April 10, 2011

What a difference that twenty-four hours can make! After the lackluster results the day before, everyone seems to have a fire lit underneath them today!

Joe Doering . . . sells eons better than you’d expect him to, for someone a whole lot smaller than he is.

Ryota Hama . . . attempts to follow in the footsteps of Funaki and Nagata and turn Suwama into a one-armed man!

Jun Akiyama . . . gets grumpy on young boy Sanada.

TAKAO OMORI (2) vs. KONO (2) (Block A)

There's some nice intensity in the beginning, especially when they go to the floor and Omori more or less wipes the floor with Kono. But, after that they start sinking fast. Virtually all the good action is in the last few minutes: Kono blocks the Axe Bomber and does a juji-gatame, and then snaps the arm a couple of times after Omori gets the ropes to break. But, instead of staying on the arm, Kono tries to take out Omori with knee strikes, the same way he did Hama. Kono goes for the diving knee too early and puts himself into position for the Axe Guillotine driver for a near fall. With Kono still reeling from the driver, Omori finishes with the Axe Bomber. There's nothing wrong with the veteran going over the young gun by outsmarting him, but you'd think that the centerpiece of the top heel faction would be better protected.


Joe Doering has a watchable match in this tournament! Of course, Doering doesn't have a whole lot to do with it, but it's not a total one-man show. The ratio would be about 85:15 in Suzuki's favor. Doering's offense isn't anything outstanding, the DVD to counter Suzuki's sleeper was a nice spot, but it's mostly typical, generic, big-man power-based offense. Doering also throws quite the mediocre lariat, someone show him some Hansen matches, stat! But, Doering comes through huge with his selling once Suzuki starts targeting the leg.

Suzuki doesn't bust out any of the swank submissions that he did against Kea, he just pelts at Doering's leg with strikes, and he has the vicious edge you'd expect. Suzuki does a respectable job of selling when Doering is working his big-man offense, but he's always there with a shot to the leg when things start looking too bleak for him. Just like Sanada and Akiyama before him, Suzuki finds a way to counter the Revolution Bomb, which allows him to bleed Doering dry with a sleeper, and then dispatch him with the piledriver.


The Kaz/BUSHI exchanges made this fun, but there wasn't much else here that was worth watching. They take to the air, and BUSHI does a decent job of taking the fight to Kaz, including a big plancha to the floor. Kaz turns up the grumpiness and shows that he's smart enough to know shut down BUSHI's big runs before he can do any serious damage. Soya doesn't get that sort of respect from Kea. Kea controls him early on the mat, and then they both tag out to let Kaz and BUSHI do their thing. When they're paired off again for the final run, it's mostly Kea running through his usual spots and finishing off Soya with the TKO 34th, which hasn't exactly been a high end finisher for him. Soya gets all of three moves against Kea, one of which required an assist from Kaz. The young gun trying to prove himself should be able to look better than that.

SUWAMA (2) vs. RYOTA HAMA (0) (Block A)

I'll be damned, first Doering, and now Hama finally has a watchable match! Suwama's arm is banged up after the Funaki and Nagata matches, and Hama modifies his offense to further attack the arm. Hama's execution isn't always the greatest, some of his strikes look positively timid, but he's got the right idea. He gets Suwama into a compromising position by attacking the arm, and then tries to finish him off. Suwama's selling isn't bad, considering what he's got to work with, it's nothing on the level of his last two matches, but it fits with what Hama does.

Suwama still comes up short when it comes to making the ankle lock matter, and it's even worse here since it's the finish. There really isn't anything else that he could use to finish him off, but after Hama first gets the ropes, it's disappointing to see Suwama not respond by further attacking the ankle. He could have easily jettisoned the running boot, dropkick, and the lariat (despite the good bump Hama takes) for a basement dropkick or a chop block, and make the hold more effective. Suwama just keeps going back to the hold, and his persistence pays off when Hama finally has to give it up. It was disappointing to not see Suwama step up as the man, in his first real chance to do so in the tournament, but Hama was game to keep things interesting.

JUN AKIYAMA (3) vs. SEIYA SANADA (4) (Block A)

It's happened time and time again, the young gun puts up a good fight, but isn't able to overcome the veteran. Afterwards, people clamor that he's raised his stock despite the loss. It does happen, but not nearly as often as people seem to think. This looks like one of those cases. Sanada gets in a couple of good shots, but he didn't have the offense to believably take the fight to Akiyama in a manner that would give the impression that he could pull off the win. The dropkick to the knee was a nice surprise, and it was smart to let Akiyama break the full nelson and open himself up for the German suplex. Beyond that, all Sanada had to offer was typical spunky babyface stuff (dropkick, forearms, etc.) a rolling cradle, and a standing moonsault (which wasn't even enough to beat Hiroshi Yamato the day before).

Akiyama is rather low key, which was surprising, considering he hasn't exactly had a stellar showing in the tournament. He seems more concerned with being the grumpy heel, doing things like botching Sanada's neck and jaw off the guardrail, and then spiking him with a delayed piledriver. Even the finish run seems pedestrian, Sanada survives the running knee to the jaw and then kicks out of the regular Exploder, but Jun just casually hooks up the Exploder '98 to finish him off. This looks less like Jumbo/Kobashi and more like Kobashi/Yone from NOAH, where the veteran does what's necessary to win and nothing more. If Sanada does rise up to become a major player, I highly doubt anyone would point to this as an example of Sanada showing his potential.


The famous booking triangle of All Japan shows up here: Suwama beat Funaki, Nagata beat Suwama, and now Funaki beats Nagata. The intensity shown here is welcome, especially after it was sorely lacking in the last match. They're both willing to take, and give, ridiculously stiff kicks. Nagata tries to repeat his success against Suwama by taking apart Funaki's arm, but Funaki's selling is nowhere near as good as Suwama's was. There are good moments, but this is more focused on the overall intensity and the quasi-shootstyle vibe than it is anything else. Nagata's escape of Funaki's ankle lock and segue into an armbar was impressive, as was Funaki countering the Exploder with a guillotine choke. Funaki takes a pair suplexes for good near falls, and then forgoes making a comeback and just hits a head kick to KO Nagata. While there's no doubting that this is a fun viewing experience, it's also a picture perfect example of why Suzuki is so much better than Funaki.

Conclusion: This is easily a step up from the previous day, even with the two top matches falling short.