World Japan 4/19/03
review by Ryan Mancuso
This review will focus on the April 19, 2003 show at Korakuen Hall from the now-defunct World Japan Pro Wrestling promotion. Please pardon only this poor reviewer. Don't worry, it's an inside joke for those who had followed WJ while it was still around and are reading this. Honestly, I forgot how the joke started. So, I guess it is silly for me to use the punch line of a joke that I can't even remember.
Before I start the review, I'll give a very brief history of World Japan. It started when Riki Choshu was fired as New Japan booker in 2001 then quit the company as a whole in 2002. In January 2003, New Japan wrestlers Kensuke Sasaki, whom actually quit the company a few months earlier, Shiro Koshinaka and Kenzo Suzuki decided not to renew their yearly New Japan contracts. They were very loyal to Choshu, and it was no surprise that they would leave New Japan for Choshu's new project.
Other wrestlers associated with World Japan include:
Takao Omori (whom left Pro Wrestling NOAH)
World Japan's debut show was on March 1, 2003 at the Yokohama Arena. The main event was the start of a 5-match series between Choshu and Tenryu. This series was to help create a buzz for the new promotion. Despite all of the names associated with World Japan, the promotion was a failure for many reasons. They lost a lot of public support due to card changes (their first tour saw a cancellation of the Choshu vs. Tenryu series due to a Tenryu injury, and Onita missing his dates due to political obligations since the US just declared war in Iraq), screwy finishes associated with some of Onita's big matches and various wrestlers having a bad public fallout with Choshu including Yatsu, Kensuke and Kenzo. They were also trying to be a major company in overfilled market with them, New Japan, NOAH, All Japan and Zero-One competing to be the #1 pro wrestling company in Japan.
World Japan folded sometime in 2003, but Choshu continued to promote shows under the Riki Pro banner. Riki Pro was a much smaller version of WJ. They did not have the name power, but they were also not trying to compete for the #1 pro wrestling company in Japan. Since Riki Choshu returned as New Japan booked last October, Riki Pro ran one show that he booked before his return to New Japan and has pretty much folded. It might come back if Choshu leaves New Japan again, and still wants to promote. Hopefully, I'll get to review a Riki Pro show one day because I found their shows to be a lot more entertaining than WJ's. Enough with the history talk and onto the review:
The show starts off with a montage with comments from Riki Choshu which transitions into clips from matches 2 and 3 of what was to be a 5-match series between Choshu and Genichiro Tenryu. Lots of chair use in both matches with Tenryu bleeding in the 3rd. Tenryu won both of those matches with a brainbuster. They were suppose to have two more matches to finish up the 5-match series, but Tenryu got injured and the series was called off. Clips also aired of death match legend and FMW founder Atsushi Onita, and his exploits in World Japan. He got the pin on Tomohiro Ishii in a tag match then went to Tenryu backstage and proposed them forming a team to take over World Japan. Tenryu did not give Onita the answer he was looking for. After a brief discussion by the announcers, the matches start.
Takashi Uwano vs. Masamitsu Kochi
Both men got into WJ thanks to connections from Yoshiaki Yatsu. Kochi was a member of Yatsu's SPWF. While Uwano spent most of his career in IWA Japan, but he did enough SPWF shows to where Yatsu got him a chance with Choshu. Kochi left WJ a few months after Yatsu left the company, but Uwano remains loyal to Choshu. That loyalty has gotten Uwano a regular spot on New Japan shows due to Choshu become head booker again.
This was similar to a young lion match that New Japan has opening their shows. Both men doing the basics moves, as the STO and German suplex being the main high impact moves, while wearing black trunks and boots. The only difference was that this young lion match was over twice as long, almost 14 minutes to be exact, than the ones done in New Japan. This was a pretty solid match with both men working hard. I thought the match went a little too long, but it could have also wound up much worse. Uwano got the submission victory with the Boston Crab.
Nobutaka Araya vs. Hideki Hosaka
This was an offer match by All Japan Pro Wrestling. They would help out WJ in the early shows by offering their mid-carders so that WJ would have some depth on the cards. This was a battle between two underrated wrestlers that came from defunct promotions FMW (with Hosaka) and WAR (with Araya). It was a decent match towards the end, but not as fun as the opener since the All Japan guys did not seem as motivated as the WJ young lions. Both men seemed a little off tonight as Hosaka barely connected with a dropkick and Araya with a boot to the face. I was surprised that they were given 5 minutes less than the opening match, but I guess it was to show that Araya was much higher ranked than Hosaka. Araya got the victory with the moonsault.
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Ricky Fuji
Ishii started out his career with WAR then competed in some smaller indy's when WAR shut down. He had a really nice run in Michinoku Pro, in 2001 and 2002, as a member of the Far East Connection. It must have gotten him noticed because WJ offered him a spot on their roster. Just like Uwano, Ishii remained loyal to Choshu and now has a regular spot on New Japan shows. However, Ishii is much higher on the totem pole in New Japan than his comrade. Since he came from FMW back in their really early days, Ricky Fuji is representing the Atsushi Onita's faction in this match.
Despite this being a WJ vs. Onita Army match, this was more of a straight up match rather than a brawl filled with weapons. Ishii was very impressive here with each move having crispness to it. He seems to fit in with the high impact, no nonsense part of Choshu's wrestling philosophy pretty well. Fuji was not too bad here, but clearly was not on Ishii's level in regards to in-ring ability. Ishii pulled out the victory by spiking Fuji with a brainbuster.
Kensuke Sasaki vs. Jinsei Shinzaki
Jinsei Shinzaki, from Michinoku Pro, makes a special appearance here to face off against the man who became ace of World Japan, Kensuke Sasaki. The match started off as a battle of strength which was a bad strategy for the man once known as Hakushi in the WWE. In a company that emphasizes the Jr. Heavyweights like Michinoku Pro, it is easier for Shinzaki to use his size and strength to beat his opponents over there. In this match, it would be a mistake as Kensuke is built like a 5'9" tank that overpowers most of his opponents. The first half of the match was Kensuke taking over by winning the striking battles and wearing down Shinzaki with holds.
The second half of the match was a more even battle as Shinzaki would use his speed and agility to try to wear down the former 5-time IWGP Heavyweight and WCW US champion. A hit-and-run strategy with him running off the ropes and flying in the air was working for Shinzaki. He wore Kensuke enough to get a near fall with his praying powerbomb. However, a missed diving headbutt off the top rope seemed to cause Shinzaki's downfall. There was a glimmer of hope as Kensuke and Shinzaki had a lariat battle in which it was Shinzaki who still standing after the contact. That does not happen very much in Kensuke matches. Unfortunately, Shinzaki was too worn down from all the prior damage done to him earlier to capitalize. Kensuke saw his opponent was too hurt and took advantage of it by finishing off Shinzaki with two lariats and a Northern Lights Bomb for the pin. Fun match that really got moving during the mid-way point.
Genichiro Tenryu vs. Shiro Koshinaka
A battle between two grumpy, old veterans and former IWGP Tag Team Champions winds up being my favorite match of the show. There was plenty of grumpiness here with some brawling outside of the ring along Tenryu throwing tables and water bottles. Also, there was a sense of desperation from Koshinaka in knowing that Tenryu's a stronger wrestling overall than him, and that he needed to use his craftiness to pull the upset. It is a role Koshinaka has used for years in New Japan, and it works for him. Here is my play-by-play:
When Koshinaka was making his way to the ring, Tenryu had a chair in his hand and waiting for his opponent. Tenryu dropped his chair and got into an argument with the referee. Koshinaka picked up the chair, threw it at Tenryu and did a Van Daminator with his hip instead of his foot. It busted open Tenryu hardway near his right eye. Tenryu rolls out of the ring. Koshinaka tries to take advantage by throwing Tenryu into the guardrail. However, Tenryu reversed it with Koshinaka's back hitting the steel. Tenryu is nailing Koshinaka with chops and slams his head onto a table. Tenryu climbs up to the sound area, which is about 4 or 5 feet, and jumps off to nail Koshinaka with a lariat.
Tenryu throws Koshinaka back into the ring, and tries an enzuigiri. However, his execution was off as he accidentally crotches himself on the top rope. Koshinaka takes advantage by using a running hip attack that knocks Tenryu off the ropes. As a result, Tenryu takes a hard fall on the floor. Koshinaka grabs a chair from ringside and jabs Tenryu with it. He rolls Tenryu back into the ring, climbs to the top and connects with a diving hip attack. Koshinaka goes for the pin, but only got a 2 count. Koshinaka gets another near fall with a Russian legsweep.
Koshinaka is punching Tenryu near that cut, but Tenryu gets up which leads a strike exchange. Tenryu was throwing his chops while Koshinaka was punching, chopping and headbutting. Tenryu knocked Koshinaka down with an enzuigiri, and taunted Koshinaka by using Koshinaka's trademark hip attacks on him. Koshinaka was not pleased with either Tenryu using them or the fact that he was throwing rather weak hip attacks. Koshinaka snapmared Tenryu down, and showed him how they are really done.
Koshinaka threw Tenryu to the outside, climbed up the other side of the stage at Korakuen and connected with a diving hip attack from there. Koshinaka rolled back into the ring. Tenryu was not happy with what was going on. He grabbed a full water bottle, and threw it at Koshinaka in the ring. He tried the same thing with the timekeeper's table, but his aim was off there. Koshinaka was punching at Tenryu, whom was still at the apron. After a brief struggle, Koshinaka used a vertical suplex to bring Tenryu back into the ring.
Koshinaka uses some of his old heel tricks by choking Tenryu on the ropes and trying to open that small cut by scratching his fingers in that cut. Koshinaka wore down Tenryu a bit with a headscissors hold before picking him up to headbutt him. Tenryu responded with a chop-guh punch-chop combination that knocked Koshinaka down. Tenryu bodyslams Koshinaka, and climbs the top rope for his reverse diving elbowdrop. Koshinaka moves out of the rope and immediate goes for the pin. However, he only got a 2 count. Tenryu went for a chop, but Koshinaka ducked and used a schoolboy for another near fall. Koshinaka continued to wear down Tenryu with a chinlock. He would transition that with a bodyscissors for a rear naked choke of sorts. Tenryu reaches the ropes to break the hold. Koshinaka whips Tenryu off the ropes and tries his luck with a sleeper hold. Again, Tenryu was too close to the ropes.
Koshinaka picked Tenryu up and threw a few headbutts. Tenryu looked angry as he just slapped Koshinaka in the face and chopped him in the midsection. Tenryu whipped Koshinaka in the corner and charged in with a lariat. He whipped Koshinaka to the other corner where he used a combination of chops and guh punches before taking him down with a DDT. Tenryu went for a guh punch, but it was Koshinaka who connected with a guh punch first to knock Tenryu down. However, Koshinaka was still stunned more and Tenryu climbed the top rope. Koshinaka caught him and superplexed him down. Tenryu quickly pops back up and plants Koshinaka with another DDT. Tenryu knocks Koshinaka back down with a lariat, but Koshinaka is also refusing to stay down by kicking out of the pin at 1. Tenryu uses a guh-punch and plants him with his 53-years old, which is a combination of brainbuster and jackhammer. A 3-count from the referee and Tenryu is your winner.
Riki Choshu & Kenzo Suzuki vs. Takao Omori & Yoji Anjo
Before the match started, there was a highlight package of Takao Omori interjecting himself after matches 2 and 3 of the Tenryu vs. Choshu series. After match two, Tenryu chopped Omori off the apron. It prompted Omori to go after Tenryu only to be held back by the other wrestlers. After match three, Omori nailed Tenryu with the axe bomber then poured a water bottle on a down Tenryu then throwing it at Choshu. Omori is clearly trying to make a name for himself in WJ by attacking both legends.
The match itself was a disappointing way to end a fun show. While the match was under 15 minutes, but the slow action made it feel like it was much more. The only thing that I really liked from the match was Omori no selling Kenzo strikes so that he could take a few shots at Choshu. I will say that Kenzo is much more fun to watch as a sports entertainer. Kenzo got the win by pinning Anjo with the Hagakure, which is a running knee lift with the opponent in a kneeling position as if he was about to take the Shining Wizard.
While the closing interviews and highlights were airing, they decided the best way to end a WJ show was by playing a love song. The name of the song was "When We Were Kings" by Brian McKnight & Diana King. That kind of hurts the mood for me to watch pro wrestling. Now, I want to find a good woman and take her to the beach at night. We sit on a blanket placed on top of the sand. We would have a picnic basket with dinner and some fine wine. When dinner is finished, we would gaze the moonlight while I hold her in my arms. After gazing into the moonlight for some time, I would take my left hand off her. I would reach into my pocket and get a diamond necklace. I place the necklace on her neck, look into her eyes and say "I love you." We give each other a very passionate kiss. Then, Power Hall plays at the end of the highlight reel and I feel like watching wrestling again.
Final Score: 6.5 [Average]
Ryan Mancuso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org