227 Lounge (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
27-year old New Japan wrestler Takaaki Watanabe has been floating around US Indies since last October as part of his learning excursion. He hasn’t done much during his eight month stay here. Originally assigned to Pro Wrestling Syndicate in New Jersey (despite the fact that PWS runs one show per month at most), Watanabe has only recently begun to get more regular work with Texas-area independent promotions, Smash Wrestling in Toronto, and Ring of Honor. This is the fourth or fifth time I have seen him and it is the best he has looked during his stay in the US.
Watanabe is such a prick in this match and a natural one at that. The story to set this match up was that Watanabe fouled Hero to elimination him from Smash’s 5-way championship decision match last month. Watanabe looks to still be satisfied with himself for his prior month’s actions. He has a very natural, subtle smirking-heel charisma about him.
Hero is less chipper of a mood and attacks Watanabe as soon as the bell sounds. After praising Hero (along with A.J. Styles) earlier in the year for bringing some much-needed slow build to the US Indie matches they are involved in, Hero has largely eschewed that in recent matches of his I have watched in favor of a more explosive start. In general, it is not a step up but it worked here given the backstory and the fact that Watanabe bailed at the first opportunity. That drew some nice heat and allowed the match to restart after Hero’s fiery start.
Watanabe showed very good heel instincts like that throughout the match. He posted for the crowd when he had the advantage, casually kicking Hero’s head to toy with him. At one point when the two wrestlers ended up outside the ring, he threw a chair in the ring that former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas quickly retrieved. As Korderas did so, Watanabe took advantage of the decoy by grabbing another chair which he walloped Hero with. The best of the lot was probably when he went up top for a move and Hero retreated to the opposite corner to avoid the move. Watanabe jumped off the rope and made the universal signs for indicating that someone is scared. Of course Hero made him pay for that and Watanabe bailed right after, immediately paying off the taunt.
Hero can overdo the big strikes from time to time but that wasn’t the case here. He hit a lot of them but it didn’t feel like the overkill that it sometimes become. The ending stretch was really fun with Watanabe fouling Hero yet again, but this time only getting a 2-count. Each guy kicked out of a signature move from the other (Hero’s roaring elbow and Watanabe’s back drop suplex) before a second roaring elbow put Watanabe down for good.
This was a fun match and it was nice to see both guys working with a solid in-ring backstory. Watanabe faces Christopher Daniels next month in Smash and it would be surprising to me if it was as good as this match. This one made me want to see a rubber match somewhere down the road between these two.
US Indies | Common | Quality & Performance (Watanabe)