ALL JAPAN TV on 6/28/08
It’s a TV block with a bunch of undercard clips and one match shown complete. I don’t think I need to do my usual intro. The undercard highlights don’t look like anything special from a wrestling standpoint, but there’s a couple of surprise cameos. I didn’t expect to see Antonio Thomas in All Japan, and was left to wonder why he got slotted in with the rookies. Rene Dupree was part of the Voodoo Murders, and was totally jacked, not at Scott Steiner levels, but considerably more than during his days as “The French Phenom.”
SUWAMA © vs. OSAMU NISHIMURA (Triple Crown)
It’s too bad Suwama didn’t have a match like this when he won the titles, but that’s what you get working with Sasaki. This isn’t the kind of star-making performance that Suwama and Tanahashi put on in the Carnival finals, but this more than does its job of making Suwama look like he’s ready and able to be the top dog of the company. The video package gives all the background you need. Nishimura earned this match by directly beating Suwama in various tag matches. Suwama wants revenge for being made to look like a bumbling idiot for falling prey to flash pins, and Nishimura wants to relieve Suwama of the three belts.
From a wrestling standpoint, this is mostly what Nishimura was doing in his Champions Carnival matches, and it looks decidedly low-tech, but its genius is wrapped around the message that it conveys, which is showing how Suwama wins. He doesn’t just win in the sense that he pinned Nishimura’s shoulders to the mat, but he gets several ‘wins’ over Nishimura en route to that, which is what makes him look so good afterwards. Being a Nishimura match, it’s no surprise that so much of the early work is spent on the mat, and, no, there’s no real purpose beyond killing time. Nobody shows up anyone, and nobody uses it to take control of the match and take it somewhere else. The one worthwhile bit is the first sign that it’s going to be something special from Suwama. Suwama finds himself in a head scissors, and uses Nishimura’s own headstand escape from the hold, complete with the chest slap. Nishimura does it himself a minute or so later, but the bigger picture is that Suwama drew ‘first blood’ in a sense.
Nishimura gets his best chance to win when Suwama hangs himself up in the corner and hurts his knee. Nishimura, like in the Carnival, is all over it, including using a chair and hitting Suwama’s knee with one of the belts. Nishimura throws Suwama into the ring and puts on the figure four for an extended amount of time, and when Suwama gets the ropes, Nishimura refuses to break the hold! Even though Nishimura put the hurt on him, Suwama, once again, outdoes him. Suwama takes an opening and looks to do your typical knee breaker or shin breaker, but instead of dropping Nishimura on his knee, Suwama drops him down all the way onto the mat, and then grabs Nishimura in an Ankle Lock, and because he chose to wrestle barefoot, we see just how much Suwama is wrenching on his foot. Nishimura gets the ropes and Suwama simply finds a new way to get the hold on, he’s not as aggressive as Nishimura was with his knee instead he finds smarter ways to get back to the hold. It’s frustrating that the leg and ankle don’t play into the match long term, although the Ankle Lock does come back toward the end, but it’s part of the bigger picture of Suwama outdoing Nishimura.
Nishimura then goes back to what brought him to the dance, with several cradles and backslide attempts (which are met with great crowd reaction), but Suwama is ready and kicks out. Nishimura does have some success with the Octopus hold, Cobra Twist, and sleeper hold, but it’s doubtful that anyone would buy a submission, and with the exception of the sleeper, they really wind up looking more like stall tactics. There’s a nice play off their Champions Carnival match where Nishimura goes for a headlock and Suwama hits the backdrop, but instead of rinsing and repeating the spot, they use it to allow Suwama to use more suplexes, he gets a nice belly to belly, and goes back to the Ankle Lock, only to segue that into a sort of leg-trapped German suplex, and finally Suwama finishes him off with the Last Ride.
The only real negative, is also a positive, the fact that it’s a Nishimura match. So there’s plenty of time killed on the mat doing nothing of real note. However, I don’t think anyone else on the All Japan roster could have this kind of stock-raising match with Suwama. Sasaki couldn’t do it when he dropped the Triple Crown to him, Suzuki isn’t the guy to do that, Kawada has it in him to do it, but not in the same manner that Nishimura did, and I don’t think Suwama could pull off the same general story with Mutoh or Kojima. Over the last few years, the trend in Japan has been to pull the trigger on a young guy and shoot him to the top, and then to snatch it away a few months later and go back to the old guard. NOAH did it with Morishima and Marufuji, New Japan did it with Nakamura, and All Japan did it with Taiyo Kea. Suwama wasn’t any different in that respect, but, for at least one night, he looked like he was up to the task. ***1/4
Conclusion: It’s a one match show, but it’s a pretty good match. I know it’s floating around in cyber space, and it’s definitely worth the time to download it. Or you can pick it up on DVD, with the AJ TV show from the following week.
For more of Mike Campbell's reviews, visit his site at http://splashmountain.150m.com