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  1. For a year where AJPW was mostly in the pits, this was a surprisingly really good match....and it only needed 15 minutes. Starts with both men feeling each other out on the mat, with Muto eventually able to get a good hold of Kojima's leg and works it for a bit until he smartly reverses it into his own hold; this causes Muto to quickly get to the ropes with him laying down uneasy while Kojima gets right back up in the middle of the ring, super confident. Good starting spot that establishes how Kojima's prior experience with Muto gives him a edge. Both men explode into their signature spots, Muto going for a early Wizard that's blocked, Kojima going for a lariat that's blocked, which ends with both of them troubled by how well the other has defended themselves: Kojima calling Muto a bastard for even daring to sneak a win early is a great spot but it also showcases that Muto's leg-targeting gameplan despite being dominant against nearly everyone else in the Carnival wasn't going to fly here. Kojima is the one instead to work over Muto's legs: he spends a good portion here wearing them down so he can then just blast him away with stiff chops and strikes. Muto in turn opts for Kojima's lariat arm instead, which I thought was a lot more explosive than you'd think: despite the usual key locks and cross armbreakers we also get Muto just wrecking the arm with endless kneeling dropkicks. What I do like is how both guys sell fatigue here: Kojima obviously has his dramatic selling for the arm and whatnot where he's screaming and falling over but Muto has a more subdued style of selling where he's clearly not comfortable and having to pull out big risky moves to even the score before Kojima can run him over again. It's Misawa-lite almost how he doesn't go crazy with the emoting, but you can clearly tell he's hurting. That's the story of the match, and it plays out in the usual formula of the time as the two pursue their respective limbs while also getting in bombs whenever possible. There's a good pace here as both men take turns doing that exact thing while not stretching things out too much. Kojima mounts one final comeback using a Koji Cutter and Michinoku Driver for a 2. 9. He hits a proper Lariat at last but the arm work allows Muto to take the dampened impact just fine and answer with a Wizard. The finish is amazingly innovative as Muto smartly uses a modified Franksteiner to roll into a cross armbreaker mid-lariat attempt, getting the tap out victory. This is easily Muto's best match in the Carnival barring the Tenryu bout: intense, psychologically driven warfare between two guys who have each other's number by this point. The crowd was totally into this one and were massively behind Kojima to take it who played to this well with his babyface selling of Muto's offence; some could say it's a bit too exaggerated at points, but I think Kojima has a charm that allows him to get away with stuff like that. Muto really went into next gear here in getting over Kojima as his most dangerous threat yet as he needed to pull out everything to get over and even then he barely got the win. The shortened pace meant that both men cut the filler for more hard-hitting action, which was definitely the right choice given the conditions. Easy to watch but lots of fun.
  2. This was a wrestling show held in August 2011 in honor of the victims of the March 2011 Earthquake & Tsunami and the aftermath including the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant. Well, without going and checking dates I'm not sure they knew the scope of the disaster of Fukashima yet. That's one of those things that the company and government wanted to downplay at the time. And they still do. It is certainly one of those things that still exists but, is sadly a footnote in the 24 hour news cycle. It was almost a decade ago but, those people and communities are still gone...and that area is still radioactive. I digress. Ok so on to the wrestling part. This was a joint venture between AJPW, NJPW, and NOAH as well as some big time freelancers to but on a super show in the spirit of solidarity and togetherness in the face of a national tragedy. What better way to do so then have a bunch of dudes beating up on each other? I kid! All proceeds went to the Japanese Red Cross. It was one of those things that I shied away from at the time because I didn't know if it would be a somber show or if it would be dull due to the nature of the show. Its me being stingy with my wrestling dollar. Don't fret though because this show as well as its follow up (and Kobashi's farewell show) are all available in full on Youtube. I haven't been watching a ton of puroresu and thought "Man, this looks like a good way to get back into it after getting lost in an ROH k-hole." I had pretty low expectations but, this features a pretty complete list of top Japanese talent and I should check it out for the sake of it. Kota Ibushi, Taji Ishimori, BUSHI & Yamato vs Kaz Hiyashi, Shuji Kondo, Tiger Mask IV & Ricky Marvin - This was a short but all fireworks spot fest! What a way to start the show. My fears of a dull exhibition show have subsided. This was good stuff. Ricky Marvin was my fave. Naito, Sanada & Taniguchi vs Takahashi, Manabu Soya & M. Yone - I'm not writing out everyone's names. Every match is some form of a tag match and I'm not doing it! You probably know some if not most of the names and the others you can look up Anyhow this was a really good match where Naito got worked over but made a good comeback and tagged out to kick it up a notch - BAM! This was a good mix of guys and although there were some rough patches nothing ruined the fun. Makabe & Akitoshi Saito vs Hirooki Goto & Kea - This was my jam. Hard hitters hitting each other hard. Good chops and slams. These guys had that good upper card tag vibe going, Taiyo Kea and Makabe had good chemistry against each other. Very good match. KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - Oh man! They could split all these guys up and have a tag tourney and I'd be a happy man. What we get scratches that it nonetheless. Everyone gets in there and does their thing. KENTA and Koji Kanemoto on the same team!? Get outta here! Attitude for miles! So you've got that and everyone just is super talented and wanted to win, this was a great match. 15 minutes but, it was fantastic. Best match so far. Masakatsu Funaki, Liger & Sano vs Minoru Suzuki, Aoki & Taichi - NJ Dojo classmates united again. Suzuki is right behind them so that's the story of the match to me. Fun little match with good spots toward the end. The Destroyer battle royale - I skipped this... Nagata, Tenzan, Nishimura & W. Inoue vs Akebono, Hama, Y. Yoshie & Morishima - Fun match but, this would have been better with Nagata & Nishimura vs Yoshie & Morishima . Its only 11 minutes and its all good for where its at on the card. Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - So, Takayama was starting to not have "it" by this point but, he could still take a helluva beating. I wanted to say that right off the bat. That being said, this was a near classic macho beat-em up match. All three other guys were still awesome and the crowd was molten hot for this battle. I really really dug this especially at 15 minutes where it was all steak and no sizzle which works wonderfully for this style and the guys' ages. I'm a fan of all 4 so perhaps you think I'm full of it but, I really want to put this as like a ****1/2 match. The final 3rd of the match which had Omori in the ring more really put this up there. Best match of the show and should have been the main event in my eyes. Kobashi & Muto vs Iizuka & Yano - This won the Tokyo Sports GP Best Match of 2011 award. That like many of their awards is based on mass appeal, nostalgia, and star power. That and the finish is really something beautiful if you're a long time puro fan. SUWAMA, Tanahashi & Shiozaki vs KENSO, Nakamura & Sugiura - I totally get why this is the main event. These are the heavy hitter, the aces of their companies, the world champions. That being said I would have LOVED this id it was minus Tanahashi & KENSO because the other four guys are absolute beasts! So, it makes their offense look mid card level. SUWAMA and Nakamura grappling to start, Shiozaki & Sugiura blasting each other...it makes the other two guys stuff look soft. It got really really good though. All that talent in one ring, they had to have a very good match in their sleep. This was that match BUT! they threw a story element in there as well. It was kinda goofy but, the fans loved it and we got to see all these dudes in one ring at once. Kinda like a lucha trios match... Overall this was a really really good show and I think paid off the Dream Show vibe. I would say this would be like getting the '94 Super J Cup tape if you wanted to get into puro but stuff is so easy to come by with Youtube, NJ World, etc. that there's probably more relevant entry points now. But, let's say if you're looking to get into older stuff but, want a more modern presentation and a good introduction than this is a great way for that. I think its also a good reminder of the events that took place all most a decade ago. Thanks for reading !
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