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Furious Flashbacks: Wrestle-1 First Championship Tournament

December 4, 2014 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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Furious Flashbacks: Wrestle-1 First Championship Tournament  

Wrestle-1 Tour 2014 DSG Group Presents First Championship Tournament


17th October (Taped 8th October) 2014.


Wrestle-1 has been around for over a year so it’s high time they had their own title. Their only previous major event, PPV Outbreak, was built around the involvement of TNA so it was TNA’s title that headlined the show. Their second PPV will be co-promoted with TNA also as it’s Bound for Glory (an event that took place after this show but, thanks to the taping delay, would have aired before it). During their year in existence it has become abundantly clear that Wrestle-1 need a title belt to establish themselves. This would be the result of their requirement; the final night of the Wrestle-1 title tournament. Here’s what occurred before tonight:


Day 1:

Minoru Tanaka beat Daiki Inaba

Masayuki Kono beat Jiro Kuroshio

AKIRA beat Ryota Hama


Day 2:

Yusuke Kodama beat Yasufumi Nakanoue

Hiroshi Yamato beat Seiki Yoshioka

Shuji Kondo beat Kaz Hayashi

Masakatsu Funaki beat Tajiri

KAI beat Manabu Soya


Day 2 clearly had more interesting action, as it was in Tokyo, and the likes of Hayashi, Tajiri and Soya going by the wayside showed the company had developed a bit of depth during 2014.


Day 3: Quarter-Finals

Masayuki Kono beat Yusuke Kodama

Shuji Kondo beat Hiroshi Yamato

Masakatsu Funaki beat AKIRA

KAI beat Minoru Tanaka


I’m sure others felt the same as me at this point. KAI had won two big main events, over Soya and Tanaka, and it looked as if Wrestle-1 were going to let him be the first champion. The general booking of Wrestle-1 seemed to suggest a desire to push KAI as the top guy, despite his middling in-ring ability.


We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. Just over 1,000 in attendance. Another sign Wrestle-1 aren’t exactly connecting with the Japanese public thus far.


Novus (Jiro Kuroshio, Koji Doi, Rionne Fujiwara & Yusuke Kodama) vs. Daiki Inaba, Hiroki Murase, Andy Wu & Yasufumi Nakanoue


Novus are a bunch of cocky upstarts who clubbed together a few months ago to improve their station. They’re not booked as heels and have opposed the evils of Wrestle-1’s top heel faction; Desperado. Fujiwara is a weird guy. He’s not Oriental at all and hails from Australia. He’s also known as Fujiwara Lion. Of all the guys in the match my current favourite is Nakanoue, the Kojima clone. Wrestle-1 smartly booked him against Kojima at the last PPV. It makes him very memorable. Kuroshio has a lot of personality though and seems to be the main guy on his team thanks to an outlandish hairstyle and slightly dickish behaviour. Shame about the urban camouflage blazer he’s wrestling in. Almost everyone in the match is relatively inexperienced and it shows. Wu and Inaba have both impressed me before but get somewhat lost in the mix in an 8-man. Kuroshio manages to isolate Wu and rolls him up for the win in a somewhat underwhelming conclusion. Bags of potential in this match. I still think Nakanoue is the stand-out but that’s largely because of his recognisable move set. Of the others, Koji Doi looked really smooth. I’ll need to see more of everyone involved before garnering a firm opinion on their ability.


Final Rating: *1/4


Tokyo Gurentai (MAZADA & NOSAWA Rongai) vs. El Hijo del Pantera & TAJIRI


Tokyo Gurentai are a heel stable but one I can’t take seriously. NOSAWA’s very appearance in the ring brings memories of XPW and Juggalo Championshit Wrestling. El Hijo del Pantera is the son of legendary Mexican wrestler El Pantera. His heyday was working the likes of Fuerza Guerrera. It makes me wonder if all luchadores are just sons of other luchadores. It seems to happen quite a lot. TAJIRI is obviously the same Tajiri that buzzsaw kicked his way through the ECW tag and WWE cruiserweight divisions. MAZADA and Pantera blow their first counters sequence in typically sloppy lucha fashion. When lucha goes wrong it’s a fucking disaster. TAJIRI treats the match with all the respect it deserves by working over NOSAWA’s ass with kicks and taking everything at half speed. 44 year old Tajiri is still good and it’s perhaps a disappointment he spent the past five years trying to be a promoter when he could have done that at any time and his ring time is limited. As per usual Tokyo Gurentai’s offence is creative but inconsistent. Sometimes it’s cool, sometimes it fails. MAZADA picks off El Hijo del Pantera with the Shoda Drop for the win.


Final Rating: *1/2


Manabu Soya vs. AKIRA


Soya was originally the onscreen authority figure in Wrestle-1 but lost that honour back in May in a very WWE-esque angle. I can’t quite get a fix on how highly Wrestle-1 rate him as he seems to be getting a push but then takes weird jobs. AKIRA is one of the guys who came over as part of the WNC acquisition. He used to be a New Japan mainstay (as Akira Nogami) and a top cruiser talent. He’s 48 now but still looks in shape. Like an aging Jimmy Snuka, only not as crazy and still putting effort in. Soya puts a lot of effort in too, throwing himself into bumps to get AKIRA over as a threat. Like a series of release German suplexes. It’s all a bit weird as Soya is the bigger guy. You’d expect him to be hitting the suplexes and AKIRA doing more striking and flying. I swear the commentator mentions Jimmy Snuka, perhaps picking up on how alike he and AKIRA are in appearance. Soya does something really cool in this one when he blocks a roll up by planting both feet and then jacking AKIRA back up. I don’t think I’ve seen that counter before. AKIRA catches him with another roll up though and that’ll do it. Lots of roll up finishes in Wrestle-1.


Final Rating: *3/4


Wrestle-1 First Championship Tournament Semi-Final:

KAI vs. Shuji Kondo


Given KAI’s big push during 2014, it wouldn’t surprise me if he won the whole thing. Kondo winning the title would be out of left field. He’s a good age for a champ; 36 as he has both experience and mobility. He’s built like a high card guy but he’s never been treated as anything special. AJPW saw Kondo as a midcarder. Wrestle-1 is trying hard to establish an identity for itself, hence these choices but the crowd is distant watching them work. A lack of big names in a tournament just demonstrates the lack of star power in your promotion. Try as they might, KAI is a glorified midcarder. Kondo looks the man most likely to triumph during the bout as he lands stuff like DDT’s and lariats; high impact moves. The fans start to buy into his demolition of KAI and it feels as if Wrestle-1 are using this match to turn Kondo into something more than a midcard guy. Kondo doesn’t slum it on the bumps either as KAI head-drops him a few times. Kondo has a thrilling powerhouse move set and you wonder why Wrestle-1 hasn’t been more intent on pushing him, as he’s senior to KAI and a better wrestler. My guess would be that if Wrestle-1 do use American imports, Kondo will find himself overpowered and his A-game will be useless. KAI looks good fighting from underneath too, countering things and using the ropes. When he’s bullied, he’s at his best. He still looks clunky but Kondo brings out the best in him. The near falls really pull the crowd in too. Especially as Kondo keeps landing big power moves and KAI gets to look super-heroic in the kick-outs. I hate KAI firing up and trying to look tough as he’s better off being sneaky and quick. KAI manages to finish with a rope move, at least, and takes it with a Superfly Splash in just under 13 minutes. Colour me surprised, this was really good.


Final Rating: ***1/2


Wrestle-1 First Championship Tournament Semi-Final:

Masayuki Kono vs. Masakatsu Funaki


Kono is head of Desperado, Wrestle-1’s premium heel stable, so you have to expect him to go over here. Grizzled veteran Funaki used to be an outstanding MMA fighter in the middle of his career (1993-2009) but his return to pro-wrestling with All Japan looked to have rejuvenated him. His early matches with Minoru Suzuki and Suwama were quite brilliant. Funaki’s star has faded since then and while he has name value, he’s not championship material. Also, he’s wearing yellow pants. They work a shoot-style contest with lots of circling and tentative striking. Compared to the last match, it’s a real bore. Kono uses his Desperado colleagues to take an advantage and looks for a submission with the Figure Four. New Age Flair? Not even close. Kono’s technique leaves much to be desired. Desperado continue to interfere, as does TAJIRI, whose allegiance isn’t clear and Kono takes it with a King Kong Kneedrop. A marked contrast to the last match as this was total shit.


Post Match: TAJIRI heels it up by giving Funaki the GREEN MIST and Buzzsaw kicking him in the head. He’s definitely in Desperado.


Final Rating: ¼*


Hiroshi Yamato & Ryota Hama vs. Desperado (Ryoji Sai & KAZMA SAKAMOTO)


Sai is from Zero1 and one of Desperado’s best wrestlers. KAZMA looks like he belongs in Tokyo Gurentai. Yamato has a pop idol gimmick and Hama is a big fat tub of goo. The guys get their chuckles from having Hama do his budget Rikishi act. He really is a massive fat guy who can barely move. That weight comes in handy on the finish as he Vaderbombs KAZMA for the pin. The match was total filler and Hama’s body is getting to be hard on the eyes. At least the worthless SAKAMOTO was sacrificed here instead of Sai.


Final Rating: ½*


Kaz Hayashi & Minoru Tanaka vs. Seiki Yoshioka & Seiya Sanada


Sanada was shaping up to be a big star in Wrestle-1 so they lent him to TNA, obviously. He looks sharp here and the stuff with him and Kaz is slick and reminiscent of the better cruiserweight stuff from WCW and ECW. It’s quick and clean. Tanaka and Yoshioka then try to one-up that by doing higher impact moves including top rope stuff and flying kicks. It’s not as clean but some of the striking, mostly high kicks, is really entertaining. While the match is as much filler as the last one, the standard of the wrestling is excellent. Tanaka ends up catching Yoshioka in an armbar for the win. Lots of smooth counter sequences found their way into this match and I’d be interested in seeing it go somewhere. Singles matches, more elaborate tags. The talent is there for these guys to become the backbone of Wrestle-1.


Final Rating: ***


Wrestle-1 Heavyweight Championship:

KAI vs. Masayuki Kono


The booking makes sense here as it’s the companies top babyface hope, KAI, against the evil head of the evil heel faction in Kono. The trouble with booking them against each other is neither is a ring general and they both have gaping issues in their ring skill. They opt to take the safe route, which involves headlocks and basic switches. It is not what you want from your main event. Naturally Desperado interfere to stack the odds against KAI and give him a bigger mountain to climb. Unfortunately KAI’s tactics also involve headlocks and the whole match comes across as resting and interference. Two of my least favourite things to sit and watch. They’re pretty sloppy when they go high spots and KAI manages to get a pin off a Michinoku Driver where Kono’s one shoulder is lying across his leg. That’s not a pin, fellas! The pace picks up as the match progresses, which it had to, the early pace was glacial. Kono’s offence is all over the place but that’s largely because he keeps stealing Muta’s moves to fuck with him (he’s sat ringside doing commentary). The big issue with that is Kono is already building to a match with Muta before he’s even finished this one against KAI. It’s distracting. Kono does hit move after move to keep KAI grounded and it’s slowly wearing KAI down. KAI can’t quite sell that fatigue but he does make a thrilling comeback with several awesome kicks. The leaping kick to Kono’s jaw is just majestic. KAI’s big frogsplash gets knees though and cuts the legs off his comeback. From there it’s just a case of how much KAI can survive. He keeps kicking out until the inevitable King Kong Kneedrop…which gets 2. I like how they ran that as it finished Funaki but this match is more important. Kono adds in another kneedrop, to the back of the head and as KAI struggles to get back up the Shining Wizard finishes. A match of contrasts, that’s for certain. It started badly, got surprisingly good and then went right back to sucking again at the end. I don’t really rate either guy so at least it wasn’t a disaster but not an ideal contest for the first title match.


Post Match: Kono mouths off too much and Muta jumps on the apron to challenge him to a match at his 30th Anniversary show in under a month. I sense shenanigans. I know it’s Muta’s promotion but should he be headlining it at his age and in his condition?


Final Rating: **1/4

The final score: review Poor
The 411
It’s perhaps predictable that a company as shambolic as Wrestle-1 would botch their first big title match. I was a smidge surprised that Kono won and not KAI but that only happened to set up Kono vs. Muta, which has bad idea written all over it. Instead of a big redemptive victory for another babyface, it’ll be Muta who slays the beast of his own creation. It’s a head scratcher. The undercard contained moments of excitement and everyone in the semi-main event performed admirably. There are potential stars in there, certainly. All better than the two that main evented this show. That said KAI vs. Kondo was very good. It’s still not a promotion I would want to watch all the time because they’re not there yet and there are promotions that deserve my attention before Wrestle-1. I’ll check out Muta’s big 30th Anniversary show but I prefer watching NOAH and All Japan (and DDT and Dragon Gate) to this.
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