Michinoku Pro on Samurai TV, 7/22/01
review by Ryan Mancuso

Hello once more, I have returned with the second part of my reviews towards Michinoku Pro in the summer of 2001. This show takes place on July 22, 2001 at a small gym in Iwate. The main event sees the just turned Dick Togo team up with long time Michinoku Pro heel, Masao Orihara. They will face The Great Sasuke & Hideki Nishida. At least, that is what we were led to believe. The semi-main event is Ikuto Hidaka, making a visit from Battlarts, facing Tiger Mask IV in what could be the match of the night. Also, the Big Japan Tag Team Champions of MEN's Teioh and Daisuke Sekimoto show up to face Michinoku Pro's Jinsei Shinzaki & Chi-Nen Hokkai. In continuing their rivalry, Gran Hamada and Pentagon Black face off in a tag match with Mr. Cacao and Curry Man getting involved. Enough the intro and onto the review:

Clips are shown from the June 23 show. First was Dick Togo, MEN's Teioh & Hanzo Nakajima having a Kaientai reunion against Gran Hamada, Tiger Mask IV & Hideki Nishida. From there, it was the main event of The Great Sasuke vs. Gedo with Togo attacking both men while the referee was down. The attack on Sasuke was a big shock since Togo had been very friendly with Sasuke since returning to Michinoku Pro. Gedo wins the match. In something that was not shown from the closing moments of last month's broadcast, Dick Togo and manager were taunting a beaten Sasuke to some heel heat. MEN's Teioh helps Sasuke get up and it looks like he does not see eye-to-eye with the actions of his former Kaientai stablemate.

Beef Wellington & Tsubo Genjin vs. Perro Russo & Fujin

This was not a good way to open the show. The wrestling and comedy were not good. Even though the match was under 10 minutes, it certainly felt like it was longer. Beef gets the victory by making Russo tap to a cross armbreaker.

Gran Hamada & Mr. Cacao vs. Pentagon Black & Curry Man

The continuation of the Hamada and Pentagon feud. After the initial brawl which saw Hamada and Pentagon go to the hallway of the gym, this was a rather forgettable match once the brawling ended. Hamada and Curry were fine, but you felt they could have done better. Pentagon's weakness is exposed when he is not doing the brawling. Cacao looked fine because he was not doing the WWE tribute offense that makes him so lame and indy. Curry got the win for his team when he used the Spicy Drop on Cacao. After the match, an injured Jody Fleisch jumped on the apron and Curry knocked him off with an elbow. Pentagon is still asking for Hamada's blessing to allow him to marry Hamada's daughter. Hamada still refuses.

MEN's Teioh & Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Jinsei Shinzaki & Chi-Nen Hokkai

This is a battle of two teams where the veteran is teaming with a younger wrestler with Michinoku Pro's Shinzaki & Hokkai facing Big Japan's Teioh & Sekimoto. The Michinoku Pro team is at a disadvantage since Teioh & Sekimoto are also the BJW Tag Team Champions. This was a good tag match. Since Hokkai was the least experienced wrestler in there, he would be the weak point of their team and need to rely on Shinzaki more for possible victory. Teioh and Sekimoto have more experience as a team and closer to equals with Teioh being a little higher in rank than Sekimoto due to his experience edge. They realized that while a direct victory over Shinzaki would be a bigger deal, but they also knew that pinning Hokkai would be much easier in winning the match. They did not let their pride get in the way of a more sure victory. Hokkai fought hard to make sure that he could his own weight in the match, but it was not enough. Sekimoto used a great looking German Suplex Hold to pin Hokkai. All four men shake hands afterwards to show that there was nothing personal between them.

Tiger Mask IV vs. Ikuto Hidaka

Hidaka makes a special appearance from Battlarts and manages to steal the show with Tiger Mask. It was more of a match you see in Battlarts than in Michinoku Pro. That's a compliment since both men work the style really well. Lots of really good mat sequences with both men emphasizing the importance of the holds and making the bigger submissions come off as a potential match ender. To show that this match was more like Battlarts than UWF-I, they did moves like Tiger's tilt-a-whirl tombstone piledriver and Hidaka using a missile dropkick onto Tiger's knee. The only thing that hurt this match was the crowd, who had been quiet for most of the show, being dead and some polite applauding after a rope break. I think a match like this done with fans like the ones at Korakuen Hall would have gotten a much better reaction. Tiger and Hidaka were working really hard, the execution of moves was perfect and there was a pretty dramatic closing stretch with victory coming so close for both. Overall, this was a much underrated match that does not get as much love as it should.

After watching a match like this, I get upset at Tiger Mask now when he does his whole "Going through the motions because I'll rely on the gimmick to stay popular" routine in his New Japan matches. If he worked as hard on every New Japan TV taping as he did in Michinoku Pro, then he would be a lot more fun to watch now. It just frustrates me to see a wrestler as talented as Tiger Mask coasting along and getting a bigger payday now because of his handed down gimmick rather than living up to his full potential and showing that he is worthy of carrying the Tiger Mask legacy. I apologize for my little rant. That is usually not my style, unless the match that I am reviewing at the moment was really bad. This match was far from being bad. Thankfully, Hidaka has not lost that work ethic because he is still awesome in Zero-One MAX. He might actually be better now than he was in 2001, which says a lot. Here is my play-by-play:

Both men are circling each other. Tiger throws a kick to the midsection with little effect. Hidaka goes for a single leg takedown, but Tiger quickly counters with a bodyscissors takedown of his own. That was amazing quickness from Tiger Mask. Tiger goes for a cross knee scissors hold, but Hidaka counters with a heel hook. Tiger reaches the ropes for a break. They get into a knuckle lock, and Hidaka transitions himself into a waistlock that takes Tiger. Tiger positions himself to where he is putting Hidaka in a headlock. Tiger transitions from the headlock to a headscissors hold. Hidaka rolls onto his stomach, escapes the headscissors hold and puts Tiger in a Fujiwara armbar. The referee asked Tiger if he wants to quit, but does not. Hidaka lets go of the Fujiwara armbar.

Hidaka uses a double-arm stretch with the occasional foot on the back for more leverage. Tiger manages to escape by using a double mule kick. Hidaka kips up quickly and dropkick Tiger onto the apron. Hidaka does not attack Tiger, but lets him catch his breath and reenter the ring. Tiger takes Hidaka down with a drop toehold and puts Hidaka in a facelock. Tiger tries to transition into a chickenwing facelock, but Hidaka does not allow it to be applied to him. As a result, Tiger has to settle for the armbar. Hidaka gets up and armdrags Tiger down. Hidaka puts Tiger in an armbar of his own. Hidaka tries to go for the cross armbreaker, but Tiger fights it off. Now, Hidaka is in the guard position. Hidaka goes for another cross armbreaker, but Tiger gets his foot on the ropes to break it.

Both men are standing up. Tiger uses a kick to the midsection to knock Hidaka down. Tiger runs off the ropes, but Hidaka quickly gets up and nails him with a spin kick. Hidaka slams Tiger's head into the turnbuckle. He whips Tiger to the other turnbuckle, but Tiger does his famous corner backflip kick. Hidaka knocks Tiger down with a superkick. He runs off the ropes, but Tiger uses a monkey flip. Hidaka runs at Tiger again, but Tiger catches him with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Both men are trading kicks, and Tiger sweeps Hidaka from under him. Tiger nails Hidaka with a savate kick which sends Hidaka to the floor. Tiger decides to not go after Hidaka while out there. Hidaka catches his breath and reenters the ring.

Tiger locks Hidaka in a hammerlock. He does more damage by dropping a few knees on the arm in that position. Hidaka manages to escape and shoots in for the takedown. Tiger manages to sprawl and give Hidaka a few knees to the head. With Hidaka on his back, Tiger does his standing moonsault double kneedrop and cover. Hidaka escapes at 2. Tiger quickly locks Hidaka into a chickenwing armlock. After some fighting, Hidaka manages to reach the ropes. Both men are standing up again. They trade strikes and Hidaka wins with a kick to the midsection. Hidaka slams Tiger's head onto the corner. Frustration must be setting in for Hidaka because he is chopping the chest of Tiger a few times and even using choking Tiger with his boot. Hidaka whips Tiger to the opposite corner and connects with a handspring leg lariat.

Hidaka throws a few kicks to Tiger's chest. Hidaka runs off the ropes and tries a spin kick. However, Tiger catches him in midair and drops him with a backdrop suplex. Tiger whips Hidaka off the ropes and catches him with a no delay tilt-a-whirl tombstone piledriver. Tiger covers and Hidaka barely escapes. Tiger puts Hidaka on the turnbuckles and tries to take him down with a double-arm superplex. However, Hidaka fights it and knocks Tiger off. Tiger climbs again for a belly-to-belly superplex. Once again, Hidaka knocks Tiger off. This time Hidaka jumps off the turnbuckle and connects with a missile dropkick to Tiger's knee. Hidaka does more damage to the knee with a dragon screw and quickly locks in a cross knee scissors hold. Tiger is struggling and finally reaches the ropes after suffer some damage from the hold.

Hidaka yells out "Shawn Capture", and he is going for his big move. He runs off the ropes, jumps onto Tiger like he is doing a Victory Roll and locks Tiger in a heel hook with additional damage going to the knee because of a knee scissors. That is the Shawn Capture in a nutshell. Tiger is fighting to reach the ropes, but Hidaka drags him back to the center of the ring. When seeing that the Shawn Capture is not going to make Tiger tap out, he breaks the hold and drops the knee onto Tiger's leg. He puts Tiger in a cross knee scissors hold again. Tiger is struggling hard to find the ropes, but he got there when hope seemed to be lost.

Hidaka throws a few slaps and a savate kick to knock Tiger down. Hidaka goes for another slap, but Tiger ducks and nails Hidaka with a punch that rocks him back to the corner. Tiger charges in and connects with a high kick. Hidaka is stunned, but refuses to stay down. Tiger nails him with another high kick. Hidaka is summoning his inner strength to get up and fight. Tiger goes for another high kick, but Hidaka ducks. Tiger for it again, but Hidaka catches the leg. He picks Tiger up and drops him with a Liger bomb. Both men are stunned. Hidaka manages to make a delay cover, but Tiger barely kicks out. Hidaka might have gotten the win if the damage from those high kicks had not stunned him to not making a cover. After the kickout, Hidaka goes for a keylock. Tiger fights out of the hold by getting to the ropes.

Both men trade waistlocks. Tiger goes for a German suplex, but Hidaka flips out of it and lands on his feet. Hidaka puts Tiger in a chickenwing facelock. Tiger quickly counters out of the hold and puts Hidaka on a chickenwing facelock of his hold. Hidaka tries to reach the ropes, but Tiger claps his arms. From there, Tiger uses his deadly Millennium Suplex. Hidaka is not getting up. Tiger wants to make sure Hidaka is finished off. He uses a Tiger Suplex Hold onto Hidaka and the 3 count is pretty academic. After the match, both men shake hands after putting on a great performance.

Clips are shown of Dick Togo's rampage in Michinoku Pro. At the July 19 show, he pretty much dismantled Mr. Cacao and beat him the diving senton. At the July 20 show, he did the same thing to Fujin. When he faced Hideki Nishida at the July 21 show, Togo had more of a struggle. Togo decided to be a little more brutal than usual with Nishida by busting him open. Despite the blood loss, Nishida was able to comeback a little bit. It was not enough because Togo finishes him off with a Diving Senton.

The Great Sasuke & Hideki Nishida vs. Dick Togo & Masao Orihara

Before Sasuke and Nishida could even show up, Togo attacks his own tag team partner with a nightstick. The attack makes Orihara bleed. Sasuke and Nishida do not get entrance music, but they watch at ringside and wonder what is going on. However, they blindsided by a man wearing a prison jumpsuit and facepaint. He is introduced as Psychic and looks like he is Fujin unmasked. He is clearly aligned with Togo. Togo's manager gets on the microphone and announces a third member of the group. It is none other than Gedo. It looks like the pieces to the puzzle are coming together. This became the official formation of the Far East Connection. This group has now forced long time enemies, The Great Sasuke and Masao Orihara, to cooperate with each other. As a result, we have an impromptu six-man tag of:

The Great Sasuke, Masao Orihara & Hideki Nishida vs. Dick Togo, Gedo & Psychic

This match was just a brawl to put over just how vicious the newly formed Far East Connection. After the brawling ended, they match turned in a regular match with some good action. I forget how good Orihara can be when he is not relying on brawling to carry the match. I might actually enjoy babyface Orihara more because it means more selling and use of his bigger moves. No over reliance on the punch and kick moveset. Nishida is doing a great job at playing the sympathetic underdog. Orihara and Nishida were bleeding gushers to get this new heel faction over. When he was not selling most of the time, Sasuke also looked good. The heels worked well as brawlers who did not show sympathy. Togo and Gedo really know how to make the Memphis brawling work. This must have been an effective angle because they managed to get a dead crowd for most of the card to show some life and react to the action going on. Despite the comebacks by the face trio, the beating the Far East Connection was too much and Togo got the win by using his Diving Senton onto Nishida. After the match, Sasuke and Orihara make their alliance official by shaking hands. Sasuke even carries the beaten down Orihara on his back and to the locker room.

Final Thoughts: This was a definite improvement over last month's show. Major angle progression with Togo's heel turn in full effect, and the formation of the Far East Connection. Plus, the face turn of Masao Orihara made him much more fun to watch. Despite being in front a bad wrestling crowd, Tiger vs. Hidaka was better than last month's top match of Sasuke, Hayabusa & Otsuka vs. Togo, Teioh & Fuji. Plus, the main event and the Michinoku Pro vs. BJW tag match were really good. Although this taping did not have that big show feel to it, but I recommend this show for some really good wrestling mixed with angle development. I'll say it again: Tiger Mask vs. Ikuto Hidaka is definitely worth checking out.

Final Score: 7.0 [ Good ]

Ryan Mancuso can be reached at ryanm2k4@gmail.com

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