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Kevin Wilson

What You're Watching, 2015!

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Since I didn't watch any puroresu last year, this year I plan on doing the opposite and watch every 2014 event I can get my hands on.  I'm basically going to try to be a less cool version of PUNQ, and certainly an easier grader than he was ;)  But of course anyone can post in this thread any reviews from any year as sometimes we watch stuff that isn't good enough to nominate but we still want to talk about it anyway.

 

New Japan "Wrestle Kingdom VIII" on 1/4/14

 

Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Tomoaki Honma, Captain New Japan, and BUSHI vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Super Strong Machine, Jushin Thunder Liger, and Yohei Komatsu
 
This was a dark match really just to show off Komatsu. As an aside, Nakanishi looks really rough, looks like that injury took a lot out of him and I doubt he will be anything close to what he was even a few years ago in New Japan. Anyway, New Japan is quite high on Komatsu, which you can tell as he had Liger constantly “encouraging" him and he did at times get in some offense against wrestlers that ranked well above him (like Tenzan). Of course he eventually lost but he put up a fight. It seems like a waste to have so many popular New Japan veterans in a dark match, especially since many were never even tagged in, but like I said it was designed just to give Komatsu a chance to wrestle at the Dome Show and the rest were there just so the crowd could cheer them during their entrances, otherwise they wouldn’t have been on the show at all. Score: 5.0
 
The Young Bucks vs. KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley vs. TAKA Michinoku and Taichi vs. Rocky Romero and Alex Koslov
 
This was really too chaotic to get into. I mean I love high flying crazy affairs but this really went about two steps past that to it literally just being people hitting their big move, rotate wrestlers, hit your big move, rotate wrestlers. There was no real psychology or meaning behind it, it just was. On the plus side, all of these teams work really well together and there were legitimately some cool moments in the match. So it wasn’t bad or anything since it kept my attention, but the match was one of the biggest “spotfest” matches that I have ever seen in my 25 years of watching professional wrestling. Score: 5.5
 
© Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows
IWGP Heavyweight Team Team Championship
 
I went in with no expectations but thought the match was solid. First of all it was different than the first two matches and I am a fan of variety. More important than that of course is that it was an entertaining and logical match. No wasted time with limb targeting or headlocks, just ten minutes of clubbing and hard slams which is what I wanted to see. None of these guys will be headlining Wrestlemania anytime soon but they are perfectly fine at heavyweight shit. Some parts were a little repetitive and it didn’t have any memorable “moments” per se but very solid from start to finish. I actually wouldn’t have minded it go a little longer since it was a title match, but on a show like this really only the main matches get time, it is one of the down sides of being on the Dome show. Score: 6.0
 
© Rob Conway vs. Satoshi Kojima
NWA Heavyweight Championship
 
First of all, Conway’s manager and NWA President Bruce Tharpe’s over-acting got on my nerves. A real life heel using over the top antics to try to be a storyline heel. Anyway, my main complaint here is it just didn’t feel like a title match. I know, it’s just the NWA Heavyweight Championship, but they carted out Harley Race and it’s still the NWA which probably means more to fans in Japan than it does here. But the match just felt kinda flat, Kojima worked his ass off to his credit and Conway wasn’t slagging either, but something didn’t click. There was no real structure, although having Jax and Tenzan at ringside made sense and their brief encounter was the only part of the match really memorable. So it was a perfectly fine wrestling match, it just lacked the feeling of significance or urgency to win the Heavyweight Championship after the long feud the two had. Score: 5.0
 
Daniel Gracie and Rolles Gracie vs. Yuji Nagata and Kazushi Sakuraba
 
This match sounded intriguing on paper and like something that would be on the Dome event as a “special event”, but it fell flat. First of all, understandably the Gracies weren’t overly comfortable with the pro wres. MMA fighters doing pro wrestling matches always can be awkward unless they just go for it like Shamrock and Severn back in the day. Daniel in particular looked out of place. That would be less a big deal but the ending was really lame for such a big event. I mean he had Nagata on the mat, he couldn’t put him in a legit hold? And is he more “dangerous” choking someone with his Gi when he knows how to choke someone with his arm, or legs, or probably a dozen other ways? On the plus side the crowd was into it until the ending, the “Gracie” name still means something in Japan so as far as having “names” on a big show it did its job. It just wasn’t really entertaining. Score: 3.5
 
Great Muta and Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki and Shelton Benjamin
 
That was good mindless fun. I can’t say I know what the ending was about although Muta has been known to stop caring/get confused, but I am not sure if they are saying the sleeperhold made him loopy or he just remembered he was Muta and didn’t give two shits about Yano. Anyway the match had a logical flow to it, Yano was out-matched and tended to do poorly when he wasn’t cheating, Suzuki is familiar with Muta and his antics and I dunno what Benjamin was doing here. I did like that the first time Suzuki ducked the mist and someone else ate it, then at the end someone else ducked the mist and he ate it. Good placement on the card as it was different than everything we’d seen up to this point, and was an entertaining mid-card match. Score: 6.5
 
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
 
This is literally the only type of match that Makabe can do. He has the look, and the crowd support, but his offense is incredibly one dimensional. He throws more lariats than Kojima. I hadn’t seen Fale in years but he looked really different, and he made up for some of Makabe’s lack of originality even though he was a bit slow and…. lumbering, if that is a word. The finish was very… absolute, which I liked, none of that two wrestlers slowly crawling to make it up in time, Fale was just knocked out cold. He wouldn’t have made a 50 count. So some good spots (the table powerbomb was rough and the Bad Luck Fall looked boss), some memorable moments, but Last Man Standing matches are notorious for being a bit slow and sluggish and this match suffered from that in parts. Score: 5.5
 
Hirooki Goto vs. Katsuyori Shibata
 
I really like Goto and I still don’t understand why he got skipped over. He has the look, good moves, the crowd likes him. Anyway this match was very “fighting spirit” in its layout, but again like the few matches it was the first one on the card like that so it came across as fresh. A little excessive at times in my opinion, but at least it went both ways. Goto was fired up in his return and was really busting his ass, and I am so glad to see Shibata back as he was really good as well. The strikes were stiff as hell, the downtime was minimal, and it really came across as two men who thought they were the best and wanted to prove it. An entertaining match, and hopefully the beginning of something good for Goto in 2014. Score: 8.0
 
© Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
 
I wanted to love it, and some parts I really did, but the Bullet Club was just too involved in the first part of the match. I understand they are the most active heel group, but it makes the match so disjointed when half of it has constant interruptions. Once they were banished, the last half of the match was really entertaining. Ibushi took some sick bumps as he usually does and hit his moves pretty crisply. If you take out all the interference I would have liked it a lot more, but that was just too distracting to me and took out some of the fun. Great spots, great ending run, but too disjointed to start out. Score: 6.0
 
© Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
 
I loved the hell out of this match. First of all, Okada is so smooth, he really is a complete package. He has the size to be a heavyweight, but he is incredibly athletic (the height he gets on his diving elbow drop was unreal) and just is a natural. Naito is no flake either of course and their chemistry is palpable. Also, I love that Okada protects his finisher. How many wrestlers with a strike as a finisher use it constantly throughout the match? Even the greats like Mutoh, Sasaki, Misawa, Kojima, etc. are all guilty of it, but while Okada went for it a number of times he only hit it once. And that was all he needed. Naito on the other hand was always ready for it, and it took two tombstone piledrivers to make him hurt enough to not be able to reverse it. Nothing here seemed wasted, it was always leading up to the ending that never seemed excessive… never went over the top with big moves. If this is the future of New Japan, I think they are in pretty good hands. Score: 9.0
 
© Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
 
It had a hard match to follow, but this was a really good match as well. It was more traditional with targeting a certain body part, but I liked that Tanahashi never forgot about the leg and really stayed on it from the beginning of the match right up until the very end. There were a few moments that things weren’t smooth, which isn’t a chemistry issue but just them trying to do too much on the biggest stage. The match did seem a little flat after the last match, Okada and Naito just seemed more hungry and had more energy in their match, while Tanahashi and Nakamura have been feuding for so long it’s hard for them to do something really new or fresh. A solid match and a good main event, but it definitely was not the best match on the show. Score: 7.0
 
Overall: Really, I only thought there was one below match on the entire card. Some were kinda sluggish (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship and Makabe/Fale), some were disappointing for what the expectations were (Tanahashi/Nakamura and Devitt/Ibushi), but overall the matches still were at least decent and had some redeeming qualities. The only thing holding it back is in my opinion there was only one must-see match with then just a whole bunch of solid matches (although Goto/Shibata was really good as well). So I can definitely recommend it, it wasn't the best show ever but it was still overall entertaining and worth watching.

 

 

New Japan "NEW YEAR DASH!!" on 1/5/14

 

KUSHIDA and Alex Shelley vs. The Young Bucks vs. Romero and Koslov vs. TAKA Michinoku and Taichi
 
A shorter and less exciting version of what they did at the Tokyo Dome. There were less “big moves” and more just kinda pedestrian tag team double teaming with little excitement. I did like the spot with the referee getting hit, and as always these teams work together very well, but it was really quite blah for a spotfest. If a match is going to be just a spotfest, it needs to go as big as possible and this match was underwhelming. Score: 4.0
 
Minoru Suzuki vs. Sho Tanaka
 
I gotta be honest, not what I was expecting. This match was probably 75% Tanaka on offense, if not higher. I mean he wasn’t going to beat Suzuki but Suzuki gave him a lot. And the crowd was really behind it as well, cheering on everything that he did. For a four minute match they managed to go through the full “rookie tries against veteran, veteran too strong” arch… sometimes less is more, if this was a ten minute match they may have lost the crowd or it may have been less noticeable how much offense Tanaka had. Good match here. Score: 6.5
 
Toru Yano, Iizuka, Jado, and Takahashi vs. Yuji Nagata, Nakanishi, Super Strong Machine, and Komatsu
 
Actively not a good match. A “stomp” is one of the lazier moves in pro wrestling, and it does have its place, but ideally not at such a high quantity. Nakanishi is pretty hard to watch at this point and Machine isn’t much better. All Japan used to be bad about letting old wrestlers stink up the undercard for years after they should have gone to the back office, and now New Japan is doing it. Great. Anyway, the ending was ‘hot’ but other than that just a listless way of wasting ten minutes on a house show. Score: 3.0
 
El Desperado and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Kota Ibushi and BUSHI
 
I thought this was a really solid debut for El Desperado (formally Kyosuke Mikami). He made it clear he didn’t really care about Liger, which I like since…. why would he? He just wanted a piece of Ibushi. His dive into the crowd was nuts and I am assuming that is a spot he won’t be repeating as it isn’t the 1980s in Japan anymore, they generally don’t attack the fans, even though it is entertaining. Add in a painful looking finisher and out-smarting his future opponent for the belt and overall I think things went quite well. And that is really the only way to view this match, but the other wrestlers looked good as well and they kept things to the point. Score: 7.0
 
Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma
 
Fale is one dull mofo, I don’t hate him but his offense is just plodding, and Makabe’s is no better. But the match did pick up when Devitt and Honma were in there, and really if they just focused on them with Fale/Makabe doing an occasional ‘power’ spot that would have been fine. But a bit too much Fale and Makabe for my taste, the match just dragged when they were involved. Good showing for Devitt and Honma though. Score: 5.0
 
Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Shelton Benjamin vs. Karl Anderson, Gallows, and Tama Tonga
 
I must say, even though parts were a bit cookie cutter and predictable, the crowd was really into this match. They loved them some gaijin clubbin’. And some parts were quite good, power contests in small doses are entertaining and the action stayed at a decent clip. I don’t know where Smith’s Tiger Suplex came from, I’m sure it’s not the first time he has done it but I just didn’t know the move was in his repertoire, it’s not the easiest move to hit. After all these years I am still not an Anderson fan, he is always just “serviceable” to me which is probably why he has been the face of the New Japan Gaijin Tag Team since 2008. A solid mid-card tag team affair that won’t blow you away but kept the crowd engaged from start to finish. Score: 6.0
 
© Rob Conway and Jax Dane (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima
NWA Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
 
I appreciate they are trying to make the NWA bigger again, but rehashing match endings from the 80s that don’t really work today isn’t the way to do it. Stupid and lazy ending aside, Dane and Conway just had way too much offense for this match to really be interesting. Conway really tried and I don’t want to just knock a guy but him and Dane really don’t have ‘it’ and no amount of ‘it’ from TenKoji was going to carry this match. But really all I am going to remember is the ending anyway which was stupid and insulting, and not really want I want to see in my current wrestling. It’s cute to go back and watch old matches from back in the day that the manager interfered and stayed in the ring and the wrestler would act like he wanted to hit him, etc. but now it just comes across as hokey and contrived. Score: 3.5
 
Tanahashi, Goto, Tetsuya Naito, and Captain New Japan vs. Okada, Nakamura, Ishii, and YOSHI-HASHI
 
Better than I thought it would be, eight man tag matches tend to be pretty pedestrian but they really focused on the stories they wanted to tell and the other wrestlers mostly just watched. This was mostly about Ishii/Naito as they went at it throughout, but we also got some Tanahashi/Nakamura snuck in there as well. The beatdown segment of Captain New Japan didn’t have to last so long since it served no ‘bigger picture’ purpose, but I guess the main event of a show can’t be a 15 minute match. It plodded at points but the feuding pairs did try to make it meaningful, so not a bad match either by any means. Score: 6.0
 
Overall: In a lot of ways this was just a glorified house show. Lots of multi-man tag team matches (which I don’t really like), and most the action being pretty predictable. The only “big” match (the title match) sucked, but we did have a fun debut of a new character and a few other really solid matches as well. If you are a completest or want to check out El Desperado this isn’t a bad event, but a casual fan can probably skip it since El Desperado will have a title match in a month that should be a better display of what he has to offer going forward.

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All Japan "NEW YEAR WARS 2014" on 1/2/2014
 
Osamu Nishimura and Ryuji Hijikata vs. Kotaro Suzuki and Masao Inoue
 
Pretty clipped up, but what I am annoyed about is I really like Suzuki and here he was paired up against Nishimura in a heavily clipped match. Seems like a waste of Hijikata and Suzuki, Inoue and Nishimura are in the right place opening the card, but it would have been nice to see more of the young guys. But really there wasn't enough shown to know if it was good or not. Score: N/A
 
Kento Miyahara vs. Hikaru Sato
 
I had not seen Miyahara in a long time, he looks really good and like he has a lot of potential. Sato played the role of underdog well and he managed to get in a few really solid chances of winning before Miyahara's strength was just too much. Miyahara had a brutal streak with the action outside on the floor, and it came across as more than just another undercard match. Good display for Miyahara, I would be interested to see him in a more competitive match against an equal. Score: 7.0
 
Shigehiro Irie, Keisuke Ishii, and Takao Soma vs. SUSHI, Tyson Dux, and Jon Bolen
 
A very solid match although not in any way spectacular. The Americans both looked good and didn't seem out of place at all, which is really all you can hope for sometimes. SUSHI used to be Akira Raijin and is now wrestling with a goofy mask on for some reason which I am not completely sure of. Pretty crisp action throughout but pretty forgetable, meaning I just watched the match and I already don't really remember much of the action. Fine for the undercard but nothing that will rock your world by any stretch. Score: 5.5
 
Go Shiozaki vs. KENSO
 
A very definitive win by Shiozaki. KENSO tried to cheat around getting the victory but he is in no match for the younger and stronger Shiozaki. It wasn't a great match as it was more storyline driven and trying to prove a point more than anything else, but it was important for their feud and will hopefully sooner than later allow Shiozaki to get back up to the top of the card where he should be. Decent, but below the quality of a typical Shiozaki match. Score: 6.0
 
© Ultimo Dragon vs. Atsushi Aoki
All Japan World Jr. Heavyweight Championship
 
It started really good and I liked the attention to the arm by both Ultimo Dragon and Aoki, but I thought the ending was awkward and fell flat. Aoki stayed incredibly focused on the arm and kept his offense on it varied so it never felt like he was just killing time. Ultimo Dragon on the flipside sold his arm throughout the match, even when he was on offense, and seemed resigned halfway through that he was only going to win the match by sneaky means. Which he did, but the way it was executed was incredibly not smooth to the point the crowd didn't really react to it. The La Magistral is a classic Jr. Heavyweight way to win a match and a respected method of victory, but usually it has to be done really clean to get the reaction that you'd hope for. So a very good match, it just had a rough ending. Score: 6.5
 
Akebono, Suwama, and Taiyo Kea vs. Jun Akiyama, Takao Omori, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
 
This match was mostly done to set up the Akebono vs. Omori match the next day for the Triple Crown. The problem with these types of matches is that Omori pins Akebono to show that he has a chance the next day, but Akebono took very little damage to get pinned. I mean really in the whole match all it took to beat Akebono was a low blow and two Axe Bombers, which doesn't really make a lot of sense. Six man tags rarely do though as each wrestler needs a chance to get their moves in and there just isn't time to really establish a flow to the match. The Suwama/Akiyama dislike was noticeable but the other wrestlers seemed to just be playing along, there wasn't a lot of emotion shown one way or the other. Just a standard six man tag match. Score: 5.5
 
New Year Openweight Battle Royal
 
This is a battle royal with Takao Omori, SUSHI, Jun Akiyama, Taiyo Kea, Suwama, Ryuji Hijikata, Hikaru Sato, Shigehiro Irie, Tyson Dux, Jon Bolen, Keisuke Ishii, Takao Soma, Masanobu Fuchi, Kotaro Suzuki, Masao Inoue, Osam Nishimura, and Kento Miyahara as participants. In case you didn't know before, these yearly Battle Royals by All Japan are not taken seriously. The bigger wrestlers generally always get pinned early by a large group of people, there are some cute comedy spots, and then someone wins. Which doesn't matter, because the winner doesn't get anything. They have closed out their early January shows this way for many many years so it is just a fun tradition, one that doesn't really mean anything but isn't really doing any harm. In this case it was used to allow the Triple Crown challenger to end the night with his hand raised, so it probably meant more this year than it usually does, which isn't saying much. Score: 4.0
 
 
Overall: Not really much I can recommend here. The only Championship match was good, but ended flat. Some individuals looked good but the main event is basically just done for comedy and there wasn't a different "main event quality" match to make up for it. There were a bunch of solid matches and nothing unwatchable though, which is definitely a plus. Still, this is only worth the watch if you are already a big All Japan fan, I don't think this would be a good way to get back into it if you haven't watched the promotion in awhile.

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ZERO1 "HAPPY NEW YEAR" 2014 on 1/1/14

 

Daichi Hashimoto vs. Kohei Sato

 

Not really sure why Hashimoto is still being treated like a rookie, but I haven’t seen any ZERO1 in years so maybe there is a reason.  Anyway, a pretty straightforward match but Sato was definitely set up to look like he could beat Hashimoto whenever he wanted.  He messed around with him at the beginning, but as soon as Hashimoto got some real moves in, he went straight to the finish and ended things quickly.  Hashimoto has been around for years so I am surprised he is still doing the same type of match he had against Mutoh and Chono right after he debuted, but he is still really young.  I wish Sato hadn’t won so quickly or that Hashimoto had come across as having a legitimate chance to win the match, but it was a pretty decent young wrestler vs. veteran match.  Score:  6.0

 

Gokiburi Mask vs. Jason Lee

 

No idea who these guys are, not overly concerned.  The beginning was clipped but it was probably just more of the same.  Gokiburi Mask’s “big man” offense was not very convincing and even Lee seemed surprised how quickly he went down to one of the elbow strikes.  It wasn’t offensive, it just wasn’t really entertaining either.  Score:  3.5

 

"brother" YASSHI and Ken Tsuyoshi vs. Yoshikazu Yokoyama and Tank Nagai

 

Really just clip highlights so it’s impossible to really review the match.  Hadn’t seen TARU in a long time, I didn’t even know he was still around so there is that anyway.  But not enough shown to get a good feel of it.  Score:  N/A

 

Ryouji Sai and Ikuto Hidaka vs. Toru Owashi and Takuya Sugawara

 

Since a little over half of it was shown I will go ahead and rate it even though it was really clipped up.  First of all, Hidaka is looking old.  Which he is, but it makes me feel old because I remember back when he wasn’t…. old.  He looked good though here, not backing down to Owashi and getting the pin with a nifty move I hadn’t seen before.  How are wrestlers still doing moves I haven’t seen, I’ve been watching wrestling for 25 years.  Sai did really nothing in the parts that made TV which is odd, I guess Hidaka was more the focus here.  But the action was fine, what they showed us anyway, looks like it had potential to be a really solid match but it’s just impossible to get into the flow when half the match is missing.  Score:  5.5

 

Akebono and Yuji Okabayashi vs. Maybach Beta and Tama Williams

 

Nothing bad but pretty miss-able action.  I don’t know what Maybach did to make Akebono want to splash him three times, did he make a joke about his wife or something?  As we see happen sometimes, Williams isn’t really big enough to do the “big man” gimmick, as he was smaller than both his opponents.  So it just looks a little funny. Nothing memorable about the match other than Akebono squashing people, I still find it odd that he wrestles on a small Indy’s mid-card.  Score:  4.5

 

© HUB vs. Mineo Fujita

This match is for the International Jr. Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship

 

I am glad I looked it up – HUB is formally Goa/Super Dolphin/Zero and I always enjoyed his work back when he was in Osaka Pro.  No idea he was in ZERO1 now which shows how out of touch I have been with the Puroresu.  I enjoyed this match, it didn’t blow my mind or anything but it was solid Jr. Heavyweight action from start to finish.  There were a few brief periods that seemed like a spot took longer to set up than it should have, but HUB is such a smooth wrestler that nothing ever seemed out of place.  I wish HUB would have made it to one of the bigger leagues as he is just a solid wrestler, but at his age I doubt it will happen at this point.  They didn’t get a lot of time and it was very slightly clipped, but definitely the best match on the show so far.  Score:  7.5

 

© James Raideen vs. Demon Ueda

This match is for the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship

 

James Raideen is a young really big (muscle-big, not fat-big) wrestler from New Zealand, and Demon Ueda used to go by Shito Ueda.  First I gotta say, it always annoys me when a power wrestler wins a strike battle, and when his little opponent gets up he immediately wants another strike battle.  Smaller wrestlers need to stick to their strengths, and Ueda’s chops clearly had no impact on Raideen whatsoever.  Anyway the brawling outside the ring and the ending stretch worked really well, but some of the middle kinda dragged.  They in a lot of instances just repeated the same series, without any real focus or flow to what they were doing.  Ueda got in some good offense and at times he seemed at the cusp of winning, but Raideen just towered over him and was a more convincing character with his power moves.  It was not a bad match as they were really trying and Raideen stuck to what he knew, but it was at times repetitive and was plodding in parts.  Score:  5.0

 

Masato Tanaka and Yusaku Obata vs. Shinjiro Otani and KAMIKAZE

This match is for the vacant NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship

 

A mixed bag for me.  Thank God for Obata so they had a young dude who could do a bulk of the fast paced work so the match wasn’t overly plodding.  I really think the wrong team won here, I haven’t watched Z1 in many years but it looks like nothing has changed.  How does two 40+ year old vets of Z1 having the tag belts help anything?  Their level of “draw” doesn’t matter if they have the belts or not, but putting over a younger (in Obata’s case) and fresher tag team would make sense.  As for the match, some things I liked and some I didn’t.  I thought the leg work on Kamikaze was good, and the ending (even though I hated who won) made sense as the old veteran had nothing left in his tank but still could be wily.  The offense was generally varied and it always felt like a toss-up on who was going to win.  I didn’t like the table spot meaning nothing, as a minute later Kamikaze was right back to trading strikes.  And sooo many strike exchanges back and forth in this match, I am tired of it and so is the crowd who didn’t really react to it at all.  So like I said a mixed bag, but at least it got what felt like the right amount of time and was shown in full, so there’s a plus.  Just wish the end result was different.  Score:  5.5

 

 

Overall:  I pretty ‘meh’ card from top to bottom.  Only one match I felt was below average, which is good, but only one match that was better than solid, which is bad.  Also the main event just left an icky taste in my mouth, I don’t understand at this stage why Otani needs a belt around his waist unless it is to help bring up a younger wrestler, which Kamikaze is not.  Nothing about this card made me think “I can’t wait to watch more ZERO1!” which is what promotions should be going for, to hook you in.  Unless you are a fan of clipped matches, old stars not letting go, and excessive strike exchanges, you can probably avoid this one.

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NOAH "NEW YEAR NAVIGATION 2014" on 1/5/14

 

Hitoshi Kumano vs. Kenou
 
Kumano debuted in NOAH in early 2013, and Kenou was one of Michinoku Pro’s top wrestlers before joining NOAH in December of 2013.  One thing I liked about this match is that even though Kenou wasn’t really knocked down by Kumano’s elbows, he still showed pain on his face.  So it read like “this hurts, but I am not going down because he is a rookie” rather than “this rookie is so weak he can’t even hurt me.”  Which is better, I think.  And Kumano did get in plenty of offense so it was definitely not a squash.  Kenou is really good, and it will be interesting to see what he does in NOAH.  A solid opener and a good veteran/rookie match.  Score:  6.0
 
Mohammed Yone vs. Yoshinari Ogawa
 
This match existing is proof that there is no God.   Two of my least favorite wrestlers in a singles match.  Really though it wasn’t terrible, it was just boring as hell and the arm work was just kinda meaningless.  Yone wasn’t going to tap to an arm submission, and Ogawa doesn’t really have any finishing moves that focus on the arm.  So it came across as them just fishing to tell a story, but not really a logical one as the hurt arm did not really hamper Yone in any way.  He wins with kicks, lariats (with the other arm), and the Muscle Buster.  Now if he was hurting the right arm and Yone couldn’t hit his lariats, then that would make sense.  But that’s not what they did.  Also even though Ogawa controlled the match in a not incredibly interesting fashion, it didn’t take a lot for Yone to pick up the win at the end which really just emphasized how little damage Ogawa was doing even though he had the upper hand for the bulk of the match.  You’d think two vets could put together a more… cohesive match than this.  Score:  3.5
 
Atsushi Kotoge vs. Daisuke Harada
 
This was fun, just seeing two young wrestlers go all out in the mid-card is a hell of a lot better than watching old veterans plod through a match on the mid-card.  There were a lot of hard hits here and I really think Harada was knocked a bit loopy doing his own move at the end as he didn’t release the hold for about five seconds after the bell rang and then kinda just laid there.  The brainbuster on the knee was brutal, I just wish these guys would sell moves like that a little longer as ten seconds after being hit with it, Kotoge was back up exchanging elbows.  Everything here worked though, even if at times some of the moves were a bit over-contrived (we did learn though that Kotoge can get from the apron to inside the ring incredibly quickly).  A really good match, I think they both show a lot of potential and should be some level of champions in NOAH this year as they need a little more excitement.  These two and Kenou show me that maybe there are some young stars in NOAH worth watching.  Score:  7.0
 
Naomichi Marufuji, Nakajima, and Ishimori vs. Takayama, Hajime Ohara, and Hirayanagi
 
I am generally not a big fan of six man tag matches, but I have to admit that this one was pretty damn entertaining.   I like that younger wrestlers now are modifying so many moves, it can’t be good for their health but seeing moves like brainbusters to their knee, swinging side slams into backbreakers, etc. at least keeps things fresh.  Since most of these guys are smaller it was very fast paced, and even when Takayama was in the ring he played his part very well (big dude that hits hard) but didn’t stay in the ring long enough to slow the match down.  Ohara and Ishimori had a really good stretch run and had multiple convincing reversals and near-falls.  Ohara really came out of the match looking like a star which I am guessing was the point, but no one looked bad here.  Much better than I was expecting when I saw the line-up, you can’t get a lot of serious ‘psychology’ in a match like this but it was good mindless fun.  Score:  7.5
 
Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls vs. Shinya Ishikawa and Yuji Okabayashi
 
Certainly nothing wrong with this match either, even though some of the moves looked soft.  A fair number of the kicks and knees you could tell didn’t land, I am probably just spoiled by wrestlers like Takayama and Nakajima in the previous match that don’t mind hitting people, but the Australians seemed a little more tentative than their Japanese counterparts.  Haste took a good beating though and even though Okabayashi is hard to pin he took a lot of damage in the last minute so it didn’t seem like a cheap or unearned victory.   Pretty solid match.  Score:  6.0
 
Maybach Taniguchi vs. Yuji Nagata
 
More of a storyline-driven match as Taniguchi turns the ‘evil’ up a few notches.  I don’t like the “take the mask off” offense of the faces, especially in this case where Taniguchi wrestled in the same promotion without a mask for years.  It is not like he is going to uncover anything we didn’t know, he still uses the same name, he isn’t trying to fool anyone.  There were also a few miscommunications as the pair didn’t seem to always be on the same page.  Not a ‘bad’ brawl and the ending made sense for what they were going for, it just lagged in parts.  Score:  5.0
 
© KENTA vs. Takeshi Morishima
This match is for the GHC Heavyweight Championship
 
Both these wrestlers can certainly take some damage, even though they did steer away from the big “dangerous” spot that GHC Title matches used to be known for.  I am going to hope/assume the two Go 2 Sleeps were supposed to miss the head since neither of them got the pinfall, as you can imagine Morishima isn’t the easiest guy to hit that move on.  Aside from one or two mishaps these two were on the same page throughout, which is a good ratio for a match that was over twenty minutes.  But the strikes/moves looked snug and they avoided doing ‘limb work’ so there was nothing to blow off later.  Very little downtime as they just stayed on each other for most of the match.  The only thing really lacking was that moment that pushed it over the top in terms of being a “must see” match, and I think it looks silly when big clubbin’ Morishima does moves like the missile dropkick.  I don’t know if the right man won for NOAH overall but for the night it felt right as Morishima dominated the match and KENTA was never able to smoothly hit his biggest move which was his downfall.  Definitely worth a watch, a great way to end the show.  Score:  8.0
 
Overall:   I have to admit, this event surprised me.  In the past I always dreaded reviewing NOAH events as they were always very top heavy.  Usually they had a two must see great matches to end the event, but the under card and mid-card were terrible multi-man matches with veterans that were just going through the motions (Ogawa, Taue, Inoue, Bison, etc.).  This event wasn’t like that at all as the young stars were really given a chance to shine and in the only big multi-man match the wrestlers were really trying and all filled their roles well.  Then you have a great main event to cap it off.  If this is NOAH’s current direction I am pleasantly surprised and now I am actually looking forward to reviewing more of their events to see if this is the new norm or just an anomaly.  But definitely worth the watch.

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New Japan "FANTASTICA MANIA 2014" on 1/14/14

TAKA Michinoku and Taichi vs. Titan and BUSHIROAD
 
I was all ready to kvetch about the unnecessary attempted removal of the masks which normally makes no sense since it doesn't hurt your opponents or lead to a victory, but then it directly lead to a victory. I love that taking off the mask of a Mexican wrestler (or a Japanese wrestler in a mask) is like an automatic victory since protecting their identity is more important than winning a match. Anyway good heel work by Michinoku and Taichi here, it did drag at parts since they were so focused on the masks but overall things went at a fast pace. I hadn't seen Titan before, he has some nifty move, I've always loved the Asai Moonsault off the top rope instead of the middle rope, just looks so much more difficult. Solid opener. Score: 6.0
 
OKUMURA, Vangelis, and Niebla Roja vs. Stuka Jr., Fuego, and Rey Cometa
 
Way too short, on a six match card I don't understand having a six man match not even go seven minutes. The action was perfectly fine but obviously you can't any type of flow going when each wrestler is in the ring for such a short period of time. It wasn't even long enough to let any of the luchadors really display their skills as it wasn't really even a spotfest. Disappointing as Fuego and Niebla Roja in particular caught my eye but they just didn't do enough to really stick in my memory. Score: 4.0
 
Jado and Gedo vs. Jushin Thunder Liger and Maximo
 
Just to explain, Maximo is an exotico and acts kinda girly, which is why Gedo was avoiding him and he was, you know, kissing his opponents. Kinda like a slightly toned-down Danshoku Dino, if that helps any. This was an odd blend of comedy and real action, I can see that having Maximo in a match does change the dynamic since while he does know how to wrestle he has to get in his 'exotico' spots. It wasn't a bad match, it was just disjointed between the wrestling spots and the comedy spots since there was only one comedy wrestler. On the plus side, unlike Ultimo Dragon in the last event I reviewed, Maximo did hit a nice La Magistral. Score: 4.5
 
Máscara Dorada and KUSHIDA vs. Tetsuya Naito and Volador Jr.
 
This was a better display even if it was still shorter than I'd have preferred. There were a few miscommunications here, honestly I am surprised there are not more of them on this card but nothing horrible. The front flip piledriver somehow is still an awesome move even after Petey Williams tried to kill it all by himself, and there were some great high flying moves in this match. So for the spots, really good match, just don't go in expecting structure or anything like that. Score: 6.0
 
La Sombra and Rush vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and Ultimo Guerrero
 
Oh this match. I haven't watched Lucha Libre in probably five years so I don't know if this is the norm, or they are just putting on a display for Japan. But man they weren't even trying to sell moves, there were times a wrestler would do a big move, and their opponent would just casually get up first and they'd go to the next spot. They also were really cooperative with each other for top turnbuckle moves. On the flip side I do enjoy the big moves, I saw moves in this match I haven't seen in a good while, they certainly know how to put on a display. So as a.... Lucha Libre Exhibition I think it was fine, there just was a minimal attempt to make it look like a real competition. Score: 5.0
 
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mistico, and El Desperado vs. Kazuchika Okada, Mephisto, and Rey Escorpión
 
Just to be clear, this of course is not the original Mistico but the wrestler that took over the gimmick once the original went to WWE. New Mistico looks bigger than old Mistico, but he sure can hit a mean hurricanrana. Like the last match this was more of a match for fun than anything else. But it was certainly fun, although not a long match so no one wrestler got much of a chance to do anything except fly around the ring. Even Tanahashi got in on the flying, and El Desperado naturally looked right at home since he had been in Mexico the last few years. A more entertaining spotfest than the match before, but still just a big 'ol spotfest. Score: 6.5
 
Overall: The biggest problem with this card is simply that there wasn't much wrestling. Actual in-match time for the entire event was under an hour, which to me is not really enough. There were only six matches and five clocked in right at ten minutes or less. That being said for a kinda laid back fun display of Lucha Libre it did its job in that regard, and I am sure it was an absolute blast to be at live. I just wish there was a match at the top that was longer and more of a "real" match and less of an exhibition. So worth watching since most of the matches are entertaining, there just isn't much of it and there isn't anything that you need to go out of the way to see.

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BJW lighttube violence checking in for 2014

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5d-AIjI8Vs

 

I'm guessing the falling lighttube idea was cooler on paper than in execution. BJW's weapon construction battalion didn't have a chance of making that concept work. Also, awesome flip on a lariat. The rest was probably a lot of the usual for the genre. Big spots, spontaneous bleeding, avoiding being whipped into the wrong corner, etc.

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Mochizuki vs. Yoshino is probably my new favourite DG match ever (well, in Japan anyway as nothing will ever beat the Nottingham Shingo/Susumu match). Absolutely ridiculous. They pulled out ALL the stops. If you're the type to scream "Overkill!" then I reckon this isn't your match but for me and the 2,000 fans in Korakuen who were LOSING THEIR FRIGGIN MINDS this was something special. I won't spoil but certain things happen in this match that I'd never thought I'd see happen - probably stuff that's a bigger deal to hardcore DG fans though.

Masaaki Mochizuki gave one of the best performances I've ever seen a wrestler give in this match. AND HE'S IN HIS FORTIES!!!! This guy is a true treasure in Pro Wrestling and he deserves to be regarded as one of the best ever because he is.

I was lucky enough to get somewhat of an "advanced screening" of this but it should be available for everyone soon and when it is, you must watch it immediately.

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I am determined to not get too busy to finish this year. Only rating matches *** or higher and will add the full list as time goes by. Have watched Wrestle Kingdom and Fantasticamania Night 1, will not post reviews but will add three or four matches to my list of top Puro matches of the year. Alan has me stoked for that DG match, hope it lives up to the hype!

AJPW New Years Wars 2014 - Night 1 (01/02)

Kotaro Suzuki & Masao Inoue vs Osamu Nishimura & Ryuji Hijikata

The match is rediculously clipped so there is not much to comment on. Kotaro Suzuki looked pretty good. He had some nice junior moves like a 619 attempt and he sold the leg from being in the figure four.

Hikaru Sato vs Kento Miyahara

Sato has an MMA background and uses a ground attack with some kicks, while Miyahara on the other hand is more of a typical junior wrestler. Sato seemed to be leaning towards a ground based offense of grapevining the leg. He controlled the first portion before Miyahara exploded with some forearms.  Miyahara's nice strikes, killing Sato on the floor with a DDT, and muscling up Sato for a suplex were all impressive. First time seeing either man wrestle and Miyahara performance was more impactful, though I would certainly like to see what Sato can do given a little more time and offense which his offense is more suited for.

Jon Bolen, SUSHI & Tyson Dux vs Team Dream Futures (Ishii, Irie & Takao)

Bolen and Dux are well traveled gaijin from PA and NB respecively. Both do relatively nothing in the match. The one highspot from the duo was a swinging powerslam from Bolen. Irie and his green mohawk was the most impressive wrestler of the match. When he tagged in he was a house of fire straight through to the end.

Go Shiozaki vs KENSO

KENSO is apart of Dark Kingdom while Shiozaki rolls with Xceed. This match was more middle of the road for me. I do not believe KENSO, who has two tag title reigns in his decade plus career, will beat a former GHC heavyweight champion. KENSO brought an Americanized feel to the match by doing some brawling in the crowd and especially throwing the referee over the top rope. This is the first AJPW show I have seen in a year so it is quite possible that Dark Kingdom is a poor mans Bullet Club. KENSO is a scrappy fighter but poses little threat to Shiozaki who finishes the match with the Go Flasher.

AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Title

Ultimo Dragon© vs Atsushi Aoki [***]

At the end of 2013 the 47 year old Ultimo Dragon won the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight title from Kanemaru and this is his first defense. Aoki is a NOAH transplant and spends a large part of the match working in the arm of Dragon. My favorite piece of armwork is the Kamura after a pin attempt, which if done with supreme intensity, can be very effective. Sadly intensity is the main element missing from this match and drags the match from great to good. I appreciate Dragon selling the arm well after the match was over but he did little to move the match any higher. The ending was La Magistral cradle which was reversed twice, and thanks to the WWE I have completely soured on any finish involving a roll up. I was hoping for a lot more but sadly this is not worth going out of your way to see.

Akebono, Suwama & Taiyo Kea vs Burning & Takao Omori

I really like the phrase 'They had a match' Bryan Alvarez uses when reviewing wrestling describing a match that was neither good nor bad yet nothing particularly stood out. The little Kanemaru, though heel, is able to draw some sympathy from me for having to tangle with his three oversized opponents. Suwama hit a lariat on Kanemaru that turned him inside out. Good booking rears its ugly head in the ending where Omori, who is challenging for the Triple Crown title the next night, pins the champion Akebono. Omori sold this as a big accomplishment and sells me on their match to come.

17 Man Battle Royal

This event could have easily been called 'Night of Omori' as he takes the win in the main event too. I expected the Battle Royal to be a comedic playground for Fuchi and in some ways it was and I was very disappointed when he was eliminated. Eliminations come can come by pinfall and a lot of the early portion of the match was everyone standing around until two competitors were prone in a submission or pinning combination then they all covered both for the double elimination. There was a fun moment near the end where Omori went to make a handshake alliance with SUSHI, but SUSHI made the alliance with the other four men in the match as they all turned again Omori. The final two were SUSHI and Omori. I almost lost it when SUSHI got a close near fall but Omori finishes SUSHI in short order to complete a super push towards the title match tomorrow night.

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Hooray, people are joining me.  That makes me a happy panda.

 

All Japan "New Year Wars 2014" on 1/3/14

 

Kotaro Suzuki and Atsushi Aoki vs. Shigehiro Irie and Keisuke Ishii
 
I honestly think that if this match had bigger name wrestlers on it and had a real ending, it would be thought of as one of the better matches so far this year.  I loved the stories they were telling and that it felt right up to the very end that it was anyone’s game.  The DDT wrestlers were very well respected and everyone was made to look strong which is what wrestling should be all about.  I do wish that it had an ending though, I don’t think in this case a Draw was necessary as any of these wrestlers could be pinned if the circumstances were right.  It doesn’t look like it was building to anything to not have a winner.  But really this was a great match, no wasted time and just good action from start to finish.  Score:  7.5
 
Jon Bolen vs. Tyson Dux
 
I guess this match came about because they eliminated each other the night before from the battle royal.  But I am not really sure what purpose the match served…  it was short but still had rest holds and down-time, it was won by sneaky means so I don’t know if they settled their beef (they teamed together on the next show), and it just came across as filler.  If it was a sprint or a game of “one-upmanship” between two friends I could see it working, but it just fell in some grey middle ground and I never really saw what they were going for here.  Score:  3.5
 
KENSO and Mitsuya Nagai vs. Osamu Nishimura and Ryuji Hijikata
 
That ended quickly.  Hijikata was doing ok then it just takes being chocked by a feathery belt and a running kick to the face and he is done.  Almost felt like they got the ‘go home’ signal with how quickly it ended.  Anyway up to that point the match was fine but it never felt like it got fully going.  Nishimura didn’t do much of anything in this match as Hijikata was in the ring the bulk of the time, and the offense to Hijikata wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t overly inspired either.  I know that Nagai can bring the hurt but his offense stayed pretty basic here.  I wasn’t expecting much and I didn’t get much, so I guess I can’t complain too much.  Score:  4.0
 
Go Shiozaki and Kento Miyahara vs. Ultimo Dragon and Hikaru Sato
 
If this was WWE I would think that Shiozaki was in the doghouse for something, as both cards I have watched so far he was about as far from the main event scene as I am.  This wasn’t bad but was really disjointed in parts, and it seemed almost like there was too much back and forth when on paper the teams seemed lopsided.  I did like that Ultimo Dragon managed at the end to come back to save Sato a few times but ultimately just couldn’t keep escaping Miyahara to break up pinfalls.  The match just lacked suspense and they didn’t really have any real structure.  Good wrestlers all around, but an average match at best.  Score:  5.0
 
© SUSHI vs. Takao Soma
This match is for the GAORA TV Championship
 
No idea what I just watched.  I was finally excited to get back to a singles match and I got… this.  It was pretty much bad from start to finish.  The brawling through the crowd was drawn out and silly since Soma kept using this big metal tub that must have some significance that I don’t know about.  Soma dominated the match but not with real moves, but with roll-ups and things like that.  Then SUSHI after getting dominated at the end, suddenly picks up the win after two moves.  Don’t get me wrong, Soma was never a credible challenger, but it just made the rest of the match meaningless as Soma really wasn’t weakened up at all.  Just not a good match on any level.  Score:  2.5
 
Jun Akiyama, Kanemaru, and Masao Inoue vs. Suwama, Taiyo Kea, and Masanobu Fuchi
 
When I saw this match went 26 minutes I groaned.  This match was to celebrate Fuchi’s 60th birthday, by the way, which is why he was prominently displayed in the match.  This is very good to see, as anytime a wrestler is still healthy enough to still be wrestling at his age it is quite an accomplishment and I tip my hat to him.   Anyway the match was what it was, it certainly dragged in parts but I will say that Fuchi certainly did his part.  He took a lot of moves and gave a lot of moves as well, so he was not slacking off in his birthday match.  Akiyama and Suwama being in the match seemed off, you’d think this would be left to the mid-carders and they could have been in a more important match.  But it was not as bad as I thought, even though it seemed weak for a semi-main event on show with a Triple Crown match.  Score:  5.5
 
© Akebono vs. Takao Omori
This match is for the Triple Crown Championship
 
This was a pretty sad affair.  Akebono should not be any promotion's champion.  He has a use, but he needs to be protected in tag matches and not expected to put on long-ish singles matches.  First of all, his physical condition is not good.  He gets up the same way that Vader did in his last RAW match… meaning he has to kinda straighten his legs and then push up with his hands.  Mind you Vader is 58 and has had 45 surgeries.  Point being, Akebono at his age, weight, and with his injuries just doesn’t have the ability to really put on good matches.  He has some high impact moves, but he only has about five of them so he does the same moves repeatedly in the match.  I will say that they tried, but some of the spots just looked silly (like Akebono getting Omori by the throat while he was seated and Omori was going for an Axe Bomber) or contrived.  Just a disappointing match, and the size of the crowd (smallest ever for a Triple Crown match) shows I am not the only one that was disappointed.  I could go on, but just… not good, even though I do appreciate the effort and Akebono had a strong decisive win which I always appreciate.  Score:  3.5
 
Overall:  It is a sad day when the card opens with the best match and the rest of the card just does downhill.  I only thought two of these matches were above average and some of them were really really bad.  The special Fuchi match had good intentions but it just went on for too long, and the main event was almost hard to watch due to Akebono’s limitations.  2014 may be a make or break year for All Japan in terms of match quality, as if by the end of the year the young wrestlers aren’t given more of a chance I fear their attendances will continue to shrink.  Really no need to track down this event as even though the opener is great, it isn’t nearly special enough to justify watching this card.

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Koji Kanemoto vs. Kazuki Hashimoto: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWqYXbaBcqo

 

NEVER ENDING STRING OF ANKLE LOCK REVERSALS INTO MORE ANKLE LOCKS - THIS IS 2014. This isn't great, but it Koji and K-Hash do some fun mirror interactions, and Koji gets pretty dickish with the leg kicks. I don't have a huge problem with ankle locks - I know it's been spammed so fucking hard and people are sick of it, but if done right it's a fun finish. My problem with these two is that neither really apply the hold in a really threatening way. It looks more like they're hugging each other's feet, or trying to keep their pet cat calm. Does this make sense? I know it does. Even with that in mind, I wouldn't mind seeing a rematch.

 

I'm almost finished with the Tokyo Dome Show, and it's been pretty fun. Random Thoughts:

 

Muta's EPIC ENTRANCE was ruined by that doofus Yano walking out first. Should have been seperate.

 

Vance Archer is still not very good, and he brought the match down in a huge way. I really like Harry Smith, but everytime he had to do some stupid double team with that guy it looked DUMB. 

 

NASTY POWER BOMBS! Makabe over adjusted on his and brained the shit out of Fale. Match could have been over right there. And Ibushi getting bombed on the apron had that sloppy mean energy to it. Just looked brutal. 

 

Gracie's are good at looking like assholes. This ALMOST worked, with a lot of credit to Yuji, but it didn't get me excited about seeing more.

 

That's the best Goto match I've seen in a looooooooooooong time. I think it might actually be my favorite, singles of his(maybe better than the Tanahashi epic from 5-6 years ago). I haven't cared about him for a few years, but I'm kind of interested in seeing him get his moment this year. 

 

The rest of my thoughts I'll do in the YES/NO because they pertain to the nominated matches.

 

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AJPW New Years Wars 2014 - Night 2 (01/05/14)

 

Team Dream Futures (Ishii & Irie) vs Xceed (Aoki & Suzuki) [***3/4]
The more I watch Ishii and especially Irie the more I love these guys. Irie is short and fat and wrestles a fun power junior heavyweight style. About a fourth of the way into the match I started to realize they are going for more than your pedestrian opener and by the end I was hooked on the near falls hoping the DDT visitors would score the upset victory. Team Dream Futures won me over with their apparent finisher which amounts to a GTS onto Irie's mohawk (instead of Ishii's knee). I understand the reason the two teams went to a 20 minute time limit draw. It shows that TDF are on par with Xceed and if given more time in a rematch could win, but I would have loved to see a finish and would have given this four stars if that had been the case. If you have time this is worth a look.


 
Jon Bolen vs Tyson Dux
This felt like an 8 minute exhibition with no real story to tell from two wrestlers that seem to not be headed anywhere fast in All Japan. Bolen has some interesting power moves and an okay finisher (swinging powerslam) and uses them to dominate Dux in the latter stages of the match. Dux gets the cheap school boy rollup for the apparent upset finish. This was a total letdown from the awesome opener.
 
KENSO & Mitsuya Nagai vs Osamu Nishimura & Ryuji Hijikata
Dark Kingdom is such a good name, but the team does nothing for me. They really are a poor man's BULLET CLUB with nothing interesting to offer. They cheat yet their opponents Nishimura and Hijikata are just as bland in this match. Common sense would dictate that the faces get a hot tag and at least an attempt at a win but no KENSO ends the match with a running knee completely out of left field. I am not a fan of this.
 
Hikaru Sato & Ultimo Dragon vs Xceed (Shiozaki & Miyahara)

Forget their partners, Go Shiozaki and Hikaru Sato put on some good work here. They included those little nuances that make wrestling so awesome, like how Shiozaki sells the injured arm off a chop even though he proved to have the better chops earlier in the match. Sato did everything in his power  to rip Shiozaki's arm off with an assist to the crazy lucha submissions of Ultimo Dragon. The match was not spectacular but was solid. Shiozaki claimed the win with a Go Flasher on Sato.
 

GAORA TV Title
SUSHI© vs Soma Takao
This is SUSHI's first defense of the vacated GAORA TV Title (sixth defense of the title ever by my count) he won in November. SUSHI is the third holder of the title and is in such Hall of Fame company as Seiya Sanada and Renee Dupree. Takao brought some DDT craziness with him to the match but came up a bit short. There was a lot of garbage wrestling here and not much of a story to tell. They did some brawling out side and Takao dropped a pan from the second story on top of SUSHI's head. They did the rollup reversal spot for several two counts and SUSHI ended it with what I assume is the Katsuo no Ipponzuri (Fisherman 's Buster small package).
 
Burning (Akayama & Kanemaru) & Masao Inoue vs Masanobu Fuchi, Suwama & Taiyo Kea
The notes on the YouTube video note this is Masanobu Fuchi's 60th birthday celebration. The match is worked very smart with everyone getting a rest when Fuchi is in wrestling a slower style and then the match picks up when his partners come in. At one point Fuchi is spike piledriven on the floor and then garners more heat from a simple bodyslam. Fuchi kicks out of an Akayama Exploder and pins Inoue with the third small package. A 26 minute match prominently featuring a 60 year old is never going to be a five star classic but this was harmless fun and a fitting way to honor an AJPW legend.
 
AJPW Triple Crown Title

Akebono© vs Takao Omori [***]
Akebono is the 47th Triple Crown champion making his second or third defense depending on how you view the 11/24 show against Joe Doering. I thought this was a worthy title fight where firey Omori had a sound strategy to battle the power and sheer bulk of the champ. Omori used the tried and true method of chopping down the big man's legs and had some success in doing so. In the end Akebono was simply too much for the challenger and Omori was put away with the Yokozuna Impact. They had a good story in place and in some ways were successful however the match did not have the impact I would have hoped for.

Overall Thoughts
There isn't a whole lot to go out of your way for here. I am high on the opener and have thumbs in the middle leaning up for the main event. The Fuchi match is a nice moment considering it is his 60th birthday celebration, otherwise leave this card alone.

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Zero1 Happy New Year 01/01/14

 

Daichi Hashimoto vs. Kohei Sato
Sato is the trainer at the Zero1 dojo and Hashimoto is a young boy with 2 years experience. Hashimoto is also son of Japanese legend Shinya Hashimoto. Sato spends most of the match no selling Hashimoto and giving him plenty of abuse. Somewhere along the line Sato gets busted open but that part was cut out of the match. Sato puts Hashimoto away with his High Angle German Suplex. Not much here unless you like a semi competitive squash.

Gokiburi Mask #1 vs. Jason Lee
There is absolutely no information on either of these two on Cagematch so I can only assume they are young boys from the dojo. Gokiburi's mask looks like that of an ant. He is a large, slow power wrestler that doesn't do much of note. Jason Lee seems to have a martial arts background and is by far the better of the two on this occasion. At one point Lee hits this Street Fighteresque  combo in the corner which was different. Jason Lee is one I would like to see more from in the future. As a match this is another semi-competitive squash. Gokiburi did very little here, but he is very unhappy and cuts a little promo after the match. Lee is awarded a parchment of some type after the match.

"brother" YASSHI and Ken Tsuyoshi  vs. Yoshikazu Yokoyama and Tank Nagai
Out of the almost ten minute match we get a disjointed 2 or 3 minutes. Sadly the best part is the comedy of Yokoyama/Nagai acting like The Steiner Brothers. YASSHI and Tsuyoshi resolve to using a kendo stick, which backfires. Yokoyama gets the pin after the Death Valley Driver.

Ryouji Sai and Ikuto Hidaka vs. Toru Owashi and Takuya Sugawara
Once again clipped and neither team seemed motivated to put any more than decent wrestling into the match. I don't know who to blame here, the only wrestler I am familiar with is Hidaka and he is awesome. It really felt like an American indy match you would find in a small town like Royston, GA. Hidaka and Sugawara have a little promo battle without mics before they lock horns. The crowd liked the promos at least. Hidaka ends this with Iwami Ginzan and like the entire card so far there is nothing to see here.

Akebono and Yuji Okabayashi vs. Maybach Beta and Tama Williams
While I liked Akebono's Triple Crown title defense a couple days later more than I should have, I did not like Akebono here. The only thing memorable these guys did was the three giant splashes Akebono gave Maybach Beta to end the match.

International Jr. Heavyweight Championship and NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Championship
HUB © vs. Mineo Fujita
This match felt like a true indy title match. There were a lot of moves but no sense of direction or story. Both guys are fluid with their moves just could not put the whole thing together and make the match memorable. Fujita is supposed to be a heel yet the fans would cheer him at times. At one point after a ref bump he dropkicks HUB in the balls which garnered the most cheers. HUB wins the bout after what I presume was a Chaos Break and he leaned so far back on the cover I thought we had a double pin. HUB retains the two titles that have been defended together since Sugawara "unified" the belts in 2012.

Zero1 World Heavyweight Championship
James Raideen © vs. Demon Ueda
Before the match there was a video package for Demon Ueda that was complete over the top wrestlecrap. It is a must see if you like that type of thing. Raideen is a New Zealander trained by the Dudley Boys and has the perfect WWE look. He is 6'5 with a chiseled physique and is only 22 years of age. He is everything the WWE looks for in new talent. Zero1 obviously has some trust in him because he is in the midst of the second longest title run in the titles short history. Masato Tanaka holds the record with a 307 day title reign. Raideen wins me over by coming out to one of my favorite wrestling themes of all time, Sting's NWA music. Ueda tries to make this match a brawl but Raideen settles this thing down to a power wrestling match. Raideen has horrible chops for a man his size. The match plays into the backstory of Ueda using mist to score a victory over Raideen in a tag match. Ueda has a great character but his offense did not leave a lasting impression on me. Raideen gets the victory after a High-Angle Powerbomb.

NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship
Masato Tanaka and Yusaku Obata  vs. Shinjiro Otani and KAMIKAZE
The NWA Intercontinental Tag Titles date back to 2001 where a young Samoa Joe was one half of the first champions. The previous champs, Akebono and Sekimoto, vacated the championship on 12/30 and this match is to fill the vacancy. The match itself is by far the best match of the night. Three of the four participants can go. Tanaka and Otani bring the slaps, forearms, and of course face washes. The one thing I have been looking for all night is found here, Tanaka and Obata hurt a body part of one of their opponents and they continue working on it. Obata takes the violence well and is very fluid in the ring. KAMIKAZE is just horrible. He slides to a stop on the floor instead of taking the bump into the chairs as planned. Tanaka and Obata have KAMIKAZE on the ropes and there is no way he is coming back yet he gets a fluke backslide on Obata for the pin. I was not happy with this finish but Otani and KAMIKAZE become the 31st NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Champions.

Overall Thoughts:
I was not a fan of the overall show. Most is pretty lackluster wrestling save the main event which was good enough yet not great enough to go out of your way to see. Thumbs down.

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Gokiburi is Japanese for Cockroach.

Also "Ken Tsuyoshi" is a translation error Purolove made. It's Kengo Nishimura going by the name Kengo.

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BJW 01/02/14

 

 

Takayuki Ueki vs Yuichi Taniguchi

I love the Cagematch.net website because it has all the history you could ask for on virtually every wrestler. When one is not listed you know he is greener than dirt and that is what we have here with Ueki. Everything Ueki does looks bad. I imagine Taniguchi has a hand in training him or is just a veteran showing the young boy how to work in front of a live crowd. Regardless Taniguchi finishes Ukei off with a Northern Lights Suplex and a half crab.

 

Haisei Yakuza Duo (Hoshino & Inaba) vs Irish Airborne

The BJW crowd loves the flashy moves from the Irish Airborne. I understand all wrestling requires good timing but the Airborne's double team offense is especially dependent on good timing. There were a couple of cases where the timing was off and the moves were less impressive. Haisei Yakuza Duo were given about an even amount of offense but this was a match was about the Airborne showing off their moves. The Crist Brothers finish the match with the double stomp spike tombstone piledriver.

 

Brahman Kai, Brahman Shu & Shinobu vs Madoka & Speed of Sounds (Senga & Oosugi)

I love the Brahman's, they are crazy and eccentric and just pure entertaining. Shinobu I was not impressed with. He lacked any intensity whatsoever and having to see his ass d not help things. Even his partners, as funny as they can be, will get down to business and wrestle when need be. Madoka has a freshly shorn head that is the source of a few comedy spots,and I especially like the riff on the Brahman bowling ball spot. This was most of all a comedy match and the Brahmans ruled here, everyone else either sucked or was overshadowed by Brahman greatness. Did I mention I love me some Brahman?

 

Street Fight

MASADA & Masaya Takahashi vs Mototsugu Shimizu & Saburo 

MASADA and Shimizu are the stars, their partners do nothing of interest and might as well not even be in the match at all. I question the pointless bloodshed in a throwaway 8 minute midcard match. The ending is incredibly sick with MASADA jamming wooden sticks into Shimizu's head then letting go and they spread out while sticking to his skull. While sick, it is quite the visual that leaves its mark on the viewer. MASADA then goes over the top with brainbusters to drive the sticks in further finally ending the match. Besides the shock ending there is nothing of value here.

 

Kazuki Hashimoto vs Koji Kanemoto [****1/4]

It is quite an amazing achievement for 47 year old Kanemoto to have a match of quality with this much brutality. These two trade blow for blow and hold for hold the entire 14 minutes. At one point Kanemoto is punching Hashimoto right into his arm before locking in an arm lock. Even if the fad is ten years old the constant reversal of holds, ala Angle/Benoit, is still a favorite of mine. Koji rolled Hashimoto into a cool looking ankle lock before they started the reversal sequence. The ankle lock Hashimoto tapped to looked to be quite snug. The match had great intensity, brutal moves but needed a hotter ending to really push it over the top. As is it is certainly a match worthy of your time.

 

Monster Items Death Match; The Battledore

B Fautless Junkie's (Numazawa, Kasai & Takeda) vs Danny Havoc, Ryuji Ito & Yuko Miyamoto

As far as deathmatch six man tags go, this was not good. The match was sorely relying on the visual gimmick of all of the lighttubes attached to the wooden stands in the corner to break when the button was pushed. Sadly not even half the tubes broken when the claws came down. Another fault of the match is that the gimmick the match is based on did not factor into the finish. After the second claw dropped the two that took the bump continued to perform offensive moves in the match. The claw should have been the end of the man (or men) who took that second bump. Thirdly there were at times four wrestlers doing the "I am holding him back" rest hold on the floor while two men fight in the ring. While I understand the focus is supposed to be on the two in the ring, it takes some of the believability out of the match. The wrestlers holding back their opponents are obviously not struggling to do so. Deathmatches can work with drama based off of the gimmick surrounded by intense brawling. This failed on both levels.

 

Ryuichi Kawakami & Shinya Ishikawa vs Shuji Ishikawa & Yuji Okabayashi

This match is here to spur the Shuji Ishikawa/Ryuchi Kawakami issue which it does well in the post match. The actual match is okay but contains several rest holds that only serve as a time filler. The good in the match were the forarms of which there were plenty. I must mention that Shuji Ishikawa threw one of the weakest Shining Wizards I have ever seen. Okabayashi has great facials showing he is out on his feet. He ends up getting the pin on Shinya Ishikawa after a nice lariat.

 

BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Title

Tenchi wo Kurau Finals Match

Isami Kodaka© vs Takumi Tsukamoto [***1/4]

I have no idea what the Tenchi wo Kurau is but this is apparently the finals, however there was no trophy or prize that Kodaka won in his victory beside keeping his belt. These two went out and fought a hell of a fight. Kodaka dropped his Diving Double Kneedrop off the top through lighttubes. What made this especially brutal was that this isn't a kneedrop where he would bounce off his opponent, but he planted his knees in Tsukamoto. There was little wrestling save for the token grappling at the beginning of the match, but there were sick spots, ladders and a giant hammer which made the match a lot of fun. Kodaka got the pin with a superkick. 

 

Overall Thoughts:

An enjoyable first show from Big Japan that produced a legit MOTYC in Hashimoto/Kanemoto and an enjoyable main event. 

 

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Big Japan on 1/2/14

 

Takayuki Ueki vs. Yuichi Taniguchi

 

A really simple match but it still had its issues.  Ueki’s strikes didn’t look like they hurt at all but Taniguchi still stood there and took two long developing strikes anyway.  I kept expecting him to move if nothing else to teach Ueki to make his offense look stronger.  The ending was expected but Ueki still has some work to do just judging from this one match.  Score:  3.5

 

Jake Crist and Dave Crist vs. Kankuro Hoshino and Masato Inaba

 

This match was really fun, but it worries me when four minutes of a nine minute match is taken out in a sneaky manner.  What was the other half of the match like?  But the part that they showed was quite entertaining, I had never seen the Crist brothers (aka Irish Airborne) before but they have some unique moves and added a layer of unknown to the match for me as I never knew what was coming next.  For a clipped undercard match, no complaints at all, and it piqued my interest to see if there is a reason the match was clipped or if this is a tag team I should be more aware of.  Score:  6.5

 

Brahman Shu, Brahman Kei, and Shinobu vs. Madoka, Tsutomu Oosugi , and Hercules Senga

 

With this low quality video I couldn’t tell the Brahmans apart, luckily they did everything together so it didn’t actively matter.  This kind of match always leaves me annoyed more than anything else, as some of the wrestlers in it are quite skilled but this type of match doesn’t really give them a chance to show it.  It is more just goofy nonsense, which is fine but I just know they are capable of more.  Plus let’s face it, the Brahmans are pretty useless.  But using Senga’s head as a bowling ball was cute and there certainly were no boring parts, so it wasn’t a complete wash.  Score:  4.5

 

MASADA and Masaya Takahashi vs. Saburo Inematsu and Mototsugu Shimizu

 

Well besides the ending being a bit unnecessary (stabbing someone in the face seems a bit harsh for a clipped mid-card match), at least the brainbuster made sense as a finisher since he had sticks jabbing out of his head.  Not all of this was shown which is surprising since it was only an eight minute match in the first place.  Pretty basic brawling with nothing to set it apart, at least not in a positive way anyway.  Score:  4.0

 

Kazuki Hashimoto vs. Koji Kanemoto

 

What an odd little match.  The first large chunk of the match was really good but the random trading Ankle Holds at the end was bizarre.  They had done no real leg work leading up to that point and were mostly just doing strikes and kicks.  Then suddenly they decided to trade Ankle Holds until Kanemoto won.  I liked that Kanemoto gave Hashimoto an equal amount of offense and Hashimoto did a good job portraying the underdog trying to overthrow the veteran, I just wasn’t a big fan of the ending.  Score:  6.0

 

Jun Kasai, Jaki Numazawa, and Masashi Takeda vs. Yuko Miyamoto, Ryuji Ito, and Danny Havoc

 

The corner mouse traps to me are a bit overly contrived, which Big Japan enjoys doing, as I don’t think it would hurt any worse than just being thrown into a bundle of light tubes.  Anyway for this type of brawl it was fine, but the match was too short and had too many people to really get into a groove.  It was mostly just a few minutes of brawling, wrestlers hit their finishing moves, and one team wins.  Nothing terrible, just an average match.  Score:  5.0

 

Shinya Ishikawa and Ryuichi Kawakami vs. Shuji Ishikawa and Yuji Okabayashi

 

It felt like this match ended too soon.  They were still going neck and neck, trading holds, and suddenly Okabayashi wins out of nowhere with a lariat.  And it is not like the lariat is his death move as he had already hit others in the match, this match just seemed more to fuel the Kawakami vs. Shuji feud than anything else (they brawled after the match ended).  But the match was still good, there were some solid strike exchanges and “big man” action.  It just felt like it wasn’t ready to be over yet before it was over.  Score:  6.5

 

© Isami Kodaka vs. Takumi Tsukamoto

This match is for the Big Japan Death Match Heavyweight Championship 

 

I gotta be honest, I am just kind of over the light tubes.  I understand why they use them, it adds some intrigue but do minimal actual damage to the body (obviously they get cut up from rolling around the ring in them but they tend to be superficial cuts, not gushers).  But I have seen them so many times that it has lost any type of ‘wow’ factor.  On the plus side, they didn’t spent a lot of time setting up these big moves which happens sometimes and they kept a decent pace throughout the match.  The dueling body slams was odd but I guess that is the hardcore version of running off the ropes and trying to knock your opponent over.  It wasn’t bad, I just was waiting for most the match for the bigger spots such as the ones using the ladder that to me were more exciting, such as the diving double knee drop.  I know the light tubes aren’t going anywhere, I just like a little variety in my death matches.  Score:  6.0

 

 

Overall:   Almost all of the matches were at least clipped a little bit, which as you probably know I am not a big fan of.  I think that is one reason none of the matches really went over the line of “really good”, some of them just felt incomplete and I could tell that I was missing something.  The main event was perfectly fine but aside from a few spots it was just your average light tube death match.  An above average experience overall since there was a good variety of action here, but no match made this event something that is a “must see.”

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Holy cow, just watched the New Japan Road to New Beginning six-main. Early candidate for MOTY. Ishii comes across like the baddest mofo on the planet in this match as he lariats half the world out of their boots. I think I liked this match more than anything on the Tokyo Dome show.

 

About to watch the Dragon Gate match that's been heavily pimped, as well.

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With this low quality video I couldn’t tell the Brahmans apart

 

Wait, how do you tell them apart? 

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With this low quality video I couldn’t tell the Brahmans apart

 

Wait, how do you tell them apart? 

 

Good point, normally what I do with them is I see which one got the pin and then work backwards when I am doing the play by play, or I pay really really good attention during the introductions/the announcers and see if I can see which one they are calling.  But in this case the video quality was poor enough that there wasn't really a reason for me to attempt any of my usual methods :P

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I thought maybe one of them had a tattoo like the Usos, or big fake tits like the Bella Twins.

 

Oh by the way, are you going to be running the Japan Best of 2013 poll this year, or is it going to be Ditch again?

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I'm not cuz uh I don't want to.  Ditch is around but not as around so I dunno if he lost interest or his personal life is time consuming.  Maybe Jae will do it, he has been spunky lately :)

 

To me since we lost like 8 months of 2013 without proper pimping I am just afraid that the turnout wouldn't be good.  Even in the "good old days" he generally got around or less than 20 ballots, with the lack of Yes/No and what not it would probably be sub-10 which is a lot of work for little participation. I am hoping between this thread and the Yes/No being up from the start, that 2014 will be more active and the end of year results will have more participation in it.

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Yeah, I kinda forgot about the fact that we lost everything from the old board. It was also kind of a bad year for Japan. I think New Japan brought a lot of new fans in over the last year but still, it might be a lost cause at this point. Besides, the last thing I want is even more NJ-heavy ballots than we had the last couple years.

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I'm not going to do it. I already have this horrible thing I have to do in March. Which BY THE WAY, will include a handful of Japanese wrestlers this year, so I'm expecting you guys to show up.

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Mochizuki vs. Yoshino is probably my new favourite DG match ever (well, in Japan anyway as nothing will ever beat the Nottingham Shingo/Susumu match). Absolutely ridiculous. They pulled out ALL the stops. If you're the type to scream "Overkill!" then I reckon this isn't your match but for me and the 2,000 fans in Korakuen who were LOSING THEIR FRIGGIN MINDS this was something special. I won't spoil but certain things happen in this match that I'd never thought I'd see happen - probably stuff that's a bigger deal to hardcore DG fans though.

Masaaki Mochizuki gave one of the best performances I've ever seen a wrestler give in this match. AND HE'S IN HIS FORTIES!!!! This guy is a true treasure in Pro Wrestling and he deserves to be regarded as one of the best ever because he is.

I was lucky enough to get somewhat of an "advanced screening" of this but it should be available for everyone soon and when it is, you must watch it immediately.

 

Has this one hit the internets, yet?

 

I just randomly decided to watch two matches from the most recent iPPV (02/06/14) today. I watched the 6 man tag (Shingo Takagi, Akira Tozawa & Uhaa Nation vs. Dragon Kid, K-ness & Super Shisa) and the main event 8 man elimination tag match. I don't know, maybe this style just isn't my thing anymore, because neither one of those matches did a lot for me. I couldn't even rate the main event, because I didn't even understand what was going on for the first ten minutes. I guess one of their groups now comes out in full bodypaint, that was weird. The crowd certainly seemed to be into the match, though.

I guess I'll give the match Alan mentioned above a try, otherwise I'll go back to not caring anymore again.

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yep, Mochi/Yoshino is online. That latest show you watched was probably not the best for new or lapsed fans. I definitely wouldn't have recommended it.

 

what I would recommend is maybe watching the Mochizuki/Arai vs. T-Hawk/U-T match from December. It's short and to the point. Will get you excited for watching Mochi in the above mentioned title match.

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