Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

3/2/01 Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan (11,000 sellout)

Naohiro Hoshikawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji

Incontrovertible evidence of how one man's motivation can turn a potentially good match into a triumph. It's ironic when the guy who is trying out turns out to be the best performer on the show. If he didn't have the motivation of wrestling for a job, it probably wouldn't have happened. Of course, it's a joke that Hoshikawa had to try out for ZERO-ONE. I mean, he's always been better than Takaiwa and is better than the current forms of Hashimoto & Otani. On the other hand, he doesn't have anywhere near their name value, and that's probably more important to them since ZERO-ONE isn't likely to run shows for more than a few years before Hashimoto either retires or "goes back to" New Japan.

I'm certainly glad Hoshikawa had to try out because I've seen him in a number of excellent matches, but I've never seen him perform like this, especially in singles. Everything he did was done with such speed, impact, precision, and/or smoothness. I said the match wouldn't be any better than good due to it being the inexperienced Marufuji's first opportunity to work with Hoshikawa. I could tell within a few minutes, both by the confidence he was displaying and the pace and intensity of the early portion, that Hoshikawa was going to make me look like a fool. Sometimes it's good to be totally off the mark.

Hoshikawa would be the perfect junior for a Hashimoto promotion because of his believability and diversity. He proved when Michinoku was working with Battlarts (back in the days when Battlarts was far more shoot oriented) that he can work credibly without it being a detriment to his performance. He delivered some of the most brutal shots in this match, and you could hear the impact of every one. Certainly, his blows were way stiffer than what a legitimate martial arts tough guy like Akitoshi Saito was throwing, and this is the department where Saito is no slouch. The running low trajectory dropkick to Marufuji's face when he was in a sitting position was really nasty. I kept waiting for Marufuji's cheek to swell up.

Kicking is not what makes Hoshikawa so good though, it's his diversity. Guys like Takaiwa & Kashin are very good at one style, but certainly need an excellent wrestler who can conform to it in order to have a very good singles match, and even then it's questionable. Hoshikawa did his thing here, but he's not limited to one style so we got segments of Purorlucha that fit into what both men do well. If Hoshikawa is to be the only junior that wants/is allowed to be a junior in the promotion, he's going to be asked to face outsiders with greatly varying styles and abilities. Here, he had a match with a guy that has below average to good matches all the time in NOAH and is far from his ideal opponent that's as good, if not better, than any singles match former IWGP Junior Heavykyu Senshuken holder Takaiwa has ever had.

Hoshikawa was (sadly) doing the job in the end (although it's easy to see why), but he wasn't going to lay down for Marufuji at any time before that. He pushed Marufuji, took the fight too him. He made Marufuji work for his offense. This produced good results. Marufuji did a cool counter for a low kick, he simply hopped over it like he was jumping rope. He also turned one of Hoshikawa's kicks into Maeda's captured.

Perhaps more important than any counter than he did was just that Marufuji gave us the idea that he wasn't willingly taking these kicks. It's one thing when it's strikes back and forth in a battle of machismo, but Marufuji isn't the type that's going to try to strike with somebody. In those cases, no matter how good the blows are, it starts looking incredibly contrived when the receiver is just standing there like they don't mind being kicked. Hoshikawa knew when to use his kicks though, and Marufuji was active enough in his defense.

One thing that made this match so good is that you never knew when something would work. They made each other work for the moves, but their style of doing it was more towards jumping, flying, and ducking out of harms way. There were a ton of kicks by Hoshikawa, but as is always the case with Hoshikawa, there was so much more to the match than that. The sequences and counters weren't always perfectly performed, but all the nice ones greatly overshadowed the few problems. Just great fast-paced, athletic action.

The fans were into this match since it was the first ever ZERO-ONE match and the performers were giving them a lot to cheer about. The teases in this match were fairly effective, and they eventually delivered most of the moves that had previously failed. The match was dramatic. The near falls at the end were effective because they were so close that it genuinely looked like the match was over a few times. Furthermore, it looked like Hoshikawa was the one that was going to win, especially after his diving brain kick. Marufuji's Shiranui finisher is pretty cool. It looks like it's going to be a tornado Diamond cutter, but instead he kicks back off the top turnbuckle so it's like a reverse Diamond cutter off a backflip.



Akitoshi Saito vs. Tadahiro Fujisaki

Granted not much could follow the previous match, but these guys made no attempt. Saito basically used the match to put himself over. He did a few good kicks, as always, but that was it for anything good or interesting from him. Fujisaki didn't show a thing. His offense was Choshu-esque, but when you have no aura and are playing in front of an indifferent crowd, it doesn't even work nearly as well as the guys who think they can have an excellent match by remaking a Flair match spot by spot. Fujisaki did a pretty good backdrop, but that was about it for him. This wasn't a match where they did things wrong, they just didn't do much, and most of what they did was one-sided and boring.



YU-IKEDA vs. Takeshi Tobou

A Shootboxing (mis)match. Tobou may have been the better fighter, but IKEDA had a big size and reach advantage of Tobou. Tobou didn't really have a chance because the range and angles were so against him. He was able to get IKEDA up for a few suplexes, but he couldn't finish them. For the most part, it was a dull, slow-paced fight. Tobou was always trying to get inside, but he didn't exactly take a ton of chances. IKEDA essentially took none, but then again he didn't need to. He did some cosmetic damage around Tobou's eyes, but basically this was a fight where he'd win a decision unless he didn't need to. The finish saw Tobou hunch over and bring his arms against his stomach and chest to defend IKEDA's kicks and knees to the stomach. This gave IKEDA the opening to apply a front guillotine for the win.

Round 2 2:20

Yoshiaki Yatsu vs. Gary Steele

A laughably poorly worked "shoot." Boring as hell, and it didn't look remotely real. The big near submission was a seemingly endless rear chinlock by Steele. Boring is one thing, but Steele's entire offense was built around these strikes that made Rock's open hand love slaps look like Hashimoto's chops. The fans kept chuckling because there were so many occasions when the performers acted like misses were deadly blows. When they weren't doing this, they laid around on the mat. Yatsu won with a hadakajime. The less said about this embarrassing debacle, the better.



Shinjiro Otani vs. Kazunari Murakami

This was in the vein of Hashimoto vs. Ogawa. An incredible display of hatred and intensity. Some people are going to really like this match. I wish I was one of them. Unfortunately, aside from the intensity, the match was pretty poor. It almost solely consisted of punches and kicks, which is fine if it's the right guys punching and kicking (note: the right guys does not include any pushed guys in the WWF except Benoit). Not only weren't these all that stiff, but blows put over as key weren't even hitting. One particularly atrocious spot saw Otani act like he was KO'd from two consecutive blows that missed.

Murakami needed this win after losing to easily to Muto, among his other high profile losses. He was put over way too much though. Otani was contending for the top wrestling title in Japan two weeks ago, but here he was reduced to jobber to the glorified jobber. Offensively, when he actually got some in, he was hardly reminiscent of the guy we know and love. He didn't need to be because this was "real," but he was buried like Hashimoto was when Ogawa "shot" on him, except Murakami isn't considered a dominant fighter by many people.

Otani wasn't allowed much offense after the opening where he never stopped for the ring introductions, just ran right at Murakami and punched and kicked the hell out of him, which set the tone for the entire match. This points out another reason Otani looked worse than Hashimoto though, he was the one that "shot" on Murakami only to have Murakami take his best stuff, come back and rip Otani a new hole. In what could be termed a fitting conclusion to the burial of Otani as any kind of a serious heavyweight contended, he had to be carried out by the seconds after the ref stopped the match because he "passed out" in Murakami's hadakajime. Normally I don't mind stretcher jobs or the like, but this an excessive final stamp on a match that was already way too one-sided.



Alexander Otsuka & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama

No Fear gave their opponents no respect. I found the match to be better than the previous one because the wrestling was a lot more diverse and well executed. That said, it was a lot worse than it should have been. It's one thing for the ZERO-ONE guys to lose, but another for them to be established as losers. This went a long way toward the later, and it's the reason New Japan moving the juniors up into the heavyweight division has been such a failure. It's interesting for the novelty, but a couple of losses for each guy and that wears off, leaving a once respected junior buried in the inept bookers rubble.

Otsuka & Takaiwa looked good offensively when they had the chance. Unfortunately, that wasn't often because the match was so short and one-sided. The match was all action and had good heat. It was not dramatic because the only time Otsuka & Takaiwa came to winning was when Takaiwa used his Death Valley bomb on Omori. The problem was this occurred during the first minute of the match, so the chances of it being the finish were less than 1%. Omori wound up pinning Takaiwa with his ax bomber. The match was enjoyable for what it was, but frustrating because of what it wasn't.




Shinya Hashimoto & Yuji Nagata
Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama

We weren't treated to the best possible match, but we got the one that made the most sense given the circumstances. The purpose was to get over what ZERO-ONE has to offer so we'll keep coming back for more. Interpromotional matches are the best thing the promotion has to offer. The politics don't allow New Japan to work with arch enemies All Japan and NOAH, but Hashimoto can fight on NOAH's shows because he's "no longer in New Japan" and Nagata can fight against NOAH in ZERO-ONE because it's "neutral ground." It's silly, but this ridiculousness is not just the backbone of the promotion, it's the only reason ZERO-ONE exists.

The added layer we have here is that, in storyline, the partners aren't exactly chummy. Misawa & Akiyama absolutely hate each other. Hashimoto & Nagata don't have heat with one another, but they aren't exactly two eggs in the old nest. This wasn't one of those matches where the promotions went into business for themselves. It couldn't be because that would undermine the whole purpose of attending a ZERO-ONE show. Misawa & Akiyama could have fought amongst themselves after one of those spots everyone can see coming for a mile away where one guy holds the opponent, but the opponent ducks out of the way so the holder is leveled. It would have put heat on their expected meeting in the GHC tournament, but we don't need to buy a ZERO-ONE show to see these two these two bicker. We need to buy it to see them come together for an important task, taking out their mutual enemy Hashimoto, because it will "never" happen in NOAH.

Misawa & Akiyama knew how to play it. They seemed to have a mutual understanding. You got the sense that, when healthy, they only tagged so the other guy could get his shots in. There's certainly enough of Hashimoto to go around, so they tried to win the match rather than be one man shows that would make or break their "team."

Just because we didn't see any selfishness, that doesn't mean the performers didn't try to get themselves over. On the contrary, this match was oozing attitude. They showed their disdain for their opponents and that some of their shots didn't hurt them, but no big or key moves were no sold. The no sells came on strikes, where the performers used gestures and facial expressions to show they were able to take that shot so their opponent better hit them more and harder.

More than anything else, the no sells were an extension of the parity that was prevalent throughout the match no matter who was paired up. What we mainly saw here was struggling for an advantage that wasn't to be had. They went back and forth with various counters, reversals, and toe-to-toe strikes, ending with one big move that provided a temporary one up on the opposition. While the move was being sold, the person who just got the glory would grin in pleasure or in some way signal that he was pleased with himself and we should be too.

Another way the attitude was expressed is that occasionally a wrestler would try to use the other guys move on him to show him up. Early in the match Nagata tried to exploder Akiyama, but Akiyama blocked it and tried to exploder Nagata. Nagata went right into a wakigatame position (without taking Akiyama to the mat), but rather than pursue the arm bar, he threw elbows (the trademark strike of both his opponents) at Akiyama. Of course, Akiyama won this exchange because it's his move. True to the matches form, Akiyama got cocky after leveling Nagata with a jumping elbow (flying forearm), taunting Hashimoto to get in the ring. While this was going on, Nagata recovered, snuck up from behind, and dropped Akiyama on his head with a German suplex. Akiyama fell into his corner, so Misawa tagged in. Nagata wasn't hurt by Akiyama's actions because he got to put Akiyama back in his place. On the other hand, Akiyama had won their actual series and would be back for his revenge later.

This match pointed out the one thing that Nagata is lacking, charisma. He did some of the same moves as the other guys, and technically he may even have done them better, but the fire isn't there like it is with Hashimoto & Akiyama and he isn't able to make the stone face work for him like Misawa. The match had tremendous heat when Hashimoto was in. This, of course, has a lot to do with him still being a lot more over than Nagata in spite of the last two years misfirings, but part of it was also the aura he and his two opponents project.

There was a lot of standing around and giving the opponent menacing stares. This gave us time to reflect on what had just happened and anticipate what was about to. Some people will hold this against the match. However, I don't think it can be argued that it added to the heat, rather than losing the crowd. What lost the heat is sticking to predominantly striking for so long. On one hand, you have Hashimoto and Nagata fans that expect a whole match of this. On the other, you have Misawa & Akiyama fans who expect elbows to be a small portion of the match. I didn't mind the way they went about it, but clearly it was working much better when they were breaking up up often with teases of big moves and/or a suplex. Don't get me wrong, if there was a strike that did damage it got a nice pop, it's just the even exchanges began getting lukewarm responses as time went on.

After about 13 minutes that were far more towards Hashimoto & Nagata's style, they switched to Misawa & Akiyama's style. The pace picked up a great deal and there were a lot more big moves executed and teased. Hashimoto's stamina is probably questionable at this point, but he worked short, fiery segments and left the rest to Nagata.

One nice segment saw Hashimoto slowly make a move to save Nagata from Misawa's Tigerdriver. By the time the ref was ready to lower his arm for the two count, Nagata had turned it into his sankakujime so Hashimoto wasn't needed. Soon after this, Nagata was none too happy that Akiyama stomped him below the belt to save Misawa from being pinned in Nagata's backdrop hold. Akiyama saved Misawa from Hashimoto's DDT as well, but Nagata, who got there a second too late, threw him to the floor so Hashimoto could take Misawa without worrying about the punk interfering.

Hashimoto almost finished Misawa a few times, but Akiyama won the battle on the floor with Nagata so he returned to the ring in time to save Misawa from taking Hashimoto's deadly suichoku rakka shiki no brainbuster. Hashimoto decided he'd put up with enough of Akiyama's crap for one day, so he went after him to teach him a lesson. Hashimoto dug into Akiyama, but the suddenly neglected Misawa came up from behind and elbowed Hashimoto in the neck a few times before Nagata resurfaced. Misawa won the battle with Nagata, taking him out with a form of enzuigiri, so this time there was no one to save the prone Hashimoto. He didn't need saving because he fended Misawa off with a couple of chops, but he was so concerned with Akiyama, who wasn't a real threat by this point, that he once again turned his back on Misawa. This time Misawa nailed Hashimoto in the back of the neck with a fast walking elbow then gave him a lame German suplex for the win. You could see throughout the match that both Misawa & Akiyama were having trouble with Hashimoto's weight on the few occasions they tried to handle it, and Hashimoto didn't give Misawa a good jump here, so it wound up looking more like a backdrop. The finish was fine on paper since the match wasn't about decisiveness, but looked pathetic in actuality.

Hashimoto got right up after he was pinned and started working Akiyama over again, which led to seemingly everyone that worked the show and half the NOAH roster jumping in the ring to break it up. Ogawa came out of the stands and onto the ring apron. I guess said something to the effect of wanting a match with Misawa since Hashimoto was a loser. He must have pissed Misawa off too because Misawa gave him a running elbow, which started another big scuffle with 20 guys pushing, shoving, and clawing each other. It was really intense like the post match of the 1/4/99 Hashimoto vs. Ogawa. Ogawa is starting to look more and more like Inoki when it comes to mannerisms. He was really demonstrative, as always. The post match went on and on with little fights breaking out involving Misawa, Ogawa, Hashimoto, Akiyama, Murakami, Kazuyuki Fujita, Daisuke Ikeda, and others. The ring was packed and everyone was so bunched up that it was hard to follow, but because of that they can almost make any match they want coming out of this. Akiyama & Fujita mainly got into it after Ogawa left the ring, which was probably purposely done so he wouldn't distract from it. Hashimoto & Misawa shook hands at the end, but then Misawa said something to Hashimoto that didn't seem to friendly, so they can probably keep fighting each other or form a non friendly team against Ogawa just because he's now a mutual enemy.




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* Puroresu Review Copyright 2001 Quebrada *