Zero-One Rebel Z Samurai Near Live TV Taping
My second night in Tokyo, and my second show at Korakuen Hall. I had a blast the night before at the New Japan SXW taping, and I know that it is never better the second time around. First off, I had a headache that day and spent most of my time in Tokyo looking for a TGI Fridays (I was THAT desperate for American food) in Roppongi, but had to settle with Wendys (which was good enough because where I live, the only "American" restaurant is a chain called "Mos Burger", which really leaves you wishing for McDonalds). I then took the subway to the stop labeled "Korakuen", (named after a big garden in the area, but if you ever visit Japan don`t get it confused with "Korakuen Garden" in Okayama, which is fabulous) and tried to buy tickets early but the Korakuen Hall box office wasn`t open, so I just had to settle with walk up (for some reason I thought my chances of getting tickets were slim compared to the New Japan show, where I just walked up and got great seats). Since I had hours to kill (the show started at like 7 p.m. and it was only 2 p.m.) I walked around the area surveying things like the Tokyo Dome (right next to Korakuen Hall) and the Kodokan Judo Hall (both only on the outside). I realized there was no way I could waste time in this area, so I headed back to my hotel to try to calm my headache through rest (I hadn`t gotten much sleep the night before).
After my nap, I headed back, deciding to get dinner after the show. The first difference I noticed about this show is the fans were a little different than the New Japan crowd. They were mostly all 20-somethings like myself (probably grew up with Hashimoto and Ohtani), and seemed a little bit more like hardcore fans you would find in the states. Even though Z-1 reported about 1,500 for the show, in reality it was more like 800. I managed to get a front row seat and if you watch the TV taping, there I am the whole time in the front row!!!!! This was for Fighting TV! Samurai that would air the show tape delayed later in the evening. Dave Meltzer attributed the lack of crowd to it being Christmas Eve, but Christmas in Japan is more similar to Valentines Day in the States, so I don`t believe it was much of a reason. I think the reason for low attendance is starting this night Z-1 would be running Korakuen for three straight nights, thus the fans knew they could miss this show and catch the next two (surprise, surprise, the show on the 26th had the highest attendance).
1. Tadahiro Fujisaki defeated Osamu Roko in 5 minutes, 21 seconds with a backslide.
Fujisaki pulled out a scroll saying something the crowd found very funny. I had no idea what it said. This match was all comedy, but it was only the opener so no biggy.
2. Tomohiro Ishii & Takashi Uwano defeated Naohiro Hoshikawa & Yoshito Sasaki in 10 minutes, 53 seconds when Ishii used a brainbuster on Sasaki for the win.
There was a girl in the audience waving a "WJ PRO" sign, who may be the only WJ Pro fan in the whole world. Of course, she was going nuts for Ishii and Uwano. This was my favorite match on the card because Hoshikawa ruled all that is man in this match. His stiff kicks were making the guy next to me scream, "Yabai!!!!" (slang for "not safe,") in amusement. This was the first time I saw of Ishii, who seemed pretty good.
3. Dick Togo & Ikuto Hidaka defeated Vansack Acid & Jun Kasai in 12 minutes, 43 seconds when Hidaka used a Shawn-capture hold on Acid for the win.
This match was pretty good as well!!! It clearly illustrated to me how talented guys like Togo and Hidaka are because they timed almost everything perfectly. The really knew how to get the crowd going in to ups and downs (the previous match is another example as well). Kasai was really over with the crowd, acting "American" by only speaking English. He wanted to be acknowledged as "Saru," rather than "Kasai." When someone shouted his real name, he turned to them and yelled (in English), "SHUT UP!!!!!" It was funny live.
4. Hiro Yokoi defeated Katsuhisa Fujii in 5 minutes, 47 seconds by referee stoppage.
I thought this match was the only waste of my time. They showed a video package before the match of Fujii losing to Kiyoshi Tamura at the recent U-Style show. Then Fujii lost here. Then he lost again a week later at Hustle-1 in the Giant Silva squash match. I guess they were doing the always successful "losing streak," gimmick. Crowd didn`t really care about Yokoi, and well, neither did I.
Every Japanese show has the traditional intermission～! Everybody goes to buy a coke, smoke, get a hot dog, bathroom, etc. Anyways, here I would like to note the lobby of Korakuen has its walls covered with pictures of boxers (mostly Japanese) who have fought there. I didn`t know that Korakuen was a boxing mecca as well (they seem a little more proud of it than their pro wrestling history). Here`s a really cool difference from the NJ Show: Guys who had fought on the undercard such as Hoshikawa and Hidaka were selling merchandise (they also served as ring seconds for the rest of the show)!!!!! In one of the more regrettable decisions of my life, I didn`t bring my camera with me that night!!!!! Ironically, earlier in the day, a voice told me, "Matt, bring your camera," but since I didn`t want to carry it around, I decided against. I felt so stupid at that point. Like a wounded dog, I bought my coke and headed back to my seat, deciding against buying tickets for Hustle-1 (a decision I don`t regret).
5. Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Mammoth Sasaki defeated Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Kohei Sato in 14 minutes, 48 seconds when Kuroda used a Samson Clutch on Sato for the win.
Kuroda and Sasaki`s opening match schtick is my favorite in pro-wrestling right now. Solid match, but I must point out that brawling in the audience only comes off good on TV because the majority of the crowd can’t see it live. Takaiwa knows what he`s doing, but Sato is still green.
6. Takao Omori defeated Masato Tanaka in 10 minutes, 58 seconds with an Axe Guillotine.
Of all the guys on the card I was eager the most to see Tanaka (yes, more than Hashimoto or Ohtani). I`ve been a fan of his since FMW and ECW. Unfortunately, he had to do the clean job to Omori because they had to make WJ Pro look like something of a threat. It was good while it lasted, but I wanted more.
7. Shinjiro Ohtani defeated Shinya Hashimoto in 19 minutes, 54 seconds by referee stoppage.
Even though Tanaka was the guy I wanted to see most, I marked hardcore when Hashimoto`s entrance theme started playing. I have no earthly idea as to why Ohtani is getting pushed above Tanaka (actually, yeah I do, Ohtani is a NJ alumnus while Tanaka is of dirty garbage wrestling lineage). In any case, these guys stiffed the crap out of each other and I`m all for that!!!! Once again, the crowd was totally in to it, but got real upset when they stopped the match due to Hash`s dislocated shoulder. To describe how bad it got, the head of Zero-One personally ejected a fan very violently due to the vocal protesting (this could have been a plant, you never know in this business).
After the show, an older guy walked up to me and asked me (in fluent English), if I enjoyed the show. I told him I did, and then he wondered where I was from. After I told him I’m from Texas, he told me how The Funks were his favorites as a kid, and then when he found out I was from around Houston, he told me of the great history the city had with Paul Boesch`s promotion. I had a feeling he might work for Z-1 or something because he asked me if I was attending the next night, but I told him that I had to head home.
I`m kind of on the fence as to whether I enjoyed the New Japan or Z-1 show more. The New Japan show had a nothing undercard, but a great main event while the Zero-One show had a good undercard with a disappointing end result in the main event. I left a lot more happy after the New Japan show, so I guess I prefer a nothing card with a great main event, as opposed to a good card and crappy main event. That`s just me. I spent my Christmas vacation in Tokyo for one reason and that was to go to Korakuen Hall. Not ideal for most travelers, but it was good enough for me and well worth the cash I paid for it.