Taped 12/09/03


Kazushi Miyamoto . . . shows that he’s got a less-than-zero chance of becoming even a proficient shootstyle wrestler.

Crafter M . . . immediately stands out on this roster by having no discernable personality traits that would cause him to stand out.

Kyosuke Sasaki . . . watches all the credibility he’s built up over the last couple of shows get flushed down the commode.



If you’re a fan of the mat game, even if the actual work isn’t too meaningful, then this is something you’ll enjoy. Both men’s weaknesses are fully on display here, which goes to show why they’re starting the card against each other instead of headlining it with Tamura. Kimura isn’t very well-rounded, and despite the promise that he’s shown throughout the last couple of shows, Okubo’s lack of experience still gets him in trouble. It shows up here when he’s unable to use his size to his advantage. The first time is when he tries to pick up Kimura for some sort of throw and Kimura locks in a front neck lock, and then after he manages to escape a German suplex, Kimura jumps on his back and secures a choke to force him to grab the ropes. Okubo knows that Kimura isn’t a very tough fighter off the mat and he’s smart to try attacking with strikes, but he doesn’t attack very well, he mostly just throws kicks which Kimura doesn’t have trouble blocking. However, Okubo’s knack for getting a surprise hold presents itself when he surprises Kimura with a Triangle choke and forces him to use a rope break, and that wears him down enough for Okubo to get a juji-gatame for the win. Like his tournament match with Hara, it’s nice to see Okubo making progress, but he’s still a long way off from being able to hang with the more formidable wrestlers on the roster.



Probably the nicest thing that I can say about this is that it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Oh, and it’s not terribly long either. But, other than that… Miyamoto is the proverbial deer in the headlights, he seems to have no idea of what he’s doing or how to work with Echigo. The few spots that they manage to pull off show the cooperation as blatantly as possible. Picture two students in the dojo, still working towards being ready to work in front of a crowd. Just about the only notable thing that happens is Miyamoto knocking Echigo down and stomping him, which gets him penalized a point, and he comes right back and wins by KO after a lariat (and one that’s a far cry from being a Stan Hansen lariat). Why this match even needed to happen is beyond me. Miyamoto wasn’t anything special in All Japan, and this didn’t lead to any sort of copromotional thing between All Japan and U-STYLE. I don’t make top ten lists for the worst matches I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure this would be close to the top.



This doesn’t look like so much of a wrestling match, it looks more like Hara was transported into a video game on the hardest difficulty setting. Crafter M almost seems inhuman, and not just because he wears a mask and no boots; the best description of his personality would be the Dr. Loomis monologue from “Halloween.” No matter what Hara does, Crafter M has a counter or escape ready and is completely nonchalant about it, as though Hara is doing exactly what he expects. The only time that Hara has any measure of success is when he hits a couple of surprise knee strikes and then plants Crafter M with a German suplex. Hara tries to press his advantage by throwing more strikes, but Crafter M gets the better of the strike battle and when Hara tries to take him down, Crafter M seamlessly counters him into a Triangle choke and submits him. It’s a bit gimmicky for this sort of promotion, despite the fact that his ‘gimmick’ seems to be that he’s a blank slate, but it’ll certainly be interesting to see how Crafter M looks when he’s matched up with some of the better workers in the company.



Although this isn’t a squash match, Ito was ahead on points before he got submitted, it honestly may as well have been. The way that this is worked makes it clear that Ito isn’t anywhere near Namekawa’s level. On the very few occasions where Ito manages to get something over on Namekawa, he makes sure to do something right back to remind everyone who the better man really is. Ito manages to get a takedown and mount and grind his forearm into Namekawa’s face, and Namekawa snares him and almost gets a juji-gatame locked in. Then later on, Namekawa gets Ito in a mount and slowly and deliberately moves him away from the ropes before he starts throwing palm strikes and slaps at him. Ito manages to surprise Namekawa with a chickenwing armlock to force a rope break, and after they’re stood up, Namekawa catches a kick and outwrestles Ito to secure a sleeper and tap him out. It looks virtually effortless for Namekawa to win, as though he knows that he can beat Ito whenever he feels like ending the match. U-STYLE hasn’t shown any interest in doing anything especially consistent with Ito, his standout performances (namely the June match with Sakata and the quarterfinal tournament match with Ueyama) have been due to his personality instead of his work; and a match like this, where he looks like 1989 Shigeo Miyato, is only further evidence of their continued disinterest in him.



Despite being obscenely short, this winds up being a fun match. Ueyama knows that he’s got a bullseye on his knee, due to the heavy wrapping, but rather than spend the match trying to protect it, he uses Mishima’s preoccupation to his advantage. Ueyama waits for Mishima to get close enough and then he fires off his own kicks. It works at first, Mishima doesn’t do much with his own kick attacks, and Ueyama takes an opening and wraps Mishima up in a sleeper that looked like it would have won him the match if they weren’t close to the ropes. But Ueyama’s knee gives out on him after he connects with a kick that hurts him more than it does Mishima, and Mishima locks in a nasty looking legbar and forces the ref to call the match. Before his hiatus from the promotion (and being hampered by the injury since his return) Ueyama looked like one of the more formidable guys on the roster. A rematch between these two, with more time to work and a fully healed Ueyama, would probably be right up there with Mishima’s match with Sasaki.



Wow. It takes less than fifteen minutes for Sakata to pretty much undo all the credibility that Sasaki had built up from his show-stealing match with Mishima in June and his performance in the Contender Tournament. This doesn’t seem to be a great pairing, since Sakata isn’t nearly as well-versed on the mat as Mishima or Fujii and that’s where Sasaki’s best chance to win the match ought to be. Instead, Sasaki doesn’t win any meaningful mat exchanges (aside from a couple of teases where it seemed like Sasaki could lock in an armbar), he doesn’t connect with any good strikes or even take a single point off of Sakata. The only time the crowd seems to react to anything is when Sasaki does something as a revenge spot, like when he reverses Sakata and gets a back mount and grinds his forearm into Sakata’s head, just like Sakata had done to him earlier.


There’s simply no good reason for Sakata to essentially shut Sasaki out and take away all of his points without giving up a single one of his own. The only real takeaway from this, as far as any positive perception of Sasaki is that it takes nearly the full length of the time limit for Sakata to finish him off. It’s not like there weren’t any ways of making Sasaki look good in defeat; the Fujii match accomplished that so well that it almost overshadowed Fujii’s win. Fujii was the obvious favorite, but Sasaki pushed him further than anyone else before Fujii put him away. That doesn’t happen with Sakata. Sasaki has showed an almost Tamura-like ability to pull a submission out of nowhere, he could have easily taken Sakata by surprise and forced him to use a rope break, or even frustrated Sakata to the point of taking a cheap shot and getting a point docked. The rules dictate that the points decide the winner in case the match goes to the full time-limit, so that would have been another easy way for Sakata to get the win, that was apparently deemed necessary, and still making Sasaki look good. Sakata has pushed Tamura further than anyone else has managed to, but Kyosuke Sasaki managed to hang on until the very end.


However, instead of anything good or interesting like that, they just reinforce the notion that Sasaki is no different than anyone else on the roster. And any buzz that may have been generated from the Mishima and Fujii matches is purely incidental.



It’s nice that the crowd was so into the match, mostly because Fujii is the first person that’s really been presented as a threat to Tamura, but this isn’t much more than fun. Fujii is able to push Tamura further than Sakata, Mishima or Fuke did, but the end result is the same; Tamura wins by thoroughly outclassing his opponent. Fujii’s biggest strength has always been his power and suplexes, and Tamura essentially nullifies that. Fujii’s first German suplex is blocked (and Tamura’s frenzied attempt to block it was one of the best moments of the match), his second connects and Tamura hardly seems fazed by it, and the third is countered into the armlock that submits Fujii. Fujii’s only other throw ends with Tamura nearly trapping him in his front neck lock. If anything, Fujii has the most success on the mat. He takes away one point with his Triangle choke, and Tamura was basically snared in the ropes when Fujii locks it in. Fujii mostly keeps Tamura tied up trying for his Triangle or various armbars, and Tamura almost always manages to wiggle himself free. But the fact that Fujii can even keep Tamura occupied almost seems like a win for him. They create a few nice moments, and the match has a certain intensity to it that was lacking in the rest of the card. But this is just too short and too lopsided in Tamura’s favor to have any real drama to it.


Conclusion: It’s an overall solid show, but there’s nothing here that approaches the level of the best matches from the last couple of shows.