The Christmas puroresu train keeps on rolling, as it’s time for another full show review. WRESTLE-1’s holiday tour is in full swing, as they took over Korakuen Hall this morning for a ‘big’ show that didn’t necessarily draw well. The card looks promising however, combined with the resurgence of talent and solid booking; two things that ran the promotion into the dirt — forcing me to gimmick rant on Twitter that one time. Anyhow, there are two title matches on the show; as Andy Wu looks to keep his Cruiserweight Championship run a-happenin’, as he faces Seiki Yoshioka, and in the main event, Manabu Soya defends his WRESTLE-1 Championship against Masayuki Kono. Without further ado, Happy Holidays. Let’s get to the matches.
WRESTLE-1 Shining Winter Tour
December 24, 2015
Aired Live: December 24, 2015 (Gaora)
Before the show started, we got a special Christmas edition of ‘hype the small crowd up’ with X-Mas dancers and Mariah Carey blasting in Korakuen Hall.
TriggeR has all of a sudden burst onto the scene in W-1 as a stable to watch headed into 2016. It’s a unique combination of talent with a “F*** YOU!” theme. Team 246 exploding is something I’ll take to watch in an opener any day of the week, even Christmas Eve! This was a real good opener, as it was even better than expected. Kondo hardly got any time in the match (and even though this isn’t a diss), it was for the better. Kaz, Tanaka & TAJIRI worked over Ashino’s taped up shoulder to my delight, as when he wasn’t getting worked over he’d be laying down resting on the outside because of that work. Murase was resilient, yet took tons of punishment. The Kaz & Kondo portions of the match were unreal like the rest of their interactions so far in the closing stretch of the year. The ‘numbers game’ dynamic was showcased in excellent ways, such as Kaz countering everything but eventually running into the brick wall in Kondo; for ex: Hayashi finally thinks he’s in the clear to do the springboard enzuiguri but Kondo pushes his young stable counterpart aside to catch him in a German, yet Kaz flipped out of that too! Hayashi hit the Power Plant for the win.
More of the big/small booking that’s been done as of late, including Hama squashing Cruiserweight Champ Andy Wu. These guys put together a nice short match. Hama kept the pace with his big man offense, with the moves becoming higher and higher on the impact scale; whilst Nakanoue was forced to fight back (and got a few counters in). My favorite sequence of the match was when Nakanoue hit a top rope elbow drop, and seconds later, Hama hit a grounded one because he’s big and he doesn’t need that air time. The peak of burials. After some other cases of fight back, Nakanoue just couldn’t keep Hama down. Hama hit the ‘sit on ya’ signature for the win. Even if it was short, it was damn fun; as Hama is a treat that people either already look down on for being sumo, or won’t/haven’t given a chance.
Two huge thumbs up for this matchup. It’s Jackets vs. REAL DESPERADO. Hino reacting to Kuroshio’s run-around music influenced entrance is the best. Holy mother of jeebus. The destruction of Jiro Kuroshio was a helluva ride, but it eventually came to an end whether he liked it or not. Hino brought out the best in his chops, making Kuroshio redder than a Valentines Day candy wrapper (I actually can’t confirm as he had his goofy attire on the entire time). Kuroshio is a top-tier charismatic performer, with the fans behind him from the time he steps out of the curtain; and that helps you when you’re playing up a big vs. small dynamic. Just when I thought Hino was going to put Jiro to an end, the match revved up and was taken to an even higher level that almost achieved ***3/4 status. Jiro went for another springboard moonsault press, but Hino got up from the DVD that was just delivered to fight back. He gave a nice hard slam but Kuroshio still kicked out. The end of the match, after tons of slippery struggles, saw Kuroshio laid to rest with a lariat…but picked back up at a 2 count by Hino himself, as Hino delivers the Fucking Bomb for the win. A really cool dynamic with two very good performers at their best. No surprises.
Bah gawd! It’s Shota from GUTS World. Glad he’s getting some W-1/higher profile promotional bookings. Unfortunately he has to team with KAI, but that’s what you get when you’re working your way up the ladder. Nothing insulting here, as Kasai carried the entire match essentially, working with KAI for the most part and keeping things interesting cause he’s actually a breeze to watch. What started out as a tamed crowd brawl turned into a decent 6 man. Shota didn’t nearly get as much action as I wanted him to, but he got a few tags and (took the pin fall). The entire dynamic of the match was based around KAI fucking up, which is hilarious and also accurate. There was more than one time where he’d hit his partners mistakenly, such as a double lariat to Shota & Mitomi, and the ending blow — a superkick to Shota who was back to back with Kasai, as after that AKIRA hit his splash and Kasai hit his. The Crazy Monkey gets the win for new WILD order and KAI complains about his partners when in reality he was the one that lost the match (and who sucks)!
During intermission, Muta announced that Akebono and Sanada will be returning for the 2016 Sunrise tour to kickoff the year. I believe he will be doing some matches as well. Hopefully next year there’s no Road to Mutoh…
What a weird match to come back to after intermission. The expectation bar is on the ground. I’m giving this credit. It wasn’t half bad (literally, as it’s half of a ***** match). NOSAWA was more impressive than usual, especially when working with Inaba (I’m glad he’s back in action). At one point the pace picked up to a DG style blitz but Inaba remained in the match with that young boy spirit. Yamato is so awesome to watch in the ring with his innovative style with back-turned shoulder tackles, essentially a reverse one with a fade away element that looks beautiful in action. That very move costed the team at one point, where he went for a top rope one but got nothing. REAL DESPERADO were in control from that point on, but didn’t stay in control for long. Once the trio had MAZADA alone, it was end game. The backdrop off the top was finally hit, Inaba added a headbutt, and Ultimo Dragon put the exclamation point on the combo with his signature Asai DDT for the win.
The best part of WRESTLE-1 is here to put on a show: the mostly consistent Cruiserweight Division. This match was ridiculous in the best way possible. There were a lot of elements that combined to form a very nice match between the two. My favorite element was Wu working on top where Yoshioka had to take punishment; as it was a nice drift-off from the movie sequences that are also fun and still make some sense. Wu worked over the neck area to (who knew?!) my delight. Snapmare holds, shots to it, a brainbuster on the outside. The man couldn’t be stopped. Of course it’s a sensitive area, and it isn’t the easiest to sell, so I’m lenient on the fact that it didn’t result in much come the end of the match. Yoshioka also brought it to Wu, but Wu was a lot more memorable and the better worker. The finale was absurd just like Takeshita finishing sequences, but a bit more sensical as this was for a title and Yoshioka is built more than the skinny future of DDT. He kicked out of everything brought to him, and I mean culmination to a 40 minute match possibilities such as a damn Spanish Fly from the top rope. That could have been the end right there, but the boys took it even further. A Tornado DDT as well as a kick STILL wasn’t enough. After that, no more hope was presented to the Jackets member; it was done.
This is no Hideki Suzuki title defense, but tensions have been building between new WILD order’s champ frontrunner and TriggeR’s enforcer. I’ll rave about this because of the climax of the match, but really, there isn’t much to ‘complain’ about from the beginning. Although Kono’s offense is incredibly weak for a man his size, it was covered up to an extent as we got some shock spots, as well as some brawling to make up for a completely ‘pure’ wrestling style which was beneficial. If anybody cares there was banter between the two squads and some bodies were dropped as seen through the hard cam lens. The slow tempo and brawl aspects helped boost the match to another level when launched into the second part/finishing sequence of the bout; which will be described in full as that’s the meat of this. Keep in mind that Kono had the same offense as usual, but can still be transparent in how hard he hits. Top rope Samoan Drop, two knees, and a chokeslam. Surely the champ has been dethroned after all he’s been through. Nope. Not today. A shining wizard was taken, but Soya had enough power to evade a flying Soya from the top. A German from Soya but Kono comes back with ANOTHER wizard. A last resort lariat from Soya evokes ‘this is wrestling’ chants in my mind. What a sequence of art. Holy shit. Just when you thought it was at the peak of the match, it became a once in a blue moon sequence type of deal. Blocked shining wizards, a power through lariat, everything in a scramble, but both men still kick out for that time being. It took a final lariat to the back and front to defend the championship. Soya had to turn Kono inside-out to win, something that was hard at first as even getting him on the ground was nearly impossible. Wow.
W-1 backs up the late 2015 reputation by putting on a good show. 3 ***1/2 matches as well as a ***3/4 Cruiserweight match make up for the other silliness such as a Hama squash (really fun though) and two filler 6 man’s that were still alright. All in all if you add everything up, that results in a great effort and delivery from WRESTLE-1, at least this time around. I suggest giving this show a stroll if you’re up for it. Merry Christmas.