I like the intro video where they made a big deal about All Japan running a show in the Sumo Hall, as well as hyping the featured matches on the card.
We then get the usual RO@D in ring segment to greet the crowd as well as the TARU interference bit.AHII VS Voodoo Mask
Nice build up video for this one showing how Mutoh discovered AHII while on his recent trip to Mexico. AHII has a weird looking appearance, but he has two cute red headed valets and they did a nice synchronized dance intro, much like what we usually see in Dragon Gate.
The match itself was for AHII to showcase his high-flying skills and Voodoo Mask got to show some power. I think it’s El Dorado worker KAGETORA under the Voodoo Mask gimmick, and he actually did a John Woo ala SUWA. Anyway, the ending of the match had AHII finishing off Voodoo Mask with a rather sick looking Ultra-Hurricanrana, with Voodoo Mask not getting the full flip-through and crashing right on his head from the move. They showed several replays of the move from several angles and Voodoo Mask needed a bit of help back to the locker room.
Short match, but a good high-flying debut for the guy in the strange chili shaped mask.Match Rating: *
Masanobu Fuchi, AKIRA & Ryuji Hijikata VS Kikutaro, Nobutaka Araya & Nobukazu Hirai
So thanks to this match I’ve found out that the oddball pairing of Kikutaro & Araya are called the Baka Kyoudai (Stupid Bros.)!
It’s been said a million times that Araya deserves so much more than to just be a comedy act in All Japan. The potential is still there even if he is willing to be the straight man to Kikutaro’s comedy spots. And the match overall was rather entertaining with a good mix of comedy and good wrestling. Fuchi picks up the pin on Kikutaro with his signature inside cradle.Match Rating: *1/2
Akira Raijin VS RO’Z
Raijin got off a barrage of rather weak looking headbutts and a missile dropkick, but otherwise it was a rather short squash for the ex-WWE superhero. He used his size and power to batter down the rookie than hit a big chokeslam followed by an awesome top rope split legged moonsault for the win.Match Rating: *
TAKA Michinoku, D-Lo Brown & Buchanan VS Minoru Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA
I just couldn’t really get into this one. There was some comedy from the Suzuki-Gundan since they were at a distinct since disadvantage, like MAZADA climbing the second rope so he could be on the same height level with Buchanan to challenge him to a test of strength, but he gets iron-claw slammed off the turnbuckle for his troubles. Since TAKA was the smallest guy in the RO&D team, he was the only one that took any damage. D-Lo gets the win with the Lo-Down on NOSAWA after TAKA spiked him with the Michinoku Driver II. Still a bit of comedy after the match as Suzuki stood on NOSAWA’s fallen body to make himself taller to mouth off at the RO&D team, who did the same by all 3 standing on NOSAWA to talk back to Suzuki!Match Rating: *
AJPW Jr. Heavyweight Title: Shuji Kondo [C] VS Kaz Hayashi
No doubt you’ve heard the hype about how good this match was, and the hype was rather justified! The fans were way into this one before it even started, and the best part was there wasn’t any outside interference from the Voodoo Murders so we had a fair contest. I think the only downside was the leg work from Kondo on Kaz that was completely no-sold by Kaz later in the match.
They started off with the usual feeling out process and tests of strength, and Kaz is the first to take the offensive, taking down Kondo with a frankensteiner out of a test of strength followed by an arm drag. Kondo catches Kaz and tosses him into the air, but Kaz flips in mid air and takes down Kondo with a big flying headscissors sending Kondo out to the floor, and Kaz follows with a big diving attack through the ropes on the champion, Kaz himself hitting the guardrail. Back in the ring and Kaz drop toe-holds Kondo, dropping him throat first on the bottome rope, and while still hanging there, Kaz hits him with a big springboard moonsault!
Kaz tries to wear down the champion some more and even puts him in a Crippler Crossface. Kaz smacks Kondo in the corner with a big running kick and tries for a tornado DDT, but Kondo tosses him off. Kaz charges in with another kick and Kondo dodges it and begins attacking Kaz’s leg. Kaz manages a short comeback and tries for a hurricanrana, but Kondo catches him in mid-air and changes it to a high-angle Boston crab. Kondo continues the attack on Kaz’s leg. Kaz makes a comeback hitting Kondo with a big handspring leg lariat off the ropes.
Kaz hits a spinebuster and follows with a springboard moonsault. He tries for a springboard senton, but Kondo rolls out of the ring. Kaz hits a sliding dropkick and follows with a big hurricanrana to Kondo out on the floor. They fight for position on the apron, and Kondo tries to spear Kaz, but Kaz catches him and gives him a DDT on the apron! This was a good example of how to use an instant replay, as no one caught the DDT until they showed the move again from a different angle! They fight on the apron again, and Kaz charges in, but gets launched up in the air, caught and slammed off the apron to the floor!
They get back in the ring and Kondo tries for a suplex, but Kaz flips over and tries for dragon suplex, but Kondo grabs him by the head and powers him over and slams him to the mat! Kondo hits a big spear for a near fall and goes back after Kaz’s leg, clamping on the Kondo-Lock (modified Texas Clover-hold) and dropping down in a grapevine to add more pressure to the move. Kaz manages to reach the ropes to break the hold and battles back with a barrage of kicks to Kondo’s head. Kaz tries for a Mysterio-rana, but doesn’t get the full flip and ends up spiking Kondo on his head, much like what happened between AHII and Voodoo Mask earlier, and it gets him a near fall!
Both men struggle to their feet and begin exchanging elbow strikes, and Kondo catches Kaz off the ropes with his elevated powerslam again, but Kaz pops up and floors Kondo with a superkick. Kaz tries for the WA4, but Kondo fights it off and tries for a powerbomb, but Kaz flips out and hits a big sunset flip for a near fall. Kaz immediately picks up Kondo and slams him with the WA4 for a near fall. Kaz goes up top and tries for a diving body press, but Kondo gets his knees up and Kaz crashes hard. Kondo goes for the King Kong Lariat, but Kaz catches him, flips around and spikes him with an Asai DDT before picking him up again and hitting the Final Cut, but only gets a near fall! Kaz tries for another Final Cut, but Kondo blocks it, turns him around, and drops Kaz on his head with a reverse brainbuster!
Back to their feet and Kondo goes for the lariat, but Kaz meets him with an elbow strike. Kondo again tries the lariat, but eats a superkick. Kondo tries it a third time and finally hits the move but it only gets him a near fall! Kondo hits a second lariat and tries for a third, but Kaz ducks it and counters with a dragon suplex-hold for a near fall. Kaz back in control now, and he picks up Kondo, adjusts his position, and drives Kondo right on his head with a WA4! It only gets another near fall. Kaz sets Kondo up on the top rope and tries for a super WA4, but Kondo counters it flipping out and spiking Kaz on his head with a Canadian Destroyer-like DDT! And even that only gets Kondo a near fall! Kondo goes up top and hits a perfect moonsault press for a near fall! Kondo tries goes in for the kill with the King Kong Lariat, but Kaz is able to get his arms up to block it, but Kondo immediately rebounds off the ropes with a second lariat and takes Kaz’s head off to finally get the 3-count and retain his title!
Like I said, the only thing about this match I didn’t like was the pointless leg work on Kaz that didn’t really play into the outcome of the match.Match Rating: ****
Great MUTA VS TAJIRI
When you first think Great MUTA VS TAJIRI, you think instant “dream match”. But then you realize its new millennium MUTA we’re talking about, and TAJIRI hasn’t done jack since returning to Japan other than living off his name value of being an ex-WWE / ECW superstar with nowhere near the work rate he used to have. So what happens when you put the two together? A very boring match that moved at snail’s pace.
There was just too much stalling in this one. They exited the ring more than once and wasted a lot of time playing hide and seek around the ring, which made the fans laugh but I found myself reaching for the fast forward button just to get to some actual action. There was a whole lot of mist spraying as to be expected, but when they actually wrestled it was all just really bad and sluggish. MUTA actually forgot to sell getting sprayed by the mist from TAJIRI at one point, and he totally no sold TAJIRI’s buzzsaw kick finisher before spraying him with the mist for the umpteenth time, hitting the Shining Wizard, followed by the backbreaker and the moonsault for the win.
This was easily the most disappointing big match of the year if you asked me. And MUTA looked ridiculous with those two lizards on his head too.Match Rating: *
All Japan Triple Crown: Taiyo Kea [C] VS Toshiaki Kawada
I was rather surprised at how this one played out. They started off with some rather interesting MMA style mat work, and Kawada takes control and starts to work on Kea’s leg. Kea manages to fight back and they exchange face kicks, with Kea winning out hitting the Hurricane Spike off the ropes on Kawada. Kea now works on Kawada’s eternal bad knee, hitting a knee crusher and clamping on several leg locks, as well as taking every pot shot at it he can. Kawada manages to counter another knee crusher with a big knee to Kea’s face, staggering him back. Kawada than shows why he’s one of the best at selling when his knee gives out on him when he tries his running corner face kick, and Kea tries to charge in to take advantage, but Kawada surprises everyone with a jumping face kick!
Kawada back in charge now and hits a big running lariat followed by a sick-ass brainbuster that Kea did an overkill sell-job on! Kawada pins him for a 2-count, and immediately locks on the Stretch Plum. Kea is able to get to the ropes to break the hold, so Kawada drops him on his head with a trifecta of backdrop suplexes. Kawada gets another near fall and clamps on the Stretch Plum again, which gets him another 2 count on the champion. Kawada tries for a powerbomb, but Kea flips him over. Kawada quickly gets back to his feet and hits a face kick followed by an enzu-lariat, and capped off with a big jumping face kick for a near fall. Kawada tries for the powerbomb again, and almost loses Kea, but is able to complete the move for a near fall. Kawada tries for another powerbomb, but Kea fights back and both men exchange strikes, with Kawada landing a barrage of elbows that knocks Kea on his ass. Kawada goes for the PK, and Kea just barely ducks out of the way, but Kawada catches him with a knee to the face as he tries to get to his feet. Kawada batters Kea with middle kicks and Kea asks for more, but he’s just baiting Kawada in to catch his leg and deliver a dragon screw!
Kea now back on the attack with the Kea Rush. Kawada shrugs it off and tries for a lariat, but Kea ducks it and spikes Kawada on his head with the cobra clutch suplex! They trade strikes again with Kawada winning out as he kicks Kea in the legs, but Kea surprises Kawada with a jumping chop between the eyes followed by another drilling cobra clutch suplex! Kea pins him, but Kawada almost instantly pops up at just 1! They trade strikes again, and Kea hits another big chop to the head followed by a Giant Baba running neck breaker drop for a near fall. Kea tries for a German suplex, but Kawada breaks the hold and hits a jumping kick to Kea’s shoulder. Kea responds with a super kick followed by a TKO for a near fall. They trade elbow strikes and Kea hits the Kea Rush again. He tries for a lariat, but Kawada kicks his arm, but Kea hits another one and follows it with a second TKO for a 2 count. They trade strikes again, and Kawada hits a jumping face kick that staggers Kea into the corner, and Kea responds by slamming Kawada with a big running jumping face kick! Kea picks up Kawada and hits a third TKO, but only gets a 1 count! Kea than picks up Kawada for a big high-angle powerbomb-pin for the 3 count!
Now, as good as the match was it suffered from the same problem as the junior title match earlier. Kea worked on Kawada’s knee which was an obvious weakness, but completely abandons it as the match went on. It was rather bizarre that during the big strike exchanges it was Kawada using the low kicks on Kea’s knees and not the other way around. It just spoils the structure of the match for me. And even I was saying “For God’s sakes Kea, the TKO isn’t working! Do something else already!” after the third TKO from Kea. Luckily he obliged and hit that stiff looking powerbomb at the end.Match Rating: ****
After a short intermission from a group of dancing cheerleaders, we get a nice video montage of the career of Hiroshi Hase, which leads to the main event of the evening.Hiroshi Hase Retirement Commemoration Match: Hiroshi Hase, Satoshi Kojima & Katsuhiko Nakajima VS TARU, Suwama & “brother” YASSHI
Now this match was a whole lot of fun from the start. Hase showed that he definitely could still go in the ring, and it’s just a shame that he’s retiring now. He had some heated exchanges with Suwama, whom he was responsible for bringing into AJPW, as they spiked each other trading urinages and backdrops. The biggest pop of the match was probably when Kensuke Sasaki got involved and did some classic tag work with his ex-tag partner Hase which the crowd loved. The only thing I would have preferred was if Hase had pinned TARU instead of designated job-boy YASSHI with his trademark Northern-Lights suplex-hold. It was also a bit sad that Hase’s retirement ceremony got cut short when they ran out of live air time for the show. Maybe they’ll show it in full on a DVD release or something if AJPW had a DVD distribution deal?Match Rating: ****
A lot of entertaining wrestling on this show, especially the two title matches and the main event. Arigato Hase-san!