October 22, 2005

Shadow of its former self, or not, All Japan is one of the most fun promotions in Japan to follow, even though they’re far from breaking the bank. It’s hard to really put into words, but it’s just got this strange appeal to it.

Kohei Suwama . . . keeps losing his trial series matches, but he’s getting closer to finally winning.

Shuji Kondo . . . brings gold into the Voodoo Murders.

TARU . . . gives Keiji Mutoh a taste of his own medicine, for all that mist he’s spit into various eyes during his career.


If this could be judged solely on competitiveness and only Suwama’s performance, then this would come off as really good. Suwama is able to work in a lot more stuff that he was in his trial matches with Vader and with Sasaki. He’s able to send Kea reeling back with forearm shots, and this time, “Mr. Suplex” actually shows how he got the name, hitting Kea with quite a few of them. Suwama also does some fun little things to put over Kea’s experience edge, such as his hesitation on the pescado that allowed Kea to grab his feet and trip him. Also a bit later on, Suwama drops his head too early and Kea hits him with his jumping DDT. What this winds up lacking though, is a strong selling performance from Kea. The only thing he really puts over to any great extent is fatigue, and surprise for Suwama’s ability to survive so much of his high-end offense. Suwama does manage to survive a surprising amount of Kea’s trademark stuff before he ultimately gets put away with the Surfing suplex, so Kea being surprised isn’t a bad thing at all. Kea’s problem is that no matter how many forearms he eats, or how many suplexes he takes, Kea never gives the impression that he’s in any danger of losing. It *is* a trial series, and the wrestler having the series getting a shutout is far from uncommon. But the whole point of a wrestling match is supposed to be creating doubt about the outcome.


Thank God for D’Lo, otherwise this would have been a complete waste. D’Lo Brown should not be outworking the Triple Crown champion, but that’s what happens here. Brown throws some decent looking punches, and brings out some nice offense in his sidewalk slam, as well as a beautiful looking moonsault (too bad it missed). The other three weren’t even needed, Buchanan’s decent contributions ended with him getting his claw hand stuck on the rope. Kaz does nothing other than back dropping Buchanan over the top so that Kojima can finish off Brown with the lariat. Kojima does his usual amount of nothing, followed with the Koji Cutter, and ends things with his mighty lariat. On the plus side, Brown at least takes a decent bump off of it, and it results in a rare occasion where it looks worthy of being a finisher.


Sasaki and Bubba in the same match, let the no-selling begin! This is pretty much what you’d expect considering everyone involved. It starts out with a little ode to ECW brawl in the fans, before it settles down into a typical match. “Typical match” in this case, meaning that Bubba and D-Von beat on Honma, and when Sasaki tags in, it turns into a big no-selling marathon. Bubba and D-Von work in some of their usual spots, and Bubba does do a few things to work on Honma’s taped up shoulder. But it shows how much it’s stretching, when doing something that obvious is able to garner praise. Sasaki and Bubba do a little ode to the Kobashi/Sasaki chop sequence, and Sasaki also takes the Dudley Device, before tagging in Honma, who is quickly finished with the 3D. Kikutaro comes out, for some comedy and tables.

TAKA MICHINOKU © vs. SHUJI KONDO (AJPW Jr. Heavyweight Title)

On paper, this looks like an easy formula for a good match. TAKA has been one of the most consistently decent workers on the roster, and Kondo is the most talented member of the Voodoo Murders, by far. Even though this doesn’t hit anywhere near the highs of the last match that involved Kondo winning a title, there are still times when this is the fun match that it’s expected to be.

Limb work that kills time and doesn’t go anywhere is not very unusual at all in junior matches, and to its credit, the limb work isn’t completely filler, but it doesn’t go anywhere very meaningful. There are times when it does pay off, such as Kondo (easily the most powerful member of the junior division) being unable to power out of TAKA’s short arm scissors due to the arm work TAKA had done. Kondo’s work over TAKA’s knee only seems to have an effect on TAKA’s speed, which does make him more prone for Kondo using his power advantage, but TAKA also employs several head kicks and knee strikes, and Kondo (with help from Jet Takagi, TARU, and YASSHI) working over TAKA’s knee doesn’t have any direct effect in that department.

The run-ins from Jet, TARU, and YASSHI are frustrating but they do get paid off of sorts in the form of the Space Lone Wolf running them off and forcing Kondo to actually go at things on his own. It’s equally frustrating to see Kondo pull a Kojima of sorts, with using the KKL several times before TAKA finally stays down for the three. Once again, there is a payoff of sorts in that Kondo hadn’t done a thing to really weaken TAKA enough to finish him off, but it’d have been nicer if Kondo had learned his lesson after TAKA kicked out and done something else to wear him down better. The finish is a bit of a play on the 6/19 match, with Kondo finally hitting the KKL when TAKA isn’t in position to block or dodge it, but while that match came off as feeling like they’d actually earned the All Asia Tag Titles, this comes off like merely a foregone conclusion without the roller coaster ride to get there.


If you’re looking for good timing, execution, etc. then look elsewhere, the best worker in here is Mutoh, which should be telling enough. What this does have going for it though, is that it’s able to overcome the lack of actual good work, in terms of storytelling. Pro wrestling has seen lots of fat, out of shape wrestlers. Big Show, Mark Henry, Matt Ghafari, Yokozuna, and Yutaka Yoshie all spring to mind pretty quickly, but Akebono takes the cake and eats it too. His enormous size does seem to make him an asset to his team though, because there isn’t a damn thing that TARU, Bernard, or anyone else that tries to run in, can seem to do to stop him. Bernard packs some decent stopping power in his strikes, and Akebono doesn’t even flinch.

Akebono and all his pro wrestling experience (that being none) obviously can do next to nothing and the little that he can do winds up looking horrid (such as the bodyslam he does) but TARU does find something that Akebono can do well. Bleed like a stuck pig (pun fully intended). When TARU opens up his head, it’s like he found the big secret to stopping Akebono. Akebono wasn’t exactly a speed demon to begin with, and after that he’s basically immobile. His size no longer works in favor of his team. It now works against them. Bernard and TARU can just kick back and lay into Akebono as much as they want, because he can’t do a damn thing to stop them. His selling isn’t any better, in fact Bernard shaking his hand out after he punches the open cut, while Akebono just stands there is probably the best selling in the match.

Bernard finally does tag, and even does a Ricky Morton roll to the corner, that looks as bad as expected. But now Mutoh is completely on his own, because Akebono is drained. The prerequisite run-ins by Kondo and YASSHI also further illustrate Mutoh being on his own. All 515 lbs. of his partner are on the floor sucking wind, leaving Mutoh at their mercy. When Akebono does finally make his way into the ring to save Mutoh, Bernard finds a surefire way to keep him away, a good old-fashioned punch in the grapefruits. Mutoh may be on his own, but he doesn’t go down without a fight. It takes TARU misting him in the face (talk about poetic justice) and the Baldo Bomb to finally put him down for the count. Is this a great wrestling match? Absolutely not, but the spectacle, and storytelling do lend a hand in helping the match overcome its lack of actual work.

Conclusion: This is a perfect example of the strange appeal this promotion has. A couple of fun little outings in the opener and title match. As well as a main event that is far from good, but still very much enjoyable all the same. This is an easy thumbs up this time around.