Wrestle-Aid "Brothers in Faith," 5/16/04
review by PdW2kX

Yoshiya and BENTEN vs. TAKA Michinoku and Joe Aoyama

Throughout the entire match, Yoshiya and BENTEN dish out some very stiff shots to Aoyama. When TAKA comes in, he plays around a bit, over-selling and complaining to the ref, but quickly gets focused and stiffs the hell out of the two guys who were stiffing the hell out of Aoyama. Yoshiya and BENTEN keep a cool head, and eventually Joe accidentally nails TAKA, only for TAKA to do the same thing to his partner. Even after putting on a solid effort and kicking out of a lot of offense, Aoyama eventually falls when BENTEN hits a stalling double underhook facebuster and follows it up with a Frog Splash while Yoshiya keeps TAKA at bay.

Analysis: A solid, eye-catching start that didn't do anything new, but did everything the same way but better. BENTEN and Yoshiya basically stiffed the hell out of Joe, forcing Joe to prove himself, while TAKA played the same character everyone loves him as. All four found a workable pace, and fit their roles nicely. Granted, some times the match moved too slow, and while all were solid performers, BENTEN was a tad emotionless, TAKA didn't do much of anything, Joe felt and looked green, and Yoshiya moved a little too slow. But despite its flaws, the opener felt a lot like a good junior tag, even if it was one that sacrificed psychology for stiffness. ***

Ryuma Go & Shunme Matsuzaki vs. Golden X & Phantom Funakoshi

The match starts with X and Funakoshi attacking Go, with the brawl soon spilling outside where X takes a chair to Go's legs multiple times. Go eventually no-sells, nails some headbutts, and hits a lariat to spice up the crowd. In a good moment, Golden X brings a weapon into play and bashes Matsuzaki a few times, busting Shunme open. The weapon in question? A fan's umbrella. Matsuzaki is then manhandled by both his opponents as he continues to bleed, and a "tag goes unseen" spot is thrown in for dramatic effect. After a backdrop, Ryuma Go synchs in a Dragon Sleeper for the submission victory.

Analysis: An entertaining brawler, but one that went on for a bit too long. Although there wasn't any real flow throughout the entire match, it didn't really need one. Matsuzaki bled a lot, Go was helpful in getting the crowd into it, X played a good (but slightly average) "evil monster", and Phantom was good in his role of stiff-guy-with-occasional-athleticism. That said, all four men weren't pulling off moves at random, but some parts of the match needed major work. Even so, all four fulfilled the basic architecture of the type of match they were wrestling: not too bad or good, stiffness, weapons, and blood. **½

Tomoya Adachi vs GOEMON

Both men show off their agility with armlock and leg vice reversals, then their strength by slapping the crap out of each other. Adachi showboats by walking forwards and backwards on the ropes, something that ends up costing him as GOEMON pushes Adachi off and forces Adachi to crotch himself. GOEMON then focuses on Tomoya's arm, wearing it down with some underhanded tactics. Adachi showboats again, only to hit a leg scissors, an Asai moonsault, and then a bunch of chops in the corner to GOEMON. Adachi even throws in some machine gun chops, which gets a good reaction. After both men nearly pin each other, GOEMON hits a low blow and the ref is taken out. GOEMON brings in a table, Irish whips Adachi into it, and Adachi hits pretty hard although the table doesn't break. Adachi is able to Irish whip GOEMON into the table as well, and wins it by way of a backslide that Adachi does a headstand for.

Analysis: Surprisingly thorough in execution, this match stood up and made me take notice. Even though Adachi did the better job selling his arm damage, both men put a lot of effort into making the match seem believable. The exchange of moves and the match's psychology was well-balanced as well, with enough crazy highspots to be an exciting match, and enough good, entertaining wrestling to be a good overall match. Something I went in to with little fanfare and ended up pleasantly surprised over. ***¼

Barbed Wire Bat Scramble Chain Death Match: Ichiro Yaguchi vs. Ricky Fuji

Basically, both men are chained to each other, with a barbed wire bat near the ring that both men are free to use. Both men pretty much punch each other for most of the match, with the bat coming into play a few times for some face scraping and gut shots. Both play to the crowd a bunch, and Fuji even gets the fans in attendance to start a "Woo!" chant. Both men eventually bleed, of course, with both taking advantage of the other's blood loss and nailing increasingly harder shots to the head. Fuji eventually takes a sick DDT right onto the bat, but kicks out at 2¾, only to be choked out with the chain seconds later.

Analysis: A decent brawl, although void of any wrestling at all and really slow at times. Both men were very good at getting the crowd into it, though, and they did get pretty bloody. As a whole, the match could've really benefited if they hadn't stalled so much at times and used some actual wrestling moves. The match was above-the-norm, but only by a little bit. **½

Teddy Hart vs. B-Bump (Jack Evans)

For those wondering, Jack wrestles under the name B-Bump during this match, because he's wearing a blue mask. It's kinda funny, since he's shirtless, and who else would have that type of body? The guy looks like he's made of rubber. Maybe he is. But I digress. After a brief intermission by a trained fight group, the reason I bought this DVD begins with Jack doing some taunting. Both men flip around for the obligatory "speedy armlock reversal" opening segment, then shake hands, only for Teddy to hit a lariat. Teddy follows it up with a sick German Suplex that Jack takes right on his upper shoulder/neck, then an even sicker Dragon Suplex that Evans takes completely on his head. Teddy says "one more for Japan" and hits his backdrop-to-bulldog move for 2¼. Jack responds with his spinning kick, hits that standing semi-corkscrew splash of his, and follows it up with a standing corkscrew moonsault-to-senton that gets a 2½ count. Phoenix Splash by Evans also gets 2. Teddy hits his backdrop-with-added-flip-into-powerbomb move, then goes up top and hits the Open Hart Surgery (corkscrew somersault senton), but Evans kicks out at 2¾. The fight leads outside, where both men nail some big moves, like Hart's Asai Moonsault and Evans' 450 Splash to Hart on the outside mats. Hart leads Evans to the ramp where he treats him to a Piledriver and a Double Arm DDT. Back in-ring, Hart nails a disgusting Package Piledriver-like maneuver that Evans somehow kicks out.

Teddy follows that up with a Widow's Peak into a Powerbomb, and Evans kicks out at the very last possible second. Teddy showboats again, allowing Jack to hit his spinkick again. Evans hits the 630 Splash, but now Teddy kicks out. Evans tries for an Avalanche Hurricanrana, only for Teddy to counter into an Avalanche Sitout Chokeslam. Teddy hits an Inverted Tombstone, which is basically an Alabama Slam that dumps the opponent right on their head, and Evans takes it directly onto his cranium. Teddy is able to finish Evans off after hitting a top-rope corkscrew moonsault-to-senton, popping back up, and hitting a top-rope Shooting Star Press for the pin.

Analysis: I'm a sucker for good spotfests, and this was one of the better ones. The story of the match played into the match itself very, very well: both men knew each other seemingly in and out, and pulled out the big moves right away in hopes of putting the other one away quickly. When that didn't work, they then used increasingly brutal and risky moves in order to win and prove their point. To his credit, Hart sold expertly for Jack, while Jack's selling can only be described as expertly dangerous: at times the match made me cringe since Jack kept landing directly onto his head, and yet I always wanted to see more. Nothing felt stupid or overly contrived, which is the death sentence of many spotfests, and the constant near-falls really drew me in and had me constantly guessing for at least the last five minutes. As stated before, a superb spotfest, although the type of match prevented it from reaching "great" status. Still, this match was the sole reason I took a gamble on the entire show, and I'm pleased to say it surpassed even my expectations. ***½

Mariko Yoshida and AKINO vs. Momoe Nakanishi and Baby M

The brutality begins with Yoshida hitting a running kick to Nakanishi in the corner that almost scrapes her face off. Yoshida and Baby M then chain wrestle a bit, with Mariko taking M to school. AKINO comes in and treats Baby to a face wash. AKINO then puts M in a Boston Crab that nearly breaks the girl in half. A bit later on, Nakanishi comes in and starts a stiff-fest with AKINO, although AKINO wins. AKINO and Nakanishi exchange nearfalls, but Nakanishi is soon put into an armbar and both AKINO and Yoshida take several minutes to wear down her arm. Yoshida even gets in a Koji Clutch and really, really cranks on Nakanishi. Baby M comes in and almost gets the win twice with a facebuster and a German Suplex, but both are kicked out of at 2¾. Baby M hits a crossbody to Yoshida on the outside, only for Nakanishi to follow it up with a moonsault, also to the outside. After more nearfalls, Baby M is subjected to a nasty Wrist-Clutch Exploder that she just barely kicks out of. Even after a Satellite DDT by M gets 2¾, Baby is eventually killed with a brutal Schwein by Yoshida that gets the win.

Analysis: A very, very impressive Joshi tag. All four played their roles well: Yoshida and AKINO were the battle-scarred ring vixens, Nakanishi was the plucky superstar, and Baby M was the young rookie who personified the "J-Pop" subculture with her elaborate pink outfit with numerous hearts. Naturally, the ring vixens wouldn’t like to wrestle someone like Baby M, who they'd consider a disrespect to Joshi, and they prove that by nearly killing her multiple times with some insane stiffness. Baby M was good at taking abuse while offsetting the power of her two opponents with her fast moves, while Nakanishi proved to be able to go hit-for-hit and stiffed her opponents just as hard as they stiffed her. A good pace complimented the aforementioned stiffness, with a good flow, gradual and exciting build, and great nearfalls filling in any other gaps. Like most of the entire show, a huge surprise, but a very welcome one. ***½

Joe E. Legend vs. Chi Chi Cruz

Both men start with some athletic, "we're agile even though we're big" armlock reversals. They then exchange elbows and slaps, with Legend even busting out a Rolling Elbow. Cruz responds with a big lariat that sends Legend over the ropes and spilling onto the ramp. Cruz tries to suplex Legend back in, only for Joe to hit the suplex instead, depositing Cruz hard onto the ramp. After more offense, a painfully bad dropkick is botched, with Joe barely connecting while Cruz looks confused for a couple seconds and then falls down and sells the dropkick. A bit later on, Legend hits some stiff kicks while Cruz responds with an Enzugiri. Both men then almost pin each other a bunch of times, and Joe E. Legend eventually pulls out the victory with a shoulder powerbomb.

Analysis: Pretty bad, actually. Both men weren't athletic enough to do what they wanted to do, and quickly burnt out/grew tired, which lead to the match being little more than a trainwreck. Both men gave a lot in the going moments, but the quality rapidly fell when both men started half-assing even the most basic maneuvers. Just a bad match overall, and it's a bit saddening that an otherwise surprisingly great DVD ends with this barely-above-bad match. **

Final Thoughts: All in all, what I thought was a leap of faith ended up being a more-than-welcome addition. At its best, the show had something for everyone, and many of the matches were very good. At its worst, some matches moved along at a snail's pace, while others kinda sucked. While three out of the seven matches were passable, with the last one just barely, the remainder were all well-done, with the Joshi tag being the surprise hit and Hart/Evans living up to, and exceeding, my expectations. Plus, personally, I'll always prefer to watch a barely-known show that turns into a hidden gem rather than an over-pimped show that lives up to the hype. With that in mind, that's exactly what "Brothers in Faith" is- a hidden gem that, while needing some polish at some times, shined brightly throughout most of its entirety.

So with the knowledge that I've stumbled upon another sleeper hit, Wrestle-Aid "Brothers in Faith" gets a hearty thumbs up, a good recommendation, and a well-earned ***¼

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