Akira Hokuto vs. Meiko Satomura
Jerome: After I watched Meiko Vs Hokuto for the first time, I absolutely didn't know what to think of it. This match seemed tricky, and I didn't like this feeling of being fooled. I was mesmerized by Hokuto's performance during the first half, but at one point, just after the tope con hilo, they just lost me. And I mean they completely lost me. I like Satomura so I should have been involved, but at one point my interest just plain fell apart, so something must have happened that really bothers me or really doesn't work, but I couldn't put my finger on it..... Of course, there were some obvious flaws. Meiko was totally out of control and Hokuto had to put her in her place several times. They worked a wakigatame spot early, sold huge by Meiko but completely forgotten a few minutes after. That was probably the most visible mistake in the match, but wasn't the element that bothered me the most. The other real flaw was the finish was really bad since there was no reason Akira could not cover Meiko. At the same time, there was this big match feel, probably because of the great stiffness. Only two things were for sure: Hokuto was the best in this match by far and Meiko was not as good as she was opposing Aja (she screwed up a few times here, but the mistakes were covered by Akira). Hokuto looked like she took bad acid and was on a flashback trip to '95. At the same time, she used the Tenryu's tactic of "instead of working, I'll hit my opponent very hard," not that it is a bad thing. Meiko on the other hand lacked self-control and looked out of her element. The difference with her classic match with Aja was striking, as all the maturity she displayed in their 9/15/99 match was absent here. This match seemed disjointed, with some great moments, but as a whole it didn't click. I had to rewatch it to find out what the problem was. It has the look of a great match, it has the feel of a great match, it tastes like a great match, but it is not a great match. Outside of the facts that Meiko got carried away, the work on the arm led absolutely nowhere, and there were some screw ups (mainly from Meiko), the match as a whole was structured in a goofy way and the selling was extremely inconsistent. Akira dropped Meiko on her head two times and then Meiko did a comeback that was way too energetic. She then kicked Akira in the head once, and Akira sold it like she's dead. After this you have this stupid sequence where Akira slaps Meiko out of her boots but Meiko kicks out at one, then kicks Akira in the head and Akira kicks out at one also. This shitty no-selling was rendered worse by the fact that a few moments ago Akira acted dead after taking the exact same kick. Then you have the famous tope con hilo. I think Akira hit her head very hard on the concrete. She looked dizzy after this, as she missed Meiko twice in a row with her slaps, which didn't keep Meiko from selling these phantom strikes. Lastly, there was absolutely no reason why Akira couldn't cover Meiko at the end. She just has to fall on her, but instead rolled away in a completely illogical movement. I'd be very generous and call it **** for the stiffness, dramatic moments, and excellent work by Akira during most of the match. The heat, the amazing performance by Akira (both in term of work and attitude, and the fact that the showed nothing for years), and the positioning of the match on the card are the main reasons why this match tricks people into thinking it's a great one. However, as a whole Meiko didn't look very credible kicking Akira's ass, and didn't show the maturity that people think she has. It kinda remembers me this Misawa Vv Kobashi match from 10/95 where Kobashi got out of control and the match went in every direction (of course the work was on another level there). It's easily the worst performance Meiko delivered in a big match, as she was way better against Devil in '00 and at a different level against Aja, both in single and in tag in 99.
They attempted to do a great match. We rarely ever see this in GAEA; a few times a year is probably being awfully generous. Certainly a great effort from both performers, who tried to rise to the occasion and make something about these two anniversary shows memorable.
Hokuto's performance was probably her best since her classic 9/2/95 match against Manami Toyota. Instead of just doing spots like every other GAEA match, which magnifies her physical decline, she put some thought into what she was doing and why. She tried to make this a dramatic battle of hard hitters, something along the lines of what she did in her magnificent 4/2/93 match against Shinobu Kandori, except among other things this couldn't match aura or intensity.
Hokuto pulled out all the stops, giving Satomura her own Death Valley bomb early and even doing her old tope con hilo. In turn, Satomura used Hokuto's strangle hold on her, and nearly beat her with it. The main thing though is we were never reminded of the current mediocre at best and very uninspiring version of Hokuto. We saw a few flying moves she hasn't used in recent years without her exposing herself by trying to give or receive moves she can't do as well anymore.
This was stiff! Aside from the two exceptions noted by Jerome, everything Hokuto did was on target and hard. She blasted Satomura with wickedly brutal slaps, while Satomura fired back with her kicks. In addition to minimizing her own problems brought on by age and injuries, hitting Satomura harder gave the match some consistency. Satomura's style is based in the U.W.F. kick, suplex, and submission offense, so with Akira doing that type of match it was something Satomura was more comfortable with. Mind you, this is not the match Satomura usually does, but 7-9 minutes of spots wasn't going to cut it as the main event of this show and raising it to 20 minutes of spots would be something Hokuto couldn't handle, at least not well, even for one time. Even if she could handle it, she could no longer do it at a level that would result in a great match, as is the cast with the vast majority of women that could do a great work and spots match 6-7 years ago. One stiffness segment that was particularly impressive saw Satomura counter these slaps Hokuto was using where she pulled Satomura toward her to increase the impact like the Jake Roberts' lariats with a her bicycle kick.
The match was always exciting. Whether things were working or not, the match never dragged and we always saw good offense. Although the heat was hardly sustained, the crowd appeared to be at least somewhat into the match throughout. After the 15-minute-mark, the heat was great and the fans reacted to Satomura winning.
The length was notable because like Satomura's match with Kansai, this was worked like it was going 5 minutes. The difference was this time instead of being about that length, it lasted over 20. It's an important a factor the previous match, and most GAEA matches, have taught the fans that the matches won't last very long. Although this is not at all a good thing, it is beneficial in the rare instance that a match goes long because we get into the match early due to the style being big moves back and forth and then a finish.
The wrestlers around the ring, particularly Mayumi Ozaki, were emotionally involved throughout. Having the wrestlers there made the match seem important, but they weren't all leaning there like slugs, so their presence added to the aura. There was a particularly dramatic moment where Satomura put Hokuto in her own strangle hold and Ozaki tried to crawl into the ring to break it up, but KAORU & Police held her back by the legs/feet.
Hokuto's selling was usually top notch, and this made her comebacks dramatic. Hokuto's facials were particularly exceptional while she was trapped in the aforementioned strangle hold.
Instead of calming Satomura down like Aja Kong did, Hokuto was acting out of control from the get go. I guess this was supposed to excite the crowd, but mainly what it did was encourage Satomura to be wild and out of control self, and it's not like she needs any encouragement for that.
In spite of Hokuto's brilliance during certain moments, the acting in the match was pretty weak as a whole. It felt forced and over the top rather than natural. Satomura was badly overacting in points, while Hokuto sold a few moves that didn't even connect.
They were both too hyper, particularly Satomura, to the point it looked like they were injected with caffeine. I'm sorry, but shaking your head all around and flailing your arms doesn't add to the realism or drama, it just wastes energy. This was particularly true of a segment where they kept pulling each other off of the top rope. They could have used a fraction of the energy and done a ton of damage by using suplexes and bombs. It would have been a perfect time for Satomura to do her nadare shiki no udehishigigyakujujgatame, but instead they just shook each other left and right until they got each other "loose" from the turnbuckle and the opponent fell softly into the ring. There was one nice spot at the end where Satomura used her bicycle kick when Hokuto was draped over the turnbuckle.
The comebacks were too fast and the selling was erratic. They were trying too hard to make every move seem like the pivotal one. Instead of making it dramatic and more believable, it made it seem fake and self-indulgent because the concept itself isn't believable and the acting didn't back it up even if it was.
The structuring did not make any sense. They didn't build the match up at all. Instead of setting things up, they were forgotten or simply unimportant almost immediately after they were done. In spite of their idea that every move could be the finisher, there wasn't a credible near finish until 12:30 and it wasn't as if there was one believable near fall after another from that point. They certainly aspired to Hokuto's old level of drama, but weren't close to consistent in attaining it because Satomura came off as phony (the crowd still reacted to her though).
We were supposed to believe Satomura was winning the striking battles even though Hokuto was hitting her harder. This was a common theme of the match. Hokuto controlled more, but Satomura would eventually beat her at her own game so to speak.
Jerome: That's a big big problem. Hokuto's strikes were harder and her spots were more dangerous, but at the end it's Hokuto who can't answer the 10 count. This doesn't work and it gives this "phony" impression you're talking about.
Hokuto tried to instill an arm storyline an arm storyline, but Satomura forgot to sell it on more than one occasion, rendering it meaningless. When she did sell it, it felt more like "oh, I'm supposed to be holding my arm now." For the most part, it was totally forgotten about during the 2nd half of the match, which was actually for the better considering how well it was working. Satomura's selling was rarely even good, and for various reasons (coming back too quickly, missing moves, etc.) she occasionally greatly reduced the effectiveness of Hokuto's.
Satomura was supposed to counter Hokuto's DQ bomb with a bicycle kick, but she blew it. This was one of the times Hokuto did a nice job of covering for her. A blown spot is not the end of the world, but as a whole what was missing for me were the sequences and counters. The match never seemed to generate any flow because there was little that was tied together. It seemed choppy and pieced together.
The kickouts at 1 that Jerome mentioned above made no sense within the context of the match. If there was a point where the match fell apart, I would argue that it's here because after this all we saw before the tope con hilo was a dueling Junkyard Dog spot. At least we didn't have to endure Grab Them Cakes...
The selling of the double strike sequence just before the finish was particularly phony, and made worse by the fact Satomura put over strikes that only "hurt" the air.
The finish was lame. I could have bought it more if Satomura had just done a series of killer moves to Hokuto, and Hokuto mustered up all her strength for the one move (ala All Japan), but it was nothing like that. Instead, Hokuto seemed to come out on top of the strike sequences and then delivered her northern lights bomb finisher, which was logically the end of the match. What's illogical is this was the last move of the match, yet Hokuto lost. There's no explanation for Hokuto not falling on top of Satomura when she did her northern lights bomb, we've seen it happen on several occasions when Hokuto is about out of it if for no other reason than the way the move is set up and performed almost requires Hokuto to come down on top of the opposition. Instead, not only doesn't she land on Satomura, she rolls toward the ropes. Why would you try to reach the ropes when you were about to win? The only count there would be if Hokuto rolled onto Satomura is a 1-2-3! If Satomura managed to kick out, Hokuto still bought herself an extra 5 or 10 seconds before the ref would have started a 10 count, not that we saw anything that would lead us to believe she couldn't answer it. In addition to the finish not making sense, it put Satomura over as little as possible because all she did to win the match was answer the count.
The match was at its best when it was at its simplest. The stiffness is the main thing that made the match. The problem is the believability was taken way down by doing too much too fast with too much energy. There were a lot of ideas that made sense, but the tone of the match was wrong. Satomura might be able to do a great match in this style someday, but right now she lacks the maturity. This style requires subtlety, but instead we got flamboyance. It's the kind of match where less is more. That's why Kandori & Hotta could have exceptional matches with Hokuto because they are simply badasses and know the crowd will react to them without them essentially begging for it. Satomura needs to take her persona in another direction. Although she will never be imposing physically, Chigusa Nagayo & Toshiyo Yamada showed you can have a great deal of effectiveness and popularity doing the same kick, suplex, and submission style Satomura does in spite of that. It's doesn't have to be about kicking ass, it can be about how and when you show your emotions. The problem is Satomura still comes off as a kid. Her acting doesn't give us reason to feel for her, and no one is going to buy that she's invincible. From a technical perspective, the majority of the ability displayed here came from Satomura. However, Hokuto outperformed her because she has more understanding of staying within herself, structuring the match, getting the crowd to react, and so on. It was hardly her smartest match and she can't work like she used to, but it was by far her best effort in years at least on a very occasional basis she's still got enough left to make that count for a lot. We should have been getting a few matches a year that were at least this good for the last 6, but apparently the desire and motivation weren't there.
Jerome: I don't agree that Satomura was technically better. Hokuto's work was better, with more different spots (and more difficult since they are pretty dangerous) and she covered Meiko's screw up many times. She was better in every aspect.
Hokuto's performance was more impressive to me for her economy of moves. She relied on stiffness and really didn't do that many different holds, but she did a good job of spreading them out and used most at appropriate times. The entire match was something of a mirage, with Hokuto's offense leading the way. Satomura gave her regular strong performance, but it didn't seem like she did as much because Hokuto wasn't a slug like Kansai and was carrying the mental aspects of the match.
Jerome: Hokuto impressed me both for carrying and pure work. I wouldn't call Meiko's performance strong in that case, as she blew some spots and showed too much febrility. Meiko was very good more often than not, but she was sloppy from time to time. I wouldn't call her performance in the Kansai match strong either, more like extremely dynamic. She was better in the Oz Academy tag match along with Sakai, Chikayo and Amano.
Hokuto vs. Satomura was the best GAEA match in a long time, but there were too many problems for this to be a great match. A match is not great because the performers decide to have a great match or because Vince McMahon has everyone tell you it is. The sum of what's done has to add up to greatness. Here, we saw many things that we liked, but instead of the pieces fitting, it was more like our 100 piece puzzle had 25 each from four different ones. A few things made you believe it was all going to come together, but then they did a few things to contradict that belief. Through it all, it did manage to maintain a strangely entrancing quality that had you wanting more and forgetting about less. There's enough to like about it to make it worth some extra effort to check out, but go into it expecting something amazing for 2001 Hokuto rather than something on par with the many highlights of 1993 Hokuto or you'll be in for a let down.
Read Review of GAEA G-PANIC! #48
Special thanks to: Jerome Denis