Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
A lover of “big fat Japanese guys hitting each other hard and no selling each other’s offense’s” dream match up.
Actually, that is unfair on both accounts. Okabayashi has the big, fat, Japanese, and hard-hitting parts down. However, he usually sells quite a bit (particularly for a guy his size) and this match proves no exception. Ishii is the one with the selling issues, even though he is hardly a big man by wrestling standards. Even working with Okabayashi who hits just as hard and is much bigger, Ishii gives very little.
It is pretty funny watching these two work a body slam spot where Okabayashi cannot lift Ishii off his feet but Ishii is able to slam Okabayashi with ease. It’s one thing for Ishii to play the world’s smallest super heavyweight in NJPW where nobody really dwarfs him in height or mass, but here is was just silly. Got to hand to Ishii though – he sticks with his schtick not matter how silly it looks.
There were elements of the match that I thought we’re strong. I liked how the first long strike exchange was chops because no-selling chops bothers me less than forearms. I can buy the notion of a guy shrugging off the sting of chops. When you don’t flinch at forearms delivered right to your jaw, it just makes the opponent look weak. Okabayashi’s bumping and selling was generally good. Ishii laid in his forearms nicely and all of his suplexes looked good in part thanks to how Okabayashi took them (although he did seem to struggle getting him up for the power bomb). The match also avoided going into overkill mode and ended at a good time.
My main complaint was the roles should have really been reversed. If someone was going to take most of the offense and no-sell, it should have been Okabayashi. Ishii hanging in there and giving it back at times before pulling out the victory would have made some sense from a visual standpoint but that has never been Ishii’s primary concern.
Nothing terribly wrong here and if you are a fan of the style, this won’t disappoint. I personally find Ishii’s style to be distracting so this didn’t do a whole lot for me.
Stiff | Common | Spectacle
Nutter Center (Dayton, Ohio)
The crowd was absolutely dead for this one, which for the most part was not a reflection on the in-ring action. The match was put in the usually dead 10:30 timeslot (right before the main event and after 2 ½ hours of the show have already gone by) which certainly didn’t help. It also doesn’t help that the Wyatt Family is not quite over yet, at least to the point where Harper and Rowan can work a 12-minute RAW match without facing an uphill battle from crowd hear.
Perhaps in an attempt to wake the crowd or perhaps just coincidentally, the Usos and Wyatt Family really slugged it out. Harper’s strikes – uppercuts, forearms, and chops – were all laid in snugly while the Usos made their usual energetic and hard-hitting comeback. The finishing stretch was fun with dives, super kicks, and Michinoku Drivers waking the crowd up a bit after a mid-match promo from Bray Wyatt failed to do the trick.
Of course, the crowd only really got going when Daniel Bryan ran in to attack Bray. With Bryan’s two-week side trip to the Wyatt Family now over, the crowd is free to cheer him as loudly as they want which they have kindly obliged to these past two Mondays. That particular story appears to have done little to hurt the reactions Bryan gets from the fans.
Stiff | Watchable | Quality/Angle
Big Japan Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
Not unlike the Sato vs. [Daichi] Hashimoto bout from the prior day in ZERO1, this match is all about a veteran (Kanemoto) delivering out punishment to the youngster (Hashimoto). The comparison sort of ends there as this match is less-strike oriented, a little longer, and a little less one-sided. It also is not as good as the ZERO1 match, I thought.
Kanemoto played veteran, surly ass-kicker last year against Fujita Hayato in a match that was really fun in some spots but too long and ultimately too boring. Here he does much of the same things – as you would expect – like kick Hashimoto hard and face wash him a bunch. Hashimoto’s best attribute in this match is his fire. He jumps Kanemoto before the bell and plays the underdog role in a much different and more effective way than Daichi did versus Sato, even if his offense is probably not as good. I’ve admittedly never been very high on Kanemoto as he just comes off a bit bland even with the stiff kicks. I felt the same way here to the point where I was into Hashimoto fighting back to some extent but the rest of the match left me underwhelmed.
Hashimoto has potential and is still very young, but seems to still be finding his niche. Coincidentally, he teams up with the other Hashimoto (Daichi) on February 7th and Korakuen to face Shuji Ishikawa and Sato. That match will almost certainly be wrestled in a similar style to this match and Daichi’s match versus Sato on the 1st so it will be interested to compare the three.
Stiff | Skippable | Quality
New Japan Pro Wrestling
Tokyo Dome (Tokyo, Japan)
Goto and Shibata were childhood friends – they wrestled on the same school-age wrestling team – and the promotion did a great job highlighting this fact in the pre-match video. A language barrier does not come into play when the video is produced thoughtfully and the subject matter (in this case, competing against a longtime friend) is so universal.
Whether the match that followed equaled the video package that proceeded depends on the viewer’s taste. Goto and Shibata hit each other or more accurately, Goto took quite a beating from Shibata. The defining part of the match came in the middle stages, when both wrestlers traded suplexes and strikes for a series of one-count near falls. The late in the match, one-count kick out is a polarizing subject. Some enjoy or at least don’t have a problem with it as a way of conveying heart and determination and drawing a reaction from the crowd. Others view such a stretch of near falls much more negatively and at conflict with the basic flow of a pro wrestling match. Of course, everything is context based so there is no clear-cut answer.
It is an element of pro wrestling that is not going to go away. Tomohiro Ishii versus Shibata from the G1 Climax last year was considered by many to be the best match of the year and it was a match build around no-selling moves and kicking out at one. There are enough fans that like to see two guys kill each other without regards to consequence just as much or more than they like to see more methodical, slow-build of a match. This match avoided going to extremes which helped it remain a tad less polarizing, while at the same time will likely keep it from being heavily praised by either end of the fan spectrum.
Stiff| Watchable | Quality
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
The first match of 2014 for the also-ran-promotion known as ZERO1, features two guys hitting each other really hard.
Daichi does not look much like his late father. If you are like me, then when Daichi first debut several years ago you imagined a fat guy with Elvis side burns and baggy pants kicking guys hard. Daichi, of course, looks nothing like his father. The weight difference is the most notable and there are no sideburns or baggy pants. Where he does resemble his father is in his tendency to throw a lot of hard strikes.
Going up against the larger and more veteran Kohei Sato, Hashimoto peppers in a bunch of forearms in the early-going to little success. Sato reacts to the forearm smashes as if a gnat flew into his face – they are nothing more than an annoyance. With Sato not giving much and Hashimoto’s offense looking ineffectual as a result, the match almost stalls before it even gets starter. Than one – or likely a series – of Hashimoto blows causes a giant welt smack-dab in the middle of Sato’s forehead. It’s a sign – perhaps an unnecessary one – that Hashimoto’s striking can do damage even if Sato appears on the surface to be unaffected by it.
From that point on, the match picks up. Sato continues to thwart Hashimoto’s forearms for the most part, but the young Hashimoto peppers in some kicks as well which slowly but surely do some damage. Daichi – like father like son – throws a really nice, stiff kick. Sato eventually has enough and throws together a few power moves – including a brutal looking piledriver – to put Hashimoto away.
In terms of stiffness and brutality, this one is up there. If two guys beating the hell out of each other for ten minutes is your thing than this match will not disappoint.
Stiff| Watchable | Quality