Mike Reviews: Ring of Honour – “Japan’s Finest” – Disc One

Hello You!

Back with something else in my “to watch” pile, as we take a look at a compilation DVD that ROH put out covering some of the best matches from the company’s history that featured Japanese wrestlers.

Obviously ROH isn’t what it once was, but throughout the years the company has featured some truly excellent wrestling and one of the reasons why was because they were able to bring in wrestlers from major Japanese companies like All Japan, New Japan, NOAH and Dragon Gate to compete on their events.

The main reason I picked this one up is because it features the excellent main event from the first Supercard of Honour Show (An event I did have on DVD but sadly lost during a house move back in the day) as well as some cool sounding matches that I’d never seen before. We’ll just do Disc One today and I’ll try to get to Disc Two when I can (There’s a lot of matches on this here collection)

You actually can still buy this DVD on eBay, but golly gosh is it pricey! Still, if you like the sound of these matches then the option is there (Although it might be better possibly just to cherry pick the individual shows as that will probably set you back less in the long run)

And yes, I spell “Honour” with a “U”. I also drive on the left hand side of the road, drink copious amounts of tea and have terrible teeth. Deal with it!

Read more

Yoshinari as the GHC Champion


I still struggle to comprehend they did this

To put it in perspective, this would have be equivalent to Scotty 2 Hotty catching Triple H with a flash roll up to win the title in 2000

The pop when he wins is something else I suppose. He had the thing for 5 months as well!

Takayama, the guy who finally beat him for it, lost the belt to Misawa something like 3 weeks later. You’ve reviewed those two matches in your best of 2002 Japan from a while back

But anyway, 2002 NOAH = weird

Not as weird as Inoki going bonkos for MMA guys shortly afterwards and putting the IWGP title on seemingly anything with a gi, but yeah, there was some strange stuff getting smoked in Japan at the time.

WCW/New Japan Supershow III: January 4, 1993

Back in the early 90’s, WCW was gaining steam nationally – but still maintained some of its regional roots. In an effort to ensure fresh faces coming in and out of the company, they formed a partnership with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. This partnership would see the exchange of talents; most notably regular North American circuit tours for Jushin Liger, but it was also a fertile breeding ground for some of the North American guys to grow and come back as more complete athletes. Of course, being WCW, all that did was earn them a ton of TV time with absolutely no marketable push, but at least they killed time until Hulk Hogan was ready to reap the ratings glory in the main event slot.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, because this is still 1993, and Hulk Hogan is thankfully elsewhere. Every year, WCW would travel to Japan to put on a supercard with New Japan’s elite, which would air on pay-per-view. This is the third and final installment of the Supershow series, and I’m working off the Turner release. I’d love to see the complete show – but the WWE Network lies when it says it has every pay-per-view of all time, cuz this ain’t there. Of course, there are bigger fish to fry – like the complete library of WCW Prime, so I’ll pick my battles wisely.

ERIC BISCHOFF welcomes us to the gigantic Tokyo Dome, with over 63000 people in attendance. He hands things over to the dream team of TONY SCHIAVONE and JIM ROSS. JR in the role of Tony’s lapdog has me downright giddy; and it’s incredible the mean-spirited Vince McMahon never thought to bring this concept back at some point in the last 15 years.
JUSHIN LIGER vs. ULTIMO DRAGON (for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title)
 Dragon has stolen Ricky Steamboat’s neglected WWF head-dress, and parades around like a jackass to … well, the Japanese don’t really boo, so much as cheer with less enthusiasm. Liger, on the other hand, is somehow channelling the future by slapping WCW’s late 90’s logo on his chest.
Or possibly Japanese Batman
Both guys trade throws and dropkicks before stopping mid strike like a Zack Morris time-out to soak in the adulation of the appreciative crowd. Dragon tries to take out Liger’s leg with a grapevine, so Liger uses his free leg to start kicking Dragon in the face. Liger’s able to reverse into a deathlock, and he applies a front facelock to really add to the pull. I’d be tapping harder than a male pornstar, but Dragon’s not human, getting out of that somehow. Liger tries the Lasso from El Paso, but Dragon sweeps out the legs and snaps some hard spinning toe holds that make Terry Funk look like Annie Funk. A drop toe hold sees Dragon hold the base, and he works a reverse grapevine chinlock before rolling through with a bow and arrow. Liger won’t uncle, and he takes advantage of a Dragon letting up for just a second, applying the Gory Guerrero special in the centre of the ring. It’s enough to wear him down a little, and Liger releases, hitting a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker for 2. Dragon gets whipped into the corner, and takes a spinning heel kick to the side of the head. They criss-cross, and Liger dodges a rana, but he takes the edge of Dragon’s boot on his way down, knocking him a bit silly. Dragon kicks the shit out of him while he’s down, and hits a front suplex to really scramble his circuits. And, as a reminder that anything you can do, Dragon can do better, he alters the Gory special to include a Dragon sleeper. Liger’s about to tap, but Dragon senses they’re too close to the ropes, so he drags Liger to the middle of the ring and locks on the camel clutch. Liger still won’t tap, so Dragon heads up, but he slips and is only able to hit a boot to the side of the head instead of the full impact dropkick he was planning. Liger’s slow to his feet, and he has no chance to defend himself from a handspring back elbow. Liger hits the floor – and Dragon’s not gonna let him get a second of rest, flying with a super plancha that drives them over the guardrail and into the front row!! Dragon gets back in and waits for the count, but Liger makes it back to the apron. No worries, because Dragon brings him back to action with a brainbuster, and goes to finish with a tombstone. Liger reverses, but Dragon’s able to release that, and plants him with the move! Dragon goes up instead of going for the pin, but he slips a second time, changing on his way down with a sad looking headbutt, and he only gets 2. Liger’s able to shake it off, and he runs into Dragon … who’s waiting for him with the Capture Suplex, for a super close pinfall. Dragon rushes the corner, but Liger’s hot on his heels with a monkey flip into a pinfall for 2. Dragon uses the elementary but effective package to get 2, and more importantly, re-assert his control. And, he follows with the rarely seen Straight Jacket Suplex, but Liger’s able to make the ropes and Dragon looks like a man who has no idea what to do anymore. Giving Liger even a second is never wise, and the hesitation lets Liger hit a spinning heel kick that sends Dragon to the floor. Before he even knows what happened, Liger’s picked up him, and powerbombs him on the outside!!! Dragon’s dead, and he just lies there as Liger hits a super senton to the floor. Liger stands mid-ring, waiting for the count, but Dragon scrapes himself off the concrete and heads back in. A vicious Liger immediately suplexes him, and arrogantly covers with one hand for 2. Dragon’s pulled to his feet, simply to eat a palm thrust to the jaw that you can hear all the way in the cheap seats. A half crab is applied in the middle, but Dragon claws to the ropes, still seemingly completely out of it from that nasty powerbomb. Liger realizes this, and powerbombs the man again. While Dragon tries to get to his feet, Liger perches himself waiting to strike … but it’s a ploy, and as Liger comes off the top, Dragon blasts him with a clothesline just as Liger’s trying the same. Liger rolls to the safety of the floor, but Dragon’s still got life, hitting a springboard senton splash that drives them both into the guardrail. Both guys slowly roll their way back into before the count, and it’s Dragon who leaps to attempt a victory roll. Liger ain’t having that, and just faceplants the bugger as hard as he can. Liger goes for a third powerbomb now, because he’s had enough of this, but Dragon rolls through the move (nearly breaking his neck in the process), and he hooks the legs for 2. A lionsault sets up a powerbomb from Dragon, but Liger kicks out to the shock of Dragon. La Majistral gets 2, and the fans are absolutely electric watching this display. Dragon goes up, but Liger cuts him off, and hits a DDT off the top rope!!! The referee takes forever to make the count, and Dragon kicks out at 2. Back to the powerbomb, and it connects for a third time today. Liger puts Dragon’s corpse on the top rope, hits a super Frankensteiner, and that’s enough for the pin and the title at 20:10! Through the masks, you could feel the intensity and absolute necessity to win here. Great storytelling from both, and it never felt like it was a bunch of moves slapped together for the hell of it. The modern flyers should take note of what made this work; with each move setting up the next, and the guys changing the pace based on the mistakes of the other guy, giving them each ample time to work their spots. ****
This is Simmons’ first match after losing the strap to Vader last week, and the future Ludwig Borga is an excellent place to start the climb back up. Apparently this was initially scheduled to be a match for the belt, so Halme might have a bit of a chip on his shoulder just missing out on his big shot. Simmons tries shoulderblocks, but Halme doesn’t even budge. He’s not so tough he can avoid a drop toe hold though, and Simmons follows with a clothesline. A faceplant sets up a spike piledriver, and Simmons gets 2. Simmons tries a hiptoss, but Halme won’t move, and now angry Tony starts with his kidney punches. Simmons is reeling as Halme hits a jumping elbow, but he kicks out at 2. A hard sidewalk slam gets 2. Halme steals the spinebuster from Simmons, but can’t score the pin. Simmons staggers to his feet, and one punch from Halme sends big Ron to the floor. Halme brings Simmons back in with a suplex, and he starts beating on the kidneys again. Simmons manages a desperation powerslam, which Tony notes was the move that won him the world title last year, but Halme doesn’t fall as hard as Vader, and kicks out. Simmons hits a pretty bad spinebuster, and it’s enough to pick up the win at 6:02. Simmons looked awful here, sloppy and just off his game. *
Norton’s a New Japan mainstay; and even after he’d sign with WCW years later, he’d keep travelling Japan as a bonefide draw – a deal he likely worked out to supplement his income. In fact, he’d win the IWGP heavyweight belt a couple of times years later, making you wonder just what the hell goes on overseas where Scott Norton and Albert are a big deal. Saito’s roughly 185 years old here, so I’m actually a little surprised he wasn’t picked up by the WWF in early 1997 to give them some Japanese credibility. Norton pounds his chest and grunts like a gorilla, so Hashimoto kicks him in the throat. Norton laughs at him and hits a clothesline. Norton starts using the vaunted move, Run Hard Into Your Opponent, and Hashimoto bounces around like the world’s fattest pinball. Norton covers with one hand, and when that doesn’t work, he looks to Rhodes. Hashimoto thrusts Dustin in the throat, and turns things over to Saito, who takes 8 minutes to get off his walker and drag his IV into the ring. Rhodes suplexes Saito, but he manages to miss a charge when Saito simply never stands up because he’s calling for the sweet taste of death to take him now. Rhodes charges back in and chops Saito, who immediately dissipates into a pile of dust. Norton takes over against the ghost of Saito, clotheslining the corpse and chopping away at whatever the hell is left. Norton trips over the dead body which Ross calls the “Saito Suplex!”, and then Dustin stumbles into the same thing. Hashimoto tags himself back in, bringing a little excitement back, since both wrestlers are now protein based lifeforms. Norton comes in and superplexes Hashimoto somehow, before deciding to stand on Shinya’s throat. A Rude Awakening sees Hashimoto fall backwards and show off his gaping plumber’s ass. Dude, no, lift them pants. Rhodes tags in and hits a big boot for 2. Hashimoto is tossed to the floor, where both Americans work him over, while Saito rocks back and forth like a later-in-life Freddie Blassie. Back in, a powerslam from Norton gets 2. A powerbomb looks to finish, but Saito spiritually runs in to make the save. Hashimoto hits a desperation DDT and makes the hot tag. Norton walks into the light, and is immediately greeted with the Saito Suplex. Norton calls for the Grim Reaper to end this charade, while Dustin eats a Saito Suplex. He’s like that guy online who keeps using the same move against new players who have no idea how to defend it, and honestly, I’m surprised I’m not seeing all kinds of slurs being printed on the screen every time Saito hits that thing. Hashimoto hits a spinning heel kick on Rhodes. A DDT looks to finish, but Norton makes the desperation save. He takes his eyes off the ball on his way back out, missing that Dustin’s taken an enzuigiri and Team Divine Intervention win this round at 13:57. This had no business being anywhere near this long. 1/2*
MASAHIRO CHONO vs. THE GREAT MUTA (for the NWA world heavyweight title)
Ric Flair was stripped of the NWA strap when he bolted to the WWF in the spring of 1991, and Chono won the subsequent tournament to crown a new champion, defeating Rick Rude in the finals of the G1-Climax (which sounds less like a tournament, and more like a high powered vibrator). Muta had actually wrestled in that same tournament, losing a semi-finals match to Chono by submission. Chono’s got a fantastic Evil Sensei mustache on the go here. The collective gasp from the audience when Muta sprays the green mist during the intros really adds a big match feel here. The guys go through a feeling out process, before Muta hits the outside and openly grabs a hammer from underneath the ring. The referee is fairly appalled at his brazen attitude, and takes it away immediately – though that was seemingly Muta’s plan. Back in, Muta works an armbar, but Chono methodically works his way loose and pulls at Muta’s knee joint. Muta gets loose, but Chono takes him back down and works a seated Sharpshooter. Muta gets to the ropes before it’s converted into an STF. Chono keeps on him, but Muta dumps his opponent on the floor, sending him into the guardrail. The referee gives Muta a stern warning, but Muta isn’t even listening, as he slams Chono back into the ring and delivers a karate chop off the top rope. Muta tosses Chono again, this time on to the staging area, where he is right behind with a running bulldog face first on the ramp! Chono heads up the ramp about a half football field, before spinning and hitting a sprinting clothesline on the champ! The fans groan in agony as Chono sells. Back in, Muta takes Chono to the top rope and connects with a superplex. A hard side suplex gets 2, but Muta expected that, immediately hitting a German suplex for 2. A handspring back elbow connects square in the face, but the moonsault misses and Chono’s ALL over him with the STF, dead centre! Muta somehow crawls to the safety of the ropes, but he lets out a primal scream to let us know his knee was shredded there. Or – so he’d have us believe, because as Chono stalks his prey, he’s greeted with a dropkick to the chops. Atta boy Muta! Chono angrily applies a crucifix for 2, and heads up. A top rope shoulderblock connects, but Muta kicks out. A powerbomb folds the challenger in half, but Muta kicks out at 2. Chono holds his head, frustrated, and he misses Muta coming at him with a kick to the face, but the rapid moonsault misses a second time – and this time it’s costly, with Muta taking a knee to the face. Chono comes off the top … but Muta was waiting for it, dodging the shoulderblock with a faceplant on the way by, and Chono’s hurt. A backbreaker gives Muta time to hit the moonsault on his third try, but Chono somehow kicks out. Muta’s livid, since NOBODY kicks out of his moonsault, and he scampers up to the top to hit a second one for the pin and the NWA title at 13:12! This was great – both guys fought a hard, smart match, and Muta simply wanted it more tonight. ****
Ross and Schiavone abort mission at this point, leaving their post to go to a sushi bar together. And no, I’m not kidding, that’s the story they’re running with. Given that the 6-men here aren’t given name graphics, and everyone enters to the instrumental version of “A Man Called Sting”, I’m left asking that if nobody in production gives a crap about this match, why can’t I just watch Tony and Jim having dinner? This is potentially untapped five star entertainment. I like to think that Tony misidentifies everything on the menu while calling it the greatest sushi in the history of this great country, while Ross tries to explain to the waiter what a Route 44 diet peach tea is – pointing to his miniature cup of steeped green tea and giving an exasperated “this ain’t it!” The referee pats down the competitors, looking for, to quote Eric Bischoff, “foreign objects, either in the tights or in the boots, no Vaseline or other chemicals.” Other chemicals? What the hell does he think these guys are packing? Mustard gas? Sarin? Any number of nerve agents? To be fair – one of the guys is wearing a hood, I guess it’s plausible he’s managed to MacGyver a gas mask under there. I’m not feeling all warm and fuzzy about New Japan harbouring terrorists, and I hope the Pentagon had this pay-per-view tapped for reasons of intelligence. And yes, I’m totally stalling because I have absolutely no idea who the hell is who – and Bischoff does a piss poor job of segregating them; likely because he’s as aware as I am. He does not, however, miss a single Back Leg Round Kick. As fate would have it, that in the grand tradition of many pro wrestling matches that came before it, one guy pinned another at 15:12. This is probably a completely unfair review to all 6 guys, who put forth an effort, but you can put that squarely on the head of Bischoff. **1/2
Ross and Schiavone have already been kicked out of the sushi bar, because they’re back and calling this one. Ross calls Hase his favorite athlete in Japan, and while he lists the various reasons, let’s face it, it’s because he’s wearing a varsity jacket. Ross grumbles about sushi, while Sting benches Hase over his head repeatedly to a crowd of “ooooooh”s. A dropkick sends Hase to the floor, and Sting screams to the heavens. Hase re-enters with some chops, and a headlock takes Sting to his knees. Hase releases, and they collide mid-ring like bulls, with neither guy moving an inch. Hase hits a waistlock takedown, and applies a half crab with his knee on the back of Sting’s neck. Hase stands with Sting’s legs tied up, and starts swivelling his hips ala Rick Rude with Sting in the hold. A reverse STF is applied, but Sting won’t tap. So, Hase tries to embarrass Sting with his own hold, going for the Deathlock, but Sting chops Hase in the face until he releases. Hase, pissed off, kicks Sting in the hamstring repeatedly, with loud blows that echo throughout the arena. Back to a half crab, Hase sits down on Sting’s back this time while he tears at the joint, but Sting’s a giant pain who won’t give up. Hase releases and decides to attack toe to toe, which is a mistake because of the size difference, and Sting delivers a quick suplex for 2. Hase comes back with a Russian legsweep, and Sting clutches his leg. Hase takes Sting up in a fireman’s suplex, and he turns it into a Stun Gun. Sting clutches his throat, so Hase, not missing a beat, punches Sting in the throat. Sting ducks to hold his throat, giving Hase a chance to pick him up, holding him upside down for an extended period before hitting a spike piledriver! A knee to the throat off the top gets 2, but Hase doesn’t even seem phased. Hase goes right into a sleeper, and as Sting gets woozy, Hase drops back in a rear naked choke. The referee asks for a break, presumably because he’s working a choke now, and Hase releases at 4 and a half. He drags Sting to the outside, and drops Sting’s neck across the safety rail. Back in, Hase nails a pair of Rock Bottoms, but Sting kicks out at 2. Hase gives a sly smile, and goes straight to a German suplex with a bridge, getting 2. Next up, Hase works a full nelson, and appears to be going for the Dragon suplex, but Sting reaches forward and drags them both to the floor. Sting slams Hase on the concrete, and elbows his opponent’s face directly into the guardrail. Back in, Sting goes for a top rope clothesline, but Hase kicks him in the stomach and he folds like a house of cards. Hase chops at Sting in the corner, but Sting refuses to sell anymore, screaming in Hase’s face, and the hulking up routine is on. Stinger splash sets up a pair of faceplants, and Sting gets 2. Sting uses a modified backbreaker submission, but Hase rolls off the back and bridges back. Sting bridges forward at 2, then uses the corner to flip himself over and get Hase off. He leaps to the second rope, and throws a back elbow blindly, getting 2. Sting nearly scores a pinfall off a German suplex, but Hase quickly manages to roll Sting up with a handful of tights for 2 of his own. Sting explodes forward with a nasty clothesline, and he goes for a second one but Hase sidesteps and attempts the Rock Bottom. Sting elbows his way loose, and nails a jumping a DDT! With Hase seeing stars, Sting heads up and nails the top rope splash for the pin at 14:42! Hase put on an absolute clinic here, wrestling circles around Sting – but that really should come as no surprise since Hase was likely one of the 5 best wrestlers on the planet at this point. Sting didn’t quite seem to know how to properly sell for all the offense, sometimes recovering far too quickly from some of the attacks (I wish he’d sold the leg after Hase spent 5 minutes ripping his hammys apart), but it was an overall enjoyable display and a fine main event. ***
If you’re not really a Puro kinda person, but wouldn’t mind seeing a little of what Japan has to offer – this is probably a pretty strong compromise. Seeing familiar American faces, with English announcing, against some legendary Japanese names makes for a fun break from the norm. I wish WCW had continued this tradition to the end, but if I always got what I wanted, WCW would have never gone out of business either.

We’ll head back to the grind with the Power Hour this weekend; another mysteriously absent entry from the WWE network library. Will Chris Sullivan appear again? Will his studliness overcome adversity? The answer to both is hopefully yes, but you’ll have to read to find out. (Spoiler: No.)

The SmarK Rant for New Japan on AXS–05.29.15

The SmarK Rant for New Japan on AXS – 05.29.15 Still a week behind, but the show is a year out of date anyway so no big whoop. Taped from Osaka, Japan (June 21 2014) Your hosts are Mauro Ranallo & Josh Barnett IWGP Junior tag titles: The Young Bucks vs. The Timesplitters (Kushida & Alex Shelley) I bet there’s some superkicks here. Josh gets an immediate laugh with “Do they really need pockets on their tights? Don’t they have space for their possessions in their locker?”. Barnett has a pretty good ratio of funny lines in the shows I’ve watched so far. Nick stomps away on Kushida and gives him assorted crotch chops (DON’T TELL SHAWN MICHAELS!), but Matt tags in and gets caught in the time travelling corner. I feel like they should never lose because they’d just go back 10 minutes and fix their mistakes. If we were booking realistically. Matt ducks away from a superkick and heads out, but Kushida wipes him out on the floor and the Splitters follow with stereo dives. We’re clipped ahead in time (OH THE IRONY), which Mauro actually acknowledges, and Kushida clears the ring again and this time hits a crazy swanton bomb to the floor. Back in, more insane double-teaming from the babyfaces as they do a hit a Shelley Sliced Bread off Kushida’s electric chair on Nick. Nick comes back with a tornado DDT on Shelley, but Matt blocks Kushida’s Hoverboard lock with a tombstone for two. Matt with a turnbuckle powerbomb on Kushida and Nick hits a 450 while Matt drapes Kushida on the ropes, but that only gets two. Bang For Your Buck misses and Shelley sends the Bucks together in the Tree of Woe, and Kushida follows with the Hoverboard on Nick to win the titles at 8:41 shown (16:50 total according to the graphics). This was just ALL crazy action the whole time. I’m really quite enjoying Kushida on these shows and I hope he wins the BOSJ this year. ****1/4 Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki vs. Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba Suzuki is just the grumpiest bastard on earth and he’s awesome in his role. Mauro and Josh manage to back all the backstory here into the introductions because they are GREAT and understand how to get stuff like this over for new viewers. LOOKING AT YOU, every other promotion in the world. Iizuka was best known in the US, sort of, for having the piss beat out of him by Rick and Scott Steiner on a WCW show in 1991, but has basically reinvented his career as a batshit crazy old guy with a finisher called the IRON FINGERS. Mostly comedy stuff to start as Iizuka attacks Yano from behind and Suzuki grabs a flying armbar from the apron before everyone goes brawling to the floor. Suzuki chokes Sakuraba down with the bell hammer and they fight into the crowd as we take a break. Back with Iizuka choking himself out with the microphone cord, which Josh attributes to 20 years of concussions, and finally Sakuraba gets a cheapshot from outside to make Iizuka the face-in-peril. The term “babyface” is quite possibly the least apt description for either Iizuka or Sukuzi, perhaps the two ugliest men in NJPW. Suzuki quickly tags in and gets a running boot on Sakuraba, then punts him for two. They trade armbar attempts and choke attempts as an MMA match suddenly breaks out until Iizuka breaks it up with his tag rope. The heels undo the turnbuckle, but Yano ends up going into the steel in a funny sequence. Yano goes low and cradles Suzuki for two, but Iizuka pulls out the ref with relish. Iizuka’s nutso act is so entertaining here. Suzuki nails Yano with a chair, Iizuka pulls out the IRON FINGERS FROM HELL, and Suzuki finishes with the Gotch Piledriver at 10:29 shown (15:13 total). The announcers openly bury the match and how shitty it was afterwards, which makes it all the more hilarious. Important distinction: They don’t do it WHILE you’re watching the match! Looking at you, MAGGLE. Come on, you have to love a match where guys are doing faux-UFC sequences while Iizuka is breaking up pins with wacky Memphis wrestling nonsense at the same time. Was it terrible smoke and mirrors horseshit? Of course. Was I entertained by all the terrible smoke and mirrors? Hell yes. ** IWGP Junior Title: Kota Ibushi vs. Ricochet There is too much beautiful here for one match to contain, like the plastic bag floating in the breeze in American Beauty. But without stupid Wes Bentley. I guess it’s only fair that if I can watch NXT on Wednesday and watch Alexa Bliss and Carmella on a totally superficial level, my wife has the right to ogle these two. Ricochet sends Ibushi to the floor with kicks, and back in for a Zig Zag and standing SSP for two. But, you know, WWE already had one high-flyer with Neville, so that’s enough. Low kick gets two. Ricochet tries something like Konnan’s Tequila Sunrise, but Ibushi makes the ropes and they trade chops in the corner as we take a break. Back with Ibushi dumping Ricochet and following with a running springboard moonsault to the floor. Back in, Ricochet fires back with a springboard missile dropkick to put Ibushi on the floor, then follows with a NO HANDS somersault dive over the corner post. Holy COW. Back in, GTS gets two. They fight to the top and Kota hits a top rope rana, but Ricochet lands on his FEET and then follows with a pair of brainbusters for two. But, you know, already had one high-flyer, so why would WWE need another one? They hit each other with simultanous high kicks and Ricochet wins that one, but Ibushi hits a lariat with a 360 sell from Ricochet. I am of course a huge mark for anyone that does that. Ibushi with a Last Ride powerbomb for two. Phoenix splash misses, however, and Ricochet gets a Shooting Star Press for two. And we take a break on that note. Back with Ricochet trying the finisher, but Ibushi reverses into a rana for two. Ibushi drops him with a high kick and finishes with the Phoenix-plex (a package powerbomb setup into a bridge suplex) at 13:37 to retain. Just tremendous, jaw-dropping stuff from start to finish. ****1/2 The Pulse Some shows just make me happy to be a wrestling fan, and this is one of them. I actually subscribe to New Japan World, but the commentary of Mauro and Josh actually makes the shows even BETTER to watch. If you’ve got an hour to watch some wrestling, this is the episode to check out.

New Japan Pro Wrestling: New Beginning In Sendai (02/14/2015)

This is the second of the two big shows to wrap up The New Beginning tour. You can find my review of New Beginning In Osaka here.

Yohei Komatsu & Satoshi Kojima vs Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan
This was your standard opening tag match. Kojima is the ideal guy for openers. He’s an established vet whose move set is designed to encourage fan participation. The story of the match has Komatsu looking to prove himself against Nakanishi. The established vet dwarfs the Young Lion though. It’s David vs Goliath. Captain New Japan does his job in the comedy role. There isn’t much to the match. The crowd chants for Kojima and laughs at CNJ. A singles match with Komatsu vs Nakanishi would have been preferable. *1/2

ReDragon vs Tiger Mash IV & Jay White
It’s a little disheartening to see ReDragon go from defending the belts to 2nd match on the card within the span of 3 days. I’ll give them credit, they do one hell of a job making Jay White look like a million dollars. It’s no easy task making a Young Lion look believable as someone who can viably beat you. Odd as it is to say, TMIV of all people brings this down a notch. His timing wasn’t on at all, messing up a couple of sequences. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed this issue. He may be losing a step in his 40’s. The other 3 put on a solid match though. It’s a shame it’ll be at least a year before we see any kind of real personality out of Jay White. He epitomizes generic white guy right now. **1/4

Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs Mascara Dorada & Time Splitters
Shout outs to KUSHIDA for going full on Marty Mcfly in BTTF2 with the jacket and cap. Then he finds a fan in the crowd going full BTTF1 Life Jacket outfit and gives him his chain. Looks like this is a preview of the respective Junior title pictures on the next tour. Splitters & Bucks had my favourite Junior Tag match of 2014 (06/21/2014 ****1/2) so another feud will get no complaints from me. This match was so much fun. They broke out a ton of variations on old sequences and some interesting 6 man variations as well including a Bullet Club Triple Superkick. The Bucks carry the majority of the match. They’re so good at working the crowd and making their opponents look great. Dorada is fast becoming someone I look forward to watching. He curbed the Lucha aspects of his offense and you’re left with his amazing work. Something to watch is Dorada’s insane over the top Sunset Bomb on Omega from apron to floor into the railing. That looked beyond dangerous but it was executed flawlessly. I’d watch this 6 man every show if possible. ***1/2

Chase Owens vs Jushin “Thunder” Lyger (C) (NWA Junior Heavyweight Title)
This is a title rematch from the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014) where Lyger took the title. Their previous match was a showcase of how well Lyger could carry a guy who wasn’t in the same universe of talent. This time around the match was more even and Owens at least looked like he belonged there. It’s worked fine but lacking in drama or any sense of urgency for that matter. At 50 years old, Lyger can still put on a show but he’s reached a ceiling on quality. **1/4

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Rob Conway (C) (NWA Heavyweight Title)
Conway has been feuding with TenKoji (Tenzan and partner Kojima) for over a year. I’m not quite sure anyone cares to see it run this long but here we are. I’m not even going to get into how far the NWA Title has fallen in stature. This is a match of two halves. The first is frankly awful. It’s slow, plodding, punch kick elbow garbage work. The second half, after what everyone thought would be the finish, invigorates the crowd and both guys as well leading to an enjoyable finish. The heat spiked crowd elevates what would have otherwise been a meandering match. **1/2

Tetsuya Naito & Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba
I never thought I’d see the day where Toru Yano carried a match with so many great workers but here it is. I have no idea what Sak was doing booked in there. He had a couple of nice sequences with Ibushi but otherwise he didn’t bring anything to the table. Yano works his comedy style throughout and it actually works well for once. Naito and Yano work the majority of the way. They’ve got great chemistry and I wouldn’t mind seeing a singles match out of this. They teased Ibushi vs Sak as well. Well worked match the crowd was into from the get go. **1/2

Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale vs Yoshi-Hashi & Kazuchika Okada
Honest to God, unless Fale goes over Okada in the singles match, I don’t get this feud at all. It’s never ending tag and 6 man matches with Okada on a redemption quest. The issue is that none of the matches feel like they have any importance. It’s like watching the Usos vs Rhodes brother 2x a week for a month. The matches are fine but don’t do anything for anyone. The crowd is into Okada so the match comes across more important than it is. In the end though, it’s just a standard tag team match burning 10 minutes. **1/4

Hirooki Goto & Katsuhito Shibata & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga
Another in a string of perfectly acceptable if forgettable matches. The Bullet Club spent most of the match working over Tanahashi’s endured left eye. If you missed it, he received a nasty hardway cut at New Beginning In Osaka (02/11/2014 ****1/4) show doing a High Fly Flow to the outside. They didn’t rip the tape off his eye though and no blood so what’s the point? The match was fast in pace with the crowd into it from the get go. It felt like the kind of match you’d see as a semi main or main event of a spot show. I’m both surprised and disappointed AJ Styles wasn’t booked here. He goes over for the IWGP Title 3 days earlier and there’s no follow up. Also, looking at the line up, it makes for a very predictable finish in this kind of format. ***

Tomoaki Honma vs Tomohiro Ishii (Vacant NEVER Open Weight Title Match)
This match was supposed to be Ishii taking on Togi Makabe in a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ****). However, Makabe went down with a nasty flu. He missed the 02/11 show. When it was revealed that he was not able to defend on this show, he was stripped of the Title. I’ve got serious issues with Honma being in this match from a logical perspective. The crowd loves him but he never wins. In fact, he lost only 3 days earlier in a great singles match with Kota Ibushi. The crowd loves these two. Honma has been a crowd favourite since subbing in for Ibushi during last year’s G-1. Ishii is one of the toughest guys in the company and is respected by both peers and fans as a result.

This match was a war. Every so often a match comes along that makes you cringe over the sheer brutality of it. These two beat the holy hell out of each other. An early exchange of Knife Edge Chops that went on for seemingly 2 minutes straight, had me rubbing my own chest. You can see the sweat fly and the neck muscles recoil from all of the Forearm Shivers.

It’s a simple story and plays perfectly to both guys strenghts. Honma is a man who desperately wants to win. He NEEDS to win. He gives you everything but can’t quite get there. The crowd not only empathizes but lifts him to achieve the greatness he so desires. Ishii is the wall blocking Honma’s path to glory. He can not be broken. The brick will not crack under the storm of chops, forearms, or Honma’s trademark Headbutts. It truly is a case of The Irresistible Force against The Immovable Object.

I don’t think there’s any man tougher than Ishii in wrestling today. His ability to withstand punishment and keep pushing through it unreal. There’s a point where he takes a DDT the wrong way and I thought for sure he’d separated his shoulder. He legitimately screams in agony but continues to gut through the pain. The crowd, loving both for entirely different reasons, captures you as a viewer pulls you along in their joy of seeing both guys give it their all. There are at least five different points where I thought “this has to be the finish” only to jump out of my seat at yet another impossible near fall. I’ll admit there’s a point where they go over what I’d consider the perfect peak of the match. While the ending satisfies, it simply comes 2 minutes and one extra sequence too late. This is an absolute classic and will be in high consideration for Match Of The Year. ****3/4

Yugi Nagata vs Shinsuke Nakamura (C) (IWGP Intercontinental Title)
These two were screwed following the previous match. The crowd was simply burned out. The match was worked very stiff. Nagata’s facials were fantastic as he showed complete and utter disdain for Nakamura throughout the match. The missing crowd was a major factor but the far bigger issue was the lack of build to the finish. It felt like it was missing the pivotal third act. We got the stiff strikes in the first act. Some great moves in the second act and then you’re expecting them to pull out all the stops. The sad reality is those big spots never come. The match ends abruptly. As a viewer I felt robbed. These two had a lot left in the tank and took a pass. I don’t know if it’s because of the previous match or that’s how they plotted it but I expected far more from these two. ***1/2

Final Thoughts: You might think this is an automatic recommendation based on a true high end MOTYC. Even with that match, I don’t know if I’d say to chase this card down. Where as the 02/11 show was loaded. This felt like a card full of fun if forgettable matches and then one truly excellent match. If anything I’d say track down the match rather than watch the complete card.

Please feel free to leave questions/comments/constructive criticisms in the comments below. I’ll endeavour to answer everybody. I can also be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NagataLockII.

New Japan Pro Wrestling: New Beginning In Osaka (02/11/2015)

This is the first of two major shows ending New Japan’s “New Beginning” tour. The latter show takes place on 02/15. All the major titles are at stake between the two shows, though this one has the majority of them oddly enough.

Before I get started, a quick apology to those of you who were looking for my review of the 02/01 spot show. The show didn’t get archived quickly and I had to leave for my flight to Cuba on the same day. The timing just didn’t work out. If people really want it, I’ll be happy to do it up.

Yohei Komatsu vs Sho Tanaka
These are essentially the top two Young Lions out of the New Japan Dojo. They’ve had more singles matches on various shows than I can count since making their debuts in late 2012. You have to figure they’re either going to be re-packaged or sent overseas and come back with new personas pretty soon. The match itself is well worked, if very basic. These two obviously know each other very well and it shows in their timing and positioning. The match is worked very snug, much to the delight of the still being seated crowd. An enjoyable start to the card. **

Tiger Mask IV & Mascara Dorada vs Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan
This was a fun back and forth match. Nakanishi is essentially in there to provide power spots while the Juniors bounce off of, and bump for him. The crowd really likes Dorada. He gets amazing height on his jumps, great extension on his moves, and provides some creative spots. I’m happy to see he’s curbed a lot of his Lucha tendencies and is working a less contrived style in this match. He’ll make for an interesting contrast to Kenny Omega down the line. They’re on a collision course to unify the CMLL Welterweight and IWGP Junior Titles. *1/2

Jushin “Thunder” Lyger & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Rob Conway & Chase Owens
Yes… that Rob Conway. This tag match has come together due to two respective feuds. Owens debuted as the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion at the King Of Pro Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014) and challenged Lyger after a successful defense. Lyger accepted, and subsequently defeated him at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014) for the belt. On the flip side, Tenzan is being put into a program with current NWA Heavyweight Champion Conway later this year. He’s got history with TenKoji (Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) going back to Wrestle Kingdom 8 where he lost the NWA Title to Kojima. He also lost the NWA Tag Titles (partner Jax Dane) to TenKoji at the Invasion Attack PPV (04/06/2014). Conway got the NWA Title back on 06/02/2014 and has held it since. The match is worked US style with a fast opening, Tenzan working as FiP, and a hot finish. I can’t say I’m happy to see Conway again. He’s muscled up even more, slow in the ring, and oversells everything. The match is nothing more than a story springboard to better matches down the line. *3/4

Tomoaki Honma vs Kota Ibushi
I got very excited when I saw this match was signed. Ibushi is my current favourite worker in New Japan. Honma is a perennial crowd favourite. He actually has Ibushi to thank for that in an odd way. Ibushi suffered a major concussion on his way to losing the IWGP Junior Title to KUSHIDA on 07/04/2014. He was removed from the G-1 Climax tournament and Honma was put in his place. While Honma didn’t win a single match, his performances were absolutely top flight, with multiple **** matches. The crowd got behind him for his Fighting Spirit as a result and he’s been riding the wave ever since. His sheer presence, and the crowd’s love for him, instantly elevates this match. They cheer for every Forearm Shiver, headbutt (his trademark), Slam and Suplex. Ibushi to his credit gives Honma the vast majority of the offense, thus keeping the match heated from start to finish. The match is fast paced, hard hitting, crazy heated, and will put a smile on your face. A relatively flat finish keeps it from entering legit contention for a low end MOTYC. ***3/4

The Young Bucks vs Time Splitters vs ReDragon (C) (IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles)
This follows a simple history. Time Splitters (Alex Shelly & KUSHIDA) defeated the Bucks at the Dominion PPV (06/21/2014 ****1/2). ReDragon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) defeated Time Splitters at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014 ****1/2). So we have the last 3 Championship teams in a match. This format only allows 2 guys in the ring at once so one team has to find a way to tag in at any given time. Well… ideally it should work that way except everyone goes into Scramble mode not even 5 minutes in and then it’s on. Someone pumped rocket fuel down everyone’s throat and lit a match. It’s non stop action from the start. If you’ve watched these 3 teams against each other over the last year, this is very rewarding. They constantly play off each others previous spots. The match builds and builds until the final sequence, where you’re at the end of your seat. The crowd is oddly less heated than you’d figure, but they could have been burned out from the Honma/Ibushi match. This was great and well worth tracking down. ****

Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kenny Omega (C) (IWGP Junior Title)
This is a rematch of Omega’s title win at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015). The match is slow to get out of the gate. It’s initially worked for comedy, which I feel has no place in a title match. It’s a sad byproduct of matches involving The Bullet Club though. After getting the junk out of the way, they settle into a finely worked match. They play off of a couple of spots from 01/04. These two are both very talented but I don’t think they’re capable of anything more than what was done here and on 01/04. I had high hopes as Dome shows are not typically conducive to strong Junior matches. With a smaller venue I had hoped for something very strong. Like 01/04, this was good. Just not great. ***1/4

Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuchika Okada vs Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale
This is a continuation of the Okada vs Fale feud that was set up at New Year Dash (01/05/2015) when Fale secured a clean pinfall on Okada. I have absolutely no idea why Sakuraba is booked in this match. Okada & Yano are part of the CHAOS stable and their opponents are all part of The Bullet Club. I figured Sakuraba was a wrap after his feud with Minoru Suzuki ended at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada and Tonga really shine in this match. The latter is an athletic freak. At his size, I’m surprised the WWE hasn’t come knocking on his door yet. Okada takes a massive beating but keeps pushing through. The way the match is worked, it might as well have been a handicap match. Yano and Sakuraba work maybe 1 total minute. Okada is head and shoulders above everyone in here both in selling his opponents offense and in his spirited comebacks. Sadly, I’m slowly losing interest in this feud without a singles match in sight. **1/2

Yugi Nagata & Satoshi Kojima & Tetsuya Naito vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi
Well this is odd. Kojima is working the match in place of Togi Makabe. The latter is supposed to be continuing his feud with Ishii as the last stop before their NEVER Open Weight Title match on 02/15. Naito is being booed out of the building and I have no idea why. he was being cheered at the Dome show and the spot shows. Maybe it’s an Osaka crowd thing? If anyone knows, I’d greatly appreciate some insight in the comments. Ishii and Kojima work some extended sequences. I’m forced to wonder if Ishii is going over on 02/15 and will start a new program with Kojima. This was a rock solid six man tag. Nagata and Nakamura looked to have worked their chemistry issues out. There isn’t much in the way of drama. Just a well worked match. ***

Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto (C) (IWGP Tag Team Titles)
This is the 3rd match in 3 months for these teams. Shibata & Goto beat the then champions in the World Tag League Finals (12/07/2014) to earn a title shot. They then defeated the champs at Wrestle Kingdom 9. This is the match I knew these 2 teams had in them. The 1st match was outright disappointing. The 2nd match had the work but was limited by time, not even getting 10 minutes. This had the time, work, crowd, drama, and near falls these teams needed to put on a great match. Gallows & Anderson really bring their work boots in this one, working far faster than you’d figure for guys their size and bumping big for the smaller champs. I was on the edge of my seat by match’s end, wondering which way it would go. I’m glad these teams were able to live up to expectations this time around. ****

AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
This is a title rematch 4 months in the making. Tanahashi took the title from Styles at the King Of Pro-Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014 ****). After working separate programs, Styles scored a pinfall on Tanahashi in the main event of the New Year Dash (01/05/2015). This was a match of layers. From the get go you can tell it’s going to go long. They start with basic mat work and as each five minute announcement comes on, the moves grow slightly bigger in scale. These two know each other very well. They counter and re-counter constantly, including an incredible Tanahashi reversal of a Styles Enzugiri into a mid air Dragon Screw Leg Whip. The match really takes a notch up after an odd occurrence. Tanahashi executes a Super High Fly Flow onto the entire Bullet Club on the outside and receives a brutal hardway cut over his left eye. The blood only serves to elevate the match. They continue to build well to the finish, and in that finish the match fails to reach its true zenith. It’s a fine finish and you could call it satisfying, playing off an underlying story going back to Styles match with Yoshi Tatsu at Power Struggle. However, the finish keeps it from becoming a true high end MOTYC. It’s an odd complaint when you’re disappointed only giving a match ****1/4. It’s just a tough pill to swallow knowing something truly fantastic was within their grasp.

Final Thoughts: New Japan continues to deliver on their big shows. I’ve got 3 **** matches and I’m sure many will argue that Ibushi/Honma is **** worthy as well. Do yourself a favour and track this show down, you won’t be disappointed.

Please feel free to leave questions/comments/constructive criticisms in the comments below. I’ll endeavour to answer everybody. I can also be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NagataLockII.

New Japan Pro Wrestling: Road To The New Beginning 01/30/2015

This is the first of back to back spot shows to start The New Beginnings Tour. New Japan is slowly adding shows here and there. Because this is essentially a House Show, there are no commentators and they’re only using 1 Hard Camera. It’s a very stark production contrast to the big PPV’s.

Also, for those few that asked me on Twitter, I will get around to reviewing the two NJPW vs CMLL FantasticaMania shows. Lucha isn’t really my thing but I figured I’ll do them for completist sake as I’d like to give you insight into everything offered on New Japan World.

This is taking place at the Tokorozawa City Gym. Maybe 800 people in the house?

Alex Shelley vs Jay White
This is White’s first match for New Japan. He’s a 2 year pro and wrestled primarily out of the UK. He’s playing the Young Lion (rookie working from the bottom) role here with the plain black trunks. Shelley’s the right opponent to make him look good in his debut, as he sells well and knows when to let his opponent take control. White’s fiery, works the crowd well, and is technically sound. It’ll be enjoyable to see his progress. *½

Yohei Komatsu vs Kyle O’Reilly
Komatsu is one of the top 2 Young Lions in the company, along with partner and rival Sho Tanaka. He’s a 27 year old, 2 year pro who came through the Dojo system. O’Reilly is ½ of ReDragon with Bobby Fish and ½ of the ROH Tag Champs and NJPW Jr. Tag Champs. I highly recommend tracking down his work. His creative fusion of Shoot & Pro style is truly something to behold. While Shelley gave White plenty of offense, this match is worked with O’Reilly doling out punishment and Komatsu showing he has the Fighting Spirit to take it and keep pushing through. Komatsu had a bit of an off night as he mistimed a couple of spots, detracting from the flow of the match. This was otherwise solid. **¼

Mascara Dorada & KUSHIDA vs The Young Bucks
This is my first look at Dorada. I rarely dip my feet in the Lucha pool. I only know he’s been in the business for around 10 years and worked CMLL before coming to New Japan. KUSHIDA is one of my favourite Junior workers. He typically teams with Alex Shelly in The Time Splitters. The Bucks are my outright favourite Tag Team in any company right now (though Cesaro & Tyson Kidd are creeping up there). The Bucks, Time Splitters, and ReDragon are in a 3 way Jr Tag Title match at the New Beginning In Osaka PPV on 02/11 so this is to further that along. The Bucks do what they do best as they work a fast paced style with creative spots. They’re especially heelish in this one, mocking the Japanese girls for chanting Dorada’s name. Dorada is everything I dislike about Lucha as his work is overly contrived with excessive movement before actually hitting his offense. He works a blistering style though. The match is US Face In Peril formula with a hot Face start, FiP, and then hot tag finish. Sadly short and cookie cutter for such high level talent. *½

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima & Jushin “Thunder” Lyger vs Captain New Japan & Tiger Mask IV & Manabu Nakanishi
Six Man Tags with aging veterans is commonplace on Japanese spot shows. If this had taken place 15 years ago, it could have semi main evented. Now it gives the crowd something fun to watch for a few minutes. The match is slow and plodding. Not a surprise when the average age of the workers is 45. Most of it is worked for comedy. The crowd loves to chant along with trademark spots like Kojima’s Machine Gun Chops (a tribute to Kenta Kobashi) and Nakanishi’s chanting Lariat. Odd to see Lyger and TMIV on opposing sides, as they’re usually partners. *½

Yugi Nagata & Togi Makabe & Tetsuya Naito & Tomoaki Honma vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano & Yoshi Hashi
This match is meant to lay the groundwork for a few stories leading up to the big shows of the tour on 02/11 & 02/15 respectively. The 02/11 card has Nagata/Makbe/Naito vs Nakamura/Ishii/Hashi. The 02/15 card has Ishii getting his rematch with Makabe for the NEVER Open Weight Title that he lost at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ****¼) and Nagata challenging Nakamura for the Intercontinental Title. Nagata & Nakamura’s exchanges throughout the match were frankly sloppy. This is exactly why you work these kind of spot shows leading to the big singles match though. They’ve got to work the kinks out. Makabe & Ishii work what is now their customary stiff exchanges. I’m always left at a loss as to how these guys hit each other so hard without serious injury. The other 4 participants are entirely inconsequential. **¾

Kazuchika Okada & Gedo vs Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi
This is a continuation of the stable feud between CHAOS and The Bullet Club. Fale scored a clean pinfall on Okada at the 01/05 show (think of it as the Raw after Wrestlemania). CHAOS vs Bullet Club will have tag matches on 02/11 & 02/15 with Okada vs Fale being the underlying theme. The match has an odd dynamic. CHAOS as a stable are more heelish, though not strictly heels per se. The Bullet Club however, are concretely portrayed as heels. As such, you get guys like Gedo, who’s annoying beyond words most often (though a fantastic Head Booker), working as Face In Peril while Okada is pounding Turnbuckles to build the crowd up. This is the first match the crowd was really into from the get go. They absolutely love Okada. The Fale vs Okada story will play out for a while as they aren’t booked in a singles match on this tour. ***

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga & Kenny Omega
This match is more about continuing feuds than starting new ones. Goto & Shibata ended Gallows & Anderson’s 1 year Tag Title reign at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ***½). Omega defeated Taguchi to win the IWGP Jr. Title on the same card. I’m a bit surprised to see AJ Styles wasn’t in this match. He lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Tanahashi at the King Of Pro-Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014 ****). Styles scored a pinfall over Tanahashi on 01/05 in an 8 Man Tag match, setting up their Title rematch at the New Beginning PPV on 02/15. Taguchi’s resemblance to the late Eddie Guerrero in this match is staggering. The tights, build (he’s really starting to get a hard body), moustache and now shorter haircut just scream Guerrero. This was a fast paced, hard hitting, but entirely forgettable match. While Styles wasn’t there, the story with Tanahashi is furthered through his work in the match. It’s actually a bit of a “WHOA” moment and instantly elevates your interest in their title match. A hot crowd made this match all the better. ***

Final Thoughts: It’s pretty much what you’d expect from any House Show. The matches were solid. The bigger matches all moved stories and feuds forward to the big shows in mid February. I’ll be back with thoughts on the 02/01 Korakuen Hall show soon.

Question/comments are always welcome. You can also find my thoughts on various random matches that cross my path on Twitter at @NagataLockII.

New Japan piece at Paste Magazine


Hi. Paste Magazine ran a piece about New Japan today. Your readers might dig it.

Hey, wait a minute, I'm not gonna get a picture of Minoru Suzuki showing his ass like Kim Kardashian here, am I?  I mean, sure I'm curious and a little turned on by the thought, but some warning first would be nice.  
Wait, did I think that or type it?  

TNA Wrestling’s Big Return to Japan

TNA’s Bound For Glory may draw just fine this year. It’s a 2000 seat building and they might just fill it. I’m not saying you should consider this match as much of an indicator as to how that show will turn out, but it is worth taking a look. The crowd was announced as 650, which it may be… in a world where Dino Bravo holds the bench press record.

Eddie Edwards & Tigre Uno (replacing Davey Richards) vs. Kaz Hayashi & Shuji Kondo

Japan & WWE (with a NXT bonus)

Hey Scott, 

I wanted to go a different direction than all the CM Punk/Daniel Bryan talk just for a change of pace. 

1) Why would KENTA want to sign with WWE? He's already one of the best wrestlers in the world and has held every belt in NOAH. If he wanted to change direction, why not go to NJPW? Wouldn't that fit his style better rather than go into the WWE developmental system, have all his strengths turned into weaknesses, have Go 2 Sleep taken away, and be Joe McKenta? 

2) Why would Prince Devitt seriously consider the WWE? He's one of the top stars of NJPW and I can't imagine the WWE just putting him on the roster without going through the developmental process. 

Since you're a NXT fan, here's a bonus question…have you had a chance to see Kalisto or Solomon Crowe yet? If so, what are your thoughts on them? Why haven't Sami Zayne and Kalisto had an epic best of three series yet? 

1.  Because he's getting older and WWE is where the money is.  It's worth a try if nothing else.  Tensai was also a top star in Japan and now he's making four times as much to dance like a moron.  
2.  See question 1.  Although he's also negotiating with TNA, which would be career suicide for him.
3.  Haven't seen them yet, although I'm looking forward to Crowe.  

What’s the pay in Japan?


> Hey Scott,


> Considering there are only so many spot for wrestlers in the WWE and TNA , why do seemingly so few US wrestlers go overseas to wrestle in Japan (or even Mexico)? Is it a pay issue? Are there the same issues with job availability?

Yeah, it's a pay issue, because New Japan isn't exactly WWE and there's only so much to go around for gaijin there. Thus why Albert would rather do whatever he's doing now instead of getting respect and a push in Japan. Sometimes you gotta pay the bills.

New Japan: Kizuna Road PPV

Someone may have hooked you up with these already.. But if not.. Pretty good for an 'In Your House' caliber show.. Really good main event with an entertaining midcard..

I really wish Prince Devitt would learn to do the "cocked pistols" gesture properly, though.  It drives me a little nuts.