There is a lot to process here-the match is basically three minute thunderstorm. It seemed a little messy at first, but I instantly gave it a rewatch and I concluded it’s more the good kind of wild chaotic than the messy kind you find in many modern spotfests and brawls. You have a clear focus on Mochizuki kicking the hell out of Yasuraoka, but it is a very action packed match with more focus on content than form, and it works because every transition perfectly fulfiils its role. Mochizuki’s kicks looked cool, but the grounded kicks and knees he used to escape the guard and the WAR special felt like the most important ones just because of how rare something so logical and useful it is in most matches. Yasuraoka’s big slap was almost shockingly cinematic-could’ve easily become a legendary visual had it been done by famous workers on a big show, and his classic WAR lumpy style contemplated Mochizuki’s karate combos nicely. Lovely and creative finish with Mochizuki headkicking Yasuraoka who managed to block kicks to which Mochizuki reacts by making him drop his guard with a low kick and then almost kicking through his head. ***1/4-***1/2
I didn’t have any expectations coming into this but it was such a weird match-up I just had to watch it. I’m sure everyone remembers the well known story of Kobashi coming into ROH expecting nobody to know him and being ready to play a generic stereotypical heel-that’s kinda what happened with Kojima here. Some of his offence really did look more suited for lucha than traditional jwres-some of it due to the lack of stiffness, some of due to how cartoony his mannerisms were. Kojima did manage to get heat for whatever that’s worth, but watching him cosplay Dr.Wagner Jr. in playing to the crowd more than doing anything wasn’t interesting. Structurally the match wasn’t much-Kojima’s control segments consisted of doing stomps, yelling and occasionally doing a move, Hechicero would get on offence and do a couple of cool moves before a generic transition into more Kojima stuff, and this match really was a stark reminder of how bad a lot of Kojima’s stuff looks. Weak chops, generic stomps, lazy attempts of legwork, weak lariats, he may have the weakest rolling elbow of all time…..I mean it’s not like he’s bad or there haven’t been instances where he’s worked through it but he’s not exactly a guy whose lazier performances you’d crave for. I’m way bigger on Hechicero’s pain by the numbers stuff but he was not in a mood for a carry job. **1/2
Really cool lightning match noteworthy for Hechicero clowning Titan. It all starts with Titan going for his headstand spot where Hechicero just shoves him off and kicks him in the arm, which starts a very good armwork segment where Hechicero got a chance to use some really cool offence, in particular he did a kneedrop using the guardrail on the ramp that came out of the blue. Titan got to get his dives in and they looked good, but really you want to see this for Titan going for one his flip-flops and Hechicero just leveling him with a chest slap. Not being to able to lock an armbar properly is more than I expected from Titan’s selling, which was otherwise limited to holding his injured arm inbetween spots. ***1/4
The first match in UWF history is a ten minute exhibiton match. It’s kind of like a sparring session in front of a live crowd, where no matter how many “finishes” there are they get restarted and go at it again. Takada easily outclasses Miyato here-the match was more focused on striking than the grappling, and on their feet Takada used his size and reach advantage to outkick Miyato-and that’s not a stretch in interpretation, they really do obviously play up to that as several spots have Miyato not being able to reach Takada. Takada may not be a wizard on the ground, but he knows his strengths and plays to them, keeps it basic and moving and submits Miyato several times, and for a short introduction to the style instant gratification was probably a better option than spending too much time building around escaping. ***1/4
These kinds of matches are really WWE’s forte, the indy workers they bring in to have watered down 2010 ROH matches but with more wear and tear on their body resulting in less actually impressive athletic spots, less room for creativity (for better or worse) and the same stupidity in match building and transitioning as well as shitty basics (Phil Schneider should have his reviewing license revoken for praising Seth Rollins’ punches). They’ve struck gold by not having heavyweight title contenders under 250lbs. Unfortunately much of what makes matches like this work is what also limits how good they can be. It is said “matches like this are great because you can hit finishers but have saves instead of kick-outs!”. But what happens then is that you have a million finishers done, and that’s just not that interesting. You start feeling the repetition, and by the time Strowman hits the sixth Powerslam and Roman hits the fifeenth Superman Punch, the crowd reacts less than they did to a Joe Senton. And feeling the crowd is important in a match that is essentially built on star power and glamour. Joe may have been my favourite performer in this-for years I’ve thought he was just never going to hit his stride again, let alone reach his previous heigths, and I’m not going to expect him put on performances like he did in 2003 since he just doesn’t have the athleticism to do so anymore, but his cunning character has given him new life. Picking his spots, making sure the timing is right (the roll-up, flash chokes and elbow suicida were all based on this) and, you know, not doing the same move fifty times-I appreciated it. Strowman’s amazing feats of strength made the match feel special, but they could’ve done a better job with the rest of the match. The stretches spot has been used so much it’s basically a waste of time, and Heyman’s terrible acting really just hammered the whole thing in. It’s not that against them being cartoony, but I think they’re undermining the intelligence of their audience a bit with assuming they are going to forget Lesnar got Powerslammed through two tables and got another one thrown on top of him if they don’t do a stretcher job. Offensively Lesnar didn’t offer much, but he was pretty great at pinballing for Braun, and a direction with more selling should provide more quality from him. ***3/4
Once upon a time I proclaimed Shinya Hashimoto the greatest wrestler of all time in the 2016 PWO GWE poll. I tend to change my opinions these things a lot, so nothing’s set in stone (especially with the idea of the *greatest* carrying so much imaginary stake-I very well could just make pace with Kikuchi or Angel Azteca as the 97th greatest wrestler of all time and just go on never thinking about it again). Luckily pro wrestling is more of a fun hobby than an unhealthy obsession for me these days and it looks like getting my stuff together correlates with my participation in silly arguments over fake fighting subsiding. Much like other posts in the “all things” edition, this is going to be a showcase that for those who do enjoy the worker in question, there’s no shortage of excellence to point to, as well as a general guide for those interested in a worker.
An improvement over their september match which retains pretty much all of its strengths and sees its flaws subside. The matwork is better, as the holds are more varied and there is a bigger focus on acquiring positioning, properly defending and adjusting instead of just going “let’s grab an armbar again and we’ll work from there”. Here Maeda doesn’t just do nice slams, but actively tries to counter Sayama’s kicks and drag him to the ground. The sequences in which they’re desperately trying to get on top rule. The stand up sequences are even more violent than before, with nasty slaps, soccer kicks and elbow drops (which I don’t remember seeing look this good outside of a Johnny Valentine match JIP) added to the mix. Really, if there was just a bigger sense of danger on the mat, this could’ve been so much more than a great match. But you’d have something amazing happen and the follow up would be a crowd killing half crab, and so on it went. ****