KAI-EN-TARY #11 (5/7/01):
I’d like to start my column by apologizing for my long silence – I appreciate everyone who has continued to stop by the site to check on my rather delinquent ass. I’ve been checking out lots of great wrestling recently – I just haven’t really known what to say about it so I decided I’d rather roll it over in my head than post a column that was below par. I’ve also been putting together a few new compilation tapes that I hope to have completed over the next 2 weeks or so. The first comp is dedicated to the Spanish Announce Team - Red, Jose & Joel Maximo who are all students of the red-headed menace Mikey Whipwreck - that besides having one of coolest tag team names in some time are the rage of the east coast indy scene mixing some lucha stylings in with fantastic double teaming and major league flying. They’ve all been wrestling for 2 years or less and have shown some tremendous potential. The second comp I hope to finish up is dedicated to Naomichi Marufuji who is by far the fastest rising junior out of NOAH (and maybe in all of Japan). He mixes huge highly flying moves with great amounts of snap and touches of in ring inspiration from the Great Muta. Be sure to check the Kaientapelist for the release of these tapes.
The most recent evolution to take place in the US independent wrestling scene seems to be the booking of several potentially great junior tournaments for the year 2001 in the spirit of the J-Cup and ECWA’s Super 8. This year’s Super 8 2001 tourney is a must see, if you haven’t checked it out already, with the American Dragon arriving big time on the East Coast, Low-Ki taking home the tourney and Reckless Youth raising his game to a new level (which he has continued to do since that tourney – more on that later). The next junior tourney on the calendar will be booked by CZW on May 19th in Sewell, NJ – an official line-up has yet to be announced. The line-up that seems probable (if they do an 8 man set up) should include Jun Kasai (new CZW Junior champ who defeated Men’s Teioh in Japan this past week), Trent Acid, Johnny Kashmere, Reckless Youth, Nick Berk, Red (hopefully), Joel Maximo (again hopefully), and most likely Ric Blade (he would be the largest man in the tourney included due to his ring style and worst haircut in wrestling) or some people have rumored Super Crazy returning to CZW (unlikely, but again one could hope) or some more Big Japan workers (Teioh please). Jersey Championship Wrestling’s second Jersey Cup will take place June 23rd as a one night 16 man tourney including Low-Ki, Judas Young (last year’s champion), Red, Joel Maximo, Shark Boy, Billy Reil, Dave Greco, Mike Quackenbush, Xavier, Quenaan Creed, Ryan Wing, Supreme Lee Great, Tommy Suede, Dixie, White Lotus and Homicide. Again, this is another tournament with some great performers – should be top notch. Rev Pro’s J-Cup, which was scheduled for July, has been delayed into the fall hopefully to work out schedule conflicts so they can bring in workers from Japan. Rev Pro has been rumored to be setting up a Champion Carnival style tourney for June (which is also the month their merch page re-opens with videos galore) that should give us some more incredible Cali indy matches. All Pro Wrestling has the King of the Indies 2001 tournament on their schedule as well for a 2-day show in October – if it is anywhere close to last year’s show, which Chris Daniels won, it should be great. There has also been a great deal of talent sharing taking place between APW and MCW (out of Illinois) which was likely set-up by Chris Daniels with Vic Capri, Jason Reign, Donovan Morgan, Michael Modest and many other talents working on both companies shows for what has sounded to be some tremendous matches. On the national level, Jerry Lynn captured the WWF Light-heavyweight Title the night Backlash from Crash Holly in a strong match and looks like we may finally be seeing the long awaited push for that title especially with the pending arrival of Tajiri (and hopefully involving Dean Malenko, Taka, Sho, Essa Rios, the American Dragon, Jeff Hardy to name a few potential contenders).
As long as I’m on the topic of the WWF, there have been a few good things worthy of mentioning amongst what has been mostly middle of road product since Wrestlemania. Jerry Lynn’s arrival, noted above, has been a bright spot. The feud involving Kurt Angle and Chris Benoit has continue to build into some very good things – their 2 out of 3 falls match from the UK this weekend was said to have been a classic. I thought that the 30-minute iron man submission match, that has been widely bashed and called a failure on the net, was strong and smooth start to finish. I also enjoyed the tag match with Jericho & Benoit vs. Angle & Regal that built into Backlash on Smackdown, as it was a PPV quality match in terms of work and length. I’m guessing that tonight’s Raw will reveal the next step in that feud (no doubt being constructed by Paul Heyman). The individual advancement of the Hardy Boyz was refreshing with Jeff defeating HHH for the IC Title and Matt winning the Euro-title from Eddie Guerrero. The push may have been limited (WWF choosing to give us the Undertaker & Kane vs. HHH & Austin – boring!!! – instead the much more potentially great match of the Hardyz vs. HHH & Austin) but it has given the Hardyz some fresh direction bringing Matt together with Chris Jericho and maybe even Eddie Guerrero for some excellent combination of matches against Edge, Christian & Rhyno as was evident by the 3-way dance Euro Title match at Backlash. Now, onto the negatives – starting with the WWF turning this weekend’s UK PPV into a slightly above average house show after announcing a very interesting revised line-up a day before the PPV only to change their minds at the last minute. We could have had Jerry Lynn vs. Dean Malenko vs. Crash Holly, Matt Hardy vs. Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit vs. William Regal for the Queen’s Cup, Kurt Angle vs. Chris Jericho and dare I dreamed a Austin/HHH vs. Jeff Hardy/Undertaker tag match in the main - all of which could have been tremendous. Instead, we get no Jerry Lynn, a Radicalz vs. Holly’s mixed tag match, Eddie vs. Grand Master, no Euro-title defense, William Regal vs. Chris Jericho for the Queen’s Cup (said to have been their best match to date) and the previously praised Benoit vs. Angle 2 out of 3 falls match – some great matches, but a much more middle of the road and been there, seen that type of undercard than what could have been. It is just another example of the WWF holding back recently doing the more safe plays instead of giving us fresh and interesting matches – hopefully they will break loose soon (letting Paul Heyman work some magic) or the business as a whole may start to feel the negative impact.
Turning to Japan, there has been some excellent matches going down recently. The FMW 5/5/01 PPV sounds to have delivered some solid undercard matches and a great main event marking the return of Hayabusa as he teamed with the Great Sasuke defeating Mr. Gannosuke & Kuroda in a 15,000 volt exploding octagon cage match (which sounded to have allowed more dives and highspots) in around 20 minutes. The New Japan 5/5/01 PPV sounded, like most recent New Japan shows, to be middle of the road but strongest with Mutoh, Kea & Hase going over Chono, Kojima & Tenzan in 27 minutes. I’m also looking forward to the upcoming Arsion Samurai TV block with Ayako Hamada vs. Yoshida for the Queen of Arsion Title plus Akino vs. Lady Apache for the Sky High Title and the recent ARS tourney, which I would assume would be released in the commercial video format, sounded solid as well. The Battlarts 4/17 show (which should be the May Samurai TV block) sounded fantastic with a near 15 minute Ikuto Hidaka vs. Super Crazy match and Alex Otsuka going to a 20 minute draw with Mohammed Yone in the main event. The up-coming Battlarts 5/10/01 Olympic Stadium Gym card stands out with tremendous potential (hoping this will make Samurai TV in early June) as Murakami vs. Ishikawa is slotted as the main event with Alex Otsuka vs. Otani, Masato Tanaka vs. Yone, Usuda & Hidaka vs. Jado & Gedo and Ken vs. Takaiwa.
As far as what I’ve seen from Japan recently, the 4/18/01 Zero-One PPV delivered some great undercard matches while the top end of the card was very strange and short and somewhat solid. The opening match with Marufuji vs. Takaiwa was another showcase for the great talent Marufuji has become. His moves are clean and flowing plus he pulls out a HUGE, over the guardrail (eat your heart out RVD) top rope asai moonsault and a hot, brutal finish that the crowd blew up for. Alexander Otsuka (Battlarts) vs. Takashi Seguira (NOAH) followed with a strong match that could be considered the equivalent of a Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle match for Japan. The match started out with a feeling out process before heading to the mat. The match breaks down quickly with the younger Seguira losing his patience with Otsuka bringing out the headbutts and hardway blood that gushes from Otsuka’s forehead. Otsuka then buried Seguira as he hit a german with a bridge for the near fall. Otsuka tried to go gutwrench but got caught in Seguira’s lift series that is AWESOME!!! Otsuka tied up Seguira after countering a spear to get the submission win with blood everywhere and the crowd going off. I could see this match in a year or two headlining a Battlarts show with some 4 to 5 star results once Seguira gets some more time in pro wrestling ring. The final match of the show, besides being short and sort of a cluster had tremendous heat. Rikio showed some balls here running point for Misawa and not backing down from the bad-mf team of Ogawa (who looks so insane when he yells, eyes bulging) and Murakami (who has gotten nastier with each recent outing and the shaving of his head). Misawa kind of plays the surely old man roll as he picks his spots in the match to take the advantage. Seeing Misawa work in the context of a more shoot style was interesting and his 3 suplex finish on Murakami was brutal – like those are the kind of belly to back suplexes he usually reserves for Kobashi or Kawada kind of hurt. Overall, I liked the show but would have liked to seen better opponents for Hoshikawa and Hashimoto. Once again, Zero-One delivered an interesting mix with fresh matches on this PPV. I hope that they can keep things together and deliver another PPV in June.
I want to finish up this week’s column congratulating 2 old friends (not my friends personally, but friends of each other), Steve Corino and Reckless Youth. Steve Corino captured the NWA World Title recently in Florida from Mike Rapada and has been defending it around the country on the indy circuit since his victory. Steve has the potential to restore some value to the NWA Title as he again seems to be assuming the roll of a traditional NWA Champion visiting territories across the country. Corino has also recently started the PWF (Pennsylvania Wrestling Federation) independent group that has been running monthly shows mixing in local younger talent many of who have old school flavored gimmick with some flashier talent in the Spanish Announce Team, Reckless Youth and the Backseat Boys along with some ECW vets like Mikey Whipwreck, Guido, Jack Victory and the Sandman. The shows have produced some solid matches and the show scheduled for May should be no different as the main event features Corino taking on Jack Victory in a falls count anywhere street fight that promises some blood to be shed after Victory recently turned on Corino. Reckless Youth has also earned my praise with the string of excellent matches he has put together starting at the Super 8 2001. His match with the American Dragon was incredible, and he has seemed to build from that match on this hot streak which has included an excellent performance against Ty Street on the PWF’s 3/15/01 show as he was on and crisp (including chaining an abdominal stretch, cobra twist and octopus – would a match with he and Teioh rule in about a million ways right now or what??? – and finishing with a big time moonsault) and tore it up as part of a 3 way dance against Trent Acid and Ric Blade on the 4/14/01 CZW show that including an awesome diving knee onto a half bent over Trent Acid’s head (just vicious). Reckless looks to be re-motivated mixing old school in with some great Japanese inspirations – he has really blown me away recently whether or not the competition he was facing was up to his level or not. I hope it is a sign of things to come for the King of the Independents and maybe it will lead to a classic series between he and the King of Old School Steve Corino over the NWA World Title – it could be brilliant… Until next week…
KAI-EN-TARY #10 (4/5/01):
Wrestlemania has come and gone leaving a wide spread opinion gap as to the quality of the show – I think that the show was very middle of the road. From a production standpoint, the arena and crowd looked amazing – it certainly set the tone that Wrestlemania is “the big PPV show” that is indeed on a whole different scale. The opening match between Chris Jericho and William Regal was strong, but the ending of the match seemed to come a bit abruptly – looking back a sign of things to come perhaps in terms of setting up a more long-term feud.
The next big match was the highly anticipated Benoit/Angle match, which I thought was excellent especially for a first match from which the bar will be raised in matches to come. Here are a few things to think about while watching and rating the Benoit/Angle match that I haven't heard talked about much to gain a little perspective.
- Wrestlemania is the set up show for the rest of the year for the WWF (most of the time) - they obviously want to run this feud into the summer to produce a great series of matches - hence, the old school WWF roll up finish (common late 80's and early 90's WWF finish to many of their great matches), not blowing their load on the submission angle. Remember that Paul Heyman looks to be booking this, the man who had a hand in the Malenko/Guerrero classics...
-If you listen to the commentary (I re-watched the match on the reply) because when we were watching it live the couch was being rather loud and much got missed, JR stresses that both men may be so focused on getting the submission that it could be a mistake (that's almost a direct quote)...
- Although the match seemed at times a little sluggish compared to most Benoit and Angle matches, it looked like Benoit got his back dinged when he got whipped into the stairs and Angle carried the offense for a good deal of the middle section of the match playing the heel which I thought slowed things down a bit.
- The positioning of the match on the card was kind of funny, not too much building up to that point in terms of great matches, but also closely followed by Vince and Shane so I wonder if they got told to hold back a little (also this would allow for a series to build, increasing in greatness with each match).
- I actually think that Benoit should have gone over to help establish his face push and then have Angle attacking him in the back to get his heat back, but JR & Paul definitely took the time to put over Benoit big time in the post match...
I am looking forward to the development into greatness from this series and especially if a tag pairing of Benoit and Jericho against Angle and Regal, which they teased on Raw, comes off - that could be an amazing match if they actually got 15 or 20 minutes to tear down the house. I believe that the 20 minute plus Submission/I Quit match from Benoit and Angle is still to come with perhaps with one or two other big match confrontations to build up the tension even further.
TLC II was another solid match on the show which after re-watching I think had a better flow than the previous match in terms of Spike, Rhyno & Lita getting involved (which I thought would happen after seeing the tag title set up leading into Wrestlemania). Was the match better than the first TLC match??? I don’t know – I would say that it was a toss up situation since the first may have been more dramatic but the second had better continuity. Everyone worked really hard in this bump fest and for that their efforts should be applauded.
The main event, which I thought would be a passable match, turned out to be the match of the night and indeed the show stealer. Austin and Rocky really tore the house down and things got really interesting once they got past the initial punch kick section. It appeared they lost a spot from that first section as the announce table collapsed when Rocky was thrown into it, but they recovered nicely getting into the meat of the match. Both Austin and Rocky did large blade jobs and proceeded to pay tribute to Austin’s great matches with Bret Hart using a great sharpshooter and reversal section, blood everywhere, and then Austin pulled out the Million Dollar Dream. Rocky did the Bret Hart push off the turnbuckle into the pinning combination to escape the Million Dollar Dream spot – I was marking out loving all these references. They then proceeded to start throwing each others’ signature and finishing moves in each others’ faces – again, I was marking out for the sure fuck you factor of that and the near falls that came with it. Vince came down to put his two cents into the match (could have done without) and the turning of Steve Austin began (though it didn’t work that night as the crowd continued to pop for him assaulting The Rock). Austin, after several very near falls, just laid waste to The Rock with like 11 or 12 chair shots all over his body to score the pin. This was just a hot match, and certainly far, far greater than I thought that the match had any chance of being.
I did get to see the March Arsion Samurai TV block taped February 12 in Tokyo this week. The show is a very emotional one with Aja Kong and Ryo Miyake walking out on Arsion (Aja puts a major hurt on the LCO before storming off). The strength of the show is the quality of the main with Ayako Hamada defending her Queen of Arsion Title against Azumi Hyuga. The 15 minute plus match is complete and great starting with Ayako hitting a great lucha-style stretching section early in the match. The match does build on several spots from their November 15, 2000 15 minute draw as Ayako missed both of her Asai-moonsault attempts that she had hit in their first match. Ayako nailed Hyuga with her Spiral Bomb only gaining a near fall, in the November match it appeared Ayako had her beat with that move as the time limit ran out. The second attempt Ayako made at the Spiral Bomb she was countered with a quick over the top roll up. Azumi Hyuga hits some big spots pulling off her Spider German Suplex and a set of 8 Locomotion German Suplexes capped off with a strong holding bridge. After Ayako scored the fall, the ring filled up with Arsion girls and some moving speeches were made showing that the group is united to move forward even without Aja. As I said last week, although there seems to be a lot of doubt about Arsion’s future in certain circles, I am looking very forward to seeing Fukawa’s retirement show and the probable Hamada vs. Yoshida Queen of Arsion Title match coming in April (thus the photos above).
Ayako Hamada & Akino will appear as a tag team facing Kyoko Inoue & Emi Motokawa at the big FMW Kawasaki Stadium 5/5/01 PPV. The show itself looks like it could have some really good action aside from the women as GOEMON & Onryo defend the WEW tag titles against Super Crazy & Nova and the main event will pit The Great Sasuke & Hayabusa (making his return after double elbow surgery) against Kuroda & Mr. Gannosuke (returning after some time away) in a 15,000 volt exploding octagon cage bombs match. I’m wondering if the octagon style cage may fit around the ring free-standing on the floor so there will be several feet of space between the cage and ring in spots to allow for more high flying and dives considering the strength of Sasuke and Hayabusa. The show should prove to be interesting.
Another PPV that is taking shape in Japan is the up-coming Zero-One show on 4/18/01. The main event is still cloudy, although it appears that Misawa or Team No Fear may be involved facing Hashimoto and a tag partner. As for the undercard, it appears to be coming together with some potentially strong matches in Alexander Otsuka facing Takashi Sugiura and Takaiwa facing Marufuji. The next week or so should lend some clarity to the situation, as it appears both sides are working the media to build up heat for the show.
I want to again thank everyone that took the time to vote as a part the first KAI-EN-POLL!!! Benoit and Angle’s Wrestlemania match came out on top in the voting, and I thought was the best match on the undercard at Wrestlemania. I left the poll up on the main page during the week for people to check out the results after the show. Keep an eye out for future KAI-EN-POLLS!!! Back next week…