FMW Story of the F Stage 3
review by Ryan Mancuso

Hello again, I have returned with the final part of three straight reviews from FMW. It features some of the best matches, according to the company, FMW had from January 1998 until July 1998. There are a lot of really promising matches on this tape. Plenty of Masato Tanaka matches in this tape along with Mr. Gannosuke, Hayabusa and Yukihiro Kanemura. Let's see if they live up the potential because I am starting the review now:

FMW Double Titles: Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Mr. Gannosuke

This is from January 6, 1998 at Korakuen Hall. This was a very good match with a lot of crowd response. The fans were easily pro-Tanaka and anti-Gannosuke. The match starts out as a big brawl with Tanaka gaining the advantage, but Gannosuke would fight back. Tanaka takes a huge bump early when Gannosuke used a Praying powerbomb, continuing his mockery of Shinzaki, off one of Korakuen's very small balconies and through a table. From there, Gannosuke takes a stick and starts to wear down Tanaka's elbow with it. Considering how much Tanaka's relies on that elbow, this is a very smart strategy. Gannosuke is vicious with his attack. The elbow starts to bleed, and Gannosuke just makes the injury worse. Tanaka comes back with some offense, but the damage done to that elbow is too much. Both men starting to his their big moves, but neither man could find victory. Despite all of the punishment done to the elbow, it looked like Tanaka was going to fight through the pain and retain his titles. Tanaka goes for the Roaring Elbow. However, Gannosuke catches the arm and rolls Tanaka up with the Gannosuke clutch (a rolling arm and leg cradle, Konnan had done the move a few times in the late 1990's). The referee counts 1, 2, 3! We have a new champion. Great finish to that match.

Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Mr. Gannosuke

This match is from April 21, 1998. Once again, Korakuen Hall is the venue this match is taking place. The FMW Double Titles are not on the line, but something bigger. With Shinzaki leaving FMW, this match was going to end the year-long feud between these two men. For the last year, Gannosuke has managed to taunt and embarrass Shinzaki many times. This match will determine who gets the last laugh. This was a great blow-off match. The back story of this rivalry really helped make this match special because these men just played off the other so well. The evil Gannosuke finally made the pure Shinzaki do things that he normally would not do. These acts included Shinzaki attacking Gannosuke in the entrance area and using an intentional low blow counter. The back of Shinzaki's head getting busted open helped out in making the match more intense. This may have been the best Shinzaki singles match ever. I'll say it was better than the match Shinzaki, as Hakushi, had with Bret Hart at the first ever In Your House PPV in May 1995. Gannosuke had a really good string of great matches in the late 1990's. Here is the play-by-play:

The usually calm Jinsei Shinzaki loses his temper before the match by attacking Gannosuke while he was making his entrance to the ring. They brawl into the crowd before Yukihiro Kanemura interferes with a chair. They set up a table, and put Shinzaki on the apron. Gannosuke and Kanemura mocks Shinzaki with a double team Praying Powerbomb off the apron and through a table. The fans are booing Gannosuke and Kanemura. Gannosuke picks up the remnants of that table and nails Shinzaki in the back of the head with it. As a result, Shinzaki is busted open from the back of his head. Shinzaki is thrown back into the ring, and Gannosuke joins him.

Inside the ring, Gannosuke works on that cut on the back of Shinzaki's head. First, he uses the broken table piece and jabs Shinzaki more with it. After letting go of the table piece, Gannosuke just stomps and punches at Shinzaki's wound. Gannosuke whips Shinzaki off the ropes. He goes for a lariat, but Shinzaki moves out of the way. Gannosuke goes for a kick and Shinzaki catches it, but Gannosuke manages to use an enzuigiri on Shinzaki's wound. The effect of the enzuigiri knocks Shinzaki out of the ring.

Gannosuke decides to take the match back inside the ring, and throws Shinzaki back in. After doing a little more damage to the back of the head of Shinzaki, Gannosuke tried a vertical suplex. Shinzaki blocks it, and there is a struggle over who pulls off the vertical suplex. Shinzaki almost succeeded in vertically suplexing Gannosuke over the top rope and onto the floor. Gannosuke used the momentum to send both men crashing to the floor. After having some difficulty getting up, both men roll to the ring. Gannosuke uses a blatant kick to Shinzaki's groin. The crowd is jeering big time for Gannosuke. Gannosuke uses another Praying Powerbomb, and goes for the cover. Shinzaki kicks out at 2. Gannosuke is taunting Shinzaki to get up.

Gannosuke with a waistlock, but Shinzaki uses a very uncharacteristic low blow to escape and a backflip kick to knock Gannosuke down. Shinzaki crawls to make a cover, but Gannosuke is out at 2. Shinzaki whips Gannosuke into the corner and quickly charges in with a shoulder to the midsection. Shinzaki bodyslams Gannosuke down and climbs the middle turnbuckles. Shinzaki jumps off like he is going to do a Vader bomb, but he instead does a vicious looking double footstomp. Shinzaki quickly heads to the opposite corner and jumps to the top turnbuckle. He jumps off with a diving shoulderblock and covers. Gannosuke escapes at 2. Shinzaki goes for the Praying Powerbomb, but Gannosuke manages to counter with the Gannosuke Clutch. Shinzaki barely kicks out.

Gannosuke goes for a kick, but Shinzaki catches it and uses his unique dragon screw. Shinzaki succeeds with his Praying Powerbomb this time, but Gannosuke is able to kick out again. Shinzaki goes for his Goku-Raku Gatame, but Gannosuke manages to counter out of it by throwing Shinzaki to the floor. Shinzaki tries to reenter the ring, but Gannosuke manages to knock Shinzaki off the apron with a shoulderblock. Shinzaki manages to fall onto the table of the ring announcer at ringside. Shinzaki recovers and goes back on the apron. Gannosuke tries to vertically suplex him back into the ring, but Shinzaki fights him off. Gannosuke slaps Shinzaki in the face and runs off the ropes. Shinzaki springboards off the top rope, and catch Gannosuke with a dropkick. Shinzaki covers, but Gannosuke is out at 2.

Shinzaki bodyslams Gannosuke down again and climbs the top turnbuckle. He goes for a diving headbutt, but Gannosuke gets out of the way. Gannosuke gets up and spikes Shinzaki with a Fire Thunder, a hybrid tombstone piledriver and Michinoku driver. Gannosuke covers, but Shinzaki kicks out. Gannosuke climbs the top turnbuckles and connects with a missile dropkick. He covers, but Shinzaki shockingly kicks out a 1. Not discouraged, Gannosuke uses a Falcon Arrow for a much closer near fall. Gannosuke goes for a Praying Powerbomb, but Shinzaki counters by clapping his legs to Gannosuke's head. Gannosuke runs off the ropes. Shinzaki goes for a hurricanrana, but Gannosuke counters that with a powerbomb for another near fall.

Gannosuke goes for another Fire Thunder, but Shinzaki escapes and dropkicks the back of Gannosuke's knees. Shinzaki locks Gannosuke in the Goku-Raku Gatame. Gannosuke manages to reach the ropes after a struggle. The fans respect that fight out of Gannosuke, and give him some brief name chanting. Shinzaki with a waistlock, but Gannosuke counters with two low blows. Shinzaki quickly recovers to nail Gannosuke with an overhead kick. Shinzaki uses another Praying Powerbomb for another near fall. Shinzaki goes for a more delayed Praying Powerbomb, looking more like a Razor's Edge, and covers again. The referee counts: 1! 2! 3! Jinsei Shinzaki has won his feud with Mr. Gannosuke to the delight of the FMW fans at Korakuen!

FMW Double Titles: Hayabusa (c) vs. Masato Tanaka

This match is from May 19, 1998 at Korakuen Hall. Hayabusa defeated Mr. Gannosuke for the FMW Double Titles about three weeks earlier. He is now making his first defense against former champion, Masato Tanaka. Two months earlier these two men had a great singles match, and I thought it would be difficult for them to have an even better match. However, I am glad that I was wrong because they managed to top the performance they had two months earlier. It was an amazing match. Both men were on the top of their game in this match. For those who think that FMW wrestlers need the weapons to have a good match, then this match will prove you wrong. There was neither a chair used nor a table broken. This match was more like an All Japan main event of the 1990's rather than an FMW main event. It started out slow with both men trading holds and trying to wear the other man down. Both men would go after the other man's strengths. Tanaka attacking Hayabusa's leg, and Hayabusa going after Tanaka's arm. After that, they started to use bigger moves like Tanaka's Roaring Elbow or Hayabusa's Falcon Arrow. There was a sense of desperation from both men because it seemed that their regular moves were not getting the job done. As a result, they had to use more dangerous moves. Tanaka used a REVERSE SUPERPLEX off the turnbuckle. It was insane to say the least. However, it was not enough to put away the champion. Hayabusa went to the Misawa playbook and used a Tiger Driver '91 that had all impact on Tanaka's neck. Hayabusa quickly capitalized with a Falcon Arrow to get the pin.

FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Titles: Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Gedo & Jado

This match is from May 5, 1998 at a ZEN promoted show. It was a good match between these teams. Tanaka was the best wrestler in there. He took some punishment, including a powerbomb on the floor, and came back with his great looking varied offense. Hayabusa was alright, but his aim with some of highflying moves was a little off on this night. After the isolated beatdown they gave Tanaka early in the match, Gedo and Jado performed well. Gedo was definitely hanging in there with Tanaka. The last few minutes were really good. It was back-and-forth action with many near falls. Tanaka retains the titles for his team when he used the Roaring Elbow on Gedo for the pin.

FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Titles: Hayabusa & Tanaka (c) vs. Kodo Fuyuki & Yukihiro Kanemura

This is from May 27, 1998 at Fukuoka's Hakata Star Lane. I thought this was a great tag match, and better than Hayabusa and Tanaka's prior tag with Gedo and Jado. After the opening exchanges, Fuyuki and Kanemura isolate and beat the hell out of Tanaka. Kanemura would bodyslam Tanaka off the apron and through a table. Tanaka was busted open because of Kanemura using a piece of the broken table on the forehead. In a nasty visual, Kanemura would slam Tanaka's bloody head on the remnants of that table a few times. As a result, there was a lot of Tanaka's blood on the table. After suffer more punishment, Tanaka is able to recover enough to get some offense and make the hot tag to Hayabusa. From there, the match got really good with plenty of false finishes. While Fuyuki and Hayabusa were good in the match, it was the Kanemura and Tanaka show here. Their chemistry is really great. They can work with weapons or without weapons. Everything between them just clicked in this match. Kanemura wins the belts for his team when he used a diving senton off the top rope onto a beaten Tanaka.

Rocky Mountain North American Mid-Heavyweight Title: Gedo (c) vs. Ricky Fuji

This match also takes place on May 27, 1998. Talk about a match that did not belong on a video called Best Bouts. I guess you can't win them all. They tried worked an American style of match, but the execution was not good. They made the style look outdated. The match got better towards the end, but it was not enough to improve the quality of this match. After getting help from his manager along with nailing Ricky with the title belt, Gedo retains the title with a Superfly splash.

Masato Tanaka vs. Tetsuhiro Kuroda

Back to Korakuen Hall, this match took place on June 19, 1998. This was Tanaka's last match in FMW for 1998. He would spend the last six months of 1998 in ECW, where he would win over a whole new group of fans in the United States. Kuroda was hoping to elevate his status with a big singles victory in Tanaka's farewell match. This was a really good match with hard strikes and high-impact moves. They have great chemistry together because they pull off complex sequences and make it look like so natural. There was a too much no-selling with some of the high-impact moves for my liking. However, it could be easily forgiven since both men did a great job in showing the desire to want to win this match by temporarily fighting through the pain. Tanaka goes on his ECW journey with a victory by using a running elbow smash.

The Gladiator vs. Yukihiro Kanemura

This match is from Korakuen again, but this time it takes place on July 10, 1998. This was a mixed bag for me. It was fun match with Kanemura not afraid to bump big time for Awesome. There were plenty of big moves like Gladiator putting Kanemura through a table with an Awesome bomb off the apron. Gladiator also used an impressive looking springboard plancha to the floor. Kanemura would rely on a more defensive approach by moving out of the way of Awesome's moves. If you wanted to make a case that Mike Awesome is a sloppy wrestler, then this match would give you one reason. The finish of this match was Awesome using an Awesome Bomb off the top rope for the victory. The only problem was that Awesome dropped Kanemura right on his shoulder and neck area.

Final Thoughts: This was an amazing video to watch. It definitely showed how great FMW's top talent were in 1998. The star of this video was definitely Masato Tanaka. He had great singles matches with Gannosuke, Hayabusa and Kuroda. He and Hayabusa also had some very nice tag matches against Gedo & Jado and Fuyuki & Kanemura. Outside of the great Shinzaki vs. Gannosuke pay off match, the match quality dropped when Tanaka was not involved. Fuji vs. Gedo was not good. Gladiator vs. Kanemura was very disappointing when considering that they had good matches with each other in the past. Overall, I give this video my highest recommendation and a must see. This is especially true if you are a Masato Tanaka fan.

Final Score: 9.0 [ Amazing ]

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