review by Jason Manning
Date: August 31th, 2002
Location: Tokyo Nippon Budokan
All Japan ran only two shows in August, both part of their “ROYAL ROAD 30 GIANT BATTLE” series. This was the 3rd, and was “booked” by Genichiro Tenryu. Like the other half of the double-header that was ran yesterday, there are a bunch of notable matches. First, Toryumon gets to show off their stuff on the big stage in a 6-man tag also featuring Jimmy Yang. Also, Goldberg’s “streak” rages on as he faces Taiyo Kea. And in the main event, there’s a big 10-man elimination match pitting Tenryu’s WAR stable against Muto’s old BATT stable.
Hype is first on the menu. The WHOLE Goldberg vs. Kojima match is replayed. All Japan is now selling a freaking WCW *HAT*. Kea comments on Goldberg and acts like a total heel badass, which is a step in the right direction.
Nobukazu Hirai vs. Ryuji Hijikata
Looking at past results, these two have met three times so far in 2002, and two out of the three times, Hirai has won with a uranage. Plus, it’s taken around a minute less to do it each time (9:32 on 2/24 and 8:46 on 5/12). The other time they met was at a non-taping where they went to a draw. STORYLINE DEVELOPMENT, BABY~! I love this pairing. They did their usual basic stuff, but got to show their stuff for the finish and the crowd liked it. Hirai finished Hijikata off yet again with a uranage (7:01). The trend continues, Hirai beating Hijikata with the uranage, and in a minute less than their previous meeting. I love it. This was better than their previous meetings.
Masanobu Fuchi, Gran Hamada & Miyamoto vs. Mike Rotundo, Johnny Smith & Gran Naniwa
Grr... I hate these matches. Nothing wrong with them, but not exactly an enjoyable watch with nothing standing out as “good.” It was kind of like the 6-man tags from yesterday, pretty much average. However, this one dragged since it went long and as a result, got stale since only really Hamada, Miyamoto and Naniwa have the conditioning to go long nowadays, but only Naniwa and Hamada are any good (of those three). The fun sequences were definitely the fun matwork from Fuchi and Smith early on and the MPRO-like sprints whenever Hamada and Naniwa involved themselves. Naniwa took a SICK release German suplex from Miyamoto later on for a 2 count. Things eventually came to an end when everyone came in to help their legal man, and after Fuchi and Hamada were thrown outside, Smith delivered the British Fall on Miyamoto for the win (16:19). Perfectly OK wrestling but it dragged in places.
Yoji Anjo & Mitsuya Nagai vs. Abdullah The Butcher & Kendo Kashin
All Japan should really just officially create a comedy division if they’re going to run matches like this. Abby and Kashin are YOUR reigning AJPW World Comedy Tag Team Champions after defeating Fuchi and Mr. Problem yesterday. This was what you’d expect. I don’t see why Nagai is put in these matches. This was one big brawl but not a fun one. It wasn’t the comedy you’d expect from both teams. Nagai actually got pinned by Kendo freaking Kashin after a jumping elbow drop from Abby for the 3 count (9:32). I don’t have a problem with these matches unless a talented worker like Nagai is pinned by a washed up no-talent wrestler like Kashin. This wasn’t even that fun...
ULTIMO DRAGON IS HERE. And he’s taking a seat at ringside.
Mochizuki, Jimmy Yang & Dragon Kid vs. Magnum TOKYO, Yokosuka & Darkness Dragon
This was so fucking awesome and so much fucking fun. It started with something BEAUTIFUL, M2K doing their DANCE NUMBER in an All Japan ring. Get the tape for THAT. Anyway, after that, things turned even better. A wonderful, wonderful sprint that got more heat than most All Japan stuff from this year. The Toryumon boys reached out to the crowd and said, “LOVE US OR DIE!” Even Yang stepped up and kept up with the greatness that is Toryumon. So many spots, too much to call. Just get this tape for this. It was too awesome. Not a classic, but too awesome. A beautiful piece of junior heavyweight professional wrestling. Mochizuki was fucking great, Dragon Kid was fucking great, Yokosuka was fucking great, Darkness Dragon was fucking great, Yang was ten times better than he was yesterday (which is pretty great), and TOKYO was not fucking great but didn’t drag this down one bit, hitting his spots and acting like a total rudo. Toryumon needs to come back to All Japan since the fans fell in love with their work here. I’d run down the awesome things that happened, but that’d take up all the website space. They busted out all the usual signature spots that are common in Toryumon, and built to everything greatly. Plus, no screwiness! NONE! AT! ALL! No blue box, no screwjob finish, and only a couple instances of interference (but they made sense). In addition to the usual stuff, there was more fun stuff. A cool part saw Ultimo looking on, intrigued, after Yokosuka and Darkness delivered a double team move to Kid where Yokosuka delivered a Yokosuka Driver and Darkness brought it down with a knee drop from the top. Ultimo was really probably thinking something like... “I trained these awesome kids? Yes! I did!” The faces eventually took the win after they had a flurry of offense on Yokosuka, Yang hitting a backflip kick, Mochizuki hitting his awesome Triangle Enzuigiri, and Kid following with a beautiful springboard hurricanrana for the 3 count (13:39). They fit like a year’s worth of action into one 13 minute match. One of my favorite matches from this year. Everyone knew what to do next to keep this moving. Get this tape, sit through some crap, and then love this match. [***½]
Tomoaki Honma & Yuto Aijima vs. Brian Adams & Bryan Clark
And from awesome junior action to the opposite. A crappy, overpushed gaijin team squashing an underrated native team. This was a total SQUASH, and not the fun kind. Kronik sucks on offense (and defense, but they’re never on that). They really do. Adams realized that and went into boxing after this. Clark didn’t but isn’t in All Japan anymore thanks to Adams. YEAH~! Honma bumped hard but that was the only “good” in this. Aijima lost for his team after a High Times from da champs (5:55). Honma & Aijima could SOOOOO go places (an underdog midcard tag team?), but no.
Mike Barton & Jim Steele vs. Shigeo Okumura & Hideki Hosaka
Take the last match, improve it a bit since the gaijin are slightly better (not much of an accomplishment), and that’s about it. I’m really getting sick of this pointless booking. Two high-angle powerbombs by Barton to Hosaka ended this (4:10). Nothing to see here, move along.
Satoshi Kojima vs. Nobutaka Araya
This was a fine piece of professional wrestling from two very capable workers and I enjoyed it a lot. Kojima gave Araya loads of offense and made Araya look like a superstar for one night. The heat here was off the charts with the fans believing that Araya could take the upset win thanks to Kojima’s awesome selling. The match was based around the trusty lariat, with awesome putting over of the move and awesome build to the move, especially near the end. Araya delivered a VICIOUS backdrop suplex very early on for a nice near fall already. They got in all their signature spots, including Kojima’s Koji Cutter, Araya’s moonsault press and brainbuster, and Araya’s usual DEATH BUMP, taking a BRUTAL release German suplex. The finish was excellent, with the aforementioned lariat build. After Kojima delivered the release German, Araya fought back up, but Kojima nailed him with a lariat. Kojima’s arm was hurt from an earlier attack from Araya, so Kojima sold like the GOD he is, not covering and holding his arm in pain. Back up, Araya struck first with a lariat for a GREAT near fall. Kojima then found his way up and let out a WAR CRY, finally nailing Araya with a HARD LARITOOOO for the 3 count (12:00). This, much like their match from May, was better than it had any right to be. Or maybe it wasn’t. Araya is very skilled for a big man wrestler, but seems like the typical bland WAR heavyweight most of the time. Here, he got to show his stuff, and did GREAT with it. This also got the job done of getting Kojima his heat back from the Goldberg squash. Good stuff, check this out.
Bill Goldberg vs. Taiyo Kea
Here’s the same backstory I gave for Goldberg’s match against Kojima: I’m sure you all know the backstory here, but here’s a brief summary. Goldberg was training for a return ever since WCW was bought out and he decided to keep his big money contract and not join the WWE. He eventually decided to head to Japan with Kazuyoshi Ishii as his agent. Ishii made a deal with AJPW to bring in Goldberg for just a handful of matches through 2002 and 2003. His contract is a huge money one and non-exclusive, so it’s a nice contract. Goldberg’s a draw, but I’m sure you all know why everyone has a problem with him coming to Japan. I do, too. Yesterday, Goldberg unfortunately squashed Satoshi Kojima in just over 4 minutes and all I’m expecting another one yet again, unfortunately. The whole WCW shtick is performed yet again and Goldberg gets his neat little entrance yet again. This match really sucked. It wasn’t a fun squash like the one from 8/30 since Kea doesn’t have the charisma or selling that Kojima has. Goldberg did a nice counter out of a waistlock with a reverse Achilles tendon hold, but that was the only “good” here. Goldberg no-sold EVERYTHING, and eventually delivered a neat modified high-angle nodowa otoshi for the win (3:55). And that’s that. This was an even worse booking decision than Goldberg vs. Kojima since Kea was in line for a really nice push after the win over Tenryu on 7/20, but unfortunately lost to Muto yesterday and was squashed (and treated like total trash) by Goldberg here. The fans actually CARED about Kea on 7/20, popping HUGE for his win. Now, it’s back to stage one with him.
Goldberg speaks backstage. ULTIMO DRAGON’S WITH HIM. This interview is cool because Ultimo Dragon is with him.
Tenryu, Steve Williams, Arashi, Koki Kitahara & Orihara vs. Keiji Muto, Hiroshi Hase, George Hines, Kaz Hayashi & Jinsei Shinzaki
It’s Tenryu’s WAR (plus Williams, former AJPW/WAR guy Kitahara and current MPRO and former WAR guy Orihara) vs. Muto’s BATT (sort of). This was pretty much a mess. No one really had the ability to keep this together, and it just kind of went through the motions. It was quite heatless and most of the guys blew up at around 30 minutes, so it got REALLY boring. Tenryu, Williams and Muto didn’t really involve themselves until 20 minutes, which was smart, but they still got tired. It was solid at the start with a really fun sequence between Hayashi and Orihara and some other pretty good sequences, but got quite boring and dragged big time as the 40 minutes went on. No one looked any good, really. Tenryu was the same as on 8/30, looking lazy and picking his spots. Williams was as bad as usual, Arashi blew up early, Kitahara just kicked hard, Orihara was nothing much, Muto was his usual self, Hase was pretty good but the only real high point, Hines was fine, Hayashi was fine but was eliminated early, and Shinzaki was passable but nothing much and didn’t do much for the match. A lot was working against them here. It was pretty heatless, too, for a couple reasons. First, like I said, it dragged. Next, who’s here for the crowd to pop for? Three guys aren’t regulars, Hayashi’s a junior stuck in a heavyweight environment, Hines is kind of popular but didn’t do much here, Williams is a DEAD draw, so that leaves three out of ten guys to keep the crowd really interested. At least with those New Japan eliminations, there’s a reason for the crowd to care about who’s involved, whether it’s all popular heavyweights and juniors working them, or the pure workrate keeps them on the edge of their seats. As for the eliminations, here they are. Kitahara, a non-regular, eliminated Hayashi with a simple crab hold (12:13). A fun part after Hayashi’s elimination came when Tenryu whipped him into the guardrail and chopped him down just because he can. An Arashi powerbomb and frog splash eliminated Hines (15:34), putting the odds at 5-3 in WAR’s favor. Shinzaki managed to eliminate Orihara with a Praying powerbomb (18:26). Williams delivered a Doctor bomb to Shinzaki for the elimination over him (24:00), putting Muto & Hase against 4 guys. By this time, things got quite bad, with only Hase looking any good, but even he wasn’t at his best. Hase was eventually eliminated by Tenryu with a brainbuster (29:18). Muto’s against 3 guys! Muto fought “hard,” fighting for All Japan. Well, I think that’s what they were going for. Unfortunately, it’s Muto, who showed little emotion, against three sluggish and tired men. Muto soon avoided a frog splash by Arashi and caught him and Tenryu with Shining Wizards. He then caught Arashi with a hurricanrana for the 3 count (32:40). Gee, even with Tenryu booking, Muto STILL gets put over. Things got really bad after this, with Tenryu and Williams doing a boring beatdown of Muto until Williams FINALLY ended this, delivering a dangerous backdrop driver to Muto for the 3 count (37:59). Fun stuff afterwards as Williams asks for handshakes from the WAR guys, but they all totally ignore him except Tenryu. The basic premise here was to have WAR dominate and eliminate all of BATT except Muto. Then Muto could put himself over, “fighting” for All Japan. Hey, it sounds like a good idea in theory, but, it’s Muto. He showed very little emotion and was very sluggish for the 10 minutes he was left alone. I’ll give everyone credit - they tried, but there was a lot working against them and this didn’t end up good at all. Just boring, with some good bursts (especially at the start) and a solid story (in theory).
Final Analysis: Another mixed bag of wrasslin’, but better than 8/30 since this had two very good matches and the crappy gaijin were involved in short squashes, so didn’t suck the life out of things. The undercard was fine, and the only three bad parts were the gaijin over native squashes. However, those were too short to really drag things down. The main event was messy, but wasn’t terrible or anything. You really want to check out the Toryumon sprint and Kojima vs. Araya is loads of fun. All Japan isn’t workrate city anymore, but some of the stuff is interesting and I’m starting to enjoy the route they’re taking, although there will be some crap along the way. Yeah, this is Recommended.
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