HARASHIMA vs. Isami Kodaka
March 21, 2016
Sumo Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
It does not bother me much if a luchador working a show in front of 200 people tries a bunch of stuff that doesn’t quite hit its mark. It doesn’t bother me when CMLL under card wrestlers do the same (Flyer!) or when student matches on IWRG shows are nothing but wrestlers trying shit out. There is a time to try things and situations like those are that time. While I am not exactly worked into a tizzy when a main event match in a fairly big promotion is rough around the edges due to the wrestlers trying out complicated spots, it does have a more substantial effect on my enjoyment of the match.
Harashima and Kodaka wrestled a main event title match in one of Japan’s most historic pro wrestling venues in front of over 6,000 fans for a promotion that is the 3rd biggest in Japan currently. There are certain expectations that come with that. The main one being the expectation of quality execution and an absence of overt sloppiness. I might not like what the wrestlers do, but at the very least I expect a big main event in front of a big crowd to be fundamentally sound from an execution standpoint. While I would not classify this match as overtly sloppy, there were more than a few execution issues that I felt were damaging to the match on the whole.
Most of these moments were the result of trying high precision spots that could have easily been replaced with spots that could have been pulled off cleaner. The problem is not with innovation or complicated moves in general. The problem is that this match should have felt like the two best wrestlers DDT has to offer fighting for the top title. When there are numerous spots that are off or at times hard to tell what they were supposed to be, that hurts that perception. Kodaka and Harashima tried a bunch of counters and moves that sounded cool on paper but were difficult to pull off correctly. I would have personally traded a few “high degree of difficulty” spots for better overall presentation.
Aside from that complaint, I thought the match was decent. Harashima went after the ribs of his opponent which is his usual strategy. Kodaka in turn targeted the leg. The build was okay. They ratcheted the action up really early (like two minutes in) but Kodaka brought things back down with leg-focused submission holds a few minutes later. That allowed them to ratchet up the action again for the proper finishing run. The elongated stretched run was what one would expect. Lots of big moves back-and-forth and some fighting spirit stuff, although the latter was kept largely in check. This match did have one of the better one-count kick outs in recent memory. Harashima hit one of his signature moves after being behind most of the match. It was early enough in the ending that I am not sure a late two-count kick out would have drawn a bigtime reaction so it wasn’t like they left a big moment on the table. Harashima smirked after landing the move, effectively indicating that he felt he had just turned the tide. He paused for a few seconds before covering and Kodaka kicked out at one as if to say “not so fast“. Kodaka kicked out in such a way that it did not come off as goofy or as if he had summoned super human strength. He merely kicked out of a signature (but non-instant death) move in a situation where I am not sure they could have gotten a strong near fall. I am not sure it necessarily added to the match but unlike many other late match early kick outs, it did not detract from the match.