Wrestle-1 Tour Sunrise (1.5.19) review

Wrestle-1 Tour Sunrise (1.5.19) review

Wrestle-1 Tour 2019 Sunrise

 

January 5 2019

 

We’re in Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan. This is Wrestle-1’s first show of 2019 and they’re kicking off with a bang. Shotaro Ashino, W-1’s ace, and champion for the majority of the last two years, defending against Strong Hearts’ own ace T-Hawk. Who will come out on top?

 

We’re greeted by the Wrestle-1 roster and Keiji Muto who wishes us a Happy New Year.

W12Muto

Then participants in the 10-man tag match draw lots to see who’s on what team. That would be ace if it wasn’t gimmicked in any way. It means Ashino’s faction is split across two teams. Expect shenanigans.

 

Ryuji Hijikata vs. Ryuki Honda

I’ve only watched two full Wrestle-1 cards in the past year and I’m getting opening match déjà vu already. The idea behind this is that Honda is gradually improving in his bid to become a star in Wrestle-1 and getting closer to besting seasoned veteran Hijikata. He comes up short here and we all move on with our lives knowing that one day, one precious day, he might win.

Final Rating: **

 

Hajime & Masayuki Mitomi vs. Takumi Baba & Shota Nagagawa

Mitomi and Hajime are enjoying an angle where they don’t get along, presumably leading to a useful undercard feud. Baba looks pretty decent for a 19 year old and shows flashes of real potential. Hajime wanting to do a brainbuster and Mitomi going for a backdrop driver at the same time is chucklesome. Then they switch. Mitomi eventually suplexing his partner because he can’t figure the process out.

Hajime and Mitomi get on the same page after Baba (it’s actually Nakagawa) dies on this dive. Mitomi then picks off Baba for the pin. I really enjoyed the Hajime/Mitomi antics here. It takes a special kind of chemistry to deliberately screw things up and then click back together.

Final Rating: **3/4

 

Shuji Kondo, Manabu Soya, Kenichiro Arai, MAZADA & Alejandro vs. Masayuki Kono, Kuma Arashi, Yusuke Kodama & Daiki Inaba

The random nature of these teams is due to them drawing lots pre-show. So Arai is on the opposite team to his mates Arashi and Kodama and makes the mistake of reaching for them for a tag. Having not closely followed Wrestle-1 there are some subtleties lost on me here as various people had allegiances, or have allegiances, with opposition and banter ensues. Kodama is someone I keep my eye on here as Alan4L said he moves like Eddie Guerrero and I’ll be damned; he does! Simple things like the way he moves his opponent into the corner or jumps through the ropes. It’s all very Guerrero-esque. He’s also a uniquely character driven wrestler who’s over with me for the character and the technique. Increasingly I find myself focusing in on what he’s doing, even when he’s not in the ring, to the detriment of the match but he’s fucking fascinating!

 

One of the main stories of the contest is Alejandro going after big man Kono and trying to score an upset win. He does score the upset pin here but it’s on Arashi with an assist from MAZADA. This was great fun but I did get very distracted by Kodama. That boy is sublimely talented.

W12Alejandro

Final Rating: ***

 

Tajiri vs. Pegaso Illuminar

W12Pegaso

This is only my second time watching Pegaso. He impressed me a lot in the first bout. Working against elder statesman Tajiri is a different experience. Tajiri is very deliberate and keen to slow the pace. What irritates me about Tajiri is that companies keep booking him in long matches, which forces him to slow down as he doesn’t have the conditioning of even two years ago. Stop giving him 15 minutes lads! The result is half the match is grinding rest holds. Pegaso gets over surviving the abuse but it sure is dull. When the match hits a higher gear Pegaso is exposed and struggles with the basic high spot work like dropkicks and climbing up top.

Suddenly it’s like he’s forgotten how to do everything. It get to the point where I’m screaming at him to just tap out and end this when Tajiri hooks one of his many chinlocks. Tajiri buzzsaw kicks him twice for the win. This was horrible. Tajiri connected with some good kicks towards the end but that was it.

Final Rating: *

 

Jiro Kuroshio, Kaz Hayashi, Andy Wu & Jun Tondokoro vs. Strong Hearts (CIMA, Seiki Yoshioka, El Lindaman & Duan Yingnan)

Ikemen represents the happy go lucky Wrestle-1, out here to oppose the evils of Strong Hearts. Andy Wu has a sword.

W12WU

I like how irritated Kaz gets with Ikemen doing his never ending entrance. I discovered this week how divisive Ikemen’s entrance is. It’s widely hated but also beloved. Strong Hearts don’t like it and jump Kuroshio in the crowd during it instead of waiting to be introduced. Which is a pretty great heel tactic. Strong Hearts as a unit are pretty great. They come across like a Dragon Gate unit displaced to another promotion and that creates these wonderful fast-paced multi-man matches that DG do so well. Yingnan with his relative inexperience is a weak point but he’s coming along quickly and does crazy stuff.

The rest of the match is almost pedestrian compared to this although that’s largely because they’re going through spots I’ve seen before. The pacing remains energetic. Yingnan’s next trick is backflipping across the ring into a standing moonsault as if he’d measured the distance out beforehand and knew exactly how many flips he needed to land it perfectly. Tondokoro is a guy I really like and he’s full of beans here, hitting an English style dropkick off the apron and flatback bumping onto the floor like a lunatic. He just pops back up afterwards too! Hey, I’m fine, spine not damaged. If I did that spot I’d be lying down for a week. Even Kuroshio is popping off wacky spots like a slingshot springboard Arabian press. It’s a frantically paced match. They increase the pace down the stretch with repeated saves. CIMA ends up pinning Kuroshio after giving him a barrage of knee strikes and Meteora is the killing blow.

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Final Rating: ****

 

Wrestle-1 Championship

Shotaro Ashino (c) vs. T-Hawk

Ashino is a prick but he’s Wrestle-1’s prick. T-Hawk is a prick from Strong Hearts. Ashino is keen to impress upon T-Hawk how little respect he has for him, after beating his boss CIMA at their last show. So he stands there and lets T-Hawk chop him to show the punk that his best shots have no effect at all. T-Hawk’s response is to start working around Ashino’s strengths and eroding his base. Not by working the legs, as an idiot would do, but by targeting the lower back and cutting off the root of his power.

W12Ashino

Ashino decides the logical response to this is to break T-Hawk’s ankle. This is the mentality of Ashino. He’s not randomly working a body part for no reason, he intends to break that ankle and force T-Hawk to tap out the same way he made CIMA tap out.

W12thawk

The Giant Swing into the standing Stretch Muffler is quite the thing! Basically Ashino is treating T-Hawk like a bitch. The great thing about the match is that T-Hawk is out here to prove he’s better than Ashino, better than Wrestle-1 and isn’t going to quit because his leg’s a bit sore. Meanwhile those chops are starting to finally have an effect and Ashino is showing signs of weakness. It’s a war though. If T-Hawk is to unseat the champ he’s going to pay for it by being battered and bruised in the process. There’s a great sequence where Ashino grabs the ankle lock and refuses to let go that’s very reminiscent of the CIMA/Ashino finish in the tag from Boxing Day. The difference here being T-Hawk breaking free with kicks and slaps.

They do a fantastic near finish where T-Hawk hits Knight Rider and CIMA just walks into the ring despite Ashino kicking out. As if nobody was going to kick out of that. Then T-Hawk finishes with a knee to the face. Ahhhh, this was so good. I’ve seen a lot of matches from Japan so far this year where a top guy has to face the challenge of someone new and while they’ve almost all been good matches none of them has really hit the highs of this. The technique, the strategy and the intensity here were all wonderful. It probably lacks the highs of say KAI vs. Miyahara but it’s consistently good and ticks all my boxes for loving pro wrestling.

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

Summary:

This show is a lot of nothing until the top two matches rolled around and by god did the show ever pick up at that point! I’ve been marginally disappointed by some big matches from Japan so far this year but this one totally delivered. Behind Tanahashi/Omega the main event is my favourite match of 2019 so far.

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