SUWA . . . doesn’t impress all that much, either in singles or in trios action.
Stoker Ichikawa . . . proves that he’s a lot more than a funny demon bug jobber, not once but twice!
Kenichiro Arai . . . continues showing why he’s one of the more underappreciated members of the Toryumon roster.
KENICHIRO ARAI © vs. SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI (NWA World Welterweight Title)
Well, the five or so minutes of this that was shown were rather fun, but this match is everything I hate about Toryumon/Dragon Gate monthly TV shows. Susumu has apparently worn down Arai’s knee quite a bit, but we don’t get to see any of it, we just see Arai selling it really well to explain his inability to follow up after hitting the headbutt and the 450. There’s also a nice part earlier in the clip where they exchange cradle attempts and Arai outwrestles Susumu and traps him in an armbar. Arai seems to have the match won with his jackknife cradle, but Kanda intervenes with the blue box, and a figure four gives Susumu the title (although he’d be stripped of it a few days later).
SUWA vs. MAGNUM TOKYO
All that’s shown is the tail end of this and it’s not anything to write home about. Tokyo tries some sort of head scissors takeover and it winds up being badly blown. Tokyo does a La Magistral for an obvious near fall (obvious due to the fact that the ring is tiny and SUWA was damn near in the ropes). The bell rings for a draw, Tokyo wants five more and actually gets it! When does that ever happen? SUWA spends the bulk of the restart beating the piss out of Tokyo like he told SUWA to meet him at 9:00 on the ninth green. They try a few wrestling exchanges, but, again, it’s nothing special. SUWA tries the FFF and Tokyo counters and tries the Viagra driver, which SUWA escapes. There’s a nice spot right at the end with Tokyo hitting a springboard bulldog while SUWA is on the top, but the bell rings for a second draw.
CIMA vs. STOKER ICHIKAWA
I’ll be damned. Stoker can actually work! He does his usual bit for the first few minutes with the knuckle lock, but after CIMA gets tried of the games and starts laying in the beating, Stoker comes back and actually wrestles! There’s a quick moment of Stoker’s comedy when he blocks the Iconoclasm by twisting CIMA’s ears and then does a diving butt poke, but he quickly follows up with a couple of nice cradles for some near falls, before CIMA kills him dead with a piledriver. Fun while it lasted.
SUMO DANDY FUJI/TARU vs. SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI/YASUSHI KANDA
More fun from the Crazy Max/M2K feud, this time it’s the two lesser famed members of Crazy Max getting to shine. Compared to their Crazy Max counterparts, Fuji and TARU don’t really look too impressive, but they find a way to stand out here by beating the crud out of M2K whenever they get the chance, TARU with his stiff kicks, and Fuji by rattling off lariats and power moves. It also helps that TARU sells like a king once the heels start going after his leg, he takes a few sick bumps leading up to the superbomb that finishes him off. M2K’s work is fine, but they don’t stand out the way the defacto babyface team does. Their best spot was when Susumu did the Dragon screw to TARU and then held the knee in place for Kanda’s elbow, but it was TARU’s selling that really made the whole thing come off so well.
CIMA/SUWA/SUMO DANDY FUJI vs. MAGNUM TOKYO/DRAGON KID/KENICHIRO ARAI
They have their moments, but, at the end of the day, this isn’t any different from any number of Toryumon trios matches. Crazy Max plays heel and has fun for a while with some tandem spots. SUWA drops an elbow on DK’s junk and then kills him with the John Woo. The really fun stuff here is watching Arai use his hard head to his advantage, such as when Fuji and CIMA try their Giant swing/dropkick combo and it had no effect. SUWA pops in and replaces CIMA’s dropkick with a chair which is much more effective.
There’s the usual home stretch full of big spots and near falls, SUWA gets planted with a big rana from Tokyo and walks into the Dragon rana for a near fall. CIMA eats a Viagra driver and Arai’s 450 for another one, and Arai gets planted with the Jet Pool from SUWA and then CIMA hits the Mad Splash for a near fall for the heels. In the end it’s a visibly groggy Arai left with the strongest member of Crazy Max, Fuji. There’s a brief moment of hope when Arai blocks the lariat with a diving headbutt to Fuji’s midsection, but Fuji sucks it up and hits a big lariat and finishes Arai off with the chokeslam. Much like the previous tag did for TARU and Fuji, this was good for showcasing how good Arai can be, he’s another one who is sometimes easy to forget compared to other members of the roster, but, as a whole, this isn’t anything special.
TARU/STOKER ICHIKAWA vs. SUSUMU MOCHIZUKI/YASUSHI KANDA (Mask/Hair vs. Hair)
It’s more fun with TARU and Stoker! M2K are largely the same as they were against Fuji and TARU, they’re fun heels but their work isn’t anything all that special. But this isn’t their match to make, it’s TARU and Stoker’s, and they do just that. TARU still has a bad wheel and he’s still great at putting it over, especially when he’s ready to plant Susumu with the TARU Driller and Masaaki uses the blue box to put the kibosh on that. But it’s Stoker who really goes all out. At first he’s a total pinball for the heels, but once M2K takes off the mask, he gets fired up and starts fighting back. The phrase “the place comes unglued” doesn’t even do the crowd reaction justice, especially when he fouls Susumu and cradles him for a near fall. It’s still M2K that Stoker is facing, so he takes a rather big beating himself, and his selling is just as great as TARU’s.
This is Crazy Max vs. M2K, so it’s got the usual overbooking with the ref going down and both sides interfering and the usual dog and pony show. Crazy Max looks to have it in the bag until Darkness Dragon shows up and turns the tide, only for CIMA to even the odds. It seems like the damage is done until CIMA (wearing the DD mask) comes back and levels Susumu with the Iconoclasm and Mad Splash, and then Stoker La Magistral cradles Susumu to give the underdogs the win! For as much as Toryumon/Dragon Gate gets pimped on the basis of their crazy tag and trios matches, I think it’s matches like this that really make the promotion so much fun. Two years of Stoker being little more than comic relief and an undercard jobber all lead up to his showing what he’s really capable of. ***
Conclusion: What a surprising, and fun, TV block. There are dozens of matches that one could list to show just how good workers like CIMA are, but this time around it’s the lesser mentioned workers who get showcased. Easy recommendation for this show.