December 5, 2004

Puroresu may be going through changes, but it’s nice to see that some things remain the same.

Vader . . . still knows how to abuse the small guys.

The Great Muta . . . still doesn’t like to work.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan . . . still has a hard head.

KAZ HAYASHI © vs. NOSAWA RONGAI (AJPW Jr. Heavyweight Title)

Both of these guys can be fun to watch, although there isn’t a whole terrible lot about this match that’s very much fun. Rongai heeling is up is always welcome and he does a decent enough job of being entertaining in that sense, one fun spot was when Rongai executed the single worst looking Final Cut, this side of The Big Show, and when Kaz started getting right to his feet, Rongai cleaned his clock with a roundhouse. The sections where they start picking apart limbs (Hayashi’s arm and NOSAWA’s knee) would have been fun, if they hadn’t been instantly negated by both guys immediately forgetting about putting them over, and for them not factoring at all in their ability (or lack of ability) to pull something off. Right after Rongai wrenches on Hayashi’s arm with a nasty looking armbar, Hayashi is able to successfully pull off a handspring bulldog reversal. Later on, after some more wrenching on Kaz’s arm, he can pull off a Tajiri handspring elbow, without a hitch. NOSAWA tries to play off the arm work by attempting some interesting looking cradles, but the near falls don’t garner an ounce of heat. Just to top things off, Hayashi pretty much kills the WA4 dead in the water as a finisher, successfully hitting it twice (after three attempts) and both failing to get the win for him. NOSAWA is still the lesser offender, using his Michinoku driver twice, the first time Kaz struggled to his feet, and after Kaz kicked out of the second one, he just left it alone. Hayashi makes yet a third successful attempt at the WA4 and still opts to use the Final Cut before getting the win.


It’s disappointing that this is little else but a quick squash, since Suwama obviously impressed the right people to be granted a trial series. This match is just as much about Suwama however, as it is about Vader. He’s not been seen in well over a year, and he’s older, he’s way past his prime, and he’s way out of shape, but he steps to prove that he’s still got something left inside of him. Suwama does make his three offensive spots count though, and getting Vader up for a German suplex is no small feat. It impresses, but ultimately fails to matter because Vader pulls himself together and destroys Suwama with a choke slam, splash, and finishes him off with a Vader hammer. The big squash is logical in this particular situation, but I hope that as the trial series progresses, Suwama is able to look better than he does here.

As is commonplace with these GAORA broadcasts, we get treated to clips of the matches that won’t be shown. This time around a tag match, in which Tomoaki Honma beats Akira Raijin for an extremely rare win for himself. As well as a penalty box trios match featuring three of the Love Machines winning over Fuchi/Araya/Hirai.


This simply goes way too long, and the duration of it is pretty much fast forward material. There is a fun portion where Hirata works over Kojima’s leg, including a nice ankle lock submission. How scary is it that going into arguably the most successful period of his career, Satoshi Kojima got outworked by Junji Hirata? Kojima blows off the leg work once it’s out of focus, and the other Love Machines do silly things like drag Kojima to the back, and pull the referee to the floor. Pulling the ref to the floor backfires of course, as he’s not there to count the pin when Kojima gets hit with the Devil Windmill suplex. Kojima makes sure to fit his regular spots like the elbow and the Koji Cutter into the mix, and he can’t even beat Super Love Machine with one lariat! He needs follow up the first one with another one, before he gets the win. He probably shouldn’t have needed the lariat to begin with, and the Koji Cutter should have been more than enough. Kojima may have been on the verge of winning the Triple Crown *and* the IWGP Title, but you’d never know it gauging from this performance.


I suppose this could make for a confusing read, with two different wrestlers having the same name and all. So I’ll just refer to them as “Mutoh” and “Stamboli” for the sake of simplicity. Speaking of simplicity, there sure is a lot of it in this match. If they spent as much time actually wrestling as they do stalling and walking around on the floor, this might have been decent (the key phrase is “might have”). Instead, this is quite possibly the longest eleven minute match ever. Neither one of them really seems to be interested in doing anything, instead they’re just relying on the character to carry the load. Stamboli does show a bit of agility with a nice twisting legdrop from the top, but Mutoh does next to nothing other than signature spots, and even in a match this short, the Shining Wizard gets overused. The one with the chair was kind of cool, and would have made a nice finish, but instead Mutoh has to directly hit another one first, just in case the world hadn’t already figured out that it’s his big move.


The novelty value alone in matches like these is enough to make them enjoyable, but it requires a little something extra in order to be a good or fun match, as opposed to simply an interesting one. When you look at the teams, the first thing that you notice is how polarly opposite they are. The Kensuke Office team consists of the two big heavy hitters, teamed up with smaller guys (and a girl) to fill the team out. ROD is the tiny guy, surrounded by bigger heavy hitters. This is what makes the over-the-top elimination rule a good thing about this match, it gives it that much more of an ‘anything can happen’ type atmosphere.

Another factor is that everyone in the match contributes something in one form or another. Even KENSHIN, who is the first to get eliminated doesn’t come empty handed. He’s a bit entertaining with his mini Kensuke routine, but he’s on the receiving end of a monster beat down by the whole ROD team, before Buchanan dispatches him with the Iron Bomb. Sasaki and Tenryu contribute the intensity and all out anger, while Hokuto and Nakajima both show lots of fire and determination. Hokuto actually challenges Jamal to get in the ring and face her, and during their brief exchange, Hokuto takes better bumps than Muta (either of them) did in the last match. Buchanan, Jamal, and D-Lo all act as the big muscle, and never hesitate to throw around the Kensuke Office team like paper airplanes.

While the over-the-top rule helps balance things out to a certain extent, it’s one of those areas that could have been better used, because there are times when it looks over contrived, and given the way the ROD guys like to act all tough and macho, it looks odd that they’re not taking their time and doing thorough beat downs, and scoring the pin. The D-Lo/Nakajima double elimination is one of those instances, the way D-Lo came barreling at him with that lariat, it was more than a bit obvious that both of them were going to be going out. The Jamal/Hokuto double elimination worked much better, it came about with a combination of Hokuto attempting to achieve “Victory Through Guts” by taking on the biggest guy, as well as sacrificing herself to get the biggest obstacle out of the way for Kensuke. Tenryu eliminating Buchanan by tossing him also worked well in terms of storyline. Tenryu is really getting up there in years, and Buchanan’s agility and power could easily come back to haunt Tenryu if he decided to try to get the win inside the ring. Jamal eliminating Tenryu that way also makes sense, because Jamal has a history with choking against top names, so rather than risk adding Tenryu to the list of names he’s choked against, he just dispatches him.

With all of his muscle gone, TAKA is no longer acting tough and macho with the rest of his team. Instead of backing down, or running away, TAKA stood up and faced Kensuke . . . and got mowed by a lariat and quickly pinned. With things down to being one-on-one, Taiyo Kea knows that much like TAKA, he’s also screwed. Kea knows that the win over Kensuke he scored a couple months back was a fluke and now he’s got to attempt to do it again. Much like TAKA, Kea steps-up to the challenge like TAKA did, and pays the price. When Kea counters the face crusher and starts to get his own offense in, he makes the mistake of letting it go to his head, and as soon as Kensuke recovers from Kea’s quick burst, he quickly finishes off Kea with the NLB. What it ultimately came down to was Kensuke Office using their brainpower vs. ROD using their muscle power, the Kensuke team was able to overcome the big size and power advantage by outsmarting them (and by ROD outsmarting themselves). ***


This match is definitely not an accurate representation of what Kawada and Tenzan are capable of in singles matches, even with each other. The opening with them trading strikes back and forth just feels like it goes on forever, and the closing stretch with the finishers coming out one after another was also more than a little bit frustrating. This is definitely not among those matches that should be brought up when discussing the legacy of the Triple Crown.

The match isn’t as bad as Mutoh vs. Stamboli (although it is more than twice as long) because they do manage to scrape enough together to bring a few nice things to the match with them. After Tenzan’s TTD on the exposed concrete, there is a rather fun neck working segment, and Dangerous K sells it like only he can. Tenzan’s heelish edge comes out during this period as well, he’s relentless in his assault on Kawada’s neck. But Tenzan gets a bit too cocky and tries to do Kawada’s own Soccer kicks, which causes Kawada to snap and start kicking the living hell out of Tenzan, stomping him in the face while he’s down, and doing the running kick in the corner. It also gives a fresh meaning to Tenzan whipping out the Buffalo Sleeper and Anaconda Vice, instead of mandatorily using them for knockout teases.

Another good moment was Kawada’s gusher, stemming from Tenzan’s headbutt, which continues the theme they’d established in their last singles match (6/8/01), Tenzan’s hard head giving Kawada a hard time. Aside from the gusher though, they execution of that story is pretty lazily carried out, the effort was nice, but Tenzan being able to survive several backdrops and several attempts at the Ganmengiri, looks more like the usual nonsense involving tons of finishers to get the fans into it. Tenzan did use the diving headbutt for a near fall, but the move has been playing second fiddle to the moonsault for years now. Kawada’s face kick getting the win is a bit of a letdown. Kawada has got several moves in his arsenal that would have made a better finish, even the Ganmengiri would have been a better move to end with. It makes a bit of sense to use the face kick, since Kawada has won his last few defenses with that strike. Considering that this was a very important match for both of them though, a little something extra was definitely called for so they could hopefully end on a high note. It wouldn’t have saved the match by any stretch of the imagination though.

Conclusion: Mutoh’s All Japan can be a very fun product to watch, but this isn’t a good example of that. Thumbs down this time around.