July 26, 2005

One of the very few tours that Mutoh kept around after taking over, the July PPV has always been synonymous with important happenings, and this is no exception. Kojima finally defends the Triple Crown, Masahiro Chono is enlisted by ROD, Miyamoto challenges Kawada, and more.

Buchanan . . . holds the Iron Claw like it’s his only lifeline.

Kensuke Sasaki . . . squashes junior heavyweights like it’s the year 2000.

Satoshi Kojima . . . lariats his way to victory.


Here we have your basic trios match, everyone gets something to do, it’s just obvious which of them actually have something worthwhile to do. The short length of it also ensures that a minimum of time killing filler. Kikutaro works his comedy and imitation spots into the mix (his stuff with Hijikata is probably the highlight of the match). Kikutaro’s partners, the ‘Maximum Weakest’ team gets to be scared to mix it up with Hijikata, and only get any offense on Raijin. They even screw up a simple triple team corner spot with Honma, with Araya charging directly into Honma’s boot. Raijin gives the Kiku-Weakest team a chance for a quick advantage, and when he is on offense he shows off his hard head by using it as a battering ram. And Honma is the team captain, and the hot tag man, unfortunately Honma winds up being left alone with Kikutaro after everyone else winds up on the floor. One of the finest traditions in wrestling, the best member of the team does the job. It’s odd to see Honma more or less blowing off Kikutaro’s Shining Wizard, but Honma hadn’t taken much abuse, so it’s not that big a deal. The brainbuster that Honma levels Kikutaro with looks great though, with Kikutaro doing a nice sell job of it, and you don’t need to be Stan Hansen to be able to finish Kikutaro off with a lariat, after that.


If absolutely nothing else, we can commend Mutoh for keeping these train wreck matches short. Buchanan does nothing other than hold onto a claw hold, as though he’s trying to show his devotion to the Von Erich family. Buchanan does have a nice move, where he sweeps the leg out from under Arashi to obtain more leverage, but he quickly negates that be doing it over and over again. Arashi gets a little bit of color, and doesn’t do a whole lot more other than slaps, and one nice suplex which inexplicably only gets two. Of course Arashi’s sheer girth is enough to be able to guaran-damn-tee that his Frog splash will get the three count, regardless of whether or not he’s worked his opponent over at all, let alone after inexplicable near falls after doing next to nothing.


While this is certainly an improvement over the two previous matches, it still comes up short. Mostly because Ishimori is given hardly anything to really do, and Kaz is more worried about doing the big spots than he is doing with simple and effective work. Some of the spots that Kaz comes up with are very nice, but they’re not getting the match where obviously want it to go, with Kaz shredding Ishimori’s arm. It’s nice that the All Japan junior ace can summon enough grumpiness to really put a hurting on Ishimori, but it gets old fast, and the fans’ silence speaks for itself. Whenever Kaz does decide to go with something simple such as the Fujiwara armbar counter, the crowd wakes right up. The same thing happens when Kaz locks in the crossface, which was actually a bit of a throwback to Ishimori’s last NJPW appearance (11/3/04). Which saw Gedo and Jado brutalize that same arm, culminating in Jado doing that same move.

Ishimori does a nice job with the little he’s given to do, he’s much like Kotaro Suzuki, not much more than a spot machine, but his athletic ability is impressive enough to ignore what he can’t do, and be impressed by what he can (such as his springboard dives). Ishimori’s sell job on his shoulder is horribly inconsistent, one second he’s writhing in pain, and another he’s doing his handspring backflip elbow drop, and selling the arm after he connects. He also slips off the top rope at one point attempting a springboard and tries to pass it off as his arm being the cause for him to fall. Some of the counters and escapes he brings are nice, but if he’d been given any time to really get any sort of advantage on Kaz, it’d have come across even better. The cradle reversal to the WA4, and the backslide counter to the Final Cut (complete with leg driving), both had the crowd roaring, but there was no way they could have been expected to get the pin. Hayashi’s Tombstone piledriver counter to the Asai DDT was a nice move, and would have been the perfect way to end the match, with Hayashi finally getting one up on Ishimori with a counter of his own. But Kaz still opts for the Final Cut, which really gives the finish no meaning other than saying that Kaz can do his move when his opponent is knocked out.


Unlike the other five minute singles match, this isn’t full of nothingness. Miyamoto shows some fire and isn’t afraid to right after Kawada. He uses some nice offense in Tenryu’s chop and jab in the corner, along with channeling the spirit of Mutoh with both a Shining Wizard and a moonsault. As much as it breaks my heart to say this, Kawada is the reason it doesn’t go anywhere (which is especially odd given his one-man performance in NOAH the week before). He takes the moves from Miyamoto just fine, but isn’t interested in doing much else than that. He completely blows off the ode to Tenryu, and when he’s not kicking Miyamoto he’s not doing much of anything. Miyamoto even does a fabulous sell job on Kawada’s Ganmengiri, and puts over the pain that Kawada is putting him through very nicely. But he’s just not interested in doing anything else, the elbow and kick jab that he uses to obliterate Miyamoto for the win looks more like Kawada avenging the way he lost the NOAH match to Misawa, than him digging down to find something to put away Miyamoto.


This definitely isn’t the type of sequel that the ultra-fun All Asia Tournament finals match deserved, and it’s not surprising which participant in this match we can thank for that the most (hint: it’s the one who wasn’t involved in the 6/19 match). Kensuke works the same sort of chest thumping tough guys, match that he did with Kobashi in NOAH the week before. Rather than use actual moves and offense to soften up Kondo and YASSHI for Nakajima, he just pelts them with chops over and over again, and when they return the favor and Sasaki isn’t even phased. Kensuke also doesn’t let them do anything to him that would result in him possibly being in trouble, despite that if they could somehow get him in trouble, it’d be an even bigger obstacle for Nakajima and would undoubtably get the crowd going. But rather than tell an interesting story, or play off previous matches, the match is worked in a simple formula. Nakajima gets in trouble, and it’s Kensuke to the rescue, and he dismantles both of the Voodoo Murders heels. How exciting is that?

Nakajima, Kondo, and YASSHI aren’t exactly blameless either though, the VM team isn’t nearly as good about selling and giving Nakajima openings as they were in the previous match. Nakajima also isn’t as good as taking the few openings they did try to give him. The few times that he is given something to do. Nakajima does little else other than his favorite roundhouse kick. The VM team brings a few nice double teams with them, as they always do. There is a nice throwback to the previous match when Kondo and YASSHI do the same sequence that won them the titles, only this time Kensuke breaks it up. YASSHI’s willingness to take head bumps also helped out a bit, such as his bump from Kensuke’s lariat, and the Kensuke Office double German suplex which dropped him right on his head. It’s nice that Nakajima got the pin and avenged the loss in June, but it’d have been nicer if the match had been able to hit the same highs as the match in June, and if Nakajima had shown that he earned the titles by doing more than just being Sasaki’s tag partner.


The talent pool for the VM was pretty much dried up in the last match, and aside from TAKA, there isn’t anyone who can carry the match and make it good. There are several fun parts in the first half, such as TAKA using his speed and cheap shots to his advantage, as well as TAKA challenging Bernard to face him in the ring. Even though TAKA obviously bit off more than he could chew, he withstood the abuse, and came back with a poke to the eyes and a jumping kick to the head. Bernard and Jamal have a rather amusing exchange as well, with Bernard forgetting the rule about giving a Samoan a headbutt. Chono’s role in this match is strange. He’s there for the same reasons that Kensuke was in the last match, to give ROD an edge. Whereas Kensuke hogging all the offense and squashing Kondo and YASSHI, Chono only makes a few sporadic appearances, and dishes out Yakuza kicks, or a Shining Yakuza kick to Palumbo, does the ROD pose with Jamal, and goes back to the apron. Chono isn’t making any saves, or preventing any VM cheating, or doing anything to give the impression that with him in the match, things will be different this time around.

The middle portion with the VM control segment on TAKA tends to meander a bit in places, because again, the two most talented members of the whole group aren’t in the match. Despite the video package before the match showing how time and again the Voodoo Murders have gotten one over on ROD. You never get the idea that it’s payback time, or that ROD is going to return the favor. When TAKA hot tags in Chono, it’s more of the same from him. He throws out the Yakuza kicks, takes a quick bodyslam from Giant Bernard, and tags back out to Kea. The prerequisite four way corner spot comes about, and of course the ‘Lucha-esqe’ dives onto the floor spots come in, as an excuse to get everyone out of the ring. None of the dives that we get shown look very good either. With Kea and Palumbo left in the ring, it’s time to kill the finishers. Kea escapes the 187 and hits Palumbo with the Cobra Clutch suplex, which Palumbo completely blows off, climbing to his feet and screaming like a banshee. Palumbo hits Kea with the 187 which Kea kicks out of with ease. It’s only after some mis communication by the former FBI, that Kea can hit a TKO on Palumbo for the win. It’s nice that ROD won, except that ROD almost always wins the important matches between the two factions. The Voodoo Murders just keep destroying them afterwards, and nothing before, during, or after the match suggests that ROD are going to get some hefty payback.


Considering that this is Kojima’s first Triple Crown defense (2/20 vs. Tenzan was more of a title unification deal, rather than a specific defense of the Triple Crown) this falls considerably short of expectations. Even more so when a broken down and past his prime Kawada, was able to scrape enough together for a few decent outings during his run with the belts. This wasn’t going to be a masterpiece anyway, with Mutoh so broken down, and the limitations of Kojima, but they don’t attempt to go the extra mile, if for no other reason than the Triple Crown being at stake. Instead they treat us to their usual affair of precious little in the way of storytelling in favor of the big spots. It’s just like watching a Misawa and Kobashi singles match, on a smaller scale.

Nearly the first half of the match is little more than filler, they both take turns working holds and nothing they do has any bearing on what comes later on. Despite the fact that Kojima’s knee becomes the prime target, the early portion featured Kojima doing more work on Mutoh’s knee, and Mutoh going after Kojima’s arm. They each also fit their little spots into the mix. Mutoh of course fits in the power drive elbow drop, and Kojima with the lariat into the corner. Oddly enough though, Kojima doesn’t climb to the top, or even do his patented yell when he hits the lariat, he just drops two elbows on Mutoh. Kojima also works in another seemingly mandatory spot for Mutoh matches, when he pulls out a Shining Wizard. Mutoh also works in a couple of nice Shining Wizard variations, one while Kojima is against the guardrail (which actually causes Mutoh to bust his head open), as well as one to counter Kojima’s Koji Cutter attempt off the apron.

The match does finally start to go somewhere when Mutoh singles out Kojima’s knee for abuse. Mutoh’s Dragon screw has always been one of his most over weapons, and he makes a few adjustments to it, to really put the hurt on Kojima. Mutoh doesn’t stop there, as he uses the dropkick to the knee (as well as one off the top) and even dusts off the figure four leg lock. Kojima does some nice selling with his knee too, when Mutoh does the first big Dragon screw through the ropes, Kojima is screaming in pain. He can barely get to his feet, and his attempt at a brain buster, winds up with his knee buckling underneath him. That’s pretty much where the good stuff ends though, first Kojima completely blows off a rana from the top rope, and then they start throwing out the finishers left and right. Mutoh shows some momentary forethought in attempting the moonsault after two Shining Wizards don’t get the job done, but after that he goes right back to the Shining Wizard. Kojima isn’t left out either, and continuously throws his lariat. At one point Kojima completely no sells the Shining Wizard and does the lariat, in an ode to their 2001 G1 match, that wasn’t needed or wanted. The great selling of the leg by Kojima, is completely vaporized in favor of constantly using the lariat.

The end comes rather suddenly though, because in addition to doing nothing in terms of setting up the finisher, Kojima’s final lariat doesn’t look final in the least, he doesn’t do anything differently in terms of his execution of the move, nor does Kojima use any sort of body language or do anything to verbally suggest that it’s finally over. And just to put the icing on the cake, seconds after the three count comes down, Mutoh is in a sitting position, obviously showing how much he was knocked out by the blow. Very often in wrestling, the chase is more satisfying than the climax, and here we see a token example of why. As fun as it was to follow the trials and tribulations of Kojima en route to him finally winning the titles, and now that he’s actually got the titles, we see what we have to look forward to in his title defenses.

Conclusion: Talk about a disappointing PPV. Everything that had potential to make this a fun show (Kensuke, Chono, Kawada, and the main event) was disappointing. Recommendation to avoid this show.