FIVE YEARS LATER
April 13, 2001
The Great Sasuke . . . puts on a complete stinker of a tag team match!
Katsumi Usuda . . . gets another crack at Teioh, after they stole the show at the 2000 Super J-Cup, and they have a very worthy follow up.
Shinjiro Ohtani . . . shows that, despite his recent misfortunes in New Japan, he’s still as good (and as bad) as he ever was!
DAISUKE SEKIMOTO vs. ALVIN KEN
Ken looks, and works, like someone more suited for Toryumon than BattlArts. If nothing else, this is rather intense, despite being all over the place with the work and story. They trade off slaps and chops like it’s Ronnie Garvin Appreciation Night. Ken doggedly keeps Sekimoto in a legbar for a bit and tries to continue working over the leg, and Sekimoto answers by using his strength to his advantage by throwing and suplexing Ken, and then doing one of the tightest abdominal stretches you’ll ever see. Sekimoto tries to finish him off with a German suplex and Ken counters with a rolling legbar, and after Sekimoto gets the rope break Ken tries to submit him every way possible, seamlessly moving and transitioning to various holds to prevent Sekimoto from making the ropes again, which he eventually does. That winds up being Ken’s best chance to win, and he never gets another opening like that again. Sekimoto blocks a waterwheel drop and takes him over with a suplex of his own. Ken tries to counter the German again, but Sekimoto just muscles him back up and hits it. A glancing rolling elbow and another German gives Sekimoto the win. Their intensity was nice and the power versus technique story was engaging at times, but neither of them was really good enough to take this to the next level.
SUPER CRAZY/TAKESHI ONO vs. GREAT SASUKE/RYUJI HIJIKATA
I’m not sure what this is a bigger waste of, everyone’s talent or time, so I’m just going to go the copout route and say they’re equally wasted. Ono and Hijikata have some nice exchanges, the best one is when Hijikata catches a kick and Ono counters him into an armbar before he can take advantage, and it’s nice to see the match get decided between the two of them, since their partners are of little to no use here. Crazy and Sasuke are more concerned with crowd brawling and with getting props involved than they are with adding much of anything to the match, which is especially disappointing since Hijikata works so much like Tajiri and that would give Crazy something to play off. Crazy and Sasuke add some flying spots, but their best moments come from running into the ring and kicking and stomping at the opponent in order to break up a submission. The four of them could have easily spent these fourteen minutes putting on a banger of a tag match instead of this barely watchable rubbish.
MEN’S TEIOH vs. KATSUMI USUDA
These two pick up where they left off the previous year in the J-Cup. Teioh shows some respect to Usuda’s shootstyle skills, and they tell a pro-style versus shootstyle story, with both of them winning out at various points, including a swank spot with Usuda wanting a hip toss, or some sort of hip throw, and Teioh smoothly countering into a Cobra twist. Teioh is pretty much great overall, especially with his selling, he takes an overdone bump when Usuda counters the crab hold and throws him off, and whenever Usuda lands a clean kick, Teioh makes it look like he’s a hair away from losing by KO. He tries for a pin after a rolling elbow strike and his reaction when the ref informs him that BattlArts doesn’t work that way is more good stuff.
Things take a bit of a twist after the match goes to the floor and Usuda fires away with kicks, and winds up kicking the guardrail. Teioh sharks on the leg and then rolls into the ring, hoping for a quick win, and he nearly gets it when Usuda can barely steady himself without holding onto the ref for extra support. But Teioh’s arrogance gets the best of him. Instead of staying focused on the bad leg, Teioh attempts his Miracle Ecstasy Bomb, and Usuda counters with a jumping knee and takes him down and tries tapping him out. It starts with a Fujiwara armbar, and when Teioh rolls over, Usuda switches to a juji-gatame, and when he gets his arms clasped, Usuda rolls over again and locks him in a triangle. Teioh gets the ropes to free himself and manages to hit another rolling elbow but can’t take advantage because of the damage done from the armbar onslaught. Teioh tries again for the Miracle Ecstasy and gets countered directly into another Triangle, and after the rope break, Usuda starts firing away with kicks and it looks like he’s one or two good shots away from winning by KO. Usuda misses a corner charge and hits the bad knee on the turnbuckle, and Teioh takes advantage with a rolling legbar, a pro-style figure four and after Teioh hits another rolling elbow aimed at the knee, he does another legbar and makes Usuda tap.
All things considered, it really is a shame that these two weren’t more regular opponents, especially with Teioh being the Big Japan junior champion and BattlArts working so frequently with Big Japan. Matches like this one, and their J-Cup match from the year before, are reminders of how just good a wrestler that he is, rather than writing him off as a former M-Pro guy slumming it in the deathmatch group. ***1/2
IKUTO HIDAKA vs. DAIJIRO MATSUI
Aside from a few appreciable moments, and their intensity, there isn’t very much to this match. A big reason is that Matsui is either too green or too far into the MMA bubble to do much of anything to help this match. They each get their chances to show the other guy some respect, such as Hidaka going down from a series of punches and rolling to the floor to break the ref’s count, and Matsui returns the favor after Hidaka catches a kick and goes underneath Matsui to powerbomb him. There’s another fun exchange when Matsui traps Hidaka in a juji-gatame and just as he grabs the ropes, Matsui scoots back to the middle of the ring and forces Hidaka to work his way out of the hold. Whenever Matsui gets a submission locked in, Hidaka flails and makes a show of getting the ropes or finding a way to counter or escape. But Matsui doesn’t give Hidaka that same courtesy, when Hidaka surprises him with an ankle lock, Matsui sits in it for a second and quickly works his way out of it before the crowd can even really react to it. Matsui tries to ground and pound him, and Hidaka rolls it over, to a decent reaction, but lands all of two shots before Matsui closes the gap and puts him in a chickenwing armlock that causes the ref to stop the match. It’s probably unreasonable to expect them to hit the same level as the last match, given that Teioh and Usuda both had a lot more pro experience than Matsui, but this looks like a UWF mixed match in the worst way.
SHINJIRO OHTANI/TATSUHITO TAKAIWA vs. ALEXANDER OTSUKA/JUNJI.COM
If anyone is a fan of stiffness and attitude, this isn’t something they’ll want to skip. It’s Ohtani and Takaiwa at their most heelish and dickish best. The Zero-One team goes out of their way to stiff the high-holy-crap out of Otsuka and Junji, and Otsuka is more than willing to return the favor to Takaiwa, and the crowd is red-hot for nearly the whole match. Junji is really only there to be a warm body for the heels to beat on, but he has a few good moments. The best is when Ohtani has him in the corner and stops to mockingly chant his name, and Junji grabs a leg and causes Ohtani to lose his balance and that gives him the chance to tag out. He also makes the mistake of assuming that Takaiwa doesn’t know how to wrestle and tries to take him to the mat, and Takaiwa shows him exactly how wrong he was. But, from the moment the bell rings, it’s obvious that he’s going to be the fall guy. His run against Takaiwa in the home stretch sees him only get a couple of spots in, the best one being a backdrop suplex out of a headlock which causes Takaiwa to get called down. As soon as Junji tries for the Triangle choke, it’s clear how Takaiwa is going to get out of it (even though the actual spot gets flubbed) and from then on, it’s only a matter of time until Takaiwa puts him away.
But make no mistake, this is all about showing exactly how big of jerks that the Zero-One team is, and anything else is pure windfall. Ohtani tries to submit Otsuka with a chickenwing armlock, but Otsuka gets the ropes, and the ref breaks them up. Ohtani’s response is to shove the ref and try to intimidate him, and that gives Otsuka the chance to bullrush him from behind and spike him with a German suplex (complete with a sell job that reminds everyone why Ohtani is one of the best). Takaiwa tries to intervene and gets suplexed as well, and Otsuka goes back to Ohtani and tries to choke him out. Ohtani had things firmly in control, and his insistence on doing even more to rile up the crowd is what causes him to lose that control. This isn’t a great match by any stretch, Takaiwa has never been a super worker, and any number of other guys on the BattlArts roster could have added more than Junji, but this is certainly watchable, and it works perfectly fine for what it’s supposed to be. ***
YUKI ISHIKAWA/MOHAMMED YONE vs. MASATO TANAKA/KAZUNARI MURAKAMI
Probably the nicest thing to say about this match is that it’s the best match of the night that features a former title holder in ECW. It doesn’t go very long in the first place and, other than all four being willing to take (and give) absurdly stiff shots, there isn’t very much to the match as far as structure or story goes. It’s nice that the BattlArts team is willing to make Tanaka look good in this setting, but there’s simply no way that Masato Tanaka should ever win a mat exchange with Yuki Ishikawa. Tanaka winning by countering Yone’s elbow into a katahajime would have been a good finish, if it hadn’t come after Tanaka took a huge backdrop from Ishikawa, several kicks from Yone and then a big German suplex from Yone. Murakami wasn’t any better in this regard either. Ishikawa plants him with a backdrop suplex and then drums up some nice heat with a Fujiwara armbar, and after the rope break Murakami (who does have the credibility to potentially outwrestle Ishikawa) lets loose with punches and knees to take control before tagging out. In short, this isn’t much more than an abridged version of the previous tag match. It has all of the stiffness and none of the things that made it a good match.
Conclusion: The good stuff is certainly good, Teioh/Usuda is very much worth going after and the Ohtani tag is tons of fun, but then the bottom completely drops out. The Ishikawa and Sasuke tag matches are easily two of the absolute worst BattlArts matches that I’ve ever seen!