FMW Story of the F Stage 3 Best Bouts
review by Stuart
Many months ago, I reviewed FMW Story of the F Stage 3 which is a synopsis of FMW from August, 1997 to July, 1998. Recently, I picked up it's companion tape, which shows the best matches of 1998 (not shown on PPV). If you know me, you know how much I loved FMW before it became "Entertainment Wrestling". I still follow FMW, but the product (take in mind that the last I've seen at time of writing is the 10/00 PPV) usually leaves me a bit wistful and nostalgic. 1998 was probably the best year in company history and lets see if this tape does that justice.
Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Mr. Gannosuke for the FMW Double Titles
This is from 1/6 at Korakuen Hall. Since almost everyone in the company was over at this point, both men get big responses, the fans jeering Gannosuke (who has Miss Mongol with him) heavily. They start with the usual "manly" exchanges, slapping each other silly. Gannosuke doesn't waste any time, using a reverse low blow out of a waistlock early on. He runs the ropes, going straight into a powerslam. Gannosuke rolls out to the apron and Tanaka lariat's him to the floor. Tanaka follows with an absolutely BEAUTIFUL elbow suicida, which is faster than Misawa's. He grabs a chair and the two have an inconclusive chairfight, both dropping their seats. Gannosuke is thrown into a bunch of empty seats, allowing Tanaka to maintain the advantage. Back in, Tanaka does his corner charge chair dash. He shouts to the crowd and tries a tornado DDT, but Gannosuke nicely counters it with an inverted atomic drop. The two fight into the bleachers, where Tanaka takes an unprotected chairshot. Gannosuke sets up a table beneath one of Korakuen's short balconies/ledges and Praying powerbomb's Tanaka off the ledge and through it! Gannosuke pulls off a wooden board from the remnants and throws it into the ring. He hits Tanaka over the head with it, but this is JAPAN brother, and the board doesn't break. The challenger brings in his bamboo stick and attacks Tanaka's "elbow" arm with it. Tanaka bleeds from both head and arm and does his loud and often disturbing screams of anguish. He tries a corner charge, but misses, and Gannosuke jabs the stick in his arm. Gannosuke missile dropkick's the arm and then applies a wakigatame. He works the arm for a while, until Tanaka slides under his legs and grabs the wooden board. It takes three STIFF board shots before the wood breaks over Gannosuke's skull. Tanaka throws an elbow and remember to sell the arm, then hits his rope dash running elbow. Gannosuke hops over a lift and drops Tanaka with a release German suplex. Bushwacker Tanaka does his stand up, then a running lariat for 2. A tornado DDT somehow doesn't put Gannosuke head-first through the ring, but only gets a 2 1/2 count. Tanaka screams "THUNDER FIRE!" and drops Gannosuke with a Thunder Fire powerbomb for 2! Gannosuke blocks a second and backdrop's Tanaka over. Tanaka stands and tries an elbow, but gets taken back into the wakigatame! After being forced to break that, Gannosuke uses a Falcon Arrow, then a running lariat for 2 3/4! He hits the bad arm again, then drops Tanaka with a Praying powerbomb for another heated near fall.
Gannosuke lays Tanaka over the ropes and performs a SICK neckbreaker off it for 2, Tanaka able to grab the ropes to force a break. "Tanaka!" roar the fans. A beautiful Fire Thunder spikes Tanaka for 2 3/4 again! Gannosuke is caught up top and after a scuffle, brought down with a big suplex. A Death Valley bomb gets 2 1/2 for Tanaka as the near falls keep rolling out. Tanaka's elbow bandage is dyed completely red from the blood. A second Thunder Fire powerbomb to Gannosuke gets 2. A frog splash finds only Gannosuke's knees and the challenger quickly applies a bridging cradle for 2! Gannosuke screams and hits his own TFPB (welcome to FMW!) for 2 1/2! Tanaka escapes another attempt, throws an elbow, ducks a lariat, then hits his rolling elbow for 2 1/2! Tanaka clutches his bad arm and dulls out the pain. He throws a hard elbow, then tries the rolling elbow, but in one fluid motion, Gannosuke counters it with the Gannosuke clutch for the win and titles (17:12)! Awesome finish! Very good match. Very heated and almost a total sprint from bell to bell. A vintage FMWish match, with good, stiff work, with some blood and drama thrown in. The fans were very active also. Even though Gannosuke's butchering of the arm did add to the story, it did sort of slow the match down. Still, a very good match.
Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Mr. Gannosuke
This is a non-title match from 4/21, a week or so before FMW's very first PPV. This is one of my all-time favorite feuds. These two had a war for almost a year, with Shinzaki enduring all kinds of dastardly things from Gannosuke and friends. And this is the blowoff match. Jinsei leaves the ring to cut off Gannosuke backstage as he enters. They meet and fight into the crowd. Kanemura hits Shinzaki with a chair and helps Gannosuke control him. They all stand on the apron, the Team No Respect heel gods doing a mock prayer before powerbombing Shinzaki off the apron and through a table! Monster heat for TNR. Gannosuke uses table remnants to jab the back of Shinzaki's head, cutting it open. Back in the ring, Gannosuke smashes Jinsei's skull with another board shot. Blood trickles from the back of Shinzaki's head around to the front. Gannosuke throws kicks and punches to the wound, being a little too overly methodical with his attacks and slowing the match down a lot. In one quick sequence, Shinzaki cartwheel's away from a lariat, Gannosuke avoids a side kick, Jinsei catches a leg, going for his 360 dragon screw, but is struck with an enzuigiri. Shinzaki uses reverse psychology, using Gannosuke's reverse (kick) low blow out of a waistlock. An overhead kick makes full contact and both are hurting now. Shinzaki swerves everyone by going for his reverse splash from the middle buckle, but turning it into a painful-looking double footstomp! He goes up and leaps off with his Praying diving shoulderblock for 2. He goes for the Praying powerbomb, but Gannosuke breaks the grip and uses the Gannosuke clutch for a heated 2 3/4 count! He's unable to successfully follow up, having a leg caught and falling victim to a 360 dragon screw. Shinzaki hits the Praying powerbomb and leans over for 2 1/2! He goes for the Goku-Raku Gatame, but Gannosuke manages to throw Jinsei off and the priest slides out of the ring fast. Jinsei gets to the apron and Gannosuke charges him off and through (or rather, on to) a table! Gannosuke runs the ropes, but Shinzaki re-enters with a springboard dropkick. However, a Praying diving headbutt misses and Shinzaki is spiked with Fire Thunder for 2. Jinsei stays up after two lariats, but a third to the side of his head sends him down for 2 1/2. Gannosuke hits a missile dropkick to the back and makes a slow cover for 1. A Falcon Arrow goes a count better. Gannosuke tries a Praying powerbomb, but Jinsei counters it by "clapping" Gannosuke's head (I think this was improvisation where Shinzaki was going for a Frankensteiner, but couldn't, so did that instead). He tries a Frankensteiner, but is bombed down to the mat for another 2! The loud fans get behind Jinsei.
Shinzaki hops out of Fire Thunder, dropkick's a leg and applies the Goku-Raku Gatame! The entire building loses it as Gannosuke is strangled, but he manages to reach the ropes. The fans, impressed by Gannosuke's courage, briefly chant his name. Shinzaki is hit with another reverse low blow, but strikes quickly with an overhead kick! A closed fist punch sends Gannosuke down. Jinsei hits the Praying powerbomb again, leaning over for 2 1/2! He goes for another, but instead raises Gannosuke into a crucifix lift, and drops him with a Black Tiger bomb, covering for the big win (15:43)! A week later, on the 4/30 PPV, Jinsei would defeat Kanemura, gaining full revenge on his enemies before heading out of FMW. This was a thrilling end to this feud with a lot of great action. I think the backstory of the match adds so much, because of the intensity and hatred between the two. It's basically prototypical good vs. evil, with the warrior priest taking on the hateful, arrogant man who has no respect for anything. Shinzaki was so in his element around other heavyweights here and looked the super wrestler he is when he's not dogging it in against Tsubo Genjin or whoever.
Hayabusa (c) vs. Masato Tanaka for the FMW Double Titles
On to 5/19, with Tanaka still looking for his first singles win over good friend Hayabusa. The match starts with matwork. Tanaka dropkick's a leg and makes a mental note of that, then uses his middle buckle springboard lariat to send Hayabusa out. An elbow suicida connects beautiful as Tanaka dives out. Back in, Tanaka goes after the leg, using various holds, including a figure-four leglock that Hayabusa is stuck in for a while. Tanaka uses a surfboard and turns it into a bow-and-arrow chinlock. Hayabusa does a nice wristlock takedown, then low dropkick's the arm. They go Misawa-to-Kobashi with Hayabusa playing Misawa (you'd think that would be Tanaka, since his offense is so Misawa-esque) and using armbreakers. He does several nice arm holds, including a rolling takedown into a chickenwing armlock. Hayabusa springboard's straight into a powerslam though, in a very nice spot. Tanaka does his rope charge elbow dash, but a second elbow attempt is unsuccessful, Hayabusa hitting a Frankensteiner. Hayabusa drops Tanaka with a release German suplex, and of course he stands up, then hits a lariat and does the delayed selling. Tanaka uses a nice run-the-ropes Stunner (an Acid Drop, ending in a Stunner instead of Ace Crusher). A tornado DDT gets 2 for the challenger. Tanaka gets caught up top and brought down with a belly to belly. A sliding dropkick sends him out and Hayabusa follows with a tope con hilo! Hayabusa throws Tanaka back in, then moves into his big spots, firstly a slingshot legdrop for 2. A Fisherman's buster gets 2 and a Tiger Driver goes a half count better. A diving twisting senton (I don't think it was his Phoenix senton) gets 2. A Michinoku Driver II gets 2 1/2, as Tanaka refuses to stay down from anything. He catches Hayabusa up top and brings him down with a suplex. "THUNDER FIRE!". Hayabusa hops out of the Thunder Fire powerbomb attempt, but eats an elbow smash and then gets dropped with the TFPB for 2. Tanaka runs into a high kick when trying an elbow and is sent down with a Tiger suplex hold for 2 3/4! Hayabusa hits the firebird splash, but still can't keep Tanaka down! Hayabusa uses his own TFPB, getting 2. He goes up for the Phoenix splash, but Tanaka catches him. Tanaka brings him down with a TRULY INSANE AVALANCHE-STYLE REVERSE BRAINBUSTER! He follows with a Death Valley bomb, but now Hayabusa is playing the defiant one, kicking out. After being fairly subdued for much of the match, the fans are chanting along with the counts now. Tanaka hits a(nother) TFPB and leans over for 2! Hayabusa hops out of another attempt and catches Tanaka with a boot. Tanaka tries an elbow on the turn, Hayabusa counters that attempt with a Frankensteiner attempt, but gets bombed down for 2. A second running Death Valley bomb gets 2 1/2 for Tanaka.
He tries a third, but Hayabusa slips out and connects with a high kick. Release Dragon suplex to Tanaka! Falcon Arrow for 2 3/4! Really good near falls. They exchange kicks an elbows, before Tanaka lands a stiff elbow on the turn for 2 1/2! Another TFPB gets 2 3/4! Will they ever stay down? Exhaustion sets in and their strikes begin to lack the strength they did early. Hayabusa uses his twisting front kick, but a groggy Tanaka stays up and hits a running elbow for 2 1/2! Hayabusa counters a powerbomb with an armdrag. He blocks a rolling elbow, Tanaka ducks a high kick retaliation, but Hayabusa lands a shotei. Tanaka blocks a suplex lift and hits his suplex Stunner for 2 1/2! He tries the rolling elbow, but Hayabusa catches the arms. Hooks them... TIGER DRIVER '91! He quickly picks Tanaka up and drops him with a Falcon Arrow, hooking a leg for the win (around 26:00). AWESOME, AWESOME, AWESOME match! These two delivered what was a low end All Japan match (which is a compliment, NOT an insult). This wasn't a vintage FMW style match, as they implemented more build. It was still more about moves than a regular AJPW match and they went overboard a little with the near falls, but it was still one of the best matches I've ever seen out of FMW. Tanaka was a MILLION DOLLARS in this match, looking great. Hayabusa was also great, but not great-great like Tanaka was great. A choice match that was even better than their excellent match in March. Worth getting the tape for alone.
Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Jado & Gedo for the FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title
This is from the 5/5 show, hosted by ZEN. Jado wears green or blue (I think I'm going color blind) war paint. The match starts with the usual exchanges. Hayabusa uses a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Jado. Jado and Gedo are in vintage "because we can" form as they dog it for some time. Hayabusa and Tanaka bust out the nice double teams after a while. Hayabusa hits Gedo with a corner charge knee attack, Tanaka follows with a suplex and Hayabusa closes the sequence with a springboard dropkick, the two striking a pose. Tanaka plays victim for a while, being hit with a powerbomb outside the ring. Back in, Gedo hits two nice backdrop suplexes to Tanaka. Jado stands on the top rope with Tanaka and brings him down with a big suplex for 2. Their superbomb also gets 2, Hayabusa saving. The challengers try a lift, but Tanaka counters with a double DDT. Hayabusa is tagged and enters with a springboard lariat to Jado. He dropkick's Jado out and badly overshoots a quebrada. Back in, a springboard somersault senton hits, but a Lionsault is UNDERshot. A Tiger Driver gets 2 for the falcon. He runs the ropes and gets kicked from behind by Gedo, then lariated by Jado. Gedo enters and runs straight into a Frankensteiner, giving Hayabusa time to tag Tanaka. Tanaka MURDERS Gedo with a super-stiff lariat that causes him to flip. Hayabusa returns and hits his firebird splash to Jado, Gedo saving at 2! Hayabusa gets caught up top by Jado and powerbombed down. "Stan" Jado fires up the arm and hits a Western lariat for 2 1/2! A brainbuster gets 2, Tanaka saving. Gedo throws Tanaka out and Jado powerbomb's Hayabusa. Gedo follows with a beautiful Superfly splash for 2 3/4! Tanaka re-enters and hits Gedo with another stiff lariat. A Thunder Fire powerbomb gets 2, Jado saving. Hayabusa sends Jado out and follows with a pescado. In the ring, Tanaka tries for another TFPB, but Gedo escapes it. He turns a rolling elbow attempt into an inside cradle for 2 3/4! He escapes a waistlock with a reverse low blow and again inside cradle's Tanaka for another heated near fall! Gedo runs into a shoulder lift, but slides out of a DVB attempt. He kicks Tanaka in the midsection, but Tanaka persists with a hard elbow to the face, covering for the win as Jado is held back (18:31)! Another good match. Not nearly as good as the opening three, but a change of pace with a tag bout. Jado and Gedo were bad in the first few minutes, but when the pace picked up, so did their work ethic. Hayabusa wasn't at his best either, his quebradas looking bad. Typical FMW sprint, an exciting and well-worked spot-to-spot match that easily gets the crowd involved and is fun to watch.
Hayabusa & Masato Tanaka (c) vs. Kodo Fuyuki & Yukihiro Kanemura for the FMW Brass Knuckles Tag Team Title
Now to 5/27 as Hayabusa and Tanaka have a tougher title defense on their hands against The New Footloose. Old rivals, Tanaka and Kanemura, start. Kanemura stalls early. Tanaka lariat's Kanemura out, but gets tripped when going to retrieve him. Kanemura re-enters with a slingshot side body press for 2. They go into a fiery strike exchange, before Fuyuki is unfortunately tagged. He and Tanaka do a funny posedown after shoulderblocks though, both flexing and screaming at each other. The match plods along for a while, until Kanemura bodyslam's "steel bones" Tanaka off the apron and through a table. Kanemura tears up part of the table and uses it to slice open Tanaka's forehead. The rest of the table is setup in a corner and Tanaka is sent head-first into it. His head is slammed into it several times, leaving a bigger blood stain on the table each time. Yuck. After that, Kanemura viciously lariat's him and covers with one foot for 2. TNR work over the wound before Kanemura hits another slingshot side body press to Tanaka. Outside, he breaks a chair over the bloody Tanaka's head. Kanemura drops a table on Tanaka's head and covers for 2. Tanaka continues to suffer, enduring many moves before finally tagging Hayabusa. Hayabusa enters with a springboard elbow smash to Kanemura, then Frankensteiner's Fuyuki out of the ring. Hayabusa follows with a tope con hilo! He re-enters with a springboard somersault senton, then (deliberately) finds knees with a Lionsault. Tanaka re-enters with a missile dropkick to Fuyuki and a powerslam to Kanemura. He connects with his rope dash elbow, then a hard regular elbow for 2 1/2. A chair dash follows, then a tornado DDT for 2 1/2! His suplex Stunner gets 2, Fuyuki saving. Hayabusa kills Kanemura with a SICK release Dragon suplex for 2 1/2! He follows with the Phoenix senton, then a firebird splash for 2, Fuyuki saving! Kanemura escapes Tanaka's running Death Valley bomb and Fuyuki is in position to hit a running lariat. He revs up and hits a stronger running lariat for 2 9/10 (seriously, GREAT near fall)! Kanemura hits Tanaka with a diving elbow drop for 2 1/2. Tanaka ducks a lariat and hits Kanemura with the rolling elbow for 2 1/2! He feigns a TFPB, but abandons Kanemura for the incoming Fuyuki. Fuyuki throws a rolling chop, then a short lariat for 2, Hayabusa saving! Kanemura whacks Tanaka with a wooden board and then hits his diving senton for the win and belts (19:39)! Another good tag match, more bloody and garbagey than the last one. Fuyuki wasn't good and dragged it down. Very good closing sequence with more exciting near falls and saves.
Gedo (c) vs. Ricky Fuji for the Rocky Mountain North American Mid-Heavyweight Title
Still on 5/27 and this is the compulsory "an undeserving match must make a "best of" tape". Joined with Ricky attacking Gedo into the crowd. He piles some chairs up and bodyslam's Gedo on them. Back in the ring, he goes after TNR manager, Go Ito, but gets hit from behind by Gedo, with the belt. Breaks down into a very WWF style match with punching, kicking and gouging. They even do the American sleeper hold spot, which has been more or less outcasted from major leagues at least (especially New Japan), Ricky "powering" out of the sleeper. Gedo starts to carry, hitting a missile dropkick, then a diving elbow, both getting 2 counts. Ricky comes back with an armdrag and Gedo begs off. A backdrop suplex gets 2 for Fuji and a DDT likewise. Ricky does a tope suicida and they then go back into the crowd. Back in, Ricky hits a diving crossbody for 2 1/2. The Kamikaze also gets 2 1/2. He hits his rotating brainbuster, but Go Ito gets involved to stop the count. Gedo uses the title belt (the referee sees this), then a superkick. A Superfly splash gets the win for Gedo (12:32). This was a simply bad match most of the way, but Gedo did some stuff closer to the end that made it passable at best. This had a lot of heat, but I'm not sure why. Fine for an FMW undercard match, but this didn't belong anywhere near such a tape.
Masato Tanaka vs. Tetsuhiro Kuroda
Now to 6/19. Kuroda is an involuntary part of Team No Respect at this stage. Tanaka continues his run on the tape of hitting beautiful elbow suicida's, using one to scramble Kuroda's brains. 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. Had the usual selling flaws, but some very nice and complex sequences. 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 he has.
The Gladiator vs. Yukihiro Kanemura
The final match on the tape is from 7/10. These two are long-time rivals and don't like each other, so they go straight to a chopfest. Kanemura jumps into a bearhug, which is turned into an overhead belly to belly. Awesome is sent to the apron, but misses his slingshot shoulderblock when Kanemura side-steps. He lariat's Awesome out and goes over himself. Kanemura gets thrown into some seats and Awesome follows with his, well, awesome springboard plancha! Back in, he hits a pretty sloppy run-the-ropes back elbow. He follows with a diving lariat, then a body press for 2. He misses a chair swing and Kanemura dropkick's a knee. He continues the attack with a chairshot to the knee (reminiscent of their excellent match on 12/11/96). Kanemura brings in a table, but gets it thrown at him. Kanemura is leaned against the table and Awesome springboard's off a chair, but hits the table. Kanemura grabs the chair and takes a shot to the head. His diving senton gets 2. A Fisherman's suplex gets the same result as the monster gaijin refuses to stay down. Awesome ducks under a lariat and springs off the ropes with a hard tackle. He sets up a table outside and throws Kanemura through it with a HUGE Awesome bomb off the apron! Back in, Awesome drops a diving body press for 2 1/2. Kanemura escapes another powerbomb and after some reversals, backslide's the big man for 2. Awesome German suplexes Kanemura into the corner and then lies him on a table in the ring. He goes up, but Kanemura throws the table at him and follows. In one of the sickest non-garbage spots I've ever seen, Awesome powerbomb's Kanemura from the top, but lets go early and Kanemura lands on his shoulder/neck. This gets the 3 count and victory for Awesome. And moves like that are one of the reasons Kanemura is always so banged up. Very sloppy and careless from Mike Awesome. Pretty good garbage spotfest, mainly due to Kanemura's willingness to die to put Awesome over. Didn't touch their 12/11/96 match, which had a lot of psychology, while this one had none.
Well, this was a tape and a half. I waited a long time for this, because the first copy I got was a faulty tape and didn't play. FMW from the time period (it started to go downhill after the first PPV in April, 1998) was very special to me and the reason I ever got into Japanese wrestling in the first place. It had a big faction warfare storyline, initially FMW vs. Onita's ZEN. You don't have to understand the language to understand the storylines. They were told very well in the ring. The FMW style, displayed in matches like Tanaka vs. Gannosuke and Gannosuke vs. Shinzaki on this tape, is very overlooked and underrated. Most believe FMW is all "exploding barbed wire glass crush hell exploding barricade double hell death match" type matches, but it wasn't here and CERTAINLY wasn't after "Entertainment Wrestling" hit. These guys were good, young workers, who could have good matches with or without the props. As I like to call it, a HEAVYWEIGHT version of Toryumon, where the matches are spotfests, but done in a way that is so good and exciting. Can't recommend this tape enough.
For more of Stuart's thoughts and opinions on puroresu, visit www.puroresufan.com