Pro Wrestling Love in Ryogoku Vol. 2, 2/17/07
review by Mike Campbell
The sequel to the kick ass All Japan show from 8/27/06! And as a horror movie fan, I can already tell you that most sequels aren’t as good as the originals. Muta and Tajiri join forces! Kawada and Kea join forces! SUWA puts in an appearance, and the AJPW World Tag Team Titles are brought back!
Tajiri . . . attempts to actually bring wrestling into a match involving The Great Muta
NOSAWA RONGAI/MAZADA vs. KAZ HAYASHI/TAKA MICHINOKU
Aside from a few cool spots, and a decent home stretch, there isn’t much to see here. NOSAWA and MAZADA are as interesting and exciting here as they were against Jado and Gedo, and there’s not nearly enough TAKA on offense to save this. Kaz adds a nice plancha in the early going, and TAKA throws in his jumping knee into the corner on both NOSAWA and MAZADA, but for the most part this just tends to drag. Kaz and MAZADA work a nice finishing stretch though, with Hayashi attempting the WA4 and MAZADA countering with a sunset flip and then going into the usual reversal sequence, culminating with Hayashi planting MAZADA with the WA4 and NOSAWA barely makes the save. TAKA and Kaz hit stereo finishers (Final Cut and Michinoku Driver) and call it a day. It wasn’t bad as an opener, but it needed more TAKA and less boredom from NOSAWA and MAZADA.
AHII vs. MASTODON/TOW VAN JOHN
Is this a wrestling match or an opera? Mastodon looks less like a mastodon and more like Dusty Rhodes’ polka dot singlet bonded with the Venom Symbiote. This is a handicap match, so AHII actually spends most of the match in trouble, although he pulls off some cool stuff, like his cartwheel counter to their dual drop down, and the superbomb into rana counter. Mastodon and John really don’t do anything special aside from the superbomb and a nice spot where John held AHII for a running lariat. And when all looks hopeless for AHII the upbeat music hits and a second AHII dressed in green hits the ring to even the odds, and AHII quickly finishes off Mastodon with the High Speed rana. It was . . . interesting to say the least, but nothing I’d ever watch again.
TARU/SUWA vs. KENSUKE SASAKI/RAIMU MISHIMA
As good as he’s shown he can be, not even SUWA was able to salvage this. Everyone more or less just shows up and does their stuff. Kensuke was the usual worthless load, not even selling a low kick from TARU for more than a nanosecond. TARU and SUWA heap quite a bit of punishment onto Mishima, but he doesn’t do anything to really emphasize the beating, nor does he make any sort of fired up comeback. It’s like watching the NJPW rookies fight each other during their very early careers, no reason to care one way or another. SUWA and TARU are both good heels, but they’re rather underwhelming too. SUWA gets in a few nice shots, especially the cheap shot that knocked Kensuke off the apron, but other than those few nice shots, he’s rather pedestrian. TARU’s only real notable contributions are the Axe kick, double arm chokeslam, and TARU Driller for the win. My initial impression of this was that it was much like the 7/26/05 Kensuke/Nakajima tag match, but at least Nakajima, Kondo, and YASSHI tried to make something out of it, with only Kensuke sucking. This doesn’t even really get off the ground to begin with. Too bad it was SUWA’s only AJPW appearance.
AKEBONO/TOURU OWASHI vs. RIKISHI/JOHNNY DUNN
Despite changing his name and changing to a Sumo look, Nobutaka Araya still gets made to look worthless. The whole match is pretty much a joke. Owashi is the only one willing to actually take bumps and sell. Rikishi and Akebono don’t budge an unless it’s for one another, and even then, it’s only getting knocked back a few inches by a charge, and not actually taking a bump. And just like when he’s jerking the curtain, Araya can’t catch a break, Rikishi basically throws him into the match from the apron, and he half heartedly charges into a 64 and ends the pain. Owashi was the only one who didn’t look useless, so it’s no surprise he was invited back for the Champions Carnival.
GREAT MUTA/TAJIRI vs. GOLD DUSTIN/HAKUSHI
Surprisingly enough, this doesn’t completely suck, although that’s mostly thanks to Tajiri. Muta doesn’t do anything notable until almost the very end, and Goldust’s only contributions were the Shattered Dreams (which looked terrible), touching himself, and taking the fall after the Shining Wizard. Tajiri and Hakushi actually try to make this watchable every now and then by simply wrestling. Tajiri does a cool counter to Hakushi’s ropewalk by countering the wrist lock into a hammerlock while Hakushi is on the turnbuckle. And Tajiri also takes a decent bump from Hakushi’s Dragon screw (contrast to the dreadful bump Goldust took on Muta’s) Hakushi brings the most brutal spot of the match with a nasty double stomp, and a Benoit style diving headbutt. The four way submission spot was expected, but still rather well done. And the dual mist jobs by Muta and Tajiri were both respectable before finishing off Goldust. It wasn’t good or even decent by any stretch, but thanks to Tajiri and Hakushi (mostly Tajiri) it was at least bearable.
SHUJI KONDO © vs. KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA (AJPW Jr. Heavyweight Title)
If Kondo had to drop the title here (which he didn’t, he could have held it for all eternity and I wouldn’t have minded at all), at least he got to go out on a very high note. This is easily the smartest match that I’ve seen from Nakajima, and it doesn’t surprise me in the least that Kensuke Sasaki isn’t anywhere to be found. Even the early portion is good stuff, because their time is well spent, neither of them wastes anything. Even the simple things like Kondo showing his superiority with the headlock, has a nice touch added by Kondo slapping him in the head while in the hold. They each get an advantage by working a specific body part, Kondo’s arm and Nakajima’s neck, and both of them are smart about working back to the body part in order to regain the advantage, or pull off something a bit bigger. It also helps that Nakajima’s sell job for the big spot that got his neck in focus (Kondo more or less chucked him off the apron into the guardrail) was excellent, and that Kondo was great about finding really dickish ways to work it over. As well as Kondo being good about selling his arm whenever Nakajima would do anything to it, and Kondo was equally good at selling when Nakajima would guzzle him with offense.
The big reason why Nakajima pulls off the win here, is that he’s able to outsmart Kondo, and that he’s scouted Kondo enough to avoid the big moves that could do him in. A good example would be one of Kondo’s favorite weapons: The Original. His first attempt a bit early in the match sees Nakajima counter it with a dropkick whilst in the air. Shuji also tries it much later, but Nakajima kicking away at his arm has taken its toll and he’s unable to get all of it. The King Kong Lariat is another one. It’s not a new concept for Kondo to try the move (or even hit the move in some cases) several times, but Nakajima always has the answer for it, leveling Kondo with a running kick to the head (with a wicked bump from Shuji), countering it with a suplex, or even just kicking the outstretched arm. Kondo only hits a lariat (not the KKL) by sticking out his arm at a charging Nakajima.
In addition to his big moves, Nakajima also manages to surprise Kondo a good number of times by avoiding things that could put him in a compromising position: The best example being Kondo powering out of his attempted German suplex and trying the overhead neck whip, only for Nakajima to lock in a full nelson and Dragon suplex him. One of the more odd seeming moments of the match was seeing Nakajima get in a chop exchange with Kondo, with Nakajima having won every strike exchange by hitting the arm, but Nakajima shocks Kondo with a leg sweep and knocks him on his ass, and then goes back to the arm with an armbar. Kondo finally does get one over on Nakajima, when he tries another submission with a Triangle choke, and Kondo has more than enough power to lift him and powerbomb him. The final key to Nakajima’s win was that he basically brought every big move he had to finish him off, and he pulled it off without doing anything silly and devaluing any of the moves. The various suplexes, the diving headbutt, Kaz Hayashi’s WA4, even the NLB, and in the end, it took the same thing that always got Nakajima the win: The German suplex. It’s a damn good note for Nakajima to begin his title reign with, although he’s got a lot to live up to. This doesn’t quite hit the high that Kondo/Hayashi did, but Nakajima has *far* less time under his belt than Hayashi did. ***1/2
TOSHIAKI KAWADA/TAIYO KEA vs. RO’Z/KOHEI SUWAMA (AJPW World Tag Team Titles Decision Match)
Judged purely on it’s own merit this is a bad match, and having to follow a very good junior title match only makes it look that much worse. There just isn’t anything going on that’s very interesting. Despite how long Kea and Suwama had been feuding, or that RO’Z’s jump to VM had led to the downfall of ROD, there isn’t any sense of hate, or any intensity at all. Most of the match is just punch, kick, chop, and working various holds. There isn’t any story being told, and nobody sticks out as a weak link as carrying the load. The only real sense of teamwork comes from a few double teams from Kawada and Kea, such as their double suplex, their stereo jump kicks to RO’Z, and the Ganmengiri/Schoolboy combo that wins them the titles.
There are a few nice moments, but nothing that has any impact on the match or the finish. Kea targeting RO’Z’s knee with a few kicks and the Dragon screw in the ropes, and then tagging Kawada who slapped on the half crab and kicked him in the head a few times. It was cool to see, but RO’Z didn’t sell the leg at all afterward, and they didn’t do anything else to weaken his leg. The VM team have a nice little moment themselves, when they isolate Kawada on the floor and Suwama holds him in place, while RO’Z avalanches him into the post several times. But like with RO’Z’s leg, there wasn’t much selling afterwards, and it didn’t suddenly lead to a long heat segment for the VM team. It’s fun to watch Kawada kick the holy hell out of Suwama, but there’s far too little of that going on. There were only a couple big spots, and by ending the match on a roll up, they’re more or less negated. RO’Z plants Kea with the Samoan Driver for a near fall, and then Kawada kicks him in the head so Kea can roll him up for two, and almost right after, Kea gives RO’Z the TKO 34th for another near fall, and then the second kick/roll up combo ends the match. It’s somewhat of a positive that after over a full year, the titles were brought back, but that’s quickly negated with the fact that they came back in such a boring match which featured one of the all time greats, and one of the most promising young guns in the company.
SATOSHI KOJIMA vs. MINORU SUZUKI © (Triple Crown)
Given the circumstances surrounding Suzuki’s AJPW debut (he attacked Kojima following a successful title defense against Muta nearly a year previously) this is a fitting main event, and it’s cool to see them come full circle with it. One thing that can be said for the champion is that he’s able to bring the work, and when wrestling someone like Kojima, who’s very apt to lose his mind and do silly things, that’s a great quality. For the most part, they have a simple story that they tell rather well. It’s clear that Kojima knows how to beat Suzuki, and that Suzuki knows how to beat Kojima, it’s just a matter of which of them can implement their game plan the most effectively.
Suzuki’s plan is obvious to anyone familiar with his work and his style, he’s going to try to tie Kojima up in knots and beat him either by tap out or by choke out. Kojima also knows that despite his skills, Suzuki isn’t that big a guy and can easily be worn down with big moves, of which Kojima employs many of. So it’s essentially a game of Human Chess. Suzuki spends the early portion working over Kojima with several submissions, all of which seem to work back to Kojima’s arm (attempting to take away the lariat), and with Kojima’s arm worn down, he starts to know his famous knees and chops at Kojima, who can’t even defend himself. Even though he’s got that familiar smirk with protruding tongue, he’s mostly all business tonight. The only real signs of the famed cocky punk are his fake out charge and slap, and his attempted hanging armbar, where he basically just rests on the turnbuckle looking relaxed. But whenever Kojima lands a big (or even mid range) move, Suzuki puts on his flying shoes and sells like mad for him. Suzuki also adds some nice touches of smart work, like taking the brunt of Koji Cutter on his knees, so that he didn’t have to completely no sell it.
Kojima is rather tolerable here, although there are still a few times he seems to slip out of Suzuki’s reigns and do his own stuff. His biggest stupid move is where he gets planted with Suzuki’s pile driver and he jumps to his feet and does a Stan Hansen style Western Lariat. Hansen you are not, Kojima, nor will you ever be. Also, when Kojima gets fired up after Suzuki’s fake dive and slap, he goes crazy on him with chops and slaps, not a bad thing in itself, but uses the same arm that Suzuki had spent the last five minutes wearing down. But for the most part Suzuki manages to reign in Kojima nicely, and as silly that was to see him blow off the piledriver for that lariat, it winds up playing into the finish in a way. The big reason the lariat was so effective for Kojima was that he’d hit Suzuki with it out of nowhere. When Kojima lifted his arm and signaled for it, Suzuki dodged it and locked in the choke, flipped him over, segued to a Katahajime, and got the pin. The only things I really thought the match lacked in were intensity and hatred, but that could be chalked down to the fact that the crown jewel was on the line, and them not worrying about personal issues. It’s got its flaws, but it’s not bad at all, especially for Kojima.
Conclusion: Nope. The sequel doesn’t even sniff the original. It’s got a decent Triple Crown match and another good junior title match, but there’s nothing else worth checking out. Download the two decent matches and skip this all the way.
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