April 9, 2011

Manabu Soya . . . manages to be the standout member of a young gun tag match, even though it was Sanada’s chance to shine.

Minoru Suzuki . . . is still awesome, even when he’s losing to someone that he has no business losing to.

Suwama . . . puts on a disappointing showing defending All Japan against an outsider.

As a result of his forced withdrawal from the tournament, KENSO forfeits his remaining matches. The rest of Block B will get an automatic two points on the day of their scheduled matches with KENSO.

KONO (0) vs. RYOTA HAMA (0) (Block A)

This isn't all that much different from Hama's match with Omori from the day before. It's a lot of Hama throwing his weight around, mixed in with a bunch of sequences where they stand there and paste each other with punches and chops. I know that not every huge wrestler can move like Vader, but it'd be nice to see something impressive out of Hama. Kono eventually figures out the score, and starts throwing knees to the face and head, and a knee drop from the top puts Kono on the board.


After losing on the first day to Suwama, Funaki needed a win to show that he was still a viable threat, and it's not like Omori needs to be protected. It's not a total squash by Funaki, though it may as well be, seeing as he outclasses Omori in every way. Funaki goes the extra mile by still trying to make Omori look good before he dispatches him. Funaki tries up Omori in knots on the mat while the best Omori can muster is a grounded headlock, but Fuanki still puts it over well and requires the ropes to free himself. He puts over the Axe Bomber on the floor like death, even though Omori proceeds to kill the move as a finisher with him doing it over and over again. It's only a matter of time before a crafty vet like Funaki exploits that, Funaki ducks the umpteenth attempt and kills Omori with a head kick.


I think this winds up even more disappointing than the actual tournament matches have been, because this could have been a real treat. The four preeminent young guns of the heavyweight and junior divisions get fifteen minutes to show their stuff, and the result is woefully underwhelming. Sanada and KAI are ranked higher, so I expected them to show their growth while Soya and Yamato fight to prove themselves. Soya had the right idea and Sanada eventually caught up, but it took far too long for that to happen.

Rather than a rabid showdown between all four, nearly the entire first half is worked in the same manner as a singles match between any of them would have been worked in 2008. You know things aren't going well when Yamato takes a shoulder bump into the post and Sanada's bright idea of taking advantage is a short arm scissors. The only assertive dominance comes in the form of Soya working over KAI, and Sanada working over Yamato, and the heavyweight controlling the junior is a given. Again, it's Soya who seems to know how the match should be unfolding, he knocks Sanada off the apron and tells him that he wants him in the ring. Soya uses his size to his advantage while Sanada uses his brain and the result is some good back and fourth action between the former All Asia champs, but it's all too brief. Sanada going over Yamato is the obvious finish, but Yamato doesn't even get a quick run of offense against Sanada or a couple of near falls to get the crowd behind him. KAI dispatches Soya with a huge dive and Sanada easily finishes Yamato with the Dragon suplex. There's just no reason for Soya to be the standout here, when Sanada is the one working the Carnival.

JUN AKIYAMA (1) vs. JOE DOERING (0) (Block B)

Doering is even more dull here than he was against Sanada. He hotshots Jun across the top and then does it again over the guardrail and the best thing he does to follow up is a full nelson. Yes, the master lock! The question "Can anyone else be as boring as Mason Ryan?" didn't need to be answered. Jun comes back with a couple of jumping knees and starts running through his usual spots, with a near fall after the front neck lock. Now that would have been cool for Doering to use. Doering finally uses some real offense for a couple of near falls, but Jun escapes the Revolution Bomb and counters Doering's lariat into a cradle for the win. Yes, the three-time GHC Champion, and near twenty-year veteran, needed a fluke cradle to beat the token gaijin, who doesn’t even sniff main event level.

TAIYO KEA (1) vs. MINORU SUZUKI (2) (Block B)

As awesome as Suzuki can be, even he can't salvage this. If Kea felt like playing along while Suzuki tried to amputate his leg, then this would have been good. But, instead we get Suzuki using a bunch of swank leg submissions, and doing awesome heelish things like tying Kea's leg up in the ropes and slapping the taste out of his mouth, while Kea just ignores everything when it's his turn to control the match. Kea uses an extended Cobra clutch that seems to have Suzuki KO'd to the the point that Kea stops to check on him, and Suzuki takes him down and ties him up again. The final stretch, with them countering each other's moves and culminating with Kea hitting the H50 to beat Suzuki, is pretty good. Suzuki getting drilled with the backdrop and then stumbling into the Surfing suplex was a great moment. Considering how often these two teamed up, you'd think that Kea would have picked up some good habits from Suzuki.

SUWAMA (2) vs. YUJI NAGATA (2) (Block A)

It doesn't come together as well as Suwama/Funaki from the day before, but this still manages to be fun at times. The best thing here was Nagata picking up where Funaki left off and tearing apart Suwama's arm, with excellent selling from Suwama. Nagata doesn't have the variety of Funaki, he opted to forgo most of the submissions in favor of pelting Suwama's arm with kicks, but Nagata has a much more heelish personality than Funaki. One of the best moments of the match was Nagata locking Suwama in an armbar and the camera zooms in and shows Nagata looking possessed while he works the hold.

As great as Suwama's selling is, he's not outstanding in any other aspect. He's not very interesting when he's on offense, which isn't a good sign for the ace of the company, the only of his strikes that look good was the double chop. Suwama's biggest failing is not following up on the ankle lock in any meaningful way, despite the great crowd reaction when he caught Nagata in the hold. With the way Nagata tore apart his arm, the door was open for Suwama to get some payback by going after Nagata's ankle. Suwama tries to win the same way he did against Funaki, by suplexing Nagata into oblivion, but Nagata doesn't fold as easy as Funaki, and the result is a fun sequence of them trading suplexes. Suwama gets in some good shots, including sending Nagata soaring with an overhead belly to belly, but Nagata wins out with the backdrop hold. Even with a less-then-stellar performance from Suwama, this is still the best match of the night.

Conclusion: The best way to describe this show is underwhelming. The main event is worth a download, but that's about it.