MAZADA VS NOSAWA Rongai
A dark match that’s televised? Ok...
This was an entertaining opener as the two former tag partners went at it, and of course, weapons would get involved. MAZADA looks a bit like Jumbo Tsuruta for some freakishly strange reason. The two regular brawlers kept a good pace and was overall quite entertaining and served the purpose of hyping the crowd for the upcoming event.
Should also be noted that Osaka Pro senior referee Matsui was the referee of the match.Match Rating: **Tomoaki Honma, Taichi Ishikari & Akira Raijin VS Love Machine Arashi, Makai Love Machine #2 & Mini Love Machine #2
My first look at rookie Akira Raijin, and I was not impressed as the youngster didn’t show anything special to stand out like Kohei Suwama has other than his bald head. He seems to be pushing himself be one of those guys with a hard head, but he looks just really weak overall.
I’m not sure, but I think Mini Love Machine #2 is Small Dandy Fuji from Toryumon X, as he has the same build, but the guy is seriously SMALL! Even Ishikari dwarfed the guy! And I think Honma enjoyed beating him and tossing him around. He didn’t show much in the way of skill though cause he was just too small to compete with these guys.
I think Jim Steele was Makai Love Machine #2 cause he definitely had the build of a gaijin. It’s too bad they couldn’t find anything better for him to do cause his tandem with Mike Barton was making big waves just two years ago. He played the part of the big powerhouse member of the group.
The match itself was an ok brawl. I liked the Honma/Arashi interactions as they were the two seniors of the match. I’m not sure, but Arashi looked a lot bigger from the last time I saw him. Maybe he packed on a few pounds? The match served it’s purpose as the opener though.Match Rating: *1/2Kaz Hayashi & Katsuhiko Nakajima VS AKIRA & Toshizo
Now this was a fun little junior heavyweight tag match that you don’t really see much of in AJPW. It was good to see AKIRA back in action again, even if he did lose the face-paint/make-up. Nakajima really is starting to look bigger than your average cruiserweight, and you have to wonder what the heck Sasaki is feeding to boy to make him bulk up. The kid still needs to work on his skills a bit though, as middle-kicks and a German suplex isn’t sufficient for an arsenal. I like Ryuji Hijikata, and him under a mask as Toshizo is a fun gimmick. The guy really is overlooked in the Jr. division and I hope he gets a run with the Jr. title one day. The guy has an overall look and workrate that you can’t go wrong with. And Hayashi was aces to watch as usual
The overall match had a good speedy pace to it in places, and everyone worked really well together. The ending sprint was also really good with a fun shocking end to the match. Definitely one of the better AJPW Jr. matches in recent history.Match Rating: **1/2Nobutaka Araya, Nobukazu Hirai & Masanobu Fuchi VS Taiyo Kea & Jamal
This match was originally billed as All Japan’s Maximum Weakest Tag Team, Araya and Hirai cause they’ve been on a horrible losing streak, against the Maximum Strongest Tag Team, that being the reigning tag champions Kea & Jamal. But Araya & Hirai literally dragged Fuchi out with them to compete, making it a handicap match which the tag champs had no problem with. The end results had some comical moments as Fuchi bailed on Araya & Hirai since he wasn’t scheduled to appear anyway. I don’t care much for Hirai, but Araya is just being wasted like this as he seems to be playing the big dumb guy to Hirai’s smarts and mic skills.Match Rating: **TARU, Johnny Stamboli & Chuck Palumbo VS TAKA Michinoku, Buchanan & Rico
For some reason, probably to prove he’s a bad-ass heel, TARU whacked the ringside commentator with an aluminum pipe which caught the guy completely off guard and seemed to really hurt. I could even tell from the guy’s expression after that he hoped RO&D kicked their asses.
I think this is the first time I’ve seen Buchanan impress me in Japan. He’s taken on somekind of Bruiser Brody/Berzerker wild-man gimmick where he goes wild on beating down on his opponents, and even does the husking call! It surprises me WWE released this guy cause he’s a big man with a natural heel look (like Sean O’Haire), and he’s also athletically gifted! He pulled off a great variation of Undertaker’s Old-School, but modified it by coming off with a blockbuster/flipping neckbreker!
Rico of course didn’t look to shabby himself with his arsenal of kicks. But that still seems to be about all the guy can do. The guy still needs to broaden his moveset.
The Voodoo Murders team on the other hand didn’t really do much other than brawl. Stamboli & Palumbo didn’t seem to do much to stand-out, and I hope they improve some the longer they work in Japan. TARU even didn’t do anything of note other than bump for Buchanan & Rico.
This was also the match where Shuji Kondo & “brother” YASSHI made their surprise debut, as Kondo ran in first and gave TAKA a wicked spear! It was fun watching the two of them hold off Buchanan on the outside while Palumbo & Stamboli stuffed TAKA into a body bag. Hopefully the rest of the RO&D/Voodoo Murders feud can lead to some descent match-ups better than this one.Match Rating: **Kohei Suwama Trial Series#3: Kohei Suwama VS Kensuke Sasaki
The crowd was heavily behind Suwama in this one, and the kid has been dubbed “Mr. Suplex” cause he throws a mean German and half-nelson suplex. Suwama was actually rather impressive and the fans ate up every bit of offense he threw at Sasaki, who responded by beating the living crap out of the youngster. Suwama couldn’t even get in any of his trademark suplexes on Sasaki, which the crowd was just dying to see happen. I see a lot of potential in this kid as he has the size and the look, and given a few years could very well be the first true-born breakout star of the new All Japan era.Match Rating: **1/2Keiji Mutoh VS Hiroshi Tanahashi
This match suffered from the old “Senior veteran won’t sell for the young lion” syndrome, which was a shame cause by the end of it I felt Tanahashi deserved the win for putting on a more than strong showing. He survived Mutoh’s signature leg-work and figure four finisher, and even blocked and countered the Shining Wizard! Tanahashi connected with all his signature moves, including a nasty looking Dragon suplex out on the floor! It was good to see Mutoh bring his A-game despite obviously still suffering from his fragile looking knees, as they seriously look like his body is getting to big (ie fat) to support! Mutoh also did a very cool looking Shining Wizard to the back of Tanahashi’s head after Tanahashi blocked a regular Wizard.
There was also some fun fan interaction as all the ladies in the crowd seemed to be backing Tanahashi, and Mutoh took exception to it by heeling some of them that were sitting in the front row. Strong match overall, but watching this, I feel it’s time Tanahashi developed a new finisher, he definitely needs somekind of knock-out move if he’s gonna advance further in his current position.Match rating: ***1/2 All Japan Triple Crown: Toshiaki Kawada VS Satoshi Kojima
Now this was probably the best modern day All Japan singles match I’ve seen in a LONG time! It seriously reminded me of the days when Misawa or Kobashi would be trading stiffness and headdrops with Kawada in the mid-90s. The crowd was heavily behind Kojima, even when it looked like he was going to lose the match as Kawada kicked out of all his signature moves, including escaping his new shoulderlock submission move and the Koji Crash Dynamite! Kawada of course played up the tough-bastard role, and his mannerisms when Kojima would keep getting up after taking tons of punishment was priceless! Even if you already knew who won this match, the drama and suspense these two portrayed will still keep you on the edge of your seat, especially near the end when Kojima threw everything he had left at Kawada! A definite Match of The Year candidate!Match Rating: ****1/2Overall:
Definitely a strong show worth checking out. The significant changing of the guard in the Triple Crown main event, which was more suspenseful and dramatic than the NOAH title change a month later, a veteran vs. youngster dream match, a rising star shows his ability against another veteran, plus the continued build of the RO&D/Voodoo Murders feud.