Some quick thoughts on recent April matches:
* Hard Hit Show (04/04) – Easy show to watch as the Hard Hit shows tend to be, but no real standout matches. I enjoyed the Ito/Kobayashi match as a non-stop 10-minute draw with okay mat work. Heddi French looked decent and I always enjoy seeing him pop in all of these different places. Who else has worked Atsushi Sawada & Hiraku Sato in worked shoots, worked a Vale Tudo match versus Sadico in Mexico, wrestled title matches versus Negro Navarro and El Hijo del Santo, and worked a tour for Big Japan? The HARASHIMA tags on these shows have usually been bright spots, but something was missing from this one. And although he has done it before in this environment, HARASHIMA doing a reverse hurricanrana in a shoot style match just didn’t work. There is a difference between that and something like Alexander Otsuka going for a hurricanrana in a similar style match.
* Dragon Lee vs. Virus (04/05 – CMLL): Thought this was good but echo Rob Bihari’s thoughts that it was not a top shelf Virus title match and below the first Dragon Lee match quality wise. Dragon Lee’s first fall mat work felt a bit loose and awkward. Third fall was very good and Dragon Lee’s big spots were great. Probably in the *** ½ range.
* Roppongi Vice vs. Young Bucks (04/05 – NJPW): Surprised out how much I like it. Rocky Romero has made a career out of being underrated but Barretta has never impressed me and the Bucks are the Bucks. They worked this with far more southern style tag elements than the usual Bucks match which was a great choice. Loved the teased walking away spot and the various hot tag cut offs from the Bucks. Barretta was very good selling and milking a tag. Good match.
* Kazuchika Okada vs. Bad Luck Fale (04/05 – NJPW): I liked this match quite a bit. Fale is flawed (he just isn’t that athletic so his offense his hit or miss) but I think he executes his role very well. Like I said on the PTBN reaction show, he serves that much needed role of heel who is booked strong enough to be programmed with the top guys but has limited upside so he can be beat by them in singles matches on occasion without much damage to his stock. I thought that strong booking/protection shined through with the heat the match got at the end. Okada was great working from underneath.
* A.J. Styles vs. Kota Ibushi (NJPW – 04/05): I’d say Meltzer got a little too excited going **** ¾ here. I didn’t see it and it looks like others didn’t as well. It was a good match that Styles really held together, but not to that level. Sort of meandering at times but strong overall. Both guys are having great years.
* Takao Omori vs. Go Shiozaki (AJPW – 04/05): Main event of the first day of the Carnival. Sound is missing from the upload I watched. Even so (or perhaps because of it) I really enjoyed Omori’s facial selling. Go is so emotionless and dry that perhaps Omori just stood out in contrast. The match wasn’t bad but suffered from the usual Go issues of having a lot of stuff that doesn’t really add anything or lead anywhere.
* Masato Yoshino & Syachihoko BOY (c) vs. Jimmy Kagetora & Jimmy Susumu (DG – 04/09): Not the ***** match I’ve seen some label it as, but I enjoyed it. It was a solid tag that would fit well on any show, only at 27 minutes it was way longer than it needed to be. I didn’t see the deep layers of psychology that others apparently got out of it. The limb work lent a focus to the early parts but was rather routine and the selling didn’t grab me in any significant way. Good tag though and wasn’t as much of a drag to get through as some long Dragon Gate title matches are. Somewhere around ***.
* Ultimo Dragon & Kenbai vs. Rui Hyugaji & Kinya Oyanagi (M-Pro – 04/11): Fun match. As overrated as Dragon might have been at times in his career, he has kept himself in great shape and there has not been a dramatic fall off for him even though he is in his late 40’s. He was thr glue that held this together, although Kenbai and Hyugaji were fun as well. Fun opening match that didn’t get too goofy which is an M-Pro issue these days.
* El Hijo de Dos Caras vs. Negro Navarro (IWRG – 04/14): Dos Caras just isn’t very good. Granted, it took Alberto going to WWE to really find himself but he looked so out of place on the mat with Navarro. Navarro held it together well enough so the match is watchable, but there isn’t a lot there.