Sunday, 22 May 2016

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2016

Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & Captain New Japan
Nothing to talk about here. An utterly nothing match. ½★

Gedo, Kazushi Sakuraba, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI vs David Finlay, Jay White, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
I have high hopes for Finlay. Guy looks full of fire and it added a lot to the match. This is worth watching to see Finlay/Ospreay going at it, albeit briefly. A singles match between them with certainly have the potential to steal the show. ★★½

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match: 
Beretta & Rocky Romero © vs Matt Sydal & Ricochet
Sydal's brief face-in-peril segment was neat and there was a few spots that stuck out during the course of this match, but there wasn't that much else here. A stale and plodding juniors tag match that you've seen done to death in New Japan. ★½

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match:
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Yoshitatsu © vs Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson
I loved Big Mike's power counters, they looked very fluid. Omega & co. were great at being dickhead heels. It's rather campy, but it works. Fun stuff. I have high hopes for the match that was announced after this match being a great spectacle.  ★★★

IWGP Tag Team Title Match: 
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa © vs Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
After being let down by their last match, I admit I didn't give this much my full attention. It didn't seem like I was missing much. The chase sequences here looked like they belonged in a silent comedy. ★★

NEVER Openweight Title Match:
Katsuyori Shibata © vs Yuji Nagata
I got everything I wanted here. A psychology-lacking match that more than made up for it with hard strikes and buckets of charisma, and a feel-good moment to cap it off. ★★★¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match:
KUSHIDA © vs Jushin Thunder Liger

For a man that has his face covered, Jushin Liger sure knows how to express emotions. The arm work here actually played into the match and even though we all knew that leg submission wasn't going to win the match, these guys knew how to make that throwaway attempt for drama fun. What's stopping this from being a MOTYC is that I thought the finish stretch wrapped things up a tad too quickly.

EVIL vs Hirooki Goto
Goto is never going to be a exceptional worker, but if he can keep upping the violence in his matches like he has at the last two PPVs, then his matches are going to be a lot easier to digest. ★★½

Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA
Entertaining back-and-forth match with overly contrived counters and reversals. Fun, nothing more than that. SANADA's plancha is a thing of beauty that needs to be seen to be believed. ★★★ 

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match:
Tetsuya Naito © vs Tomohiro Ishii 
This didn't suck during the first 15 minutes so that's an achievement in off itself for an IWGP Heavyweight match. Worked much more traditionally for an Ishii match (excluding the interference, of course), this had a great finish stretch. It did out wear it's welcome, but a handful of the near-finishes were so convincing that I'll let that slide.  ★★★¾

Monday, 11 April 2016

NJPW Invasion Attack 2016

Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi
Juice being thrown out of the ring was Shawn Michaels at Summerslam 2005 level of overselling. A standard squash match. ½★

Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI vs Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata 
The crowd were hot during this, but the in-ring stuff was rather average. The only aspects that stuck out from a workrate perspective was YOSHI-HASHI's hope spot and the Backdrop Driver, because who doesn't enjoy seeing someone dropped on their head? ★★½

Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii vs BUSHI & EVIL
Much stiffer than your typical undercard match, that's for sure. Goto looked like a badass heel. He was booed by the crowd so he upped the violence up to 11. Really good match that caught me by surprise. ★★★½

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match:
Matt Sydal & Ricochet © vs Beretta & Rocky Romero

Wrestled at an insanely fast pace and featuring many impressive feats of athleticism, this match's downfall is that it all feels vanilla and there isn't much personality to it. I simply wasn't given a reason to care. Everything I hate about junior wrestling.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match:
KUSHIDA © vs Will Ospreay 

I expected this to be good, but not this good! This is more 'seasoned champion faces plucky underdog' rather that 'evil foreigner faces hero champion' like I initially thought it would. KUSHIDA targets the arm and that becomes the focal point of the match. Ospreay can't bust out a lot of his moves with one arm, so he has to modify them, including one instance where whips out a no hand handstand. It's utterly insane. The arm work is consistent and I was so engrossed in the match during the finishing stretch. This deserves to be talked about in the same breath as other junior classics. Everything I love about juniors wrestling. ★★★★½

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match:
Kenny Omega, Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson © vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & Yoshitatsu
Starts off as a wild Attitude Era-styled brawl that descends into a standard paint-by-numbers tag match. I love that Elgin trashcan superkick spot, even if it looked obviously set-up. ★★¾

NEVER Openweight Title Match
Katsuyori Shibata © vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan
I've dumped on Tenzan before, but it's nice to see him get his moment here and a final chance to shine as I imagine he won't be around much longer. Those headbutts made me wince. ★★★¼

IWGP Tag Team Title Match: 
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma © vs Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa
Pretty eh stuff. The gaijins didn't have much chemistry together as a whole.  Tanga Loa did nothing to impress me and Tonga doesn't seem comfortable wrestling this high up on the card. Notable moments include Homna getting murdered by a nasty German and then proceeding to bust out some headbutts straight after. That crazy bastard.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match:
Kazuchika Okada © vs Tetsuya Naito
A historic match with plenty of great stuff littered throughout, but I can't sit there and say that I wasn't bored out my ass during the first 10-15 minutes of the match. This is made by the utterly unique crowd dynamic, the fun outside brawling segments and the shock ending.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Best of Terry Funk - Classics from Japan DVD

Terry Funk vs Jumbo Tsuruta (AJPW, 11/6/1976)
Be warned, this is a slow paced match, so it's not for everyone. The slower parts of the match consist of Funk and Jumbo trading arm holds. There's always a struggle going on and Funk has no problem throwing out some strikes and nasty chops to get out of a tricky predicament. You feel rewarded when the match picks up and every suplex feels like a big deal. Jumbo might be green at this point, but he pulls out a gorgeous sunset flip during the finale of the first fall. This match features a genius ending involving Funk's giving out on him at just the right time. I won't spoil it for you, but it's very worth checking out. Just great old-school wrestling. ★★★

Terry Funk vs Abdullah The Butcher (AJPW, 18/7/1976)
This is a master class on selling and putting over your opponent and their offense as a major threat by Terry Funk. A messy bloodbath, although there's not too much here other than Abby opening up Funk's ear. I'm fine with the non-finish as it sets up for the great tag series between Sheik and Abby against the Funks. It also made Abby look like a monster and Terry as a courageous anti-hero to the audience. ★★

Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr. vs Nick Bockwinkel & Jim Brunzell (AJPW, 9/12/1980)
Bockwinkel seems like I guy I ought to check out more. Him and Blair work great as unit and I thought it was a nice touch that they both acted displeased when ever a Funk got out of their grasp. This is a rather standard match of it's time until Terry and Bock start trading blows. There's some great strikes in here, particularly Blair's dropkick, which might be one of the best ones I've ever seen. This all leads to a great Terry Funk face-in-peril segment until he gets the tag and the match wraps up, perhaps too prematurely. ★★★¼

Terry Funk vs Stan Hansen (AJPW, 11/9/1982)
A fiery brawl between two of the greatest of all time and they make the little things matter. For example, during a punch-off (there's many great punches in this, although that should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen either man before) Hansen ends the exchange by kicking at Funk's swinging hand. Hansen takes control early on and drops some knees to the neck of Funk and he starts withering on the floor and this puts the crowd firmly behind Terry. Everything eventually falls apart and a ref ends up eating a nasty Western Lariat. It's a damn shame we don't see brawls like these anymore. ★★★★½

Terry Funk & Dory Funk Jr. vs Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (AJPW, 31/8/1983)
This is Terry's 'retirement' match and this has one of the loudest crowds I have ever heard. You know you have a hot crowd when they are going apeshit for Dory Funk Jr. of all people! The match starts off with Dory being worked over by the heels. They mostly keep him immobilized with an armbar and strikes. Dory's gets the crowd pops big whenever he gets in a lucky jab. Terry was sublime in this, egging his brother on and pacing up and down the apron when he's not tagged in and throwing some great punches and doing a marvelous selljob of his leg when he is the legal man. Yet another hellish brawl that we need more of in today's wrestling. ★★★★½

Final Thoughts:
If you like Terry Funk or old-school wrestling, this deserves to be in your collection. No ifs or buts.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

NJPW The New Beginning In Niigata

Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson & Cody Hall vs Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask & Captain New Japan
A throwaway match to let The Young Bucks get their momentum back. ★★

Gedo & Kazushi Sakuraba vs Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly
If you're a shameless Sakuraba mark like I am, this might be worth watching just to see Saku grapple with Fish and O'Reilly. His mat wrestling ability is still incredible, even with his advancing age. ★★★

David Finlay, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Yuji Nagata vs Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Matt Sydal & Ricochet
The crowd were hot for this, mainly because of the veterans all getting in their signature spots. ★★½

Tetsuya Naito & EVIL vs Michael Elgin & Jay White

Elgin and Naito have great chemistry and I'm looking forward for when they finally have their singles match as this match did a good job teasing it. ★★¾

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match:
Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi & Tama Tonga © vs Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe 
I thought I was sick of the six man belts already before these last two events, but I think they might of won me back already. This was a energetic comedy-tinged match and I think I will never tire of seeing Yano work his comedy spots. I feel like Yano has found his place as a lovable lower-card oaf. ★★★

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata & Juice Robinson 
This got off to a weak start, but as soon as Shibata started kicking his partner Goto for encouragement, this picked up. A great finishing stretch featuring Juice Robinson trying to hang with Okada. Juice even convinced me that he had a shot of pinning the IWGP champion. ★★★¼

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match:
KUSHIDA looked like an absolute star in this and I imagine NJPW will continue to build the Jr. division around him. Minus the few occasion when both guys looked a tad awkward and didn't look too sure what to do next, this was a fantastic match that the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands. The interactions with the ref and the interference were both handled smartly and didn't retract from the quality of the match. ★★★¾

IWGP Tag Team Title Match:
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma © vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson 

I can't grasp how over Homna is. The nuclear crowd reaction is partly why I enjoyed this. That pop Homna got when he finally manages to hit a falling Kokeshi Headbutt on his first attempt was awesome. Because of Anderson & Gallows reportedly heading to WWE, I had very little doubt that they would be losing this, but there was a few times when I thought they had Great Bash Heel beat. I have to give everyone involved credit for working me like that. ★★★¼

IWGP Intercontinental Title Match: 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kenny Omega
This match has received mixed criticism and I can see why. There was some really great stuff in this, and some really bad stuff too. This match didn't feel like any other match in NJPW in years (or ever). The interference worked and sent the crowd into a frenzy. I was sucked into the hellish atmosphere of the finishing stretch even if I was majorly irked by them busting reverse frankensteiners and brushing them off like they were light slaps. Omega worked a mean control segment on Tanahashi's arm, but it ultimately went nowhere. A flawed yet memorable main event epic. One thing for sure is that it's worth checking out, even if you end up hating it. ★★★½

Monday, 15 February 2016

NJPW The New Beginning In Osaka

David Finlay Jr. vs Jay White
New Japan's strategy of sticking their rookies in black tights and limiting them to using only the most basic moves works and this match is proof. This was an intense little match that felt like these guys were fighting at a chance to advance higher up on future shows and any time you can put over a crab as legitimate finishing move in 2016, you are doing wrestling right. ★★★ 

Gedo, Kazushi Sakuraba & YOSHI-HASHI vs Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask
Inoffensive filler. ★★½ 

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
I wasn't paying attention to this match, but it doesn't seem to be like I was missing much. The crowd reacted well to everyone in this match at least. ★★

Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & Michael Elgin vs BUSHI, EVIL & Tetsuya Naito
Michael Elgin was one of my least favorite wrestlers on the planet a few years back, but since he's shaved that awful hairdo off and started to work for NJPW, I've actually become a bit of a fan. He has presence and he can make the NJPW crowd pop for even the most basic power spots. I tip my non-existent hat to Big Mike for that. ★★½

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match:
Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe © vs Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi

Much better than the match at the Tokyo Dome last much, as this didn't feel as rushed and everyone in their match had more of a chance to show their personalities. I applauded the Briscoes at getting something as stupid as 'Redneck Kung-Fu' over. Props to any match that can make care about the victor, even though I was dreading watching the match before it even started. ★★★

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Three Way Match:
Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson © vs Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish

You know what to expect with these matches. If they appeal to you, you'll enjoy this. If not, then I'd recommend skipping this one. The Young Bucks sending love to Daniel Bryan warmed my cold heart, as did Cody Hall carrying Kyle O'Reilly out of the arena. ★★¾

NEVER Openweight Title Match:
Katsuyori Shibata © vs Tomohiro Ishii

Yet another match better than the previous one at the Tokyo Dome. This match actually focuses on selling and psychology as apposed to the spectacle (a great spectacle none the less) of two guys taking turns hitting each other hard. I had my worries this would just be a repeat of the Tokyo Dome match when they let each other hit suplexes on each other, but they proved me wrong, even if that spot did bug me a lot. A total war that's more than a spectacle. ★★★¾

Kenny Omega, Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Homna

This was here to hype up the Tanahashi/Omega main event of the next show. I'm intriuged to see how the angle with Tanahashi's arm will play into that match. ★★¾

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match:
Kazuchika Okada © vs Hirooki Goto

Goto switched up his character for his shot at the big one and came out in a new white attire and worked the match as a heel. He actually looked rather badass and his new personality gave me the slightest hope that he might be finally be able to pull it off and win the IWGP belt. I liked the spot where Okada throws out a random Rainmaker, not in hopes of winning the match there and then, but rather to cut off Goto who was getting the better of him. This was a good match where both men looked great. This avoided dragging and being formulaic. There was none of that overly fancy shit that has plagued the finishing stretch in other IWGP defenses in the past. ★★★½



Tuesday, 5 January 2016

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 10 In Tokyo Dome

New Japan Rumble Match
Worth seeing for Cheeseburger getting slapped about by every veteran in the match and Taguchi butting off with his long-lost father Koshinaka. A fun match, mainly for all the awesome cameos from puro stars of the past.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match:
Bobby Fish & Kyle O'Reilly vs Matt Sydal & Ricochet vs Beretta & Rocky Romero vs. Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson
Exactly what you expect.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Title Match:
Toru Yano, Jay Briscoe & Mark Briscoe vs Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga
Fast and energetic, but ultimately bland and forgettable.  

ROH World Title Match:
Jay Lethal © vs Michael Elgin
Decent, but a throwaway defense in every sense of the word. A book being used as a weapon to help put away Big Mike was stupid. Elgin's getting rather over with the Japanese audience and they pop big for his power spots.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match:
Kenny Omega © vs KUSHIDA
Good match that would of went to that next level if KUSHIDA had a chance to build up his comeback. I enjoyed the stiff strikes they dished up, Kenny's consistent selling of the arm and of course, Taguchi as Doc Brown.

IWGP Tag Team Title Match:
Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson © vs Tomoaki Homna & Togi Makabe
A real meat and potatoes tag match, seasoned with some surprisingly great selling from Makabe after eating some stiff shots from Bullet Club. Homna got the crowd behind him because of charisma and his impeccable timing; he just knows when to bust out those Kokeshi Headbutts. 

Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito 
Naito's control segments work because he's great at being a dick. This was good, but rather reserved. They didn't want to burn out the crowd with too much action and it helped the match as it stopped the match from going into overkill and it kept the interference tasteful.   

NEVER Openweight Title Match:
Tomohiro Ishii © vs Katsuyori Shibata
STIFF~! MANLY~! REPETITIVE~! I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy this, but it felt very seen-it-before-it-ish. I'm starting to tire of Ishii's style, but the big fight atmosphere and the spectacle of this taking place in the Tokyo Dome saved this one.

IWGP Intercontial Title Match:
Shinsuke Nakamura © vs AJ Styles 
It's Nakamura in a big match on the Dome show. Do you really need more motivation to check it out? They play up on AJ's recent back problems which result in a great spot where AJ plays possum. Near enough every near fall and submission felt like it could end the match, and even as the match approached the 25 minute mark, I still didn't want it to end. A total war.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match:
Kazuchika Okada © vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
As much as I want to crap on this match for it's dull control segments and opening moments, they kept me entertained enough with spots early in the match like the springboard dropkick knocking Tanahashi outside in brutal fashion and the crossbody over the guardrail. Once they hit the finishing stretch is when things get really great. I can even forgive some of the signature move reversal exchanges looking like a dance rather than a struggle for dominance. These guys know how to work an epic big match finishing stretch. This borrows a lot from the early 2000's WWE main event style, especially when they end up using each others finishing move. They add enough new stuff here to make it stand out from their other battles. It's flawed, but the great stuff outweighs the bad.


Monday, 28 December 2015

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom In Tokyo Dome

El Samurai, Masanobu Fuchi & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Akira Raijin, Kikutaro & Nobutaka Araya
There's nothing here minus the comedy spots, which would of worked much better in a more intimate venue.

Gedo & Jado vs MAZADA & NOSAWA Rongai
This went on way too long for an undercard match. NOSAWA and MAZADA were great as fiery brawlers and that slow-motion Tombstone counter was very cool.

Buchanan, D-Lo Brown & Travis Tomko vs Togi Makabe, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Yet another match that would of benefited from a smaller crowd. This would of felt right at home in front of a hot Korakuen audience.

Giant Bernard, RO'Z, Suwama & TARU vs Manabu Nakanishi, Naofumi Yamamoto, Riki Choshu & Takashi Iizuka
VooDoo Murder's control segment was great (I particularly liked the axe kick to the balls spot) and it was fuel for Yamamoto's comeback until he ended up botching his desperation move, but the crowd didn't seem to care as the guy he tagged was one Riki Choshu. Even in his older age, Choshu's still got him and had the crowd popping big for his lariats.

Jushin Thunder Liger, Milano Collection AT, Minoru, Shuji Kondo & YASSHI vs Kaz Hayashi, Koji Kanemoto, TAKA Michinoku, Tiger Mask & Wataru Inoue
This is almost always worked at a fast pace and has many cool spots, but this would be much better if they paid more attention to selling and all that jazz.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Toshiaki Kawada
The mat-work here is fantastic. It shows a struggle, but it's accessible enough that someone who isn't a fan of shoot style would still enjoy themselves. Kawada is a lot more reserved than he usually is, but all that changes when Nakamura refuses to break an armbar when Kawada gets to the ropes. After this, Kawada finally starts bringing the hate and both guys take some stiff shots and suplexes. It's a shame the no-selling headdrop spots come off as a tad silly, but you're still getting Nakamura vs Kawada, so you can't really complain, can you?

Triple Crown Title Match:
Minoru Suzuki © vs Yuji Nagata
These guys have great chemistry together and even disguise each others flaws. The spot where a worn down MiSU tries to initiate another slap exchange with Nagata, only to be clubbed into the other direction but Suzuki keeps slapping away at nothing was a great indicator of how good of a seller he is. Many other workers could of attempted that spot and it would of looked hokey, but not MiSu. This match has a big fight feel and is oozing with charisma.

IWGP Heavyweight Title Match: 
Hiroshi Tanahashi © vs Taiyo Kea
I was not expecting this many head drops in a Tanahashi match! This is the first time I've been impressed by Taiyo Kea. He may be lacking in charisma, but he sure can dish out some brutal looking offense. Tanahashi takes it like the champ he is and fires back when he can find an opening. This matched benefited everyone. Kea looked like a bad ass in defeat on one of the biggest stages in his career, and Tanahashi looked like the ace that NJPW want him to be.

Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs Keiji Muto & Masahiro Chono
I was dreading to sit through this as I wasn't expecting it to be good and I was right. Chono is way past it. Not much here, minus a touching tribute to Hashimoto at the end of the match. This had no business main eventing.