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  1. Why was this so good and WHY was Momota carrying so hard? This is a pretty awesome match with some wild pairings we don't normally see, which helps a lot. Hase and Akiyama are the obvious stand-out quality workers here and make sure to throw in a lot of smooth, just great to watch wrestling, including just all-out amateur sprawling between the two for a good few minutes. That said, I think Eigen and Momota do add some top quality to this with their antics: Eigen being cheeky with tons of cheap shots and Momota just outright running into the flames with strike exchanges against Akiyama...and winning, somehow? Sure, the lads are limited and can't really do a whole lot beyond comedy and basic wrestling, but they know how to play to a crowd and get in some rightfully good reactions, especially when Momota (after Hase beats down Akiyama with a superplex and a Uranage in a similarly solid sequence between the two) goes nuts and pulls out a big dive to the outside, which got the pop of the whole night by far. Dude nails it as well right on the nose, insane pop. The weak links are probably Izumida and Honda, namely because these two were delegated to the rest spot guys who just hit a lot of strikes that don't require much cardio whatsoever, which is a shame because I love Izumida and Honda has shown he can work strong matches when he's motivated to do so, but the two just kinda fall to the wayside as decent hands but really don't try to add anything super interesting when they are in the driver's seat, so it's a lot of punch/kick and sitting in holds for their stuff. Akiyama practically concedes to Momota's vast power by the end by having to resort to a quick roll-up after failing to land his Exploder on the vet, which gets the win. This isn't a incredible match, but one based around giving the fans some great interactions: Akiyama against Momota as the main feud of the match doesn't SOUND good but it actually kicks ass; I think in terms of emotional reactions Momota really drags Akiyama to one of his more pronounced showings: not just a Kobashi-lite bit where he's the sidekick of a far bigger face getting beat down but his own unique character, his arrogance against Momota and how that just motivates the typically easy-going goofy uncle into a rage that turns him from a joke into a stubborn threat are all done so well despite the low-stakes on display. He's most definitely the star of this match given what he throws himself under, and it's definitely a highlight of his career as the crowd tries to will him to a victory somehow despite the odds. There's some downtime where the match definitely drags away from that but when it gets to the great pairings it's just on a whole other level. Not as good as Momota/Liger or Momota/SAWA but definitely worth a watch.
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. 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!
  5. 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
  6. 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!
  7. 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.
  8. This starts off with some great, great pro style matwork and leads to a stalemate where Akiyama offers a great fake handshake to "congratulate" Osamu for hanging with him thus far. That is just one spot obviously but I don't see the general Akiyama is bland arguments at all. He is a super magnetic performer to me. I guess charisma is relative. My biggest problem with him is that he seems to have fewer singles matches around this level than some of the other elite and that's why I am hesitant to place him in the absolute top tier of greats. Anyways I digress, the match develops into dueling neck work on Nishmura and leg work on Akiyama (which he sells brilliantly). Nishimura presents himself as the underdog well to get the crowd behind him and the heat increases to crazy levels by the end. The finish is smartly done. Excellent match. **** 1/4
  9. Akiyama played mind games early on, exiting the ring repeatedly until Higuchi went after him and got tripped up on the apron. Akiyama would follow that up with a DDT on the floor. Higuchi fired back out of a suplex attempt on the apron and hit a Brain Claw Slam but ate an exploder on the floor. I didn't mind Akiyama and Higuchi going to the apron/floor moves so quickly, as it showed they were desperate to put their opponent away with the tournament finals still to come. Akiyama immediately stuffed Higuchi with a Piledriver as he entered the ring, continuing to target the neck with a modified sleeper. An exchange of suplexes broke out, but neither competitor would relent. That built up to a Brain Claw Slam from the top rope for a close near-fall. Akiyama stuck with what was working for him, returning to the sleeper. Higuchi's dazed, out-on-his-feet selling was excellent, and you got the sense that the match could end at a moment's notice. Higuchi survived an exploder, caught Akiyama with a few lariats to the back of the head, and hit the Brain Claw Slam for the win. While this wasn't quite as layered as their excellent title bout from last year, it was a great heavyweight meat and potatoes match with enough nuance to put it over the top.
  10. This match made me realize how much we missed out on by not getting an Akiyama run in the various shoot-style promotions. Imagine him mixing it up with Yoshiaki Fujiwara in PWFG, or Kiyoshi Tamura in U-STYLE. Sakaguchi made good use of his MMA background, laying it on thick with his strikes. That led to a moment early on where he downed Akiyama with a kick and subsequently followed up with an apron Penalty Kick. Akiyama was no slouch on the mat as he went hold-for-hold with Sakaguchi. They began lighting each other up with knee strikes, frantically trying to put one another away. I especially liked how Akiyama transitioned directly from a modified sleeper into a pinfall attempt to capitalize on Sakaguchi’s exhaustion. That Akiyama and Sakaguchi were able to create a series of convincing nearfalls off of limited offense made the match all the more impressive. Sakaguchi survived an exploder suplex, but Akiyama rocked him with a few flush knee strikes and hit the wrist-clutch exploder for the win. This was exquisite and made the most of its time. Despite the match clocking in at 11 minutes, I didn’t feel cheated. Sometimes, less is more. We could all do more to better appreciate morsels like this where we can get them.
  11. I've got a pretty big gap in coverage for end of the year unfortunately. So I'm quoting the prowrestling.fandom Kento Miyahara entry to fill in some gaps for me & you: "In August 2013, it was announced that Miyahara would be taking part in AJPW's 2013 Ōdō Tournament the following month. On September 9, Miyahara announced he was officially breaking off his affiliation with Diamond Ring and becoming a freelancer. On September 14, Miyahara was eliminated from the Ōdō Tournament in his first round match by Suwama. In AJPW, Miyahara formed a new partnership with Go Shiozaki due to the similarities between the two in both size and age." Ok so this is where I pick up with the 10/27/13 show. Hikaru Sato & Masao Inoue vs. Kazushi Miyamoto & Nobutaka Araya - skip Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura vs. Dory Funk Jr & Terry Funk - fast forward to see how bad it was. This picture shows what I'm talking about...no disrespect. Those tee shirts are sweet though! ----- James Raideen & Joe Doering vs. Bambikiller & D-Lo Brown - This was fun. D-lo vs Doering could have been a singles match. Atsushi Aoki & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie - Nice lead in video showing both teams training and developing new tag moves. The DDT team does a 2 man Go To Sleep but uses one guy's head instead of a knee. Then Burning uses a combination move that culminates in a back heel & running elbow strike that compresses the opponents head - very MCMG style. Anyhow this was a great match that is scratching at the door of a near classic. Like ****+ rating. Just fast action packed wrestling. Aoki & Suzuki are the tag team of the first half of 2022. Like MCMG or The Briscoes they are just putting on excellent matches regardless of familiarity. ----- Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. SUSHI - jip A good junior title match with SUSHI getting elevated by earning a shot at a previous show. He takes Kanemaru to the limit but I thought it could have been better. Not sure why...maybe I was groggy or something. I don't feel that Kanemaru did a lot extra here. It felt performed by rote. Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori vs. Go Shiozaki & Kento Miyahara - jip I really wish this wasn't joined in progress to the point where the guys have wrestled enough to be visibly sweaty. Nothing I can do about it. That being said what it shown is fantastic, fantastic stuff. This is the precursor to Shiozaki breaking away from Akiyama's Burning stable. Miyahara is a very welcome addition. He's like KAI was - a junior who's transitioned into a heavyweight...like Eddie Guerrero. As a jip match, I'll say near classic but perhaps if shown in full, it'd be a classic tag. What sucks is some post match angle stuff happens including D-lo Brown & Kenso which is pretty fun BUT I think that's why they clipped off the first few minutes of the bout. * Edit: see comments below* ----- Suwama vs. Akebono - This is for the Triple Crown and before I watch it I bet Akebono wins. Let's see if this is any good. Well I was right...sorry for the spoiler! But it was a pretty good match. Suwama knew he needed to level the playing field and talked before the match about using the sleeper hold. And boy did he use it to good effect. Akebono truly looked like the monster he his. This is probably the best and most physical 'bono match I've seen. He looks in great (?) shape and scary when attacking. The smirks on his face when he knew that Suwama couldn't stop him were pretty great. So yeah a pretty good match and I'm kinda glad Suwama lost the belts so he can go on to do more interesting stuff in the promotion. ----- Okay let's see what happens for the close of 2013: "On November 14, Voodoo Murders held a press conference to announce that Miyahara was also leaving the stable to fully concentrate on working for AJPW. On November 21, Miyahara and Shiozaki came together with Atsushi Aoki and Kotaro Suzuki to form the new Xceed stable. The following month, Miyahara and Shiozaki made it to the finals of the 2013 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, but were defeated there by Evolution (Suwama & Doering)." Sucks that I wasn't able to find this Tag League match. I think that along with a few other tag league matches would have been a good end to this project. But 2014 should be pretty cool. I have to look at my notes but it should be a shorter project than 2013. I lost steam a couple times but all in all it was a rewarding experience. Just look at my Best Match Watched contenders list for the proof. You can can add the two tag matches from this show to that list. Thanks for reading!
  12. DDT does these big, all-star tags better than pretty much anyone. Our, ahem, HERO! goes for a handshake at the beginning, but gets blown off. Takeshita and Sakaguchi begin in a battle of power vs. technique. That's not a match we've seen much of, to my knowledge, so it's nice to get a glimpse of it here, however brief it may be. HARASHIMA & Akiyama continue where they left off at CyberFight Festival, having a gripping mat exchange. Every time HARASHIMA goes for a tag, Honda hops off the apron until Antonio's former Happy Motel stablemate, Endo, comes in. They trade punches, and Honda collapses in one fell swoop, but he baits Endo in for a strike. Endo kicks out his leg of Honda, causing the enemy team to mock him as he tries to enter the ring. This section is so joyous that even the usually straight-laced Sakaguchi can't help but crack up on the apron. Honda is oddly endearing as the face in peril, constantly hurting his bad wheel in increasingly hilarious ways, including one where he goes for a dropdown and gets tripped by Endo. Wholesale tags to HARASHIMA and Akiyama follow. HARASHIMA gets the better of an exchange, and we go into a showdown between one of the most reliable pairings in DDT, HARASHIMA, and Sakaguchi. The two batter each other with kicks, each glancing blow having more impact than the last. Things eventually boil down to Endo & another of his former Happy Motel teammates and storied rivals, Takeshita. Despite being the least interesting section of the match, having neither the charm of Honda's isolation nor the intensity that HARASHIMA, Sakaguchi, and Akiyama bring to the table, it's still more explosive than Takeshita and Endo's recent singles efforts. Honda comes in swinging, jumping over Endo to try and knock Sakaguchi and Akiyama off the apron, but Endo trips him up. Honda then grabs the microphone and does his usual comedy routine. The Burning and Sakaguchi trio's energy is infectious, as they can't stop laughing at Honda's antics. Except for Akiyama, who takes an errant swing at Honda. Honda goes for a dive off the top rope, but Endo gets his feet up, only for Honda to reverse his pinfall attempt in a great nearfall. Takeshita and Sakaguchi wipe each other out with dueling Jumping Knees, and once again, it comes down to Honda and Endo. Endo fells his old mentor with a Torture Rack Bomb and a Burning Star Press for the win. A fitting celebration of DDT's 25th anniversary, displaying its past in Happy Motel and its present in Burning. While it's unlikely to be remembered as one of the best matches of the year, it's perhaps one of the most enjoyable.
  13. Now we're back to 2013 AJPW...well Diamond Ring with the two top matches involving AJPW top talent. Its their 08/31/13 show. Akira Hokuto Produce ~ Women's Pro-Wrestling Special Tag Match: Yumiko Hotta & Nanae Takahashi vs Natsuki*Taiyo & Sareee - Clipped here and there but not much really. Good to see Joshi again especially with familiar faces like Hotta & Takahashi to a lesser extent. The younger and smaller team were new to me but they were a lot of fun. This was fun stuff! Hotta and Nanae blasted their opponents in the head a couple times and it was great - in true Joshi fashion. Diamond Ring vs. Voodoo Murders ~ Mitsuhiro Kitamiya Return Match: TARU, "brother" YASSHI & Kengo vs Osamu Nishimura, Satoshi Kajiwara, Mitsuhiro Kitamiya - Very much an Indie 6 man mid card match where you get a little bit of everything but not enough to really identify it as anything other than Good. I think a tag match may have been better. Also clipped a tad so was disorienting with 6 guys fighting at times. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Kota Ibushi vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kotaro Suzuki - Here we have the first of two AJPW related matches. This was a great match. Kota Ibushi was the odd man out as I don't think there's much history with him & the others. Stylistically I don't think he fit as well. He is very good at what he does but thankfully he's not in there a bunch. The heart of the match is Burning vs Nakajima especially Kotaro vs Nakajima. Kotaro was on fire here and Nakajima wasn't far behind. Kanemaru brought his A game as well but is much subtle (like a Shiro Koshinaka or even Christopher Daniels) so you just expect him to be flawless and keep moving the story/match along. That said, this was the match I'd hoped for with a very different finish that was fantastic. I'd probably put this at **** or so. Kensuke Sasaki, Jun Akiyama & Go Shiozaki vs Suwama, Takao Omori & Kento Miyahara - A near classic match with stories weaving in and out. Kensuke vs Suwama, Suwama former Voodoo Murder member years ago seemingly dealing with the devil teaming up with V.M member Kento Miyahara. Shiozaki against his rivals Omori & Suwama, Miyahara opposing his mentor Kensuke and seemingly hating Akiyama because he exists. And Akiyama is this decade's Tenryu. And the action backs all of that up! ------ This was a enjoyable little diversion having the Kensuke Office/Diamond Ring guys mix it up with the AJPW roster. The two matches that needed to be awesome delivered. Only a few more shows/matches to go. Adding: Go Shiozaki vs Suwama (Triple Crown, 08/25/13) - I accidentally watched this after the Diamond Ring show. I think everything is like mid 90's AJ and if I watch anything out of order, it will spoil it. Anyone else like that? Of course it didn't matter that I watched this chronologically out of order! and in a way the 6-man Diamond Ring match made this better. I think that tag match is a good build up to this title fight. That aside, this delivered in just about every way. This was the culmination of Suwama vs Go and I feel the culmination of AJ vs Burning as well. Suwama had held off Akiyama and delayed Go but could he actually stop Shiozaki? This was the HARD hitting title fight you & I wanted to see. I legitimately think they took each other to their limit. Shiozaki was bleeding from the nose and Suwama from the chest. Both wrestlers were spent by the final bell. Neither have looked so battered all year. I would have really been thrilled to see some cleverness in terms of strategy (kayfabe work a body part) or a few nifty sequences towards the end. It wasn't that kind of match though. It was like a Shinya Hashimoto, Riki Choshu or Kensuke Sasaki match where its about endurance and pushing through the pain & exhaustion onto victory. That's what kind of wrestler Suwama is so he's not going to get cute & intricate at the end. Shiozaki can hang with that style. I can certainly appreciate that! I'm thinking this is probably the best singles match of AJ 2013 so far. Its a classic heavyweight title fight. Its not an all time classic but I want to see their next meeting and that's good business. Super awesome bonus! Gaora's YouTube channel has this up for your viewing pleasure. Skip the first tem minutes to get straight to match or sit through that to get some clips and backstory. You'll see see some stuff I've talked about in previous posts. And because I am all about spreading the wrestling love, here it is: Thanks for reading!
  14. Lets keep on truckin' with AJPW in the summer of 2013. Akiyama & Shiozaki vs Omori & Suwama (2/3 falls 07/28/13) - One week after a under the radar great show, we get this big match main event. The 4 biggest stars in Akiyama's AJ going head to head. Omori & Akiyama friends and rivals but Suwama & Shiozaki is ace vs ace and a build up to their long awaited Championship confrontation. I think I have their Champion Carnival match as the best singles match of AJPW so far. They are an excellent pairing much like Suwama and Sekimoto were. The 2 out of 3 falls match is something I have been missing in my wrestling lately (In fact Suwama & Shiozaki have a 2/3 falls match in July but can't find that online and I don't have the DVD...can't get 'em all ). But anyhow, this was one of the matches that got me into watching post-2000's wrestling and here's my write-up from the start of this very blog in 2018: "Here we have one of the few reminents from Muto AJPW, ace SUWAMA and a cast off from Misawa's AJPW exodus in Omori up against NOAH's ace and Kobashi/Misawa pupil Shiozaki and Jun Akiyama. Let's all remember that Akiyama is former tag partners, champs and friends with Omori. Akiyama got to ride the NOAH wave in the 2000's while Omori was surfing relatively low tide in Zero-1 and washed up back in AJPW like driftwood. This was a battle for a lot. Omori had remade himself in partnership with Manabu Soya however. He was not someone to be kicked around anymore. This was Omori's home, AJPW had been through alot in that time and SUWAMA had been there and is still there. This isn't just his home, it's his kingdom. He had outlasted them all. Akiyama wants back in? Akiyama had been gone for 13 years. Ok that's fine but he has to earn it. Shiozaki on the other hand has no place in AJ. He's an outsider through and through. This was a battle. A beautifully long match that harkened back to the classics of AJPW '92-'96. The grappling, striking, layout and pacing were conservative. Therfore, the contest was more organic in its story progression and the escalation of aggression. The 2/3 falls usage was brilliant and perhaps is what made it so damn good. It provided the wrestlers the framework to bring the level of excitement up and down, to be able to rest the fans energy only to build it back double fold. Classic Match! " One thing that I omitted is that Kawada was in attendance and Akiyama used the Stretch Plum on Omori at one point - hell yes! Everything else I can fully agree upon now as well. This is a classic heavyweight tag team match and is as important to the heart and soul of All Japan as their heavyweight singles matches. Now on to the my next DVD, 08/17/21. Masanobu Fuchi vs. Masao Inoue - skipped this KENSO vs. Kazushi Miyamoto - Really good yet simple match. Way better than a #2 match usually is. Just an easy watch. I like Miyamoto in this spot...he's a good addition to the undercard. ----- Argenis & Drago vs. Atsushi Aoki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru - Fun match, didn't agree with the outcome but that's as a fanboy Liked Drago's execution more than Argenis. Joe Doering vs. Kotaro Suzuki - Under 10 minute David-and-Goliath match. It was something special that I don't see very often anymore. And I don't think we see it shown very well when we do since big guys starting doing dives and shooting star moves. Doering is improving in the last 2 matches. I got to think Muto-AJPW wasn't using him well and his heart wasn't in it. Very good match! ----- Akebono vs. SUSHI - I'm not watching this. Its a waste of SUSHI. Still good for him being 2nd from the top match. Go Shiozaki & Jun Akiyama vs. Suwama & Takao Omori - Classic match, these two teams have great chemistry. Here they go on to have another must see encounter. This is only one fall but just as exciting as their previous bout. Everyone did well but this but Shiozaki's match. He really showed so much as a performer but also as an athlete. I can't wait for the title fight between he and Suwama! I didn't write as much as the tag match above but this was just as awesome. ----- This DVD/show was another very easy watch capped off with a thrilling main event.The next installment should be a Diamond Ring show that features AJPW and essentially introduces Kento Miyahara to the equation & builds the Shiozaki/Suwama tension. Thanks for reading!
  15. Yeah, we're back on track and are in summer of 2013 and the big Wrestle -1 exodus has happened and the AJPW roster is lean and mean. Its Akiyama's Burning stable and a few guys who wanted to stay on like Suwama, Omori, KENSO, Joe Doering & Sushi. From there they are going to have freelancers...you know I think Masa Fuchi is still on as well. And to be frank I'm only going to miss Kaz Hiyashi, Koji Kanemoto & Minoru. They lost some big names like Akebono, Masa Funaki & Sanada but they weren't setting the world on fire every show. This small roster with freelance help is what I was thinking they should do with ROH. Have your core and spice it up and fill in gaps with folks from the outside. Anyhow let's talk AJPW: First off is the championship match with Suwama defending against Jun Akiyama. Which is June 30th so not sure if the exodus started but for our purposes it has. The future is centered around Burning in one way or another. Jun Akiyama vs Suwama (06/30) - This was a great title fight but did feel a bit safe. I understand that though. They are setting Shiozaki as Suwama's true rival yet reminding us Akiyama is the general of Burning. So this is more a story of Burning vs Suwama...and that eventually the Triple Crown will be in their possession. Still its out the for free so if you're just watching the BIG matches, go check it out! So now we're on to the 07/21 show. Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs MAZADA - 11 minutes of fun, energetic Jr. wrestling. Sometimes funny but always interesting, this was a good start to the show. MAZADA with an eye rake. Timeless shortcut! ----- Kazuchi Miyamoto vs Masao Inoue - 8-9 minutes of fun wrestling. Again a little bit of comedy but rooted in good wrestling. Miyamoto who isn't small does a Swanton Bomb - very cool! Joe Doering vs KENSO - Here we get into the meat of the card with two upper midcard favorites. This was very good stuff. KENSO gave meaning to 'knife edge chop' by cutting open Joe's chest during an exchange. Both guys looked good and Joe employed an attack-the-leg strategy that was way deeper than I thought he could go. Had KENSO really sold that in the final minutes this would have been great. No complaints here though. ----- Takao Omori & Hikaru Sato vs Jun Akiyama & Atsushi Aoki - This was the Aoki & Sato show and I didn't know that I would dig it so much! Shoot style purist probably will scoff at this but seeing these two go at it was great. When they both re-entered the ring with their boots & kick pads off, I was pumped. Akiyama & Omori were perfect in their roles. The action was heated, the shots were stiff, and Sato & Aoki were selling the damage in a believable shoot type of way. The cherry on top was the final few minutes. Sato vs Aoki is something I want to see more of. This was a great match. Aoki (RIP) and Sato mid-beating the crap outta each other. ----- Suwama & SUSHI vs Go Shiozaki & Kotaro Suzuki - Going into this, the focus is on Shiozaki vs Suwama and building up a title fight. That stuff is great but little by little this becomes a match about Sushi hanging in there with champion level opposition. And this isn't some walk in the park, he's clearly bleeding from the mouth. But he will not quit or be beaten down! And he's got the Triple Crown champ at his side. This just becomes one helluva tag match. Early on I thought the previous match should have been the headliner but this won me over. Rightful place on the card and match of the night. Near classic match. ----- This was an EASY show to watch & enjoy. 5 matches that were all unique. The one similarity was each made everyone look great especially the lesser known guys like MAZADA, Miyamoto, Hikaru Sato & SUSHI. The former AJ talent was hardly missed. Everyone stepped up and I'm excited once again for AJPW in 2013. Well worth the $3 from your friendly Internet Video Provider *wink wink* Thanks for reading! Stay safe folks!
  16. Sorry for the delay if you've been waiting for this next entry! As I've mentioned in a couple previous posts, I had to take a rest from watching and writing about the grapple arts. It was nothing too dramatic or even stress related. I think the season changing and wanting to be outside is probably the biggest contributor. I've put on a few pounds over the winter and want to make hiking & skateboarding a priority to get in better shape. Plus I think my anxieties need to get reigned in after a long winter and even longer pandemic so, I think getting out more will help with both. So less time to watch wrestling and less time to blog. Anyhow, I think I'm back in the swing of things and dammit we need to get through the 2013 Champion Carnival..There's some really exciting stuff here! We'll see the 04/27 stuff then move onto 04/29 which are the finals. So without further ado, let's go Go Shiozaki vs Hama - Good match and Hama got a lot of fat-guy offense in. Shiozaki then had to hit him really hard. It went exactly as expected which was OK for everyone. KAI vs Joe Doering - Quick but fun match...maybe 7 minutes long. Kinda bummed about that time but what they did was really good. *** type stuff Kanemaru, Kotaro Suzuki & Aoki vs Minoru Tanaka, Kanemoto & Fuke - The best ongoing series of matches takes a dip here. This was as much cruise control wrestling that I've seen from any of them in 2013. Nonetheless Minoru & Kotaro lit things up for the final portion and had a great finish. That elevated this to about *** which is what I typify as a fun match. Suwama vs Takao Omori - This started with some nice wrestling that builds to the strikes & slams. The finish was great and pretty unexpected. I think that really made this something above the matches viewed thus far. That said, its Omori's weakest CC match for 2013 & I know they have a better bout in them... So I dug a little and found their CC match from 2012. It takes place 04/21/12 and in K-Hall. That is a boon because the 2013 matches have been in small crypt like venues where the fans have played the part if the dead. So this 2012 version is THE match I wanted to see! More intense, more dramatic, better crowd - this is the one to watch It actually felt like a Champ Carnival match between two of the biggest names in AJPW. Great match! (I needed to see something like that as the 04/27/13 show has been disappointing) Masakatsu Funaki vs Jun Akiyama - Main event time and we get dueling chants!? I don't know if I've ever heard that in Japan. Figures the crowd was pretty sedated all show to come alive for the big time match. Both guys have their dudes second the match so we see the Stack of Arms vs Burning rivalry story advance. This feels like a big deal. Both guys play for keeps. Akiyama hurts Funaki's knee so he targets Jun's arm. This very fast paced and it ends in around 10 minutes. But it was great and felt like how you do a veteran match like this towards the end of a tour. (I checked 2012 here as well and they actually do a sub 5minute match so the 2013 encounter is superior) 04/27/13 is a fun show but not as exciting as the early part of the tour. Let's see how things wrap up on 04/29. I only have 2 matches from what looks like a nice card. Hey found this online for free so beggars can't be choosers... KAI vs Go Shiozaki - This is a tie breaker match to see who goes to the finals. Seeing as I haven't watched all of CC matches I'm going to take their word for it. It starts a little slow but Go targets K man's bruised chest with his fierce chops and it starts to bleed. This ups the ante and we get the hard hitting & action packed match you want. I've seen people go call this a classic/****1/2 but I'll be realistic and say that is a little much. ***3/4-**** is much more appropriate as it lacks either bell to bell intensity or depth to go that far. But *spoilers* its a BIG win for KAI as Shiozaki is the man in 2013 AJ. KAI vs Jun Akiyama - Again not sure how Akiyama made it and aren't they in the same block? Ah screw it...I'm down to see them fight one more time. Now we have the story of KAI's battered chest driving the last few matches, will Akiyama use that weakness?...shit I'll answer it for you- yes! 2013 Akiyama is the guy you want to structure a match that continues an arc within a single show. That's to say he's a cerebral veteran that is going to tell the story with nuances rather than overt actions. For instance, he targets the chest of KAI as a defensive strategy rather thinking he's going to win by chops like Shiozaki. Jun is more similar to Kawada than Kobashi at this point. KAI makes sure to play his role and man! All things considered this adds up to a near classic match and an excellent end to the 2013 Champion Carnival. As I do with many final posts I'll do a summary of stuff to go back read in an older post or to watch in case you're coming into this late or in the future. Rather than do all of the matches, I'll just list the Very good to Classic matches (***3/4-****1/2) for the Champion Carnival I saw. 04/18 Sanada vs Omori - very good Suwama vs Shiozaki - Classic 04/20 Kenso, Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka vs Shiozaki, Suzuki & Aoki - very good 04/21 KAI vs Akiyama - great 04/24 Sanada & Sushi vs Akiyama & Kanemaru - very good Shiozaki, Suzuki & Aoki vs KAI - Great 04/25 Shiozaki vs Omori - Great Kanemoto & Tanaka vs Suzuki & Aoki - Classic 04/26 KENSO vs KAI - Great 04/27 Akiyama vs Funaki - Great 04/29 KAI vs Shiozaki - Very good - great Akiyama vs KAI - Near Classic In a bit of bummer 2013 AJPW news, KAI hurts his elbow on a frog splash vs Kono in June. I think he's going to be out for the rest of the year and then eventually goes to Wrestle -1. He really made a big impact during the carnival. In fact many of the guys might have made their last appearance (as far as I have available to watch) so Kaz Hiyashi, Kanemoto & Tanaka, Funaki etc. are off to W-1. We're going to jump ahead in time to late June and late July next. It might be a little bit before the next post for 2013 but rest assured, I will persist! Thanks for reading!
  17. Tanaka still looks like FMW Tanaka here. Saito has blonde hair. So when they face off, it looks like Tanaka is workintg against an uncool looking erzatz of Mr. Gannosuke. Odd. Also odd to see Tanaka be a dick, as he always was a perenial babyface. He does it quite well though, as he should since the first half of the match is mostly him and Ohtani, who's used to being a dick and loves to slap people around, doing heelish stuff like they are the Fabulous Ones or something. They do get heat although the home team is also a bunch of dicks. Akiyama does no sell a ton at first, like "I'm not selling that second rate promotion weak shit", and he doesn't make a lot of effort to put the opposition over. Honestly, I'd go so far to say he was the worst of the four here, as Saito is getting used to get his ass kicked now and does it well. It's like Akiyama was a bit disinterested to make this compelling honestly. There's a ludicrous no-selling exchange with him and Ohtani early which doesn't look very good, but apart from that he was still at least (and at best) *good*. Maybe the fact he didn't work on top kinda took its toll on his motivation. Anyway, after an okay "let's heel up" period, the finishing stretch finaly gets things going and Tanaka finally shines doing what he does. Heavyweight Ohtani still can deliver a terrific top rope dropkick on the back of your head too. NOAH's booking really was putting emphasis on Saito, as he's the one who gets to shine at the end. Very good match in the end.
  18. I've been in a bit of a down period with wrestling the last month or so. I got a Highspots Best of 2003 compilation off eBay a little while ago and I thought it might be the thing to get me back into things. It starts out with matches from the January 10th show. A couple of them are ones that I always wanted to see but never got around to. Looks like a good place to start. KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs Takuma Sano & Kotaro Suzuki - Man alive this was a Jr. tag fireworks display. Kotaro just set the tone early showing Tiger Mask like speed & agility. Sugiura was the powerhouse while KENTA & Sano were the violent artists. 14 minutes of Jr. action without being contrived or "out of order." There is a difference between this and what was going on in the U.S. at the time. Guys would catch up but this was crisp, clean and engaging Jr. tag wrestling. The finish was the only flaw of this great match. Even then, it doesn't diminish the work. Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito vs Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka - This is a WAR lover's match. More potatoes than Idaho. Some might more moves but this burns bright with inter-promotional hate. That coupled with a brutal finish makes this a classic tag match in my book! Mitsuharu Misawa & Masahiro Chono vs Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue - So I thought the above match was the final but no! We have this dream bout with NJ's Chono getting in the mix. His interactions with Kenta & Taue were like a Fire Pro match come to life. Its different than what came before it and was very much a big time main event style match where you get what you came for. The tanks aren't emptied out but you're still grinning at the end. It's been awhile since I've seen Misawa, Kobashi & Taue so this was a treat. I feel very comfortable calling it a near classic match... ----- Its no secret that I'm a big fan of tag matches and these were totally up my alley. Each was different stylistically yet each was dynamic and engaging. I'm sure these are available online somewhere or maybe you have them on DVD or saved somewhere on a computer, take the time and check these out. If you're a newer fan, its some great stuff from the not too distant past. If you were watching NOAH take shape 20 years ago (holy cow!), these matches will take you back in time to a period of excitement and possibility. Thanks for reading!
  19. We're back and going to look at 04/25 & 04/26 AJPW. Its the Champion Carnival tour. Akebono vs Jun Akiyama - Short match but good. Akiyama gets an Akebobo singles match worthwhile. Hirosho Yamato vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru - Quick somewhat average match with a very good finish. Reminded me of a early 80's AJ Jr. bout. Joe Doering vs KENSO - The giant gaijin manhandled KENSO but they had a good match. Good chemistry but they have a better fight in them. SUWAMA vs Seiya Sanada - Another good match but really by-the-book and frankly I'm not sure they're good opponents for each other. Sanada can't match stiffness with Suwama so his elbow strikes look weak in comparison. There was a story worked but it was bland which shouldn't be the case with two of you top wrestlers. Go Shiozaki vs Takao Omori - Chain wrestling to begin which almost feels like a throwback in 2013. But I think that's the "point" of Akiyama back in All Japan. Anyway, Omori injured Go's neck and uses a variety of offense to target it. Takao looks to have the Burning ace's number. Go isn't going down without a fight and he's got to really fight his way back into the match. Its a simple but effective story and really harkens back to late 90's AJ. Great match. Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka vs Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki - Minoru gets hurt early (real or story? Great selling) and his opponents smell blood in the water. Koji has got to get violent and buy his partner time to recover. Koji & Aoki's grappling was awesome stuff as were all of the kicks, suplexes and double team moves. I felt like anything could end the match especially with Minoru's limitations. This is one of, if not the best feuds going on in AJ at this time. If you're a fan of Motor City Machine Guns or really 06-08 ROH tag stuff then you will dig this. I felt it was a classic Jr. Tag match classic. 03/17/13 was a little bit crisper but damn this is a worthy rematch. What a main event! Now we're onto the next show 04/26. Sushi vs Kanemaru - A darn good match that told a simple story (hurt neck vs hurt leg). The important part is that they stuck with it til the end. Sure they did some exciting moves off the turnbuckles or dives but it was all within the realm of believability. Sushi is climbing up the ranks. Stack of Arms vs Last Revolution - 6 man match where Shuji Kondo was never tagged in nor was Minoru Tanaka (maybe he did get hurt? Cool to see they're sticking with it either way). It was an OK match but so short given the teams that you can skip this. Jun Akiyama vs Joe Doering - A good ***1/2 sub 10 minute match with intensity, surprises and therefore drama. Doering reminds me of Mike Awesome in FMW to an extent. I like that. Kanemoto & Nakanoue vs Suzuki & Aoki - Another ***1/2 match that keeps the fire burning. The finish was almost a shoot with how outta nowhere it was. I dug that. KENSO vs KAI - KENSO is so very popular especially in these smaller venues. I might be missing something but I guess he's pretty charismatic. KAI is much more similar to a Misawa/Akiyama favorite. Anyway, this was a HARD fought battle. It was perhaps the most physical match I've seen KENSO in. He gave it as good as he got though. He blistered KAI with chops, kicks and slaps. KAI's chest was purple by the mid way point (it was healing from the previous night). KAI in turn kicked Mr. Chrisma's ass. Both guys gave 100% and were the best bout of the show. Great match and KENSO's best singles match I've seen. I wouldn't say it was a show saver because everything else was short and fun to watch. But that felt like an AJPW match instead of a ROH TV match from 2018. So I would recommend the 04/25 show over the 26th, if I had to pick one. But I would still say both are worth your time. Pick and choose if you like. I think I skipped a couple that might have been available online. The 4/27/13 show is next and looks to be a bigger one. Thanks for reading!
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