Welcome everyone to this week’s colossal Tokyo Dome Edition of the Rising Sun Soliloquy!
Although its important not to take things too far, there are some things about the Tokyo Dome show this past Sunday that really will give New Japan execs reason to breathe far easier.
The show, according to Dave Meltzer at The Wrestling Observer, was around 27,500 paid, which IS just shy of the goal of 30,000 tickets the organization had hoped to sell. However, the good news in this is that its the best attendance New Japan has had for an event since 2004. That show featured Bob Sapp when he was one of the biggest acts in the country as well as a match involving Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan in a match to unify the IWGP and Triple Crown titles.
The big intrigue heading into the show largely revolved around the two NOAH-invasion matches, the first match featured Manabu Nakanishi and Jun Akiyama, two wrestlers that had a very deep past with each other, but never wrestled in the ring. The two were both finalists for a spot on the 1992 Barcelona Olympic team in freestyle wrestling. Nakanishi won the match. Both turned pro once the Olympics were over. Akiyama became a huge star with All Japan Pro Wrestling and later NOAH, while Nakanishi elected to wrestle in New Japan. While he, too was successful, he never really achieved the kind of stardom that everyone had hoped he would. The Mitsuharu Misawa/Takeshi Seguira team was expected to bring a large NOAH gate, as they took on the team of New Japan #2 Shinsuke Nakamura and fast rising star and G1 Climax Tournament winner Hirooki Goto. The main event featured a teacher v. pupil, mvp v. ace trying to get his groove back match in the Mutoh v. Tanahashi title match. I’ll go into more detail about their program in the review.
What was most encouraging to folks with New Japan, though, was the amount of fans in their 20s at the show. One person close to the organization said that the energy really felt good and that there was certainly a new, up and coming generation of wrestling fans in attention. There were said to be a ton of Mistico masks in the crowd as well as a surprising lack of reaction to Riki Chosu, whose ‘power hall’ entrance is one of the longest running in Japan, as he’s used the same music for 30 some-odd years. Even Misawa, while still over to a degree, didn’t get nearly the reaction that they thought he’d get.
A lot of folks in attendance said that there was a buzz that New Japan Pro Wrestling was starting to get ‘cool’ again. Now Japan is a fad culture to begin with, so its important to recognize that something being ‘cool’ in Japan rarely has a year’s worth of legs, but the upside to this is that every match on the card got a reaction. It was felt that this was largely a crowd that was newer to wrestling, unaware of the glory days that came before it, and thus not making the comparison to those.
But what was even more encouraging was the amount of fans in their 20s at the show.
???I felt good energy at the Tokyo Dome,??? noted one person affiliated with the industry there. ???People were really enjoying the show. We may finally have a whole new generation of wrestling fans. The willing suspension of disbelief was there.???
There were four title changes on the show, with both tag titles and both major singles titles changing hands. Both tag titles, were won by TNA talent, the Motor City Machine Guns and Team 3D, who retains their undefeated record in Japan. The putting over of TNA talent is a clear tip of the cap to the company and that a stronger relationship between the two companies exists. TNA President Dixie Carter, Jeff Jarrett and Mick Foley all popped up on the big screen congratulating New Japan on its 20th anniversary Tokyo Dome show and they all got a genuine reaction. Jeremy Borash was ringside and did the announcements for many of the matches.
In addition, there was plenty of inter-Japan business talk between All Japan Keiji Mutoh and New Japan execs. They decided that the two companies would work closely this year and try to coordinate their schedules to they didn’t run on top of each other. NOAH President Mitsuharu Misawa was also on board, and wants to mix outside talent into his shows and vice versa. Misawa has always been of the impression that doing too much of that is a bad thing, because it doesn’t make it as special, but considering they just lost NTV, they’re looking to provide more dream matches and will be getting on board.
And best yet, there is strong reason to believe there will be a big Pro Wrestling NOAH v. New Japan feud potentially coming about later this year.
Awesome Kong was backstage as was Bob Sapp. Sapp came to visit with Kevin Nash, who worked with him on ???The Longest Yard???. There was talk of Sapp either coming back to New Japan or working in TNA now that his deal with HUSTLE is up.
Throughout history, there have been 38 New Japan shows at the Tokyo dome. The first one was held on April 24, 1989 and set the pro wrestling attendance gate record at $2,781,000 and had 44,000 in attendance. That of course was the show where Vader defeated Hashimoto in the finals of a tournament to determine the IWGP champion. Jushin Liger debuted his gimmick on that show and Lou Thesz was a guest referee. Probably the biggest story on that show was five Soviet amateur wrestlers who worked the show. The Soviet Government never allowed its athletes to compete professionally and thus New Japan was the first sports organization on the planet to get them to change paths. A lot of folks credit the collapse of the Soviet Economy at the time, which would also lead to the NHL getting Soviet players, but its still a pretty impressive distinction nonetheless.
Almost bigger than that was Antonio Inoki v. 1972 Judo gold medalist Shota Chochoshvili in a no ropes, judo platform Martial Arts World title match. Inoki did the job, with it being the firs time he had done that in 14 years. Chochoshvili used uranages, thus introducing the move to the sport and knocked Inoki out in the fifth round.
The Wrestlekingdom III show opened with a six minute video package, with famous clips of Tokyo Dome shows mixed in with a preview of the matches on the show.
WRESTLEKINGDOM III ??? TOKYO DOME, 1/4/09 REVIEW
MATCH #1: Mistico, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt vs. Averno, Jado & Gedo
I was sort of surprised to see this match get the praise it got. Don’t get me wrong, its a fun exhibition of Mistico which is supposed to juice the crowd up for the rest of the show, and in that sense, it succeeds, but all this really is is mostly three big Mistico high spot runs with some set stunt sections in between. The near falls aren’t really that interesting, especially one where, after eating a Tope, Plancha and Asai Moonsault, he goes for a roll up kind of out of nowhere that’s got zero heat behind it. Now granted, there’s a fun exchange between him and Mistico in the end that’s got some great back and forth that leads to a good roll up near fall, but outside of that, this is just pain by the numbers, get in, get out juniors stuff. *1/2
MATCH #2: Jushin ???Thunder’ Liger & Takuma Sano v. Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue
For this match supposedly being a lot about Liger, there was a ton of Sano, which isn’t necessarily bad. His kicks in this are pretty top notch and seem to be a match for whatever Koji and Wataru and toss his way. It works pretty well though, with Kanemoto and Inoue really spending the lion’s share of the match trying to figure out the kicks and Sano consistently delivering them, building of course, to the eventual Liger hot tag. Once we hit the hot tag, Inoue’s repeatedly dispatched by Sano, who frees himself up for a fun little ‘let’s see who can explode a kid’s head first’ contest with Liger back in the ring. A really fun match despite the dead crowd. **
MATCH #3: The Motor City Machine Guns v. Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito, IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Team Championship
These junior tag matches, even with two teams busting their backsides, rarely get over in the Dome and this is just sort of another instance of that. I was surprised with how much offense Shelley and Sabin were allowed to get in, almost too much as by the end of this match, you don’t feel like Yujiro or Naito are really in their league. I guess I just wasn’t expecting the New Japan folks to give as much up as they did.
Another weird dynamic here, too, because you can’t really tell whether Alex Shelley wants to be a face or a heel here, and apparently he didn’t, either. We get a great, if not slightly cheesy ???Detroit needs Heroes??? speech before hand at the Press Conference and then he’s all wiping his blood on the belts disrespectfully after the match. During the action, he’s taunting the crowd one minute and trying to get them into the match two seconds later.
So there’s this super weird dynamic here and what ends up coming f rom it is just set spot after set spot, while Shelley and Sabin seem hell-bent on getting the usually quiet for Junior Tags Dome crowd to pop. For anything. There’s no limb work, no real frequent falls.. just a lot of circus trick/mirror spots and little else. Its a fun spectacle, but its little else other than that. *3/4
MATCH #4: Low Ki v. Tiger Mask, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Man, the first five minutes of this is awesome and then it just DIES. The feud heading in was that Low Ki was sort of hell bent on showing the world he was the guy to end the legacy of Tiger Mask. He steamrolled him back in September to take the title and after one or two defenses, decides its time to bury the legacy once and for all and grants Tiger Mask the rematch. Making a spectacle of the legendary junior in the biggest spectacle show of the year would be the perfect ending to Ki’s conquest of the division.
Right off the bat, Tiger Mask whiffs badly and Ki hits a Ki Krusher not two minutes in for a fantastic near fall. f rom there you get a nice little brawl onto the ramp where Ki gets a tombstone as a receipt. It’s on! Or not….
Then f rom there, I almost don’t know what it is, but it just seems so pedestrian. Ki looks fine, repeatedly going for the double stomp, hits a surly spinning wheel kick and even whips out a pretty nifty dragon suplex. Tiger Mask IV though, whose got a reputation for boring-ness, is pretty boring. Its not even in his move selection so much as there just isn’t any real emotion behind what he’s doing.
And that really kills this. Heading in, this is supposedly all about Ki ending Tiger’s legacy and we get this shotgun start that feels like almost a fail safe way for Tiger Mask IV to generate a lot of sympathy and set up the comeback win. But a total lack of emotion here. Too bad, because Ki really laid this match out to be as screw-up safe as you could make it, brought the thunder and Tiger Mask didn’t really return the favor. **
MATCH #5: Kurt Angle, Kevin Nash, Masahiro Chono & Riki Chosu v. Giant Bernard, Takashi Iizuka ,Tomohiro Ishii & Karl Anderson
This was pretty bad stuff. IMO, it was probably the worst match of the night. I wasn’t expecting much heading into this as ‘bleh’ is the best you can hope for is an epic contest between Angle, Nash, Chono and Chosu to find out whom has less left in the tank. Giant Bernard, better known as A-Train, has quietly become one of the best heavyweights on the planet these days, but he’s stuck working against the Geriatric has-beens and working with the ‘dead on Arrival’ crowd of Iizuka, who might be the worst wrestler I’ve ever seen in a main stream promotion, ever (and that’s a lot of dudes), Ishii who I don’t even know if he gets a tag in the whole match and Karl Anderson, whose about as interesting as his name implies. His partner Bob Smith couldn’t make it apparently.
Anyways, this was about what I expected. Chono hobbles. Chosu tries, but no one can take a beating seriously when the guy beating you is named Karl Anderson. Nash takes a nap on the outside before half-walking, inexplicably at that, across the ring to have a totally lackluster strike sequence on the outside where I don’t think he comes within seven feet of actually hitting Bernard. Angle comes in, hits two Germans (that’s 20 less than the usual), counters a hold (gotta have that) before slapping on an ankle lock on Anderson for a submission at seven minutes. The opener was the example of a ‘good’ exhibition match, this, not so much.
The good part though, is Bernard hitting a derailer on Angle, which might lead to a feud that’s good for the company no matter what. Bernard wins, he’s got some huge momentum over there and put over as THE gaijin to beat in Japan. If Angle wins, we potentially get a decent drawing match down the line with Tanahashi. So the outcome was good, but man, the match sucked. 1/2*
MATCH #6: Yuji Nagata v. Masato Tanaka, ZERO-1 World Heavyweight Championship
The first match between these two occurred last October. Basically, a whole feud had erupted between the independent Zero-One organization and New Japan. They had a pretty fun feud through the Summer and it more or less ended up centered on these two. Tanaka was the ‘ace’ of Zero-One and spent the majority of the year running through challengers that came f rom New Japan. Nagata had earned a reputation through the years as ???Mr. IWGP???, for his lengthy run in 2003 and a strong second run with the championship last year. He’s kind of ???Mr. New Japan??? and is sort of the proverbial defender of the faith.
So of course, with a rogue organization’s champion running amok in his beloved promotion’s ranks, Nagata stepped up to the plate and challenged Tanaka. They met in October and Nagata won the title f rom Tanaka. Its been no secret that the business in Japan is in pretty rough shape and that can be said especially, for Zero-One. So New Japan flew to the rescue with the whole idea of this feud and thus far, its served as a life line for Zero One. Nagata drew well in his two title defenses since then, and all this was supposedly built (we assumed) so that Tanaka could defeat Nagata at the Tokyo Dome, a win that would elevate him, their title and show that Zero-One’s boys can go toe to toe with the best of them. They’re still in business, New Japan gets a great drawing feud, everyone wins. So there’s your history.
The first match took place in October and a lot of folks gave it some high praise. Nagata, to me, is a lot like Kurt Angle in the sense that when he’s got a guy to reign him in, he’s phenomenal. When he gets carried away though, things can get silly. Tanaka, and yes this is the same one of ECW fame, has slimmed down quite a bit, and while he can be fantastic at times, also has a tenancy to get ‘too’ into things. I appreciated the effort the two put into their first match as the two legit kicked the crap out of each other. Unfortunately, I thought they sort of succumbed to a lot of their shortcomings and especially with regards to the finish, went into supreme overkill mode with Sliding D’s everywhere, two or three demon arm bars, head d rops galore and just in general, a lot of overkill. That being said, it left something to be built upon, as these two had a lot of chemistry and if they could work some kinks out, it could be awesome.
Well, they weren’t 100% on the button here, but this is a drastic improvement and REALLY an awesome match. They’re well aware of each other here with some learned psychology and Tanaka goes right for the dome of Nagata. We get some FANTASTIC back and forth with some totally brutal strikes on the outside for both, before Tanaka takes total control, breaking a chair (yes, breaking) over Nagata’s head. After some head to post love, Nagata gets chucked back into the ring and crumples on a whip attempt to allow Tanaka to stooge a bit before gathering the champ and decapitating him with a lariat. After a pin fall attempt he whips Nagata into the buckles and goes for a follow up, but Nagata side steps him and goes bananas on him with hate, uncorking a ton of rights and lefts, taking his aggression out on Tanaka, and busting him open. Jeremy Borash, who thinks he’s Michael Buffer, lets us know five minutes have gone by and we’ve already got two busted up, bloody guys.
f rom there we get some fun back and forth, with Tanaka repeatedly heading back to the head to break up a ton of Nagata mini-control segments. The finish though, is out of this world. I’ve become a big sucker for delayed finishes, ones where a guy hits a move and YOU KNOW its just a matter of time. This one has a really well executed delayed finish. Tanaka hits a sliding D and it doesn’t get him the fall. So he rips off the arm brace and goes for another only for Nagata to catch him and counter into a Demon Arm breaker. Once Tanaka breaks it up, the two stagger to their feet where Nagata blows his head off with a kick and you just KNOW this thing’s done. Tanaka looks to be totally shot as he eats one back d rop driver. He staggers to the ropes, completely in la la land and Nagata takes him out behind the proverbial barn with a back d rop hold for the three count.
Even though Nagata’s selling is a little off here, and maybe there’s a sliding D too much, this is a way tighter, almost down the line better match than their October contest. Tanaka’s selling is top notch and we get a totally surprising ending (of all the matches, I figured Nagata losing the strap was a virtual lock). Great spots, lots of hate, nothing too long, its an good match. ***
MATCH #7: Jun Akiyama v. Manabu Nakanishi
Akiyama’s sort of been into these short slug fest matches lately, and I can’t say I’m at all disappointed. Big lug sprints are awesome, so long as you actually have guys who can work those sorts of matches and thankfully in Japan, they are a somewhat plentiful resource. Nakanishi is a guy who I like seeing, even though he’s a shred one dimensional. He reminds me a lot of Mark Henry, who was another late bloomer, has freakish strength and can do the big man thing about as well as anyone. That’s about all he does, but he does what he does well.
Nakanishi, in the New Japan world, is a big like Kane in the sense that he’s never booked to look crappy, but never really pushed through the roof and seemed to be the guy f rom the late 90s who got over like everyone else, but just never caught the break with the book to get any sort of title run. Akiyama oddly enough, seems to be a very similar case. He was just really coming into his own right around the time of the All Japan-NOAH split in 2000. He got a short GHC reign before d ropping the strap. He was built back up and all things led to him taking the torch f rom Kenta Kobashi at the 2004 NOAH Dome show, but for whatever inexplicable reason, NOAH decided NOT to put the strap on him, and they’re still without a bona fide top guy to lead the company forward.
So this in that sense, is an interesting match. This is a lot like the Morishima-Akiyama match f rom the last NOAH Budokan show of last year. There’s some bomb throwing in the early going before Nakanishi eventually settles in and it comes down to how Akiyama is going to figure out how to deal with him. Nakanishi is freakishly strong, tossing Akiyama across the ring like a beanbag, lifting him up for a torture rack like he’s not even there, pounding him with lariats and whipping out all sorts of fun slams.
Akiyama is decidedly better selling damage here than he was in the Morishima match and it really makes it feel all that more satisfying. I’m usually not a fan of finisher whoring at all, but in this kind of a match, where Akiyama’s clearly a strong dude, fighting a really, really strong dude in Nakanishi, I can excuse it, especially if they do it ok. Akiyama gets back in the match by catching Nakanishi on the top rope when a dude his size shouldn’t be there. He uncorks a big top rope exploder that sends Nakanishi careening to the canvas. Nakanishi recovers, like any good monster whose been shot the first time, and slaps on the torture rack. Akiyama escapes, hits two running knees and puts the second bullet in the monster for a two count.
Now in Japanese wrestling, there are finishers and then there are FINISHERS. For example, Kenta Kobashi uses a lariat as a big finisher. Sometimes he’ll hit it two or three times, but the third time usually does the trick. He’s got a moonsault that frequently gets a job done. But extreme cases call f rom extreme measures. So Kobashi has the burning hammer, which has never been kicked out of. Ever. Akiyama’s got STERNESS Dust, and while he doesn’t break that out here, he goes to step 2, which is the wrist clutch exploder, which if you’ve ever seen it, is a direct head dump. So like any good monster, when you shoot him in the head, he usually d rops. Akiyama gives him one to the dome, in the Dome.
Its a good heavyweight brawl, that while it might not knock your socks off, sure is a lot of fun. **3/4
MATCH #8: Team 3D v. Toru Yano & Togi Makabe, IWGP Tag Team Championship
Holy smokes, I don’t even know where to start with this. This pairing stunk the joint out last year in virtually the same match and this year’s edition was all in all, the same bad match. Heading in, this was supposed to be a triple threat with Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan included as participants. The TenKoji team won both the All Japan Strongest Tag League and the G1 Tag Climax this year, and this would’ve completed the trifecta. However, Tenzan has a detached retina, so he’s not wrasslin’ in no Dome. Not this year.
So what we’re left without heading in, is a clear cut face team. We’ve got the usual GBH jerk-offs in Makabe and Yano, who’re a lot of fun, even when the work isn’t there matched up with Team 3D, who inexplicably haven’t lost a match in Japan. Bubba and D-Von are SUPPOSED to be playing the faces here, but they seemingly could’ve given a crap, as showing us how hardcore and attitude-ish they are is apparently FAR more important. We had plenty of silly table spots and just the usual wandering brawling that we got plenty of in ECW and really bad WWE hardcore matches. Bubba, after spending the first five minutes trying to piss the crowd off, inexplicably starts clapping and looking for tables.
There’s absolutely zero regard for the legal man rule here and in general, this is just too all over the place to really get interesting. It’s the usual Team 3D stunts-with-tables stuff, and sure, its pretty funny watching Makabe and Yano bumping all about, but it just gets a touch weird when after three or four super huge table spots, it’s the 3D that finishes off the champs. Totally sucks that this is the match that got more time than any match save for the main event. 1/2*
MATCH #9: Shinsuke Nakamura/Hirooki Goto vs. Mitsuharu Misawa/Takashi Sugiura (New Japan, 1/4)
Misawa hasn’t ‘made’ a match for me in a long time and man, he’s a lot of fun here. Totally dug the strike exchange he and Nakamura have, where he makes Nakamura look like a million bucks for winning the first exchange but then starts murdering him with elbows and easily wins the second as sort of a ‘don’t forget, my name is Misawa, b!tches’… then, if that wasn’t enough, he does the same for Goto, letting him have sort of this high-energy barrage before cleaning him with two elbows.
And I’m really glad they gave Seguira a lot of time to do his thing here, too. Heading into this, you KNOW he’s the fall guy, but man, he’s a pretty strong fall guy. Kid’s got freakish strength with the sick gut wrench suplex. There’s the point where he catches Nakamura’s big boot and picks him up and just chucks him into the corner… and man, he’s pretty athletic, too. Those intricate exchanges he whips out, especially Goto, are stuff you don’t see him really get into very much. For me, he was the guy who got more rub in this than anyone, because he sort of gives Nakamura and Goto, two upper echelon guys, a real run for their money despite taking the fall. I loved, loved the finish with the hulk up f rom Nakamura and he cinches in that arm bar about as crisply as I’ve ever seen him do it… plus the reaction to the win totally rules.
So all around, this was just and exceptionally awesome tag. ***3/4
MATCH #10: Hiroyoshi Tanahashi v. Keiji Mutoh, IWGP Heavyweight Championship
This is a Teacher v. Pupil match that’s been some years in the making. Mutoh took Tanahashi under his wing and pretty much since then, its been a straight shot to the top for Tanahashi, whose slid into the spot at the bona fide top star in New Japan. He’s won two IWGP heavyweight championships since 2006 and won the G1 Climax Tournament in 2007.
2008 however, was a year of disappointment for Tanahashi. At the Tokyo Dome show last year, he lost the IWGP Championship to Shinsuke Nakamura. He ran ruck-shot over the All Japan Champions’ Carnival in early 2008, only to lose the final to All Japan top gun, Suwama, in the finals. After a losing a title rematch to Nakamura in the spring, Tanahashi set his sights on defending his G1 Climax Tournament crown. However, the tournament was a bona fide disaster for Tanahashi, who finished tied for last in his group. The storyline then had him ship off to America for his brief tour with TNA to ‘get his groove back’ so to speak. Of course WE know, he wasn’t really used all that well here, but for storyline purposes over in Japan, he came back focused. He met with New Japan’s President and it was decided that Tanahashi would get his shot at redemption at the Tokyo Dome.
Mutoh on the other hand, had what is perhaps his last big year in Pro Wrestling. He faced Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP title in April, and pulled off a stunning upset, capturing the title for the fourth time. Mutoh’s reign, while met with some initial skepticism, ended up being the most successful single reign in years for the company. TV ratings spiked big time and the shows really drew well. Throughout the year, Mutoh knocked off perennial bride’s maids Manabu Nakanishi and Togi Makabe before setting up for the big match up with Nakamura. Mutoh was sort of made out to be more ‘lucky’ than ‘good’ against Nakamura the first time around. Nakamura, being pretty much #2 on the pecking order only to Tanahashi, was expected to get his belt back, but in another miracle finish, Mutoh defeated Nak for the second time this year. Coupled with his alter ego, The Great Muta, shocking Suwama to win All Japan’s Triple Crown back in September, Mutoh had an MVP year, keeping All Japan ticking, but more importantly, making New Japan somewhat of an attraction, especially considering the huge hit the wrestling business in general took this year.
So the savior of wrestling v. the future was all set. The 2008 MVP v. The Ace in need of redemption. Teacher v. Pupil on the biggest stage in Japan.
And man, I really want to like this match, large in part, because there’s a lot that’s really great about it. As a friend of mine said on the forums, there’s a lot of selling issues in New Japan Heavyweight matches and this right here, is a fine example of them paying attention to a lot of the little sell-ish details that can sometimes make or break a match for some. Mutoh has always been good on the sell, and does well here, with the subtle face winces, never really giving away like he’s in too much pain, never freaking out in the bad situations. Basically playing the wise teacher, whose been in this kind of match a million times. Tanahashi is fantastic with his selling, too, rubbing ‘feeling’ back into the leg, having his leg give out on the bridge out suplex hold, etc. Even in a little celebration afterwards, his leg gives out while doing a little prance.
f rom what I’ve gathered f rom people, the nine gazillion dragon screw segments are what really killed this for people, and its understandable. However though, I thought they actually went somewhere with it that kinda worked. Mutoh, not the kind of guy to get outworked on the mat, by a former pupil no less, seemingly takes great exception to it. Mutoh has a history of knee injuries, so when Tanahashi targets the knee, Mutoh doesn’t seem thrilled to see his former pupil going to the obvious weakness. So in return he hits his patented dragon screw. And then does it through the ropes, pulling Tanahashi to the outside. Then plops him nuts first on the guardrail, and does it again. And again, and again.
Eventually Mutoh sort of calms a bit, and uses the dragon screw merely to keep himself in control. Tanahashi doesn’t or hasn’t countered it, so why bother. Once Tanahashi gets back into the groove though, he returns the favor a bit. After we’ve dragon screwed ourselves a whole new litter of dragon screws, Tanahashi finally opens up with some punches to the gut and this thing kicks into more of a high gear.
Tanahashi begins to search for other means to the win the match. He hits some punches, some suplexes and even tries to bust out the Texas Cloverleaf, but nothings really working out. Mutoh seems content screwing the knee and trying to knock enough shining wizards together to get the job done. When that doesn’t work, Mutoh slaps on a figure four and we get the first super-great near fall section of the match. Symbolically this works well that in the face of adversity, Tanahashi finds a way to persevere.
Once he breaks the figure four, Mutoh hits a swinging neck breaker, but gets greedy in immediately going for a brain buster. Tanahashi blocks and gives Mutoh a receipt off the top rope. You really get the sense that Tanahashi’s going to do it f rom here on out. After the suplexes fail, largely because his legs are shot, he goes to the sling blade. That doesn’t work. So we go for the high fly flow. Tanahashi connects but he wants to be sure and goes for a second but Mutoh, always known for having something in the tank when you think he’s on ‘E’, rolls out of the way. He hits a shining wizard and goes for the moonsault, but Tanahashi, while his knees are shot, is pretty with it. He rolls into place as Mutoh goes to the top rope and rolls under the flipping champion, sending him crashing to the mat. Tanahashi hits his high fly flow frog splash and just to be sure, hits the second and that’s all she wrote. Pupil surpasses teacher.
While this is really a fun story, it’s kind of a wacky match. They take a lot of stuff that usually kills a wrestling match, and make it work, but still in the end, it comes off feeling like a bit much. Also, Mutoh’s so shot at this point, the guy can’t even straighten his knees out. They worked around it, but there’s one spot where Mutoh attempts a big springboard and completely falls off the ropes. Despite it’s totally obvious flaws though, it’s still a REALLY satisfying main event and on the whole an good main event on a good show. This won’t be topping anyone’s MOTY lists or anything, but it’s a fun, satisfying main event that did what it needed to, and that’s get Tanahashi back on track in as strong a way as possible. ***
2/15 Sumo Hall Show To Have Three BIG Matches
I know, we JUST got done with the ‘Dome show, but don’t look now, New Japan has already announced it’s three big matches for next month’s Sumo Hall show. After the Dome Show, new IWGP Heavyweight champion Hiroshi Tanahashi went up and challenged the man who defeated him twice last year, former Champion Shinsuke Nakamura. Nakamura said he would fight Tanahashi anywhere, anytime and the big match has been set for the Sumo Hall for the belt!
Also, Kurt Angle won’t tolerate the kind of treatment Giant Bernard dished out at Sunday’s Wrestlekingdom III show. Angle has challenged Bernard to a match, and Bernard has accepted. In addition, it appears that CMLL’s Mistico isn’t done in New Japan, and will be bringing lucha rival Mephisto to the Sumo Hall on the fifteenth for a special challenge match between the two.
Here’s the card as it stands right now:
New Japan @ the Sumo Hall
Tokyo, Japan 2/15/2009
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Shinsuke Nakamura
Kurt Angle v. Giant Bernard
Mistico v. Mephisto
Circuit New Japan ISM??? Tour Dates and Matches Announced
More matches for the upcoming ???Circuit New Japan ISM??? tour have been announced, which each card headed by Tanahashi vs. Nakamura preliminary matches.
NJPW, 1/30/09 (Samurai! TV)
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
1. Wataru Inoue, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt vs. Jado, Gedo & Tomohiro Ishii
2. Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito vs. Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari
3. Tiger Mask & Koji Kanemoto vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Minoru
4. Riki Choshu, Mitsuhide Hirasawa, Kazuchika Okada & Nobuo Yoshihashi vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, Takashi Iizuka & Tomoaki Honma
5. Masahiro Chono & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yuji Nagata vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Hirooki Goto
NJPW, 1/31/09 (SXW)
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
1. Nobuo Yoshihashi vs. Minoru
2. Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari vs. Jado & Gedo
3. Manabu Nakanishi, Koji Kanemoto, Mitsuhide Hirasawa & Kazuchika Okada vs. Takashi Iizuka, Giant Bernard, Karl Anderson & Tomoaki Honma
4. Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono & Wataru Inoue vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
5. Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask vs. Hirooki Goto & Jushin Thunder Liger
6. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt
Tomi Fureai Gymnasium
1. Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari vs. Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson
2. Manabu Nakanishi & Wataru Inoue vs. Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
3. Riki Choshu & Masahiro Chono vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask & Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto, Jushin Thunder Liger & AKIRA
NJPW, 2/7/09 (Samurai! TV)
Tochigi Bunka Center Sub Hall
1. Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt vs. Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari
2. Manabu Nakanishi, Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito vs. Giant Bernard, Jado & Gedo
3. Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono & Wataru Inoue vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask & Koji Kanemoto vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto, Jushin Thunder Liger & AKIRA
NJPW, 2/8/09 (SXW)
1. Manabu Nakanishi, Wataru Inoue & Koji Kanemoto vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii
2. Yuji Nagata, Yujiro & Tetsuya Naito vs. Hirooki Goto, Ryusuke Taguchi & Prince Devitt
3. Riki Choshu & Masahiro Chono vs. Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tiger Mask vs. Shinsuke Nakamura & Jushin Thunder Liger
Ota City Nitta Gymnasium Ex Arena
1. Manabu Nakanishi, Milano Collection AT & Taichi Ishikari vs. Takashi Iizuka, Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson
2. Wataru Inoue & Koji Kanemoto vs. Togi Makabe & Tomohiro Ishii
3. Riki Choshu & Masahiro Chono vs. Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata & Mitsuhide Hirasawa vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada
NJPW, 2/11/09 (Samurai! TV)
Act City Hamamatsu
1. Manabu Nakanishi, Milano Collection AT, Taichi Ishikari & Mitsuhide Hirasawa vs. Jado, Gedo, Karl Anderson & Tomoaki Honma
2. Wataru Inoue & Koji Kanemoto vs. Takashi Iizuka & Tomohiro Ishii
3. Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono & AKIRA vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Giant Bernard
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto & Jushin Thunder Liger
Toyohashi City Gymnasium #2
1. Wataru Inoue & Mitsuhide Hirasawa vs. Takashi Iizuka & Tomohiro Ishii
2. Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Togi Makabe, Toru Yano & Tomoaki Honma
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Yuji Nagata & Nobuo Yoshihashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada
New Japan Cup to Return & Dates and Venues Announced
The late February to late March schedule has been announced, with the New Japan Cup returning, plus a series of special Korakuen Hall shows.
– 2/29 ???NEW DIMENSION??? @ Tokyo Korakuen Hall
– 3/6 ???STRONG STYLE 37TH ANNIVERSARY??? @ Tokyo Korakuen Hall
CIRCUIT 2009 NEW JAPAN CUP ~SOUL ON THE RING~
– 3/8 @ Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium
– 3/14 @ Kuki City Gymnasium
– 3/15 @ Tokyo Korakuen Hall
– 3/16 @ Tsubame Citizen Gymnasium
– 3/17 @ Kumagaya Citizen Gymnasium
– 3/20 @ Takamatsu City Gymnasium
– 3/21 @ Fukuyama Big Rose
– 3/22 @ Amagasaki Memorial Park Gymnasium
– 3/29 ???EXCITING BATTLE IN OKINAWA 2009??? @ Okinawa Prefectural Budokan
Other New Japan News
— After being pulled f rom his Tokyo Dome Match, Hiroyoshi Tenzan has undergone surgery to repair his detached retna. It is unknown how much time he is likely to miss, although some are saying it could be in the realm of 5-6 months.
— Koji Kanemoto announced his engagement to Yoshimi Shioya (woman pro wrestler Hikaru), 27, who will be retiring in April.
New All Asia Tag Team Champions Crowned in Tournament
The ???Shining Series??? kicked off with a bang, with a double-shot at the Tokyo Korakuen hall. The main attraction featured a tournament for the All Asia Tag Team Championship, which is the oldest tag team title in the world. Former Triple Crown Champion Minoru Suzuki teamed with NOSAWA Rongai to defeat the team of Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura in the Saturday Night finals. Also a big feature on the cards both literally and figuretively was Yoshihiro Takayama, who is likely to challenge The Great Muta for the Triple Crown at the next Sumo Hall show. The running deal is he needs to win five matches in a row to get the shot at the March show. The first two matches against Zodiac and Joe Doering are wins #1 and #2.
I will have a full review of both of these shows in next week’s edition.
AJPW, 1/2/09 (GAORA TV)
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
2,100 Fans – Super No Vacancy
1. Nobutaka Araya beat Hiroshi Yamato (8:28) with a moonsault press.
2. TARU & Joe Doering beat Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya (12:55) when Doering used the Revolution Bomb on Sanada.
3. Yoshihiro Takayama beat ZODIAC (2:40) with a running knee lift.
4. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Round 1: Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura beat Taiyo Kea & MAZADA (11:11) when Fuchi used an inside cradle on MAZADA.
5. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Round 1: Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai beat Hate & ???brother??? YASSHI (10:18) when YASSHI was disqualified due to a fire extinguisher attack on Hate.
6. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Round 1: Satoshi Kojima & KAI beat Suwama & Ryuji Hijikata (17:10) when Kojima used a lariat on Hijikata.
7. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Round 1: Keiji Muto & Kaz Hayashi beat Shuji Kondo & Ryota Hama (16:52) when Muto used the Shining Wizard on Hama.
8. 15-Person New Year Heavyweight Battle Royal: ZODIAC beat Nobutaka Araya (8:02) with a diving lariat. Order of Elimination: Yoshihiro Takayama, Suwama, Satoshi Kojima, Joe Doering, Taiyo Kea, TARU, Keiji Muto, Seiya Sanada, Manabu Soya, Minoru Suzuki, Hate, Osamu Nishimura, Ryota Hama & Nobutaka Araya.
AJPW, 1/3/09 (Samurai! TV)
Tokyo Korakuen Hall
1,950 Fans – No Vacancy
1. Nobutaka Araya beat Kikutaro (5:55) with a moonsault press.
2. Taiyo Kea, MAZADA & TAKEMURA beat Seiya Sanada, Manabu Soya & Hiroshi Yamato (8:43) when Kea used the TKO on Yamato.
3. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Semi Final: Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura beat Satoshi Kojima & KAI (17:14) when Fuchi used an inside cradle on KAI.
4. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Semi Final: Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai beat Keiji Muto & Kaz Hayashi (17:54) when Rongai used a super-high speed horizontal cradle on Hayashi.
5. Yoshihiro Takayama beat Joe Doering (8:44) with the Everest German suplex hold.
6. TARU, Hate, ZODIAC & ???brother??? YASSHI beat Suwama, Shuji Kondo, Ryuji Hijikata & Ryota Hama (10:28) when Hate used a horizontal cradle on Hijikata.
7. All Asia Tag Team Title Tournament – Final: Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai beat Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura (17:46) when Suzuki used the Gotch-style piledriver on Fuchi (Minoru Suzuki & NOSAWA Rongai become the 81st champions).
8. 11-Person New Year??’s Junior Battle Royal: ???brother??? YASSHI beat Kikutaro (9:38) by pinfall. Order of Elimination: Masanobu Fuchi, Ryuji Hijikata, Kaz Hayashi, Shuji Kondo, MAZADA, TAKEMURA, NOSAWA Rongai, Hiroshi Yamato, KAI & Kikutaro.
With BattlARTS holding a B-Rules Tournament this month, I thought I would give a brief history of the B-Rules.
– No Strikes
– 5 Rope Breaks per person
– Submission or Referee Stop Only
– 10 minute time limit, if the limit is reached, the person with the most points wins
The first tournament was held in 2001, and consisted of Yuki Ishikawa, Alexander Otsuka, Katsumi Usuda, Ikuto Hidaka, Takeshi Ono, Mohammed Yone, Junji.com and the mysterious Masked Shooter Super Rider.
Yuki Ishikawa would go on to win the tournament, going to a time limit draw with Katsumi Usuda, before tapping out Alexander Otsuka in the semi-finals. He would then win the tournament by defeating the Super Rider!
Round 1: Masked Shooter Super Rider (1:02 Jujigatame) Mohammed Yone
Round 1: Ikuto Hidaka (1:15 Cross Kneelock) junji.com
Round 1: Yuki Ishikawa (10:00 Time Limit Draw) Katsumi Usuda
* Ishikawa Advances
Round 1: Alexander Otsuka (6:52 Sleeper Hold) Takeshi Ono
Semi Final: Masked Shooter Super Rider (6:06 Triangle Choke Hold) Ikuto Hidaka
Semi Final: Yuki Ishikawa (11:28 Armbar) Alexander Otsuka
Final: Yuki Ishikawa (1:47 Armlock) Masked Shooter Super Rider
In a follow up to Jushin ???Thunder??? Liger & AKIRA’s inability to win the Big Japan Tag titles last month, Liger will be headed back to the promotion to take on their young star, Daisuke Sekimoto on January 22, at the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse. Sekimoto has been a regular on Chono’s PREMIUM New Japan sub-brand, with plenty of in ring experience against some big guns. Liger works well with heavyweights to boot, so this should be a lot of fun.
Following up on Liger & AKIRA??’s failure to win the BJW Tag Team Title last month, Jushin Thunder Liger will re-advance on Big Japan to face their young powerhouse, Daisuke Sekimoto. Sekimoto, a regular on PREMIUM shows, has plenty of experience against big leaguers, including a mini-feud with Nakanishi once, while on the other hand Liger has lots of experience fighting heavyweights such as Sekimoto.
Osaka started off 2009 with a big ole bang as former arch rivals Tigers Mask and Black Buffalo won the Osaka Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship with their victory over Mucha Lucha. In true, weird-o, rudo fashion, Tigers & buffalo celebrated by laughing all the way to the locker room.
Osaka Pro-Wrestling 1/1/09
???Shinshun HOLIDAY PARADISE???
Osaka Delfin Arena Dotonbori
1. Zeus def. Kazuaki Mihara 8:18
2. Hideyoshi & Atsushi Kotoge def. Takaku Fuke & Tadasuke 9:58
3. Daisuke Harada def. Orochi 10:59
4. Kuishinbo Kamen & Ebessan def. Kanjyuro Matsuyama & Miracleman 11:26
5. Osaka Pro-Wrestling Tag Title Decision Match: Tigers Mask & Black Buffalo def. Tsubasa & Asian Cooger 13:59
Dynamic Dream Team (DDT)
Canadian indy sensation, Kenny Omega is set to see action on various DDT events f rom January 4th through February 4th. Omega??’s return match has already been set, as he will be teaming with Kota Ibushi who will also be making his return to the ring after being out for quite sometime with a long lists of injuries and Yasu Urano as they will face the DISASTER BOX team of KO-D Tag Team Champions, HARASHIMA, Touru Owashi & Yukihiro Abe.
Omega will also be participating on various other DDT affiliated events throughout the tour, as he will be facing Shigehiro Irie f rom Dera Nagoya Pro at the January 25th Hard Hit event at Shin-Kiba 1st RING. Omega will be culminating his tour by participating at the upcoming BOYS event on February 4th at Shin-Kiba 1st RING. Omega impressed DDT fans with various outstanding performances throughout the Summer of 2008 and is looking to keep impressing fans with this upcoming tour.
Classic Match Review #1: Harley Race v. Jumbo Tsuruta, 2/3 Falls, NWA World Heavyweight Championship 6/11/77
In 1977, Harley Race was at his absolute peak. He had rested the NWA title away f rom Terry Funk a year earlier and its during this title run that he’s really THE guy to watch. His touring stuff is some of the best wrestling you’ll see f rom any NWA champion in a single run. Now pair him up with a budding baby Jumbo, and you’ve got yourself quite the match.
The thing that stands out here is how much these guys are able to get out of every move and how everything builds on itself so well. The first fall is Harley being taken back. The typical big time guy getting more than he can handle f rom the local up and comer. For every hold Harley rips out of the bag, Jumbo seems to have a response. They build it for about 10 minutes until Harley gets caught with a big Jumbo knee. He gets in some fleeting offense, but eventually gets KO’d hard with a Jumbo knee lift that looks like Jumbo’s trying to straight take his head off. The result is the first fall to Jumbo, and the crowd really begins to rumble.
In the second fall, Race stops screwing around and really breaks out the nasty stuff. He uncorks a pile driver, some vicious knees to the head and a big brain buster, but the youngster won’t go down. Jumbo makes a comeback and after trying to get some mileage working over Harley’s right arm, he gets a bit greedy on an Irish whip follow up and eats some ring post. Race totally pounces, and slams him to the mat before locking in the trusty Indian death lock that won him the title f rom Funk a year before. Jumbo puts up a fight but on the fourth or fifth Harley flop to the canvas, its too much to over come and he taps.
The third fall is decidedly shorter, but none the less a hot way to go home. Race goes back to the legs with a leg breaker and a toe hold, trying to keep the big man at bay. Jumbo fires back and we get a grizzly strike exchange. Jumbo whips him and in one of the best worked spots in the match, Race tries to hold up on the whip, but still gets jacked by the super long extension Jumbo gets f rom the d rop kick. The young Jumbo gets greedy though and elects to try for a second which the wily Champion side steps. He goes back to the head, only for Jumbo to fight out yet again, this time with a vertical suplex. The two collide on the next criss cross before Jumbo gets his bearings and slaps on an abdominal stretch only for Race to power Jumbo over his body and d rop a head butt. Race elects to end this thing and goes to the top rope but Jumbo chucks him off and sends him crashing to the mat. Race is fired up and charges Jumbo and the two flip over the top rope and Jumbo clatters to the floor back first. Race d rops a knee in the middle of the ring and goes for a cover, but Jumbo kicks out. He pushes Race off and looks for the knee that won him the first fall but Race side steps him and rolls him up for the win.
The build of the match itself is really first rate stuff, with constant struggles and great, subtly gruff and rough offense f rom Race. Race works a more tactical match, trying to keep Jumbo at bay, but Jumbo seems to always have an answer. So Race finally lets the match come to him, rather than him trying to press his advantages and we get a wonderful, dramatic finishing stretch. It’s as good a match as Harley ever had in Japan. ****1/2