FMW Story of the F Stage 3
review by Stuart

FMW's glory days arguably were in the 1996 to 1998 region, drawing good numbers and having a great variety of wrestling. In 1997 the company slowly became more focused on story-driven wrestling while maintaining the traditional Street Fight style that made it famous. This tape, the Story of the F 3rd Stage documents the happenings from August '97 to July '98, almost a year, in which the company changed a lot. The tape starts on 8/2/97 with a shot of a No Rope Explosive Barbed Wire ring setup. The participants are Masato Tanaka, and W*ING Alliance leader, W*ING Kanemura, to determine who will face Onita at Kawasaki. Tanaka is first to take a nasty bump, pushed into the barbed wire by Kanemura. Later on both of them hit the wire at the same time, and both get exploded. Tanaka does a great job of selling the third bump by shaking as if electrocuted and having an expression of sheer agony on his face. He learned from the king after all. Kanemura follows up with a Liger bomb for 2 3/4. He drops Tanaka with a Thunder Fire powerbomb for the duke. He cuts a promo after the match and clasps hands with fellow W*ING Alliance members, Hido and Hideki Hosaka.

To 8/21/97 we go, with members of the dying Funk Masters of Wrestling group, Mr. Gannosuke and Hisakatsu Oya vs. Kanemura and Hido. Kanemura drops Gannosuke on his head with an overhead belly to belly and it's not long before Gannosuke grabs his bamboo stick, which he drills into Hido's forehead. He then tears at Hido's wound and in an unintentional sick spot, a single line of blood trickles down Hido's face and on to his chest. Kanemura and Hido double team the FMoW members with Kanemura using a ultra-stiff backdrop suplex on Gannosuke. Later on while Oya and Kanemura are killing each other, Gannosuke hits his Fire Thunder driver on Hido for the 3 count. Atsushi Onita has a press conference and does an interview, the formation of ZEN slowly but surely in progress. 8/31/97 sees Gedo (with Jado and Kodo Fuyuki, who is basically a midcarder at this time, but slowly rising up the card) vs. Ricky Fuji, who formed the New Rock N Roll Express with washed up Ricky Morton for a while. Fuji gets his knees up as Gedo tries a moonsault from the second turnbuckle and later on hits his Kamikaze for 2 3/4. Gedo catches Fuji with a Pedigree and applies the Gedo clutch for the win.

On the same day a 6 Man Street Fight Titles match takes place with The Gladiator (Mike Awesome), Gannosuke & Oya defending against Hayabusa, Tanaka & Koji Nakagawa. Tanaka and Awesome do their chairfight sequence which they would do many times following this, spanning two continents. In a nifty spot, Hayabusa is whipped towards Oya who is waiting with a cane to whack him, but Hayabusa dropkicks his left knee. However, he then messes up a great sequence of moves by totally blowing a Frankensteiner attempt on Awesome. Gannosuke drops Koji on a chair with the Fire Thunder, but Hayabusa saves. Awesome powerbomb's Hayabusa through a table from the top rope in a crazy spot, but Koji returns the favor by saving his partner. The ending is great, with Tanaka elbowing Oya into the waiting arms of Hayabusa who gives him a Dragon suplex, referee Go Ito (remember that name) counting to 3 and we have new champions. This looked to be a super match. Backstage, Fuyuki and his boys approach the losers and appear to taunt them. Awesome fires off several f-bombs at Fuyuki. Gannosuke and Gedo then have words and then the three intruders leave. Gannosuke shouts at President Arai after this. Brief clips of the W*ING Alliance taking names and then on 9/25/97, Hido slaps Kanemura while trying to restrain him from charging Awesome, who is taunting. Kanemura has an injured foot so would surely be destroyed. Eventually the trio leave the ring with Kanemura wanting to kill Awesome.

Next up is the big 9/28/97 Kawasaki Stadium show, featuring a lot of huge matches. The first continues the feud earlier documented with Mr. Gannosuke & Oya against Jado & Gedo. Gannosuke pins Gedo with the Fire Thunder to win the match. Next we see Kodo Fuyuki against Terry Funk. The Headhunters chase off Gedo and Jado allowing Funk to beat Fuyuki with a moonsault. Fuyuki had zero power here so wasn't exactly headlining cards. Ken Shamrock vs. Vader is very briefly looked at but the ending not shown since it was a disappointment and had to be stopped. Shamrock bled internally, so lost. Mike Awesome and Masato Tanaka continue their awesome (pun totally intended) feud with a brutal match which sees Awesome give Tanaka a Liger bomb through a table outside. Tanaka gains revenge by powerbombing Awesome through a table outside also. He later hits his rolling elbow and wins the FMW Double Titles. The main event of the show sees Atsushi Onita vs W*ING Kanemura in a No Rope Exploding Barbed Wire Cage Match. This was a disappointing match because of Kanemura's foot injury, but it did feature some killer spots. Kanemura whacks Onita with a barbed wire baseball bat about five times, sending him into the barbed wire cage which means a brief explosion. As the sirens go off with around 1:30 left before the big explosion, Kanemura hits a Thunder Fire powerbomb (TFPB) but can't beat Onita. Onita gets a 2 count with about five seconds left and realizing this is it, the referee buries his head in his hands and we see perhaps the greatest explosion of all time, the ring legitimately looking like a nuclear bomb was just dropped on it with clouds of smoke surrounding it. Onita hits a TFPB to win the match and afterwards helps Kanemura into an ambulance with Hido. Due to a stipulation, the long-standing W*ING Alliance was forced to split up. The group was one of my favorite factions from it's early days with Matsunaga, right to the end. Things are getting really interesting now.

Press conference! A row of wrestlers led by Onita denounce themselves as FMW wrestlers and form Team ZEN. They are: Atsushi Onita, the former W*ING Alliance (Yukihiro (no longer W*ING because of the forced breakup) Kanemura, Hido, Hideki Hosaka), Tetsuhiro Kuroda (tired of being held back) and former Funk Masters of Wrestling members, Hisakatsu Oya and Mr. Gannosuke. FMW will never be the same! This was Onita's first heel turn in the company he created and sold. We go to 10/14/97 with hated enemies, Mr. Gannosuke and Jinsei Shinzaki, going head to head. Gannosuke attacks Shinzaki during his pre-match ritual with a lariat. Shinzaki does a big bladejob and gets choked with a karate belt and is then kicked right in the groin. Gannosuke crushes him with a TFPB for the win. Gannosuke puts one foot on the fallen Shinzaki after the match and taunts him on the microphone. This feud is far from over. On the same day Hayabusa, Tanaka & Nakagawa defend their 6 Man Street Fight Tag Team Title against Onita, Kuroda & Hido, with the ZEN trio destroying the champions. Onita pins Koji with a stiff TFPB to take the straps for Team ZEN. Onita is still getting babyface reactions which is a negative. On 10/19/97, Tanaka, defending his belts, goes against Hideki Hosaka. Tanaka sells a bad arm injury throughout the match with Hosaka working over it to try and gain a submission win. Tanaka almost taps a one point to a wakigatame, but grabs the ropes. He comes back and wins with his rolling elbow smash. Still on the 19th, Onita and Kanemura challenge fellow ZEN members, Gannosuke and Oya, for the Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title. This is a wild match and sees Onita piledrive Gannosuke outside. Onita and Kanemura win the titles when Kanemura backslide's Oya for the win.

On 10/21/97, we see Gannosuke & Oya vs. Awesome & chainsaw-wielding maniac Super Leather, who had been pushed huge under Victor Quinones' reign as booker, but had since been de-pushed a lot. Awesome accidentally lariat's Leather and they scuffle, with Awesome hitting one of his running powerbombs. In an eight man tag match, Kuroda gets a big upset win by pinning Tanaka and also gains a whole lot of credibility. After the match, ZEN beat down Hayabusa and Mike Awesome appears to make the save, but turns against Ezaki and joins ZEN. Not surprisingly I might add, since he had a history of doing that. After a powerbomb, the team flag is draped over the fallen Hayabusa. In another six man tag match, Onita, Kuroda & Hido are upset by Tanaka, Ricky Fuji & Mr. Pogo 2 when Tanaka pins Onita, a massive win for Tanaka who pins his mentor. ZEN beat the hell out of them after the match. On 11/28/97, Koji Nakagawa cuts a promo to President Arai and leaves FMW. Fast forward to 12/5/97 where Shinzaki & Fuji battle Mr. Gannosuke & Kanemura. Shinzaki looks very subdued. Gannosuke continues his rise into the "All Time Greatest Heel" books by outright mocking Shinzaki and his beliefs by dressing up like him and adapting the same mannerisms. I guess he stole Jinsei's outfit, since Shinzaki is dressed in basic blue today. With Kanemura by Gannosuke's side, we reach a new level of heel nirvana! Kanemura was morphing from the serious garbage monster to a more comedic guy at this point, which I have mixed feelings about, but he was great in both roles. Gannosuke slaps Shinzaki a few times but the High Priest stays true to his beliefs and doesn't respond in anger. Later on Gannosuke adds salt, vinegar AND ketchup to the wounds by finishing off Fuji with Shinzaki's Praying powerbomb. As if that wasn't enough, ZEN destroy them with powerbombs after the match, Shinzaki being dropped on a thick stack of chairs. They then make some demands to Arai.

Next we go to 12/5/97 a tag match with The Great Nita (Onita's spoof of The Great Muta), Kanemura & Hido vs. Kodo Fuyuki, Jado & Gedo. Nita and Fuyuki spend the majority of the match brawling with each other while Jado and Gedo battle in the ring with Hido and Kanemura. Nita then goes on a mist rampage, spitting it in the opponents eyes. The funniest part is when he prances behind Jado, lightly taps him on the shoulder and then sprays mist as Jado turns around. Eventually though, Fuyuki pins Hido after his running lariat. Jado and Gedo tear apart a ZEN t-shirt after the match. Still on the 5th, Hayabusa takes on Oya in what looks to be a great match (continuing their trend from over the years). It takes two consecutive Falcon Arrows to finish Oya off. After the match Oya leaves ZEN and joins up with Hayabusa's Phoenix home army. Again on the 5th, Tanaka defends his titles against Kuroda and the two start with a strong mat sequence. Eventually, Tanaka wins with an elbow smash. Kuroda had shown potential for a long time, often teaming with Tanaka prior to ZEN forming, and was continuing his slow ascent here. Onita sets up a match between himself and Tanaka for the big 12/19/97 show which means the Tag Team Title match with Gannosuke & Kanemura vs. Hayabusa & Shinzaki is pushed down the card. This outrages Gannosuke, who throws a fit backstage at Onita and has to be held back by Hido and Kanemura. Tension in ZEN is beginning to rise by now.

On 12/13/97, Hayabusa cuts a promo with Tanaka and Oya looking on. Out of nowhere Koji Nakagawa appears and punches him, very angry. He has to be pulled off by Tanaka and Oya. He screams something before rushing off. Hayabusa and Nakagawa, dojo friends, had a brief feud in 1996, but reunited shortly after having two singles matches. On 12/19/97, Terry Funk takes on Buh Buh Ray Dudley and The Sandman in an ECW three way dance match. A ladder is heavily involved and it appears to be a standard crappy ECW-style match with dangerous spots and brawling. Sandman does a somersault legdrop on to a ladder covering Buh Buh Ray and then Funk does the spinning ladder spot where he whacks everyone with it. Funk eventually pins Buh Buh Ray with a DDT-gone-wrong. The match seemed bad but the fans were into it because of Funk. Still on the big 12/19 show, new Tag Team Champions, Gannosuke & Kanemura, defend against Hayabusa & Shinzaki. Gannosuke becomes even greater by trying the Praying ropewalk on Hayabusa, but Shinzaki pushes him off. The two get some serious heel heat throughout the match after an assortment of low blows and taunting. In one of the best spots I've seen, as Gannosuke charges to break up a Praying powerbomb attempt by Shinzaki to Kanemura, Hayabusa comes off the top rope with a crossbody to stop him, allowing Jinsei to execute the move. The grace with which is was done was just fantastic. Moments later Hayabusa hits a crazy tope con hilo, clearing the top rope by acres. The end of the match sees Hayabusa springboard into the ring but get a knee to the injured ribs by Kanemura, who then rolls him up and scores the huge upset pin (once upon a time it wouldn't have been such an upset, but Kanemura was a main eventer back then). Backstage. the champions talk and display their tag belts, which are near-identical to the WWF's. To the main event and big match we go, with Tanaka against Onita (disciple vs. mentor) in an apparent non-title match. Onita actually gets some heel heat during the introduction. Onita becomes Bret Hart and spends much of the match working over an injured leg, giving Tanaka a figure-four around the ring post at one point. Tanaka tries his elbow suicida, but Onita lifts a chair which meets Tanaka's hard head. Tanaka goes for the rolling elbow, but is suddenly rolled up and pinned by Onita. Awesome finish and a very good match. Onita praises Tanaka somewhat after the match so backstage Gannosuke throws another fit, because he hates RESPECT (this will mean something in the near future). They have a really intense face to face discussion.

On 12/20/97, a six man tag match takes place with Hayabusa, Tanaka & Oya up against Onita, Kuroda & Hido. Another crazy Street Fight happens and Oya pins Hido with a deadly backdrop suplex. The next day Tanaka defends his Double Titles against long-time rival Kanemura, attempting to gain some steam back after losing to Onita. Tanaka wins with one of the stiffest elbow shots you will ever see. The next day Sabu takes on Sandman in an ECW touring match. This match sees the usual Sabu spots and table breaking. Sandman suplexes Sabu on a ladder in the corner and later Sabu springboard somersault's on to Sandman (on a table) outside, with the table not even flinching under the pressure. Sabu wins the poor match when he legdrop's a ladder on to the Sandman from the top rope. On the same show, a War Games type cage match takes place with ZEN (Onita, Gannosuke & Kanemura) taking on FMW (Hayabusa, Shinzaki & Tanaka) in a great match. Kanemura drops Hayabusa on a ladder with a sidewalk slam and Gannosuke tries to handcuff Tanaka to the cage. Shinzaki hits Onita with a perfect backflip kick, then Kanemura comes off the top of the ladder with an elbow drop to Hayabusa. Tanaka gets 2 3/4 with a TFPB to Onita and Kanemura just kind of looks on. Gannosuke and Kanemura content themselves with tearing apart Shinzaki, while Onita gets a beating. They watch as Hayabusa MOONSAULT'S OFF THE TOP OF THE HUGE CAGE AND ON TO ONITA! Needless to say, Go Ito counts to 3. The big angle happens after the match with Gannosuke and Kanemura finally snapping and attacking Onita. They stop several ZEN members from getting involved until a hooded man appears and takes them out with a chair. It's Koji Nakagawa!

So as of 12/22/97, ZEN comprised of Onita, Awesome, Nakagawa, Kuroda and Hosaka, who became tweeners for now. The first match from 1998 shown is Tanaka vs. Gannosuke for the FMW Double Titles on 1/6/98. Tanaka connects with his rolling elbow, but can only get 2 1/2! He goes for a body press but finds only Gannosuke's knees and the challenger becomes champion with the Gannosuke clutch (which isn't actually shown for some reason). Gannosuke had become an excellent worker by this point, so he and another great worker (Tanaka) had a super match here. Backstage, he talks, with Miss Mongol holding his titles. Arai shows up and doesn't look happy with the new champion. 1/7/98 marks the first ZEN show put together by Onita. It features Onita, Nakagawa & Kuroda facing Gannosuke, Kanemura & Hido in a Street Fight. Gannosuke does the Praying powerbomb on Onita as Hido and Kanemura pray also. Late in the match, Onita appears again as The Great Nita and sprays Hido. Nakagawa rolls Hido up to grab the win. The losers attack after the match and are joined by Fuyuki and Jado (Gedo is out of FMW at this stage and freelancing) who help them! They all embrace. Backstage they sit side by side, with Miss Mongol lay across their laps, and cut an interview. They form Team No Respect, one of the most controversial and dominant factions in wrestling. The rise of Fuyuki has also reached a new level, as he's above Kanemura for sure now and just below Gannosuke (for now). In the ZEN ring, the team slaps the mat in loyalty as the war becomes a three way dance.

On the next show (1/16/98), as President Arai is reading something, Jado grabs the sheet of paper and TNR tear it apart. This would become a regular trait and a major heat-getter. Kanemura then debuts his pseudo-masturbation hand gesture as he continues to morph into comedic wrestler. Gannosuke, Kanemura & Jado take on Hayabusa, Tanaka & Oya for the 6 Man Street Fight Titles. The TNR trio do a nice triple team with Jado hitting Tanaka with a lariat in the corner, then whipping him into a missile dropkick from Gannosuke and finally Kanemura comes off the top with a diving lariat for 2 1/2. As the others are fighting Jado pins Oya with a cradle to take the belts. After the match, they take another sheet from Arai and pull their pants down, revealing white briefs. This would become a trademark for TNR to display their lack of respect for everyone and everything. Poor Arai gets taunted even more but doesn't snap... yet. 2/6/98 sees Gannosuke and Kanemura take on Oya and Shinzaki in a match that sees a broken ring rope heavily involved. Gannosuke puts Shinzaki's own Goku-Raku Gatame (straight-jacket strangle) hold on him and the referee calls for the bell after Jinsei passes out from lack of oxygen. After the match, Gannosuke demands a challenger worthy of taking him on and an eight man tournament is setup. On 2/13/98 at another ZEN show Onita, Nakagawa & Kuroda take on Gannosuke, Kanemura & Jado for the 6 Man Street Fight Titles. Gannosuke whacks Koji in the ribs several times with a chair but then is accidentally hit by Kanemura and tumbles out. Nakagawa locks on a sleeper and Kanemura, already having lost much blood, passes out and the titles change hands again.

After the match TNR destroy the leg of referee Go Ito, when Jado comes off the top with a chairshot to the leg. Backstage they cut a promo with Kanemura sounding really nasal; probably because his face is just covered with blood. Gannosuke sits there completely naked with his private parts censored by scramble vision. Fuyuki breaks down laughing and the rest of TNR follow. Gannosuke appears to play with himself and cuts a serious interview while doing so, with everyone (myself included) in fits of laughter. Kanemura tears his briefs off and Gannosuke rushes to cover himself. Unfortunately his butt isn't censored. Fuyuki is laughing so hard that he can't speak. This is one of the funniest things ever. From happy to sad, with ZEN tending to fallen referee Go Ito. They douse his injured leg with a pain relief spray. They aren't happy with the treacherous TNR. 2/16/98 sees a show ran by Fuyuki-gun with Go Ito on crutches and reading a match document before a Tag Title match with Gannosuke & Kanemura defending against Nakagawa & Kuroda. Kanemura grabs the document and then dropkick's Ito's bad leg! We see an infrequent referee bump here, a sign of the times in FMW. As Nakagawa climbs the top rope, bookerman Ito whacks him with a crutch and starts jumping about. THAT is how you do a swerve, Russo! Gannosuke hits Koji with one of the belts and covers for the win. Backstage Ito smokes a cigarette as the God Heels, Kanemura and Gannosuke, talk. Ito, a long-time booker and referee in FMW (and a very good one), got himself involved in storylines by becoming an obnoxious manager. On the same show, Fuyuki takes on Hayabusa in the main event. He tears off Ezaki's mask and tries a running lariat. Hayabusa blocks, but Fuyuki turns and hits him with a big chop to the temple and pins the bloody opponent for a huge win. The rise of Fuyuki continues. Tournament brackets are shown, the winner becoming number one contender for Gannosuke's belts. First round matches take place on another show with the first between Kanemura and Nakagawa. Koji decks Go Ito, who tries to get involved, but is then rolled up and loses. In the second match, Jado takes on Kuroda. Kuroda goes for a Dragon suplex, but is caught with a reverse low blow and hit with a brainbuster as TNR go 2-0 over ZEN.

Next up is Awesome vs. Oya which Awesome wins following a running Awesome bomb that is caught close up on camera. In the final match of the first round, Hayabusa takes on Tanaka in a thriller. He drops Tanaka on his head with a release Dragon suplex and hits a modified Falcon Arrow to advance to the semi finals. On the same show new TNR member Super Leather takes on Shinzaki, which sees him take out the referee and Kanemura involvement. Go Ito comes out as a second referee and Gannosuke announces something. Shinzaki puts the Goku-Raku Gatame on Leather, but Go Ito forces him to break it, drawing monster heat from the pro-Shinzaki crowd. As Shinzaki brawls with Gannosuke, Ito counts him out, going from six to eighteen in one second (editing job). Suffice to say, Shinzaki loses. The screwiness in matches was really increasing by now. 3/13/98 sees another ZEN show with Team ZEN (Onita, Nakagawa, Kuroda and Hosaka) vs. TNR (Gannosuke, Kanemura, Hido and new member Horace Boulder aka Horace Hogan, returning to FMW) in a big eight man Street Fight. TNR destroy Onita and Ito smashes a crutch over Onita's head before Horace powerbomb's him with assistance, and all TNR members cover Onita with one foot for the win. Fuyuki rises, Onita falls. TNR (with Gedo having recently returned) then do their infamous dance. 3/16/98 sees Kanemura take on Awesome in a semi final tournament match. Awesome wins after multiple powerbombs. In the second semi final, Hayabusa takes on Jado with TNR getting involved again. However, Gannosuke assistance backfires when Jado nails him accidentally, allowing Hayabusa to get the pin.

On 3/17/98, Kuroda and Nakagawa come to the ring for a match and Go Ito appears, bringing out "Onita". He just happens to be Fuyuki mocking Onita with fake scars and similar clothing as well as a water bottle. He teams with Gedo and pins Koji following a TFPB, one of Onita's trademark moves. On the same show, Gannosuke, Kanemura, Boulder & Jado take on Tanaka, Shinzaki, Oya, & Fuji in a Street Fight, with Shinzaki starring. He locks Kanemura in the Goku-Raku Gatame and it takes around six kicks from Gannosuke to make him break it. The hated rivals, Gannosuke and Shinzaki square off and Fuji delivers a kick to Gannosuke's head. Shinzaki drop toehold's him and locks on the Goku-Raku Gatame once more, but Horace breaks up the hold. As Shinzaki and Gannosuke go face to face again, Horace pins Ricky after a full nelson slam. Shinzaki snaps after the match and attacks Gannosuke, with both sides separating them after a very heated brawl. Still on 3/17/98 and the tournament final takes place between Awesome and Hayabusa. Awesome sits Hayabusa on the top ring rope and then delivers a deadly German suplex from it. Hayabusa comes back and finishes off Awesome with a Dragon suplex, setting up a title match at the first PPV between himself and childhood friend, Gannosuke. On 3/29/98, Fuyuki & Hido go up against fellow TNR members and Tag Team Champions, Gannosuke & Kanemura and do some hilarious comedy stuff. Fuyuki growls and flexes as Gannosuke mocks Shinzaki again by praying. Hido gushes blood and the champions do the homoerotic kiss-then-elbow. Later in the match, Hido low blow's Kanemura and Fuyuki hits him with a running lariat, which Kanemura sells superbly. Fuyuki covers and wins the Tag Team Title for his team.

On 4/17/98, a range of tag matches take place as part of the "Come Out and Play" concept; when one team loses, another replaces them. Gran Hamada pops in from Michinoku Pro to team with Ricky Fuji against Jado & Gedo. Jado finishes off Fuji to give his team the win. Jado & Gedo then take on Shinzaki & Oya and Oya makes Gedo tap out, gaining the victory. They then take on former champions, Gannosuke & Kanemura, with the Double Titles holder finishing Oya off with the Fire Thunder. Out next are Hayabusa & Tanaka. After a TFPB from Gannosuke to Tanaka, Kanemura comes off the top with a senton but Hayabusa breaks the cover. Kanemura whacks Tanaka with a chair, but Masato just brushes it away and hits a Death Valley bomb for the win, giving his team the number one contendership for the Tag Team Title... which brings out the champions, Fuyuki & Hido. Hayabusa pins Hido following a Falcon Arrow to crown new champions. As stipulated, Hido shaves his hair after the match, which gains him full acceptance as a TNR member. On 4/21/98, Onita and Nakagawa go up against Fuyuki and Hido. The spotlight of the match is on Fuyuki and Onita as they build towards their PPV match. They exchange headbutts before Onita connects with a DDT. Onita hits a TFPB on Hido but Go Ito distracts the referee, which brings in Kanemura, who breaks up the cover. Fuyuki then gives Onita a TFPB and gains a big pinfall victory leading up to their singles match. On that same show, Gannosuke goes up against Shinzaki in the ultimate grudge match and a non-title match. After what looked to be a Praying TFPB, Shinzaki finally gains revenge on Gannosuke following over a year of feuding, by pinning him for 3. On 4/26/98, days before FMW's first PPV, Hayabusa goes up against Jado and Gannosuke appears, blowing a huge fireball at Hayabusa and burning him. Jado gets a huge upset win over Hayabusa as Shinzaki is held back from getting involved. TNR taunt Hayabusa after the match, which leads to...

4/30/98. A very big date in FMW history as they screen their first "Brainbuster" PPV on DirecTV Japan. I have fully reviewed the event elsewhere on the site. In the opening match, Hido beats former W*ING Alliance friend, Hosaka, after taking a Frankensteiner, but using momentum to roll through and pin him. After the match, joshi legend Megumi Kudo, wife of Hido, presents him with a pair of pajamas or something. In a Barbed Wire Bat Match, Jinsei Shinzaki takes on his other hated rival, Yukihiro Kanemura, with a former boxing great in Japan (who is now in prison) as second referee. After much involvement from Go Ito, Shinzaki defeats Kanemura with a Praying powerbomb, continuing a great week for him. The ECW/FMW alliance grows stronger with several of their workers on the card including Bam Bam Bigelow, facing Masato Tanaka. In a strong, albeit disappointing match, he pins Masato Tanaka following a botched Greetings from Asbury Park driver. In the first of two big main events, Fuyuki takes on Onita in the much built match. After a decent outing, Onita's burial takes another shovel of dirt when Fuyuki pins him with an ultra-stiff and sloppy TFPB. This completes Onita's burial, as Fuyuki got *two* consecutive wins over Onita's (this and the build-up tag match). Once upon a time, an Onita job actually meant something in FMW. In the big main event, Hayabusa challenges Gannosuke for the Double Titles and in an awesome battle, Hayabusa wins the gold after a perfect Phoenix splash. Gannosuke suffers a very serious leg injury in the match, keeping him out of action for over six months, which means Fuyuki becomes the official leader of TNR and top heel of the company.

5/5/98 (the traditional FMW anniversary date) sees a ZEN show, hosted by Onita once more. Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka go up against Jado & Gedo with Tanaka pinning Gedo following a rolling elbow to retain the Tag Team Title. Fuyuki, Hido and Kanemura come out with facepaint for their 6 Man Street Fight Titles match against Onita, Kuroda and Nakagawa. Go Ito trips Onita early on, allowing Fuyuki to gain control over him. After a wild brawl, Hido comes off the top rope with a moonsault press and pins Nakagawa to earn TNR the titles. After the match, TNR ambush Onita and tie his hands together with a chain. They call out President Arai and demand he speak to them. Arai tries to settle TNR down but they order him to kiss Go Ito's feet. Onita tries to protest but can't move to do anything, and he is also forced to kiss Go's shoe, along with Arai. To add insult, TNR dance over the fallen Onita. Backstage, Fuyuki tells the press that he is officially the leader of TNR, now that Gannosuke is injured. Booo! Team ZEN watch as Onita and Arai weep and finally patch up their differences. Onita ends ZEN, with the roles completely reversed now; Onita is fighting against FMW rebels instead of leading the rebels himself. On 5/19/98, Fuyuki and Kanemura, a tag team billing themselves The New Footloose (hey, I like Kanemura, but he's no Kawada), take on Kuroda & Nakagawa. They place white briefs over Koji's head and Fuyuki levels him with a running lariat for 3. With Gannosuke gone, they offer Kuroda a place in TNR by throwing him the briefs. In return he throws them back and attacks both men. The next match is Awesome vs. Oya with the end not being shown (Awesome obviously wins), but after the match Awesome says he's a free agent and is all by himself from now on. In the main event of that show, Tanaka and Hayabusa go head to head again for the Double Titles and as always put on a thriller. Hayabusa eventually wins with a Falcon Arrow to retain, Tanaka still unable to defeat his friend in a singles match.

The next match from 5/27/98 features Hayabusa & Tanaka defending their Tag Team Title against Kanemura & Fuyuki. Tanaka is slammed off the apron to the outside to start off with. Kanemura drives his head into a table, leaving blood from Tanaka on it, which looks pretty gruesome. Eventually the TNR team win the match and belts, as Tanaka is bound for an extended ECW stay. During another match on 5/31/98, 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. Ito then cuts a promo, with the other TNR members sat by a travel coach. 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 and then rolls him up for the win and the vacated 6 Man Tag Titles. On 6/19/98 at the next PPV, Hido and Super Leather meet in a "Loser Leaves TNR" match. After much assistance from Gedo and Kanemura, Hido pins Leather for the win, forcing him out of TNR. Go Ito screams at him in English, "You are fired! One more fucking time! You are fired!". Still at Korakuen, Tanaka and Kuroda have a match, which starts out with them slapping each other a few times. Tanaka eventually wins and jets off to ECW. The god they call Daisuke Ikeda, from BattlARTS, one of the best workers anywhere, arrives in FMW for a stint as Tanaka's replacement to go against TNR. He teams with Hayabusa, Oya and Fuji up against Fuyuki, Kanemura, Nakagawa & Gedo. The faces get all cocky and use reverse psychology by taunting TNR during the match and goofing around. After what looks to be a good match, Fuji pins Gedo following a brainbuster.

On 6/26/98, Hayabusa makes his second defense of the Double Titles against Kanemura. Kanemura body presses him through a table outside and hits him many times with a barbed wire baseball bat. Hayabusa manages to retain though, following a Falcon Arrow. Two days later on 6/28/98, Fuyuki, Kanemura & Nakagawa defend their titles against Hayabusa, Oya & Fuji at an outdoor setting with a nice background. Fuyuki eventually hits the running lariat and TNR end a losing slump by retaining their titles. After the match, Go Ito gets even more obnoxious than usual and laughs in President Arai's face. Eventually they grab Arai, but the FMW boys make the save. 7/4/98 sees Fuyuki and Kanemura go up against Hayabusa and Ikeda. Fuyuki pins Hayabusa following a running lariat, continuing his huge push. Shots are shown of Hideki Hosaka and Tetsuhiro Kuroda, who had to become TNR slaves after some match stipulation. TNR kick and taunt them, often beating them up while handcuffed. Fuyuki has a fetish for bondage and it shows here. Nakagawa delivers kicks to both of his former partners. So on the 7/10/98 show they are forced to go up against each other in a match. Kuroda finishes Hosaka off with a big lariat. Still on the 7/10/98 show, Hayabusa, Ikeda, Oya & Fuji go against Fuyuki, Nakagawa, Jado & Gedo in an Elimination Match. Late on, Fuyuki tears off Hayabusa's mask (again) and then Ezaki gets his forehead sliced open by a fork. Nakagawa pins him with a roll-up, to give TNR the win. Hayabusa cries after the match as Fuyuki badmouths him, and has to be held back from attacking the TNR leader. Back in the locker room, Hayabusa is very angry and does a wild-eyed interview, saying that the Darkside of Hayabusa will be seen when he faces Koji in August.

With Mr. Pogo 2 and Yoshinori Sasaki looking on, Fuyuki appears to reach an agreement with Arai and signs a document. However before the president can blink during a handshake, Fuyuki brutally attacks him and TNR ambush the jobbers. Arai is carried out by Pogo 2 and Sasaki. After teaming with Nakagawa and easily beating Pogo 2 and Sasaki on 7/20/98, TNR ambush Arai, who does an amazing job of playing innocent-in-trouble, and guess who makes the save? Onita, returning from an absence. Backstage, Arai does an interview, having snapped, and screams a lot. On 7/27/98, Fuji takes on Nakagawa, which sees Koji do his usual low blow, then he sunset flip's Ricky for the win. Next up on the card, Super Leather downs Gedo with a brainbuster. And then Oya stretches Jado, forcing him to tap out. Next up, TNR helps Kanemura beat Ikeda, by throwing powder in his eyes. Kanemura smacks Ikeda with a wooden board and covers for the win and in the final match, Hayabusa puts away Kuroda. The final bout on the tape is a big ten man match with Hayabusa, Ikeda, Oya, Leather & Fuji vs. Kanemura, Nakagawa, Kuroda (slave), Jado & Gedo. TNR take turns punching Hayabusa and then put him through a table outside. After a wild brawl, Hayabusa finally finishes off Kanemura for the win. The tape ends with the FMW team celebrating, and Hayabusa does a pro-FMW speech as the "Team FMW" song plays.


This tape rocks. It is a great look at how FMW went from hardcore wrestling to having more and more storylines to compliment the wrestling, and as Fuyuki got power around May '98, more sports-entertainment aspects were evident. Not that I agree with the direction FMW took after 4/98 or so, but this was still a great tape. The burial of Onita was sad since he founded the promotion and built it to the level of popularity it obtained. The wrestling remained really good despite the rise of sports-entertainment stuff, and most of the angles took place before or after the match. It also chronicles the rise of ZEN and the breakaway group of Team No Respect which eventually causes the disbanding of ZEN. Days after the last event covered on this tape, Onita formed a group called Team Zero with Kuroda, Hosaka, Sasaki and Mr. Pogo 2. Not exactly an impressive group. It was mainly downhill from this though and the angles continued to get wackier, with the president's niece being brainwashed by TNR, dog food matches and more American-influenced stuff like that. FMW made such a huge change in directions from the beginning of the first synopsis tape to the end of the third. This is a really good look at FMW during some of it's glory days and is fun to follow. Get it and the Best Bouts sister tape.

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