1) Riki Choshu/ Mitsuhide Hirasawa v. Takao Omori/ Shito Ueda- 4
This match started out like the 16-meter dash in China last summer- a dead sprint from all four guys at the bell. Ueda seemed pretty unathletic and chose to brawl mainly for his part in this 6 minute bout. Surprisingly Choshu, although quite tan and sporting a face like a Sharpe dog, brought the most believability and still showed he can throw a lariat with the best of them, taking off Ueda's head for the win. Fun opening bout and interesting way to put it together.
2) Yujiro v. Osamu Namiguchi- 4
Before the match, they showed some highlights of Yujiro getting his ass handed to him in match after match, but his heart never let him quit wrestling. He doesn't have much muscle and he's not very big, but apparently a big heart. This started out in the same breakneck speed right at the bell and both men showed good chemistry together. Namiguchi laid in some heavy shots that busted the young whelp open and he had a few decent comeback spots but this was over pretty quickly so hard to give it much of a grade. What they did though was fairly competent.
3) Ryouji Sai/ Minoru Fujita v. Ryusuke Taguchi/ Tetsuya Naito- 4
Haven't seen Fujita in quite a while, he's looking older no doubt, but still shows his proficiency with submission skills. He rules Naito on the ground and fends off Taguchi's strong aireal attack much like a UFC fighter would with a takedown and some holds on the ground. Sai is useless, the Japanese version of Jeff Hardy without any of the instinct or athleticism. He's a sloppy punk rocker who can't even keep the momentum going for more than 3 minutes. Taguchi pairs up well with him, tearing through his sloppy kicks with his own offense. Another fun tag match that never got ahead of itself but didn't have enough time to develop.
4) Daisuke Sekimoto/ Tatsuhito Takaiwa v. Jushin Liger/ AKIRA- 4
I don't know if Brian remembers Sekimoto, but we saw him get his body shredded a few years ago in Big Japan against American slob Mad Man Pondo. We were impressed with his willingness to put his body through hell by bumping in glass and other painful items. Now, he's massive and swoll, and the match was built around protecting him and making him the star. He overpowered both of his opponents, who have seen better days. Liger didn't bust out anything that made him famous but his selling was still top notch. AKIRA kept to the ground a lot but was pretty spry. Takaiwa was doing the same shit he did back in '98 Juniors division except it looks worse now with no snap on the moves. He didn't bring anything to this. I hinged on giving it a '3' but the finish was surprising as AKIRA hit a brainbuster from up top for the win, considering Sekimoto hadn't taken a single move throughout the match, but he was still protected beating Liger's ass on the outside, that wispy hair shooting everywhere.
5) Wataru Inoue/ Tiger Mask v. Ikuto Hidaka/ Munenori Sawa- 6
This show was supposed to be NJ v. Zero-1 but i hadn't seen the passion or the hatred quite yet until this match. I'd say 90% of the offense in this one was kicks and slaps. Mask was on, just exuding the original Sayama, stomping right up to Hidaka and slapping the remnants of his beef & broccoli lunch out of his mouth. And his kicks were on target, just crumpling both guys numerous times. Hidaka with his BAttlarts experience didn't take it lying down though and utilized several MMA style takedowns and threw quite a lot of his own strikes. Their partners took an accepting role as backup, letting these two sit on center stage and wage war. Inoue got pretty aggressive as well and looked to be more on the Heavyweight side of things but he was very quick and kept a good pace. He and Tiger worked well together.
6) Masato Tanaka/ Shinjiro Ohtani v. Yuji Nagata/ Manabu Nakanishi- 5
I volleyed back and forth with this score, and I'm settling on a 5 because it's almost recommendable only due to the sheer intensity that Tanaka and Nagata bring as they go to war with each other. Two distinct styles and they collide over and over again throughout this match, and every time just running into each other and throwing elbows, kicks, whatever they can muster. They are both at the top of their game. Nagata is basically Japan's answer to Kurt Angle without the pill addiction. He's a master at his craft, which is the ground game and kicks. He uses both of them aplenty here and with expertise. Tanaka is just a brawler who seems to never feel pain. There's an outside brawling section here that really highlights both of these guys, Nagata, although not his realm, still outstrikes Ohtani but Tanaka simply picks up a chair and hits Nakanishi as hard as humanely possible, several times, finally obliterating one of the seats out of it.
But, as great as the two are, their partners are equally as horrible, which is what drags this down. Ohtani is looking so ancient and although he can still muster a dropkick or two, his workrate is nearly invisible considering how great he once was. Really dull and weak offense, decent bumping for his opponents but that's it. Nakanishi is the New Japan version of Kane, big, strong idiot, who's been around for years, always hovering around mid-card to upper main and who's never improved. His selling was atrocious and he tried to play this guy that doesn't feel anything and when you're matched up with Tanaka it just doens't work because you're not going to out-stiff him in that area. The worst thing is when Ohtani and Nakanishi paired up; punches you'd be ashamed of if your 2 year old brother threw them, business exposing spots, like rammed in the steel post outside where Nakanishi walks into the pole, so he doesn't get hurt and both men's weak ass strikes that most times don't connect. Their exchanges would be laughable if they weren't so pathetic. So, a real yin-yang element here so it's nearly recommendable but not quite.
7) Yuji Nagata v. Masato Tanaka- 5
Now, this score may seem a little high, but it's the perfect companion to the prior match. The tag went to a 30 minute draw, and as it did, Tanaka and Nagata both went after each other, being seperated by hordes of officials and other wrestlers, so they demanded the 5 minute overtime be just them- thank God. Basically picked right up where the tag left off, with both guys going full steam ahead, throwing elbows and kicks like there was no tomorrow. They brawled outside, back in and Tanaka got his head ripped open which could have been payback for him ripping open Nakanishi's head in the tag. This went to a draw as well but it was a great lead in for their feud that was still going on even at the Tokyo Dome show. I believe Brian and Didge got to see the extension of this feud on the recent Destruction PPV......need to get my hands on this because if this buildup is any indication, it's spewing molten hot lava. No rain, no rainbow.