So hello everyone, and welcome to the first W-1 review of 2016! This show looks to be a load of fun with two big title matches headlining the top of the card. Cruiserweight champ and sensation Andy Wu will be defending his title against junior vet Hiroshi Yamato in what looks to be a damn fine contest. And in the main event, we have heavyweight champ Manabu Soya who has cleared many hurdles of challengers so far facing off against his toughest challenge yet: The Hossman himself and fairly new W-1 arrival Yuji Hino. Hino has been on an absolute warpath on his way to challenging Soya, destroying all who stood in his way in pretty short order. These two men are going to run into each other like speeding trains and I can’t wait to watch it. Also, a quick note, unfortunately on the day of the show young Trigger member Hiroki Murase had a lung abscess and had to be taken to the hospital, and there’s not set timetable for his return. Incredibly unfortunate and I hope his recovery is very speedy.
Love this matchup to start the show. Inaba the fiery young rookie against Kondo, who is now one of the de-facto top heels as head honcho of the Trigger stable. It worked PERFECTLY in this 6 minute opener. So many great things to speak on here. Inaba’s unwillingness to back down from a fight. Kondo buckling down after being caught off guard at the start. Kondo bumping like a mad man for Inaba, a babyface the crowd finds themselves naturally getting behind as they did here. The closing stretch was absolutely bonkers, with Inaba getting several close call near falls on Kondo, and running the ropes on al sides of the ring like a lunatic to avoid the King Kong Lariat. I was legit marking out. Brilliant structure. Kondo finally caught Inaba with the lariat to end it but not before Inaba looked incredible in defeat. What a hell of a job Kondo did here making Inaba look so good and making Inaba’s offense look incredibly strong. Kondo knows he’s in a position where he is viewed as a top guy in the promotion and he used that to get Inaba over even more. Fantastic work.
We have a BJW invasion here! Not a real invasion but Sakuda and Kamitani coming in from Big Japan to work W-1 is pretty great, as Kamitani already holds the tag belts with Hama in BJW. Sakuda unfortunately gets straddled with Kono for a partner, but guess you gotta pay your dues as an up and comer, right? Loved in the beginning where Hama was cheering on Kamitani and Sakuda runs in to blast Hama and literally bounces off the former sumo like a bouncy ball and it was like a mosquito hit Hama. Kamitani got some stuff in, not a lot though surprisingly as this match was much more focused around Sakuda! Which is a very welcome change, I swear a theme of this show is getting young dudes over as Hama was bumping for Sakuda! Sakuda was hitting his crazy moonsaults and cannonball senton in the corner actually causing damage to Hama, a freight train of a man. Eventually Sakuda’s flashy offense got the best of him when he went for a sunset flip on Hama and ended up squashed under that huge backside and took the pin. A decent short tag that showcased Sakuda which was awesome. Kono was good for some stiffness with Kamitani and getting his head squashed by Hama’s butt in the corner but that was about it.
Another matchup that on paper looks like an absolute treat. Really cool to see Yuya Susumu here, enjoy his work quite a bit in FREEDOMS and various other indies. He and the Jackets boys get to face three cruiser legends in what should be a fun sprint of a match. The match started in a really cool way as the guys tagged in all had history in some sort of way. TAJIRI and Ikemen were first in, and TAJIRI had a big part in training Ikemen during the days of TAJIRI’s WNC that merged into W-1. They had a killer sequence, and then Minoru Tanaka came in to face Yuya Susumu, and guess what? They tag together in FREEDOMS! I love continuity like this, rewards you if you really pay attention to the Japanese scene. A large part of this match mostly focused on the matchup of Ikemen and Tanaka though. Ikemen was clearly the most over guy in the match, and he has an undeniable natural charisma and some damn good ability to go along with it. I could complain his bumping was a bit over the top at times in this, but you also have to remember how free-spirited of a guy he is and how that endears him to the crowd. Tanaka was obviously sharp as usual and worked well with Kuroshio. Kaz, TAJIRI, Susumu and Nakanoue were a solid supporting cast, Nakanoue added his strength and size to a match dominated by mostly juniors. Tanaka ended up with the double stomp victory on Ikemen while TAJIRI and Kaz held off Susumu and Nakanoue with submission holds. Like I thought, a very enjoyable fast paced match.
A total change of pace is brought to this show in the form of a hardcore style match. You know when Jun Kasai is involved, that will most certainly be the case. KAI has also made the adjustment to this style, changing his whole style and look to that of an Onita like brawler. KAI has gotten embarrassed lately, the latest being misted by Muta and the Mist Boys (Kabuki and Tajiri) and what does he do? He always takes it out on poor Shota of course, usually verbally berating him and dumping water all over him. The day Shota snaps and shoot murders KAI may just be one of the all time great W-1 moments but for now we have to deal with Shota being KAI’s pack mule. Mitomi is a relatively new addition and I have not seen a ton of his work yet to make a proper judgment on him. Man, this may not have been the most technically sound match in the world but boy was it a damn good time. This may have been the match that has finally completely won me over with KAI. He took some unreal punishment and insane bumps in this match; unprotected chair shots (getting hardway color in the process), a splash through a table, a TOP ROPE FIRE THUNDER DRIVER THROUGH A TABLE, an underhook piledriver into a pile of chairs…it was crazy. He’s completely embraced this style now and God bless him for it. At one point he actually screamed, “SHOTA, MITOMI! Get that tables!” I swear this is a thing that happened. Incredible. Jun Kasai was utterly brilliant in this, as he always is in these brawling/hardcore scenarios and was ridiculously over. Kumagoro was senton-ing onto ladders, AKIRA and Shota were flying all over. This was just total fun within the chaos. Kasai hit the big splash from the top of the ladder on Shota to end this one. Post match saw a frustrated KAI backstage most likely yelling at Shota about losing, and it was announced KAI will be facing Seiya Sanada on 2/10. ***1/2
Wu has had a pretty darn solid title reign since beating Minoru Tanaka for the strap, having very good matches with just about anyone in the cruiser division. Next up is Yamato, who has been around for quite some time now and really hasn’t found a ton of success in the Wrestle-1 portion of his career, having some gimmick changes and push halting defeats in between. He was passed over by Wu the first time in favor of Seiki Yoshioka, who failed in his opportunity against Wu so you have to think Yamato has a big chip on his shoulder for being the second choice. A damn fine title match, albeit a bit stop and start at times. Enjoyed at the beginning both guys trying to out quick and out smart the other to avoid taking a hard hitting move for heavy damage. No one guy ever really had a majority of control, it was one of those back and forth title matches where both guys traded bombs, more in the form of big moves than heavy strikes but still. Yamato really went all out here, at one point doing his backwards launching shoulder block into Wu to the outside, busting up Wu’s nose big time. Wu then answered that with a DDT on the floor. These two always seemed to have a clever counter maneuver for the other making for some really creative sequences where you weren’t sure what moves would hit and vice versa. The last few minutes picked up even more, a welcome frenetic pace that suited both guys well. Yamato finally caught Wu in the midst of his flashy offense with a huge lariat, a German suplex, the backward shoulder block and a northern lights bomb to devastate Wu and take his title in the process. Real good job from these guys, had my gripes with this at times but they put together a very good title change and Korakuen was really behind Yamato in this one. ***1/2
After the match, Yamato declares that Inaba will be his first challenger for the belt on the 2/10 show, and it all makes even more sense why Kondo made Inaba look so good in that opener. But guess who shows up? Kotaro Suzuki, recently off the sinking All Japan ship, comes out and makes it very clear he will be challenging for the belt down the line at some point, sooner rather than later probably. Just yet another great talent acquisition for Wrestle-1, this roster is getting deep and loaded now.
Well, guess this is our buffer match before the big main event. Granted, a team of Muto, Akebono and Sanada on paper is one hell of a booking simulator mishmash but at the same time they face the dredge that is Real DESPERADO. Sanada flew around a lot, had his pants pulled down at one point exposes his butt to the delight of many female puro fans. Akebono squashed people and slapped Nosawa around, doing the lord’s work. Muto hit his trademark spots, and the shining wizard for the win. Really not much else to say about this. It was a filler tag to please the crowd and let Muto put himself over in a harmless fashion.
A BJW Strong battle has broken out in Wrestle-1 and I love it. Hino has been a machine since arriving in W-1, manhandling all comers and has quickly inserted himself into the main event picture with his natural charisma and frightening physical stature. Soya has been a very good champion, but it’s clear Yuji Hino is easily the biggest test he has faced yet, no heavyweight in Wrestle-1 could really compare to what Hino brings to the table. This match was a true test of might. Most of this was spent with the two guys lighting each other’s chests up with some of the loudest sounding chops I’ve heard and clubbing each other with lariats and refusing to go down. These two engaged in a battle of who’s will would hold up the longest, it was so simple yet so fascinating. This was built up really well, as Korakuen loudly reacted to when Soya finally did take Hino off his feet with a Wild Bomber lariat for the first time late into the match. Soya’s second wind really kicked in, taking a German from Hino and not even feeling the effects, it was no-selling placed into a proper place in the match as he had to get that extra flow of adrenaline (dirty word for some wrestling fans) to really level himself with Hino at the end. The Hossman really proved to be too much for Soya though, and his will lasted longer than Soya’s. Hino hit a humongous lariat, followed by the world famous FUCKING Bomb to conquer Wrestle-1 and become the champion. An incredibly hard hitting, battle of MEN that was basic but so well executed. Nothing that’s gonna make year end awards but you gotta be crazy if you didn’t enjoy watching these two stiff each other for 16 minutes.
Hino was giving his speech and probably talking trash about Soya losing, when Minoru Tanaka comes out and lays down the challenge for Yuji Hino! Yes, Tanaka, Cruiserweight sensation is going to be Yuji Hino’s first challenge on 2/10, and had the balls to get into Hino’s face about it right after Hino won the belt. My goodness, this has potential to be special. Minoru Tanaka can wrestle any role well and he’ll be so great as a smaller underdog to Hino’s massive size and strength. Cannot wait for this main event.
What a good outing from W-1 folks. So many solid to good level matches on here, nothing that’s gonna find its way on your MOTY ballots or anything but mostly everything was so well rounded and entertaining. Two good title matches bolstered the upper part of the card, Soya/Hino having a crazy hoss bout and Wu/Yamato having a sound match of their own. You had Inaba look great against Kondo, setting up Inaba to challenge Yamato and look strong coming in. The Jackets and the cruiser boys had a real fun sprint, and we had a hell of a fun hardcore tag match. A show that is an easy watch and comes highly recommended from me.