FMW DirecTV PPV on 6/19/98
review by Stuart
FMW had moved well into the angle-driven wrestling style by now, with FMW vs. Team No Respect leading the promotion. Gone were the days of gory Street Fights each month, replaced by bright lights and a colorful product with a very American feel. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, depending on how Americanized it gets. You can have the good angles, but good matches. Great. You can have the bad angles, but good matches. Fine. You can have the bad angles and bad matches. No thanks! FMW vs. ZEN had applied to the first of the three choices, while the start of FMW vs. TNR (vs. ZEN, that group almost an afterthought by now) was just a notch below that, but still really good. After Go Ito turned heel and became TNR's sleazy manager, screwjobs and the like started to increase and the company was heading to the second of those three choices. With Mr. Gannosuke going down with a bad injury on the first PPV in April, Masato Tanaka about to head overseas and suspect booking increasing, problems were on the horizon. Clips are shown of angles leading into the show, including The Gladiator declaring free agency and leaving the struggling Team ZEN as a result. Clips are shown of the awesome Hayabusa vs. Tanaka match from the last PPV, one of the best FMW matches ever, which Hayabusa won. Tanaka decided to head overseas for more training, so that he might be able to finally defeat Hayabusa, and this PPV would have his last match before that. This PPV took place at FMW's home base, Tokyo Korakuen Hall.
Hisakatsu Oya vs. Hideki Hosaka
Hosaka comes out to the sad version of Bom-Ba-Ye (or whatever the tune itself is called), since he and Tetsuhiro Kuroda are now slaves of Team No Respect, pulled away from ZEN against their own will after losing matches with stipulations on 5/25 and 5/26. Go Ito accompanies Hosaka, who makes a half-hearted gesture at the camera, as if to unwillingly show his affiliation with TNR. The match starts with some basic matwork, such as armlocks and headscissor holds. It stays this way for a long time, with no real breakthroughs or holds of interest. The first "big" move of the match is a corner charge lariat from Hosaka. He sits Oya up and brings him down with a Frankensteiner. A Northern Lights suplex hold follows, getting 2. Hosaka slaps on one of Oya's favorite moves, the Octopus hold. Hosaka charges into a neckbreaker drop, switching the momentum. Oya applies his own Octopus hold, Hosaka holding out until the structure collapses. Hosaka manages to counter one of Oya's deadly backdrop suplexes by landing on top of him for 2. Hosaka hits a surprising standing or Frankensteiner after sending Oya off the ropes, getting another 2 count. Hosaka uses a DDT for 2 1/2. Oya ducks a running lariat and plants Hosaka with a backdrop suplex for 2 1/2. Hosaka uses a drop toehold, following instantly with a Japanese leg roll clutch hold for 2. Oya comes back with an enzuigiri and backdrop suplexes Hosaka for a second time. He reverts to the Octopus hold and Hosaka taps out. Pretty boring and non-descript match. It was almost all mat-based and like a rookie match, with no real intrigue or drama. This wasn't the same Oya who worked those great matches with Hayabusa a few years before.
Highlights of ZEN's 5/5 show are aired. May 5th is FMW's traditional anniversary show date, but in both 1997 and 1998, they strayed from that. It's quite fitting that Onita's ZEN held a 5/5 show, since the "real" (his) FMW had disappeared, replaced by a whole new way of doing things. Sadly, Onita's burial continues on this show, when he's forced to kiss Go Ito's shoes as part of another angle used to demean him, rather than build to any big Onita comeback (such as a return win over fat Fuyuki). Stills of Kuroda and Hosaka being kidnapped and made slaves are also shown. This certainly wouldn't be the last kidnapping angle in FMW. On 5/27, Kuroda and Hosaka team up as part of TNR for the first time, wearing the white TNR pajama things. They "have" to do the crotch gesturing stuff and face the jobber team of Mr. Pogo 2 and Yoshinori Sasaki. They win of course, then do more gesturing. Backstage, the two are forced to stand like prisoners before TNR as humiliation. During another match on 5/31, Koji Nakagawa appears ready to whack Go Ito with a stick, but instead turns and hits Onita with it, turning heel and joining TNR. Because you can't trust Koji Nakagawa! Thus begins Koji's Mr. Double Cross gimmick. Fuyuki eventually pins Onita (surprise, surprise) with a TFPB, even more humiliation, since that's Onita's move. On 6/1/98, Nakagawa debuts as a TNR wrestler as a "mystery partner", teaming with Fuyuki and Kanemura against Hayabusa, Tanaka & Oya. Koji gives Tanaka a low blow, then rolls him up for the win and the vacated 6 Man Tag Titles. He taunts the slaves, one of whom (Kuroda) he used to be good friends with, backstage. A feud starts between Hido and Super Leather, both members of TNR. Ito speaks near-perfect English during an interview, setting the next match up. There's only room for one...
Hido vs. Super Leather in a Loser Leaves TNR Match
The hip thing in FMW at this point (at least in TNR) is to act American and speak English (like Go did during that interview just shown). Hido shows off his own English skills, shouting "Cut the music!". They have a boxing match to start, but quickly go to the outside and into the bleachers, doing nothing much. From there, they move into the corridors of Korakuen Hall, camera men racing to keep up with them. They do some teases on a balcony, Hido almost tumbling over. Unlike his former W*ING Alliance buddy, Matsunaga, though, he doesn't go over. Hido bleeds pretty heavily, after Leather jabs a stick into his forehead. They do even more crappy brawling in the crowd, then Leather tombstone's Hido on a table (which is flat on the ground) at ringside. Back in the ring, Hido hits Leather with a chair a few times, before connecting with a kneel kick for 2. Leather stays up after two running lariats and counters a third with a modified uranage for 2 1/2. He sits Hido up top and brings him down with a suplex for another 2 1/2 count. Leather drops Hido with a high-angle powerbomb for yet another near fall. Leather throws some weak chops, then we get a referee bump. Oh please. Leather powerbomb's Hido again and covers, but no referee. Gedo and Kanemura try to help Hido, but both get decked. Gedo eventually brings out the brass knuckles and decks Leather with them, Kanemura following up with a diving senton. They drag Hido on top, revive the referee, and Hido gets the win. Go Ito screams at Leather in English, "You are fired! One more fucking time! You are fired!". Leather retaliates with, "Fuck you, motherfucker!". An indy match in every sense and not even a good one. Leather was beyond hopeless and Hido was so lazy and deliberate in the ring by this point, which he had been since breaking his neck a couple of years before. Poor brawling, poor (but passable) wrestling when they were actually in the ring and a screwy American finish. So yes, this was really lousy.
The Gladiator vs. Jado
This is a total mismatch on paper. "Stan" Jado enters to Stan Hansen's music, running to the ring like Stan would. Jado gets a bit fired up (quite rare of him in FMW) at the start, doing a cartwheel. Awesome drops him with a fairly low impact German suplex hold for 2. Jado sends Awesome to the corner, but Awesome hops up the turnbuckle and off with a diving back elbow for 2. They go outside, Awesome taking TNR's Jado into the bleachers and hitting him with a chair. Awesome re-enters the ring with his slingshot shoulderblock, covering for 2 1/2. He works over Jado with both a camel clutch and crab hold. This doesn't accomplish much and just seems to kill time. Awesome uses a Hawaiian Smasher for 2, but Jado avoids a corner charge and Awesome goes shoulder-first into (or almost) the ring post. Jado goes to work over an arm, but again, little of interest. He applies a crossface hold, one of his finishers, so that's a little improvement over idle armbars. He moves from that into a chickenwing facelock, trying to keep the giant down. Awesome grabs the ropes though, forcing a break. Awesome ducks Jado's Western lariat and spear's him down. He picks Jado up, short lariat's him, then drops him from the shoulders, face-first on the mat. A powerbomb follows, then a diving body press for 2 3/4. Jado slips out of a powerbomb and throws a really good lariat, convincing even against a guy so much bigger. He covers, but Awesome kicks out. Jado goes for another, but Awesome gets a boot up, then lariat's Jado down. He follows with a running Awesome bomb, getting the win. Pretty lifeless match. They didn't do much for most of the match, though put together a decent closing sequence. It was too late by then and I thought this might be at least decent, but instead it continued the trail of mediocrity.
Awesome grabs the microphone and orders some guy to translate for him. He says he's independent now (which he said in another interview). He asks where the Stupid (Brief) Brothers are at. He asks who's next, citing Kanemura as a possibility. He notes that Gannosuke (which would have been a good, fresh feud) is in the hospital. He wants a title shot against Hayabusa, but the Brief Brothers are running FMW and are keeping him from having a chance at the champion. Since he can't fight for the title, he says, "I'm gonna kick every one of the Stupid Brothers' asses!". Awesome's final words are to Leather, exclaiming, "you need to take off that stupid fucking mask of yours", saying pretty much that the Leather(face) gimmick isn't over anymore. Shoot interviews! He threatens the translator and tells him to translate now, which he does. Pretty good interview that didn't cross the boundaries of kayfabe or anything.
Time for the intermission. Highlights are shown of the Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title match from 5/27, with Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka defending against The New Footloose, Kodo Fuyuki & Yukihiro Kanemura. In full, on the Best Bouts tape, this is a **3/4 match. Good tag match, pretty garbagey and bloody, but dragged down by Fuyuki. His push continues anyway, he and Kanemura defeating the "elite" team of Hayabusa & Tanaka, Kanemura dropping his diving senton on Tanaka for the win and belts at 19:39. Clips are shown of the match talked about early, from 6/1, with Fuyuki, Kanemura & Nakagawa vs. Hayabusa, Tanaka & Oya. Nakagawa starts his gimmick of being something of an evil rogue in this match, cutting Tanaka up with a fork. Tanaka jobbing to a Nakagawa flash pin (inside cradle roll-up) was actually pretty good booking, because it elevated the new heel and Tanaka wasn't hurt, since he was about to go away and it would be forgotten when he returned in style down the road. TNR control two titles now, but the big singles belt still eludes them, held by Hayabusa. Finally, clips are shown of the press conference where Tanaka announces he will go to ECW to learn new stuff and hopefully be able to ascend even more when he returns.
Masato Tanaka vs. Tetsuhiro Kuroda
Tanaka hits a beautiful elbow suicida early on. They go into the crowd, where Kuroda does a running knee attack with a big run up. Kuroda lariat's the ring post when Tanaka gets out of the way. Back in, Tanaka throws a stiff chairshot to Kuroda's head, but Kuroda fires back with a quick lariat. Tanaka comes back with a rare kneel kick and works on Kuroda's sore arm. Kuroda comes back with an awkward rolling takedown into a cross armbreaker. The match stays see-saw for a while. These two have good chemistry doing intricate sequences, so do one of those, Tanaka trying an elbow on the turn, but eating a lariat and being covered for 2 1/2! Kuroda pushes off a tornado DDT, misses a lariat and gets dropped with a half-botched Acid Drop. Tanaka seemed to slip. Tanaka's tornado DDT hits on second attempt and gets 2. Kuroda gets 2 1/2 from a lariat, then does a nice running somersault spinebuster slam for 2. Tanaka decides that he doesn't have to sell a German suplex and throws an elbow to Kuroda. Kuroda in turns hits a lariat, but Tanaka wins the exchange with an elbow for 2 1/2. A running Death Valley bomb scores the same result. Tanaka runs into a drop toehold and hits the bottom rope. Kuroda makes an impact with rolling Dragon suplexes, the third a hold for 2 1/2! Tanaka blocks a lariat with his hands, but Kuroda persists with a rolling lariat for 2 1/2! Kuroda runs into a boot, but turns a rolling elbow attempt into a half-nelson suplex hold for 2 1/2! Kuroda tries an Irish whip, but Tanaka keeps hold of him. He throws some elbows, then a rolling elbow for 2 1/2! Another running DVB gets 2 3/4! Kuroda is fading. Tanaka drops Kuroda with the suplex Stunner, then throws a running elbow smash with great force for the win. Good match and the only one some far with crowd heat. Had selling flaws, but some very nice and complex sequences. Even in loss, Kuroda looked good, so this furthered his slow elevation. Kuroda was developing as a wrestler and had a varied moveset, but was also getting that goofy streak that has stopped him from reaching the huge potential his has.
Anyway, Tanaka went to ECW, which hurt his workrate and FMW's workrate (while he was gone). Working with atrocities like Balls Mahoney, The Dudley Boys and being in the general "enough ISN'T enough" ECW environment, he obtained an annoying habit, where he'd be hit with about 3,000 chairshots and act giddy, eventually falling down after #3,000.
Hayabusa, Daisuke Ikeda, Hisakatsu Oya & Ricky Fuji vs. Kodo Fuyuki, Koji Nakagawa, Yukihiro Kanemura & Gedo
FMW did something I thought impossible. They found an available (on loan in this case) wrestler who was actually better than Tanaka to replace him, BattlARTS' Daisuke Ikeda! He's a mystery partner here and gets a big pop. Oya works double duty, which may explain why he went easy in the opener. TNR enter second, the faction entering at once to "Come Out and Play" and doing THE DANCE. Fuyuki gets the smallest reaction, a bad sign for the supposed lead heel. Hayabusa and Kanemura start. Kanemura uses a couple of deep hiptosses, then Hayabusa fires back with his own. Nakagawa, who's getting crazy heat for his heel turn, is booed just for being tagged in. He works over the arm of old friend Hayabusa, until the falcon tags in Ikeda. Ikeda brings out the kicks, doing a bunch of them, before dropping Koji with a snap suplex for 2. Nakagawa rakes the eyes and tags in the Gedo. Gedo and Ikeda do a tricky sequence, Ikeda jumping up and landing groin-first on Gedo's knee. Gedo mocks him, mimicking the pain, which pisses Ikeda off and he kicks Gedo to hell, that flurry eventuating when he throws a kneel kick. Fuji and Fuyuki are soon tagged, the fat one screeching and headbutting Ricky. They exchange chops and shoulderblocks, the fans not responding to Fuyuki's theatrics like they did with the SUPAHFLY moments ago. They do a bunch of nothing, then Kanemura and Hayabusa return. Hayabusa and Ikeda use a cool double kneel kick to either side of Kanemura. The heels are cleared off, giving the FMW team chance to hit a quadruple corner charge attack on Kanemura. Fuji and Oya double suplex him down, Hayabusa following quickly with a diving kneedrop, then quadruple kicking and punching. Good stuff and the fans liked it.
Oya swinging neckbreaker's Kanemura down, then uses a Russian legsweep for only 1. Gedo returns, but Oya bodyslam's him in position for a Hayabusa slingshot legdrop, which gets 2. Ikeda punishes Gedo some more, including a brutal kick to the back that causes Gedo to jump up and down in pain. He begs off, that giving him time to tag in Fuyuki. He slaps around Ikeda, treating him like a jobber. Ikeda makes him pay for it B-style, throwing hard kicks to the legs and chest. Fuyuki falls back into his own corner and tags in Koji "Heat" Nakagawa, who's mere presence continues to be jeered violently. He is rushed into the wrong corner and Hayabusa makes his return, using a neck lock suplex for 2. Nakagawa lifts him and sits him up top for Kanemura. Kanemura evilly places a precise kick dOWnstairs, the fans getting on his case too. A leg lariat gets 2. Kanemura goes all martial arts, kicking Hayabusa's leg a couple of times, then sweeping both legs nicely. He throws Hayabusa out to Gedo, who brutalizes him in an assortment of ways. TNR take out the opposition and a table is brought in the ring. Kanemura lifts Hayabusa and drops him almost neck-first on the UNBREAKABLE table, which hardly flinches! Hayabusa drops off and Gedo lariat's him back on for Kanemura's diving elbow drop, which puts Hayabusa through the table for a 2 count. Kanemura shows that he is FOREVER W*ING, breaking a piece of wood from the table and cracking it over Hayabusa's skull. Gedo re-enters, planting Hayabusa with a backdrop suplex for 2. Nakagawa takes his turn, using Hayabusa's own Falcon Arrow on him for 2, Ikeda breaking. Fuyuki is next, taking Hayabusa's head off with his running lariat for 2 1/2! Fuyuki powerbomb's Hayabusa and Kanemura lands a diving elbow drop for 2.
Kanemura runs the ropes, straight into a twisting high kick. He catches a kick right after that though and kicks Hayabusa dOWnstairs again. He goes up top, diving into a Hayabusa dropkick. Ikeda is tagged and turns Kanemura inside out with a lariat. He follows with an even more brutal one to Gedo, who goes down FAST. He uses backdrop suplexes on both of those guys. A German suplex attempt backfires, when Kanemura uses a reverse low blow out of it, continuing his streak of groin attacks. Nakagawa enters, right into an Ikeda savate kick, the BattlARTS star tagging Fuji. Ricky takes on everyone and spikes Koji with a DDT for 2. Nakagawa is dropped with Fuji's Kamikaze and Oya follows with his old school diving kneedrop. He follows with a super-quick swinging neckbreaker for 2. Next is a Dynamic suplex, which gets a big cheer and a 2 count. He returns to the top, missing another diving kneedrop. Fuyuki is in next, but takes too long doing his jog-on-the-spot power up, allowing Hayabusa to enter with a diving crossbody. He takes out the others and thrust kick's Fuyuki down and out. He follows with a baseball slide dropkick and fends off Kanemura, before going out to Fuyuki with a tremendous quebrada! He rolls Fuyuki in and performs his springboard somersault senton/Lionsault sequence, done perfectly, for 2 1/2. He goes up for the kill, but has to modify his attack when Gedo stalls him, using a diving elbow smash on the now-standing Fuyuki. He teases a Dragon suplex on Fuyuki, Gedo putting an end to that by dropkicking his neck. TNR get revenge from earlier, using their own quadruple corner attack, eventuating in a Fuyuki lariat. They follow up with a union superbomb, Fuyuki covering for 2 and Ikeda saving. Kanemura lariat's Ikeda, but Ikeda busts out the BABA chops, then more kicks. A double-arm suplex follows, then a Cobra Twist, which Kanemura is able to throw out of.
Kanemura bodyslam's Ikeda and follows with his diving senton for 2, Oya saving. Oya charges at Nakagawa, but has his strike ducked, and Mr. Double Cross drops him with a German suplex hold for 2. Koji connects with a diving shoulderblock for another 2 count. Oya busts out one of his deadly backdrop suplexes from nowhere and follows with a second (assisted by a Fuji dropkick) for 2, Gedo breaking this time. Hayabusa goes after Gedo, using a Michinoku Driver II on him, then a beautiful firebird splash for 2, Fuyuki saving. Gedo flips out of a German suplex (landing on his knees) and Fuyuki is in position to lariat the stunned Fuji down. Gedo goes up and drops a beautiful frog splash for 2 3/4! Go Ito hands Gedo some brass knuckles. Ricky ducks a strike, but is hit by them when Gedo counters a backdrop suplex. Fuji blocks a second punch and gets some revenge for TNR's constant groin attacks by kicking Gedo low, then dropping him with a rotating brainbuster for the win! Fans flock to ringside and tap the mat in unison, impressed. Team FMW celebrate and have words with TNR, who leave without causing any further trouble. Hayabusa wishes Tanaka luck in ECW and they hug. Tanaka shakes hands with his FMW teammates and heads off to America. A really awesome sprint. Whenever a weakness seemed likely to appear, such as Fuyuki's general mediocrity or Nakagawa's lack of moveset, a tag was made, so it was continuous and most weaknesses were masked. It was long (I don't have an exact match time, because for some reason FMW stopped listing times on the screen) and always exciting. Hayabusa was the best and worked quite a lot of the match. Ikeda looked real good when in there, even working pro style. Kanemura, Gedo and Oya were also good, Fuji decent (he mainly did bursts of moves) and Fuyuki the only one I'd rather not have seen in there. This was as good, probably better, as the critically acclaimed DX/Radicals vs. WWF match from early 2000, but will never get such praise, because it happened in EVIL FMW.
The first three matches threatened to put me to sleep and had no heat at all. FMW's undercard never was that great though and it was usually the higher matches that made or broke the shows. Tanaka vs. Kuroda was a very good FMW heavyweight style match, which displayed the strengths (and some weaknesses) of the really cool hybrid heavyweight style FMW developed. The main event was just a damn good sprint, sort of a poor man's (but that's not an insult) version of the ones All Japan did back in the day. The promotion was changing and not really in a way I liked. Everything was becoming more gimmicky and there was less spirit (if that's the right word) in the product as a whole than before. I'm attached to what FMW WAS, so even cosmetic details like the hi-tech lighting and production improvements didn't rate favorably with me. Still, if you can endure the mediocre, lifeless undercard stuff, there are two high quality matches at the end.
For more of Stuart's thoughts and opinions on puroresu, visit www.puroresufan.com