July 1, 2023


Soma Watanabe . . . works his butt off and nearly gets a watchable match out of the G-REX Title holder, as backwards as that sounds.

Azusa Inaba . . . only gets about five minutes to work with and looks like the best Japanese women’s wrestler that I need to see more of!

Takanori Ito . . . gets the proverbial rug yanked out from underneath him, but still puts on a remarkable performance.



If they had more time to work with, and if they were able to slow down and make some of their spots actually matter, then this might have been all right. But this is far too rushed to do much of anything, other than kill about five minutes. Onitsuka uses his size advantage to break out some nice spots, but it doesn’t really matter since nothing is sold to any great degree. Hell, his dive to the floor should have taken Irie completely out of the match but he still had to hold him in place while Kodama tried to finish off Junje, and Irie still broke free and intervened. Irie’s intervention only tacks about thirty seconds onto the match, and Kodama gets the win with La Magistral right afterwards. Other than Onitsuka’s spots, there’s no real reason to care about anything they do, unless one is a superfan of anyone involved.



This isn’t anything amazing, but it’s fun to watch. Everyone has something to add to the match, whether it’s MAZADA’s quasi comedy spots, Bendido and Azteca’s dives, or Storm and Galeno’s power moves. MAZADA sells a splash from Galeno better than anyone in the opener sold anything. The exchanges between Galeno and both Bendido and Azteca are almost shockingly smooth, it’s like watching a lucha version of Steen and Generico (although Galeno is a lot bulkier than Steen), and it was nice to see the match come down to Galeno and Bendido, after Azteca’s dive takes out everyone else. It seems like Bendido has the match won after Azteca hits a brainbuster and does his dive, leaving Bendido to just pick up the pieces, but he charges into a nasty overhead suplex and Galeno quickly finishes him off with a cannonball and the Galeno special. Like the opener, they could have stood to slow down and let things breathe a bit more, nobody especially stands out as a weak link and there’s no real sense of hate between the groups. With another four or five minutes for Galeno’s team to work over MAZADA (or Azteca’s to work over HANAOKA) and build up to a hot tag, this could be a pretty neat match, and the feud between these groups continues to be one of the only things I enjoy about the pro side of GLEAT.



Helen of Troy, this is every bit as bad as it sounds. I don’t think that the combo of 1994 Kawada and Hashimoto could get much of anything out of the Saito Bros, let alone past their primes Tanaka and Hayashi. This isn’t terrible when the juniors are in control, if only because Jun and Rei can stooge just enough to make it barely watchable. But when the Saitos are rolling out the offense, this is a surefire insomnia cure. Their strikes and spots are pedestrian at best, and they apparently think that the best way to look menacing is to walk around the ring slowly. The crowd only bothers to wake up when Tanaka counters a chokeslam into the Minoru Special and keeps the armbar applied long enough for a submission to seem likely. Jun makes the save, and after a double chokeslam Rei starts bombing Tanaka with splashes until he doesn’t get up. If I ever find myself watching a match between the Saitos and the team of Kazuyuki Fujita and Kendo Ka Shin, then I’ll know that I’ve died and made it all the way to the seventh circle of hell.



This is an even bigger mess than the opener. The heels jumpstart the match, and it never settles down to any great degree. There’s a short spell of Unagi getting worked over by Sera, but it’s gone as soon as it’s there, and there’s nothing to the match as far as structure or theme. Everyone involved shows up and does whatever they have to do until it’s time for it to finish. And whatever Sera was telling the ref to keep him distracted while the other three triple teamed Hosokawa to set up the finish must have been some really fascinating stuff, because they were working her over in clear eyeshot of him.



CIMA’s influence on the promotion seems pretty clear from this match. If you watch five or six Toryumon/DG trios matches involving one of the heel factions then you’ll be able to get a good feel for how this match plays out; right down to the babyface making a comeback or tagging out after the heel tandem spot predictably goes awry. Some of the spots from the babyface team are nice, like Izuchi back body dropping Sato off the apron and onto the heels. But the expected ‘technique versus power’ battle doesn’t really come into play until almost the very end, when Izuchi counters Tamura’s jackhammer into a juji-gatame and then switches to a Triangle armbar. To their credit, they put a bit of a twist on the trope, with Tamura doing the expected powerbomb counter, and Izuchi being able to withstand the bump and keep it locked in, requiring Tamura to muscle him back up for a second powerbomb to finally break it. But Tamura goes right back to throwing lariats and bumping Izuchi around without any sort of hint that the time spent in the armbar wore him down, even a bit of a wince before trying to pick him up for the jackhammer or muscle buster would have at least given the impression that the hold took something out of him.


Aside from that one stretch, there’s precious little of anything else as far as storytelling goes. Nobody on either side stands out as an especially weak link, even with Izuchi’s team being at a handicap. There’s nothing as far as any real focus like wearing down a body part or softening up someone for a big move. And, despite the stipulation of the losing group being forced to disband, the only real sense of urgency is at the very end when Tamura is putting Izuchi through the ringer, and Izuchi keeps finding the strength to kick out. There’s not even a sense of  hate between the groups, and with the stakes involved and the numbers advantage of the heels, one would think that the babyfaces would be willing to do anything and everything to pull off the win. Considering the aftermath, with Sato storming off in a huff, having him do something like fouling Tamura to give Izuchi that much more of a chance would have fit right in. This isn’t a bad match overall, it’s just terribly predictable in terms of layout and structure, and devoid of the things that would make it stand out and give some extra importance to the stipulation.



This is a fine match, although it’s not especially deep. All anyone really needs to see is the opening stretch with Chihiro and Flamita, and the finish with YUTANI taking everyone’s big moves and getting pinned after Lindaman’s Tiger suplex. The work is fine, although the match itself feels a bit too rushed to be able to flesh out any real story or theme. The only thing that really stands out is YUTANI being positioned as his team’s weak link; aside from his dive onto Miyahara, he has to fall back on cheap tactics, like eye raking and using his t-shirt to choke Miyahara, because nothing else he does is very effective. It was fun to see YUTANI try to buck up and no sell when Lindaman charged at him in the corner and then charge right back at him, but Lindaman just no sold that in turn. The brief segment of Lindaman getting worked over by Suzuki and Flamita was fun, but again, it was too rushed to go anywhere. Between the opening exchange, the finish, and the segment after Lindaman tags in Miyahara and he cleans house and all three of them pose and get their names all chanted, it’s obvious that the main goal here was to create some crowd pleasing moments. It’s hard to fault them for that, considering some of what the crowd has already had to endure, but it still seems like a waste of everyone’s talents.



I didn’t hate this as much as the Hawk/Ishida title switch, despite Hawk’s best efforts to do so. His penchant for no-selling and stiffing the crud out of his opponents look a little better in this context; the grumpy champion torturing the spunky upstart. But Hawk doesn’t seem to feel like selling much of anything that Soma throws at him, and it’s not like Soma gets in a crap ton of offense. His two biggest spots are the slingshot Canadian Destroyer, which Hawk rolls through and comes right back with a running knee strike, and the 450 to the back which Hawk puts over fine, and then Soma flips him over and tries a second one only for Hawk to put the knees up. Soma gets in a couple of nice counters and Hawk doesn’t put them over the way he could have either. The most egregious is the top rope powerbomb into the rana spot that Eddie and Rey made famous. It would have been the perfect chance for Soma to at least get a good near fall, or even give him the chance to rattle off some of his own offense. Instead, Hawk gets up almost right away and just stares blankly, like he’s not sure whether he should be angry or shocked. The ugly crucifix counter to the Night Ride is Soma’s last-ditch attempt, and Hawk just gets right up and plows Soma with another running knee to kick off his finish run.


It's too bad because Soma’s performance was mostly good. That is, until he decided to act like Hawk and just stop selling anything, but luckily that didn’t last too long. He doesn’t get in a ton of offense, but he tries to make his stuff count. And before he loses his mind, he’s just about perfect when he’s putting over everything that Hawk is putting him through. Hell, the final image of him ends the match on something of a high note. Hawk gets a near fall from a powerbomb and Soma crawls to his feet, clearly having no idea where he is or what he’s doing and starts throwing chops and slaps that make minimal contact and the effort of just doing that is causing him to stumble around. Hawk creams him with another knee shot and hits the Night Ride to basically mercy kill the kid. All Hawk really needed to do was to let up a little bit and make it seem plausible that Soma could pull off the upset and this would have been worthwhile. Instead, this feels like little more than an extended squash, and it winds up seeming like a waste of Soma more than anything else.



Although this is short, they pack a lot of good stuff into it. It looks like it’s going to take on a ‘strikes versus grappling’ theme after Inaba takes off the first point with a nasty high kick and Maya takes her right to the ground and works her way into a juji-gatame, and then manages to keep it locked in after Inaba tries to roll herself out of it and it forces Inaba to use the ropes. Inaba tries to press her advantage with more kicks and when Maya catches one, Inaba rolls into a Shawn Capture style legbar and forces another rope break. Inaba keeps going after the leg with more kicks and leaves herself wide open for a big head kick from Maya that doesn’t officially KO her, but it’s the beginning of the end. Inaba manages to get up, but she’s clearly out of it, and it looks a lot more credible than what we saw from Soma as the G-REX match was winding down. Maya hits a couple of more head kicks, and it’s both impressive and a little unsettling that Inaba manages to stay on her feet after the first one, but Maya hits a second one that knocks her back down, and this time she doesn’t get up.



If Aoki wasn’t such a goofy scoundrel, this would have been a perfectly watchable, if unspectacular, tag team match. But his antics make this worth sitting through, even if he’s not involved too terribly much. Between Aoki’s facials and the way that he more or less prances around the ring, it’s not entirely clear if he really does have a couple of screws loose or if he’s just amusing himself. It’s certainly a welcome change of pace from the other three, who take themselves ultra seriously. Of course, Aoki has already shown that he’s skilled and crafty enough to beat virtually anyone on the roster, so he can afford to clown around a bit.


The work of the match is fine for the most part. It’s a twenty-minute draw, so they keep themselves busy and make sure that they’re tied on points as the minutes tick away toward the time limit. The match is mostly left to Sato and Iizuka, with Aoki being brought in to liven things up and Yoshida not adding much other than a suplex counter to Sato’s standing armbar. Even though the match feels a little directionless, Sato and Iizuka manage to create some appreciable moments, such as Iizuka’s missed kick allowing Sato to get him in a single leg crab. A bit later, Iizuka surprises Sato with a palm strike that stuns him enough for Iizuka to pull off a flying armbar and he’s still so dazed from the palm strike that in addition to the point lost from the rope break, the ref also calls him down and starts to count him. Iizuka tries the flying armbar with Aoki and it doesn’t go so well for him, but it was still impressive to see him trying to extend the arm from underneath Aoki, even though he had virtually no leverage.


Having the benefit of hindsight as far as how things wound up playing out for Iizuka makes it hard to think too much of the finish, one way or another. It sounds nice that he’s able to withstand Aoki stretching him until the time limit runs out and ends the match in a draw, but it doesn’t really mean anything for him in the grand scheme of things. It wasn’t the beginning of a sustained push to make  Iizuka into a true contender, in fact he’d go on to lose quite a few matches (both UWF and pro-style) over the next couple of months. It didn’t result in any sort of feud, or even a singles match, between Aoki and Iizuka. At the end of the day, this is little more than a fun match that more or less exists in a vacuum, which can be said about a lot of the better matches from GLEAT.



This stands right up there with the 6/98 Triple Crown and 12/03 IWGP Title matches as being amongst the most unnecessary title changes ever. This actually isn’t that dissimilar to the booking atrocity that was the 12/03 IWGP Title match at all; they both go about the same length, the wrestlers involved put in a fine performance, and, until a surprise submission (or choke in this case) gets locked in, the (former) champion was carrying himself like a true Company Ace. After a bit of a feeling out process, where Hayato causes Ito to burn a point with a rope break, we see some more of the rules in action when both of them go tumbling over the top rope. Neither of them gets up right away, causing them both to be called down. Once they both get back into the ring, Ito finally gets a chance to dictate the match and he absolutely unloads on Hayato with kicks and knee strikes, and if not for him being in the corner, Hayato definitely would have been dropped. Hayato returns fire and Ito gets to show his own resilience by sucking them up and continuing to go after Hayato. Hayato tries for his hanging choke and Ito counters him into a spikey brainbuster and then follows up with a deadlift German. It seems for all the world like Ito has Hayato right where he wants him. Ito isn’t even deterred all that much from a surprise high kick when Hayato gets some distance between them, Ito is up at the count of eight and he goes on to win the next couple of strike exchanges that knock Hayato to his last point. Hayato tries to outwrestle Ito into various submissions, an armbar and a Triangle choke and then into a legbar, but Ito is always ready with blocks and escapes. After Ito gets out the legbar, he’s in position for another German when Hayato turns around and sinks in the guillotine, Ito tries to do another deadlift escape, but he winds up going out before he can pull it off. And just like that, the inaugural Lidet UWF Champion’s reign is over.


If not for the inexplicable decision to switch the title so quickly, this would have been just about the perfect match for Ito’s first title defense. He gets to show his resilience both in the striking and mat games by sucking up and working through everything Hayato has to throw at him. Even in defeat, he still comes out of this looking enormous. Had he been able to follow through with the legbar counter into the German suplex for the win, he’d have been all but cemented as the undisputed Ace of the Lidet UWF. But, with how sporadic GLEAT tends to feature the UWF matches (one full show per year, and only a couple of matches on various cards), one can only hope that Ito can rebound, especially with Hayato mostly being absent from GLEAT, between his health issues and commitments to other groups.


Conclusion: It’s yet another middle-of-the-road show from GLEAT. The three UWF matches are easily the best things to see here. Everything is watchable (even if it’s just barely in the G-INFINITY  match) but not much more than that.