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  1. This is a two birds with one stone post. I wanted to get a little more Zero One in this year as well as get back to early 2000s NOAH. I was going through my 2001 list and realized I had a mini project with Zero One vs NOAH in 2001. There's some better known stuff and a couple I'd never heard of. Let's jump in! Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Alexander Otsuka (January 13th, 2001) : A good match that goes a long way on the Misawa vs Hashimoto interactions. Very exciting and extremely well worked despite not being memorable from an action standpoint. This is a big one but I think would've been better with someone other than Otsuka. Naomichi Marufuji vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa - ZERO1 - 03/02/2001 : Great match! This is one I wanted to see for a long time as it was highly recommended on Quebrada (which was my gateway to serious puro fandom). It didn't really disappoint either. Now I wouldn't call it a classic in 2022 but 21 years ago, I could certainly buy that rating. Marufuji is spot on here and Hoshikawa is someone who looked ready to break out in the new millennium. He's like a beefier KENTA. This is kinda the template for their NOAH classics. I'd really recommend watching this match. It just has this really neat early 2000's transitional vibe to it. Like you could see where 2000's wrestling was headed but it was grounded by 90's sensibilities. From a personal perspective, I was only 5-6 years removed from this match when I found out about it. It's taken me 15 years to see it. Ha! A weird existential/where-has-the-time-gone feeling came over me when thinking about that. Like using wrestling as a way to measure the passage of time. Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: This was off the hook! Fantastic junior action from bell-to-bell. The mix of styles is what I think did if for me. Zero One is power & kicks vs NOAH's speed and technique. It made for some great interactions and unexpected moments. And thy showed restraint by not emptying their tanks. They are building up the program and there's not much more you can do than this. It got over exactly as it needed too. I'm calling this a lost near classic junior tag match. It was a blast! Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: Where did this come from? Holy cow this is a interesting matchup. It's clever and exciting. Its much more like a 1986-87 NJPW heavyweight strong style tag. It's been awhile since I watched this type of stuff and this was appreciated. Yeah buddy, go check this shit out. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinjiro Otani & Takao Omori (October 12, 2001) Back in the green ring of Noah. This is neat as Omori is here as a cast off from the early days of Noah but there's that great AJPW history that ties him to Ogawa & Misawa. Then you've got Otani who has no love for Ogawa or Misawa whether you want to draw upon his NJ history or as one of the top stars of the fledgling Zero One. It's a simple match but a great one. I think what elevates it is that the little touches are done right. And perhaps it's because it is 2001 and we're not that far away from when wrestling (as in holds, storytelling over moves etc.) mattered. Compare this to nowadays or 2011 AJ which I was just watching, and working a few holds in between moves, escalating the action and selling rather than acting as a tough guy seems so very old fashioned. But dammit, those things work! And this isn't a text book example of those things but they're in the match and this small venue/B show main event was exciting and got me engaged. And rather than beat the scrap out of each other, go move crazy or whatever, they did a simple yet dramatic tag battle with good heel/face work, well timed counters & spots, and some believable near falls (rare as a unicorn nowadays). Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (10/19/01) - Very good to great Jr. Heavyweight title fight. Lots of bombs thrown and no way will you not dig this match. Nice counter moves and surprises... just a lot of fun and believable near falls. Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (11/30/01) - A prelude to the Marufuji/Takaiwa encounter. Its 13 minutes of really good junior tag action. KENTA hasn't quite found his identity yet and its the earliest I've seen him. The potential is visible already. The Zero-One team is a great combo and Hoshikawa impressed again. As a lead in to the match below, there's no reason not to see this. Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Naomichi Marufuji (12/09/01): This is a classic junior match because of all of bananas shit that takes place. It definitely belongs in the list of awesome Junior matches of early NOAH and perhaps it's the first one. But not only is it shocking (in a good way) but its clever at times as well. Takaiwa attacks the leg quite viciously and Marufuji's real only offense is his side kick (super kick) and taking flying leaps of the top rope. And his only defense is trying to counter Takaiwa with a pinning combination or endure the onslaught and maybe get lucky. I will say with a bit more structure this could have been a high end classic and be scratching at an all time classic (****3/4-*****) however it's just sneaking in at ****1/2. I try to avoid stars anymore because I'm splitting hairs with fractions so yeah low-end classic but a classic nonetheless In summary, this was extremely fun to watch. There's variety in styles and match-ups. The intensity was there. The action was exciting and surprising at times. It was exactly what I wanted. Everything here is easy to find online. If nothing else, pick 2-3 matches to watch. If you haven't seen Misawa in awhile, go with those. You want guys kicking people, Hashimoto and Hoshikawa got you covered. It is hard to go wrong with anything here. Be kind and patient with people this holiday season. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Thanks for reading!
  2. 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.
  3. In all honesty, this was going to be a quickie post of just a few matches that I stumbled across. But then I became intrigued by the match ups or was impressed by a worker and wanted to see more. And here we are! The entire 2003 Differ Cup watched out of sequence reviewed out of sequence. I'm not going to pretend it didn't happen. Sit back and read on: KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs Great Takeru & Kappa Kozou (02/08): Was going to skip this since I'd never heard of the IWA Japan team. But then I thought - I'm going to end up watching the whole event (mostly) so I should just check it out. So glad I did! Its shown in full as it features the home NOAH team and frankly it is a great opening bout! Both teams were smooth and exciting which surprised me. Perhaps it's a case of low expectations but I thought the teams gelled well enough that the IWA-J team would be invited back for under card jobs at the very least. Not thinking they were though... Jun Kasai & Gran Naniwa vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Saw this called the worst match of the night...no way man! In fact, I thought it was great! It wasn't a move fest but it was clever, funny and had some exciting moves too. It just felt like 4 pros at work. Sometimes it doesn't have to be epic, brutal or intense to be great. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai (02/08): JIP to the last 10 minutes of an 18 minute match. Took a chance on this and was pleasantly surprised. My sleazy indie radar steered me right. Very fun very indie match with chairs and a ladder. As a fan of ECW & FMW, this felt good. Ikuto Hidaka & Masao Orihara vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): In a NOAH ring but this is a Zero-one match. And that is pretty cool. The familiarity is there and they were able to do some really good stuff. Hidaka never ceases to amaze me with some move or sequence. Orihara (who I hadn't seen much at this time other than Fire Pro Returns) can still go. This was all action and a great match. Yoshihito Sasaki looks good even this early. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): JIP and clipped however the stuff that was shown was really good! The Zero One team brings the steak but MIKAMI brings the needed sizzle. Heck KUDO looked really exciting here as well. The ladder is in play again and I'm not complaining. 12 minutes shown out of a 15 minute match so I feel safe giving this a "very good" rating. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Oh yeah this was really good stuff especially towards the end. Masato Yoshino/YOSSINO did his part here but Ultimo was the star of the whole tournament. Good pace, action throughout - this 11 minute bout was a nice way to end night #1. Great Takeru vs Kappa Kozou (02/09): Fun showcase match of the IWA Japan guys. It's about 10 minutes of them throwing their best stuff out there. They made a good impression on me. Ikuto Hidaka vs Masao Orihara: Oh shit! They were not going to be out done by the IWA guys. This was some next level stuff. Hidaka again drops my jaw with his precision, speed and body control. Orihara is right there with him! This wasn't all fireworks either as Hidaka was trying to get a clean win whereas Orihara was going to take it anyway he could. Even Ikuto has a breaking point and introduces a steel chair to the mix. Nothing too crazy like we've seen the night before but it's nice to see the ECW/FMW relaxed rules again. This is a great junior match. Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai vs Gran Naniwa & Jun Kasai : I wasn't sure about this one. I looked it up and it was around 20 minutes. 12-14 minutes seemed right but that time seemed too much. Yet again, I was wrong. This was a really fun match that had a little bit of everything. Both teams looked really good. Kuroda and Kasai were the best though. I don't know if I would have booked this after Hidaka vs Orihara from a draw perspective but they did their job and provided lighter entertainment to prep the fans for the main events. KUDO & MIKAMI vs. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki: This is fought for Third Place trophy. I've seen this called a very good match but I can't agree. The start was fun but the middle was long and pretty dull. The last third was good but wasn't enough to save this from being just OK in my book. This was very good but the Naniwa/Kasai match was no good? Yeah right! The Kappa/Takeru bout smoked this as well. It was just too long and none of the guys knew how to fill the time in the middle. A disappointing fight. Ultimo Dragon & YOSSINO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/09): Its much more toned down in terms of crazy spots (although it has a few) and has a strong face/heel dynamic. Masato Yoshino (YOSSINO) played the whipping boy and Takaiwa was the bully. Dragon was the big brother and Sasaki was the lackey. It was simple and effective. It was well executed, there were nice surprises, shoot it was a really good tag match! A great way to end the tournament. There you have it! Never had any intention at anytime to watch this but dammit I had a lot of fun! Only one match was a bummer and most were actually pretty darn good to great. This gets a very strong recommendation from me especially if you're craving something from this time in wrestling. Thanks for reading!
  4. After an arduous journey battling injury and a trial series of sorts, this was Shiozaki's return to the GHC Heavyweight Title picture. Following a lengthy losing streak, he picked up wins over Manabu Soya and former AXIZ tag team partner and rival Katsuhiko Nakajima to get here. Meanwhile, Kiyomiya looked to prove that he once again belonged at the top of NOAH. Working the first five minutes of a match around a side headlock is an ambitious task, especially by modern standards, but Shiozaki and Kiyomiya succeeded. Every time Shiozaki got back on offense, Kiyomiya was there to bring him back down to the mat. Kiyomiya worked the headlock with intensity and purpose. That continued until Shiozaki escaped, and Kiyomiya took a wild spill into the guardrails. Kiyomiya has added some wicked European uppercuts to his repertoire since I last saw him. One even caught Shiozaki in the nose, which looked grotesque. Kiyomiya was a good foil for Shiozaki's intensity, bringing some much-needed urgency to make this 30-plus-minute match triumph. A highlight was Kiyomiya's beautiful topé con giro over the turnbuckles. One of my biggest complaints about apron moves is the lack of build-up. They're often treated like any other maneuver rather than a potential tide-turner in a match. Where Shiozaki and Kiyomiya got it right is saving the Bloody Sunday off the apron to the floor until the twenty minute mark, which got a relatively big reaction by clap-crowd standards. There are some modern tropes holding this back ever so slightly, namely the occasional no-selling and constant screaming from Kiyomiya. However, they were far from egregious, and Shiozaki and Kiyomiya built up to those brief moments better than the bulk of the so-called epics I've seen this year. This was a great match that showed both the growth of Kiyomiya and the reliability of Shiozaki.
  5. Pretty standard DDT workrate tag. These kinds of matches typically have a high floor, but where they lose me is when the tags don't matter. It's not even that it comes down to referee's discretion. Rather, the illegal men in the match would frequently be allowed to make pin attempts after a flurry of offense where everyone entered the ring. Without rules in place, the match is functionally no different than a scramble. Personally, I find it much more impressive when wrestlers can work within the confines of limitations instead of cramming everything they can into 14 minutes. Anyway, this was fine. **3/4
  6. 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.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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!
  9. Joe Higuchi (ジョー樋口) Profession: Wrestler, Referee Real name: Kanji Higuchi (樋口寛治) Professional names: Kanji Higuchi, Joe Higuchi Life: 1/18/1929-11/8/2010 Born: Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan Career: 1954-1997 Height/Weight: 178cm/100kg (5’10”/220 lbs.) Signature moves: unknown Promotions: Japan Pro Wrestling/JWA, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Pro Wrestling NOAH (as authority figure) Titles: none Summary: Joe Higuchi was one of puroresu’s greatest referees and a beacon of hospitality for foreign talent. An athletic child, Kanji Higuchi claimed that he was encouraged to pick up judo by the leader of a kendo club, after Kanji lost his temper during a kendo match and tossed his shinai aside to grapple his opponent and take their mask. Higuchi stuck with judo through junior high, but after the war broke out, he was mobilized for factory work and could not concentrate on it. Higuchi also states that he very nearly died during a bombing raid as his factory was targeted; fortunately, Higuchi had skipped work that day to listen to a jazz record his friend owned. Higuchi entered university in April 1945, but with his country’s surrender that August, martial arts clubs would be banned in the early days of the occupation. This did not mean that judo itself was outlawed, though, and after Higuchi won a prefectural competition, a Japanese-American soldier named George Hamaguchi offered Kanji a job teaching judo to American servicemen. Higuchi initially refused, but Hamaguchi was insistent, and Kanji would be convinced when he saw the quality of the facility. It was during this time that Higuchi learned English, and his connection to the US military kept him well-fed despite scarce supplies. When his frequent visits to the military gymnasium resulted in his expulsion from university, Hamaguchi got him employed. It was while working with the military that Higuchi attended one of the Torii Oasis Shriners Club shows of 1951. Headed by William F. Marquat, the last of Douglas MacArthur’s Bataan Boys to remain stationed in Japan after Truman relieved MacArthur of his command, the club had arranged a deal with Hawaii wrestling promoter Al Karasick to run a series of professional wrestling shows to entertain the troops and raise funds for a charity drive to help children who had been crippled by the war. This tour is most famous for having featured Rikidozan's professional wrestling debut. My source states that Higuchi saw one of the shows which also featured exhibition fights with the soon-to-retire Joe Louis, which would make it one of five shows between October 18 and December 11. (Assuming he was stationed in Osaka, it would have been the November 25 show at the Osaka Stadium.) Left: Higuchi and Yuichi Deguchi in an Osaka parade, during their time in the All Japan Pro Wrestling Association. [Photo credit: G Spirits Vol. 62] After the occupation officially ended in 1952, Higuchi remained employed by the US military. However, he decided to leave his job despite familial objections to apprentice under Toshio Yamaguchi, who formed the regional All Japan Pro Wrestling Association in Osaka. While no AJPWA records exist for this timeframe, Higuchi later stated that he debuted at a Matsuzaka show in May 1955. Due to his bilinguality, and the promotion’s reliance on hiring locally stationed or living American servicemen as opponents, Higuchi was working as a referee even this early. In 1956, the Association officially disbanded when local Yakuza boss (of the Sarae-gumi gang) Shotaro Matsuyama withdrew his support for health reasons. Higuchi was one of the core members who remained with Yamaguchi, relocating to Toshio’s hometown of Mishima to run shows in poverty as Yamaguchi Dojo. Higuchi later recalled that he had eaten three meals a day in Osaka, but during his Yamaguchi Dojo period, he was forced to subsist on udon noodles cooked with seawater broth in an aluminum basin. Higuchi was one of the participants in the Japan Championship League tournament, an October interpromotional tour organized by the JWA. This tour is generally considered to have been an effort for the JWA to delegitimize their regional competitors (and/or scout talent worth poaching from them), and there were multiple shoot incidents, particularly in the first show (which was closed off to the public and media). Higuchi managed to place third in the light heavyweight bracket. The following year, Higuchi was one of five regional wrestlers hired by the JWA; the others were fellow Yamaguchi Dojo men Michiaki Yoshimura, Yuichi Deguchi, and Hideyuki Nagasawa, and Asia Pro Wrestling’s Kiyotaba Otsubo. Unlike Yoshimura, who was briefly pushed as the top wrestler in the company on short-lived weekly television shows (these were an attempt to make up for the revenue lost by cutting ties with Sadao Nagata, the live entertainment don on whom they had wholly depended to book house shows), Higuchi was an undercarder and stayed there. However, when Rikidozan learned he was fluent in English, Higuchi began pulling double duty as a handler for foreign talent. He drew upon the culinary knowledge he had gathered during his work on military bases to provide American wrestlers with a taste of home when touring provincial markets, keeping them fed on steak, potatoes, soup, and salad. Higuchi’s cooking would gain enough of a reputation that he even cooked for Rikidozan. Despite his usefulness backstage, though, Higuchi decided to retire in 1960 due to his lack of progress between the ropes. He tried to run some sort of water business in Osaka, but it failed, and he returned to the JWA in a backstage capacity in 1963. Joe’s job was to look after foreign talent and keep them in condition to perform. Over the decades, some would not listen, and Joe was forced to earn their respect.1 Joe did not become a JWA referee until 1966. This happened because head ref Oki Shikina was arrested for illegal firearm possession, leaving Yusef Turk and Yonetaro Tanaka as the only ones in the position. Michiaki Yoshimura remembered that Higuchi had experience in the role from their time in the AJPWA, so he ordered him to take the position. In an era where foreign heels in puroresu frequently assaulted officials, Joe focused exclusively on training his bumping skills. He became so good that Giant Baba remarked that he was better at ukemi than when he was a wrestler, and word of his performances quickly spread. In 1967, Higuchi was invited by several American promoters to work with them. Joe took them up on these offers, honing his skills and building relationships. As the BI-gun era of the JWA progressed, factions began to form behind Baba and Inoki. This extended to the referees, as Turk officiated Inoki’s matches while Oki officiated Baba’s. As the JWA entered the post-coup malaise of 1972, Higuchi eventually decided to leave the company, and Michiaki Yoshimura did not try to stop him (he himself was planning to retire soon). Higuchi had settled on working in the States, but when he asked JWA liaison officer Ryozo Yonezawa to procure a work visa, another opportunity arose. Unbeknownst to most, Yonezawa had decided to follow Baba in forming a new organization, and when he relayed this to Baba, Higuchi received an offer to join what would become AJPW. Higuchi had started a family by this time, so he was grateful to have a domestic job offer, but he had already been told by American promoters to “come immediately”. Joe apologized and shaved his head as a display of contrition, but when he explained the situation, they laughed and said “If Baba has set up an office there, it will be easier for us to continue our relationship”. Despite the amiable reaction, Joe would keep the skinhead look for the rest of his life. Right: Higuchi officiates Jack Brisco's June 14, 1974 (the caption is incorrect) NWA title defense against Dory Funk Jr. in the Kiel Auditorium. In its early years, AJPW continued the JWA tradition of hiring American referees. Initially booked on a tour-by-tour basis, All Japan settled on JWA referee Jerry Murdock after the latter folded. Murdock would remain with the company until he was fired in summer 1976, but Higuchi was treated as a head referee from the start. In 1974, Joe received perhaps the greatest honor of his career when he accompanied Baba to the States. On June 14, Baba arrived in St. Louis to defend his PWF Heavyweight title against Dick Murdoch in the Kiel Auditorium. Unbeknownst to Higuchi, who had left his referee outfit in his hotel room, NWA president Sam Muchnick was intent on having Joe referee an NWA World Heavyweight title match between Jack Brisco & Dory Funk Jr. He rushed to his hotel and returned in the proper attire to officiate one of Brisco and Dory’s many 60-minute draws of the period. I believe some notes on Higuchi’s style are appropriate, considering trends I have seen in the evaluation of his work (such as a couple comments on his Cagematch profile). Kyohei Wada recalled in his 2004 autobiography that it took time for him to appreciate Joe’s style. While Joe was clearly the most fleet-footed referee in Japan during his peak, Wada noted that he “barely moved” much of the time. Eventually, though, Wada realized that that was the point. In an era so influenced by the classical NWA style, in which much of wrestling was on the mat and so much more importance was placed on transitions than spots, Higuchi knew that in order to keep the crowd engaged, he had to be not independent of the wrestlers, but contrapuntal *to* them. When both wrestlers were standing, sure, he barely moved, but whenever one of them got a headlock takeover or arm lock, Joe hopped around better than anyone. Journalist Kagehiro Osano has stated that Joe, like his successor, was the perfect referee for a ringside photographer, as he was careful never to examine a hold from the most obvious angle and obstruct the best shot. Finally, there is the matter of Joe’s count speed. It’s a reasonably legitimate three seconds, but such verisimilitude is dissonant with the rhythms of post-NWA wrestling. If one believes that it is fair to judge referees against each other across time like wrestlers, then I would at least suggest framing one's evaluation of Joe in the context of the product of AJPW’s first phase, and not solely judging him on his twilight work. Higuchi remained AJPW’s head referee for a decade. In the main event of the Tokyo Sports show of August 31, 1979, in which BI-gun mounted a one-night reunion to face Abdullah the Butcher & Tiger Jeet Singh, Higuchi’s assignment as referee was explicitly approved by Inoki. His position only started to shift in the Japan Pro era of the mid-1980s, whose AJPW vs JPW matches would be officiated by Tiger Hattori, at Riki Choshu’s request. In the late 80s, Wada would be promoted to a co-lead referee spot to fulfill Hattori’s function of officiating native vs native matches. As the Tsuruta vs Tenryu feud gave way to the Chosedaigun-Tsurutagun and Four Pillars eras, Higuchi handed off those duties to Wada. By Joe’s own admission, he was incapable of adopting the “dancing” count style that the clutch kickouts of those matches necessitated. Perhaps as a result, AJPW’s native vs foreigner matches were slow to adopt the modern nearfall. Besides, Joe’s hands were severely damaged from his long career, leaving him incapable of using chopsticks. Left: Higuchi in a press conference with Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji. In 1997, Higuchi decided to retire. He initially declined to receive a retirement ceremony, as he believed it was not a referee’s place to overshadow the wrestlers; in his late career, crowds had taken to chanting his name. Baba insisted, though, so Higuchi got a grand sendoff and officiated Mitsuharu Misawa’s March 1, 1997 Triple Crown defense against Steve Williams. Joe received a ceremony at the following Budokan show, on April 19. He remained with the company afterward as a foreign handler, leaving after the May 2, 1999 Tokyo Dome show. At Ryu Nakata’s insistence, though, Joe would join Pro Wrestling NOAH as an auditor. He would become the chairman of their GHC committee, and remained with the promotion for a decade. In 2003, he would return to the ring to referee a Rikidozan memorial match. Joe was hospitalized in September 2010 for lung cancer, and died on November 8.
  10. Honorable Mention: Dory Funk Jr. vs Stan Hansen (11/28/83) Near Classic Matches: Mitsuharu Misawa & Masahiro Chono vs Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue (01/10/03 NOAH) Jun Akiyama, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kotaro Suzuki vs Takao Omori, Manabu Soya & Kaz Hayashi (02/10/13) Jun Akiyama vs KAI (04/29/13) Suwama & SUSHI vs Go Shiozaki & Kotaro Suzuki (07/21/13) Kensuke Sasaki, Jun Akiyama & Go Shiozaki vs Suwama, Takao Omori & Kento Miyahara (08/31/13 Diamond Ring) Classic Matches: Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito vs Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka (01/10/03 NOAH) Jushin Liger & Takehiro Murahama vs. Tsubasa & Black Buffalo (02/1/03 Osaka Pro) Masato Tanaka v Togi Makabe (08/03/08 Zero One) Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka (c) vs Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki (03/17/13) Suwama vs Go Shiozaki (04/18/13) Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka vs Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki (04/25/13) Akiyama & Shiozaki vs Omori & Suwama (2/3 falls 07/28/13) Go Shiozaki & Jun Akiyama vs. Suwama & Takao Omori (08/17/13) Go Shiozaki vs Suwama (Triple Crown, 08/25/13)
  11. 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!
  12. 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!
  13. 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!
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