Kaientai Dojo Grand Slam
January 13 2019
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. It’s been a very, very long time since I saw any Kaientai Dojo. Not since I wrote the puroresu book and that was about four years ago. In an attempt to watch different puro promotions this year I’m dipping back in to see what they’re up to.
Hiroshi Yamato & Takuho Kato vs. TAKA Michinoku & Tatsuya Hanami
Yamato’s crooner gimmick is genuinely fascinating to me.
Is he preparing for a secondary career as a lounge singer? Across the ring is K-Dojo’s head honcho TAKA, who is winding down his career due to an extramarital affair that made headlines in Japan. He’s currently having his salary garnished as punishment for being a scumbag. Hanami is less than a year into his career and still at the black trunks/black boots/no kneepads stage of his life. Kato is the same, only with slightly more experience over in Big Japan. He is exceptionally bad at cutting off the pin break-up spot. He looks far more at home taking it to TAKA. They build them burly in Big Japan and he has the look of machine in the making. Hanami has flashes of brilliance. His missile dropkick is a peach. Boston crab finishes off Hanami with Kato shrugging off an eye rake in the process from TAKA. He’s toned those eyes up! Been pumping eye iron!
Final Rating: **3/4
Ayame Sasamura & Aki Shizuku vs. Tsukasa Fujimoto & Rina Shingaki
The ladies are up in match two. Sasamura starts with Fujimoto, who’s the only wrestler in this match I’m sure I’ve seen before. Sasamura looks incredibly smooth and I figure her for a veteran of some kind only to discover she debuted in 2017! Wow. I don’t know why this is but the standard of newer joshi wrestlers is exceptionally high. To the point where the rookies are constantly making their elders look inferior. The match isn’t as good when Fujimoto vs. Sasamura isn’t the focus.
There are some interesting choices in this, for sure. Sasamura jumping on Shizuku’s back for her to charge into an opponent on the ropes is just weird and not impactful enough. Sasamura puts Shingaki down for the pin. Sasamura is exceptional considering her experience and will be one to watch in a few years.
Final Rating: **1/4
Kengo Mashimo & Kyu Mogami vs. Makoto Oishi & Shiori Asahi
Oishi is probably better known for his DDT work but he’s been a K-Dojo guy from his debut way back in 2002. The only guy I don’t know is Mogami as he’s not ventured out of D-Dojo much as yet. Big Japan have been booking him so maybe I’ll see him more this year. He is familiar though as he’s one of the four commentators for this show so he’s been sat in the picture in picture for the past 45 minutes. Asahi slips a little comedy in here with cobra kung-fu. That’s all there is to write home about in a frankly paint-by-numbers tag. At this point I wish this show was clipped. There are a lot of weird double teams at the end but the finish itself is very cool.
Any tag teams looking for a cool new move. The set up is a bit elaborate but the outcome is neat. pic.twitter.com/KaMaWKWfgj
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) February 3, 2019
While this match was a bit wonky the finish will stick with me.
Final Rating: **1/2
Ricky Fuji, Bambi, Yasu Urano & Yoshiro Horaguchi vs. Chojin Yusha G Valion, Dinosaur Takuma, Kotaro Yoshino & Yuma
Fuji still looks like Mickey Rourke in the Wrestler, only he’s powered through a heart attack and is still stumbling through life. He’s now 53 years old and hasn’t been good since the 90s. He’s the leader of the one ramshackle group. The other side is a circus ringmaster and a parade of freaks (including a caveman and a shoot dinosaur). Chojin is trying for a career in lucha-libre and is keen on roll ups. He does quite a lot on Urano in one of the better sequences.
There’s a lot of weird shit happening too.
Today has peaked early pic.twitter.com/t7ZGy0PlYV
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) February 3, 2019
Sadly the ball only makes one brief appearance before Horaguchi hits the German suplex for the pin. This was not a very good match but there were a lot of good characters. I love the balance ball top rope spot. I spent a good five minutes on pause watching the GIF back.
Final Rating: *1/2
UWA World Middleweight Championship
Kaji Tomato (c) vs. Ayuma Honda
I love how Japanese promotions resurrect old American belts because they want the prestige and history attached. The UWA belt was a big deal in Mexico in the 70s and 80s. K-Dojo brought it back in 2002. Tomato is on his fifth reign. Honda goes after the arm to create a focal point for the storyline of the match. He works the right side too, to respect the lucha origins of this title belt. His dogged determination to break Tomato’s arm, and stop his cheerleading dance ways, is a major highlight of the contest.
The persistence of Honda makes it feel like the only possible outcome of this match is a submission via armbar. The work it so hard that it feels to be the only possible finish. Kaji survives though and counters into Red Eye for the pin. The arm story was good but Honda’s failure to finish was due to him getting frustrated at a lack of submission and trying other things, only to get ended for it. Good story. Tidy match.
Final Rating: ***1/4
STRONGEST-K Tag Team Championship
Moonlight Express (c) vs. Ayato Yoshida & Tank Nagai
MAO & Bailey won these titles a few weeks back…and then missed the train to DDT and thus ended up in the main event for DDT against each other because DDT had to reshuffle the entire card.
I’m very excited about this match because Bailey has been killing it recently. It doesn’t matter where he is or who he’s wrestling against it’s been fantastic. MAO is in a bit of a funny mood. He definitely works heel and makes a point of hooking chinlocks and begging off. Bailey leans towards heel a little bit but he’s far too nice to actually wrestle like a dick. He just throws more kicks.
Yoshida is probably my favourite K-Dojo guy and he has nice interactions with both champs. Tank meanwhile is a powerhouse hot tag and that works well too. Both the champs are good at taking bumps for that kind of stuff. Tank’s diving shoulderblock is a favourite of mine. MAO seems to relish working heel but it doesn’t stop him being effortlessly good at coming off the ropes as well.
— Arn (@ArnoldFurious) February 3, 2019
The only thing that stops this match reaching a higher level is that Moonlight Express are natural babyfaces due to all their offence. I’m excited to see how they get used this year in DDT. The potential is there for some major show stealing performances. They retain here in an excellent performance. They’re a team to watch out for in 2019.
Final Rating: ****
Taishi Takizawa (c) vs. Shu Asakawa
Takizawa has held this belt for 455 days. Behind Kengo Mashimo’s 2006-2008 reign it’s the longest title reign in K-Dojo history. Takizawa has an odd claim to fame. He has one WWE match and it was on NXT #2, in a losing effort to a debuting Seth Rollins. A few weeks later Seth won Gold Rush and was the first NXT champion. To say they’ve had divergent careers since would be an understatement. I’ve never fully bought into him and he has that same lack of urgency here that’s always bothered me. His work is very deliberate and the bumps he dishes out look very safe. Part of modern wrestling is making your shit look super dangerous when it’s actually not. Takizawa just looks too soft. I don’t find him interesting. And he does a lot of chinlocks. Asakawa isn’t much better. He strikes me as a poor man’s Suwama. Mainly because of the blonde streak in his hair.
The match definitely picks up after a dull opening ten minutes or so. They start laying in some chops and Takizawa hits an Asai moonsault. It’s still a bit sluggish but it has moments of excitement and intensity, which is a massive upgrade. If they’d worked the whole match like this I’d be more inclined to like it. The trouble is, it just takes too long to get going. Asakawa tags Takizawa with a great lariat but unfortunately opts to add in a “Burning Lariat” afterwards for the pin. There’s a major issue with that. Unless you’re hench as fuck it doesn’t look good. Asakawa has a midcard body and the finish looks like crap. Another black mark against the match.
In an attempt to be fair to this match there was a five minute spell near the end where it got better but my experience with K-Dojo is that their main events are boring and this was no exception.
Final Rating: ***
The main event is fine but it’s not worth 25 minutes of your time. The semi-main is much better but it is Moonlight Express so it was always going to be good. The rest of the card is ok and some of it is different enough to make it worth watching Kaientai Dojo but with so many shows and so many companies this will find it hard to get into my regular rotation. Near impossible based on this.