It’s good to be back. Felt weird to not be reviewing anything. I’d like to dedicate this one to Andy Doran, our long time staff member on PPR who was supposed to be on the WWW platform, but unfortunately did not get the chance to publish anything as he passed away on December 15th. I’ve probably gushed so much about Andy as it is, but it’s deserved for the amazing man he was. Everything going forth is for you brother, rest easy my friend.
I’ve probably gushed so much about Andy as it is, but it’s deserved for the amazing man he was. Everything going forth is for you brother, rest easy my friend.
Okay, whew. Back to things that don’t make me bawl my eyes out. Well to be fair, Wrestle-1’s lows have almost driven me to that point, but you get what I’m saying. But this era of W-1 seems to be shaping up pretty damn nicely in the recent months and this show is loaded with interesting material. The most interesting development has been of the young guns of W-1, Murase, Inaba, Ashino and Kumagoro. While Murase and Ashino find themselves in heel Kondo’s TRIGGER faction that was formed after the turn on Kondo’s long time tag partner Kaz Hayashi, Kumagoro landed with AKIRA, Jun Kasai and W-1 champ Manubu Soya’s New Wild Order. Inaba isn’t aligned with anyone, but a large factor in that is him having to return from a serious shoulder injury made worse by Shinjiro Otani back in a match they had in March on the Zero1/W-1 crossover shows. Ashino has absolutely shined as a suplex machine that can also work with the best technical wrestlers as well, while Kumagoro is a stocky boy who knows how to throw his weight around. Murase has a bit of Tanahashi in him, and Inaba seems like a well rounded hand. The future is clearly bright for those four, especially when they are being placed in main event matches and angles in the process. Baptism by fire. On this show, the young guns take a bit of a backseat as the two main matches feature not so new faces. We have Koji Doi, Sakamoto, and Nosawa from Real Desperado defending their UWA Trios belts against the flamboyant Jackets that feature the wacky but talented Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio as their leader alongside Yasafume Nakanoue and Seiki Yoshioka. Then in the main event, Soya and Kasai defend their W-1 tag belts against Kono and Kondo of Real Desperado.
A harmless, friendly exhibition tag opener that was clearly clipped a bit. This match, amongst Wu’s past couple of Cruiserweight title defenses have made him look like a strong champion. A neat spot saw Yamato Spider Suplex Kumagoro from he top turnbuckle onto a prone Akira, and then Wu got the win via his Hikou finish on Kumagoro that always looks super cool. Nice short match that featured some bright spots. **
After the match, Yamato went to challenge Wu for the Cruiser title, but then Seiki Yoshioka came out and completely Kanye’d Yamato and challenged Wu, and Wu accepted HIS challenge instead of Yamato’s. Sick burn, dude.
Not too familiar with one Iwamoto, and apparently the wrestling world isn’t either because he doesn’t even have a Cagematch profile. An utterly pointless clipped 5 minute match. If the goal was to make MAZADA look good, they failed because Iwamoto got a good chunk of offense in and nothing MAZADA did felt very impactful at all. MAZADA distracted the ref and hit a MAZADA Driver on Iwamoto to end this incredibly boring affair quickly. DUD
So they’ve been doing this really weird thing lately where Hama has 6 minute matches with the cruiserweights and beats up on them while they get a few hope spots in and this even included current Cruiser champ Andy Wu. Seems like a very odd path to take and I don’t see it changing in this one against the Special One. I suspected as such in the beginning stages of this slightly clipped match, as Hama was steamrolling Tanaka and I feared Tanaka would get no offense in and be squashed, literally. But Tanaka is so good at getting the crowd behind him and believing in his ability to stay in any match, and he did it here by selling like a madman for Hama’s destructive weight based offense and then using his superior kicking ability to get back into the match. Looked like Hama finally squashed the bug with a mid ring splash, but Tanaka kicked out voraciously! Hama went to lift him, but Tanaka snuck over his back and got the win with a rollup in a complete stunner to me. Really cool short match that definitely fooled me with where they were going with it. They make Tanaka look like man who can take on anyone regardless of size, and Hama doesn’t look weak with a rollup loss. **1/2
Murase is one aggressive dude. Love the way he’s being portrayed in Trigger as the mean, cocky SOB that won’t do a ton of aesthetically pleasing stuff even though he can in order to just punish his opponent. He went to the well many times with multiple stiff chops and backdrops that left Kaz incredibly dazed and caught off guard. Murase even went to the extreme of grabbing some geek’s laptop from the side of Korakuen and went to use it as a weapon before being stopped by AKIRA of Wild Order. Murase hit a real nice dropkick on Kaz when seated on a chair to the outside, cementing Murase’s ability and tendency to want to brawl. Kaz took the punishment well, and feigned a comeback many times to draw interest before finally hitting a ton of superkicks and the Power Plant in a finish that just kinda came out of nowhere. Murase did look strong in defeat because it took a ton of superkicks to even daze the kid, he was powering up after many of them. **1/2
Wrestle-1 dragging Kabuki’s old ass back out is always at least somewhat entertaining, maybe in the wrong ways. He’s here to do mist stuff with Tajiri, we all know the drill by now. By the way, awesome to see my man Shota from GUTS World get a break in a fairly sized promotion like W-1, even if it is as second banana to Onita and Ambrose worshiping KAI. The Brahmans are also here so nothing serious will probably be happening. Was a blast seeing them terrorize KAI though as this match devolved into buckets of water being thrown and a traffic cone fight into the stands. Kabuki basically got beat up, threw a bowling ball into the famed Brahman luggage bag, and then misted KAI in succession with the Brahmans and even Tajiri who went rogue on his own team. KAI hit Shota by accident with a chair because he was blinded by green, black and red mist and Kabuki picked up the win. You know what you’re getting when you come into something like this, a match that lacks wrestling and relies on a lot of silliness and aimless brawling on the outside to get over. It works for the crowds there, especially when a Kabuki presence is there and getting involved in the craziness. Just not my particular cup of tea. Did enjoy KAI being made to look like an ass though, like that hasn’t happened enough this year. *1/4
Post match, KAI was pissed off in a backstage interview. Shota went to give him some water and KAI poured it out all over Shota’s head, putting blame on Shota for the loss! What a douche, don’t take that from a geek like him, Shota! Can’t wait for the eventual event of Shota snapping on KAI from the abuse. I did enjoy KAI being made to look like an ass though, like that hasn’t happened enough this year.
This could be a good one. Ashino is not only one of the fastest rising guys in W-1, but in the puro scene in general. He’s caught much attention with his natural charisma and feel for the ring, along with his many suplexes and pure technique. Inaba has been out for months with a shoulder injury, as previously mentioned before and the pre match video showed his rehab process pumping you up to see his return. While the other W-1 rookies got to find their way into some of the units and develop personalities, his growth was stunted and you know he’s going to be working extra hard in these matches on forth to prove himself to be just as good as the others. The effort was there in this match, but I can’t really say the psychology necessarily was. These two were largely booked on the same level and traded shots back and forth which is all fine and good. But something that bothered me here was the complete lack of selling the shoulder from Inaba when Ashino targeted it in the match. He would literally smash Inaba’s arm into the ring post and then smash the shoulder into the mat on several pin attempts, only for Inaba to start doing diving shoulder blocks and shoulder attacks in the corner a minute later. What the hell? Just real bad rookie mistake from Inaba who needs to get stuff like that fixed. It was a very technically sound match, don’t get me wrong. Inaba was going hold for hold with the unbelievably gifted technician Ashino. Ashino has star written all over him, he’s a special talent that will only get better. Ashino’s work on the injured shoulder finally got him somewhere after a Fujiwara armbar, and then a variant on his ankle lock where he also trapped the arm made Inaba submit. Fine match but the selling stuff really prevented me from going into a 3 star range. **3/4
The Jackets used to hold the belts, but Desperado took them from the charismatic trio recently and this is a rematch that Kuroshio literally had to get on his knees and beg for from Nosawa. I’d be caught dead before being on my knees in front of Nosawa, god knows the STDs you could contract from even doing so. No surprise that the match started out as a all out brawl. It never really felt like a traditional tag, which I think for this scneario was perfect. The Jackets are such a great team because Nakanoue’s power offense complements the incredible agility of both Yoshioka and Ikemen. I tell you, Ikemen is another special talent that not nearly enough people following the puro scene know about. His work in the match was nothing short of phenomenal and he’s yet another incredible building block for their future. The Jackets played off of Desperado trying to cheat with various briefcase and chair shots coming from different angles, and high powered triple team offensive maneuvers (even the Shield triple powerbomb). Seeing Yoshioka and Ikemen just trying to top each other with insane dives and crazy moves was so great while Nakanoue just pummeled Desperado who was giving a rare spirited performance in this one. A chair shot from the outside attempted to derail the Jackets’ momentum, but Nakanoue recovered big time with a brainbuster to Doi that was followed by an Ikemen moonsault and Nakanoue elbow drop to regain the trios titles for the Jackets. Awesome sprint trios match that further highlights the future of W-1, and the right team won. W-1 multi-mans have been 1000 times more entertaining than any of the boringly structured multi-mans NJPW has laid out this year. ***1/2
The Jackets are such a great team because Nakanoue’s power offense complements the incredible agility of both Yoshioka and Ikemen.
Who else but YUJI HINO shows up clad in a Real Desperado shirt and annihilates the Jackets after the match. You can bet Hino wants to crush these little bugs. It’s just great to see Hino in W-1 where he will hopefully get even more exposure.
The nWo guys have been having really good title defenses lately, with the latest being an awesome affair against the young portion of Trigger, Ashino and Murase. Trigger’s elder statesmen Kondo and Kono wasted no time in challenging the tag champs right after that match. Kondo has a bullseye on Soya, as he’s both W-1 champ and tag champ. The leader of Trigger wants all the gold, and he’ll start at the tag team portion. The match started with complete Trigger domination for the most part. I loved how throughout the match the Trigger young boys at ringside were being the biggest pests ever and sold beautifully for when Wild Order finally wanted to dispatch of them. The match really turned the tide when Soya was able to tag out to the energetic Jun Kasai, who can’t help but beloved by any crowd. He worked a great slippery smaller guy dynamic against Kondo and Kono and I think he’s 100 times better when doing that opposed to all the nutty deathmatch stuff he does. He ended up putting Kondo through a table on the outside and using the table shrapnel to smash the Trigger pests on the outside as well, how can you not love Kasai? The match became incredibly chaotic from this point on to no surprise, with Murase and Ashino having to be yanked off of Soya in the corner by the ref at times and just being general little pricks that added to the challenge for nWo. Trigger is good stuff. Kono even stepped up his game a bit in this one, which is a very low bar to clear because I largely believe Kono is terrible. He’s incredibly clunky moving about the ring, has hilariously weak looking big man offense (see his poor excuse for a big boot) and just has zero in ring charisma. Kasai at one point could have had the match won with his famous goggles splash onto Kono, but instead he launched himself at Murase and Ashino on the outside. Safe to say Kasai was #GottenTo by the annoyance of those two. This proved to be costly as it left an opening for Kono to avoid a Soya splash. Soya fought valiantly back, making Kono’s awful offense look decent in the process but Kondo came out of nowhere with a blasting lariat, followed by two awful looking running knee strikes from Kono to win the tag belts for Trigger. Very good main event match that used Jun Kasai’s energy and the craziness going on at ringside to cover up some obvious flaws in this one (cough, Kono, cough). ***1/2
Very good main event match that used Jun Kasai’s energy and the craziness going on at ringside to cover up some obvious flaws in this one
So after the match, if it couldn’t get worse for Soya, Kono is now challenging for the W-1 singles belt as well. If Soya can squeeze something watchable out of him, it’ll be a modern miracle and he should be considered for 2016 awards. That’s hyperbole in case you didn’t realize, but you get my point. This was a solid outing from Wrestle-1. There wasn’t one match that was an absolute standout classic, albeit I had a ton of fun watching the trios match sprint. But in general, this is a showing of Sanshiro Takagi’s influence being seen in the company now since taking the CEO position in the summer and basically pushing Muto out of any creative decisions (Thank god for that). He and Kondo are working together and utilizing the dearth of young talent they have and featuring them in big spots which is the recipe for success Takagi has used over in DDT as well. Looking forward to more from the rejuvenated Wrestle-1, especially this Christmas Eve show headlined by Wu/Yoshioka for the cruiserweight title and Soya/Kono for the W-1 belt out of sheer morbid curiosity. Takagi and Kondo are working together and utilizing the dearth of young talent they have and featuring them in big spots which is the recipe for success Takagi has used over in DDT