Editorials Puroresu Reviews

Getting To Know ZERO-1 & ZERO-1 1/1/16 Review

I am god damn hyped about this show that I am about to review but before I do that I want to give you the readers a look into ZERO-1. As I noted on the Puro in the Rough podcast, ZERO-1 is my favorite promotion I never get to watch. The company was founded by non other than Shinya Hashimoto but since he passed the company has been led by wrestling legend Shinjiro Otani. ZERO-1 was very hot in the mid 2000s and even at one point was feuding with NJPW. Sadly in recent years the popularity has decreased and ZERO-1 hasn’t been running nearly as much events as they used to.

When you look at their current roster it rivals any roster in all of pro wrestling, their regulars are Masato Tanaka, Daisuke Sekimoto, Yuji Okabayshi, Kohei Sato, Shuji Ishikawa, Otani, Hideki Suzuki, Kanemoto, Takaiwa, the double Hashimoto’s, Isami Kodaka, Ikuto Hidaka, Yuko Miyamoto; just to name a few. If you’re a fan of hard hitting strong style matches, ZERO-1 is the place for you. I gave Masato Tanaka vs. Fujita Hayato my #7 MOTY for the VOW 2015 MOTY ballot. 2016 marks the 16th active year for ZERO-1 and I really hope they do gain some steam and reach a larger audience in Japan and worldwide as the first step for that is making television. They pop up on Samurai TV very sporadically and that means unless you’re at a live show, you won’t ever get to see the product.

In 2015 ZERO-1 held 67 shows which makes them the 8th ranked regular running male company in Japan. They are still one of the few companies that runs outdoor events in Japan which used to be a common thing with promotions like W*ING, FMW , BJW and IWA Japan. ZERO-1’s biggest crowd since the late 2000s was a joint show with Onita’s promotion in 2013 headlined by Atsushi Onita & Masato Tanaka vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & NOSAWA. ZERO-1 currently is based around grumpy old dudes (Takiawa, Kanemoto, Otani) not wanting a Jr. division anymore even though Otani is the current ZERO-1 Jr. heavyweight champ. On the show I am about to review there is a 6 man tag based around the grumpy old dudes against the ‘younger’ wrestlers. One thing I really like about ZERO-1 is the talent they bring in. Over the years they have invited Kevin Owens, Low-Ki, Jay Lethal, CM Punk, Alex Shelley, Brian Kendrick, Scott Dawson, Dusty Rhodes, Super Crazy, Chris Daniels, Jon Gresham and many more to wrestle for the promotion. They have made mistakes in bringing in workers like Thunder from CMLL and Rhaka Khan from TNA fame. Atsushi Onita spends most of his time these days in ZERO-1, wrestling exploding deathmatches with his tag partner Chigusa Nagoya.

Currently the Ace of the promotion would still have to be either Shinjiro Otani or Masato Tanaka, much like Dragon Gate (CIMA) they are not always pushed as the top star but the fans respect them for everything they have done for the promotion. Hideki Suzuki is currently the heavyweight champion and in watching his ZERO-1 matches I can’t determine is he is a face or a heel. In WRESTLE-1 he was definitely a heel but in ZERO-1 he is just a wrestler. He has only defended the title twice in 75 days. It will be interesting to see if in 2016 he will remain as the top guy or be pushed back down on the card. I think he is a fine champion and a rematch between Kohei Sato and Suzuki seems embedded in the future plans. Other future plans include bringing in Seiya Sanada for the 3/15 show in Korakuen. This plan is interesting and with a 2 month build I could see ZERO-1 drawing a good crowd at Korakuen. The probable matches on the card will be Hideki Suzuki vs. Kohei Sato, Seiya Sanada vs. Masato Tanaka, Tatsuhito Takiawa & Koji Kanemoto vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Kohei Sato and some sort of Shinjiro Otani singles match that will have a stipulation of if Otani wins there will no longer be a Jr. division. I just booked the next 2 months of ZERO-1! 2016 looks exciting for ZERO-1 and I really hope they can start to grow into a larger promotion. The review will only feature the top five matches on the card because the opening 2 matches didn’t make TV.

(ZERO-1 United National Heavyweight Championship) Masakado (c) vs. KAMIKAZE vs. Takuya Sugawara***1/4

I’m not familiar with any of these men so this will be interesting. Sugawara and KAMIKAZE team up to take up the champion early on but that doesn’t play out and Masakado knocks both men down. I really liked this match as it had a bit of everything from athleticism, comedy, unique offence…it was a hoot! KAMAKAZE really impressed me because he is a 44 year old giant but is very athletic. This match only lasted 8 minutes or so but they told a good story and had a very fun match. Masakado retains after pinning Sugawara with a brutal reverse piledriver.

Minoru Tanaka vs. Mineo Fujita***

They had a nice opening exchange but Fujita goes into his arsenal of evilness and low-blows Tanaka numerous times whilst the ref is down because Tanaka accidentally dropkicked him. In a hilarious moment, Fujita does the Otani face washes but instead of the face he does it to Tanaka’s nether regions but he does hit a very pretty suicide dive so I can’t get on his case. Midway through the match Fujita pinned the referee with Tanaka doing the counting and the ref sold is great. Another short match (being around 8 minutes), but the men made the best of it and put on a very entertaining bout with good action. Towards the end of the match they were going at a crazy speed. Minoru locked in the Minoru special (armbar whilst holding one leg) for the win.

Koji Kanemoto, Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Dangan Yankees (Ikuto Hidaka, Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto)***3/4

This match is fire, Korakuen is red hot to see some old men beat the shit out of the Jr’s. Dangen Yankees seem to get the advantage early on but Otani tags in Kanemoto and he slaps his oppenents around. There was a really cool spot where Otani and Kanemoto did tandem face washes to Kodaka and Miyamoto. Hidaka at 43 is bumping way too much, he uses a lot of missile dropkicks but if he’s not in pain then god bless him. Another cool spot was when all 3 Yankees attempted a wheelbarrow pin and Kodaka and Miyamoto connected but Otani caught Hidaka and gave him a German. Following that Otani with a back suplex, Kanemoto hit a Falcon Arrow, Takiawa hit a Death Valley Driver, all on poor Hidaka but Kodaka breakes up the pin with diving double knees which looked very painful. Hidaka gets a nearfall on Otani following a buzz-saw kick, he follows that up with a Salida Del Sol but Tatsuhito Takiawa breaks the pin up. Great action from all men, the veterans pick up the win when Otani pinned Hidaka with a Liger Bomb.

Daisuke Sekimoto & Kohei Sato vs. Ryouji Sai & Yuji Okabayashi***1/2

If you enjoy MEN hitting one another really hard then I suggest you watch this match. It is interesting to see Strong BJ on different sides of the ring but they do it often and it’s always good. Ryouji Sai is subbing for James Raideen who was making a celebrity appearance. Our lord Sekimoto looks even bigger than normal in this match. As many times as I have seen Yuji and Sato hit each other, it never gets old. That was basically most of the match really. Lots of kicks, chops and vertical suplexes, for the first half of the match the thrown together team of Sai and Okabayashi took turns beating up poor Daisuke. Strong style may be the style I will never get sick of in wrestling. Daisuke and Yuji do the same stuff every match and it never gets boring. I think a lot of that is because I know they’re beating the crap out of their respective opponent for real. One thing I noticed: whenever Daisuke and Yuji are on opposite sides of the ring is Yuji always has the power advantage, whenever they do shoulder blocks or suplexes or any type of maneuver where either guy could hit the move Mr. Okabayashi always comes out on top. There is no point in going over every move because you already know if you’re a fan of any of these men, lots of noise and grunting alongside the bone rattling action. In the end Sato pinned Ryouji Sai with a Bridging German suplex. It didn’t reach the next level for me but all wrestlers involved were excellent and are excellent at the craft of pro wrestling.

(ZERO-1 Heavyweight Championship) Hideki Suzuki (c) vs. Masato Tanaka***3/4

I actually reviewed this last night before the entire card was uploaded, so to read my in depth analysis on this match click here.

That wraps up my ZERO-1 love-fest. ZERO-1 is so cool and I urge all of you to go and watch this show and older ZERO-1 shows because you will not be disappointed. This card was awesome with not a match under ***. ZERO-1 and BJW are currently my two favorite promotions for in ring product. I’m more invested in WWE and NJPW but if we are talking strictly in ring ZERO-1 is at the top. I really hope attendance and popularity grows for this company, it’s criminally underrated and that’s a damn shame. I’m sure Lawrence & I will talk more of this show on the next Puro in the Rough episode.  I hope you enjoyed this review and please let me know how you are liking my reviews/articles.

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