Happy Saturday Everyone!
I decided to review some FMW on here because I don’t think I’ve done that before and this show happens to be up on YouTube so it was easy to find.
FMW was started up by Atsushi Onita in 1989 after Onita had been forced to retire from All Japan Pro Wrestling due to his injuries not allowing him to work the All Japan style anymore. Onita had previously worked in Memphis where he had first discovered the weapons based brawling style that the Memphis territory would use when it was time to settle the score in a feud.
Feeling that he could promote an entire company around that style, and thus disguise the fact that he physically wasn’t capable of working a more athletic technical based style anymore, Onita set up Frontier Martial-arts Wrestling, with himself as the top star.
The combination of wild action and Onita’s unmistakable charisma on top led to FMW becoming a viable option for a lot of wrestlers and fans during the 90’s, with the company enjoying steady success and big gates for Onita’s matches with the likes of Terry Funk and Genichiro Tenryu.
Onita eventually “retired” from wrestling in the mid-90’s, but the new stars such as Masato Tanaka and Hayabusa struggled to carry the load now Onita was gone and this inevitably led to Onita going back on his word and wrestling again, thus earning him the name “Mr. Liar”.
This show represented FMW’s first foray into the world of Pay Per View and a few ECW guys are on the card (ECW and FMW had a bit of business agreement going on at one stage which was why the likes of Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka would sometimes show up in ECW around this time). The card looked interesting so I decided to give it a review.
The event is emanating from Yokohama, Japan on the 30th of April 1998
We get an opening video hyping up some of FMW’s recent home video releases.
We then get a weird intro showing a brain getting shocked with electricity until it disintegrates. Okay then!
Hido Vs Hideki Hosaka
Hido worked for a lot of the garbage companies such as FMW and W*ING and sometimes had the nickname Badboy. Hosaka worked for FMW but also moved on to work for All Japan in the 00’s. This match has a video package that plays before of Hido frolicking in his underwear out in the sun whilst calming music plays in the background. I have no idea what was going on there.
Hido looks like a skinny bald Gedo from the J-Cup Era with his red jumpsuit, whilst Hosaka is wearing Bret Hart styled gear, complete with a pink and black colour scheme. As a match it’s mostly all-action, as both guys spend most of it hitting big moves and clotheslines on one another. It doesn’t have a lot of heat but it’s mostly entertaining to watch.
Hosaka gets a Stun Gun at one stage but makes a very relaxed cover and that allows Hido to kick out. Hido continues to kick out of big moves from Hosaka, including a sit out powerbomb, and the crowd pops for the kick outs. Hido eventually counters a rana into a pinning hold and that’s enough for three.
Just some fellers having a match. It was fine for an opener
One issue with FMW when you’re a non-Japanese speaker is that they tended to do a lot of angles and if you didn’t speak the language you could be kind of lost as to what was going on. For instance, a woman comes down to give Hido a present following his win, which appears to be a jacket of some kind. Hido is happy to receive the gift.
We get some ECW clips from Barely Legal to hype up the fact that the next match is an ECW styled three way dance.
Chris Chetti Vs Hisakatsu Oya Vs Koji Nakagawa
Chetti was still in the “Extreme Rookie” phase of his career, which was a gimmick that didn’t have a lot of juice behind it. He’d eventually get a more Ricky Martin inspired gimmick in 1999 and that one worked a bit better for him. Oya had worked in New Japan and SWS before finally coming to FMW in 1993. He looks a bit like a cross between Shiro Koshinaka and Hiroshi Hase. Nakagawa would go on to wrestle under the name Goemon. He looks a bit like Pablo Marquez of Babu “fame” in the WWF.
Nakagawa’s left shoulder is all taped up and it leads to the other two guys in the match targeting it until Oya locks in a submission hold to eliminate him. The match itself is mostly clipped. The action seems so-so and the match itself doesn’t seem to have a lot of heat. Chetti looks the best of the three thanks to his flashy high spots. Chetti eventually misses a moonsault and Oya puts him away with a pair of back suplexes.
WINNER: HISAKATSU OYA
I can’t rate it because we didn’t seen enough of the match
We get a video package to hype John Kronus as he’s up next.
John Kronus and Ricky Fuji Vs Gedo and Jado
Kronus was one half of The Eliminators with Perry Saturn but Saturn had since left for WCW so he was currently tagging on and off with New Jack at the time as The Gangstanators. Fuji was pretty much the main Junior Heavyweight star of the promotion and he would often compete in the J-Cup tournaments under the FMW banner. Gedo and Jado were one of the main Heel tag teams in the company and would eventually move on to New Japan where Gedo would become one of the best bookers in all of wrestling for a time.
I do love Ricky Fuji’s “Sexy Storm” entrance music; it’s so cheesy and suits him perfectly. Gedo and Jado bully and humiliate the poor backstage interviewer before the match starts, making him wear underwear over his suit. What is it with FMW and their obsession with men’s underwear? Gedo and Jado also have great entrance music, coming out to a bastardised version of “Sharp Dressed Man”.
We seemingly get the entire heat segment cut, as we join the match with Fuji making the hot tag to Kronus, who runs wild and looks good with his flippy offence. The crowd doesn’t really react much to it though, even though Kronus looks good for the most part. What action we do get to see is good in this one, even though they cut about at least 8 minutes out of it.
Eventually the babyfaces give Jado TOTAL ELIMINATION and Kronus heads up with a 450 Splash. Gedo and Jado’s mate distracts the referee though so there is no one to count the pin, which allows Jado to recover with a Brain Buster for three.
WINNERS: JADO & GEDO
Not enough to rate. What we saw was energetic enough
I have no idea who Jado and Gedo’s mate was but he looked a bit like Yoshinari Ogawa crossed with Raven. A trip to Google and the No Respect/Fuyuki-gun page makes it look like it was a guy called Go Ito, who was the on screen Heel authority figure at the time I believe.
We get a video package to hype up the next match. It looks like Kanemura spat fire at Hayabusa, who is Jinsei Shinzaki’s mate, so he’s look for payback tonight.
Barbed Wire Baseball Bat
Jinsei Shinzaki Vs Yukihiro Kanemura
Shinzaki will probably be best known for his run in the WWF as Hakushi, where he actually got kind of over but they never really did anything with him. Kanemura would go through many different first names including Wing and Kintaro. He was a long running hardcore wrestler who worked in most of the garbage promotions as well as in places like Riki Pro and World Japan. He’s probably best known for his wacky dance to “Come Out and Play” by The Offspring, which they even programmed into one of the Smackdown games for PS2 as a Create-A-Wrestler entrance.
There seems to be a special referee of some kind for this one that Go Ito brings down to the ring excitedly, so I guess he’s going to be favouring the Heels. A quick read of the Wrestling Observer from this time-frame reveals that he’s a notable Japanese boxer called Jiro Watanabe and they brought him in specifically to ape the Mike Tyson angle the WWF did from the same year. The regular referee looks like Diego Maradona, and he’s even got a white and blue shirt on as well. I should point out that he looks like chubby drugged-out post-retirement Maradona though.
Kanemura quickly puts Shinzaki through a table outside the ring with a splash off the top, although the table doesn’t break cleanly because this is Japan. It breaks enough that I don’t have to Maffew MEME it though. Shinzaki’s gimmick in Japan at times was kind of that he absorbed punishment and kept going, not unlike The Undertaker, so they have Kanemura take basically all of the early going, complete with some baseball shots for god measure.
Shinzaki tries to use the bat himself, but the dodgy Heel ref Watanabe takes it from him and won’t let him use it. I’m not exactly sure what that is all about but it gives Shinzaki a mountain to climb at least. Shinzaki has basically gotten zero offence in this match thus far, which makes me think he has to be winning somehow and they’re just booking it this way to placate Kanemura for doing a job. If not then this has been a straight up squash.
Shinzaki does finally manage to get some offence, getting a shot in with the bat before following with a TOPE SUICIDA. Shinzaki sets up a table of his own outside the ring and powerbombs Kanemura through it to a big pop. Shinzaki is pretty over with the crowd and the match has picked up considerably since they actually started letting him do stuff.
Ito gets involved to take out Mardona Ref to stop a sure-fire Shinzaki three count, and that leads to Kanemura coming off the top with a back senton splash. Shinzaki shrugs that off though and destroys Kanemura with a piece of broken table to a big pop from the crowd before following up with the Strangehold Gamma. Ito comes in to try and break that up, so Shinzaki puts him in it as well, which leads to the Watanabe laughing and turning on Kanemura so that Shinzaki can get a powerbomb for three.
WINNER: JINSEI SHINZAKI
This was overbooked to fudge but it was entertaining for what it was
Shinzaki celebrates with the now babyface special ref Watanabe following the match.
Horace Boulder and Super Leather Vs Tetsuhiro Kuroda and The Gladiator
Horace is Hulk Hogan’s nephew and had a decent run in Japan as a brawling hardcore foreigner. He actually used to team with Gladiator (who would be better known in the west as Mike Awesome) so I guess they fell out, thus necessitating this match. Kuroda is another regular of the garbage scene in Japan, whilst Super Leather would perhaps be better known in the west as Cpl. Kirchner. Kirchner passed away earlier this year.
Some of this match is cut, as we go straight from introductions to Awesome fighting on the top rope with Leather whilst Horace and Kuroda fight outside the ring. Being that it’s a street fight, they don’t bother with doing tags and just have all four guys going at it. Following one wild brawl with another borders a bit on overkill as it’s usually good to give the fans a bit of a breather between the hardcore matches, but the match itself is entertaining for the most part.
It’s sloppy in parts, and seeing Leather Tombstone Awesome and almost lose him is a pretty scary sight. If you enjoy the sort of street fight brawls that ECW were doing around the same time then you should likely enjoy this also. Because so much is cut out of the match I’m not sure I can accurately rate it, but what we get to see is fine. Horace eventually Spine Busters Kuroda off the ropes for three.
I don’t feel comfortable rating that as they probably cut around 7-8 minutes of it out so I don’t think I could truly give it an accurate rating
Horace and Leather bail following the finish so that they don’t have to stick around for more brawling.
We get a video package for Bam Bam Bigelow as he’s in action next, with the package focusing mostly on footage of him beating up Terry Gordy in ECW. That would be an impressive sight for Japanese fans as Gordy was a big star over there.
Bam Bam Bigelow Vs Masato Tanaka
I imagine you’ll know both of these guys. Bigelow was of course a big star during the Hulkamania Era of the WWF and also was a fixture during the New Generation days as well. He left the WWF in 1995 and ended up joining ECW because he couldn’t yet work for WCW until his non-compete with the WWF ended. Bigelow had wrestled in Japan before as Crusher Bigelow and was an entrant in the first G1 Climax I believe. Tanaka, along with Hayabusa, was earmarked as the future of the company but he just never got as over to the level of Onita, despite the fact that Tanaka was one of the very best in-ring performers in the world during this period.
This match tells a simple story of Tanaka trying to get something going against the bigger Bigelow but always getting cut off before he can truly get cooking. It works as both men play their roles well and the wrestling is to a good standard also. Tanaka actually manages to give Bammer a back suplex at one stage before clotheslining him out and following with a TOPE SUICIDA. Bigelow catches him when he tries a plancha though and rams him into the ring post, putting a stop to Tanaka’s momentum once again. Tanaka of course sells all of Bigelow’s offence really well and there is some good brawling outside the ring, including Bammer flinging Tanaka into rows of chairs in the front row.
There is a random cut at one stage, as both men brawl around the arena, but I don’t think they cut out too much as it’s not like they teleported to another side of the building. Some of the FMW fans actually chant “EC-Dub” at one stage, but it’s only a smattering. Tanaka keeps fighting back and manages to come off the apron with a knee drop whilst Bigelow is laid across the metal railings before taking the action back into the ring. We get a table introduced to proceedings once they get in there, with Bigelow laying Tanaka on top of it before choking Tanaka out to make sure he doesn’t move.
I like that actually, as it made total sense and you don’t see it all the time either. Of course you’d make sure your opponent was good and knocked out before you tried coming off the top with a move through a table. Sadly Bigelow’s follow up splash doesn’t put Tanaka through the table, so he stacks it up in the corner and drives Tanaka through it that way instead. As the table was eventually broken I will refrain from Maffew MEME. Bigelow presses Tanaka to the floor following that for our count out tease, with Tanaka breaking the count at 19.
That count out tease didn’t get much of a reaction from the crowd actually, which was surprising as I thought him beating the count at the last minute would have gotten a decent pop. It’s such a good “defiant babyface just refuses to stay down” spot and almost always works. Bigelow heads up for a Moonsault back inside following that, but Tanaka powerbombs him down and gets a modified sambo suplex for two. Tanaka follows those moves up with a Roaring Elbow, but Bigelow manages to kick out at two from that also and quickly gets Greetings From Asbury Park for three.
WINNER: BAM BAM BIGELOW
This was a good match, as they mixed in the brawling and hardcore elements with some decent wrestling as well. Tanaka may have lost but he gained something in defeat by being so competitive and refusing to stay down
Bigelow shows respect to Tanaka backstage following the match and calls him a superstar in the making.
We get a video package to hype up the next match. Onita has consistently run afoul of Fuyuki and his buddies. The WON said that Onita had his own group known as ZEN at the time (I wonder if Pumpkin Jack and Halloween Knight were members?) and they were feuding with Fuyuki’s group in a series of stipulation matches where the stipulations were never upheld, because Onita.
Street Fight Lumberjack Deathmatch
Atsushi Onita Vs Kodo Fuyuki
Onita we’ve already spoken about, as this was one of his many returns from retirement. Fuyuki had originally started out in the IWE promotion before working for companies such as All Japan, SWS and WAR. He was a burly bloke who was teamed up with Gedo and Jado as the main Heel faction known as No Respect. He eventually became the storyline Heel Authority Figure as well as off screen booker, with his attempt to turn FMW into the WWF ultimately failing. Fuyuki would sadly pass away from cancer in 2003 before he was able to take part in his retirement bout with Shinya Hashimoto.
They actually do some wrestling to start, with most of the lumberjacks seemingly being members of Fuyuki’s stable. That leads to Onita getting dragged out of the ring and flung into the ring post, which of course leads to him coming up bleeding, because Onita. That leads to Fuyuki working some heat on Onita, with Onita doing a decent job selling, as bleeding and selling were about all he could offer by this stage in his career. To be fair, he could still cut a promo and those skills led to him having an improbable run in New Japan for a bit once he was forced out of FMW.
I think there are some Onita supporting lumberjacks at ringside, with Kuroda and Hosaka seemingly being there to help him as they fight off the Fuyuki guys at one stage and put Onita back in the ring so that he can dive out onto Fuyuki with a TOPE SUICIDA. This hasn’t had the level of crowd heat you would probably expect and it’s left it feeling kind of flat. The brawling aspect hasn’t been bad though, with Onita piledriving Fuyuki through a table inside the ring at one stage for a near fall. That kick out didn’t really get much of a reaction though, especially as a big move like that would normally be a finish.
Fuyuki continues to kick out of all of Onita’s big moves such as the DDT and a powerbomb, but the crowd reaction remains disappointing for the most part. Onita gets to kick out of a table piece shot and big Lariat from Fuyuki as well, as they are working very hard here to be fair to them and they are slowly but surely getting the crowd into it. It’s a testament to how hard they’ve worked that they’ve finally managed to get the crowd to bite. It’s taken something like 10 near falls to get there though. Go Ito shows up and clocks Onita with a crutch at one stage whilst the ref is distracted and that leads to another Fuyuki powerbomb for yet another two count. Fuyuki gets one more Lariat and one more powerbomb and that’s finally enough, although the last powerbomb looked sloppy.
WINNER: KODO FUYUKI
They worked hard here and it somewhat made up for some of the sloppiness of the work. A hotter crowd would have helped things I think, but they were getting into it by the end
Fuyuki’s group continue to beat down Onita following the match, leading to the likes of Kuroda, Hosaka and Awesome running down to try to help but they are dealt with before they can rescue Onita, leading to the Heels dancing over Onita’s broken body. Onita recovers though and powerbombs Ito before making a one man comeback on the Heels until they bail.
Video package for our Main Event. Mr. Gannosuke and Hayabusa used to be friends but now they’ve fallen out and will be fighting for the Title.
FMW Brass Knux and FMW Independent Titles
Champ: Mr. Gannosuke Vs Hayabusa
Gannosuke could do the hardcore stuff but he was also a decent in the regular wrestling side of things, with him and Hayabusa being long-time friends until they had a long running feud. Hayabusa is the masked version of Eiji Ezaki, with the mask giving a decent young high-flyer the extra spice he needed to really get over as a star. He was never quite the “Ace” of FMW but he was the closest thing they had for a while until injuries brought his career to a premature end. Hayabusa sadly passed away in 2016.
This one is clearly positioned as the “traditional wrestling match” of the evening, with them starting slow and aiming to work it like a Main Event you’d find in other Japanese companies, with a focus on chain wrestling and counters as opposed to weaponry and extreme brawling. I wouldn’t call either guy a top class worker or anything, but they’re decent and can work this style of match. As a general rule Hayabusa was usually better when he was in there with someone good who could carry him, as he clearly had ability but he was also spotty and not a great pure wrestler.
Hayabusa works over Gannosuke’s leg in the early stages, with Gannosuke selling that well and Hayabusa’s work looking okay at points and a bit low impact at other points. I’m not sure working a body part with submission techniques is really Hayabusa’s strong suite, but when you’re building a match gradually and putting in some time you have to do stuff like that sometimes. I can certainly appreciate what they are going for here, even if the execution isn’t quite as spot on as you’d like it to be. Gannosuke’s selling helps as he does a good job with that and the crowd seems to be appreciating the effort from both men and are politely reacting to the attempts to wrestle.
Gannosuke tries going after Hayabusa’s arm in retaliation, and manages to dodge a quebrada to the floor at one stage before sending Hayabusa into the front row. In a nice touch, Gannosuke doesn’t entirely ignore the work on his leg and continues to sell it even once he’s on offence, which is appreciated as it means the early section wasn’t just filler but actually something that continues to have an effect on the match as it progresses. Indeed, there are moments where Gannosuke hits big moves like Falcon Arrows and Powerbombs (which are moves both Hayabusa and Shinzaki use in a nice bit of trolling from The Champ) but he has to stop and sell his leg, which delays him making a cover. I love stuff like that.
Hayabusa manages to fight back and gets a TOPE CON HILO to the outside before following up with some big moves for near falls, as they’ve done a decent job building this for the most part and the near falls themselves have been executed well. It’s not been on par with the sort of Main Events you’d get in New Japan or All Japan due to Gannosuke and Hayabusa being a level below the top workers in those companies, but it’s been a solid effort and they’ve done a good job of getting the crowd invested. There’s just a general air of sloppiness to things that stops it from reaching that kind of level, but it’s been an admirable attempt.
In a nice touch Gannosuke kind of botches a Greetings From Asbury Park, but he covers for it by selling his leg and acting like his leg injury was the reason he didn’t quite get it right, which is really clever on his part and shows good instincts. I’ve never been a massive fan or advocate of Gannosuke, but he’s impressed me here. The guy can work and has ring smarts that he perhaps doesn’t get the credit for in the wider puro community.
Things do start getting sloppier and sloppier as the match progresses as both guys are getting tired now as they’ve been asked to put nearly 20 minutes in when 15 would have probably been a better target. The crowd is being generous with them though and not giving them too much of a hard time over it. There’s actually a bit of a buzz amongst the crowd and the match has had a good atmosphere since they entered the closing stretch.
I think the match goes on for a bit too long after a certain point though. We get another good example of Gannosuke’s selling, as he gets a Northern Lights Suplex but he can’t bridge properly due to his leg hurting, which allows Hayabusa to kick out and then follow up with the Phoenix Splash for the three count and the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: HAYABUSA
The negatives about that match were that it went on for too long and the work was a bit sloppy. The positives were that both men were working hard, the crowd was into it for the most part and Gannosuke sold his leg throughout the contest with it eventually playing a part in his eventual defeat. This ended up being a solid close to the show
Hayabusa celebrates with his new belts and cuts a promo in the ring.
This was about on par with a decent ECW Pay Per View from this Era, so if you liked shows like Living Dangerously 98 then there’s a good chance you might like this as well. There was nothing I would class as a blow away great match or anything, but the wrestling in general wasn’t bad. You might enjoy it more if you can speak Japanese as it will make it easier to follow the angles and storylines