June 19, 2005

All Japan kicks off what looks to be a very interesting and eventful summer, with an interesting and eventful show.

NOSAWA Rongai . . . bleeds like a stuck pig.

Kondo and YASSHI . . . win the All Asia Tag Titles the old-fashioned way.

Giant Bernard . . . treats the Triple Crown Champion like he owns him.


Both of these guys can be fun workers, but more often than not, both of them need a really talented worker to carry them to something more than just a fun little match. There are two things this match does have going for it though, (A It’s a bit on the short side and (B. NOSAWA’s juice. When TARU opens up NOSAWA’s head, he instantly has himself an easy point of attack, without having to expend too much thought on how to attack it. Rongai also works at a slower pace, in order to put over the fatigue and blood loss he’s experiencing. NOSAWA’s lariats and shoulder blocks don’t seem to have much effect on TARU. But aside from those things, there isn’t much else they do, other than just plod along. Well there is one nice part, where TARU counters the Shining Wizard by punching NOSAWA low, but considering NOSAWA couldn’t even manage to phase TARU with a lariat or shoulder block, one wonders why he’s even attempting that in the first place. TARU also doesn’t do much to build up to the TARU Driller, but he didn’t particularly need to, with NOSAWA bleeding all over the place, there was almost zero doubt that it’d be enough to get the win.


Here we have quite the surprising tag match, VM cheating is kept to a minimum, Honma gets in offense, the fans are red hot throughout the whole thing, and Nakajima puts on quite possibly his best performance in his short AJPW career. After the obligatory pre-match brawl all over the ringside, the match settles down looking like it’s going to be the typical formulaic affair of Nakajima getting pounded on, and building to the hot tag. However, instead of the hot tag, Nakajima attempts to hit YASSHI with an enzuigiri and winds up cleaning the referee’s clock. This winds up triggering another crazy brawl all over the ringside, and after it settles down is when things start to get interesting.

Honma waylays YASSHI with forearm shots, and then drops both of the VM members with a Flatliner/DDT combo move, since when has Honma been allowed to get offense into his matches? Honma also scores a near fall on YASSHI with a big splash off the top. But it’s Nakajima who really shines, YASSHI sells all of his kicks like they’re slowly putting him out of commission. When Honma prevents Kondo from charging with the King Kong Lariat, Nakajima takes advantage and surprises YASSHI with a backslide, complete with the driving of the legs. Nakajima also finds himself in a two-on-one situation, when Honma is dispatched to the floor, and quickly knocks YASSHI for a loop with a roundhouse kick, and then before Kondo can think to retaliate, he levels him with a spin kick. Indeed, with more experience and a more vast array of offense, Nakajima looks like he belongs in the same class with Kohei Suwama, as can’t miss prospects for future stars.

Honma and Nakajima also bring some decent double team moves with them, in the form of simultaneous jumping kicks, and sandwiching lariats, and their big one, where Honma gets German suplexed onto YASSHI. Not to be outdone, the VM team uses several good double teams of their own, in particular is a ramrod headbutt that YASSHI uses when Nakajima is in the corner. To combat the German suplex double team, the Kondo and YASSHI also use their own variation with a powerbomb, and of course their cannonball off Kondo’s shoulders. The nice thing about the VM in this match, is that the cheating is mostly left behind. There is some interference from TARU early on, as well as a low blow by Kondo to Nakajima, but that pretty much covers it. As mentioned earlier, when Nakajima surprises YASSHI with the backslide, Honma is holding Kondo back, and YASSHI has to escape it on his own. Their big move throughout the whole tournament was Kondo using the KKL and YASSHI taking the pin. They attempt it several times but are continuously thwarted, either by Honma on the apron grabbing a sleeper on Kondo, or Nakajima seeing it coming and leveling Kondo with a boot to the face. In fact, it’s only when Nakajima is in the midst of a charge and not in position to counter or block, that Kondo can hit the KKL, but once he does, it’s the same result as the previous two matches in the tournament, victory. The difference here is that for a change, it’s a hard fought win for the Voodoo Murders, and you can’t deny the fact that they earned the titles. ***


After all these years of fans chanting “Shave your back!” at A-Train, he finally caved in and did it, I’m personally thankful for that. That covers the good points about this match. Bernard doesn’t sell anything worth a damn that the Triple Crown champion does. Kojima sure as hell doesn’t look like a top guy here, he’s just another wrestler, on the same plateau as Araya or Hirai. The only thing Kojima does that Bernard even bothers trying and put over is the lariat, and the size difference between only makes that look all the more odd, with Bernard shrugging off everything else. With Kojima risking his already dwindling credibility as champion (due to doing nothing with the titles since he won them) you’d think Bernard might show some appreciation and try to help Kojima out a bit, but it’s quite the opposite. On two separate occasions, does Kojima give Bernard the Koji Cutter, and both times Bernard takes the bump on his hands and knees. Aside from the Baldo Bomb and the Bicycle kick, Bernard’s offense consists of throwing his weight around, like a giant gaijin Yutaka Yoshie. With Kojima already getting dismantled, why the finish wasn’t just a pinfall is beyond me. Kojima losing via count out doesn’t do anything to help him save face, if anything it’s worse because in addition to Bernard, he’s also putting over TARU, by having the shot with the cane be the cause for him to lose.


The All Asia Tag Titles match was fun because there were several twists and surprises thrown into the mix, these two teams must not have been paying attention, because they go the exact opposite, and the fans who were red hot during that match, are pretty much dead here. Nearly the first half of the match is spent with Mutoh and Suwama working over Kensuke’s neck, but both of them can rarely be bothered to do anything other than a simple headlock, and neither of them can be bothered to try to make the headlock be anything other than a rest hold. Suwama throws in a single suplex, and uses some clubbing forearms to work the neck over, but nothing else. Sasaki isn’t usually much in the selling department, but his selling was decent enough, considering what was being used. When Kawada is in the ring with Suwama, Dangerous K actually looks motivated and grumpy as he begins to commence his beating, but once Suwama tags and Kawada and Mutoh have a quick exchange in the ring, the fire is all gone. Mutoh isn’t in the match a whole lot, but that doesn’t stop him from using the Shining Wizard to save Suwama from both the Stretch Plum, and the Stranglehold Gamma.

It’s not so much what they do that hurts the match, it’s more what they don’t do. And what they don’t do is give Suwama any chance at all to get a decent run of offense before he gets finished off. Looking back at the title match, everyone knew that Nakajima would wind up getting pinned, but every time he made a counter, or hit a surprise kick, or got a near fall, the fans would erupt. Suwama is never given that sort of courtesy here. When Suwama and Kensuke go at it again, after Kensuke has had a chance to rest his neck, Kensuke pretty much gives him nothing. Suwama’s lariat attempt has no effect, and he can’t even hit Kensuke with a German suplex unless Mutoh gives him an assist. Considering Sasaki has his own rookie protege in Nakajima, you’d expect him to understand the importance of helping to elevate the rookie, even a tiny bit. But unfortunately Sasaki is unable to grasp the concept, or unwilling to show the same courtesy that was given to Nakajima. Kensuke follows the same path he took in his singles match with Suwama, and doesn’t even give him a tiny rub by finishing him off with something decent. Kensuke just keeps throwing the lariat over and over, until he’s able to put Suwama down for three. If there is no intention to help elevate Suwama, then why is he even in the main event in the first place?

Conclusion: I’m a bit torn here. The first half of the show is worth checking out, a fun singles match with some nice juice, and the fun tournament finals, but it’s downhill after that. The first two matches are good examples of why AJPW can be a fun promotion to watch though. I’ll say thumbs are very slightly up for this show.