That’s right. Maeda’s first opponent in his new company was Dirty Dutch! This is miles away from being a shootstyle match, but Maeda and co. hadn’t exactly worked out what shootstyle was yet. There isn’t a point system in place, and there are plenty of pro-style and rope running spots from both. Hell, Maeda gets a near fall from an elbow drop. The work is noticeably tighter than what Dutch was probably used to from working against Austin Idol in Memphis, but it’s very basic. The only really flashy things to see here are Maeda’s arm drag into cross armbreaker, and the finish, with Maeda cleaning Dutch’s clock with a spin kick, and pinning him with a bridging German suplex. Dutch also tries to get some heat with a couple of hair pulling spots. Overall, it’s not a bad match, but it’s nothing outstanding. It’s interesting, more than anything else, given the context of what the letters UWF went on to signify in Japan.

MASATO TANAKA © vs. Mr. GANNOSUKE (FMW Double Titles - FMW 1/6/98)

Watching this is more of an exercise in frustration than anything else. Both of them are good workers, but they don’t always show it. The best thing here is watching Gannosuke work over Tanaka’s arm, with some smart touches like Gannosuke bending the missile dropkick to hit Tanaka’s arm, and his Tarzan Goto armbar takedown. But, before the good stuff, we get Gannosuke spending far too much time dicking around with a broken broomstick and digging at Tanaka’s arm for no other reason than to make him bleed. The brawl on the floor between them was nice, but Gannosuke giving Tanaka the powerbomb through the table on the floor was pretty much a waste of the spot. Sure, blood and big spots are staples of FMW, but instead of doing them just to do them, why not make them mean something? Or, since this match is between a couple of the better workers in the company, how about they do something relatively unique for the company and just work a regular match without blood and props?

Tanaka is no prince either. His selling, specifically when it comes to his arm, is atrocious. He falls into the trap of doing a passable sell job when he’s in trouble, but when it’s his turn to reel of spots, he throws elbows and lariats, and forgets all about Gannosuke working him over. Tanaka blows off a German suplex to hit a lariat, and then sells after the lariat. He also pretty much kills his own finisher by hitting Gannosuke flush with the rolling elbow and getting a near fall, any delay on the cover would explain the kick out, and Gannosuke had given him a reason to delay on that cover. Gannosuke manages to redeem his poor ideas earlier, with some good ideas like getting the knees up on Tanaka’s frog splash and going to a small package, and the finish with Tanaka’s second elbow attempt getting countered into the Gannosuke clutch is pretty much flawless. There’s enough good, and smart, work from Gannosuke to make this good, but it’s a shame that Tanaka didn’t put in the same effort. ***

KAZUCHIKA OKADA © vs. HIROOKI GOTO (IWGP Heavyweight Title - New Japan 5/3/12)

Move over Tanahashi, you’re no longer the only person that can get a good match out of Goto. It doesn’t have a ton to do with Goto, but he does eventually find his grove. Instead of the third straight match with Okada’s knee getting shredded, Goto goes after the neck. The work isn’t bad, but he’s not in the same league as Okada for sharking in on it, and Goto’s neck segments work more because of Okada’s selling than they do Goto’s spots, it was nice to see Goto really try to torque with the chinlock, but it doesn’t compare to Okada’s better spots. Goto’s two best spots are the neckbreaker that led to him singling out Okada’s neck and his lariat, and neither is close to Okada’s sick sliding kick or his tricked out holds.

Once they start heading toward the finish Goto finds his grove, and the match soars. Goto busts out some great spots for some really good near falls, and Okada puts them over as much as possible. Why haven’t I seen Goto use this backbreaker into facebuster before? Goto also has his own unique counter to the Rainmaker, and the finish comes down to which big move will connect first, the Shouten Kai or the Rainmaker. It’s so much better to see them go to the finish that ways, instead of seeing them waste the spots. Like he did with Tanahashi and Naito, Okada has to outsmart Goto in order to hit the Rainmaker, and when he does, Goto takes a great bump. It’d be easy to just marvel at the good, and smart, match that they had, but I want to know why Goto can’t put in this kind of effort all the time? ***1/4

SHINSUKE NAKAMURA © vs. LA SOMBRA (IWGP Intercontinental Title - CMLL 5/31/13)

The first fall is over in the usual blink-of-an-eye moment. But, Nakamura really makes the Area Mexico crowd hate him. Nakamura keeps it simple with kicks and his attempted knee strike. Sombra tries to go up top, but he gets caught and planted with the Landslide off the top to give Nakamura the first fall. Sombra’s feet also caught the ropes on the way down, making the bump that much worse. Second verse, same as the first. Nakamura tries to press his advantage by going after Sombra’s neck, but, eventually Sombra makes the comeback and reels off a couple of spots, Nakamura misses a wild swing and Sombra ties the match with a straightjacket suplex.

The final fall is when they both seem to turn things up, although the match doesn’t get all that much better. It’s a decent back-and-fourth affair, with them both pulling out some nice counters and reversals. Nakamura always has a kick or a knee strike ready to take back control, and his usual running knee spot with Sombra on the apron is better in this context since Sombra’s neck was already hurt. Nakamura goes for the big Landslide again, but Sombra counters with a powerbomb, and Sombra tries the goofy Ibushi moonsault (where he misses the first one, but lands on his feet and then hits a standing one), but Nakamura drops him with the running knee to the back. The home stretch is their best one by a decent margin, starting with Nakamura trying the Boma Ye, and going into a nice counter exchange that winds up with Sombra cradling Nakamura to take the IC title. It’s not bad or anything, but Sombra/Casas from February 2012 kills this six ways from Sunday.

ANTONIO CESARO vs. SAMI ZAYN (2/3 Falls - NXT taped 7/12/13)

Zayn charges at the bell and cleans Cesaro’s clock with a running kick and rolls him up for the first fall. Zayn presses his advantage in the second fall, and is able to stay one step ahead of Cesaro and cut off his attempts to make a comeback. Cesaro finally succeeds by dropping Zayn into the turnbuckle, and presses his own advantage by trying knocking the wind out of Zayn, and keeping him from catching his breath, the diving stomp to the chest was especially brutal, and Cesaro’s powerbomb and waterwheel drop are more meaningful in the context. Cesaro gets a little too confident and Zayn counters a suplex for a near fall and tries to mount a comeback, but charges into the swinging sleeper and, knowing there’s still another fall to go, decides to give it up.

Both of them turn things up for the final fall, with Cesaro showing how freakishly strong he is, by doing a deadlift superplex with Zayn on the apron. Zayn’s knack for counters and reversals makes for some great near falls, and he nearly wins by count out with his swinging DDT on the floor. But, Cesaro outdoes him at his own game and blocks the second DDT attempt, and throws Zayn up for the uppercut, and the Neutralizer finishes him off for good. This isn’t the best match I’ve seen either of them have, but it’s worlds better than what Cesaro has been doing on TV as a Real American (save for the Daniel Bryan RAW match). ***