Category Archives: Wrestle-1

(05/04) Leon Von Gasteren (c) vs. Hiroshi Yamato

Tokyo Dome City Hall
EWP Intercontinental Championship; Twelve 3-minute Rounds

Keiji Mutoh’s melting pot booking philosophy for Wrestle-1 is intriguing.

Mutoh is not the first Japanese booker by a longshot to subscribe to the idea that a pro wrestling promotion should be an eclectic mix of personalities, nationalities, and styles. Wrestle-1 is however the promotion currently making the most of that particular booking ideology. The first couple of shows they ran were built entirely around the Wrestle-1 roster facing outsiders from around the Japanese wrestling landscape. Since that time the promotion has made regular use of freelancers, utilized TNA talent on their owns, done Joshi offer matches, and done stylistic-clash pairings such as matching MMA fighter/pro wrestler Masakatsu Funaki up against the comedy/hardcore Braham Brothers duo in a handicap match.

Now Mutoh seems to be expanding the reach of his promotion a little further by bringing in several champions from Europe to compete in Japan, with Europe Wrestling Promotion Intercontinental Champion Leon Von Gasteron being first on the list (Robbie Dynamite is scheduled to defend the British Middleweight Championship at a Wrestle-1 show in June).

The match was contested under modified British round rules of twelve, three-minute rounds. The match lasted 3+ rounds with each round being wrestled in a slightly different manner. It made for a fun and interesting match if nothing else.

The first round was largely a mat battle with takedowns, submission attempts, and reversals. This is the first I have seen of Gasteron and I got the impression that it was not his go-to style, although he was perfectly adept at it as was Yamato. A major selling point of a rounds match in pro wrestling is the ability to segment a match without much work. The rounds provide that segmentation naturally. The tricky point is often using those natural starting and stopping points effectively to build anticipating. Going with a stalemate sequence for the first three minutes largely accomplished that.

The second fall was more fast paced, with both wrestlers coming out strong after failing to gain a real advantage in the third. There was some flying here which Gasteron – your somewhat typical bald-headed, muscled up British wrestler – pulled off surprisingly well. They cut a good pace each round and by the end of the second round, Gasteron seemed noticeable tired. The third round brought out the more high impact offense as the match built towards the stretch run, which occurred in the opening minutes of the fourth round. By the end Gasteron was running on low so the match ended on time even if they did wrestle just a bit over 10 minutes in total.

This was the good kind of “different” in pro wrestling – a European champion defending his title in Japan in a rounds match in a match that utilized a variety of styles. A wonderful element of pro wrestling is that it has such a diverse history that it is easy to find variety without straying too far outside the confines of pro wrestling fundamentals. This match was a good example of that and made an enjoyable viewing experience out of what – in another context – would have been a mundane pairing.

British Round Rules| Worthwhile | Quality & Uniqueness

(01/12) Masakatsu Funaki vs. Yoshihiro Takayama

Korauken Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
3 Points (Rope Breaks & Certain takedowns)

Wrestle-1 hasn’t produced anything in its abbreviated existence that someone would really need to go out of his way to see. This match does not necessarily change that trend. It is, however, easily the best match I have seen from the promotion and stands up as a pretty good shoot-style match in its own right.

I have watched some other outings from Funaki in this promotion, including a 2 on 1 comedy handicap versus the Brahman Brothers. Funaki was taken out of his element in a lot of those other matches. Clearly, this style of match versus someone like Takayama is much more in his wheelhouse and it shows. The match starts with feeling out as both go for knuckle locks and end up in the clinch.

They go to the mat a couple of minutes in. Takayama’s ground game impressed me. He rolled, moved around, attempted to pass Funaki’s guard and reversed holds with far more athletic ability than I expected given his age and the fact that “athletic ability” was never a trait he likely included on his resume to begin with. Takayama didn’t do much last year in his match on the March U-Spirits Again card, so my hopes weren’t all that high for him this time. I think have Funaki has an opponent this go-around helped, but in any event he looked a lot better.

Most of the match consists fighting for position and submissions on the mat which is all fairly solid, but the standup portion also had some good spots. Takayama hits a pair of nice suplexes and Funaki contributes a hard-fought-for German Suplex.

The latter Takayama suplex costs Funaki his second point, leaving each wrestler one with one point remaining. Perhaps for that reason – neither one would want to risk being put in a hold while on the mat and losing their last point – they go at it standing for really the first time. Takayama tries some knee lifts, but being the awkward Lurch that he is, he is too slow delivering the knees and Funaki is able to avoid the strikes. Funaki lands a series of open hand strikes before landing a big kick to the hand. Takayama does a great tree-falling sell of the kick with gives Funaki the victory via knockout.

If you are looking for a 2014 shoot-style fix this is the best I have seen so far. At about seven minutes, it is a quick and easy match to get through as well (always a positive in my book).

Shoot Style | Worthwhile | Quality