The Catch Up Column – Summer 2017 Part 2
September 3 2017
Falls Count Anywhere Five Way Tag Team Match
DAMNATION (Daisuke Sasaki & Tetsuya Endo) vs. ALL OUT (Konosuke Takeshita & Diego) vs. Gota Ihashi & Nobuhiro Shimatani vs. Mike Bailey & MAO vs. Sanshiro Takagi & Munenori Sawa
This is one of those wacky DDT concepts where they wrestle in a forest. So it is literally “falls count anywhere”. Sawa hasn’t wrestled regularly in six years but has suddenly reappeared in DDT so he can wrestle matches in forests wearing a suit. He takes two bumps before we’ve even started; selling the effects of Sasaki’s Super Soaker. Diego, in case you’re wondering, usually wrestles under the name “Guanchulo”. The Chilean has undergone a slight gimmick tweak.
They battle in a clearing to begin with, allowing all the fans (there’s about 200 people watching) to get a look before brawling around the ‘venue’, which is a forest. Mike Bailey’s spots are like something out of Jackass. At one point he uses a snowboard to slide down a path. Then there’s Ihashi, strolling out of a toilet armed with a bog brush. Wrestling! Sawa, despite the suit, goes for a more traditional approach; hooking an armbar around a tree.
Bailey decides to shimmy up a pole before being shot down by Sasaki and his Super Soaker. That’s a potent weapon.
Poor Sawa has his suit torn up by hoodlums! This leads to Mike Bailey putting on his glasses and pretending to be Clark Kent (I think). Naturally wrestlers gravitate to high ground/spots and Diego takes a bump off a shack before Bailey and MAO hit tandem moonsaults off it. It’s the Kota Ibushi mentality towards wrestling. If something is taller than man then it should be dived from. When that doesn’t sate Bailey’s need for dives he tries to climb a waterfall.
While the wrestlers are fairly creative; using whatever weapons come to hand, the match is extremely long for the content. It’s mostly just an excuse for 200 people to have some entertainment from goofballs while strolling through the forest. Like with all these matches DDT has a few surprises. At one point Higuchi shows up and challenges people to sumo matches. Takagi introduces the element of fire, which is probably not the best of ideas IN A FOREST. Neither is Mike Bailey setting fire to his face. Wrestlers are a different breed. You need a special mentality to even consider throwing yourself back first onto the ground in front of paying strangers. At one point MAO, with a lightsabre in his trunks, is threatening Higuchi with a plastic hammer he’s trying to set on fire…while wearing a pink bra. Higuchi defending himself by picking up a boulder and brandishing it like he’s King Kong. It’s a reminder that professional wrestling can take many forms.
Ultimately this experiment is just too long in its raw, unedited form and could have benefitted from clipping down to a highlights package from the 67 (!) minute match that it is. Highlights would certainly include Ihashi hiding in a treehouse and the other wrestlers shooting fireworks at him. Again this probably isn’t the best of ideas in a forest! Who’s going to stop Gota Ihashi from mucking around with fireworks though? Next up a drone flies past and Takagi throws a lightsabre at it. This is just like watching a $200M Hollywood Blockbuster! Sawa acquires a small motorbike and starts running people down. Not to be outdone DAMNATION borrow someone’s pick-up truck. Sasaki cackling with laughter after mowing down Takagi.
Sawa attempts to smash it off the road with his motorbike…with inevitable consequences. I love that the logical progression up from motorbike is Higuchi battling the truck with his sumo stance. And winning! Next is Takagi and Ihashi entering ‘mechs’ and there’s more fireworks! Gota literally gets hit in the face with one. The fans, more sensible than wrestlers, scurry out of harm’s way. Eventually they all pile into a river with the referee counting pins on the surface of the water. Takeshita claims the win, in spectacular fashion, by hitting a brainbuster through a table into the river!
Final Rating: The end of 2001 where Dave can only see stars
July 22 2017
Will Ospreay vs. Shane Sinclair
This is from SPW’s (New Zealand) Southern Rumble show, which is available on Demand Progress. It’s the opening match so it’s not hard to find on the 3-hour video. Sadly the venue is a working men’s club. They’ve dressed it up so it doesn’t look horrible and the focus is very much on the ring. Why is Ospreay here? Because he’s on holiday with his Kiwi girlfriend Bea Priestley. Why not sneak a booking in? Sinclair is solid on the mat but as soon as they go into sequences it becomes apparent he’s not accustomed to facing wrestlers of Ospreay’s pedigree. Will is generous, knowing Sinclair could use the rub, and sells a lot for him. They do a leg match but Will abandons that halfway through so he can do all the flips the crowd want to see. One of the best things about SPW is their camera angles. They’ve got one over the entrance, one at the back of the crowd, a roaming one at ringside and the positioning of the roaming cam impresses throughout; at one point shooting between the ropes from the corner to capture Ospreay’s corner dropkick.
Sinclair does maintain the storyline by going after a heel hook and kicking Ospreay’s leg out from under his, uh, leg. The match has impressive moments where Ospreay’s speed comes into play. Sinclair is solid enough to hang with Ospreay for the majority of the contest but it probably rumbles on too long. Shane eventually pisses Will off by spitting at him and Ospreay stomps the shit out of him. TK Cooper probably made the right decision in leaving New Zealand. While they have a scene, and it seems decent, the standard isn’t at the same level as the UK. Sinclair falls prey to the Oscutter and Ospreay picks up the win in his New Zealand debut. Post match Ospreay puts Sinclair over at length. He certainly has potential. Ospreay says he wants to live in New Zealand, basically because it’s a beautiful country.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Ashlee Spencer vs. Bea Priestley
I actually watched the match in between these two as well but it’s a squash in under a minute so hardly worth discussion. Anyway, I’m watching this because the whole Women’s Revolution in Pro Wrestling has allowed women’s wrestling to shine globally and every time I see a new talent lined up I’m interested in seeing what they’re like. Bea has been over in the UK. Spencer is a model turned wrestler and is the heel. She doesn’t have Bea’s toning but she has a decent look. She’s a bit too green to impress and has to rely on Bea running all her spots. Bea has improved a lot over the past year or so. Her timing is better now and her technical stuff is very tidy. Ashlee has the basics down and doesn’t embarrass herself but doesn’t do much to stand out either. The best part of her performance is her pre-match taped promo. SPW are good at stuff like that; making everything seem more professional.
A lot of what they do is fine although the occasional move doesn’t quite come off as planned. Bea is clearly further along in her work. Ashlee has trouble when she can’t see where she’s moving to, whereas Bea knows where the ropes are. The double stomp in the corner, Flawless Victory, takes it for Bea. This was fine. Ashlee has a lot of rough edges that need smoothing, something I’m sure is prevalent throughout the New Zealand scene. The same was definitely true of the UK just five years ago though so give it time.
Final Rating: **1/2
September 12 2017
Mae Young Classic Final
Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane
I’ve really enjoyed this tournament but it has lacked a big classic match up. They’ve done a fine job of building up to the two finalists; Baszler the MMA badass, Sane the experienced Japanese competitor with the huge elbow drop. Shayna had the best moment; practically challenging the WWE establishment and “Four Horsewomen” with her association with Ronda Rousey. Sane meanwhile has had the best matches; a blinder with in-house super rookie Bianca Belair and belting semi-final against Aussie Toni Storm. Other major highlights: Sane vs. Dakota Kai, Toni vs. Piper Niven and Shayna vs. Mia Yim. All excellent matches but not quite good enough to make the Mae Young Classic stand out for it’s in-ring.
Shayna has no big match experience but she has big crowd experience from UFC. Kairi has big match experience from Stardom and she has the tools to put the match together. Shayna the personality and charisma. It’s a pity the final is taking place in Las Vegas. It lacks the Full Sail atmosphere. Shayna is focused and driven. She goes after submissions and chains from one to another, aiming to wipe out Kairi’s arm. Kairi, by comparison, goes after flash pins and varied counters. Sane has a few moves that require distance and any time she gives Shayna space Kairi gets into trouble. As the match progresses Kairi Sane definitely has the fan support, which works in great contrast to crowd shots of Rousey screaming her support for Shayna. They tussle up top, Shayna gets double stomped and the Insane Elbow finishes for Kairi. The right woman won but I can’t help but feel the final was lacking in the sense of epic that was required. It was very good, as lots of the tournament matches have been. Ultimately the whole tournament seems to have existed as a way to get Kairi Sane over.
Final Rating: ***1/2
July 2 2017
Back off to Long Beach for the G1 US Special. I’ve already taken a look at night one so here are the main antics from night two. I was planning on covering a lot of the undercard but the lure of Tanahashi vs. Billy Gunn was just too much.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Billy Gunn
This is literally a match that happened this year. “It should be an interesting match up” says Jim Ross. All the Bullet Club fans in the crowd get on Billy’s case. Billy looked good during a brief NJPW run during World Tag League last year (teaming with the dreaded Yoshitatsu as the Bullet Club Hunters). He looks less capable here, entirely out of his element against an all-time great professional wrestler in Tanahashi. Even at his peak Billy was athletically good but was never a main event player. Many aborted WWE pushes is evidence of this. Meanwhile Tanahashi looks in rough shape, carrying a torn bicep and mentally chilling out before having to wrestle during G1. On Tanahashi’s comeback Billy looks really, really old. He’s aged a great deal since Tag League. The match is pedestrian at best, with Tana taking a few big bumps here and there. It’s a match highlighted by the Eternal Ace having his buttocks exposed because “Mr Ass”. The ideas aren’t bad but the execution is flat, thanks mainly to Gunn’s advanced years. Tana survives the Jackhammer, the One and Only and the FameASSer. Tanahashi has one last gag in the tank, yelling “suck it” before hitting the High Fly Flow. This was an intriguing concept but the execution simply wasn’t there unfortunately. If Billy had been able to give it his all it could have been a neat curio. But yeah, nothing doing.
Final Rating: **1/4
IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii
This is the final of the US title tournament. Omega is looking to showcase his extraordinary talent, which drew a fair sized chunk of this crowd. Our Kenneth has been presented with quite the challenge; five and a half feet of pure, unadulterated Japanese rage! “Look at this tough son of a bitch” says Josh Barnett.
Yes, lets! The locals, mostly sporting Bullet Club tees, side with Omega and The The Elite. Hey, he’s the local (from Canada!) so I’ll cut them some slack. Omega has tremendous innovative offence but that’s met with the wall of violence that is Ishii. It’s two wrestlers who love to take things to extremes and the match is nuts. It’s a prime example of New Japan Pro Wrestling without giving away one of their big showcase matches (Okada-Tanahashi, Okada-Naito etc). Ishii is the man who can bring you an excellent main event but you know NJPW are never going full bore on his push so he can carry a B level show, like this, and help advance Omega’s character. Mainly through taking the most sickening of Kenny’s spots; like the missile dropkick to the back of the head. How is Ishii able to just stand there and take those shots? When he starts marching into Kenny’s forearms he’s in the process of reinventing the concept of no selling. Omega goes to dragon suplex Ishii off the apron and Ishii bites the rope to survive it!
This is ridiculous stuff. I love it. Then Omega dragon suplexes him through a table. Holy shit. One of the most vicious table spots I’ve ever seen. I figured the table wasn’t positioned right for the actual spot but they didn’t give a fuck. They just hit that son of a bitch, necks be damned! If Ishii had a neck it would be shattered into a million pieces. From there Kenny unleashes the V-Triggers, Ishii batters him for it and they hit each other so hard the crowd has no other possible response than a standing ovation during a double down. They go epic(er!) with finisher theft. The match solidifies Kenny’s position as New Japan’s International Showstealer. Just when you think it’s finished, thanks to a mass of strikes, Ishii no sells and Omega does something even more ridiculous to put him back down and Ishii continues to no sell! Eventually he gets Ishii up for the One Winged Angel and that’s it. My word this was tremendous. Ishii’s resilience, especially after being driven through the table, was incredible. This was an absolute WAR. I loved it. It’s even more astonishing that he had this match 24 hours after the Elgin match!
Final Rating: ****3/4
August 8 2017
Over Generation (Eita, Takehiro Yamamura & Kaito Ishida) vs. MaxiMum (Kotoka, Ben-K & Big R Shimizu)
Ok, so I’ve not seen any Dragon Gate in ages but instead of trying to force myself into watching a big-time match I’m going to slide back in with a throwaway trios match from Korakuen Hall, which involves a lot of the newer talent that I’m less familiar with. Ben-K has a big reputation. I’m only really familiar with Eita, Big R and Kotoka. And the latter looks completely different from the last time I saw him. This is exactly what I want from Dragon Gate; fast paced craziness with a minimal respect for the rules of professional wrestling. Lucharesu out the ass. It’s a reminder that if selling is your thing then Dragon Gate is not for you, AT ALL. The match is suitably fast paced with frequent changes of participants. It’s very spotty but it’s a style that has been adopted, albeit in moderation, by virtually every other promotion on the planet. Nobody really stands out but Big R is probably my favourite guy in the match as he does big powerhouse moves while everyone else is doing the same stuff. Eita submits Kotoka to get the win. This was fine. I enjoyed it. My previous complaints about Dragon Gate remain valid. I think their matches are too samey and while I enjoy the style I can’t watch an entire show of it, especially when their shows are 3-5 hours long. I’m looking forward to seeing CIMA, Eita and Mochizuki in the UK when they’re over.
Final Rating: ***1/2
June 6 2017
Shotaro Ashino (c) vs. Koji Doi
Wrestle-1 is a peculiar place. After fucking up KAI’s run on top they ended up using Yuji Hino to bail themselves out and just when he’d established himself as one of the best possible choices as champion they took it off him. I lost interest. I’ve come back because Wrestle-1 decided to put the title on Shotaro Ashino, which is a pretty radical concept as he debuted in February 2015. They’ve put the future of the promotion in the hands of a virtual rookie. Doi is the same age, 27, but he has more experience. He was one of the guys in Tajiri’s SMASH promotion that Wrestle-1 bought out in 2014.
He’s a handsome young man, with well maintained hair and just a hint of a beer gut. Suggesting he’s going to be one of those heavy-hitting bastards over the course of his career. Seeing as SANADA went from here right into Los Ingobernables de Japon, maybe we should be paying attention to Wrestle-1 as a potential breeding ground for future NJPW top talent. Koji Doi is an asshole. He gets bigger every time I see him, thanks to intense weight lifting. Unlike our boy Ashino he’s not out sinking pints with the Yakuza every night. He’s in the gym, lifting heavy things like a boring fucker. It turns out Ashino has turned into an absolute savage. He wants to mangle Doi’s leg and mutilate that swine’s knee so he can’t stand and can’t lift anything and can’t piss him off anymore. The crank he gets on a simple leglock is fucking beautiful. If Doi would actually sell the leg that would help but hey, it’s 2017 and nobody bothers with that anymore. The match is at it’s best when they’re both on the mat. It’s the strength of both and they love a submission hold. Doi also has a lot of rage and they love the suplexes and strikes. It turns into a meaty contest between two manly men. Ashino is persistent with his leg abuse and keeps catching the anklelock. Eventually he hooks it in the middle of the ring and Doi hasn’t got the energy to crawl into the ropes. He tries to stop himself from tapping out but the pain becomes too much.
Final Rating: ****
I missed quite a lot of stuff this year and that’s with me watching wrestling like a lunatic. There’s more besides this so I’ll keep on dipping my toes into the unknown each week and coming up with yet more weekly round up columns. Watch this space.