Zero1 Fire Festival Final
July 29 2018 (Aired August 5 2018)
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall as the Fire Festival comes to a conclusion. Not a lot it made air.
Ikuto Hidaka & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Isami Kodaka & Yoshikazu Yokoyama
An inauspicious beginning to one of Zero1’s biggest shows of the year. Yokoyama is useless and Takaiwa is looking very old. At 46 years old he should still have something in the tank but his mobility is severely shot and he only looks competent in the stand up. There’s a lot of Yokoyama comedy here where he insists on strolling slowly across the ring with his hands in his pockets, therefore getting caught. Takaiwa murders Kodaka for chuckles and finishes Yokoyama with the Death Valley Driver. Way too much Yokoyama but when Kodaka was in there it was pretty good.
Final Rating: **
Shoki Kitamura vs. TARU
Shoki is very young and inexperienced. They’ve thrown him in there with TARU to see what happens. TARU has never been a particularly good wrestler but here a strength is revealed. He’s quite good at walking a youngster through a passable match. He just about clings on to his character and wins with an armbar. This was strangely ok.
Final Rating: **
Takuya Sugawara, Super Tiger & Hiroshi Yamato vs. Shinjiro Otani, Shogun Okamoto & Tsugutaka Sato
Sato is a Wrestle-1 rookie, presumably here to offset the Wrestle-1 presence of Yamato. Speaking of whom; Yamato has an issue with Otani based on their battling contest that made air. Yamato wants to prove he can not only beat Otani, which he did, but also dominate him in the ring. Otani ends up impressed with his capacity to fight and they end up slugging it out in the middle of the ring before Otani has his jacket off.
Sato is your typical black trunks kid. Bright eyes, eager to please, easily fired up. His sequences are my second favourite in the match behind a fired up Otani laying it into Yamato. I’m also fond of Shogun Okamoto. He looks like he dropped out of Big Japan’s Strong division. He has that ‘Okabayashi sans the diet’ look. The beauty of Yamato vs. Otani is they just had a banging match in the Fire Festival so all that chemistry spills over.
Otani plants Yamato with the Spiralbomb for the win, compensation for taking the loss in the Fire Festival itself. Otani was so impressed with Yamato’s battling character that he wants them to become a tag team!
Final Rating: ***1/2
SUGI vs. Jiro Kuroshio
Kuroshio is the 6th most popular wrestler in Japan according to a poll taken of fans across the country. I’ve always found his character to be interesting but his in-ring isn’t particularly good. SUGI doesn’t care for him and jumps Jiro while he’s doing all his bullshit entrance.
When I heard this was a draw I was dreading 20 minutes of Kuroshio but they kill a lot of time in the crowd. They end up teasing an insane spot where SUGI is stuck on top of the entranceway and Kuroshio shimmies up some pipes to jump off the balcony! Common sense prevails and no one dies.
The fact SUGI dangles off the balcony while Jiro is punching him in the face is testament to the man’s absolute insanity. They disappear in and out of doors, using props like a dolly and crutches. They give everyone in the crowd the chance at a close up look. It’s a wild match. Your mileage may vary as the actual wrestling is very limited and the ring rarely comes into play. It’s an extension of Kuroshio’s banterous entrance where he keeps avoiding the ring.
— Arn – no sleep only #g128 (@ArnoldFurious) August 6, 2018
When SUGI gets in a run of moves the match is operating at its absolute peak. His rope work is incredible. It’s one stunning piece of offence after another. Who runs along the top rope? It’s madness. Kuroshio can’t hold up his end and there are a few dramatic counters where he just blows the move. They go strong towards the finish with SUGI’s Firebird Splash coming close to getting a fall. Neither guy can get it done and we have a 20 minute draw. If Kuroshio had the in-ring ability to match how over he is he’d be fucking huge. As it stands he’s a great little side attraction but he’s not on SUGI’s level.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Yuji Hino & Hartley Jackson vs. Masato Tanaka & Chris Vice
This is an interesting tag because they’re throwing the gaijin, who are both big dudes, in with the established domestic guys.
I was kinda hoping to see Hino vs. Tanaka in a more important fixture but seeing them go at it here confirms what I suspected; it’ll be a damn fun singles match. Vice gets really into the concept of big chops with Hino and both gaijin step their game up. Bonus points to Hartley for doing the ‘chop me’ Hino pose and getting knocked on his ass by a big elbow smash. The majority of the match is gritty and violent but with tongue somewhat in cheek. This is the Hino Factor. I kinda love him for wanting to do the slightly goofy stuff as part of the intense striking duels that dominate many Japanese matches. It helps that both he and Tanaka are great strikers and the bulk of the match is a combination of guys battering each other. If you’re someone who likes the ‘Big Lads’ style you’ll probably get a lot of enjoyment out of this. Vice murders Hartley with the Package Piledriver for the win.
Final Rating: ****
All four guys celebrate together, showing their love of the game.
When you're on the sesh and you can't handle it as well as your mates pic.twitter.com/VHHnBTo1Ti
— Arn – no sleep only #g128 (@ArnoldFurious) August 7, 2018
Fire Festival Final
Kohei Sato vs. Yuko Miyamoto
Sato won in 2015 but Miyamoto is only in his second Fire Festival after finishing fifth last year. Zero1 have had to amend their booking somewhat after their ace Yusaku Obata got badly injured. Sato is the most successful wrestler in Zero1 history, having held the title five times for a combined 1000+ days. It’s basically him and current champion Masato Tanaka and no one else is close. So it makes sense for Zero1 to have Sato create a fresh challenger in import Miyamoto. They’re quick to establish Miyamoto as the real deal here, having him go 50-50, especially on the mat. While Miyamoto has a strong reputation as a death match wrestler his other attributes are often overlooked. This match gives us a good look at Miyamoto’s all-round technical skill and capacity to trade with a bigger opponent on strikes.
They also do a fine job of building Sato as a monster. One who dominates not only with his size but with his skill. So Miyamoto has to go deeper into his bag of tricks to stand up to the big man. So he uses the ropes and varies his offence. It’s an impressive performance but the crowd doesn’t get into the match as much as I’d hoped. Miyamoto really needs to take more of a beating before the end of the match, which Kohei realises and Miyamoto takes an absolute thrashing with suplexes and a big piledriver. There’s a very nice near fall where Miyamoto gets his foot on the rope and he it’s so subtle he has to tell the ref about it! The height difference does cause a few issues. Miyamoto’s Fire Thunder Driver sees him release Sato in mid air and Kohei faceplant it. Moonsault finishes and Miyamoto picks up a huge win.
I expect a war from my Fire Festival final and I didn’t get that here but Zero1 knew what they were doing, putting on a war right beforehand to satisfy the likes of me. The final was fine and Miyamoto employed a range of tactics to overcome the bigger, more experienced opponent. Tactically it was a good match but it wasn’t that exciting. It’s like a football match where two managers are very tactically gifted and create a game of chess when I’d rather watch two teams who can’t defend for shit having a 5-4 with all manner of uncoordinated goal mouth action. I’m a philistine. That said, this might be my favourite Miyamoto singles match without stipulations attached.
Final Rating: ****
This was a really good show. The card had terrific range. The Otani trios tag had the Otani/Yamato storyline running throughout and felt substantial. The SUGI/Kuroshio match was a crazy affair, covering almost the entire building. The Tanaka/Hino tag was a war between a bunch of big lads. Reminiscent of the Big Japan strong division tags from a few years ago where everything was great. And the main event was a logical contest that felt like a big deal and established Miyamoto as a star in Zero1. Zero1 have had rotten luck with injuries and are not a well regarded promotion in any sense but occasionally they put on a show that really worth your time. The January one with Tanaka/Obata was one. Yasakuni Shrine was one. This is another.