Written by: Colin Rinehart
March 6th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
I apologize again for the lengthy time in between puro reviews, but I’ve had a lot of stuff to review lately, so alot of the puro I watch got put on the serious backburner for the last few months. Time to jump back into that pile of goodies though, and we start off here with the first night in New Japan’s annual New Japan Cup tournament from Korakuen Hall.
Before the show officially starts Don Arakawa, who was a pioneer of comedy wrestling in Japan for many years, is given a special “New Japan’s Greatest Wrestlers” award from the New Japan brass for his contributions to wrestling. Nice moment for a guy that never really had any fame or glory
Jushin Liger/Tomoaki Honma/Tama Tonga vs. Koji Kanemoto/Wataru Inoue/King Fale
This is just your usual random meaningless six man tag to open the show. Fale and Tonga start us off with dueling shoulder-blocks to go along with dueling high-pitched shrieks. Honma and Inoue tag in next and trade chops. Kanemoto tags in next and he wants a piece of Liger Liger obliges and takes a belly-to-belly suplex for his troubles. Everyone gangs up on Liger in their corner, trading quick tags for a bit before Koji hops back in and misses a boot facewash attempt. Liger powerbombs him and tags Tonga back in. Tonga lays in some headbutts and then takes out Fale with a beautiful corkscrew moonsault before tagging Honma in. He hits a missile dropkick before the tag rules go out the window and everyone jumps in for the finish, which sees Honma pinning Fale with a diving headbutt at 9:33. Pretty good for a typical six-man opener, but nothing you haven’t see a million times if you watch puro regularly. **
Giant Bernard/Tiger Mask IV/KUSHIDA vs. Tomohiro Ishii/Jado/Gedo
Another throwaway six man, but there’s a lot of history between Ishii and TMIV as Tiger Mask recently defeated him in a Hair vs Mask match before this, so Ishii’s bald here which looks…weird. Bernerd starts off with the smaller Gedo and overpowers him with ease, so he tags out to Jado, prompting a big Jado chant from the crowd. Lots of comedy stuff in this one, which is fine for it’s place on the card. KUSHIDA continues to look better every time I see him work. Ishii and TMIV work in some of their usual stuff together next as the heels all gang up on Tiger for a bit. That doesn’t work though so Bernard hops in and starts mauling all three of his opponents with relative ease. KUSHIDA hits a great spinning corkscrew moonsault to give his team the win at 8:50. Not too shabby for a quick comedy match, it was fun seeing Jado & Gedo’s antics and it’s always fun to see Bernard tossing people around like ragdolls. *3/4
TAKA Michinoku/Taichi vs. Apollo 55 (Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi)
Devitt retained the IWGP Jr. title against TAKA a few weeks before this at the 2/20 show, so he’s looking for some payback tonight TAKA and Taguchi start off with some basic feeling-out stuff executed to perfection. Taguchi gets the better of him so TAKA tags out to Taichi, who’s wearing his usual smug heel grin. Devitt tags in and he and Taichi do a leap-frog/dropkick segment before Apollo 55 takes out both of their opponents with double team maneuvers. Taichi takes Devitt to the floor and launches him into the steel guardrail, then chokes him for a bit with some wiring. He weakens Devitt up some more and then tags TAKA in so he can get his shots in. Taichi wastes too much time revealing his awesome trunks and Devitt gets a chance to tag out to Taguchi, who gives both TAKA and Taichi a sweet simultaneous reverse DDT combination. Rolling vertical suplexes from Taguchi followed by a dropkick gets two on Taichi. Taichi responds with a sickeningly stiff kick to Taguchi’s skull that echoes through-out the entire hall and tags out to TAKA again. Devitt sends TAKA to the floor with a dropkick, but Taichi drags him out on a tope attempt and tosses him into the rails again for some major heat. In one of the cooler tag spots I’ve seen in awhile, Devitt lifts Taichi up on his shoulders and Taguchi launches out of the ring on top of him in a sort of doomsday cross-body device! Back inside a gourdbuster/double-stomp combo from Apollo 55 nearly puts TAKA away. Taguchi misses a dive onto Taichi out of the ring, allowing Taka to roll his arms and legs up in a unique sort of reverse jack-knife cradle for the clean win at 11:35. That’s a pretty big win for TAKA as Devitt rarely takes clean pins anymore in this company, and the match beforehand was very good as well. Some very unique stuff worked into this one. ***
New Japan Cup 2011 Round One Match
Manabu Nakanishi vs. Yujiro Takahashi
This is the very first match-up in round one to kick-start the annual New Japan Cup tournament, which in the past has been an indicator of which guys were on the verge of getting big pushes when they won past tournaments. Takahashi tries a side-headlock to start but the strong veteran Nakanishi easily overpowers him. Takahashi’s chops have no effect on ‘Nishi, and he sends his opponent to the floor before missing a rare attempt at a pescado. Takahashi hits him with a quick tope suicida and tosses him back inside. Takahashi looks more confident on his offensive attack here than he usually does, even showing a bit of personality by mocking Nakanishi while trying various submissions on him. Not a smart idea from young Yujiro, and he pays for it with ungodly loud and stiff chops from Nakanishi. Nakanishi fights off several big suplexes from his younger opponent before taking control of the match and finishing him off with a pair of German suplexes at 9:50. Both guys looked really good here and this got pretty good in the finishing stretch. **3/4
New Japan Cup 2011 Round One Match
MVP vs. Karl Anderson
We’ve got a battle of two Americans here and a pretty intriguing match up for the first round. MVP has looked rejuvenated since coming to Japan, and it appears the New Japan brass have taken notice. Anderson gives MVP a clean break to start surprisingly and they trade waist-locks. MVP goes to work on Anderson with stiff forearm shots and a knee-drop for a two count. A belly-to-belly suplex sends Anderson out of the ring, so MVP drops him throat and then back-first onto the guardrail before launching him into the front row with a big Yakuza kick! Anderson barely makes it back to the ring before the ref’s count reaches 20. MVP actually gets the crowd to react to his “Ballin!” elbow drop this time, unlike the previous times I’ve seen him wrestle in Japan where the crowd has no idea what he’s doing. A stiff boot sends Anderson out of the ring again and MVP takes him out moments later with a pescado! Back in the ring Anderson hits a big boot and mocks MVP, so MVP takes his head off with a lariat. Anderson clotheslines MVP out of the ring and then takes him out moments later with a beautiful senton plancha! Anderson hits a pair of leaping neckbreakers, but MVP keeps kicking out and he fights back with repeated forearms and lariats. They both unsuccessfully try their finishers on one another before MVP manages to hit the Playmaker on Anderson, who still manages to kick out. MVP wraps his legs around his throat and forces Anderson to submit however at 12:20. This was a great back-and-forth match with two guys who were very fired up. MVP looks more motivated than he has in a long time and this was probably the highlight of the show so far. ***1/4
MVP cuts an awesome promo backstage afterwards, giving himself the moniker of Black Godzilla while demanding the translator explain to the reporters his comments about Anderson (“He’s shooting blanks!”). Good stuff.
New Japan Cup 2011 Round One Match
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Hirooki Goto
Oh yes, this should be good. Goto is all pissy to start with forearms and a spinkick, trying to get the pin and end it early. Nakamura gets sent into the rails several times early and his selling is great from the start as usual. Back inside they trade forearms and Nakamura knees Goto stiffly in the gut. He give Goto a sloppy press slam and lays some kicks into his chest before scoring with an enziguri. He continues to reign in the brutal knee strikes to Goto’s chest and starts becoming playful in his offense, grinning like a drunkard as he lays in stiff kicks and strikes into Goto and sneaking big smiles right into the camera all the while. This is why Nakamura is so fantastic, the personality he brings to his matches. Goto eventually is able to cut off the kicks momentarily and deliver a huge lariat to Shinsuke, followed by a spinning heel kick and a top rope elbow drop. He gives Nakamura a big superplex but only gets a two count out of it. A big German suplex yields him the same results. Nakamura reverses a death valley driver attempt into a flying armbar, but Goto quickly gets the rope break. Nakamura lays in a few of his signature Boma Ye knee-strikes to Goto’s head, but he manages to still kick out. Nakamura slaps on a loose guillotine choke, but Goto fights back with a gigantic lariat that turns Nakamura inside-out in a full 360 degree rotation! Both men fight to the top rope and Goto hits a sunset-flip powerbomb, but Nakamura kicks out! Goto gives him a death valley driver neckbreaker and a stiff kick, but again he gets up. Goto tries for another lariat, but Nakamura counters into the flying armbar again. He nails Goto right in the face with a leaping Boma Ye knee off the second rope and then gives him a second one just for good measure to pick up the pin at 13:45! Hell of a match here, these two know each other pretty well and it showed. Nakamura brought the crazy fire that only he can bring, Goto worked his tail off, and for 13 minutes this was simply excellent and the crowd loved it. This is a big win for Nakamura too as defeating Goto here eliminates him from the tournament that he’s won for the last two consecutive years and advances Shinsuke on to the next round. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi/Yuji Nagata/Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Takashi Iizuka/Tetsuya Naito/Toru Yano
That’s one hell of a babyface team in Tanahashi, Nagata, and Tenzan, encompassing two generations of NJPW main eventers. The heels all gang up on poor Tanahashi to start, but he manages to fight them off eventually and tag Nagata in. I should note that Nagata will challenge Tanahashi for his title about a month after this show. Pretty standard stuff here for the most part from these six Iizuka slams a chair into Tenzan’s throat while Yano sends Tanahashi into the steel ring post. Back in the ring the heels work over Tenzan in their corner for a bit. Iizuka continues the dirty tricks by nearly choking Tenzan unconscious with his wrist-tape. Tenzan finally manages to tag out to Tanahashi, who’s all rainbows and smiles (or dropkicks and forearms rather). He hits Iizuka with a somersault senton off the top for a two count. Yano tags in and Tanahashi picks him apart with a dragon-screw legwhip before tagging out to Nagata. Yuji lays in some stiff kicks and a Yakuza boot followed by a gut wrench suplex and some fiery forearms for dessert He lots Yano into a crossface and things break down as everyone pairs off and starts brawling outside the ring. Nagata tries to fight all three of his opponents off, but strength lays in numbers and Iizuka punches Nagata in the face with his metal glove, allowing Yano to pin him at 12:58. Pretty fun stuff from these six, the babyfaces worked well (although Tenzan was a bit boring as the babyface in peril) and the heels were a delight to watch as always. Pretty good for a meaningless match that will be forgotten tomorrow. **3/4
New Japan Cup Round One Match
Togi Makabe vs. Satoshi Kojima
Our final match of the opening round of the NJ Cup tournament is our main event for the evening. Makabe is all full of piss and vinegar to start, taking it right to Kojima and tossing him into the rails. Taichi is at ringside with Kojima so he gets sent into the rails as well. Makabe is one of the few guys that I would actually label as a modern day Bruiser Brody type, knowing full well how over-used that expression has been in the past. He’s got the same crazy eyes though. Taichi is great as the cowardly heel’s backup, taking it to Makabe behind the ref’s back and making the early part of this match just fly by. He nails Makabe with a stiff chairshot and the look of satisfaction on his face and how pleased he is with himself is just awesome. Kojima chokes Togi for a bit and the crowd starts chanting for the big man, trying to rally him. Kojima does a great job of getting heat as he hits an elbow drop, as the crowd is really into things here. Makabe fires off a powerslam and a great northern lights suplex but neither get more than a two count. Kojima delivers a big ace crusher to Makabe and then delivers a second one from the second rope for a near fall. Makabe blocks a lariat and powerbombs Kojima for a close two. Kojima fights off a few lariat attempts and then blasts Makabe with another one of his own, but Makabe again kicks out and the crowd is going crazy for Togi right now. Makabe delivers a big death valley driver and then gives Kojima a bridging German suplex off the top rope! Taichi tries to get involved again but Hiroshi Tanahashi makes his way to ringside and takes him out for a bit of vengeance. Kojima nearly wins it with a big brainbuster, but Makabe manages to get his shoulder up. Makabe gives him another German but Kojima responds swiftly with stiff elbows. Makabe punches him right in the face and gives him a dragon suplex to pick up the win at 16:01! This was a fantastic match and a fine way to cap off the show, Makabe’s fanbase is huge and he fed off of their energy through-out the entire match, making his comeback seem that much more important. The only problem is that I’m left wanting more! ***3/4
The arena clears out as the show comes to an end with the usual post-match interviews backstage and a highlight package of the show we just watched.
Bottom Line: This was a fun way to kick off the New Japan Cup tournament and there were several entertaining and well-worked matches, most of which left me wanting to see even more from these guys if given some more time in the ring. Not a bad match on the entire show, two damned good ones and a solid undercard make this pretty easy to recommend, but it’s not a blow-away show or anything. It doesn’t have to be though, and it gets the Thumbs Up from me.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.