeating former GHC Heavyweight Champion Takeshi Morishima and his partner, Makoto Hashi. Go Shiozaki pinned Takuma Sano and in the process, debuted his new finisher, which is a modified version of the ‘Razor’s Edge’. The company wants to make it one of the big finishing moves in Japan. The main event featured some build up for the Match 1st Budokan main event, with GHC Heavyweight Champion Kensuke Sasaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima defeating Challenger Jun Akiyama and Atsushi Aoki.
Misc. NOAH News
Shuhei Taniguchi, who the company is very big on, is scheduled to return. He had been out for seven months, nursing an injury back to health. Morishima, Shiozaki and Taniguchi were thee heavyweights the company hoped to really push heading into the future.
And finally, Ricky Steamboat Jr. has signed on with NOAH and is currently training with the company.
There’ll be two tag title matches on the 1/18 show this week. The Open the Triangle gate title will be on the line when Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fuji & Magnitude Kishiwada take on BxB Hulk, Naoki Tanizaki and mcKz. On February 8th, Nagoya with Naruki Doi will defend the Open the Dream Gate title against Taku Iwasa
Also, New Japan’s Koji Kanemoto is planning on working their Korakuen Show on the 23rd of this month.
Tribute Show scheduled for the 29th
Rossy Ogawa, a former women’s wrestling promoter has booked a show on the 29th, that will be a tribute to the glory days of Wrestling. Mil Mascaras, Tatsumi Fujinami and Tiger Mask are all expected to be on the show. The show has been dubbed the ???Masceras Festival???, which might be a hint that this could be Mil’s last run in Japan.