April 12, 2011

Taiyo Kea . . . looks totally watchable (for a change) as the grumpy veteran that tortures the young boys.

Suwama . . . truly looks like the company ace, in a really fun match again Takao freaking Omori of all people.

Minoru Suzuki . . . slaps around Jun Akiyama like he’s his little brother.

TAIYO KEA (5) vs. SEIYA SANADA (4) (Block B)

Where the hell was this Sanada yesterday? He doesn't really show anything until the last couple of minutes, but it's a total 180 from the Akiyama match. Sanada surprises Kea with a hurricanrana and kicks off a nice little near fall exchange, Sanada catches Kea off guard with several flash cradle attempts for near falls, stuns Kea with a German suplex, and then hits a second German and cradles Kea for the upset. Before that, this was fun, if unspectacular. Kea abuses the kid, and Sanada takes a couple of sick bumps, the big one being from Kea's jumping DDT. Sanada tries to fight back with some forearm shots, and Kea stands there like the Rock of Gibraltar and dares Sanada to bring it. Nobody is going to mistake Kea for a super worker, but he was perfect in this role. This needed a bigger, and better, performance from Sanada (who now leads the Block with the win here and the forfeit from KENSO on 4/9), but at least he's headed in the right direction.

MASAKATSU FUNAKI (4) vs. KONO (2) (Block A)

Coming directly after Sanada's upset over Kea only makes this look worse. There's nothing outright bad, but it's extremely pedestrian. Rather than being another hateful stiff-a-thon like his match with Nagata, or taking advantage of Kono's Pancrase experience for some shootstyle fun, Funaki mails it in. Kono tries to use his size and power to his advantage, but Funaki doesn't feel like playing along to make it work. The only good moment in that regard is Kono dodging a swing and planting Funaki with a backdrop suplex. You can tell how motivated Funaki is, when Kono misses the diving knee drop, and his idea of taking advantage is pelting Kono with kicks to the chest, Suzuki would have made it his goal to take home Kono's leg in lieu of the Carnival trophy. Funaki does break out a cross heel lock, but it's Kono's selling of it, that makes the moment work, rather than anything from Funaki. Kono gets the ropes. Funaki tries the hold again, and Kono small packages him for the second upset of the night.


Soya's performance here is what I've been waiting to see out of Sanada throughout the tournament. Soya is full of p&v, taking the fight to his more experienced opponents, and he gets to look good before he gets dispatched. Soya gets in some good shots on Doering, and has some fun knocking around Tanaka, until it's time to end things. Doering's lariat, which is his lead-in to the Revolution bomb, even looks good this time around. Soya gets taken out a bit too easily, all it takes to halt his offensive burst is a single boot, and Doering just swoops in and finishes him off. There's very little from Kondo, he stays out of things and lets Soya's story play out. Sanada obviously couldn't work a carbon copy of this match, he's not a beast like Soya, so he couldn't do spots like Soya's dead lift vertical suplex to Doering, but it'd be nice to see Sanada work matches more like this, with a motivated performance that makes the push seem worthwhile.

YUJI NAGATA (4) vs. RYOTA HAMA (0) (Block A)

How about that, another fun match with Hama. Nagata targets the arm at first, but Hama's arms are too bulky for that work, so Nagata winds up in trouble with Hama using his size and weight to wear Nagata down. Hama goes a bit too far when he does his sumo stance and mocks Nagata's salute, he should have quit while he was ahead. Hama misses the big splash after the salute and Nagata takes him down with a running shot to the knee (Hama's knees are already in rough shape due to his weight). Nagata is totally watchable here as the jerk heel sharking away at Hama's knee with kicks, and Hama's selling makes it that much better. Nagata gets a bit too ambitious when he stuns Hama with an enzuigiri and tries the Exploder. It gives Hama a small opening to make a comeback, but after Nagata kicks out of the big splash, Hama is as good as finished. Nagata has a nice moment when he fakes out Hama by jumping up, but then dropkicks his knee to take him back down. Nagata gets the Nagata lock and smartly avoids Hama's wild swings (one of Hama's punches had really rocked him before). Hama is stuck in the hold with no means of breaking it, so he has to give it up. This could have used some variety from Nagata while working the leg over, and Nagata going all out and being the biggest dick heel possible, but this was still fun.

SUWAMA (4) vs. TAKAO OMORI (4) (Block A)

If you want to see a good performance from Omori and, Suwama truly looking like an ace, they're both right here. Before, and eventually after, Omori follows suit and goes after Suwama's arm, Suwama is never anything but completely in control of things.There's a very telling moment in that regard when Omori hits a big chop and Suwama fires back (almost like a natural reflex) with a big slap to the face. He easily handles Omori on the mat early on, Suwama easily scouts Omori attempting a lariat and he ducks it and takes him down. Suwama even improves on his shortcomings from previous matches, and limits his strikes to the double chop, which is his best looking one. Suwama joins Omori going off the deep end a couple of times, namely their stupid exchange where Suwama will attempt a lariat while Omori does the Axe bomber and cancel each other out, but, even that saw Suwama counter the umpteenth Axe bomber by overheading Omori, it's Omori popping back up to hit the Axe bomber that ruins the moment.

Aside from those few trips off the deep end, Omori's performance here is his best one of the tournament. It helps that the bulk of what he had to do was bust up Suwama's already hurt arm, but Omori is perfect while doing so. Funaki, Nagata, and Hama had all kept things wrestling oriented, but Omori throws Suwama to the floor and uses everything that's not tied down, the post, guardrail, chairs, etc. When he gets Suwama back into the ring, he tries to tap him out with a Fujiwara armbar. Omori's performance isn't remarkable aside from working over the arm, but Suwama is there to pick up the pieces, and the result is a rather engaging match.

Omori's only chance to win runs through Suwama's arm, and once Suwama realizes that Omori doesn't have it in him to win that way, he never really has another chance. But instead of the superhuman comeback and quickly finishing Omori, the match becomes a back-and-fourth match, with some fun exchanges. Suwama avoids most of the bombs, only getting hit with the Axe bomber and Axe Guillotine driver once, rather than multiple times. The finish sees Suwama learning from Omori making the mistake of wasting time, Omori gets a near fall with the Axe Guillotine driver, but crowd plays for too long and walks into a big lariat when he tries the Axe bomber. Suwama follows up with a backdrop suplex, and then finishes him off with the Last Ride. The Axe bomber/lariat nonsense, and Omori’s stupid pop up are the only real marks against this, otherwise, it’s pretty good.. ***1/4


Well, this will probably go down as the grumpiest match of the tournament. Akiyama and Suzuki want to hurt each other as much as possible, that's all you really need to know. At first it seems like the match is going to center around body part work, with Jun targeting the neck and Suzuki targeting the arm, but after Suzuki's juji-gatame and Jun's extended neck lock, they forgo that idea and just start wailing the tar out of each other.

It's easy to marvel at the shots they're willing to give and take, and not notice that the match is lacking is pretty much every department other than stiffness and hatred. Aside from Jun's selling of the sleeper (which would be the finish) the selling isn't anything all that special. They both break out some good spots and counters, Jun's hotshot over the guardrail, Suzuki's sliding kick, and the counters surrounding the Exploder all spring to mind, but they don't wind up meaning very much. The Exploders were completely throwaway and while the sliding kick got a good near fall, Jun was on his feet a minute later and trying to put his knee through Suzuki's head. Aside from the early arm and neck stuff, which only amounted to filler in the first half, there's not much storytelling at work. It's nice that Suzuki learned his lesson from his previous failures with the sleeper hold and found a way to make it work, and ultimately beat Akiyama, but any other storytelling is hard to come by. As an actual match, it's nothing too great (although this beats their GHC match from 2006), but it's pretty fun as a fight.

Conclusion: Suwama/Omori is the best tournament match yet, and the rest of the card is decent, and fun, enough to give this a thumbs up.