KAI-EN-TARY #9 (3/30/01):
First off, I’d like to thank everyone that took time to spin by the sight and check things out as March is now on record as our most visited month to date and another milestone is rapidly approaching. Wrestlemania looms near and our poll on the main page will be open until Sunday at 8PM for you to vote on which match you feel will steal the show – as of this moment, Chris Benoit vs. Kurt Angle is on top in the voting. If you don’t agree with those numbers, cast your vote to voice your opinion. Now, onto the Joshi…
I would like to preface this column by stating that I still consider myself very much a ‘Joshi Virgin’ having only been watching and learning about these tremendous women over the last few months. I’ve been spending a lot of my time watching Arsion, which is the promotion of focus for this Kai-en-tary, but have also had a chance to watch some of what various sources consider the greatest matches in Joshi history thanks to coming a cross a few excellent comps (so I feel like I have at least a little perspective to write from). I’d like to highlight some of my favorite matches from my Arsion viewing thus far, starting out with what most consider Arsion’s best singles match ever from the ARS 99 tape – Yumi Fukawa vs. Mariko Yoshida. This match is tight packing it’s 12 or so minutes with an amazing flow of twisted submission holds and incredible counters. Once again Yoshida shows, as I believe I saw someone put it, “why you don’t fuck with the spider.” This match may have been the recently, and unfortunately, retired Fukawa’s greatest. The greatest tag match in Arsion history no doubt comes from the Carnival 99 tape as Ayako Hamada & Akino defend their Twinstar of Arsion Tag Titles against the invading Mima Shimoda & Etsuko Mita. This match has the crowd red hot with emotion and is an incredibly brutal 20 minutes of action. Ayako Hamada hits a gusher that registers on the Honma Scale and Akino gets color at the hands of the extra nasty LCO as well. This match is a must see with the gripping work and finish!!! The Arsion Zion Tourney 2000 tape features a very strong finals match as Ayako Hamada continued her rise to the top of Arsion tangling with Mariko Yoshida. This match should become even more interesting, severing as a basis for comparison, in the light of events at Yumi Fukawa’s retirement show (3/20/01) which looked to set up Yoshida as the next challenger, hopefully in April, to Hamada’s Queen of Arsion Title. Ayako Hamada’s 15 minute draw with Azumi Hyuga, about half of which is shown, is one of the solid matches on the Carnival 2000 tape. These two seem quite fluid working with each other and this match was the hard working set up for Hyuga getting her shot at the Queen of Arsion Title in February – I’ve yet to see the match but am looking forward to the tape arriving this week. Akino’s big victory over Chapparita Asari for the Sky High of Arsion Title, and Ayako Hamada finally defeating the most devastating Aja Kong to win the Queen of Arsion Title are some other matches to be checked out from the Carnival 2000 tape. Arsion’s Samurai TV debut, taped on 1/27/01 in Tokyo, had a hard hitting and memorable main as Ayako Hamada made her first Queen of Arsion title defense against her long time tag partner, Akino. This match I highly recommend seeing, especially after you have an opportunity to put it in a somewhat historical context by watching some of Ayako & Akino’s outstanding tag matches. Those are just a few of my favorite offerings from Arsion, please feel free to let me know if they’ve been of use to you or if any of you have must see suggestions from any Joshi organization for me – let the cycle of knowledge continue and grow…
KAI-EN-TARY #8 (3/27/01):
Last night was a historic in the world of pro wrestling – Vince McMahon opening the last WCW Monday Nitro on TNT was only the beginning as I sat back and watched more than a few things that had never gone down on a Monday night before. I knew that the show was headed in the right direction when Ric Flair walked the aisle for one last time and cut one of the best promos he had ever done because similar to the night the Four Horsemen returned – it was real and it was special!!! Ric Flair has been the symbol of excellence in the NWA and WCW for nearly 20 years now – it was very classy to let him come out and speak his mind. I thought that it was also very fitting that Ric Flair should wrestle Sting in the last match to air on Monday Nitro because they were the very first main event on Monday Nitro. I loved Ric Flair as an arrogant heel and respect his in ring ability like no other, but I really love Ric Flair when he has those moments when you can see it in eyes and hear it in his voice – the passion he has for wrestling, which I most definitely identify with, is one that may not be equaled by anyone in the business and last night was one of those nights. My view may be a sentimental one, but the best parts of the show were those that embodied the spirit of WCW (and the NWA) in it’s glory days – Flair, the title history montage and the partially out of character interviews that aired throughout the show. I can remember reading about the NWA in Bill Apter’s magazines when I was more or less a kid, before I had cable, and being fascinated by it. I also remember the few opportunities I had to see the Saturday Night program when I was young and how special those shows were to me. It was sort of like watching Hockey Night in Canada, which was something of a similar rare viewing situation to me, because I only got to see it once in a while, and with the history that surrounded it, that made the show important. After taking some time away from wrestling, WCW was where I returned to watch as Chris Benoit, Eddie Guerrero, Dean Malenko and many others take the sport to a whole higher level in the ring as they started to break through and change the style of US wrestling for the better. I really liked Nitro, which was solid for most of the matches it presented though some came off somewhat anti-climactic in their endings (I’m sure it wasn’t the easiest of situations to work in), but that wasn’t really the important part. It was indeed a closing of a chapter in wrestling history, in my view of wrestling history, but it also marked what I am hopeful will be a new beginning. When Vince started ranting I had a feeling what was coming, and when Shane came out on Nitro to make THE ANNOUNCMENT I was marking out. How surreal was it to have Paul Heyman sitting there at the announce table watching and calling the whole situation??? I would have liked to seen his expression for a few seconds. In a little over a three month period, the US wrestling business has seen more things that no one would have EVER dreamed of happening going done right before our very eyes. I hope that WCW cleans up and can be re-built as the possibilities are endless for what good things could come of this – if Ric Flair were to become Shane’s right hand man, the promos between Flair and Vince in an inter-promotional would be off the scale of intensity and insanity… well, there are too many possibilities, which is nice to say in conjunction with WCW, so I’ll leave that for another time to get into.
I have to put over Mick Foley’s return to WWF TV last night since it really hit me to see him looking so good again with longer hair and happy (and to see that his new book, Foley is Good, will be released in May). The crowd response was huge and deserved – indeed Mick will not be forgotten. He is another man who truly loves wrestling and his presence in the sport has been missed…
Later this week I hope to make first attempt at some Joshi (Arsion) content…
KAI-EN-TARY #7 (3/19/01):
I don’t know even know where to begin with all that has gone down over the last week in wrestling and a load of new tapes from Japan showing up as well to thicken everything up. The most shocking and sad news came out of Japan this weekend that Ryuji Yamakawa suffered a 6" - 8" inner skull fracture and had a slight brain hemorrhage at the hands of CZW’s Wifebeater (who has never shown me anything resembling quality work in a wrestling ring – only a ton a regularly blown spots which I would assume would make him dangerous to work with in the few matches I’ve been unfortunate enough to have seen) during a blown choke-slam spot. Yamakawa was choke-slammed off the apron to the floor only to glance a table with his lower back and bounce his head off the concrete. The match was stopped immediately, and Yamakawa was taken to the hospital via ambulance. Obviously, I’ve yet to see the spot which I’m sure no one is to blame for (a risk in wrestling the death match style), but I think it is in poor taste the Wifebeater advances in the Big Japan tourney after injuring Big Japan’s top worker (another huge blow after Honma leaving Big Japan late last year). I think that he should show some class (I know it’s not in his character’s nature) and apologize to Yamakawa then withdraw from the tourney. I’d like to personally send my healing thoughts to Yamakawa on what I can only hope would be a recovery to full health and maybe even to the wrestling ring. Yamakawa, along with Honma, re-defined the death match starting in mid-1999 with his charismatic swank and potent mix of brutality tied to solid wrestling ability.
The major story from the US has been the probable end of WCW. There are many stories circulating and I’m sure that some definite answers will soon come to light. The only thing that seems for certain is that WCW, if not entirely folded, will be permanently gone from TBS and TNT sadly marking the end of era in wrestling history dating back to the early beginnings of Georgia Championship Wrestling and the NWA on Saturday nights on TBS. This situation will obviously change the course of wrestling history in another very important aspect since the WWF should now be the sole national company that remains in the US. It is very scary for all involved considering Vince without competition (and anyone pushing him) may further the industry into a down cycle if the product gets stale. It also has to make many workers wonder, if they will be able to wrestle for a living in the US with options growing ever slim. To those in the lower mid-card of the WWF or those about the break the “glass ceiling” to the top in the WWF, if there is a talent influx from WCW, will their upward mobility again be halted??? There have to be questions from some young WCW wrestlers, who have been turning heads recently, with an already crowded roster of the WWF will they even get an offer??? This entire situation comes at a really bad time for some WCW talent who had begun to break through including Shane Helms (congrats on your WCW Cruiserweight Title win) and EZ Money/Jason Jett (who people are raving about like they never saw his great ECW matches – check out my first Kai-en-tary for some top end match suggestions). One bright spot I could see happening, would be an influx of young talent into Japan that may help to stimulate the industry in the Far East. I guess there is nothing more to say at the moment, we can only sit back to enjoy (if that’s possible) what remains of WCW’s broadcasts seeing what might unfold.
Another somewhat uncertain topic from the US has to be what exactly will the Wrestlemania card turn out to be. There are strong indications that the Chris Benoit vs. Eddie Guerrero match that was rumored has been changed. It now appears that Chris Benoit’s face turn will be completed in a match against Kurt Angle. Normally, I am totally against any match that would cause me to miss a PPV length match between Benoit and Guerrero, but in this case I with momentum that both Benoit and Angle are carrying, I think the upside potential for both is great. Benoit and Eddie tore the house down for an intense 10 minutes of stiff as hell, PPV quality wrestling last week on RAW, which was amazing in the ring (crowd even popping for the finish sequence) and was put over by Paul Heyman and JR as being a very important match. Angle has been having great matches against Rocky and Austin over the last few months, and with his volume being turned up even more recently, had a no DQ match I loved against Austin and involving The Rock on Smackdown last week. Benoit is a wrestler who always has had the reputation of carrying his opponents to new levels in their matches, and Kurt Angle is rapidly growing into a fluid wrestler who now with his mean streak being revealed seems to be headed in that same direction. Benoit and Angle are tough as hell with nasty submission holds, crushing suplexes and may have the chance to elevate each other by stealing the show at Wrestlemania. I would guess that Benoit goes over turning face while Angle establishes his credibility by hanging with Benoit (not really being carried too much) in a very Japan style match. As for Eddie Guerrero, I’m guessing that he ends up working somewhere within a permutation of any different number of combinations of Chris Jericho, Test or William Regal at Wrestlemania (any of which could be very strong) only to continue with Benoit into the summer I would hope.
As for the batch of tapes I received this week there was too much great action to talk about in column so I’ll split it up into the next few columns. I want to take things in semi-chronological/ related order, so the NOAH 1/13/01 show would be first with Misawa & Ogawa meeting Hashimoto & Otsuka in one semi-main with Akiyama & Vader against Kobashi & Taue in the other. The entire under card is clipped up which was slightly disappointing since I had hoped to see the opening 3 way dance in a little more complete form with Marufuji, Scorpio & Kanemaru met in an elimination match. The match looked very good for the 5 minutes that were shown as Marufuji continues to impress and Scorpio looked to be in ring shape as he went over. The first complete match shown is the solid 6-man tag with Omori, Takayama & Satoru Asako going over Suguira, Honda & Inoue in nearly 20 minutes of action that was better than expected. Now, onto the semi-mains as the crowd is roaring huge in anticipation for the entrances of both Ogawa & Misawa and Otsuka & Hashimoto. The match opens with Ogawa and Otsuka (who looked great during the match) trading offence and Otsuka wanting Misawa, who refuses to tag, in the ring. Hashimoto gets the tag and immediately walks over to Misawa demanding he get in the ring, which again Misawa refuses, while Ogawa tries to attack Hashimoto from behind. Ogawa only serves to piss off Hashimoto who then shrugs off Ogawa’s attack and knocks Ogawa on his ass with one over-hand chop. The crowd is heat is enormous and the match flows strong with Hashimoto just crushing Ogawa and Misawa’s chests with ungodly stiff kicks throughout. Misawa and Ogawa suffer some pretty big hurt for their victory, which came a little quickly I thought, but considering the position of the match on the card, I think they wanted to leave everyone wanting more – a great match! The Akiyama & Vader match against Kobashi & Taue stretched out over 25 minutes of beatings. Kobashi & Taue both tear into Akiyama, who takes some nasty ramp bumps early, for about the opening 10 minutes of the match. The momentum switches with Vader & Akiyama starting to bludgeon Kobashi mostly over the next 10 minutes before hitting the back and forth to the finish. Vader goes over Kobashi as he’s hits a moonsault that just crushes Kobashi’s face under Vader’s shoulder (and almost full bodyweight) as he crashes to the mat. One note to NOAH, I noticed this with some of their other shows too, they need to have their ring mics potted up higher in the mix. For the amount of stiff offense in their product, they should showcase the ring sound better since it adds impact.
The debut Zero-One PPV is up next since the action carries over big from the NOAH show with Misawa & Akiyama locking horns with Hashimoto and Yuji Nagata. Right off the top, the production has a real slick feel with several unique camera angles in the mix (which occasionally missed the a few shots but nothing major). The opening match was really tight with NOAH’s Marufuji defeating Naohiro Hoshikawa (ex-M Pro and Osaka Pro worker) who looked a little thicker but in great shape. The middle of the card sagged a bit, but the heat picked up big time for the final three matches. Otani, who is looking good as small heavyweight with a red tint in his hair and the same nasty ass attitude, was defeated by Murakami in sort of shoot style match that was strange – don’t know if the booking makes sense since Murakami had just jobbed for Mutoh at the NJ 2/18/01 PPV or maybe this match was the payback. The crowd was very hot for the tag match which was much better on tape than on paper as Omori & Takayama (Team No Fear) defeated Alexander Otsuka (whose head looked to be recently split open by the bandages he wore) & Tatsuhito Takaiwa in around 8 or 9 minutes. Otsuka and Takaiwa started out quickly, Takaiwa delivered a few DVD’s and Otsuka hit a sick avalanche-style frankensteiner, but in the end No Fear was too much for the smaller team that hung tough the entire match. On to the main event with Misawa & Akiyama facing off against Hashimoto & Nagata, the crowd was blazing for this historic and stiff as hell tag match. The match opens with Nagata and Akiyama on the mat with Nagata getting the better of the exchange. The match breaks into an All Japan style trading of strikes with Akiyama catching Nagata off the ropes with an elbow. Akiyama cops attitude with Hashimoto standing in the corner and Nagata folds him up with a German suplex. Hashimoto takes the tag and starts beat the hell out of Akiyama who keeps coming back for more and Hashimoto’s focus becomes putting Akiyama in a world of hurt. Misawa takes a tag, being much more aggressive in this match than first, laying into Hashimoto who proceeds to fire back just belting Misawa’s chest. The kicks were laid in at a blistering pace by the team of Hashimoto & Nagata. I’ll leave some of this for all of you to watch because you’ve got to see it to truly feel it – it’s brutal and brilliant!!! As the match nears the finish, Akiyama slaps Hashimoto distracting him long enough for Misawa to hit him with a heavy elbow and release German to get the win. Hashimoto didn’t seem to care about losing the match as he proceeds to get up and lay some more blows in on Akiyama for that last little insult slap. Then things get more than a little out of hand as Ogawa and his crew hit the ring and there are challenges being made everywhere leaving Zero-One with a bunch of possibilities for their next PPV. The PPV was definitely bookended with strong enough matches that I really enjoyed it – I’m very excited to see what Zero-One will bring to the mat at their next show.
I came across a great All Japan 6-man tag match from 4/96 on a TV tape I just got with Kawada, Johnny Ace & the late Gary Albright facing Kobashi, Misawa & Akiyama. This match is 20 plus minutes of crushing strikes and high impact suplexes at a very fast pace with all the participants in top form – a real gem I was very pleased to come across and recommend. Turning to recent All Japan, I watched the Giant Series 2001 commercial video which much to my dismay was clipped to hell in every match (even the 4x4 elimination match which was my main reason for getting the tape) except the Tag Title match with Kea & Smith going over Kawada & Fuchi in a solid effort that was a bit of an upset. The match really showed that Kea is right on the cusp of becoming All Japan’s next heavyweight player as his improvement over the last 6 months has been dramatic and his association with Mutoh is giving him a good rub as well. Unless you can deal with all the clipping or are a huge Kea fan, I would stick to All Japan TV tapes that appear to be much more complete than this commercial release.
The DDT 12/14/00 TV is must see for the greatest promo ever!!! It is shown immediately following 4-way main event match and it drips of indy sleaze!!! Definitely worth checking out in terms of wrestling action from that same DDT show, is the Makami & Toba vs. Sasaki & Nishino tag match with some great flying and sick strikes. If any or all of these men make an appearance as part of Rev Pro’s J-Cup this summer, it will be a keeper show mixing them in with some of the great Rev Pro workers should be quite memorable. Toryumon’s January and February TV were excellent shows with a pair of incredibly tight 6-man matches at their core. The January TV features the original Crazy Max members CIMA, Suwa & Sumo against Magnum Tokyo, Dragon Kid & Arai in match filled with incredible spots and great variations on several of each group’s signature move sequences. The February TV chronicles the birth of BIG FUJI (which is quite hilarious) and his “debut” match with CIMA & Suwa against Tiger Mask IV, Tokyo Magnum & Saito, which rocked the ring hot action and fresh faces in the mix. Indeed, these were two of the better Toryumon 6-man matches that I’ve seen recently packed with action and innovation. Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give a special thanks to all the readers from Japan who have been checking out the site via Kento Japan (the best Japanese site for wrestling links to which we were recently added) and the US Toryumon page (whose continued support is always appreciated). As always, thanks to everyone else that takes a few minutes to stop in (no matter how you found me) and giving my thoughts a few minutes for your consideration. I’ll be back next week with even more Japan reviews and hopefully some more light shed on what is to come on the US wrestling scene as well.
KAI-EN-TARY #6 (3/8/01):
It has been an interesting week in the world of wrestling in the US, some things have been exciting and at the same time sad. The arrival of Paul Heyman in the WWF captures both these emotions for many wrestling fans. There is a ray of hope for some edge to return to the WWF product with Paul’s arrival, which has had some great matches and moments over the last year, but has also got comfortable with itself making the great harder and harder to find. There is hope that not only will Paul add spice to the mix, but light the show on fire pushing some of the true wrestling talent – getting over guys as only Paul can (which may get harder without the hardcore audience Paul is used to producing for). Paul’s work doing color on Raw was solid, a little rough around the edges from time to time, but remember he’s been away from the mic for many years. The most important thing he brought to the table was the sense of chaos in the show – he also put over the importance of the wrestlers and the matches while throwing in some tongue and cheek (not the other way around). I’m looking very forward to seeing how this plays out for the WWF – there were certainly some clashes between Paul and JR – not sure if it was legit heat or set up for what could become the great ECW invasion angle of the summer of 2001.
The sad side of Paul Heyman’s arrival in the WWF is that all signs are pointing to this being the end, at least for the foreseeable future, of ECW as we knew and loved it. I have continued to hope that Paul could pull this deal out of fire and save his company – I think he did everything in his power to do that before going to work for Vince. The fall of ECW comes at a time when their locker room was better than ever, working their ass off and putting on great shows every night out. The core of the interest in ECW was centered on the work rate, competition and high level of sickness that went down in, and out of, the rings of ECW. Paul grew stars in ECW, take a look at the wrestlers in the big two now, and how many of those guys spent time learning and wrestling under the ECW banner??? There have been so many match of the year candidates ECW produced and certainly most of the best matches I was ever privileged to be part of live were at ECW shows (my particular favorites were Tajiri vs. Guido vs. Crazy TV Title bloodbath 4/00 and Tanaka vs. Awesome ECW Title match 11/99). It should tell you something about how special ECW was and may be again. I consider ECW the last of the majors that brought wrestling to the people and focused on wrestling with heart. When I sat in the crowd for an ECW show there was a closeness and energy that no other live show I’ve seen could touch. I have many memories and great signs (and chants) that remain with me from ECW shows – I want to thank that crew for their efforts.
Paul’s arrival was TV’s major shock this week, but in terms of matches I loved the Jericho vs. Eddie Guerrero match from Raw especially with Benoit’s two cents in the form of a huge diving headbutt. The feud to turn Benoit face is this one since Eddie such the master rudo – this match should be the one that steals the show at Wrestlemania. I liked the Hardy Boyz winning the tag titles, perhaps for the last time together, from the Dudley Boys in another slightly different take in terms of their past matches. I’m not too certain if Matthew and Jeffery split before Wrestlemania or at Wrestlemania just yet – either way we win since there will be a great match in store. As for another Wrestlemania hope, while I’m throw those ideas around, is that there is a light-heavyweight title match on the show that gets 10 minutes plus to let Dean Malenko shine with Taka or Tajiri or even Jerry Lynn to give the title some needed respect and exposure for a grand audience to see. In terms of the other channel, I am getting quite disappointed with the booking of the WCW Cruiser Tag Title Tourney. I think that WCW made a big mistake in terms of match quality by putting Skipper & Romeo, both of whom have yet to impress me, over Styles and Paris who look to have much more potential overall and for the chance of a great match with the Dragons in the semi-finals. EZ Money (Jason Broyles) still looks to be in top form after his impressive debut match replacing Jamie Knoble on Thunder even in a losing effort with Scotty O (formerly Sabre) – hopefully, WCW will be smart enough to keep Money around and tag him with either Kid Kash or Chris Hamrick in the future to add depth and character to the cruiser tag division. EZ could also have some spectacular matches with Shane Helms I would think if they let him run as a singles wrestler. Jaime Knoble may get a break in missing his match with a chance to go solo and get a well-deserved shot at the Cruiserweight Champion, be it Helms or Chavo, once he returns to action.
Back next week with my latest Japan spiel…