Like I said a few posts back, I'm going to start adding more non-American stuff. All-Japan is my favorite puroresu promotion today. While they don't consistently have the highest end wrestling, they do have some of the best booking in wrestling - world wide. Over the last few years they've produced some awesome rookies, and developed one of the best junior divisions in Japan with guys like Hiorshi Yamato, KAI, Minoru, Kaz Hayashi, and BUSHI. In terms of heavyweights, they have a strong variety with guys like Ryota Hama, Keiji Mutoh, Masakatsu Funaki, and Minoru Suzuki. SUWAMA, their Triple Crown champion, has developed into one of the best pure heavyweight style wrestlers in the country.
I'll certainly be covering other companies from Japan(and eventually Mexico) but for the most part they'll be sporadic reviews. With All-Japan, I'm going to try and cover everything. Right now, my first task is to try and review my way up to the present, by starting with their first show of the year. Hopefully I can achieve that before...you know...the next year starts.
JANUARY 2nd, 2011
2100 No Vacancy
This year the New Year's shows are being split up onto episodes of B-Banquet, as opposed to getting their own special. Which is fine by me as long as the good stuff airs, I don't care how they do it.
TAKUMI SOYA DEBUT MATCH
TAKUMI SOYA vs. MANABU SOYA
Takumi is Manabu's brother, and I've got to say, I kind of dig him too. After he gets passed the rookie phase of his career he might actually grow into something. He's got some good facials, some nice basics, and some decent fire. It helps that Manabu gives him quite a few chances to show off, but it's just as important to note that Takumi made quite a bit of those opportunities. Worth checking out, as I think he shows the potential to make a mark on All Japan Pro Wrestling one day.
MAZADA & SUPER HATE vs. HIROSHI YAMATO & SHUJI KONDO
This is the debut of "Super Hate" which is just "Hate" dressed in gold. I thought he stunk before and he just Super Stinks now. He has poor coordination, poor timing, and is easily the least athletic looking person on the roster. He and Mazada combine to form one of the most uninteresting tag teams ever. Thankfully the match is short and fast, and it has Yamato and Kondo in it, who are both cool as hell. Skip it though.
ALL JAPAN JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
KAZ HAYASHI (c) vs. MINORU
Kaz broke the all time Jr. title defense record after defending the title 17 times. One of those defenses, the very FIRST actually, was against a freshly signed Minoru back in March of 2009. That match was one of my favorite matches of that year. It's extra special because it was a Juniors match that went over 30 MINUTES and didn't suck, but I thought it was a lot of fun and had an amazing finishing stretch.
This match isn't nearly as good as that one, but it is pretty fun. The opening 10 minutes are really great, with Kaz pretty much owning Minoru at every turn. Their counters are crisp and well executed and Kaz brings a lot of passion. The story seems to be that he's going to go hard early and not let this turn into a marathon. I loved his tope, as he didn't rebound off the ropes, he just made a snap decision to go for it.
Where the match falters is the 3rd quarter. They start hitting some bombs and the desperation and story isn't quite there. It just felt a little threw the motions. However they some how pulled me back in for the final stretch, which had some decent nearfalls. I actually didn't see the finish coming, as I didn't think Kaz would go out like that, but it was pretty sweet.
SUWAMA, SEIYA SANADA, & KAI vs. KEIJI MUTOH, MASAKATSU FUNAKI, & MINORU SUZUKI
They all pair up in the feeling out stages. Sanada ends up with Mutoh and comes out on top, out wrestling the Genius Wizard forcing him to tag in Funaki. Once Suwama comes in the vets start showing some of their strategy by pulling him to their corner and Triple Teaming the Triple Crown Champion. It's little things like three vets feeling a need to triple team a guy to gain control that really puts a guy over as a big deal.
The meat and potatoes of the match is pretty fun, especially when Mutoh catches up with Sanada and works his leg. They tease some tension between Suzuki and Mutoh, but the younger team can't take advantage of it. The Vets lock everyone into subs, and Suzuki hits his Gotch Pile Driver on KAI for the win.
Overall it was a really fun match. Some crisp work from guys like Funaki and Sanada. Sanada in particular is one of the best sellers in the company and his work with Mutoh made me really want to see a singles match between the two.
BUSHI & NOSAWA RONGAI vs. TSUYOCHI KIKUCHI & MASANOBU FUCHI
BUSHI used to be T28 waaaay back when, and I thought he had some raw talent that needed to be refined. He went to Mexico and refined it big time, changing his name and donning a mask to complete the transformation of awesomeness.
|He knows that ref is checking out his ass.|
RYOTA HAMA vs. YASUFUMI NAKANOUE
Nakanoue made his pro wrestling debut on January 2, 2010, exactly a year before, against Shuji Kondo. I haven't really gotten a good read on him yet, as he's shown plenty of athleticism and energy, but his personality is bland. Not that I'm going to pass judgement yet, he's a rookie and most rookies are like that. I remember think Hiroshi Yamato seemed like he'd be the lesser to KAI, or that Seiya Sanada and Manabu Soya were boring. All Japan seems to have a track record for churning out some fun rookies.
I don't care for Hama's look these days. As cool as the shirt is, I liked the singlet better. With the bleached hair and the shirt, Hama now looks like Axl Rotten kind of. Nakanoue gets a lot more in, but doesn't show much more than some should blocks and elbow strikes. He does kick out of a gross butt drop before taking the loss, but he's still not much to write home about.....for now.
HEAVYWEIGHT BATTLE ROYAL
The yearly battle royals are mostly for the comedy and this one provides a few laughs, mostly from Mutoh being so sneaky. He wins after helping Hama counter a sunset flip into a butt drop on Sanada for the pin and then hitting the sumo with the shining wizard for the win. Fun times.
These first two January shows are really fun ways to start off the year, with some decent wrestling, and the battle royals. This first night had some good stuff from Kaz/Minoru and the six/man tag. There's also some fun prospects to keep an eye on like Takumi Soya, and Nakanoue who may start to break out a little later this year.
UP NEXT: The New Year Shining Series 2011 continues with the January 3rd show where we get the All Asia Tag Champions(Sanada/Soya) defend against Kikuchi and Tamon Honda(sweet), the World Tag Champs(Kea/Akebono) defend against KONO and KENSO, and the Junior division has their battle royal.
Here's the six-man tag, if you're interested. It's a pretty good cross section of the kind of stuff you get from the company: