Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only
Sign in to follow this  
William Bologna

Johnny Smith

Recommended Posts

Johnny Smith/Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Jun Akiyama/Hiroshi Hase (AJPW 7/25/1997)

We enter All Japan's slightly weird phase. Hase is here, in what I guess is the first time someone switched between New Japan and All Japan since Choshu. Jinsei Shinzaki, an indy wrestler consumed by his gimmick, makes his debut. Pretty soon Hayabusa will follow, along with a number of other indy degenerates that they need to fill out the Tokyo Dome card.

They never let these new guys win much, but they bring a lot to the table. Hase and Smith do some actual mat wrestling - Smith's busting out stuff he hasn't used since he was John Savage from the Isle of Man.

Hase also supplies some heat. He trash-talks Johnny a couple times and plays to the crowd, which seemed weirdly out of place in this environment. It works, as by the end of the this Budokan is totally on board with this match.

It must be an educated crowd; they know enough about Shinzaki that a chunk of the match is built around his silly rope-walking spot - it's over like it's a damn Tiger Driver. When he finally hits Akiyama with the full double-length rope walk chop, it gets a big reaction. (NB: When I say it's silly, I do not mean that it's not rad. I love this gimmick.)

Shinzaki's not just there to test your suspension of disbelief. He's also good at getting beaten up. He takes a huge bump off the apron and flips over the timekeeper's table. Terrifying. Hase and Akiyama work on his gut for a while, and when he does his Vader bomb thing only for Akiyama to get his knees up, the way he drops himself belly-first looks brutal.

He's also there to crack up his tag partner. Hase gets Shinzaki in the giant swing, and Jinsei prays the whole time while Smith laughs in the background.

We come to Johnny, and he really brings it this time out. He's very good and very popular. He's won over the Budokan crowd. They explode for his dropkick/kip-up/arm pump and cheer on all his comebacks. He works really well with both of these guys - he and Akiyama work one hell of a sequence as we head to the finish.

No win for Johnny, though. Hase and Akiyama do a nifty simultaneous uranage/exploder bit, and then Hase puts Smith away with the Northern Lights.

This was a hell of a lot of fun.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/The Lacrosse vs. Johnny Ace/Maunakea Mossman (AJPW 9/6/1997)

This is the first recorded pairing of the legendary Smith/Hawkfield team, but it's before Jim Steele was transported into the virtual world to become a video game character. Too bad they never paid that off with Johnny Smith/Wolf Hawkfield vs. Johnny Ace/Noob Saibot or something.

This match confirmed by hunch: Johnny Smith got real good in 1997. He's adapting to the style, doing a bunch of the cute sequences that are becoming more common in All Japan. He's showing some confidence and fire, and he's getting weirdly huge reactions. I was not expecting this, but he's easily the most popular guy in this match.

I'm all turned around on the Ace/Smith comparison. Ace was better in 1995, but now I'm thinking Smith should have gotten the push Ace got in 1998. Smith giving a valiant but doomed effort in a Triple Crown match against Misawa would have gone over pretty big. But the tall guy gets the push, and he gets the win here after a cute sequence results in a cobra clutch suplex.

This is another good one. A surprising amount of heat, lots of hot moves and reversals, lots of kickouts. It's what you want from an AJPW tag match, even without any of the people you expect to give it to you. I bag on Virtua Fighter Wolf Hawkfield a lot, but he's been in an awful lot of good matches.

The sad thing is that this is it for the All Japan we all know and love. I covered the rest of 1997 and all of 1998 back when I was skipping around, and everything I've got from '99 is in the States. We didn't see a lot of Misawa and Kobashi (I didn't realize how often AJPW filled out their cards with all-foreigner matches), but we'll be seeing none of them from here on.

Johnny's on a hot streak. Can he continue it against the likes of Yoji Anjo and the Cedman?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. Taz (ECW 9/14/1996)

It's time for Johnny Smith on the WWE Network Gaiden! Also we're going back in time because I thought this happened in 1999.

When we last saw Johnny in ECW, he was beating Louie Spicolli while Joey Styles told us friendly lies. This time the ring announcer gets the fibs started by telling us with a straight face that Taz weighs 248 pounds.

I will say that both men are looking pretty jacked. Smith is just one of those guys where no matter how swole up he gets, he still looks like a CPA

This starts out pretty good until it goes all ECW-ish. They do some silly mirror spot mat wrestling, then they do a little nifty mat wrestling, and then Taz starts acting like a dick and they slap each other. I liked this part - they were doing character work rather than moves, and I was getting involved.

But then Taz started throwing Tazplexes (isn't it weird when someone pronounces it "Taz-play"?) and Smith gave up on transitions. They do some moves and stuff - Smith steals that dumb Kobashi thing where he whips the guy but holds onto his arm and knees him - until Taz sinks in the Tazmission (which is short for "Tasmanian devil submission").

Credit goes to Joey Styles, who's a bit strident for my taste but does great work in covering up faults in this match. For example: "We don't know how badly that shoulder is injured. He's hiding it rather well." That's when Smith isn't bothering to sell his Tazplexed shoulder.

Also, Smith slips on his kip-up, and Styles is right there to tell us it's because of his shoulder. Nice save, Joey!

Taz gets on the mic and says some swears and some almost nice things about Johnny, and they shake hands. Johnny leaves so they can start yelling about Sabu.

And that's that.


Back in the laundry room (didn't they film these Styles segments in someone's basement? Am I remembering that right?), Styles informs that Taz Tazplexed Smith's AC joint out of place. Smith missed an All Japan tour and a lot of money, and he wants revenge.

This Saturday! The ECW Arena! And let's not forget that Johnny Smith trained in Stu Hart's basement (as opposed to this basement), and he wants a submission match! It's even money, folks!

This had some potential. I wish they'd held off on the big moves for a few more minutes, and I wish that Bill Alfonso had found another line of work. Something where I'm not in earshot.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. Taz (ECW 10/5/1996)

Johnny Smith on the WWE Network Gaiden continues and concludes with a submission match.

Johnny Smith's AC joint is back where it's supposed to be, and he's out for revenge. Styles tells us that he's "developed a hatred for the human crime spree," and then we cut to Johnny in his corner looking as amiable as ever. "Smith is all business," Styles tells us, once again doing his damndest to cover up for the boys.

The fault in this match, which is actually pretty good, is with Smith. He doesn't come off angry. He doesn't do anything with Bill Alfonso, who gets as much camera time as either of the competitors. After every rope break (it's a submission match, so there are many), he's right there screaming at Smith, and he doesn't nothing with it. Call him a wanker or something, Johnny.

He lacks physical urgency and just generally acts like a guest who doesn't want to overstep. Be more like Stan!

Anyway, decent match. Taz really does have some cool submissions, and the stipulation means they can't just throw bombs at each other. They even do a bit where they take turns getting on all fours and escaping (I didn't wrestle. I don't know what it's called, but I remember that Beavis and Butthead didn't think much of it), only for Taz to kick Johnny in the ribs.

So anyway, Taz hits a nearly-botched wheelbarrow Tazplex (Joey calls it an Ocean Cyclone Suplex, which it's not. At least he didn't say Tiger Bomb) and wins with the Tasmanian Maniac Submission. He then resumes bitching about Sabu.

Maybe it's Stockholm Syndrome, but the ECW experience is starting to grow on me:

  • Styles is a pretty damn good announcer.
  • Taz kind of impressed me. I can take or leave the suplexes, but he did some fun mat stuff.
  • I actually enjoyed Bill Alfonso aside from the whistle. I know, I can't believe it either. But he's doing this thing where he maintains that he's a better announcer than Styles and every so often spits play by play into the ringside camera. I found it amusing. Also, he gets bumped into and Styles says, "Hopefully next time our cameraman bumps into Bill Alfonso he'll be driving a production van." I popped.
  • Goddamn that whistle, though. That's turn off the TV heat right there.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. Maunakea Mossman (WXW 4/19/2000)

I'm glad we get a Mossman feature. We've seen him as the lowest-ranked guy in tag matches, so he never got to do much. He was limited to throwing some OK kicks and doing that tornado DDT where it has a 50/50 shot of looking like a move he's doing rather than one the other guy is. 

That's his real name, by the way. I'd always wondered, and then I found him on a list of Hawaiian state wrestling champions.

He has Nicole Bass with him. I don't know why. She doesn't do anything.

We get a great opening, with some fast-paced hold exchanges capped by Mossman nailing Smith with kick. I think that's one of his problems - he always throws a whole bunch of kicks, which gives you the impression that they don't do much. Here he puts Johnny down with one, and it's a better look.

They keep up the pace and space out the moves with more holds. It's a solid piece of work. They weren't telling a story or bothering to sell much, but everything was well done. Mossman wins abruptly with a TKO. That's six straight jobs for Johnny in this thread.

I liked the play-by-play guy, though I have no idea who he is. English guy. He did a nice job of putting these guys over to an audience that would not have been familiar. He gives us some background and calls the action well. He does have a tendency to let everyone know that he's got tapes and knows who Nobuhiko Takada is, and he calls a Death Valley Driver a Burning Hammer, but I've forgiven Joey Styles for worse.

This is from the Gary Albright memorial show. He died during a match in Hazelton, Pennsylvania a few months before this. RIP Gary.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Yuki Ishikawa vs. Masanobu Fuchi/Shigeo Okumura (AJPW 7/9/2000)

Here we are in the second week of the new All Japan, a promotion where they don't have many wrestlers and even fewer good ones.

It's crazy. One day you're on the Super Power Series wrestling Misawa and Taue; the next month you're on the Summer Action Series trying to figure out what to do with Yuto Aijima.

Ishikawa's supposed to be really good, so I was excited to see what he could do. But they only give us four minutes, so I don't see him do much except throw his Inoki towel at Johnny and put old man Fuchi in a choke hold. 

Smith hits Okumura with a Suzuki-style Gotch-style piledriver and then breaks the losing streak with a British Fall (which is finally being called that).

This went twenty minutes, and it probably wasn't very good. I'm glad I wasn't at this show - they still don't have enough wrestlers, so there are only five matches, and the last three are all twenty-minute tag matches.

Giant Kimala & Mike Barton defeat Steve Williams & Wolf Hawkfield (19:26)

Good lord. Imagine inflicting that on this audience. I'm surprised there wasn't a riot.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. Yoshiaki Fujiwara (AJPW 7/23/2000)

Two minutes of perfect professional wrestling. Smith has a waistlock. Fujiwara fights it, but gets Germaned. Smith holds on, they fight over it for a while, and then he hits another German. Smith goes for the dropkick/kip-up/clothesline, but Fujiwara catches him in his eponymous armbar to get the win.

The full match went twenty, and I wonder how good it could have been. Fujiwara is noticeably old (51 at this point), so who knows how he holds up going that long?

But what we got was, as I said, perfect. Fujiwara's not jumping into those suplexes. He and Smith aren't trying to steal the show and entertain the AJPW Universe. They're fighting.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. The Cedman (AJPW 8/25/2000)

We get a little promo from Cedman and then a highlight package. We get to see two of the three offensive moves Smith managed against Fujiwara, and they tactfully cut it off right before he gets armbarred.

Hoo boy it's the Cedman. You know the term "sprezzatura"? It is, according to some Italian guy quoted on Wikipedia, "a certain nonchalance, so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does or says appear to be without effort and almost without any thought about it." Doing something difficult without letting on that it's difficult, basically.

The Cedman lacks sprezzatura. When he does a wrestling move, you can see him thinking real hard about how he's doing a wrestling move.

You can tell he hasn't watched as many Johnny Smith matches as I have, since he doesn't get up after the dropkick. Johnny kips up and arm pumps and then has to bounce against the ropes a few times before he can do the clothesline.

I don't want to come down too hard on him. He's an inexperienced wrestler who, through the machinations of Steve Williams and the desperation of a recently-great promotion, has been thrust into a role for which he is not ready.

He really is bad, though. He kicks Johnny, who stands there doubled over waiting for Cedman to do something. Cedman does not do anything.

Finally Smith puts him away with a British Fall. Cedman lands wrong on the setup.

It really makes you appreciate Wolf Hawkfield.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Mike Barton/The Cedman vs. Taiyo Kea/Jinsei Shinzaki/Mohammed Yone (AJPW 9/2/2000)

You'd be hard pressed to put together a more late-2000 All Japan match than this one. Maybe throw in a Tenryu crony from WAR. Gran Naniwa. Some old guy.

We get five minutes of entrances here, most of which is Jinsei Shinzaki getting the full Buddhist Undertaker treatment. Once again: I love everything about it. The man is focused spiritually, and his traps are enormous. He comes out alone - Kea and Yone have to wait because they're not monks.

Dynamite Kid told a story (I got it from Wikipedia) that Johnny Smith was such a nice guy that when a fan made him a vest that said "Jhonny," he went ahead and wore it. I think he's wearing it tonight.

Mike Barton was in a peculiar situation as far as how to work. His claim to fame is that he knocked Steve Williams out in the Brawl for All and made Jim Ross blubber into his hat (Doc's on the card tonight, by the way. I wonder if they ever hung out or anything). So he's got a glove on his left hand, because it's the mighty weapon that felled Doctor Death. Watch out for the hand! Don't let him punch you with it!

The problem is that dudes punch each other all the time in a wrestling match, and it almost never means anything. He can't punch because it would win him the match, a situation that's pretty rough on the old suspension of disbelief. He has to work around something he should be doing constantly, so he winds up doing all these chops, and it's like he has to stop himself from just punching. He has to save the punch for special occasions, one of which comes here when he slugs Yone in the stomach and powerbombs him for the win.

Also he's boring.

This wasn't any good. Maybe the participants lacked familiarity with one another, or maybe they just weren't that good. Most of these guys are fine, but there was no one driving things and making it interesting.

Johnny Smith is again the most popular man in the match, but that's not saying much. The fans don't enjoy this any more than I do, but at least we get a little pop for the arm pump.

This should be noted: Cedman does not screw up. I'm actually impressed. We saw him just last week messing up several times in a five minute clip. Here he wrestles three different guys, and he doesn't blow a single thing. I guess he's learning.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith vs. Shiro Koshinaka (AJPW 10/14/2000)

All Japan is discovering - not by choice - that you can still run wrestling shows without any talent. The problem is that they don't have any champions. No one thought to have Mossman put Kobashi in a sharpshooter and then ring the bell back in June before everyone left.

He could have shown up on Noah TV and thrown all three of those belts in the trash!

So they have to run a tournament, and man is it slim pickings:

  • Mike Barton
  • Stan Hansen
  • Toshiaki Kawada
  • Shiro Koshinaka
  • Jinsei Shinzaki
  • Johnny Smith
  • Genichiro Tenryu
  • Steve Williams

New Japan sent over Koshinaka so they wouldn't have to put the Cedman in it, but they still can't come up with eight guys without including Smith and Shinzaki. They have Hansen, but he's 50. (To be fair, Tenryu's also 50, but being 50 didn't seem to affect Tenryu.)

So in the first round we get Smith vs. Koshinaka, and it's terrible! I don't get it. This is kind of a big match, but neither one of them acts like it. They roll around and then Koshinaka hits Smith with his ass a couple times and powerbombs him. I was looking forward to this, but that was before I realized that not only does late-2000 AJPW not have many good wrestlers, it also makes the good ones crappy.

I want my money back, you lazy dicks.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Masanobu Fuchi/Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Stan Hansen/Steve Williams/Wolf Hawfield (AJPW 10/28/2000)

It's not the worst five minutes I've ever seen. It's not even the worst five minutes I've seen from All Japan Pro Wrestling in October 2000. Fujiwara tries to do some stuff with Hawkfield, continuing his streak of doing something cool in every match I've ever seen him in. Smith gets the win with a British Fall on his old partner, who gets to stop pretending to be a video game character next month.

The memorable thing is that this is Stan Hansen's last match, and I'm not capable of giving him the sendoff he deserves.

Hansen has been the MVP of this project, it's not close, and we didn't even see him until he was in his mid-40s. Every time he's in there, he does something that adds to the match. We've been sitting through some pretty uninteresting six man tags lately. We've seen how boring these people can be when there's not a dynamo like Stan keeping things moving.

He never stops working. He never stops convincing you that he wants to win these matches. He yells, he throws up the horns, and he hits guys hard enough to get himself arrested in any other context. The Johnny Smith Project ran into some hard times when we were stuck in Calgary; things got better once we got to Japan, but they didn't get great until we hit the stretch of randomly-paired foreigners pitted against one another over and over, and that's because Hansen was usually there. He was the straw the stirred the drink, and he was also the huge, ill-tempered fake cowboy that blasted people with lariats.

He was right to get out when he did. I watched this and his penultimate match, in the Triple Crown tournament against his old buddy Tenryu. I wish I hadn't. His body let him down, as everyone’s does sooner or later, and I don't think he was selling when he appeared to be in a lot of pain. It wasn't a fun watch.

He seems to have done well since. He took over the James Blears role for while, awkwardly reading from a piece of paper before title matches. He wrote a book, did some shoot interviews, and every once in a he while flies to Japan and gets his picture taken with Kenta Kobashi.

It could be worse. In wrestling, it nearly always is. Things worked out for Stan Hansen, and you can't say he didn't earn it.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith VS Michiyoshi Ohara (AJPW 10/21/2000)

Team 2000 invades All Japan! New Japan's unlicensed NWO successor group is here, and it's their year! Can Johnny Smith defend his adopted home against Michiyoshi "No Not Goto The Other One" Ohara?

I'll say this: Ohara does his best to make everyone hate him. He gives the fans the bird. He spits at Johnny. He kicks him in the dick.

Smith brings a little, but only a little, of the kind of anger you like to see in this kind of scenario. He does get all mad when Ohara spits at him, but other than that he displays the same bland friendliness that Joey Styles had to announce around in that Taz rematch.

It's a decent little match. They do some solid enough matwork, and Ohara's wrongdoing keeps it from being boring. Johnny defends Giant Baba's memory with a British Fall.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 6/18/2020 at 10:48 AM, William Bologna said:

Johnny Ace/The Tornado vs. Masanobu Fuchi/Yuhi Sano (AJPW 3/30/1997)

A puzzling match. Sano has followed the Kodo Fuyuki career path: Quitting a major promotion, bouncing around the indies, and changing his name every so often. He's probably most famous as Naoki, the guy who feuded with Liger, but you may know him as Takuma Sano from NOAH. He's Yuhi here. I don't know.

The puzzling thing is that he stomps around this match like a little tiny Bruiser Brody in kickpads, taking all the offense, not letting anyone else do anything, and winning. He kicks the hell out of Smith, then he and Tornado botch some stuff, and then Fuchi comes in and pins Tornado.

I'm just not sure A. Who the hell he thinks he is, and B. Who the hell anyone else thinks he is. He worked two (2) All Japan matches in 1997. There was this one and another one in two weeks. He won both of them, and this one was on TV.

I don't get it - was he considered an attraction? At this point his MMA record was 0-0 as opposed to the 0-4 it would wind up being, so I guess he could still act like a juiced-up little tough guy, but the whole scenario seems really out of character for All Japan. Letting a bad shoot fighter beat up your guys is more of an Inoki thing.

Sano took a big money offer from SWS. When they folded, he began working as shoot style wrestler for Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi and UWF-i. I believe Sano was working for Kingdom at this stage, which was a short-lived offshoot/continuation of the UWF-i and a predecessor to PRIDE. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Taiyo Kea vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Taiyo Kea (AJPW 1/14/2001)

I had to dig up a VCR for this one. I felt like a damn archaeologist. It belongs in a museum!

The tag team titles remain vacant, but they don't bother to have a tournament for this one (maybe New Japan wasn't willing to send over enough guys for them to do it without the Cedman). I guess these two teams top the All Japan Power Rankings.

We don't get much of it. It's odd - as I was forwarding fast, I saw all kinds of dreadful stuff in complete form. Stan Hansen's last match was uncut, but for this we get introductions and then a couple minutes of action out of a 24 minute match. Kawada's barely in it.

We know some things happened. Fuchi's chest is spangled with exploded blood vessels, and Smith has blood coming out of his mouth.

Anyway, Tenryu uses his one All Japan booking trick: Make them think Kawada's going to win and have him lose. They take turns beating up on Fuchi, Kea Hawaiian Crushes him, and the celebrations begin.

It's awkward. Smith and Kea interact like they've never met. They do the classic move where one guy goes for a handshake and the other one goes for a high five and they run into each other before they figure it out. Both men have their hands full with two belts each, but then someone hands them trophies, and they have to improvise.

We get a backstage interview. Johnny tells us that this is what happens if you never give oop. Kea says some cusses (on his opponents: "Tough fuckin' guys. Shit.").

Johnny did it! An All Japan regular since 1989, he finally wins some gold (the All Asia titles don't count).

This is just the beginning for Kea, who would wind up winning these belts seven times with seven different partners.

I'm happy for the guys, but All Japan has never looked lower rent (excluding any matches involving the Cedman). The half-assed attempts at pomp emphasized how far they've fallen.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Jim Steele/George Hines vs. Curt Hennig/Barry Windham/Mike Rotundo (AJPW 1/28/2001)

All Japan has to put on a Tokyo Dome show, and they decide to capitalize on the popularity of Jurassic Park by trotting out a bunch of dinosaurs.

Onita. Abdullah. Kim Duk. Santo & Mil. The Destroyer. Seiji Sakaguchi. Terry Funk. And these three.

Between September of 1998 and right here, all four of the West Texas Rednecks worked in All Japan (Curly Bill doesn't count). Both Windhams were in the recent tag league, and IRS won the damn thing with Dr. Death. Tenryu was a weird booker, and this card is Exhibit B.

Exhibit A is having VK Wallstreet win the tag league.

On the other side of the ring, we see that Jim Steele is no longer a video game character, but he manages to look sillier without the gimmick. Sega may have decided on his gear when he was Wolf Hawkfield, but he picked out these zebra print tights all on his own.

George Hines is the poor man's Johnny Smith: Having hung around the mid-card for years, he was thrust into relative prominence when the talent left. Like Johnny, he's pretty good and may have deserved better than he got.

The match is fifteen minutes of nothing much. Hennig's timing is all off. He does try a little bit, but everything looks bad. He sets Johnny up for a big comeuppance clothesline, but he starts falling over before it makes contact for a swing and a miss.

Barry Windham isn't real interested in the proceedings. He'd rather sit in holds than let Steele get his shit in (I'm not saying that this isn't what you should do with Jungle Jim Steele).

Mike "Rotundo" Rotunda is actually pretty good. He's in shape, he's moving well, and he sets things up. He momentarily outsmarts Hines and makes this great, maniacal Bruce Campbell face, resulting in a crowd pop when Hines gives him his comeuppance. He spent more time in All Japan than I thought - he winds up working a pretty full schedule for the next couple years, and he's clearly more comfortable in this environment than either of his partners.

The highlight of this match is when the announcer calls Smith Johnny Ace and then corrects himself. I don't know Japanese or anything, but it was pretty obvious, and his embarrassment bridged the divide between languages and cultures.

Eventually, and to near-total silence, Steele hits Windham with a really bad Doctor Bomb for the win, which prompts "Machinehead" by Bush to start playing. As if the match weren't bad enough!

This was lame, very much in keeping with the rest of the card. We get no title matches. Tenryu has to be in the drama-free main event, after all (Kawada/Tenryu vs. Sasaki/Hase - gee, I wonder who's going to take the fall in that one!). Taiyo Kea's busy, so we don't have a tag title match - someone needs to job to Muto.

This is not only All Japan's biggest show of the year, it will wind up being their biggest show the decade, century, millennium, and geological era. It's astonishing that this was the best they could do.

The Dome was half full (or, I suppose, half empty), and they never came back.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Taiyo Kea vs. Manabu Nakanishi/Yutaka Yoshie (AJPW 6/8/2001)

They're really milking this New Japan invasion thing. You can't blame them - they'd run through all two of the fresh matchups for Tenryu. What else is there?

So once again we see foreigners in the role of stalwart defenders of Giant Baba's legacy. Which, once again, who else is there? They have Kawada, Fuchi, some guys who were in WAR six months ago, and the dudes they fly in. Smith has been there forever; Kea's never been anywhere else. So it's understandable that the regular AJPW Budokan crowd is more inclined to see them as the home team than Araya and Okumura or whoever.

Today they're defending the tag titles against a couple interlopers as part of what looks like a pretty hot AJ vs. NJ card. Kawada vs. Tenzan. Muto vs. Tenryu for the titles. The long-awaited showdown between Team 2000 and the Varsity Club.

It's pretty good. It's very snug, and the crowd is into it. They hate these New Japan bastards, and I don't think Johnny's arm pump has ever gotten a bigger pop. It's nice to hear after that Tokyo Dome debacle, where the crowd reaction was so lacking that I frankly felt embarrassed for the West Texas Rednecks and their brother-in-law.

Nakanishi does some fun power stuff, including throwing his partner into an opponent and then getting down and counting the pin along with the ref. Yoshie is known for being fat and pink. Here he's not very fat and not pink at all, but he does have the worst haircut since Johnny Smith's Mongol job back in '89. It looks like if you signed up at the monastery but the dude who does the tonsures was drunk that day. 

Kea has branding now. He's got orange-red gear and a really nifty sun logo, but he's not there yet. His body language is hesitant, and he does nothing with authority. He is over, though.

The finish is abrupt. Kea makes a comeback, Smith runs over and grabs Nakanishi, and Kea polishes off Yoshie. Huge pop.

So yeah, pretty good, and really helped by the crowd's enthusiasm. I do think there was some untapped noise in that audience. Someone more practiced at getting emotion out of them could have gotten things really loud.

So, All Japan wins this installment of the feud. They won most of them actually: Williams and Rotundo felled Team 2000. Nagai and Kakihara made sure the All Asia Tag titles stayed home. Kawada beat Tenzan.

But New Japan got the last laugh, as Muto won the Triple Crown from Tenryu.

But then All Japan got the laster laugh when they poached Muto and some other guys.

But then New Japan got the even laster laugh after that when Muto proceeded to run All Japan right into the goddamn ground.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Johnny Smith/Taiyo Kea vs. Genichiro Tenryu/Yoji Anjo (AJPW 7/14/2001)

Tenryu has brought in notorious shoot-style dickhead Yoji Anjo to be his partner as he mounts a quest for the tag titles.

They're a fun team, in that they're both dickheads who hit guys really hard. If you have some kind of beef with Taiyo Kea or especially with Johnny Smith, this is the match for you. Our boys really get put through it this time out.

The psychology revolves around the punch. It's against the rules, but not so against the rules that you're going to get disqualified for it. Tenryu and Anjo exploit this gray area to, well, punch Johnny Smith a lot. 

They do get something of a comeuppance, as we wind up with both of the champions punching the downed challengers for a while, but it's not enough to stop a title change.

This had its moments, but it wasn't actually good. I think some wires got crossed while they built to the finish, and everything seems off. Maybe Smith got a concussion or something. The finish, Anjo defeating Smith with a spinebuster, looked improvised. Something went wrong.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Genichiro Tenryu/Yoji Anjo/Koki Kitahara/Arashi vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Johnny Smith/Nobutaka Araya/George Hines (AJPW 10/18/2001)

Weird gimmick in this match. Kitahara and Arashi are the All Asia champs; Tenryu and Anjo awkwardly won the World titles last time. Both sets of championships are on the line, but don't ask me how it works beyond that.

There's a lot of intensity in Korakuen tonight. There's a dude reading the official title match proclamation at the beginning, and he reads the hell out of it. I didn't understand a word, but I was already all revved up. Then Kodo Fuyuki shows up, grabs the mic, and yells something until Kawada kicks him off the apron. Fuyuki's dragged away while Kawada and Tenryu start clubbering and the fans throw streamers. We're off!

Tenryu acts like a total dick throughout this. He whips Araya into the barricade, then drops a chair on him and boots him in the face. This sets the tone for poor Araya, who winds up being the main punching bag.

It's nice to see Kawada energized. He's been pretty checked out in every appearance he's made throughout this thing, but there's something about Fuyuki that just sets him off. Fuyuki makes another appearance during the match, and Kawada can't stop himself from running after him and beating him up on the floor surrounded by cameramen and Fuchi.

The champs take turns beating up on Araya and then Anjo pins him after a knee, so we don't need to worry about the stipulation.

This was clipped - we never saw Johnny Smith in the ring - but what we got was a lot of fun. Tenryu was great, Kawada was vicious, and Fuyuki may have been the MVP despite not being in the match. Even Arashi, in his XXXL-sized husky boy's Rikidozan pants, did a top rope dive that was really something to see.

The word that most often comes to mind for post-split All Japan is dispirited. Everything's dim and bored and boring. This was a thrilling exception.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a big fan of Johnny Smith; he isn't flashy, he should not have been the heir apparent to Steve Austin, but he is a quality wrestler who can hold his end up. 

I think Anarchy Rules 99 was a big fork in the road for Johnny. He was suppose to face Rob Van Dam in the main event and was allied with the Impact Players. Now for some reason Paul E had Johnny taken out by Balls Mahoney and the match never happens. Now the reasoning I heard is Paul E wanted to build up a match, but it seems they should have started that build up after Heat Wave. 

The RVD/Johnny Smith match happens two days later and I loved it, I thought it was one of the best ECW matches ever.  But it really depends on how much you like RVD and ECW in general. 

The reason I call this a fork in the road is if this match had actually happened on pay per view, I think Johnny would have been confirmed as a star in this country and ECW.  

In the end, maybe Johnny ends up in the same place, or maybe he ends up in the WWF or WCW somehow. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't have that match - it's not on the Network or anything. I could see Smith being a good foil for RVD.

I knew what I was in for when I picked the world's most obscure wrestler, but the record is so spotty. I can't even find that 2000 Carnival match against Kobashi anymore.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 7/20/2020 at 11:29 AM, William Bologna said:

I don't have that match - it's not on the Network or anything. I could see Smith being a good foil for RVD.

I knew what I was in for when I picked the world's most obscure wrestler, but the record is so spotty. I can't even find that 2000 Carnival match against Kobashi anymore.

Its a fancam, I wish I had uploaded it to Dailymotion instead of Megaupload.  I think I still have the disc, but will need to rerip it and will need a USB DVD drive. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I  laughed  when I remembered in 97 I thought  Johnny was really related to Davey Boy and kept expecting him to join his cousin  every week, along with Yokozuna. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Victator said:

Its a fancam, I wish I had uploaded it to Dailymotion instead of Megaupload.  I think I still have the disc, but will need to rerip it and will need a USB DVD drive. 

15 years ago, you had problems with getting a PC with a 3.5 inch floppy disk drive, 10 years ago, you had to get your VHS recorder from the attic, nowadays you have to buy / borrow a USB DVD drive (and if you do, you can only pray that your 10-15 year old DVDs are still working - the ones I burned myself have about a drop-out rate of 0.5, I should probably have burned them at 1x speed and not 4x or whatever). What technology will be obsolete in 2030?

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this