It's March here on Never Hand Over and we've deemed it "Puro & Lucha Appreciation Month!" So, every review for the rest of the month will either be from Japan or Mexico. If you love the stuff like we do, then dig in, and if you're unfamiliar with many of the names, promotions, etc. use this as a guide to seek out some new stuff to enjoy on your own.
Jan., 24, 2011
Tokyo JCB Hall
3,200 Fans- Super No Vacancy Full House
#0: < GAORA 20th HISTORY > (The History of almost Japanese Indies Pro-Wrestling) - NA
#1: Dragon Kid [Dragon Gate], BUSHI [AJPW] & Power Pro Kamen III (Seiya Sanada?) vs. Minoru [Freelance], Susumu Yokosuka [Dragon Gate] & KAGETORA [Dragon Gate] - 4
#2: Mayumi Ozaki (w/m Police & Mika Nishio) [OZ Academy], Meiko Satomura [SENDAI GIRLS] & Aja Kong [OZ Academy] vs. Dynamite Kansai [OZ Academy], Carlos Amano [OZ Academy] & Chikayo Nagashima [OZ Academy] - 6
#3: Kaz Hayashi [AJPW], TAKA Michinoku [KAIENTAI DOJO] & NOSAWA Rongai [Freelance] vs. Jinsei Shinzaki [Michinoku Pro], TAJIRI [SMASH] & BxB Hulk [Dragon Gate] - 6
#4: YAMATO [Dragon Gate] vs. Hiroshi Yamato [AJPW] - 5
#5: Shuji Kondo [AJPW] & KAI [AJPW] vs. Naruki Doi [Dragon Gate] & Naoki Tanizaki [Dragon Gate] - 6
#6: Masakatsu Funaki [AJPW], Minoru Suzuki [Pancrase Mission] & Masaaki Mochizuki [Dragon Gate] vs. Akebono [Freelance], Ryota Hama [AJPW] & Sumo Fuji [Dragon Gate] - 6
#7: Keiji Muto [AJPW], CIMA [Dragon Gate] & Jushin Thunder Liger [NJPW] vs. Suwama [AJPW], Masato Yoshino [Dragon Gate] & The Great Sasuke [Michinoku Pro] - 6
The opening video was cool showing highlights of a lot of the companies that aired on GAORA over the years inc. FMW, IWA Japan, AAA, Toryumon, etc. I've heard of shirts versus skins but the opener was masks versus sans masks. Kamen was targeted and got worked over until he commanded a stagehand to whip him up a protein shake which he guzzled and regained his fighting spirit. Susuma was bleeding from the nose or mouth. Pretty inoffensive yet unspectacular stuff. Dragon Kid completely no sold a "Muscle Buster" which angered me to no end. I love good joshi and that's definitely what we got. Two all-star teams with clearly defined roles: Kansai was the veteran and her team's firepower paired with the two spitfire spark-plugs Amano and Nagashima versus the mountainous Kong, sharpshooter Satomura, and despicable bitch heel Ozaki who blatantly uses a steel chain in her matches. They were able to get good heat working over the good girls. Meiko is truly the closest we'll ever get to another Bret Hart as her execution is flawless and is one of the best in the world. She busted out her trademark cartwheel into double knees spot which I always mark for. Really great showcase for the girls, good back-and-forth, momentum changes, etc. Kong's spinning backfist is still one of the best strikes in the industry.
Goofy pre-match video for the next one that saw, among other things, NOSAWA and Kaz on a teeter totter in a park together. Two very eclectic and intriguing teams. TAKA comes out in mock-Hakushi get-up and I ponder that NOSAWA and my friend Steve are invariably linked as both have ICP tattoos. Two-thirds of these guys worked for McMahon at some point. As par for the course with this sort of match it opened with the guys pairing off. TAKA and TAJIRI started and did all mat work. Usually in every US match a guy will immediately kick to the gut or throw a bunch but they didn't throw a single strike. TAJIRI's work on Michinoku's arm was particularly nasty looking. Kaz is one of the most protected (in terms of booking) guys in all of Japan right now (and thus all of the world) but BxB was able to get over him in a short exchange which was sort of a big deal. Next, NOSAWA disrespected Jinsei while he was doing his patented rope walk by shoving him off to the floor like a bully and generally being a prick, spitting, etc. TAKA did a great cutoff spot on Hulk by giving him a classic Roddy Piper eye poke. This was a lot of fun and actively good while it lasted -- had it gotten another ten minutes or so it could have been truly memorable but for what it was it was an enjoyable diversion. The battle of the Yamoto's was next and I like both guys so I was looking forward to it. They had a good bout, got enough time to develop without wearing out its welcome, and both were allowed to look good. At one point I noticed they were screaming "Yamoto!" during a strike exchange and it reminded me of Pokémon which repeat their own names relentlessly. I'm assuming YAMOTO could pull off a Blastoise impersonation effortlessly. Dragon Gate reigned victorious as YAMOTO put him down with the Gallaria.
More DG versus AJPW followed. Kondo looked so bored on the apron like he was sitting through a screening of Secretariat. I loved the spot with Shuji hitting a running bulldog on Doi while simultaneously lariating Naoki's head off. Kondo hit Tanazaki so hard with a lariat to finish I thought he was going to explode into coins a la the evil exes of Ramona Flowers' past. This was actually a hell of a tag heightened by the inter-promotional aspect of things.
Next the match that, at least on paper, I cared the least about going into it. I was pleasantly surprised as it was actually a lot of fun. Sumo Fuji was completely tormented and obliterated throughout, be it by being on the receiving hand of numerous wedgies, or being kicked and mauled, he took lots of punishment and most satisfying of all was his selling throughout was exceptional. The big boys Hama and Akebono came in a few times for spurts and were effective as the behemoths although bad ass Suzuki didn't backdown and slapped Ryota around like a stepchild he just found that just ate all of his deer jerky.
I feel like playing NBA 2K11 (the video game version of me just got drafted by Miami in the second round and I've got summer training camp to complete) but this main event demands my rigid attention so we march on. There's a lot to love about both of these amalgam teams just like a good superhero crossover. I don't know how many times Lyger and Mutoh have worked together but this seems rare. Mutoh is such a master, right off the bat, he makes one of Yoshino's super quick running the ropes into a lighting fast dropkick have more gravity than any of the guys' that eat it regularly in DG by rolling around in bewilderment and abject confusion as to what just hit him. CIMA struggling to make a dent on Suwama helped lend credibility to the breakout AJPW star of '10. Later Suwama massacred Lyger which at that point saw him stealing the show like Anne Hathaway at the Oscar's. CIMA and Yoshino have worked each other extensively but still made their segments shine with Masato looking pointedly better selling than many give him credit for, including making a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker by Lyger look positively brutal. One of the only badly botched spots of the show occurred when CIMA and Suwama mistimed a backcracker. Sasuke got less chances to shine than the rest and also was the recipient of a Shining Wizard and thus suffered the loss for his team. Mostly solid and fun for the sheer appeal of its inter-promotional nature.
Overall, as evidence by my scores, this show delivered consistently and lived up to its vast potential. While there's nothing here that'll likely make it on my MotY ballot come late-Dec. I actively enjoyed this unique event and many of the performances it contained.