PRO-WRESTLING MASTERS on February 8, 2017
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Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
On December 7, 2016, Keiji Muto held a press conference with Riki Choshu to announce his project called PRO-WRESTLING MASTERS to showcase the masters of the ring aka the legends from the past and later went on to say that he wants a Japanese Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame to go along with it. When I heard about this, immediately I had visions of Tatsumi Fujinami’s MUGA/Dradition, the Original Tiger Mask Satoru Sayama’s Real Japan Pro Wrestling, and even Legend The Pro Wrestling (a promotion Fujinami, Choshu and Sayama teamed up on) as it would be another promotion with older stars as the main attraction. MASTERS held their first show on February 8 and the card mostly resembled Legend’s cards including a lot of WRESTLE-1 wrestlers with the addition of Muto. This show drew 1,589 spectators in Korakuen Hall (which is really good for a debut show in 2017) and aired in full on GAORA on Februrary 20.
Daiki Inaba vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa**1/2
Takaiwa pretty much dominated the match up and down with lots of stretching at a slow methodical pace. It was surprising cause Inaba is a former WRESTLE-1 Champion but Inaba got treated like a dojo newcomer by Takaiwa. The crowd was silent for the most part but got into the match when Takaiwa went for a diving elbow drop. Match went longer than expected as they were building up Inaba and once Inaba kicked out of Takaiwa’s top rope brainbuster, you had to think something was coming. As I started to think this, Inaba won with a surprise roll-up and Takaiwa was shocked. They did shake hands but I expect them to have a rematch.
GET WILD (Manabu Soya & Takao Omori) vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Takuma Sano**
The former NO FEAR teammates in Takayama and Omori got to face off to start the match but didn’t last long as Soya came in for Omori. Takayama and Sano spent most of the time beating up on Soya for the first half of the match but Soya finally gets a hope spot with a spear to follow up and tag in Omori. The surprise MVP of this match was Takuma Sano. He looked like he was energized every time he came into the ring. At 52 years old, Sano put on a good effort for as much as his body allowed him to as his kicks were stiff and on point. The match came down to Soya and Sano as Omori and Takayama battled through the crowd. Soya finished Sano with the Wild Bomber to finish this fine professional wrestling match. Even though it was only 13 minutes, the Takayama/Sano beat down on Soya dragged a little too much. This seemed like a good match on paper as Takayama and Sano were reunited from their NOAH days to face Takayama’s old partner in Omori, but it did not in execution.
Shotaro Ashino & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Great Kojika & Kumagoro**1/2
Fans in Korakuen Hall were hyped as they wanted to see Fujiwara and Kojika square off and they got it as both men had some entertaining strike exchanges for their age. Once they tagged out, the WRESTLE-1 young guys did the heavy work. Fujiwara and Ashino dominated the match throughout even when Kojika made the tag at one point, they immediately had a double ankle lock hold on Kojika. Towards the end of the match Kojika got a hot tag from Kumagoro only to have Fujiwara choke him with a piece of rope. Kumagoro came out with a vicious lariat that almost had Fujiwara for two. It seemed like it woke him up as he immediately slapped on the Fujiwara arm bar for the tap out victory.
Shiryu, Ultimo Dragon & Andy Wu vs. NOSAWA Rongai, MAZADA, Dick Togo**3/4
This was announced under Lucha Libre rules but it wasn’t 2 out of the 3 falls like traditional lucha libre is contested. NOSAWA’s team came out to their remix of the Perros Del Mal theme and did a lot of stallling to work the crowd. But, it worked as it lulled the other team so they can jump them and do 3-on-1 tag moves. Once things settled down, Shriyu and Andy Wu to got show off a little bit including Shriyu’s kip up dance. The match resembled to a Michinoku Pro/Universal Lucha Libre style match instead of a lucha libre match as a moment happened where most of the combatants did dives which was fun. Shiryu and Dick Togo were awesome. Ultimo Dragon did a rare plancha from the top rope cause the fans kept cheering him on to the finish the dive train. The end came when Ultimo beat Nosawa with a La Magistral Cradle. The match was fun towards the end but sort of disappointing as I thought there would more great stuff with the participants involved.
Keiji Muto, Jushin Thunder Liger, Riki Choshu, Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Heisei Ishingun (AKIRA, Akitoshi Saito, Shiro Koshinaka & The Great Kabuki)***
Old School New Japan Pro Wrestling Ring Announcer Hidekazu Tanaka made the ring announcements and the crowd was absolutely pumped for this. They got really excited as Heisei Ishingun reunited with five members for the first time in years but they went bonkers for Mutoh, Liger, Choshu, Fujinami. The fans were crowding the aisles like it was 1986 trying to touch the New Japan legends. It’s something you rarely see nowadays in modern Japanese wrestling.
Heisei Ishingun jumped the babyfaces at the start of the bell but that changed once Choshu gave Koshinaka a lariat. Liger and AKIRA gave flashbacks of the early 90s when they squared off that excited the crowd but it calmed once Fujinami faced off with the Great Kabuki. Once Muto came in, Heisei Ishingun got the upper hand. I was surprised that Muto stayed in for so long because of his history of knees problems but he wasn’t wearing the heavy knee braces like before and moved well. That’s a good sign for people wondering what he will do in NOAH as he tagged with Naomichi Marufuji this month. At one point in the match, Liger broke a pin attempt to save Mutoh but followed by stomping and slapping him to wake him up. Once that happened, the babyfaces got the tag and started hit their trademark stuff. As I was saying in my mind that Muto looked good for his age, he started to look really old at the end of the match as he could barely run the ropes as his legs started to give way. It worked in the context of the match as the heels worked on his legs early in the match but it’s hard to watch Muto’s mobility drain towards the end of the match. AKIRA was the MVP of the match as he was bumping like a mad man for everybody down the stretch. After he took Choshu’s lariat and Mutoh’s Shining Wizard, he kicked out surprisingly but didn’t after Mutoh gave him a moonsault for the the win. It was a good match just based off of nostalgia and fun interactions throughout.
PRO WRESTLING MASTERS ON FEBRUARY 8, 2017
Average - 5/10
This show was fun to watch if you are an old school japanese wrestling fan or you enjoy slow methodical matches, but not good in terms of getting really great matches bell to bell with action. Seeing acts like Sano and Fujiwara turning back the clock are fun to see but the show as a whole didn’t deliver the way that I was hoping for. PRO-WRESTLING MASTERS returns to Korakuen Hall on July 26 and hopefully more fun matchups can come to give nostalgia to older fans.