Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Mitsuo Momota & Katsuhiko Nakajima VS Takashi Sugiura, SUWA & Masaji Aoyagi
Nakajima was greeted to NOAH the only way a rookie like him should be, with a big diving elbow shot in the nuts by SUWA and a axe kick to the same area by Aoyagi! Nakajima took a beating in this one, but gave as good as he received. He had some good kick exchanges with Aoyagi, including a nice spot where he ducked Aoyagi’s spin kick and hit one of his own. Momota is just always fun to see in matches like this one, and he still knows how to pop the crowd. Kikuchi also showed he still has some fire in him when required, as he worked really well with SUWA it seemed. Great opener for the show.Match Rating: **Tamon Honda & Go Shiozaki VS Takeshi Morishima & Muhammed Yone
Big night for Go Shiozaki as he gets a match in the Tokyo Dome while still in his rookie year! Shiozaki took the brunt of the punishment in the match as expected, and you could tell he had to be nervous about performing on such a grand stage this early when he miss timed a few spots, but the kid still put on a great showing, including his ever impressive German suplex on big Morishima and a move that could easily be the best moonsault ever! He even introduced a super kick to his arsenal! I really wish they would start giving Honda some big matches to work cause the guy’s talent is being wasted and he’s not getting any younger. We know the man can put on string performances when required, so why not use him already like Taue is used? Honda didn’t even get to do much here, but at least he had more ring time than he did at last year’s Dome show. He did manage to hit a good looking Dead End on big Morishima though.
Morishima & Yone came down wearing Galactic Wrestling t-shirts, which gets me wondering if there’s a new game in the works? These two have been teaming a lot recently and they do work well here abusing young Shiozaki. I also love the great Doomsday Device with a spinning heel kick move they do, and I easily see them as the next challengers for the GHC tag titles, if not winning the titles down the line.Match Rating: **1/2Akitoshi Saito, Shiro Koshinaka, Masao Inoue & Kishin Kawabata VS Akira Taue, Takuma Sano, Jun Izumuda & Haruka Eigen
The Dark Agents were in almost full force here, minus Sugiura and I think Aoyagi is a member also. The crowd went nuts for Taue facing off with Koshinaka to open the match, and made even more noise when Taue did one of Koshinaka’s trademark hip-attacks! I could easily see these two having a good singles match if it were to ever happen. Eigen is entertaining, but I would like to see him broaden his arsenal like Momota when it comes to matches like this istead of just doing the usual slap and spit spots. Izumuda is also a load of fun to watch as usual these days. Hard to believe he’s the same guy that was stinking up AJPW matches back in the day.
Saito is still boring as hell, despite his stiff stikes. I find him less deserving of any kind of push more than Yoshinari Ogawa. Inoue is also getting pretty boring since he does the same things all the time himself. Inoue is more suited to the comedy bits. I still love watching Kawabata in action, whether he’s getting his ass kicked, or doing the kicking. This guy should be in Inoue’s spot as the no.2 man to Saito when Koshinaka isn’t around. The ending spot he pulled off with Izumuda and Inoue leading to the finish was really cool too. A good bout, and a good way to max out the talent use.Match Rating: **Mushiking Terry Debut Match: Mushiking Terry VS Black Mask
This match was really ok, but the one problem I felt it had was that neither Terry or Black Mask played up their parts as super hero and super villain. Heck, Kotaro Suzuki so didn’t look like he was enjoying himself under the Terry costume. I was expecting more of a spot fest from this one, but what was done was good with a few big dives with some submissions thrown in the middle. I think Black Mask, also known as Mushiking Joker cause he looks exactly the same as Terry save for the color scheme, had more offense in the match. Terry has a really good finisher though, which is a cross between a tiger and a dragon suplex pin. Let’s hope Mushiking Terry gets better down the line as Kotaro Suzuki completely changed his style so know one could tell it was him. The kids seem to like the characters too as their seemed to be some sections with kids specifically cheering Terry.Match Rating: **
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title: Yoshinobu Kanemaru VS KENTA
I’ve heard great things about this match, but watching it was even better! Once again, New Japan needs to take a serious look at how NOAH’s juniors put on a title match, they might actually learn something instead of just being Jr. versions of their heavyweight division.
These two went full steam ahead from the opening bell and tore into each other so hard they were both feeling the effects of it just minutes into the match! But they still managed to keep up a great pace, mixed with high-spots, stiff shots and head drops! For those of you who’ve heard of the Deep Impact spot, it was definitely one of the BEST looking examples of counters and reversals EVER as they did it so smoothly and effortlessly, just like two rivals who’ve known each other for so long should have. This match easily had some of the best sequences and exchanges in a single match ever, and the crowd was way behind both men. I noticed KENTA even picked up a few pointers from Kawada when it came to selling. There might be some complaints of the way both men hit each other with every move in their arsenal near the end and not getting the win, but this is easily a Match of the Year candidate, and one of the best junior title matches you’ll ever see.Match Rating: ****1/2GHC Tag Team Titles: Minoru Suzuki & Naomichi Marufuji VS Jun Akiyama & Makoto Hashi
This match was all about getting Hashi over, and it did just that as he was involved in most of the match and busted his ass off to put on a very strong showing. Hashi seriously gets more impressive the more I see him, which is a good thing since he’s being groomed for a run as a heavyweight. I just wish people would stop kicking out of his finishers, or else it’s time for Hashi to find a new one when it’s finally his turn to play ball on the main court. This was alsot the babyface Jun Akiyama we saw in this match, not the cocky heel STERNESS leader. With Hashi carrying most of the match, there really wasn’t much for Akiyama to do and his time in the ring was mostly limited to short bursts of offense. He still had some great exchanges with Marufuji and Suzuki though, including a killer slap-fest with MiSuzuki that had a really big slap count in it, rivaled only by the chop count to come in the Kobashi/Sasaki match.
Marufuji is definitely taking up some bad habits from Suzuki, like sticking his tongue out arrogantly during his matches. At least he didn’t do a dozen superkicks like he usually does. The kid is definitely coming into his own as a heel now. Suzuki was of course the same old cocky arrogant guy he’s always been. At least he had his working shoes on tonight and wasn’t as boring or lazy as he usually is.
If this match is any indication, Hashi will be headed for the big time soon enough. The fans were heavily in his favor here, and so wanted to see him pull out the big win after all the build up of the past few weeks. I can’t wait to see what the reaction will be like when he finally does win the big one.Match Rating: ****GHC Heavyweight Title: Takeshi Rikioh VS Hiroshi Tanahashi
You could easily see Rikioh has dropped some weight here, which is a good thing of course. Now if only Morishima would follow suite. Yoshihiro Takayama comes out to do guest commentary and get a big pop from the crowd when he’s shown on screen.
This was a good match. Rikioh pulled out a solid performance against Tanahashi who looked just a bit sluggish in the opening moments, but he got his game on himself later and seemed to want to try to kill himself when he pull three consecutive suicide dives out of the ring on the GHC champion, twice over-shooting his mark and hitting the guard-rail! Tanahashi even hit an impressive rolling-German suplex pin on big Rikioh for a near fall, but the champ battled back hard with some big time stiff lariats and power moves. I get the feeling the fans still don’t buy the Muso as that good of a finisher, cause despite beating Kobashi twice with it, the fans still don’t seem to cheer it when he does it or calls for it. But what do you expect when it just looks like a high angle slam? Hopefully, the fan response will pick up for Rikioh’s finisher, as the were into him here at the Dome.Match Rating: ***1/2
Yoshinari Ogawa VS Genichiro Tenryu
This was kinda fun as Ogawa pulled out every trick in his book to try and down Tenryu. The match wasn’t a complete squash as everyone says, which isn’t that bad considering Ogawa does have a bizarre following in Japan that the rest of us just can’t seem to understand. Tenryu is definitely getting on in his age, but he’s still willing to take a bump or two like he did here for Ogawa’s backdrops and such. Not the best match on the show by far, but still ok workrate wise.Match Rating: **1/4
Kenta Kobashi VS Kensuke Sasaki
I had a tear in my eye watching this as it was just so friggin’ good! They had an incredible match which lived up to all the hype that was built around it, and the crowd was way into it throughout. The match was mostly raw power they traded strikes and big spots. Kobashi pulled out his usual offense of half-nelsons and a sleeper suplex, which looked painful the way Sasaki landed on his head, but Sasaki would answer back with a big northern lights bomb out on the floor! Sasaki even tried to get a cheap count out win at one point when it seemed like he knew he couldn’t beat Kobashi.
And what about the big chop battle everyone was talking about? It truly was a sight to behold as they blasted away relentlessly for what seemed like forever! And both men knew just what to do to keep the audience interested as the chop-fest went on, and the fans of course ate it all up! Truly one of the best moments in Puroresu ever!
Also should be noted that Kobashi did not use a barrage of lariats to finally put Sasaki down like it’s being reported. He only used one, after a flurry of spinning back chops, so Kobashi didn’t fall into the redundant “keep hitting it till it works” shtick that Satoshi Kojima does.
Definitely one of the best heavyweight matches in a long while, and easily one of the most heated Tokyo Dome matches I’ve EVER seen. Definitely a match of the year contender, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was voted just that by the Japanese press at the end of the year. If there was any flaw I could find with the match, it’s that at 24 minuts, it was rather short. This match at least deserved another 5 minutes, and I would have liked to have seen Sasaki pull off some heavier offense. But I guess their saving that for next time.Match Rating: ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa VS Toshiaki Kawada
These two legendary figures are going into this with a record of 12 wins for Misawa, 3 for Kawada and 5 draws. As expected, they went at it tooth and nail from the opening bell. They did the standard routine of heavy strikes, followed by the mat work leading to the big moves and the big finish. There actually was a missed spot or two in this one, but they managed to get through those pretty well.
They hit each other with some of the stiffest strikes I’ve ever seen, and Misawa actually showed some emotion in the match he seemed to lose his patients with Kawada not falling after a barrage of heavy elbow strikes the two were exchanging. Kawada was definitely the man here, but Misawa wasn’t being lazy either. They brought out the big guns in this match, including a very dangerous looking intentional ganso-bomb by Kawada and a rather sloppy Tiger Driver ’91 by Misawa.
But at the end of it, the match was decided once again by the heavy striking ability both men posses. The only thing that bugs me about it is that Kawada showed at the beginning of the match that he was ready to block the dangerous elbow shots by Misawa, but at the end he showed his guts by repeatedly getting up and taking even more elbow shots from Misawa till he finally couldn’t take anymore, which kinda made the ending a bit anti climatic, but still better than most anything I’ve seen in awhile.Match Rating: ****1/2OVERALL:
Easilly one of the best puroresu shows ever, with four very strong stand out bouts. The legends have their day in the spotlight again, and the younger generation are getting primed for when their time will come. Definately a show not to be missed!
The tape starts off with a rather long introduction scene where the press conference for the show and the participants were interviewed by the press as their matches were announced. Went just a little too long for my liking, but you get to see the human side of some of these gals as they mostly give modest interviews and not the old “I’m gonna kick your ass” badass type interview.Shoot Boxing Match: Fumiko Ishimoto VS Kaoru Ito
You can strike, kick as well as do take downs in this one, so that made it more exciting than the previous shoot bouts. It also didn’t seem to drag on as much as the previous kick boxing match even though it went the distance of going to the judge’s decision. Pretty good fight overall.Match Rating: None
Chigusa Nagayo VS Reggie Bennett
For some reason I’ve always enjoyed watching Reggie Bennett in action, and she’s actually kinda cute for a big girl. The minute Bennett attacks Nagayo on the rampway and Nagayo is busted open just from a simple brawl, I knew where this match was going to go. Reggie dominated for most of the match using her size and power advantage. She even did a very good Giant Press off the second rope. Nagayo played the underdog, but got in several big kicks and a big dive out to the outside on Bennett, but not really much else as she was selling her bleeding head. I also thought Reggie kinda got screwed at the end when Nagayo hit the flash cradle for the pinfall, but it looked like Reggie had kicked out in time before the three count. A good brawling singles contest.Match Rating: **
Shinbou Kandori & Mikiko Futagami VS Toshiyo Yamada & Tomoko Watanabe
Kandori looks so disturbingly like a guy that it’s not even funny! The main heat from this match came from Kandori and Yamada’s exchanges, which the crowd really ate up. This was when Yamada was still a hungry young lioness finding her niche in the business, she had a great performance here as she kicked away relentlessly at Kandori. Futagami and Watababe played second fiddle to their senior partners, but Watanabe got a good series of offense in where as Futagami didn’t do much to catch my attention. A really good heated match overall.Match Rating: **1/2
UWA Tag Team Titles: Yasha Kurenai & Michiko Nagashima VS Etsuko Mita & Mima Shimoda
This was a really fun match as they took it straight to each other from the opening bell and didn’t let up for a minute! You could also make a point about either team not selling for the other though, as neither side could chain many moves together without their partner’s help since they would just pop up after every move thrown! Mita and Shimoda (arguably one of the greatest tag teams EVER) were in their prime here, and used their size advantage well against the smaller LLPW team. I thought it was rather funny the commentator called Shimoda’s big boot the 16tn Boot, since that was name of the move popularized by the late Giant Baba. But this was mostly a roller coaster back and forth match with a lot of big tandem moves thrown in like Kurenai & Nagashima’s Doomsday Device-like chokeslam move. They messed up a few spots due to missed timing, but it was still the best match up to now.Match Rating: ***
Legends Memorial Fight: Bison Kimura & Jaguar Yokota VS Lioness Asuka & Yumi Ogura
Normally when you hear the term “legends match”, you think out of shape, past their prime wrestlers working a comedy style, or a sure to be stinker of a toilet break match. That is NOT the case here as these four joshi legends are far from past their primes. The only reason you could consider them legends or even retired is because joshi stars tend to retire young, mostly while in their prime. I don’t think these ladies were even past their mid thirties at most. Heck, Lioness was still very active in the business up until a few months back when she officially retired!
From the opening bell these ladies put on a heck of a match! I was easily impressed by Jaguar as even though she easily looked like the oldest person in the match, she moved and worked incredibly well! She even pulled off several moves I didn’t think was done back then, including the Jackhammer and the Money Maker!
I also liked watching Ogura in action as she is one of those “faster than a hiccup” type speed wrestlers, and Bison was the big brawler of her team. This was a the best match of this second quarter of the show, with these veterans easily showing why they are some of the best in the business, and the crowd enjoyed every minute of it like I did.Match Rating: ***1/2
Much better than part one with more great action as we build to the highlight of the show: the V*TOP Tournament! This edition had lots of great action in it that’s not to be missed.
It starts off with a great build-up of the event, as we see highlights from several big AJW shows featuring Akira Hokuto, Aja Kong, Bull Nakano, Toyota Minami and others. We cut to the Tokyo Dome where the fans are arriving for the show, and then on to the show itself which kicks off with a parade of the wrestlers and fighters that will be taking part in the show tonight. The layout of the Dome is pretty interesting as they’ve set up a HUGE entrance stage in the shape of a “V” with 2 ramps representing the blue and red corner. And looking at it, you know you could tire yourself out by just having to walk that distance to the ring.Chaparrita ASARI & Bomber Hikaru VS Hiromi Yagi & Hiromi Sugo
Chaparrita pulls a Mary-Lou Retin when she backflips almost the entire length of the entrance ramp to the ring! ASARI was hands down the best part of this match as she flipped and dove around to keep things interesting against Yagi & Sugo of JWP, who are more or less just rookies. Bomber Hikaru played the powerhouse senior, but that was about it as ASARI made this match. She hit a cool sky-twister press out to the floor which instantly got the crowd popping, as well as her handspring dropkicks. I think only the ending spot where she did this bizarre turning dropkick off the top killed the heat a bit since it wasn’t really anything special.Match Rating: *1/2Midget Match: Tsunokake Silver X VS Buta Genjin & Great Little Muta
This was supposed to be a comedy match, but I really didn’t find anything funny or entertaining about it as I never really liked midget wresling.Match Rating: DUDAJW Jr. Title: Candy Okutsu VS Rie Tamada
Well this was rather boring, title match or not. Can’t really recall anything outstanding out this match other than they had a slow pace that made it feel like the match was going too long for it’s own good.Match Rating: *Suzuka Minami VS KAORU
Best match on this disc right here! From the opening bell, these two tore into each other and showed a lot of great stuff, from countless hurricanrana’s by KAORU, to the sick head dropping moves of Minami, especially the rather sick looking Liger-bomb near the end that got a big reaction from the Tokyo Dome crowd. This match kept me interested, and that’s how a good match is supposed to work. Match Rating: ***
(The following matches on the show were shoot fights, so I won't really rate them)Kick-Boxing Match: Kumiko Maekawa VS Sugar Miyuki
The longer this one went, the more boring it got. I know Maekawa went on to be a full time wrestler, but this was just boring and the striking just didn’t have any “oomph” behind them to get the crowd excited. Also didn’t help that it was a major mis-match since Maekawa was taller and had longer reach than Miyuki.Match Rating: BoringAmateur Wrestling Match: Kyoko Hamaguchi VS Doris Blind
How do you rate an amateur wrestling match when most, if not all, of what they do is grappling on the mat? The ring also kind of worked against them as there were many rope breaks, and really nothing much to see here either. Best part was probably Anima Hamaguchi psyching up his daughter Kyoko to do his animal pose, which was cute to say the least. Who would have thought that a decade later old Animal would be causing a scene at the Olympics?Match Rating: NoneAmateur Wrestling Match: Miyu Yamamoto VS Anna Gomez
See above. If you have no idea how amateur wrestling goes, you’ll probably find this as boring as I did.Match Rating: NoneOverall:
One really good match, one fun match, one boring match, one DUD, and three shoot matches. Not really a lot to get into in this first disc, but that’s probably to be expected considering the length this full show went, as they had to have some passable matches at the beginning of the show to heat up the crowd as they arrived (there were still visible empty seats in the front rows as the show kicked off). Probably essential to get only if you want to the full collection (which is probably what most of you have in mind)
Expect my review of Pt.2 coming soon!