February 16, 2005

When faced with a choice between this, and the 2/20/05 NJPW PPV, the choice was obvious. Between this show, NJPW’s NEXESS shows, and NOAH’s WILD II push. 2005 looks like the year of young guys moving up and taking over.

The Voodoo Murders . . . are out of bubble gum, but have plenty of time for ass kicking.

Satoshi Kojima . . . finally wins the big one.

Toshiaki Kawada . . . proves that he’s the real Wrestling God.


This is just a quick sprint of a spotfest to warm up the crowd. Its pretty fun in that regard, but the storyline surrounding it is a bit backwards. NOSAWA has had enough of being the cheating heel, and is playing by the rules, and MAZADA doesn’t like it. Good idea in theory, except that NOSAWA was always the leader of the team, and MAZADA was always beneath him. So how exactly are we supposed to buy MAZADA having a prayer to begin with?

They do their sprint, and don’t take the time to really lay any groundwork for a story, but they don’t really have a whole lot of time in the first place. MAZADA tries several times to get heat by using weapons, but the ref keeps confiscating them. NOSAWA picks up the garbage can that MAZADA brought to the ring with him, and debates using it, but throws it away and keeps playing by the book. It’s odd that MAZADA never went for easy heat like feet on the ropes, bullying the ref, pulling the tights, or a low blow. The only low blow in the match is NOSAWA slightly botching his Shining Wizard and hurting himself. MAZADA continuously attempts to get flash pins off a small package, and NOSAWA gets the win by hooking La Magistral for the win. It’d have at least paid off a little bit if either NOSAWA broke down and cheated, or he could have just rolled up MAZADA while he was attempting to cheat.


Matches like this are a bit of a waste to be on a major show like this. As much I enjoy six man tag matches, as well as letting younger guys on the show. It’s a waste not only of the talent, but of time. Underdogs like Ishikari, Raijin, and even Honma to an extent provide one of most fundamental tools to making matches enjoyable, being the underdog. The problem is that this match just doesn’t get enough time to fully develop it.

The match starts off like they’re going in that direction, with the three underdogs looking quite good. Honma manages to stun the big man, Arashi, and the two smaller guys can’t get much of a break either, to the point where it looks like a three-on-one squashing session on Mini Love Machine. But just as it gets to that point, they need to hurry up and take it home, so it almost instantly goes from the underdogs looking good, and suddenly Arashi has Raijin and now he’s going to kill him. Arashi has a total of three pin attempts on Raijin. Only one of those pin attempts results in a kick out, which gets a moderate pop out of the crowd. A moderate pop itself is lucky for them, because they rushed into the closing stretch and didn’t do anything to get substantial proper heat on Raijin. The other near fall is a result of Honma making a save, which gets little to no reaction, and finally Arashi finishes him off. It’s nice that they’re trying to utilize the younger guys in an enjoyable manner. Take a look at AJPW from even five years previously and you see nothing being done with rookies like Raijin, so it’s a step in the right direction. Now all Mutoh needs to do is give them proper time to tell their story.


This is quite the fun little #1 and #4 vs. #2 and #3 tag match. The theme of being the underdog is present here, although not in the way it’s expected to be. Seventeen-year-old Nakajima is obviously an underdog and he’s going to make some mistakes in the match, and it’ll be up to Hayashi to keep an eye on him. Hayashi is undoubtably the top of the AJPW junior division, so winning here will do nothing for him. This also makes AKIRA and Toshizo, underdogs to some extent. Nakajima gets himself an early advantage by targeting AKIRA’s arm with his kicks. Nakajima’s inexperience kicks in though, when he spends too much time going after it. A single Dragon screw was all it took to put an end to Nakajima’s offensive flurry. Both men tag and it’s the same idea. This time Toshizo gets to be the underdog against the top player in the division. Toshizo is using his kicking offense just fine to wear down Hayashi, but he uses it like it’s a lifeline and eventually Kaz knows what to expect and avoids it, and then levels him with a kick of his own to send him to the floor. In four minutes, the same basic theme has already crept up twice. The underdog has shown that he knows how to get control of the match, but doesn’t know how to maintain it for very long.

A quick tag later and its back to Nakajima kicking away at AKIRA’s arm, but doesn’t learn his lesson and once again gets taken down. AKIRA makes a mistake though and goes for his Musasabi press off the top rope way too early and gets caught in an armbar by Nakajima. Perfectly good idea in theory, but in execution it’s another mistake by Nakajima. AKIRA knows his way around the mat, and is able to counter the arm bar into an ankle lock and proceed to segue that into an STF. When Toshizo and Hayashi go at it, the kicks start to come again from Toshizo, but he doesn’t make the same mistake though. He stops the kicks, and starts to slap away at Hayashi. He changes his offense, but not so drastically as to open himself up for something. Hayashi just no-sells a brainbuster though, and goes to his offense. Hayashi starts taking the finishers out, and Toshizo shows his fire by kicking out of both the Final Cut and the moonsault. It was a little too early in the match to assume that they’d be enough to put him down anyway, and Hayashi hadn’t gotten a whole lot of offense on Toshizo. Hayashi gets lazy though and does a lax pin after a WA4, and Toshizo counters into a cradle for the win. The match had been about the underdogs having a basic knowledge of what to do to win, but being unable to fully grasp it. This time it was the ace not doing enough, and having it bite him in the ass in the biggest way possible. ***


Was there nothing else to do with the AJPW World Tag Team Champions than this? It’s good for some comedy and that pretty much ends the positive aspects about this match. Fuchi’s team is afraid of Jamal, and nothing they try has any sort of effect on him. After Jamal throws Araya and Hirai around, Fuchi takes a hike. Kea tags himself in and gives Hirai some offense, before Jamal makes a save. Fuchi wanders back out, but Jamal chases him away and Kea pins Hirai. This match was a complete waste of four minutes, and of the tag champions.


The Voodoo Murders is what over the top entrances are all about, eerie music, strobe lights, trying to attack fans, and general flashiness. What exactly happened to Buchanan? He went from being the big guy in ROD to being some combination of Baron Von Rashke and The Berserker. It’s not very good as a wrestling match, but it’s perversely enjoyable for how over the top it is. The first half isn’t much of anything except filler, where Buchanan and Rico can show off. Buchanan still has his agility and balance that distinguish him. Rico shows more here in three minutes (did I just hear myself say . . . three minutes?), than he had in three years with the WWE. Of course he wasn’t too busy prancing around and kissing the Voodoo Murders either, so that could explain it.

The Voodoo Murders get some heat on TAKA and as he makes his comeback, he errantly hits the referee with a superkick, and that’s where the fun begins. Former Dragon Gate wrestlers “Brother” YASSHI and Shuji Kondo hit the ring and attack TAKA, while Stamboli and Palumbo fight off Buchanan and Rico. Then the DG guys take care of the other ROD guys while Palumbo and Stamboli give TAKA a Demolition Decapitation and place him in a body bag. TARU puts Buchanan’s claw hand in a chair and the VM use baseball bats to Pillmanize the hand, and it’s just like watching the FBI “whack” someone. Rico is left three-on-one and does his best, but falls victim to Palumbo’s 187 and gets pinned. As an actual wrestling match, it’s mediocre. But as far as spectacle and entertainment goes, it kills anything that Bob Sapp ever did.


For a match with the 2004 MVP and a rookie with all the potential of Suwama, this is very disappointing. It’s almost a complete one-sided squash match. Which it shouldn’t be, with Suwama’s trial series, as well as how high up on the card it is. Suwama obviously makes some mistakes, and Kensuke is able to exploit them, such as Suwama’s blind charge into the corner for a running knee and results in Kensuke doing a powerbomb variation, which is fine. But Kensuke isn’t doing anything to help the kid along at all. For someone with the nickname “Mr. Suplex” and a video package that shows several people, including two huge gaijin monsters (Vader and Jamal) both falling victim to his suplex, Suwama only gets a single attempt at it, and fails to deliver. Kensuke is throwing his lariat left and right, it would have been easy for Suwama to see the opening and duck the lariat and hit a surprise suplex for at least a near fall. The most Suwama is able to do is hit Kensuke with a few hard slaps to Kensuke’s face, and that doesn’t cut the mustard.

Kensuke definitely has more offensive moves than his lariat, but you wouldn’t know it watching this match, because he just pelts Suwama with it over and over again. Kensuke couldn’t even be bothered to use midrange offense or even pull out a surprise submission such as a Sasorigatame. With Sasaki using his lariat over and over, it would seem elemental to give Suwama a near fall from it, and then use something else for the pin. But instead we get Sasaki doing the single move time and again until it’s enough to get the pinfall. This was definitely not the way to handle a trial series match for someone with they hype and potential of Suwama, or how to handle match third from the top of the card.


Sometimes it’s hard to be a fan of Keiji Mutoh. These two are very much alike in many ways, and unfortunately not all of them are good ways. The early portion is a bit odd, in that Mutoh and Tanahashi refrain from the go-go-go sprint, and go to the ground. On the ground Tanahashi is able to get the better of Mutoh and get control using a headlock. It’s just as much of a psychological advantage for Tanahashi, as it is a physical one. Mutoh has fifteen years experience on him, but even with his knees being all shot, and his degeneration, Mutoh can still pick it up when he needs to, and he can still go. After Mutoh escapes the headlock, he hits a single dropkick to Tanahashi’s knee and that’s all that it takes to put the kid down, and writhing in pain. Tanahashi may have had himself a nice control segment working a simple hold, and fed his ego a bit. But Mutoh’s experience knew when and where to strike to instantly change the complexion of the match.

It would be outright stupid for Mutoh to not take advantage of the opening he has. But this also isn’t a grudge match. It’s supposed to be about respect, and about two fellow Fujinami students seeing who the better man is. So it’s understandable that Mutoh doesn’t out and out attack the knee like a shark. He takes his shots like his dropkick, and a power drive elbow, but he also holds back a bit, and gives Tanahashi time to recover. It’s also not a Keiji Mutoh match without the figure four, and that comes into play, to not only continue to work over the hurt knee, but also to get the fans going. Even though this is in an AJPW ring, it’s human nature to cheer on the underdog. This is also, unfortunately, where Tanahashi starts showing that he picked up some of Mutoh’s bad habits. After getting the ropes to escape the hold, Tanahashi pops up and does a Dragon screw to Mutoh. It’s logical since he’s targeting Mutoh’s knees, and he very well should be. But Tanahashi doesn’t sell his knee any more after that. Now that he made his comeback, the knee work is done and it’s out of focus.

Tanahashi’s next brilliant idea is to start breaking out his finishers. It starts with the Dragon suplex while Mutoh is on the floor. When they get into the ring, it’s moving on, to the Dragon sleeper. Despite having no build up at all, not even his trademark jumping enzuigiri (which would have been a further discourtesy to Mutoh’s leg work, as well as Tanahashi’s good sell job of the knee when it was in focus). So the only thing he did to build up to his finishing submission, was his finishing suplex. Mutoh is still trying to work with Tanahashi here, and does his best to put over the Dragon sleeper like he’s only a second or so away from passing out. A simple knee to the head was all it took Mutoh to break the hold. Mutoh knew he could break it so easily, but he was just giving Tanahashi a fighting chance.

Tanahashi doesn’t really get much smarter either, he should have spent more time looking at Mutoh’s career when he was at the stage that Tanahashi is now, instead of what he does nowadays. Tanahashi’s next idea is that he’s going to use the Dragon suplex as much as he can, just like Mutoh with the Shining Wizard. At least Mutoh has a few backup moves he can use to finish. Or he can change up the Shining Wizard now and then, but Tanahashi is doing nothing except killing his own finisher. This is also when Mutoh just says “forget about it” because it’s obvious that Tanahashi is more interested in being a Mutoh clone and just getting the fans to pop, than he is about having a good match. Mutoh starts off with a few standing variations of the Shining Wizard, and then does his regular verison of it for two, and then follows up with another one, also for two. It’d have been nice if Mutoh had put some mid range offense in between them, it would have helped the second Shining Wizard look much more likely to get the pin. So Tanahashi still won’t fall down and Mutoh has already used the Shining Wizard several times, so what does he do? Mutoh uses the moonsault, which happens to be enough to get the pin. Mutoh still has a viable finisher, and Tanahashi gets a rub for not going down easy. Mutoh actually gave Tanahashi a bit of a lesson, as well showing that he has a method to his madness. Don’t screw over your own finisher, unless you have another move you can do to get the pin.


So this is it, Kojima’s big win where he finally ascends to his throne as the top wrestler in the promotion. This match definitely doesn’t look like it’s the big epic win for Kojima. Not that it isn’t an important match, its Kojima’s third Triple Crown challenge, and coincidentally, his third singles match with Kawada, and also coincidentally, Kawada happened to defeat both of the former champions who had turned back Kojima previously. So there is a lot riding on this match for Kojima.

Nearly the entire first half is an extended squash for Kawada. He gives Kojima hardly anything, and when Kojima is lucky enough to connect with something, it doesn’t even register. As much fun as it is to see Kawada brushing off Kojima left and right, he’s not doing the future champion any favors. There is more to being the champion and the top guy than just winning the title match. Kojima needs to look as strong as he can, and having some sort of early advantage or something with Kawada that he could have exploited to get the win would have accomplished that. Kawada just shrugging him off that way may be logical for Kawada’s capacity as the champion, but Kawada has always been synonymous with making a lesser worker look better.

Kojima’s comeback starts with him no-selling the soccer kicks and hitting a Koji Cutter that Kawada sells like death. From there he dishes out a Tiger driver for two, and then slaps on his new arm submission hold. First off, considering Kawada’s history with Misawa, the Tiger driver would have been an ideal move to get the win, or at least a near fall. Second, the arm submission was wasted because Kojima didn’t do a single thing to build it up, like work over Kawada’s arm. Why work over Kawada’s arm to begin with? His main strikes are his kicks, and back in ‘99 he showed how well he can work though arm injuries when he won the Triple Crown with a fractured forearm. Besides, was there ever really a hope that Kawada would tap out? The next move by Kojima is the CCD (a cross between a Screwdriver and an NLB), another move that would have been good for a finisher that Kojima just brings out for no really logical reason.

Which of course brings us to Kojima’s favorite move in the whole wide world, the lariat. After all, why give the impression of digging down deep with the CCD or thinking a bit and winning with a Tiger driver? Kojima can take his cues from Kensuke and Mutoh, and use the same move over and over again. Kojima actually tears off the elbow pad for the move, a good while before he hits it. Kawada blocks it with the Ganmengiri that beat Kojima back in June of 2001, and Kojima survives it. Kawada also tries the running head kick that had beaten Kojima in August of 2004 and he smartly avoids it. It’s a very logical progression by Kawada, the two weaker moves that had worked before and then he tried his big finisher, the powerbomb and Kojima survived that. Kojima finally does to hit the lariat, and Kawada also does a nice job of putting over exactly the gradual damage he’s taking from it. At first he’s just popping up before Kojima can get the pin, then he starts kicking out at one, and so forth. With Kawada doing all that he can to show the damage he’s taking, but not drop the fall. Kawada is clearly trying to convey a message to Kojima. “It’s the biggest match of your career, dig down deep and use something else.” Kojima just won’t listen though, and after a mind-boggling seven lariats, Kawada just gives up and lays down for the count. It’s kind of pitiful that when AJPW is such a shell of its former self, and Kawada is past his prime and being phased out, that he can still pull off performances like this, despite his opponent pretty much doing his best to ruin it. ***1/4.

Conclusion: Well this certainly isn’t a bad show. It has three very fun matches in the junior tag, the six-man-tag with ROD vs. Voodoo Murders, and the main event. The not-so-fun stuff doesn’t go that long either. I’m going to say thumbs in the middle for this show. There is some stuff that you should try to check out, but nothing that’s really high priority.