Differ Ariake (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
The first defense by Ogawa and Sabre Jr. since regaining NOAH’s version of the junior tag team titles is a really excellent junior tag team bout. This match contained a lot of the elements that I think of when I think of junior or cruiserweight tag team wrestling. One of the things in pro wrestling history that I am most disappointed that we never got see was the WCW Cruiserweight tag team division for any extended period of time. I imagine this match is a lot like what the best matches from that division would have eventually looked like.
The pace is quick but not in a move-a-second kind of way. The quickness comes from frequent tags, constant movement, changing up holds, and frequent saves. Ogawa and Sabre Jr. attack Tonai’s arm with a fast, unrelenting, and varied offense. They clearly had a solid game plan for their offensive portions of this match and the execution is pretty spot-on. Ogawa is a veteran in every sense of the word and Sabre Jr. makes his living attacking the arm so the champions had no shortage of fun ways of going after Tonai’s arm.
The challengers – both from Taka Michinoku’s K-Dojo promotion – are a fun, fiery underdog team. Their matching white pants and general offense reminded me a bit of 2001-era WCW Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi & Jimmy Yang), although a bit more on the green side. I thought their comebacks were good and they more than matched the quick pace of their opponents. Tonai sold the heck out of the beating his arm took. He and Asahi walked away from the loss with me wanting to see more of them which is always a positive sign of a quality match.
If there was a flaw in the match structure, it is that the hot tag – particularly the first one by Tonai after his arm was destroyed for a lengthy period – lacked some drama. The K-Dojo team is not entirely polished but – to continue the WCW 2001 cruiserweight comparisons – are much more 2001 Shannon Moore unpolished than 2001 Jimmy Yang unpolished.
Those are largely nitpicks though and whatever drama the hot tags lacked, they made up for with a hot finish. It was clear after the first few minutes where the match was heading. The champs arm attack was so focused that it was certainly going to payoff in the end with some sort of arm bar submission. However, they did enough stuff in the middle that made the journey to the finish blow by. When Sabre Jr. just wrenches viciously at Tonai’s arm at about the 14-minute mark and Tonai finally gives, it is a satisfying payoff. You feel like Tonai has taken all that he can handle – no more, no less.
I thought this was as good as any junior match I’ve seen this year, up there with the DDT Openweight title match from March. It was well-executed and a lot of fun all the way around.
Junior Tag | Watch It | Quality