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  1. Full version is here bar a minute (don't ask how I found this, I genuinely don't remember outside of I think a random AJPW compilation tape on YT) so given this was essentially a sprint, which was pretty interesting given who was involved. Takayama has to run around Vader (which is a funny sight to see) and throws out some great strikes and slams in the process with a ton of urgency. Vader bumps his ass off for the 33 year old as he lands a ton of offence including even a sensational Taue-lite top rope big boot, which looked pretty well done given Taka's size and whatnot. There's some shoot-style stuff as Taka goes for a few leg and arm submissions, all of which Vader has to reach for the ropes for given his lack of experience in that regard. Eventually he gets swatted like a fly with a big body check before Vader lands two hard splashes for a near fall. Taka does his best Kobashi impression with a silly face afterwards as he tries to push though: Vader has no time for dramatics as he quickly lands a Vader Bomb for another near fall before just splashing the guy again regularly for the conclusive finish. This could've easily been a dream match had Taka been older and Vader younger, but this'll do for a fun little change of pace. Lots of moves done with virtually no downtime and despite Vader's inconsistent and rather shaky workrate at this point he delivers with the bombs and stiff shit you'd expect, with a younger and leaner Taka really embracing his role as the agile underdog with some tricks up his sleeve. Their 2001 match is a lot better in terms of conventional workrate that's expected out of the two, but there's a quality to this that I do find charming given how fast Taka was when he was leaner; it's like seeing early WCW Giant do stuff like dropkicks and the like, bit bonkers.
  2. Let's go back to 2011 and see what I missed the first time around. I'll post the links to the Gaora YouTube videos for your enjoyment: Minoru Tanaka vs Kaz Hiyashi (01/02/11): This was a very good junior battle with two legends of the style. I think they have something better in them but this was still pretty good stuff. My issue is with how they're not really transitioning control from one guy to the other. It does seem a bit like 'your turn-my turn' and I'd like to see a reason why Minoru is able to now do his arm bar or brainbuster after getting whooped on for 3 minutes. Same goes for Kaz. And this is the whole thing. They have really great sequences planned but no good or simple way to get to them other than 'OK now we do dueling kicks' or 'now we do the turnbuckle spots.' And they are impressive and athletic on their own but putting 20 of those in a row doesn't make a great match. Watch below and maybe you will feel differently. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-nkbRoz6Yjk&list=PL9GbOLsWy6qLCD-R4zPkA9lUAtbzj06bm&index=4 Suwama (c) vs. Taiyo Kea (01/11/11): This was a smart match especially by Kea. He stayed focused on working Suwama's neck. And well Suwama worked Kea's ribs throughout. So I really liked that. And this was a good fight. I'd say it ***1/2 stars. Just really solid heavyweight wrestling. Sanada/Soya vs Yuji Okabayashi and Daisuke Sekimoto (03/21/11): This was a classic tag match in my book. I think 3 out of the 4 guys wrestle like Riki Choshu/Kensuke and the 4th guy like prime Muto so as long as they stick to that then we're gonna get a very good bout. But this is for the tag belts and they bring everything. Strong BJW is a really fantastic at this time in AJ. This isn't on Gaora but your 'day to day movement' video website has it for you. Search it out! Suwama & Masakatsu Funaki vs Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi (05/15/11): Great inter-promotional tag battle! Hard hitting, spiteful stuff. Nakanishi does not get the love he deserves. There's not a ton to go on about here. This is exactly what I wanted and expected. Firm **** stuff https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2j0IrWl-9t4&list=PL9GbOLsWy6qLCD-R4zPkA9lUAtbzj06bm&index=7 Yuji Nagata VS Seiya Sanada [2011 Champion Carnival Battle]: Sweet sassy molassy Sanada took a beating. This was a near great match where Sanada took the pain train. An absolute treat to watch for a Yuji Nagata fan - striking mixed with grappling. He was really testing Sanada. But in all fairness Sanada really got a boost going toe to toe with such a decorated wrestler. He kept things fun and the outcome was in doubt. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LDiVWNX_p9Y&list=PL9GbOLsWy6qLCD-R4zPkA9lUAtbzj06bm&index=87 KAI vs Kenny Omega (Junior League Match 2011) : Yeah this was borderline great stuff. I continue to be a fan of KAI. Kenny was pretty hit or miss. He's got his mannerisms that work in some regards. When he's selling his abdomen injury then it works but once he moved on to just selling exhaustion/punch drunk it gets a bit melodramatic. That coupled with his ability to snap out of this fatigue/stupor to do drop kicks and other cardio moves takes away from the match. He's just waiting for his turn. That said KAI doesn't get into this behavior. He is the rock of the match and doesn't get too swayed to get carried away. I originally ordered a DVD with this match but got sent the wrong one (which features the awesome KAI vs Kanemoto match). So it was nice to see this finally but am quite happy that I got the Kanemoto match instead. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nGKO7Sz-1no&list=PL9GbOLsWy6qLCD-R4zPkA9lUAtbzj06bm&index=74 --- A pretty fun little project. Definitely seek out the Soya/Sanada vs Strong BJW tag match. Then go watch the Nagata matches. The links are above so you've got no excuse Thank you for reading!!
  3. A ton of fun. This was during the time where Tenryu was just running through all of the AJPW rookies and beating the crap out of them generally. Kono is different, however: he's a pretty big dude so Tenryu immediately has issues as he can't just bully Kono with ease with his usual strikes and whatnot, being forced to eat multiple chops and getting out-wrestled. Of course Tenryu still lands some gross stiff stuff, but he's noticeably rattled and immediately goes to his signature stuff to try to establish some order. Even a really early second rope back elbow doesn't seal the deal, which gets a slight grin from the guy afterwards. Kono responds with a big dropkick and a boot to the face; this ends up causing a gash on Tenryu's face unintentionally, which starts unnoticeable but gets worse as time goes on, which added a fair bit of urgency to the match as Tenryu goes from being a rookie killer to being more weary. Kono also goes for a Big Swing, which was fairly shitty but given he only had three months of matches at this point I'm not going to be too harsh. Awesome spot as Kono teases a dive, Tenryu dodges and then just hurls a random table on his back lol. Tenryu takes over with some nasty chops and elbows for near falls alongside a especially hard lariat. Despite hitting a even worse one afterwards, Kono just won't stay down and the audience get more and more frantic with every move done, even if he's incapable of doing anything but holding on. Even with Tenryu's brainbuster and him randomly bleeding he still can't get the definitive win. That said, Kono has so much baggage that he can't do anything else but wait for the next big bomb and Tenryu ends things with a second brainbuster. Not amazing but a really good showcase in how minimalistic workrate in a match can lead to really engaging narratives. How so? Kono doesn't get a ton of stuff in; his list of moves performed go to about a dozen in total if even that. What matters is how damn stubborn he is despite his lack of tangible talent to square up with the vet, how he eventually earns the respect of Tenryu despite his grumpy nature. For Tenryu, it's a absolutely great showcase in how he can control a match almost completely by himself just by how he emotes and conveys what's going on to the audience, which is always been something he's solid at but especially here with the lack of workrate. How he gets cocky after every big bomb like "this is the one, show is over" but keeps getting fumbled especially just gets the crowd, and he noticeably goes from amused to annoyed to then ultimately accepting how tough Kono was and respecting that fact by bombing him to death, as opposed to the other matches where he's using basic submissions to try to break the rookie in front of him. More matches should be brave enough to have squashes like these: it's fine now and then for someone to keeping powering through stuff but never get the second wind, to never actually get a big generic comeback. But yeah, another solid Tenryu showing, no shocker.
  4. I think we can all pretty much admit AJPW took a stylistic nosedive after the NOAH exodus. Sure Kawada, Tenryu, and Kojima occasionally had some great matches but, by in large, folks just didn't care to go out of their way to purchase this stuff. Therefore, the internet community didn't have much to go on as far as recommendations. My interest in AJPW post NOAH actually starts when some of the guys went back in 2013 I believe. Akiyama, Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki and others decided NOAH was a stagnant pond and head back (at least Akiyama and Kanemaru) to their true home. So, I watched a few matches from that period and saw a couple reviews and whatnot that it caught my interest to explore a little more. I was surprised to find that AJPW was actually pretty darn good...great at times! Mutoh eventually was fading from the scene in ring and stylistically. So, matches that featured athleticism and struggle were being championed over angles and sports entertainment style wrestling. So, I cherry picked a few DVDs from about 2011-2015. I'm a cheap skate so I only got single disc shows so, I'm probably missing out on some big time match ups BUT I was taking a risk. I figure it'd be better to trust my gut with the match-ups than, hope the 2 disc big shows would deliver. Anyhow, for whatever reason I jumped in during the Fall of 2011 and boy was I pleasantly surprised! Let's check out the matches! SUWAMA, Masakatsu Funaki & Takao Omori vs Seiya Sanada, Taiyo Kea & Manabu Soya (09/25/11 AJPW): This is exactly the exciting, hard hitting match that I hoped it would be. It never treads into parody of former AJPW or NOAH territory with unneeded strike battles or meaningless machismo. The characters play their part during the 20 minutes of action. Highly recommended, very good match. Koji Kanemoto vs KAI - Jr. Tournament Finals (09/25/11 AJPW): Holy crap! This was awesome They really beat the crap out of each other. KAI is a guy that I've seen a couple times and liked. I'd not yet say, "Hey gotta search out me some KAI footy!" but, he is one to watch. Koji worked on the leg here, setting up for his Ankle Hold. KAI did very well in selling the leg damage (even though he did do some flying moves). I felt he sold it enough within the narrative: He's young and he's going to work with the moves that got him to the finals. Koji was punk as fuck and the A+ worker that he can be- especially as the tough vet. The match featured loads of stiff strikes, variety and smarts. Both guys were battered by the end. It was a true contest for something important and a classic match in the Jr. tradition. I've never heard anyone mention this match so, I'm glad I got the DVD on this. Stong BJW & Takao Omori vs Manabu Soya, Sanada & Taiyo Kea (10/17): 17 minute match. Things weren't clicking 100% but, that made this bout feel more organic and "real." Strong BJW vs Soya/Sanada is the rivalry at the time and the focus was kept on that here. Kea vs Omori is a struggle that's been going on since the late 90's so, there was something at stake here as well. The action was good with many tags, irish whip moves, and strike exchanges. The finishing segment was fantastic and capped off a very good match. Jun Akiyama & Ricky Marvin vs SUWAMA & KAI (10/17): 19 minute match. I really dug the mind games Akiyama was playing on SUWAMA...not only effecting this match but setting the stage for their 10/23 Triple Crown fight. KAI and Marvin's interactions were rough around the edges and not in the way of the above match. I'll chalk this up to KAI (who I usually like) but, didn't really bring much to the match. He just kept things moving along. It was a very good match with nice action and told a good story. I just remember liking it a heck of a lot more on the first watch a year or two ago. SO, you might disagree with me here...heck If I watch it a 3rd time, I might disagree with myself! Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA (10/23): Sorry, I don't have my notes handy for this match but, I remember that is was kinda disappointing. I was hoping for a classic but, recall it being just a very good match (like *** 3/4). I want to say the pacing was slow and probably went 5 minutes longer than it needed to. I'm pretty confident in that recollection. Kaz Hiyashi & KENSO vs Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): KENSO is another guy that I've come to watch for. He's kinda a heel and uses his belt to choke guys. I like this kind of guy in the 2010's. He's got some moves but, is much more of a character than a world class athlete. I'm kinda tired of guys that are young athletes but, rely upon a gimmick rather than their abilities. They work a parody gimmick but, have no idea how their work matches up to their character. So, they do a bunch moves that their character would/should not do. KENSO is a guy where he's got a charisma about him without being a cartoon character with a 100 moves. Anyways, this match was one long finishing run at 11 minutes. Very exciting rush match. Minoru & Koji are cocky jerks taunting KENSO until he has to smack the taste outta their mouths. At this run time, I highly recommend watching this. Its just very good stuff. Takao Omori & Manabu Soya vs Seiya Sanada & KAI - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): Here's that KAI fella again! Omori & Soya have teamed up here as Wild Hearts. The thing is Sanada & Soya were tag partners just a few months ago. Not sure who wanted the split but, they square off right at the bell. Seiya goes for speed and shocks Soya. KAI's in there and they go for the double team. These two young guns look dynamic as all get out! Oh shit! They are fighting in the stands now. Old man Omori's out there choking Sanada with a child's parasol! Hahahaha! Back on inside the ring and KAI's trying Soya but, come on dude! Manabu is a freaking caveman...and not the Fred Flintstone type either. Omori gets in there and wisely slows things down with KAI. The K man eventually finds an opening to get Seiya, the fire plug, going. Omori's had enough and puts big Soy sauce in there. Hey, deadlift suplex a motherfucker, Soya! This is a real back and forth match. Omori's trying to Axe Guillotine Driver KAI off the top now. Great! erase his head from existence! Just tons of double team destruction but, surprisingly never goes into bonkers territory. Both teams were very impressive. This was a great match. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs SUWAMA & Takumi Soya (11/26/11 AJPW): Strong BJW have the tag belts but, this is a non title fight. It's a RWTL match-up. So here we go- Takumi smartly WRESTLES Okabayashi...fuck...do NOT get into a power battle with him. Daisuke wants SUWAMA. 'WAMA is a beast eating chops for lunch. Takumi gets back in (at some point) and wrestling smartly but, gets sucked into trading hits and early one his chest is a cherry tomato. BJW is stretching him out like a fat lady in a pair of stirrup pants. Quick tags and repeated hard slams only rub it in. Soya is in trouble. Slam, cover, 2 count, kickout, tag, repeat. SUWAMA's waiting... This match was built brilliantly and paid off in a perfect manner. It starts out being like a ***3/4 match then, a great match like a firm ****+ but, damn this just kept getting better and better. So, I'd call this a classic match. I can't give a number or anything like that but, whew! This did it for me! Awesome closer to an awesome night of wrestling. KENSO & Kaz Hiyashi vs KAI & Seiya Sanada (12/03): I wanted to mention that if you get the DVD of this show, it has a really nice recap segement of the highlights and finishes of many (all?) of the RWTL matches that have taken place up to this time. I know as wrestling dorks, we want to see the full matches BUT it is really nice and fun to see some of these things clipped down to the highlights. They make Akebono matches look watchable. Anyhow, I like everyone here but, wouldn't say I would stick around for an 18 minute match of theirs...but, I was wrong. They managed to keep everything fun and exciting. The action was very good and it really was time well spent. KENSO even busted open KAI's chest, giving meaning to the nomenclature- knife edge chops. Very good match Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20 minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me. Some of these reviews appeared really early on in the blog but, I wanted to consolidate everything for convenience and reference sake. The first post or so was more than a year and a half ago and I know when I'm doing research on wrestling recommendations, it really helps to have everything right in one spot. Anyhow, I was damn impressed by the above matches. Three matches I would call classics (in that ****1/2 star range). Don't be mistaken there is some so-so matches that I had to sit through, some I had to skip but, I've spared you the write-ups on those. Manabu Soya is one guy that I think is slept on especially as a tag team wrestler. If you dig Strong BJW then, you need to see them go up against Soya and Omori. As winter approaches, I want to try and start on 2012 AJPW which I think I have much more of. So, that is a little project goal. We'll see though Fingers crossed! Thanks for reading!
  5. Here we are back in 2013 -again! Some kind soul posted these since my 2013 project wrapped up. I stumbled upon them will looking for 2014 stuff. This is some really nice wrestling so let's take a look! Minoru Tanaka, Koji Kanemoto & Hiroshi Yamato vs Atsushi Aoki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kotaro Suzuki (04/29/13) : Thought maybe I saw this but, no! So this was from the 2013 Champion Carnival final night. First things first, kudos to the dude who gave Aoki the double birds right in his field of vision while stomping his opponent. Then kudos to Aoki for getting up in said dudes face Hahaha! That's was hilarious! All that said, this was SICK! The top juniors in the company in one ring, all with beef - this was top shelf stuff. It was so aggressive yet intricate that nothing came off as overly contrived. It just felt like rivals going to battle. It made me realize how much I missed Kotaro and Kanemaru in 2014. Aoki is so much better with Kotaro than Sato and this match is proof (nothing against Sato). But Minoru, Kanemoto and Yamato were just as fantastic here. The feud of Burning juniors vs Stack of Arms/Junior Stars is the best of the year thus far ('22). Its been awhile since I saw the original matches but, this is an amazing reminder. Classic junior 6 man match. Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Hiroshi Yamato - 06/02/2013 - This match is a direct response to the 04/29 match. Great, great 15 minute junior title match. The first 5 minutes are some of best sequences I've seen in awhile. Shit, it might be one long sequence actually. It doesn't really drop off from there too much if at all. Just the unpredictable element of those 5 minutes was top notch. I think as the match continued, I generally knew where they were going. However, they still sprinkled in twists and turns that made this pretty awesome. Kanemaru in 2013 (along with Aoki & Suzuki) is rad. Jun Akiyama and Go Shiozaki vs. Joe Doering and Suwama - 06/02/2013 - 28 minutes of classic tag wrestling. The final few minutes elevated this for me. There were a couple spots that I feel were cutesy or for visual effect rather than what you'd do in the heat of a fight (especially heavyweight wrestling). But I mean that's 2010's and later wrestling, isn't it? I'm nitpicking because it was really exciting & dramatic stuff. Again, the final moments eliminated any reservations that I had. This is a classic bout. It is a tag match-up I wanted to see during my initial coverage of 2013 AJPW and it delivered - sweet! Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki vs Kaz Hayashi and Shuji Kondo - 06/30/2013 - I wanted to like this one and have a proper sendoff for Hayashi & Kondo. It just wasn't happening. You very well may dig this match and it was spectacular and full of cool moves. But that's all it was - a bunch of cool moves. No rhyme or reason and right from the get-go. Its the worst tendency of Kaz & Kondo to just go balls to the wall like early 2000's Indies and we get that here :/ I watched 12 or so minutes and just knew this wasn't going to get better by being longer. Atsushi Aoki and Go Shiozaki vs. Suwama and Takao Omori - 9/19/2013 - In contrast to the above match, they kept it simple, built up the drama & intensity and had a very very good tag match (***3/4+) in front of like 1/4th as many people. A fine way to end this revisit of 2013. I'm not selling how fantastic this is but its pro wrestling done right. All in all this was a very enjoyable mini project. I try not to go back to anything just because I have so many other projects and ideas for the future. However 2013 AJPW is so good and my 2014 project was a tad shorter than I wanted. All of these are currently available to watch on that most popular of video sites. Get em while you can! I highly recommend you do! Speaking of going backwards on projects, I actually found a batch of 2011 AJPW matches on the Gaora YouTube page. I'd like to review those next as well as share the links so you can enjoy them as well - guilt free After that, I think I'm going to watch what little AJ 2015 I have. I might mix that in with some other 2015 stuff perhaps like BJW, Wrestle-1...we'll see. Thanks for reading! Keep staying safe folks!
  6. This final installment of my brief look into AJPW in 2012 takes place on 11/27/12. There's some other stuff on the show but I'm giving you the last 3 matches as those interested me most. Masakatsu Funaki/Masayuki Kono/Minoru Tanaka/Koji Kanemoto -vs- KENSO/Hiroshi Yamato/Kaz Hayashi/Shuji Kondo : A very good 8 man match that I was surprised that I enjoyed as much as I did. The opening was pretty exciting but a good portion was Yamato getting his ass kicked by the very dangerous Stack of Arms team. His comeback and tag out to KENSO was really great! He is a fantastic AJPW-as-Indie star. The finishing section was really good and at 16 minutes this was well paced. A good story, nice action and an impressive ending - this was quite enjoyable. ----- Takao Omori/Manabu Soya -vs- Taiyo Kea/Seiya Sanada- Great Real World Tag match! Hard hitting, excellent grappling, tons of heart and although we don't get a definitive outcome, this was top notch stuff. Everyone was just on the top of their game. ----- Akebono/Ryota Hama -vs- Suwama/Joe Doering - Hama is a big fat guy like Jerry Blackwell who can work. He works best with hard hitters such as SUWAMA & Doering. Akebono is more like Bill Kazmier - a great perhaps legendary athlete from another sport who has the build and aura that would work in wrestling but it just doesn't belong in the ring. That being said, this was a good match especially when Hama was in the ring. Akebono is overpowered or Doering & SUWAMA are nerfed when he's in the ring. The previous match is your real main event. but this has its moments. I can't wait to see Doeing & SUWAMA (Last Revolution) in a real match. 2012 AJ has been pretty good. Daisuke Sekimoto had the two best matches of the year with SUWAMA in singles and tag in March. Since then there has been a smattering of great stuff especially tags. 2013 marks the beginning of the Akiyama era and the exodus of some of the Muto loyalists to form Wrestle-1, RIP. So I'd recommend checking some stuff out from this period. I was pretty brief but tried to pick out quality stuff with no reviews available. So now you've got mine to help guide you a little bit. I'm sure you'll find some more diamonds in the rough. Thanks for reading folks!
  7. Here we are at the end of the road for 2014 AJPW. We're wrapping up with the 11/29 show which I found online. Masanobu Fuchi vs. Naoya Nomura -skipped Takeshi Minamino vs. Yohei Nakajima - Fun indie heel vs babyface match. Just simple stuff but so enjoyable. Keisuke Ishii & SUSHI vs. Enoshima Man & Ultimo Dragon - I started watching this and it was pretty bland. It was just a generic junior tag match with not much spark. I fast forwarded to the last couple minutes and it never seemed to have much more urgency. Its probably OK but I don't feel bad skipping it. Kotaro Suzuki (c) vs. Ryuji Hijikata - Unfortunately not available :-/ Akebono & Yutaka Yoshie vs. Dark Kingdom (KENSO & Mitsuya Nagai) (RWTL Match) - Um this was OK. It wasn't very long. Burning Wild (Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori) vs. Xceed (Go Shiozaki & Kento Miyahara) (RWTL Match) - My main event and watched after the match below. And so glad that I did! This is a classic RWTL match between to great teams. It had a traditional structure and a good work-a-body-part basis for the meat of the match. This wasn't an epic empty the tanks classic but one that was clever, exciting and increasingly dramatic. Something right at the ****1/2 mark. This show needed something of this caliber. Special Tag Team Match - Suwama 10th Anniversary Debut Evolution (Atsushi Aoki & Suwama) vs. Evolution (Hikaru Sato & Joe Doering) - Starts out a little directionless and not fitting for a intra-stable exhibition match (more technical wrestling less brawling). So I had a hard time getting interested. But things really picked up when Aoki made the hot tag to Suwama and it was bombs away for the rest of the match. This could have been great if they put a story to it. In all fairness the story this told was the Evolution stable coming apart at the seams but, that's not the case based on the post match Anniversary celebration. It was a good match but under expectations. I sort of thought that might be the case and watched the Burning Wild vs Xceed match last as my true main event just in case. Overall, this was an OK show. A one match show in terms of recommended stuff. Maybe you'd like the Evolution tag more than I did. It's certainly worth checking out but the Burning Wild vs Xceed tag match is what you want. I wasn't keen just ending it there and found a bonus match from Kobashi's Fortune Dream show (12/10/2014): --- Joe Doering and Shingo Takagi vs. Yuji Hino and Kento Miyahara - 2 AJPW guys and Wada as the referee? Close enough for an AJPW match for me! Do yourself a favor and watch this match! The hardest hitting, smash mouth, He-man match for 2014. Add another awesome match to the 2014 list. This was a classic bout especially if you like Sekimoto/Okabayashi strong style tags (something AJPW was missing in 2014). Loved every minute of this. Not a thinking man's fight but for raw power this was fantastic. A great end to this 2014 project. This is on the 'tube currently. --- 2014 AJPW was pretty good overall. I didn't feel immersed in the storylines or promotion as much as 2013 just because I didn't have as much footage available. I didn't help that one of my DVDs was defective. All that said some of the very best bouts of 2014 are on the 'tube or the "day-to-day movement" video site. These include but aren't limited to: Jun Akiyama vs. Takao Omori (Vacant Triple Crown Title - 06/15/14) Joe Doering (c) vs. Go Shiozaki (10/29/14 -Triple Crown Title) Burning Wild vs Xceed (11/29) Doering/Shingo vs Hino/Miyahara (12/04 Fortune Dream) Doering was kicking ass and is an awesome champ. He really was bringing a special energy and fight that is old school (and lacking from recent wrestling). The comparisons to Stan Hansen are arguable for either side but I appreciate his work as champ. He is the Gaijin monster of old and I like it! P.S.I was able to find some more matches from 2013 (and 2012) that have been posted recently. I found them while looking for 2014 stuff so a nice treat! I'll do a post on those next as an addendum to my 2012-13 projects. After that I might pivot to something else. I had my eye on 2001-2003 Noah matches that have been overlooked. But it's my busy season at work so that may not happen before New Years. Thanks for reading!
  8. Well looks like my sample of AJPW for 2014 is going a bit shorter than expected. My disc for 09/28/14 is defective. I'm going to be perfectly honest, this is why I stopped getting stuff from my "Internet Video Provider." This disc was probably from my last or second to last order when half the stuff was either defective like this or just the wrong show (labeled date matched what I bought but what was on there was different). And here it bites me in the ass a couple years later. If you're interested in ordering I'd recommend going light with your initial order and check every chapter to make sure that it works right when you get it. I'm not angry but disappointed since it was a good show with Miyahara vs Doering and Suwama vs Shiozaki being the highlights. Let's move on & start with a free match online posted by Gaora: Ultimo Dragon & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato (10/22/14) - Junior tag battle and it looks like Aoki has joined the Evolution stable after all. He and Sato are a great team. Ultimo and Kanemaru are vets so really there's no worry here. And don't you know it, this is a great tag fight. I loved the finish. It was something they were working towards and it paid off. You gotta love that! Besides that, there were some really fun holds, interesting double team moves and yeah just a blast to watch. This is free from Gaora on their YouTube page: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8uPX9a7sR54&list=PL9GbOLsWy6qLCD-R4zPkA9lUAtbzj06bm&index=109 Unfortunately it is the only thing from 2014 AJ that they have currently. Elsewhere on the internet: Joe Doering (c) vs. Go Shiozaki (10/29/14 -Triple Crown Title): Well we know who won the big match on 9/28 and get a couple clips from the match. Now the title fight... Best Joe Doering singles match to date. No fucking lie, he ruled in this match! He made Shiozaki fight for every move, strike exchange, high spot etc. This felt like an athletic contest and a brutal one at that. Doering looked like an absolute monster in the ring. Shiozaki played a great underdog but also a star. That was difficult to do but I felt he was inspired by Misawa at times_- rolling out of the ring to prevent a pin attempt, blocking or reversing attacks and using his counter attacks at opportune times. There were nice touches like this that helped build the drama and kept things engaging. Joe Doering provided the pace and tone. He kept this match quick and aggressive. It never felt like they were killing time or working a sequence. Because just when you thought they were going to do something expected, they did something else. Expect the unexpected is a phrase I kept in mind early on and it stayed relevant throughout. Don't anticipate some slick or cute match. Its nasty and a little rough around the edges at times but man! That's part of what makes it worth your time. A classic match and a fight worthy of the Triple Crown title. Woo doggy! That was something! Anyhow, let's get on to my 11/1614 DVD! Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Naoya Nomura - not shown but listed on Cagematch. Dory Funk Jr. & Masanobu Fuchi vs. Osamu Nishimura & SUSHI - skipped Masayuki Mitomi & Ryuji Hijikata vs. Xceed (Kotaro Suzuki & Yohei Nakajima- fka- Menso-re Oyaji) - Oh wow, this was really really good. Ryuji Hijikata vs Kotaro was fantastic. They had some surprising and refreshing sequences together. Those felt either well thought out or entirely spontaneous, if that makes sense. That's to say, they added twists and turns to well worn Junior sequences that came from being in the moment or by making a conscious decision to surprise. Yohei Nakajima & Mitomi were really good as well. They didn't work anything as complex as their partners but it was still quite engaging. This is 13 minutes of very good stuff...reminds me of the 2003 Differ Cup in the best way! RWTL Matches from here on out! Kengo Mashimo & Tank Nagai vs. Dark Kingdom (KENSO & Mitsuya Nagai) - Dark Kingdom explodes as former members Kengo & Tank team up as K-Dojo (home promotion) and battle against the top DK dogs KENSO & Nagai. Heel vs Heel teams in K-Hall - yes, please! This didn't disappoint as it scratched that Indie itch - brawling on the parquet floor, foreign objects, and keep it simple stupid tag wrestling. 15 minutes of great tag wrestling. Tons of good pics with this one too: ----- Akebono & Yutaka Yoshie vs. The Big Guns (The Bodyguard & Zeus) - 10 minutes, good physically taxing match. Two strong men taking on two super heavyweights, its what you want and expected. Xceed (Go Shiozaki & Kento Miyahara) vs. Evolution (Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato) - Great tag match especially when Evolution was facing Shiozaki. Miyahara was OK but, I don't know if he added anything other than being Shiozaki's partner. If we got better selling or in essence a story that involved him, this would have been a classic match. The ending of the match was absolutely fantastic. ----- Burning Wild (Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori) vs. Evolution (Joe Doering & Suwama) - Well my mouth is still hanging open from this match. Under 10 minutes long. They went fast and hard from the get go and you get good stuff but this was WAY too quick in my opinion. 10-12 minutes would have been better with the same result and not been a WCW Nitro paced match in AJ. What I will say is that storyline wise, it fucking works! I'm kinda amped to see more of the Real World Tag stuff... sure I've only got one more installment but, it's a doozy! ----- A tad disappointed with the main event but not truly because it is a teaser and the rest of the show was awesome. I love tag wrestling and this delivered. K-Dojo vs Dark Kingdom was the most fun but Xceed vs Evolution Jrs. was that Great AJPW tag match I was looking for. The best one of the post was Doering vs Shiozaki though. Seek that out! Thanks for reading folks! It means a bunch to me
  9. Not the greatest match between these two but I appreciated how different they worked this in comparison to their usual matchups. Between this and Nishimura/Kawada this card was really quite something impressive. We start off with filler Muto grappling but he also smartly breaks that tradition by nailing Koji with a surprise Shining Wizard for a early advantage when his opponent gets complacent sitting in holds. Koji tries again after recovering and again gets caught out with a surprise mule kick after trying for his leg. Knowing he can't really win on that end he attacks Muto with strikes, which he gets the edge over. The match only really picks up when the two brawl on the outside, with Muto eating a lariat to the back of the head and hitting the turnbuckle post. He blades afterwards; it's pretty gross as he seems to cut a minor artery, meaning he's just pissing blood from here. There's a amazing spot where Koji keeps beating on Muto so badly that he falls on his ass and spits out a faint mist of blood due to how much he has on his face, which popped the crowd good. But yeah, the entire second part of the match is based around Muto's wounds, and how Koji just refuses to let him recover for even a moment; he knows Muto is a tricky bugger, so stays on top consistently. His selling is....not going to fly with everyone but I did like how Muto would do the glassy eye stares and shaky legs; he's fairly good at showcasing just how unsteady the blood/beating has made him. Koji follows up that energy with more heelish antics like closed fists, rubbing his forearm in Muto's face during pins and really working the cut in places to ramp up sympathy. Muto's comebacks were also fairly modified here: he's almost working off muscular instinct in places as he can't really follow up on his typical leg work and almost seems confused afterwards, like he didn't even know what happened. Half of this is because, well, his face is leaking blood at a extremely fast rate, but still. Koji uses stiff headbutts and backdrops to hone in on the cut, as well as a rough piledriver that Muto groans afterwards at. I also loved how primal Muto becomes as his comebacks go from his usual standard leg work to wild strikes that barely hit the mark (he even stumbles over at points trying to fire them off) his selling turns into manic screaming, etc. He almost forgets about his gameplan, just wanting to make Koji suffer like he is, highlighted especially by a spot where he's just endlessly headbutting the shit out of him. Last few minutes becomes more typical from the two as Koji lands lariats while Muto tries to get around them, even pulling out a Frankensteiner that gets reversed into a nasty powerbomb. The finish is fairly controversial as Muto counters a third lariat into a flying knee, Koji powers out of a Wizard at one before eating two more for the conclusive pin. Some could see this as more proof of Koji getting short-changed in AJPW as he couldn't even beat Muto essentially bleeding out and barely conscious, but the pacing of this does make sense: Koji tries ending this early and goes for big bombs for big risks.....those risks costing him the match. This match will also be the catalyst to Kojima's "Loser Revival" gauntlet as he would intentionally start back on the undercard to get his mojo back. Muto is great in these kind of more character-based matches as he gets to show off his selling and snappy comebacks, playing a good underdog throughout. Muto's formula was admittedly getting a bit old at this point so matches like these were VERY much welcomed. If you fancy a more unconventional brawl between these two this'll definitely fit the bill.
  10. This is the one. Tenryu is fucking with Mutoh from the get-go by doing a 52 years old Shining Wizard. Mutoh is butthurt about it, so he manages to hit the same spot outside, pushing the old geezer against the steel barricade, injury his left arm in the process. From there, it's focus on that arm, the kneecap dropkicks' only purpose being to keep Tenryu down, and eventually hit some SW too. There are also callbacks to the moonsault spot, which Mutoh insists on trying despite Tenryu always getting a way out. Good stuff here. And of course, a bunch of punches to the face, stiff chops, Mutoh doing this ridiculous backflip kick... This is everything you'd want from these two and then some as they really play off the first match without the kinda useless overlong legwork sequences, and with better selling too. Maybe not quite MOTYC level, but great match anyway.
  11. Part Two and our first combo entry. We start off with a match found online then we'll go over a full show. As you can tell from the date we're skipping ahead a few months. Jun Akiyama vs. Takao Omori (Vacant Triple Crown Title - 06/15/14) - I guess Akebono had to vacate the title. We get a nice lead in to the match showing the history between Omori and Akiyama. I'm a dork and know it already... it's one of things that makes this period of AJ special. It's as if Akiyama never left and he and Omori would be the old guard. Speaking of drawing on classic AJPW, Akiyama works over Omori's lariat arm like a fiend. At every turn, he's kicking, smashing or wrenching on his opponent's wing. Not only is this weakening the Axe Bomber arm but its forcing Omori to use his other kick based offense, which isn't as strong as it was. A great example is when Omori was going to the top for his knee drop because it is something that can turn the tide but is a big risk. Akiyama forces Takao into this situation then makes him pay for it. Just really awesome work from Akiyama. Omori finds openings but either cannot capitalize or over extends himself when he gets going. This is really smart work from Omori as well. He never sells the arm to where it's stupid if he uses it BUT sells enough to let you know its hurting him when he does. Classic match in my book. Hard fought match, the story is there both long term and within the bout...the story of the match makes sense and feels right. Heck the pre match stuff even helps out! Now onto the DVD of the 07/27/14 show! SUSHI vs. Menso-re Oyaji - Quick indie Junior match. Menso-re Oyaji unmasks and I think is going to wrestle under his real name from here on out. Dory Funk Jr, Osamu Nishimura & Yutaka Yoshie vs. Masanobu Fuchi, Takao Omori & Ultimo Dragon - Only in Fire Pro Returns would this be a good match. I would have been stoked to see Nishimura & Yoshie vs Omori and Ultimo. Hideki Suzuki & Zeus vs. Kengo Mashimo & KENSO - Sweet indie feeling tag match. 12 minutes of action. Everyone brought a little something different to the table but all combined it was so much fun. Really good stuff. Kento Miyahara & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Jun Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru - Very fast paced match with a purpose. Everything looked great here with the focus on Akiyama putting Miyahara in his place. Great under 10 minute match! ----- Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie vs. Mitsuya Nagai & Takeshi Minamino - Nagai & Minamino are part of KENSO's group Dark Kingdom. They are basically the capital 'H' heel group. Irie & Ishii are so baby face that its nigh impossible to hate them. So we get a match you'd expect but it feels really refreshing in an AJ ring. But then again this is AJ-as-Indie promotion if you couldn't tell by now. There's no complaints from me. You get that stuff mixed in with your more traditional AJ stuff with your big names. Gonna sound like a broken record but another really good tag match. ----- Atsushi Aoki vs. Hikaru Sato - Now for something different! Aoki and Sato put on a shoot/Inoki-strong style match for the Junior title. Lots of very good grappling and fighting for holds. I would have loved to see more scrambling on the mat. Maybe why that's why I can't call it a great match. I think if the pace was quicker or more like a real fight then this easily could have been fantastic. Now I still really dug it especially Aoki's work. I think there was a portion where this was going to be a little more pro leaning but once they decided to make it more shoot style, it got really good. Two guys riding the bus to work... ----- Suwama vs. Joe Doering - Evolution main event! This is for the title. You know what you're getting from these two. Smash mouth heavyweight puro and they don't disappoint. What's really cool and makes this a great match is the surprises they include. It's either moves they rarely do or adding twists to their standard arsenal. Plus they hit really hard :-) This is two of the physically largest dudes (outside of Akebono and Yoshie) just beating each other up for 20 minutes. It harkens back to Jumbo vs Tenryu a little bit. The hate isn't there...this is two current stable mates fighting after all. But the slower pace & heavy hits are definitely reminiscent of an earlier style in AJPW history. Another really good show (minus the Dory Funk Six Man) and I'm liking 2014. These shows are a breeze to watch. The variety of characters from top to bottom is refreshing. So little spoiler if you jumped ahead of everything. I'm a little bummed the Vacant title winner (the first match in the post) was just a transitional champion. We'll see how 2014 goes for the winner of the Evolution main event (trying not to spoil). We will see if I agree or disagree with the decision as we go on. Something to look out for... Thanks for reading! I'm going along at a good pace so stay tuned for more of AJPW 2014!
  12. For a year where AJPW was mostly in the pits, this was a surprisingly really good match....and it only needed 15 minutes. Starts with both men feeling each other out on the mat, with Muto eventually able to get a good hold of Kojima's leg and works it for a bit until he smartly reverses it into his own hold; this causes Muto to quickly get to the ropes with him laying down uneasy while Kojima gets right back up in the middle of the ring, super confident. Good starting spot that establishes how Kojima's prior experience with Muto gives him a edge. Both men explode into their signature spots, Muto going for a early Wizard that's blocked, Kojima going for a lariat that's blocked, which ends with both of them troubled by how well the other has defended themselves: Kojima calling Muto a bastard for even daring to sneak a win early is a great spot but it also showcases that Muto's leg-targeting gameplan despite being dominant against nearly everyone else in the Carnival wasn't going to fly here. Kojima is the one instead to work over Muto's legs: he spends a good portion here wearing them down so he can then just blast him away with stiff chops and strikes. Muto in turn opts for Kojima's lariat arm instead, which I thought was a lot more explosive than you'd think: despite the usual key locks and cross armbreakers we also get Muto just wrecking the arm with endless kneeling dropkicks. What I do like is how both guys sell fatigue here: Kojima obviously has his dramatic selling for the arm and whatnot where he's screaming and falling over but Muto has a more subdued style of selling where he's clearly not comfortable and having to pull out big risky moves to even the score before Kojima can run him over again. It's Misawa-lite almost how he doesn't go crazy with the emoting, but you can clearly tell he's hurting. That's the story of the match, and it plays out in the usual formula of the time as the two pursue their respective limbs while also getting in bombs whenever possible. There's a good pace here as both men take turns doing that exact thing while not stretching things out too much. Kojima mounts one final comeback using a Koji Cutter and Michinoku Driver for a 2. 9. He hits a proper Lariat at last but the arm work allows Muto to take the dampened impact just fine and answer with a Wizard. The finish is amazingly innovative as Muto smartly uses a modified Franksteiner to roll into a cross armbreaker mid-lariat attempt, getting the tap out victory. This is easily Muto's best match in the Carnival barring the Tenryu bout: intense, psychologically driven warfare between two guys who have each other's number by this point. The crowd was totally into this one and were massively behind Kojima to take it who played to this well with his babyface selling of Muto's offence; some could say it's a bit too exaggerated at points, but I think Kojima has a charm that allows him to get away with stuff like that. Muto really went into next gear here in getting over Kojima as his most dangerous threat yet as he needed to pull out everything to get over and even then he barely got the win. The shortened pace meant that both men cut the filler for more hard-hitting action, which was definitely the right choice given the conditions. Easy to watch but lots of fun.
  13. Thanks for waiting on me! If you've followed my blog you know I am easily distracted. I have a real good plan that gets interrupted by something that draws my attention elsewhere. I'm not like this with serious matters but it's something I do with my hobbies. The seasons usually play some part. In the summer, I tend to focus (fixate) on skateboarding. Invariably I'll get hurt or its too damn hot to skate and that's when I make time for other stuff like wrestling. In the winter, I just tend to get burnt out on wrestling and other stuff. Anyhow, enough about me. Let's see what we've got! OK first thing, I do not have as much available online as I did for 2013. I've got about a handful of matches as opposed to almost as many full shows online. Also the stuff I bought for 2014 is all over the year. We're starting with February and I think the next DVD I have is in September. So my apologies if you were looking for a more comprehensive overview or even a good summary of the year like I did for 2013. This is going to be a healthy sampling instead. I wish I bought a couple more discs but the quality of the seller wasn't up to my standards anymore. Maybe he got better but I'm not messing with it. Lets start with the first show and any online ones I'll tack on at the beginning or end chronology as we go. Its looking to be a four-parter. 02/08/14 Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Soma Takao - Good all action Junior match to get things started. Soma impressed me and hope I get to see more of him in 2014. I guess he's a DDT guy like many of the non AJ guys here. Keisuke Ishii vs. Atsushi Aoki - Good for what the guys in the ring did but Kenso & Nagai spoil it to cause Aoki to lose the match. More of an angle than a full match. KENSO & Mitsuya Nagai vs. Ryuji Hijikata & SUSHI - Nice music for Nagai & KENSO! But yeah they're the new heel team. I like that. This was a good match and really kicked up a notch when Ryuji Hijikata made the hot tag. Definitely want to see more. Not fully developed since it was meant to get over the new heel team. Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Hikaru Sato - I like both guys well enough but I wasn't feeling it. It was a bit too much of "I'm tough!" - "No I'm tough!" wrestling. I can get behind that. I enjoyed Eddie Kingston vs Ishii from the free part of the recent AEW PPV. This match wasn't compelling though. It was too guys doing this type of thing for 10 minutes trying to build to a submission win. But it wasn't for me :-/ Akebono, Shigehiro Irie & Yutaka Yoshie vs. Go Shiozaki, Kento Miyahara & Kaji Tomato - Perfect use of Akebono. The focus is on he vs Shiozaki for the belt. Akebono is amused by Go and his attitude. This is a very interesting perspective for him instead of the super serious one he takes. It shows depth personality which he normally lacks. All that said, the highlight of the match was Irie & Yoshie vs Kento and Tomato. And that's was very good stuff! Heck it all was very good. It was a nice twist that Go couldn't seem to hold his own against even Akebono's partners,and he needed help. Kaji Tomato was new to me but the dude can work. He showed 100% effort. Very good match, scratching at a great one if I'm being honest. ----- Kotaro Suzuki vs. Ultimo Dragon - Very good junior match! They wisely treated this as a tournament match instead of a title fight or one time dream match. They made a lot of good decisions in what story to tell, when & how to shift momentum and actually incorporated wrestling holds which we haven't seen much of this show. ----- Joe Doering & Suwama vs. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori - Tag belts on the line. This starts out well enough and is going along at a good pace. It's operating in that ***3/4 range but eventually switched into high gear. The attacks became fierce, the defensive actions got more desperate and everything just felt more urgent. I really know they have a classic match in them. As it is I would say this ends up as a near classic ****1/4 bout. ----- Pretty darn good show and a super easy way to get back into the groove of things. I really like the variety that they have now. After the Wrestle One exodus, the company was pretty much Burning stable vs AJPW...no complaints from a quality perspective but its nice having the mix of styles.
  14. Introduction The Movement was started off by Johnny Ace in 1998: more specifically, his betrayal of Kobashi and the end of GET on 23.08.1998. Ace filled Kobashi's absence with mostly mid-card Gaijins: Johnny Smith, Wolf Hawkfield, etc, as well as bringing in Bart Gunn (going by Mike Barton) as a enforcer, namely boosted by his shoot knockdown of Steve Williams in the Brawl 4 All. Now Movement is a somewhat complicated faction to describe; while being built from a heel action (namely Ace attacking his weakened and exhausted partner after eating a loss) the actual motive of Movement was built around the premise of foreign talent being neglected. This is namely seen in the build-up to Ace and Kobashi breaking up wherein Kobashi (who was current Triple Crown Champ at the time) was unable to help out guys like Smith and Hawkfield due to his fatigue and injuries and as a result, they typically ended up taking the fall in their respective matches. Ace seen this as a lack of respect and eventually snapped on him after Kobashi accidently hit him with a lariat when he tried helping out for the finish of the match dated above. Ace did cut a promo a year later that outlined the motives for Movement a bit more clearly. Basically they were the Tweener, heel-ish "we are better than you and we'll keep proving that until you get it" kind of deal. Movement have a number of unique qualities that made me want to tot my thoughts down on them- they are during a time where as stated before, AJPW were cutting back on exhaustive King Road-style matches in favour of smaller more compact deals with bomb throwing, just not to the very long extremes of the early 90's. Movement were as such almost built to enforce that: their matches aren't as spotty as examples you might know better and they hone in on momentum-switching and extended slow heat segments. Not only that, but Movement has a unique dynamic in that the Barton/Ace duo are built in such a way where Barton is a clear inferior in a lot of his matches, needing Ace to come in a ton to support and keep him in control. Movement also master the function of isolating out people in tag matches as a lot of their examples generally have them hone in on one person for most of the match with occasional hot tags and switches not included. All of those factors combined make for a uniquely different experience of the AJPW tag-format, which it did admittedly need at the time given the wear and tear of the main players. I'm going to bring up a few highlights of the Movement in terms of matches that I feel like are best suited for first-time watchers. Akira Taue & Tamon Honda vs. Johnny Ace & Kenta Kobashi (Summer Action Series II 23.08.1998) Ok, so I'm clearly cheating here with this first one but it's kinda necessary to get the background of how Movement is set-up in the first place. Taue is hunting for Kobashi whom at this point was falling apart; the storyline itself brings that up as Akiyama tore his legs to shreds in their last defence and he still hasn't recovered, so Taue here just destroys him mostly with big throws, strikes, and even getting getting stuff on the exposed mat outside. Ace tries to help when he can but clearly isn't happy with how he's having to pick up all the slack. Naturally this ends with the two miscommunicating, leading to Honda and Taue to bomb the shit out of Kobashi until he's down for the pin. Ace post-match beats him up further and that's basically that. This was about 7 minutes clipped if I recall but it is a drama-filled match even left over, with solid performances from Taue and co as they just pick apart the rapidly declining GET until it shatters. Movement (Ace/Barton) W/ Maunakea Mossman vs. Jun Akiyama, Kenta Kobashi & Kentaro Shiga (Real World Tag League 14.11.1998) The debut of Barton in AJPW is a pretty decent showing, actually. Ace annoys Kobashi by doing nasty stiff chops in front of the man to piss him off in particular. Ace also has a really awesome fast paced exchange with Kobashi as they pull tons out of their playbook to fight the other, exchanging boots and kicks, chops and slaps, elbows and shoulder charges, etc. This match establishes that Ace isn't as strong as Kobashi but he's experienced enough to get around most of his offence, namely because he knows all by heart. Ace is great at really being a bully as he works over Akiyama and co with some painful looking holds and shuts down momentum whenever it pops up. Movement get over their signature double team bombs (namely the side slam/standing leg drop and military press into Ace Crusher) here as they manage to smartly isolate out Burning so that they can beat down Shiga into a easy pin for Barton after some surprisingly half-decent bombs from his part. This match establishes how Movement function mostly in that Ace mostly gets the lead with surprise Ace Crushers out of nowhere while Barton wears them down with his strikes and suplexes. They only use the bombs for big near falls and generally don't tend to spam them out. There's some nothing limb work in here involving Akiyama's torso but I think that's covered well by some solid selling by Akiyama, and even Shiga gets the chance to not completely suck here as Barton and co bump around for him. A pretty much perfect introduction to Movement-style tags. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa (Real World Tag League 21.11.1998) Misawa and Ogawa are the "better" tag team when it comes to pretty much throwing out offence, but Movement are able to get on top of this via their interference antics: Barton in particular despite getting bullied and beaten up by Misawa can't get pinned due to Ace consistently running in to disrupt the flow. Even Misawa can't take this for too long and ends up tiring, allowing the duo to slip in sneaky offence to balance the books. Eventually Misawa is just ganged up on consistently until he has to eat the pin. Ogawa is...fine here, nothing really special. He mostly just plays the backup guy and that's fine. Misawa actually bothers here and as a result Ace milks every interaction between them for everything he can, resulting in enjoyable exchanges. Barton plays the enforcer mostly here and sticks to his usual suplexes and punches, which while good enough as a gimmick don't really add up to much, especially given he's mostly playing the weaker link that Ace has to prop up with his antics. If you wanna see Movement have a conventionally AJPW-house style match with the Ace done fairly well, check this out. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (Real World Tag League 27.11.1998) Movement just completely neutralise Taue and Kawada's dynamic here and it's fantastic shit to watch. Kawada, who typically softens up opponents for Taue to run over is instead consistently interrupted: I love how Ace consistently gets in shit to keep Kawada from doing any offence to Gunn while Gunn keeps to this and makes sure to hand him over to Ace on the outside whenever necessary. It's just effective tag team psychology and Kawada sells all of it amazingly, with his frumpy flat back bumps after elbow strikes and being so hurt that he can't even run for a Irish Whip, stopping in the middle. Ace even lands a Ace Crusher to a prone chair, which was a silly but cool spot to see. Taue, generally able to rest up for big hot tags is forced to run in multiple times to stop pins, meaning Movement just stick to him like butter for offence and wear him down as well whenever possible. Of course, the Demon Army are able to work through this despite some desperation selling (with Taue even crawling to save Kawada from a pin in a spot incredibly reminiscent of their famous 09.06.1995 match with Kobashi/Misawa) and both teams eventually build really well to a ending stretch, with Ace and Kawada in particular just getting into it with wild spots and sequences with the crowd right in their hands with every near fall. Movement did have a smart plan coming in, but plans tend to fall apart when kicked in the face; this match is more or less proof of that. It's also pretty damn solid as well. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi (Real World Tag League 04.12.1998) Against Burning we just get a ton of really enjoyable spots where Ace and Barton are just taking the piss with Kobashi and subsequently pissing him off with everything they are doing. There's some astonishing heat here as explained above but it's done so cleverly throughout: Ace and Kobashi have stiff and nasty sequences between them but Ace noticeably has to use Gunn as reinforcement to sustain any lasting advantage, and they get a early lead with a Ace Crusher/military press bomb in on Kobashi. Akiyama spends most of this feeding the duo solo, leading them to just ground him down with some brawling and outside spots: namely a Snake Eyes on the guardrail and a follow-up Ace Crusher over it to damage his throat. Ace particularly is top notch here with his heel shit, little things like him painfully cranking the neck in a abdominal stretch by forcing Akiyama's neck down further or beating Akiyama down with forearm blows until he needs to be forced away, using GET's old back suplex/Ace Crusher combo on Kobashi himself.....just great work in general. There's a great spot where Akiyama gets stuck in a delayed suplex by Gunn right in front of Kobashi and he just has to stand there and watch, getting progressively more annoyed the longer it goes until he explodes on the apron. Honestly, it's simple stuff but it's super solid mind games by the pair to tick off Burning's lead player, which pays off when he tries to beat down Gunn excessively and overextends allowing them to get their extra shots in. This has a good flow to it and never feels slow despite it being one of the longer matches here as Burning's comebacks and hot tags are kept to a minimum and the crowd really stay on top of this from start to end, namely because of how Movement can keep this fresh without the need for a million near falls. Of course we get the usual Kobashi-isms and whatnot alongside the expected structures, but I think the natural heat and easy to follow format gives a ton of credence to how Movement could change that kind of style for the better here. A lot of fun and probably the best match Movement ever had. Their second match together next year is worth a watch as well. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. New Triangle of Power (Masahito Kakihara & Yoshihiro Takayama) (New Year Giant Series 02.01.1999) I picked this one out in particular because it has a really unique format and structure. The UWF Triangle team turn this into a shoot-style exhibition for the first half, with Barton having to essentially just scrap it out to survive against the two. The crowd gets into this somewhat......and then Ace runs in to land cheap shots and a backdrop lol. He basically just plays the role of the spoiler here, focusing on outside attacks and the usage of chairs whenever Kakihara and co get too much of a lead. His antics aren't overused but just last long enough for the audience to get real sick of his nonsense, and they cheer massively when he gets demolished by Takayama's knees. Ultimately this is paced around Barton's trial by fire as he has to mostly contend for himself in the ring against two killers, which I think despite being the obvious weak link of the duo, he's actually not half-bad at all and manages to showcase some surprisingly good stuff on top of that when push comes to shove. This definitely isn't a big classic but for versatility-sake I do feel like Movement showcase a more subdued style that's less about the big shots and more about just slowly peeling back their opponents with isolation and plenty of shenanigans, making this a entertaining romp. Movement (Ace/Barton vs. Jun Akiyama & Maunakea Mossman (Champion Carnival 15.04.2000) Akiyama has been shoved out of Burning after his angry antics, so we get a more aggressive version of him here alongside Mossman against Movement in a nice burst of action. Both teams really just feel like they don't like each other as Akiyama and co destroy Barton's leg with some nasty limb work (in particular them sticking it in the guardrail and dropkicking it, which was just brutal). Ace is the key player here: he's experienced enough to get around the younger guys with his Ace Crusher counters and vicious strikes to stay in the game. Movement mostly on the defensive here as Akiyama and co bomb them well and keep control with said leg work paying off later on when Barton tries getting Ace out of stuff. Things tend to slow a bit during the middle half but this being about 15 minutes long means it's a breeze to go through and keeps up the counter-heavy antics all the way to the end to add a ton of unpredictability. There's definitely a feel of management trying to push Mossman/Kea over more at this point, which depending on your tendencies may rub you the wrong way given he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire at this point. It's a lean package, but shows that Movement could have solid bouts without needing extended heat segments to do so, which can be seen as a misconception of what I've shown so far. Extra matches you may want to watch if you liked these: Vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (Super Power Series 09.06.2000) Vs. Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama (Summer Action Series 23.07.1999) W/ Wolf Hawkfield vs. Takao Omori, Takeshi Morishima & Yoshihiro Takayama (Real World Tag League 03.12.1999) W/ Road Warriors vs. Hakushi, Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi (AJPW Giant Baba Memorial Show 02.05.1999) Conclusion All in all, Movement were a pretty impressive addition to the AJPW tag scene, having numerous solid to great showings in the space of about two years despite the fact that AJPW TV time was massively waning so they had a lot less footage to work off than in earlier times. I think the fact that Barton was always the weak link in these matches makes Ace's performances that much stronger given how much he was juggling, but it never feels disorganised or "off" in any measurable way like he's openly carrying him. I would say that Movement (and by extension Ace's work) isn't going to be to everyone's tastes, but I would implore those that only know the more traditionally known Pillars matches to check these selected ones out and how they are able to work with different facets of their style. Surprisingly very good results despite the styles clash.
  15. Rusher Kimura (ラッシャー木村) [KinchStalker Deluxe Profile #1] Real name: Masao Kimura (木村政雄) Professional names: Masao Kimura, Masami Kimura, Rusher Kimura, Great Kimura, Mr. Sun, Mr. Toyo, Professor Kimura Life: 6/30/1941-5/24/2010 Born: Nakagawa, Hokkaido, Japan Career: 1965-2003 Height/Weight: 185cm/125kg (6’1”/275 lbs.) Signature moves: bulldogging headlock, lariat, headbutt, butterfly suplex Promotions: Japan Wrestling Association, Tokyo Pro Wrestling, International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro Wrestling, UWF, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH Titles: “European Tag Team” [IWE] (2x, w/Great Kusatsu), TWWA World Tag Team [IWE] (1x, w/Thunder Sugiyama), IWA World Tag Team [IWE] (2x; 1 w/Thunder Sugiyama, 1 w/Great Kusatsu), IWA World Heavyweight [IWE] (5x), NWA Americas Tag Team [NWA Hollywood] (1x, w/Ryuma Go) Tournament victories: IWA World Series [IWE] (1973, 1977), Japan League [IWE] (1978) Summary: As the demon of the cage, Rusher Kimura became the heart of the IWE and eventually its ace. As the demon of the microphone, he became one of puroresu’s most famous promo-cutters and comedic performers. PART ONE: RUSHER RISING (1941-1973) “During his junior high school days, Kimura was a great hitter, batting fourth in the lineup. Even as a wrestler, he continued to go to Korakuen Garden, and he was a regular spectator at local baseball games (on the banks of the Arakawa River in 1962).” The youngest of four children, Masao Kimura played baseball at Saku Junior High when Rikidozan started puroresu’s first boom, and he admired the star wrestler. He would go on to Hokkaido Tenshio High School, but dropped out to enter sumo. As he told the story, his older brother loved the sport, and the two went to an open practice session by the Miyagino stable, newly revived under retired yokozuna turned coach Yoshibayama. Yoshibayama told Masao that he had a good body, and after he was treated to some chanko, he “couldn’t refuse”. Kimura debuted for Miyagino in the March 1958 tournament. Under various shikona (he had settled on Kinomura by late 1962), Kimura competed for six years and reached the top twenty in the makushita division. Over Yoshibayama’s protests, Kimura retired after the September 1964 tournament. His goal had been to condition himself for pro wrestling, and as he saw it, if he made it to juryo he would never get out of sumo. Kimura sits with fellow Hokkaido native Shinya Koshika and stirs a pot of chanko during his time with the JWA. Kimura joined the JWA that October. Assigned as Toyonobori’s valet, he debuted at a Riki Sports Palace show the following April with a match against Sankichi Takasakiyama (Motoyuki Kitazawa/Shoji Kai). In his early career he performed under the ring name Masami Kimura (木村政美), almost certainly a Toyonobori invention. He wrestled for the JWA for ten months until he was swept up in his senior’s plans. Kimura was gathered alongside Tadaharu Tanaka and Masanori Saito in February to begin a training camp, and his expulsion from the JWA was announced the following month. Kimura spars with Antonio Inoki during their Tokyo Pro tenures. Issue #38 (2016) of the Showa Puroresu fanzine claims that Kimura’s “huge physique and natural ability” made him a wrestler to watch during Tokyo Pro’s brief life. However, despite swiping Antonio Inoki in the Plunder on the Pacific Ocean, and starting strong with a well-attended show at the Kuramae Kokugikan, the organization shambled through its first tour. This was due to JWA aggression, failure to secure television network support, and of course, the rampant embezzlement of the man who had started the company. It all came to a head in the Itabashi Incident, when an outdoor show was canceled and the spectators set the ring aflame in protest. After the tour ended in December, Kimura joined Inoki when he created a new Tokyo Pro separate from Toyonobori and Tanaka, and he was among the Tokyo Pro wrestlers who participated in the International Wrestling Enterprise’s first tour in January 1967. As Tokyo Pro completely fell apart, Inoki took his two valets Kitazawa and Haruka Eigen back with him to the JWA. Kimura began living in an apartment with Saito and Tokyo Pro recruit Katsuhisa Shibata and the three awaited a call from the JWA, while declining an offer from the IWE. While Shibata would get to join in early 1968, Kimura and Saito eventually accepted that they had burned their bridge with the company, and the two planned to begin wrestling as a tag team in San Francisco. When Kokusai came with another offer, Saito declined again, but Kimura accepted it. (As a result, Mr. Moto would book Saito to wrestle as Kinji Shibuya’s tag partner.) Kimura debuted in January 1968, during the IWE’s brief takeover by network Tokyo Broadcasting System and rebranding as TBS Pro Wrestling. Kimura’s most famous match from this year came in April, when he was Billy Robinson’s opponent for his Japanese debut, and he took Robinson’s butterfly suplex to lose the match. He suffered an early setback the following month when Billy Joyce injured his shoulder in a singles match. Kimura had originally been selected as the IWE’s first wrestler to go on excursion to England, but his injury led Shozo Kobayashi to be sent in his stead that autumn. He also missed out on the Hong Kong “market research” tour that summer, though he returned as an undercard referee in August. Kimura would get back in the groove for the last two tours of the year, and at the start of 1969, he received the ring name Rusher; this was the result of a fan contest, which had seen other candidates such as Strong, Yamato, Typhoon, and King. Kimura and Kusatsu celebrate with the European Tag Team titles on February 8, 1969. In the Big Winter Series’ tour program, TBS producer Tadadai Mori stated that Kimura and the now-renamed Strong Kobayashi would join Great Kusatsu, Thunder Sugiyama, and Toyonobori that year in the “establishment of five aces”. Sure enough, that year saw Kimura built up with tag title reigns alongside two of the three aces the company had established in 1968. With Kusatsu, Kimura won the European Tag Team titles from Andre Bollet & Robert Gastel in February. Then, in April, he and Sugiyama defeated Stan Stasiak & Tank Morgan to win the TWWA World Tag Team titles that Sugiyama and Toyonobori had just vacated, in a match significant for being puroresu’s first hair match. This led Kimura to receive his first IWA World Heavyweight title shot against Billy Robinson on May 5. [Note: this match is currently missing from Cagematch records, but it happened.] As the TWWA tag titles were vacated in August to make room for the IWA World Tag Team titles, Kimura may have been originally intended to win them alongside Kobayashi in France. It would be logical that he would get the opportunity, and Yoshiwara and Mori had even suggested in the Osaka sports tabloid Weekly Fight Magazine that Kimura would be sent to Europe. Alas, Toyonobori was sent in his stead, and it would be two years before Kimura felt that belt around his waist. Kimura would get his first excursion, though which lasted from August 1969 through August 1970. He first worked in the NWA Central States territory under his own name, growing a mustache and donning a mawashi to work as a Japanese heel while being coached by Pat O’Connor. In his St. Louis appearances, he was Kinji Kimura; in Georgia Championship Wrestling, he was Professor Kimura; and in the AWA and its Nebraska-based affiliate All Star Wrestling, he was The Great Kimura. During his excursion, he would team up with future rival Killer Tor Kamata, and also donned a mask to team with Chati Yokouchi as the Masked Invaders. Kimura was successful enough in Central States to receive three NWA World Heavyweight title matches against Dory Funk Jr., and as Dave Meltzer would write, “many stated [that] he owed a lot to Bob Geigel” for the press coverage which these matches got in Japan. It was on this first tour back that he found his niche in the company. By this point, Kokusai’s television ratings stagnated around the 15% mark, and this tour had been damaged by JWA sabotage. Back in May, the company had held the You Are The Promoter poll to scout interest in wrestlers which had not yet worked in Japan. At the top of the list was Spiros Arion, and the IWE had booked him to challenge IWA World Heavyweight champion Sugiyama, but Arion had been incentivized to cancel this booking and claimed a shellfish allergy. With Toyonobori retired and Kobayashi away on his second excursion, Kimura needed to establish himself as a top draw to help his company. In what one source states was his own request, Kokusai pulled a stunt that would come to define their legacy. Kimura’s return match was a victory against a faux Blue Demon played by Les Wolff (Demon had placed fourth in the poll). He won the match using a distinctive submission technique, the “rotating foot” figure-four leglock. According to the Showa Puroresu zine, he only used it three times and it was supposedly not well-received. However, an uncited passage on the Japanese Wikipedia page for the figure-four leglock, which calls Kimura’s variation the “back foot” figure-four, states that this technique has since been used by the likes of Kendo Kashin and Yutaka Yoshie. It suggests a type of wrestler far from that which Rusher was about to become. On this tour, Rusher entered a bloody feud with Dr. Death; under the red hood, this was Moose Morowski, who became one of 70s AJPW’s most reliable midcard foreigners. On August 25, After Sugiyama’s successful IWA world title defense against Rene (billed as Jack de) Lasartesse, Dr. Death assaulted Sugiyama and Isao Yoshiwara, and Kimura stormed the ring in plain clothes to defend them. On October 8, 1970, the two were booked to hash it out in puroresu’s first kanāmi (wire mesh) deathmatch: that is, a cage match. The IWE’s first attempt was amateur hour, as they had forgotten to make an entrance and the wrestlers were forced to hold the walls in place themselves. Nevertheless, Rusher defeated Dr. Death by knockout in seventeen minutes, and the match was broadcast in color six days later. The match was controversial among the press, as Professional Wrestling & Boxing magazine refused to publish photographs, and the sports papers dismissed it as “a dogfight”. The public response was more damaging, as they sent a flood of complaints. It would be the only cage match to see television broadcast during the company’s TBS years, and their ratings also began to drop below fifteen percent. However, this would not discourage them from continuing to use the gimmick. Over the next eleven years, Kimura’s success in the stipulation earned himself the nickname kanāmi no oni (“wire mesh demon”). Alongside Kusatsu, Kimura also won a match for the vacant European tag titles. For the 1970 Big Winter Series, a second wire mesh deathmatch was booked for the last show of the year, using the TBS ban as a promotional tactic. It worked, and in the only time in its history, the IWE sold out Tokyo’s 5,000-seat Taito Ward Gymnasium on December 12. Rusher’s second opponent in the stipulation was the returning Ox Baker, who now sported his signature facial hair. Unfortunately, their December 9 match would have a significant effect on Kimura’s career. When future Blackjack Bob Windham tossed a chair into the cage, Baker took all the liberties, as contemporary coverage claimed that he had struck Kimura’s right leg some twenty times. Kimura won the match with a sleeper hold but was unable to walk. He would be hospitalized immediately and diagnosed with three complex fractures along his right tibia. The prognosis stated that Rusher would need six weeks of treatment and would have to wait ten weeks before he could exercise again. Alas, circumstances outside his control would compromise that, and as soon as after Christmas, Kimura would sneak out of the hospital for drinks with Animal Hamaguchi. The IWE managed the first tour of the year without him, but the smaller AWA Big Fight Series suffered sabotage when the JWA bumped their Kuramae Kokugikan show up one day to go head-to-head with Kokusai’s Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium event. This would be the first box office war in puroresu since the first Battle of the Sumida River in 1968. (What’s more, the JWA show saw Baba & Inoki defend their tag titles against Spiros Arion & Mil Mascaras: the top two of the IWE’s own You Are The Promoter fan poll.) Isao Yoshiwara needed as much native talent as possible, and even flew to West Germany to bring Mighty Inoue back from his excursion. Even he did not dare ask Kimura to try to speed up his recovery, but Rusher felt deeply obligated to Yoshiwara for having given his career a second wind after Tokyo Pro’s demise. As the story goes, he resolved to work the Tokyo show even if it killed him, and Yoshiwara wasn’t in a position to not acquiesce. Kimura was booked to wrestle the ‘?’, a masked Angelo Poffo, in the wire mesh. The circumstances robbed the match of the buildup heat the other two had had, and photographs of Rusher wrestling in a knee-high cast tell it all. He won, of course, but he could not use much of his signature repertoire and was again unable to walk afterwards. His fellow wrestlers had to open the cage to carry him out on a tatami mat. As the show drew a paltry three thousand, it hadn’t been worth it. Kimura resolved to work the 3rd IWA World Series tour afterwards, but two of his bones became dislocated. After this, he developed a posture which leaned to his left side to reduce strain on his right knee, an imbalance that would bring years of back pain and likely contributed to spinal stenosis. Outside of his wire mesh proclivities, Kimura fought for the IWA World Tag Team titles in the second half of 1971. With Great Kusatsu abroad on his second excursion, Rusher teamed up with previous co-champion Sugiyama. The two lost a match for the vacant belts against Red Bastien & Bill Howard on September 7, 1971, but they won them in a rematch at the end of the tour to begin an eight-month reign. In 1972, Kokusai’s dependence on the wire mesh deathmatch for ticket sales became clear. Rusher went over Kenny Jay in the cage on the first show of the year, which led even Monthly Gong, which had been the one part of the wrestling media to cover the stipulation evenhandedly, to remark in a photo caption that they wished that the IWE would exercise restraint in the future. They wouldn’t. That May, Kimura & Sugiyama vacated their titles after a final successful defense, as Sugiyama transitioned into a part-timer to focus on his business pursuits. On September 9, Rusher defeated Buddy Austin in the cage for his sendoff show before a second excursion. Left: Kimura sits with Kiyomigawa in France. Right: Kimura with Hiroshi, a young fan who had moved to France with his mother. Rusher became his stepfather. This saw Kimura work in France for Etienne Siry, and in Germany for Edmund Schober. The fragmentary records of European wrestling in this era make it difficult to paint a full picture of Kimura or indeed any Japanese wrestler’s excursion, but this period was of the greatest personal significance to the man. For it was in France that he found love. Rusher met Junko, a mother of two boys, at a “Japanese bar [...] near the Arc de Triomphe” called Étoile. Junko couldn’t drink, but she frequented the bar to speak Japanese. As it turned out, Junko and her two children had lived in Japan just a couple years earlier. While neither his mother nor older brother were wrestling fans, younger son Hiroshi was, and he instantly recognized Rusher when he walked out of the Étoile bathroom. Rusher would return to Japan alone in April 1973, but that July, Junko moved back home. Kimura returned to Japan in time for the 1973 Dynamite Series. It was at this time that he added a butterfly suplex, which broadcasters would dub the Rusher suplex, to his repertoire. This tour saw him defeat Ric Flair in the latter’s Japanese debut. Behind the scenes, Isamu Sakae became his valet. Kimura became very close to the future Snake Amami, who Hiroshi later called the best person he ever met in the business. Rusher returned to a company which had become so dependent on the gimmick he had brought to them that it had directly damaged them. The unavailability of some venues forced Kokusai to book kanami deathmatches on taping dates, and this had led TBS to permanently slash the program to thirty minutes. With Sugiyama permanently transferred to AJPW, Kimura teamed up with Kusatsu on his return tour to challenge Mad Dog Vachon & Ivan Koloff for the IWA tag titles. Their first attempt on April 30 was unsuccessful, but they prevailed in a May 14 rematch. The duo would hold the belts for nearly two years. Meanwhile, Kimura made history that summer. On June 21, the IWE announced that he would receive an IWA World Heavyweight title shot on July 9. After Kobayashi retained against Dick Murdoch on June 29, this meant that Kokusai would hold puroresu’s first top title match between native wrestlers in eighteen years. Supposedly, this was Kokusai’s response to Antonio Inoki’s calls for a unified Japanese commission to decide the nation’s true champion. The Rusher Suplex won the first fall, but Kobayashi would prevail to continue what would be a 25-defense reign. Unfortunately, the Osaka show drew an announced 4,500, a dismal number compared to the 7,950 that New Japan had drawn the previous month with the first Inoki-Tiger Jeet Singh match. In autumn, Kimura entered the 5th IWA World Series tournament. (The previous year, the IWE had announced that future iterations of the tournament would be held in the fall instead of spring so as not to have to compete with the JWA’s World League.) He was put in the A block, with fellow natives Kobayashi, Isamu Teranishi, and Tadaharu Tanaka, and gaikokujin Lars Anderson, Moose Cholak, Bob Bruggers, and Flicky Alberts. The ace Kobayashi was the favorite to win the block and the tournament, but after Kobayashi defended his world title against Verne Gagne twice, his massive upset loss to Teranishi made Kimura the native with enough points to advance to the four-man semifinal round. At what in kayfabe was his opponent’s request, the cage was set up for Kimura and Anderson’s block match on September 27. Lars disassembled the ropes and busted Rusher open with the metal fittings, but Kimura choked Anderson with the ropes before hitting his signature suplex for the knockout victory. Kimura and Bruggers advanced to the semifinals, where Rusher prevailed in the cage. On October 10, Kimura defeated Blackjack Mulligan in a bloody brawl to win the tournament. Kimura stretches out Blackjack Mulligan in the 1973 IWA World Series final. In late 1973, Kimura’s 29-win streak in the kanami deathmatch was broken when he and Ole Anderson, avenging his kayfabe brother, went to a double knockout finish. Rusher got his heat back against Ole with a win in the cage one week later.
  16. This is Kawada, the last remaining AJ faithfull against Zero-1 dickhead Ohtani, who really never has proved himself at that level in single competition. So at first, he really can't hang with Kawada, which is the story. When he does that boot in the face deal in the corner, my thoughts were "Hum... Kawada ain't gonna like that." Yep. Kawada gets up and slaps the shit out of Ohtani. Basically, every time Ohtani was too much of an irrespectful dickhead, Kawada would get up, walk right in his face and kick the shit out of him. Ohtani's strategy is to go after a knee, with quick dropkicks and kneebars. He also no-sells regularly Kawada's jumping kicks to the back of the head, which can be seen as annoying, but more on that later. Kawada doesn't forget to sell his knee while he goes back on offense. Some nice double boots to the face and backdrops back and forth. Ohtani basically has to go back to the knee to get an advantage up to the point they are trading bombs and Ohtani insists on not-selling those kicks to the back of the head. What a dick. At some point though, Kawada's offense gets too heavy. And while he tries to show off as the dick he is and keeps on no-selling those kicks, he finally ends up taking one too many and gets pinned after.... a kick to the back of the head. That's poetic justice. Excellent, bordering great match for Kawada's last Triple Crown win.
  17. I got interested in the Atsushi Aoki & Kotaro Suzuki team from watching 2013 All Japan. Their bouts against Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka are some of the best this year. So I was curious what they were doing in NOAH a year before they jumped to AJPW. Let's take a look! Suzuki & Aoki vs Nakajima & Kajiwara - (NOAH 01/15/12) - Story here is Aoki is gunning for Nakajima's Jr. Title. Man do we get that. Aoki is like Kawada or KENTA by going after Nakajima every chance he gets. He even leaves his lesser opponent Kajiwara (new to me) in the ring in order to injure Nakajima's leg. Suzuki plays the supportive partner by keeping the attack on or defending. Aoki and Nakajima's work makes me want to watch their title fight. Very good match. vs Ricky Marvin & Super Crazy (03/18/12): This was fun with lots of cool moves but was excessive. And I'm not sure it told much of a story. I think if it was 15 minutes, you could get away with that and I'd say it was a great fireworks match. Just too many fireworks from start to finish with no build up or downtime. vs Marvin & Sabre Jr - (NOAH 04/22/12) - Very good small show match. Slow or perhaps insignificant first part but then we get the pairings of Aoki vs ZSJ and Marvin & Suzuki and it gets cooking. vs Marvin & Ishimori - (NOAH 04/29/12) - Basically the closing 5-7 minutes of a match presented as the whole thing. Sequence after sequence especially by Marvin & Ishimori. Kotaro gets annihilated! Pretty cool but not quite a full match as its more of a sprint. Fun though! Shiozaki, Suzuki & Aoki vs Otani, Hidaka & Hashimoto - (NOAH 05/09/12) - OMG, I loved this match. Korakuen hall 6 man tag magic here with every pairing offering something interesting or outright exciting. The big story is young Hashimoto being able to hang in there with Noah top dogs especially Shiozaki. Otani keeping Go in check was enjoyable as all hell since Shinjiro looks like someone's buff dad. I think what made this great beyond the actual talent was the pacing. It was around 20 minutes and built up steam little by little until at the end, the excitement was at a fever pitch. Never did they over do it or go down a road narrative wise only to abandon it. In fact the story finished what it began with twists and turns along the way. I think this was a classic 6 man tag. vs Naomichi Marufuji & Taiji Ishimori (05/13/12): Great match but not without its faults. The hyper pace is so untenable and renders so many cool moments forgettable. They never let anything sink in. And that can work if you have a shorter match of like 10-15 minutes but they went double that. It's too much. Still there were so many cool moments that I guess they accumulated into something special. vs Marvin & Super Crazy - (07/22/12: THIS is the definitive version of this match-up! Under 20 minutes, all fireworks still but the slimmed down version of their March match. They wrestled it as Aoki vs Crazy in the first half and then Marvin vs Kotaro in the second. Of course there were double teams and break -ups but the legal guys really broke down like that. I respect their decision to do this. It made for a much better match. A fitting end and on a high note. Great fireworks match!. This mini project has been OK. It at least reaffirmed my lukewarm interest in later day NOAH. But there are some diamonds in the rough - shorter matches are better is a good rule though. There is a lot of what I don't like about contemporary wrestling here as well (and this was 10 years ago!). Aoki & Suzuki's work in 2013 AJPW is so much more substantive than many of the fireworks displays here. The 6 man match above was the highlight without a doubt though! That was a under the radar awesome match and very similar to the stuff I loved in AJ '13.
  18. Isamu Teranishi (寺西勇) Real name: Hitoshi Teranishi (寺西等) Professional names: Isamu Teranishi Life: 1/30/1946- Born: Irumizu, Toyama, Japan Career: 1966-1997 Height/Weight: 175cm/100kg (5'9"/220 lbs.) Signature moves: bridging German suplex Promotions: Tokyo Pro Wrestling (Toyonobori), International Wrestling Enterprise, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling Titles: IWA World Mid-Heavyweight [IWE] (2x), All Asia Tag Team [AJPW] (2x, 1x w/Animal Hamaguchi, 1x w/Norio Honaga) Summary: The IWE's “Japanese mat magician”. the agile, technical Isamu Teranishi was one of pre-Fujinami puroresu's most influential junior heavyweights. Hitoshi Teranishi entered the Tatsunami sumo stable and debuted in May 1963. He spent three years with them before retiring in 1966. He was one of six ex-sumo wrestlers to join Toyonobori’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling in time for its first training camp, alongside: fellow Tatsunami alumni Takeji Suruzaki and Haruka Eigen; former Nishonoseki wrestler Tsuyoshi Sendai; and former Asahiyama wrestlers Katsuhisa Shibata and Hiroshi Nakagawa. Even considering the profession, Teranishi’s early path was assuredly filled with hardship. His trainer, Tadaharu Tanaka, had misappropriated the funds allocated for their training camp. These men were broken in on a beach, as there was no money to build a ring, and according to Eigen, they made less money than civil servants and were not even fed rice. While Nakagawa would leave the company after its shambling tour of late 1966, the other five joined Antonio Inoki that December when he created a parallel Tokyo Pro Wrestling company and transferred the whole roster except Toyonobori and Tanaka to it. Teranishi worked on the Tokyo Pro-IWE joint tour of January 1967 and would join the latter after Tokyo Pro’s collapse. Teranishi defied his sumo background through an agile, dropkick-throwing style. He was the first Japanese wrestler to perform a spot which has now become commonplace among junior heavyweights, in which one lands on their feet after a back body drop to turn around and counterattack; Teranishi borrowed it from Tony Charles. While he would receive some training from Billy Robinson, he was never chosen for an overseas excursion, and never worked outside Japan save for in Southeast Asia. Teranishi’s early years are most remembered now for his rivalry with Mighty Inoue, who was highly influenced by him. His earliest surviving match, though, is a six-man tag alongside Rusher Kimura & Thunder Sugiyama in 1972, against a foreign team led by Andre the Giant. Left: Teranishi in the late 1970s. In October 1973, during the 5th IWA World Series tournament, Teranishi scored a massive upset against company ace Strong Kobayashi and kept him from advancing to the finals, which would be won by Kimura. This was one of multiple factors that led Kobayashi to quit the company in early 1974. In 1975, the IWA World Mid-Heavyweight title was revived after four years, and Teranishi defeated Jiro Inazuma (Gerry Morrow) to become puroresu’s last junior heavyweight champion before the start of the junior boom in the late seventies. He would vacate the title a month later, but it was revived again in 1976 and he beat Inazuma for it again. While the Showa Puroresu fanzine states that all of his defenses were taped and broadcast at the time, no footage was found when the Tokyo 12 Channel archives were searched for IWE’s DVD box sets in the 2000s. Teranishi won a Tokyo Sports award for the skill he displayed during his second reign, but after a December 1977 defense against Devil Murasaki, the title was quietly phased out, and replaced with the WWU World Junior Heavyweight title for Ashura Hara’s run as IWE junior ace. After Kokusai’s collapse in 1981, Teranishi joined Kimura and Animal Hamaguchi as one-third of the Kokusai Gundan heel stable. This would make Teranishi one of the most hated heels in the country for a time, but like Hamaguchi he would leave Kimura to join Riki Choshu’s Ishingun in 1983. This period gave him opportunities to show his skill as a junior-style wrestler, competing as an Ishingun junior alongside Kuniaki Kobayashi. Teranishi would even be the final opponent of Tiger Mask’s original run, challenging for his NWA International Junior Heavyweight title on August 4, 1983. In late 1984, he left the company in a splinter faction led by Choshu which would become Japan Pro Wrestling, and as a JPW member participated in the two-year feud against All Japan Pro-Wrestling. In the first phase of the JPW-AJPW period, Teranishi eked out a spot for himself in the All Asia Tag Team title scene, first winning the belts alongside Hamaguchi in July and winning them again that October when Hamaguchi became sick, wrestling with Norio Honaga. After JPW’s collapse, Teranishi was among those who decided to fold into All Japan. He would remain with them until a 1992 cervical injury led him to retire. After this, he remained involved for a period as full-time staff, overseeing pamphlet sales at shows, but Teranishi made a handful of returns from 1994 through 1997. These were with Takashi Ishikawa’s Tokyo Pro Wrestling (making Teranishi the only wrestler to wrestle for “both” Tokyo Pros), Great Kojika’s Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and finally, New Japan, for whom he worked in 1995 on shows under the Heisei Ishingun branding. His last match would be at an independent show marking Masahiko Takasugi’s 20th anniversary. Outside of an appearance at New Japan’s 2002 30th Anniversary show, Teranishi has stayed out of the business since then. Miscellaneous Teranishi would be nicknamed the Japanese Édouard Carpentier in his IWE years, although Teranishi admits that Carpentier did not make a particularly strong impression on him when he appeared for the company in the early seventies. His white trunks were suggested by Tadaharu Tanaka to make him look taller.
  19. This was awesome. Hot crowd super into Jumbo, and Martel bringing it. Really intense and dramatic finishing stretch - crowd was biting on nearfalls for Jumbo's suplexes and Martel's sleeper and cross-body. Was never a huge Martel fan before this, looks like I'm going to have to buy that AWA set and get deeper into him.
  20. AWA World Heavyweight Champion Nick Bockwinkel vs Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW Budokan 2/23/84 Special Guest Referee Terry Funk It had been almost four years since Giant Baba had won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Harley Race. While Jumbo had been challenging for the NWA World Title since the mid-70s, the pressure must have been mounting for him to follow in Baba's foot steps and finally win the big one. All Japan, NWA and AWA were booked in a tough position where the American promotions did not want to a Japanese wrestler representing them, but All Japan needed to prove to their fan base their ace was a legitimate world class pro wrestler. In 1984, it was high time for Jumbo Tsuruta to avoid the choker label and he did just that by pinning Nick Bockwinkel to win the AWA World Heavyweight Championship. He did Baba one better by actually finishing the tour with his reign intact and actually defending the championship in America. You see Baba spent a ton of money to cement Jumbo's status as the man by buying him this reign. In return, Verne got actually what he needed a gaijin transitional champion to go from ace heel Nick Bockwinkel to his prospective new hot babyface act, Rick Martel. Baba would use a similar model of gaijin (Hansen, Doc and Gordy) to transition titles among the natives. It was a win-win for everyone involved and of course the big winners were the Japanese faithful that were able to see their hero win the World Heavyweight Championship from Bockwinkel after being thwarted repeatedly by cheap finishes. The match starts with Bockwinkel trying to end the match early with a surprise cross body, but only gets two. Bockwinkel works an extensive arm work segment that is just awesome. Bockwinkel is wrenching Jumbo's arm in all directions, applying pressure with his head and knees (THAT IS A LEGAL KNEE TO THE HEAD, Terry Funk yells, which makes me chuckle). Jumbo is always struggling, teasing escapes, but Bock uses a multitude of nefarious tactics to keep him down. One of my favorite spots of the match was Bock's super slick double wristlock takedown into a rolling short arm scissors just really strong work there. Another fun spot was Jumbo trying to show Funk that he keeps getting pulled down by the hair only to be pulled down by the hair again. Jumbo finally is able to string some offense together in the form of an enziguiri into a high knee, but only gets one. Bock retreats and tries to go back to the arm, but Jumbo is rolling now with two piledrivers and a Thesz Press. The action is so hot and heavy that it spills to the outside. Bock unloads with heavy blows on the outside. Hey there is the 80s spot the head to head collision, but really does not lead anywhere in this match. I can't say I am a fan of that spot. Jumbo is throwing closed fists and ignoring Funk's admonishments. Jumbo will not be denied tonight and the crowd is pumped. Bockwinkel goes back to a top wristlock to get a nearfall, but Jumbo counters with a Russian Legsweep. Nice! It is bombs away from Jumbo with a variety of suplexes and he has the champion on the ropes literally as he has to use the ropes to break Jumbo's Boston Crab. The Japanese fans have seen this story before and usually it does not end well for their boy. Bockwinkel shoves Jumbo into Funk and if I was a fan I would be smelling screwjob and Bockwinkel hits two piledrivers and a bodyslam, but nothing doing. As usual, Bockwinkel chucks his opponent to the outside to buy himself some time. When it comes time to bring him in the hardway, Jumbo floats over and BACK DROP DRIVER! 1-2-3! Jumbo wins the World Title! This was an interesting story as you get the sense that Bockwinkel clearly sees Jumbo as a massive threat to his title reign. He tries to win quickly with a cross body from there he dictates the pace and tries to take Jumbo out via arm work. He is keeping Jumbo grounded and we find out why later in the match. Bockwinkel does not have a prayer in a bomb throwing match. Once Jumbo is able to break free of the arm work and establish himself, he just starts throwing everything at Bockwinkel to finally win the championship. The tease all the usual screwjob finishes (double countout, ref bump), but this time the fans get to home happy with Jumbo Tsuruta winning the AWA World Title. Jumbo's long term selling could have been better. Bockwinkel was awesome in this, cocky in control and desperate on defense. The feel good ending elevates the great work in this to a classic match in my eyes. ****1/2
  21. Mighty Inoue (マイティ井上) Profession: Wrestler, Referee, Commentator (Color) Real name: Sueo Inoue Professional names: Sueo Inoue, Enzo Inoue, Inoue Tonpachi, Mighty Inoue, Mitsu Inoue, Chatti Mikki Inoue Life: 4/12/1949- Born: Fukushima, Osaka, Japan Career: 1967-2010 Height/Weight: 175cm/110kg (5’8”;242 lbs.) [AJPW era=105kg/231 lbs.] Signature moves: “Sunset Flip”/somersault drop (rolling senton) [see misc. note #5], German suplex, flying shoulder block, gutbuster, Aussie suplex [see misc. note #1] Promotions: International Wrestling Enterprise, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH [as referee] Titles: IWA World Heavyweight [IWE] (1x), IWA World Tag Team [IWE] (6x; 3x w/Great Kusatsu, 2x w/Animal Hamaguchi, 1x w/Ashura Hara), All Asia Tag Team [AJPW] (4x; 1x w/Animal Hamaguchi, 1x w/Ashura Hara, 2x w/Takashi Ishikawa),NWA International Junior Heavyweight [AJPW] (1x), AJPW World Junior Heavyweight [AJPW] (1x) Tournament victories: Real World Junior Tag League [AJPW] (1x, w/Gran Hamada) Summary: Perhaps the best wrestler the IWE ever produced, Mighty Inoue was puroresu’s ultimate underdog. After a five-month world title reign, Inoue found success as a tag wrestler and, eventually, a junior heavyweight with AJPW. Left: Inoue trains with Isamu Teranishi, circa late 1969. Sueo Inoue was a student at Osaka Gakuin University High School who practiced judo and worked out at the Naniwa Bodybuilding Gym, owned by former JWA wrestler Takao Kaneko. He would drop out of high school to join the International Wrestling Enterprise, although after he became a wrestler the school invited him to the graduation ceremony and gave him a diploma for his success. He was trained by Matty Suzuki alongside Shozo Kobayashi and Yasuyuki Fujii; for Inoue, this would later be supplemented by instruction from IWE foreign ace Billy Robinson. He debuted on July 21, 1967, at the first show of the Pioneer Summer Series tour. Inoue received the stage name Enzo Inoue from Toyonobori, to whom he served as valet, the following April. While it would take Inoue longer to reach the higher echelons of the company, circumstantial evidence speaks to the growth he made in his early years. In October 1969, he received the ring name which would stick: Mighty. He had risen enough in the pecking order by then to start putting over foreign talent in the midcard, and according to the Showa Puroresu fanzine, by 1970 Inoue was sharing pamphlet pages with Tadaharu Tanaka, which put him ahead of seniors like Takeshi Ōiso, Tetsunosuke Daigo, and early rival Isamu Teranishi. In early 1970, Inoue met André Roussimoff—that is, André the Giant—and the two struck a friendship that Inoue claims transcended language. In August 1970, Inoue was chosen over Teranishi to accompany Strong Kobayashi on a European excursion under France-based IWE booker Umenosuke Kiyomigawa. While Kobayashi would go to the AWA that winter, Inoue remained in Europe except as a last-minute addition to the IWE’s AWA Big Fight Series tour in early 1971. During this period, he worked in France for Roger Delaporte, West Germany and Austria for Edmund Schober, and the United Kingdom for Joint Promotions. He would wrestle as Chatti Mikki Inoue in Catch Schober, which a 2017 column by future tag partner Animal Hamaguchi suggests came from “Mickey Inoue”, an André nickname for Mighty. (I am guessing the Chatti came from Chati Yokouchi.) As for Joint Promotions, he was billed as Mitsu Inoue in a pair of Royal Albert Hall shows. Also in Catch Schober, Inoue used Naomi Chiaki’s “Yottsu no Onegai” as entrance music; this will come up later. Inoue says that if he’d stayed abroad one more year, he thinks he would have reached fluency in French. Nevertheless, Inoue learned multiple languages during his time abroad, which would serve him well many years later as a clerk for foreign talent in Pro Wrestling NOAH. The last phase of his foreign excursion began in June 1972, when André invited him to work in Montreal. Inoue does not have fond memories of the months he spent there due to his poor treatment at the hands of tag partner Mitsu Arukawa, but never begrudged André for that. Right: Inoue during his time in Montreal. The polka-dotted neckerchief shows a sense of style that would culminate in Mighty’s flamboyant trunk designs of the late seventies. After a brief stop in Hawaii, Inoue returned home in October 1972. He was generally booked as a high second-tier wrestler upon his return, and notable matches from his first six months back in the IWE include: a shot alongside Strong Kobayashi at Dick the Bruiser and Crusher Lisowski’s WWA World Tag Team titles in November; Inoue’s first match under the company’s trademark wire mesh deathmatch stipulation in February, a win over Jose Quintero; and a victory over French legend Édouard Carpentier in April. Inoue adopted his signature rolling senton from the latter. This move was acknowledged as Inoue’s patented technique for some time, as no other Japanese wrestler until Tiger Mask added it to their repertoire. The earliest match of Inoue’s which completely survives dates from September 1973, an IWA World Series block match against fellow Naniwa gym client turned IWE wrestler Animal Hamaguchi. The two wrestled as a team as early as 1973, but it would be several years before they revealed themselves as perhaps Kokusai’s best tag team. The peak accomplishment of Inoue’s career came in 1974. After Strong Kobayashi’s departure and the end of the TBS broadcast deal, Rusher Kimura was chosen to challenge Billy Robinson for the IWA World Heavyweight title in June. However, it would not be Rusher Kimura to challenge for the promotion’s top belt when it came back around Billy Graham’s waist. It is apparent that IWE’s new network, Tokyo 12 Channel, threw their support behind Inoue as a flashier performer. Both Yoshihara and network sports department manager Tsuyoshi Shiraishi agreed on his push, with the latter pointing out to Monthly Gong (September 1977) that “a small Japanese man [fighting] a big foreigner” had been “the bud of the Japanese wrestling boom”. Inoue would be elevated in the summer and autumn with singles victories over Horst Hoffmann and Baron von Raschke, and in the Super Wide Series he would get three chances to defeat Graham. During this tour, Inoue would also inspire puroresu’s first use of dedicated entrance music. When he told television director Motokazu Tanaka about his use of “Yottsu no Onegai” in Catch Schober, Tanaka was inspired to use the 101 Strings Orchestra cover of “Jesus Christ Superstar” for Graham. While AJPW broadcast director Susumu Umegaki is the one who popularized entrance music in puroresu, experimenting with it in 1975 and 1976 for Jumbo Tsuruta before striking gold with Mil Mascaras in early 1977, Kokusai was the pioneer, and Inoue is indirectly to thank for that. Left: the greatest moment of Inoue's career. Anyway, Inoue would need all three of his title shots. He fought valiantly in his first attempt in Oita on October 1, but a ref bump at the eleventh hour prevented him from winning the third fall with a backdrop, and Graham capitalized on Inoue’s attempts to shake referee Takao Maemizo back to consciousness, striking him from behind and hitting a knee drop from the top rope to get the pinfall. Four days later in Nagoya, Inoue put things together in the first fall. Despite Graham pulling him by his legs to smash his groin against the steel pole, Inoue dodged another top-rope knee drop and focused his assault to gain the submission. In the second fall, however, Graham got his own submission with a Canadian backbreaker. The third fall saw Inoue go for the backdrop again, but he lost control and the two spilled to the outside for a double countout. In Koshigaya on October 7, Mighty got his last chance, for which he donned a pair of pink trunks that he claimed would be his good luck charm. He got revenge on Graham for the Nagoya groin attack, retaliating in kind and then slamming his left leg against the pole. Like in Nagoya, he won the first fall with a knee submission, but Graham got the Canadian backbreaker again to even the score. Down to the wire, Inoue got in another Canadian backbreaker, but he struggled out of it, landed on his feet, and brought down the Superstar with a backslide. His title reign lasted six months. His first defense was the most significant, an IWA/AWA double title match against Verne Gagne in November 1974 which went to a draw. The following February, Inoue retained against Danny Lynch. Finally, though, in April he lost the strap to Mad Dog Vachon and set up Rusher Kimura’s crowning moment. Inoue would later admit that he was grateful to be free of the burden of being the ace, but he was still involved in the title picture for a couple years. He got title shots against his coworker in June 1975, September 1977, and May 1978; although this had precedent in the Strong Kobayashi-Rusher Kimura IWA title match of 1973, none of Kokusai’s other major players received title shots against Rusher. Meanwhile, Inoue entered the tag title picture shortly after losing the world title, essentially shifting spots with Kimura. He and Great Kusatsu enjoyed three substantive reigns with the IWA World Tag Team titles spanning between June 1975 and January 1977. In late 1975, Inoue also represented the IWE in AJPW’s 1975 Open League, alongside Kimura & Kusatsu. In the second half of the decade, he would distinguish himself with the most elaborate trunks of 70s puroresu, donning florid and psychedelic designs. Right: Inoue and Animal Hamaguchi give Umanosuke Ueda a taste of his own medicine on November 14, 1979. The "Naniwa Brothers" were the definitive tag team of late-period IWE. Inoue & Kusatsu vacated their titles for a March 1977 tournament held alongside the 6th IWA World Series and split up to enter with other wrestlers. This built up Animal Hamaguchi through his reaching the finals alongside Teranishi, and then winning the belts from Big John Quinn & Kurt von Hess alongside Kusatsu. (Inoue would have a second excursion in Stampede afterward, returning in July.) While it still wasn’t time for Animal & Mighty to become the IWE’s top team, the “Naniwa Brothers” staked a claim as one of Japan’s major tag teams in their own right. In November 1977, the two teamed up again in a string of IWE challenges for Great Kojika & Motoshi Okuma’s All Asia Tag Team titles and won them. They would successfully defend the belts four times over the next three months: twice against the Gokudō Combi, once against Samson Kutsuwada & Akihisa Takachiho, and once against Korean wrestlers Oh Tae Kyun & Yang Seung-Hi. In the meantime, Inoue also entered the first Real World Tag League alongside Takachiho, tying for last place with Genichiro Tenryu & Rocky Hata. After they dropped the belts back to Kojika & Okuma, Inoue would not wear gold again for another year. In November 1978’s Japan League tournament, he placed in his block’s top four to enter the quarterfinal before losing to semifinalist Jumbo Tsuruta. In February 1979, the Naniwa Brothers teamed up to take the IWA tag titles back from the Yamaha Brothers. Inoue’s grudge against Kotetsu Yamamoto over how these matches were booked would be a factor in his refusal to join New Japan Pro Wrestling two years later; nevertheless, the pair of matches were a strong start to the Naniwa Brothers era. In the longest title reign of Inoue’s IWE period, he and Hamaguchi defended their belts against the best gaikokujin teams that they could book, as well as Japanese “freelancers” Umanosuke Ueda, Masa Saito, and Yasu Fujii. In their final successful defense, they won by disqualification against NJPW invaders Kengo Kimura & Haruka Eigen, but this was due to an Animal injury which forced them to vacate the belts. Sixteen months after they first won their titles from New Japan, they lost a match for the now-vacant championship when Eigen came back alongside Strong Kobayashi. The Naniwa Brothers would overcome them in a rematch and held the titles for eight months thereafter before Hamaguchi’s health forced them to vacate them. Inoue would team up with the returning Ashura Hara to win them for the sixth time, and this new team held onto the belts until the company went under. Inoue’s 1,315 days as champion rank third in the IWA tag title’s history, behind Hamaguchi’s 1,343 and Kusatsu’s dominant 2,678. On September 14, 1981, Inoue attends an AJPW press conference to announce his participation with the company. Left to right: Baba, Inoue, Tenshin Yonemura, Nobuyoshi Sugawara, Hiromichi Fuyuki. It would be after the IWE folded that Inoue disobeyed Isao Yoshihara for the first time in his life. In the company’s last days, Yoshihara had apparently consulted Baba for a merger with AJPW, but as Baba had just lost managerial authority in his company due to a network takeover, he could not make this happen. Yoshihara dissolved the promotion and told his wrestlers that he would have them go to New Japan. Like Ashura Hara, who was genuinely bitter about how New Japan had booked him to submit to Tatsumi Fujinami the previous year, Inoue refused to join New Japan over personal misgivings; Kotetsu Yamamoto once booking him to submit in one fall in a match against the Yamaha Brothers, despite Inoue having defeated Superstar Billy Graham a few years before, was the big one. Inoue contacted Baba through the intermediary of Kosuke Takeuchi and asked him to take himself and a few others. Inoue brought Hiromichi Fuyuki and Nobuyoshi Sugawara, who had been two of the IWE’s three last significant trainees. Tenshin Yonemura would become affiliated with AJPW alongside them, working their shows when they stopped in his hometown. Inoue’s first match in All Japan was a shot at Mil Mascaras’ pet IWA World Heavyweight title on October 9. (This was a different IWA from the governing body of the IWE’s titles: specifically, the Eddie Einhorn-Pedro Martinez failed national US promotion of 1975-78.) While Inoue lost to Mascaras in less than ten minutes, and he is the rare Japanese person who has openly corroborated Mascaras’ reputation (“he only tried to show his good points [...] Mexicans didn’t like him either; they called him cabeza grande”), it would be far from the highlight of Inoue’s AJPW career. Left: Inoue celebrates his NWA International Junior Heavyweight title victory alongside new AWA World Heavyweight champion Jumbo Tsuruta. Now, he would only ever go so far. While it is my opinion that Mighty Inoue was the IWE’s best worker, he was 5’8”, and especially with a promoter like Giant Baba that was a modest ceiling. As a singles wrestler in the heavyweight division, the furthest he ever got was a dismal tenth place ranking in the 1982 Champion Carnival. When All Japan began seriously investing in a junior heavyweight division, Inoue would be ordered to slim down to fit in the division because of his height, and he obeyed, going from the 110kg of his IWE heyday to 105. After Atsushi Onita’s major knee injury, Inoue was ultimately chosen to bring the NWA International Junior Heavyweight title back from Chavo Guerrero Sr. to Japan, and his 468-day reign from February 1984 to June 1985 was the longest in the belt’s seven-year original run of activity. During this reign, he successfully fought off Onita twice; the second time would serve as Onita’s first retirement match. He and Gran Hamada would also team up to win a small tournament, the Real World Junior Tag League. He would drop the belt to the Dynamite Kid, but four years later, Inoue’s final title reign would be a transitional AJPW World Junior Heavyweight title reign between Joe Malenko and Masanobu Fuchi. It wasn’t as a junior heavyweight that he was most successful in All Japan, though. Right: Inoue and Hara win the All Asia Tag Team titles. From 1983 through 1988, Inoue was a significant player in the All Asia Tag Team title picture. The All Asia titles had served a unique role ever since AJPW had revived them in 1976, as for a long time they were the company’s only championship to be contested and even change hands between native teams. When Inoue joined the company, Gokudō’s final reign had ended to Akio Sato & Takashi Ishikawa. He and Hara reunited to take a shot at the champions in November 1981, and it ended in a draw, but when the titles were vacated in early 1983, the final IWA Tag Team champions went over Gokudō by disqualification to win gold together again. Inoue would vacate them to concentrate on his junior title, but in the mid-80s, he and Ishikawa joined forces to hold the titles twice for a combined 587 days. Inoue & Ishikawa would be the wall that Footloose broke down in 1988. Inoue wound down his in-ring career in the 1990s. He shone early on as an ensemble performer in the company’s six-man main-events, wrestling alongside Jumbo Tsuruta and what eventually became known as Tsurutagun. Inoue was not considered one of Tsurutagun’s four members, but he made his presence felt in the early stage of the faction’s rivalry with Chosedaigun, before Yoshinari Ogawa essentially took his spot. After this, Inoue found a role in AJPW’s comedic six-man tradition as a member of the “villainous” Akuyaku Shokai faction. However, he was reportedly struck with an internal disease in mid-1997 and was ultimately forced to retire in 1998. As the company culture became tenser in the latter half of the decade, Inoue was on the chopping block, and was nearly cut by Motoko Baba until he took his coworkers’ advice to announce during his retirement ceremony that he would transition into refereeing. Left: Inoue speaks at his second retirement with his wife, Ryoko, at his side. Apparently, the job did not come naturally to him, and his early work was considered awkward and intrusive. He would stick with it for over a decade, though, as he joined the walkout to become Pro Wrestling NOAH’s designated undercard referee. Donning a red shirt as a trademark, Inoue's “verbal pro-wrestling” style of refereeing and occasional participation in spots made him a bit player in NOAH’s continuity of the AJPW comedy tradition. (For instance, see Mitsuo Momota’s 2006 match against SUWA, after which both Inoue and Momota’s recently retired rival Haruka Eigen join forces to put the young punk in his place for a postmatch assault.) NOAH would see Inoue expand his role into a foreign clerk and even a color commentator. He would leave the company when his contract lapsed on New Years Eve 2009, as one among many who likely found himself disillusioned with what the company became after Mitsuharu Misawa’s death. That same day, he would wrestle his first match in twelve years, a ten-man elimination tag for a BJW/DDT/Kaientai Dojo joint show. He would receive a proper sendoff with a retirement show at Korakuen Hall on May 22, 2010. Outside of a one-night return for the 2019 Giant Baba Memorial Show, he has stuck to that. Inoue returns to refereeing for the February 19, 2019 Giant Baba Memorial Show. This commemorative photo was shared by Shuhei Nishinaga afterwards. Left to right: Daisuke Kanbayashi (WRESTLE-1), Nishinaga (who holds a photo of Joe Higuchi), Akihiko Fukuda, Inoue, Kyohei Wada, and Red Shoes Unno. Miscellaneous 1. Inoue’s “Aussie suplex”, named after its inventor Al Costello, is performed with the same mechanic as a bridging tiger suplex, but is considered a distinct move in Japanese discourse. Essentially, the Aussie suplex is a pin, not a throw. The move has been subsequently used by Naomichi Marufuji. 2. Others who worked out at the Naniwa Gym before entering the business include the IWE’s Tenshin Yonemura and Devil Murasaki, and NJPW’s Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Minoru Suzuki. 3. André helped his Japanese friend early in his excursion. Inoue was originally supposed to work in France under Étienne Siry, but as someone who had started his career under Siry before shacking up with Delaporte, André urged him to work for the latter. Kiyomigawa was “a little bit upset”, but acquiesced, and Inoue found that he had made the right decision when he learned about the poor pay that his coworkers had received from Siry. 4. Inoue’s first show at the Royal Albert Hall saw him chewed out backstage for pulling hair during his match. Mighty later noted that, for a “nation of gentlemen”, England had left a bad first impression on him; he was particularly disgusted that wrestlers were engaging in sexual activities in the waiting room of “a royal facility”. 5. According to Showa Puroresu, the quirk of calling Inoue’s rolling senton a sunset flip originated from a supposed Carpentier request. 6. Inoue reportedly once broke one of Austin Idol’s ribs with his gutbuster. 7. Inoue’s love of karaoke seems to have been a major part of writing about him as a person in puroresu magazines. He states that he got a spot on TBS variety show Let’s Meet At 3 O’Clock when television producers heard him sing in a bar. This got Inoue the opportunity to record a single, “Furui Botoru” (“Sieve Bottle”), for minor Osaka label Lamon Records. To my knowledge, the only modern rerelease of this recording is through a 2011 compilation CD of Lamon recordings. Less elusive, though, is the 7” of enka music he recorded for Victor Records in 1984, “Ema no Omokage/Nogizaka Night”. Both songs are easily found on YouTube, “Ema no Omokage” probably features the most competent vocal performance I have heard from a male Japanese wrestler of his generation. (I have a three-page article about singing wrestlers from the January 1980 issue of Deluxe Pro Wrestling magazine that I would like to translate for fun someday.)
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