wrestling / Columns

Into the Indies 11.03.09: FMW Judgment Day 1999

November 3, 2009 | Posted by Ryan Byers

Banner Courtesy of John Meehan

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to Into the Indies, the only column on 411mania that has 15,000 volts of excitement running through it.

This week, instead of looking at semi-current wrestling as we have been doing for the majority of this column’s run, we’re going to take a step into the wayback machine and take a look at some independent professional wrestling from ten years ago. The promotion? FMW. The date? November 11, 1999. The event? Judgment Day.

For those of you who are not familiar with FMW, I already put together a (very) brief history of the company as part of my Apache Army review two months ago. So, if you would like some general information about the promotion, I would suggest that you begin there. Instead of rehashing that, this week I will focus more on where FMW was as a company heading into the Judgment Day show itself.

1998 and 1999 were very much years of change for FMW. The “death match” style of the promotion had begun to fall to the wayside as wrestler Kodo Fuyuki developed a close relationship with the company’s money man Shoichi Arai. Fuyuki pushed for what he referred to as “entertainment wrestling” to become the style of the company. Fuyuki’s entertainment wrestling involved many ridiculous, over the top storylines and sexuality which heavily mirrored the booking of the World Wrestling Federation during the same time frame and, in some regards, took it even further than the WWF was allowed to go given the differences in cultural norms between the United States and Japan.

Oddly enough, Kodo Fuyuki making major changes to the company wasn’t just a story that played out behind the scenes. In storyline, Arai was the head of the company, and, again in storyline, he decided to promote Fuyuki to being the FMW commissioner. Kodo made numerous changes designed to anger the fans, including eliminating traditional FMW titles such as the Brass Knuckles Title and the Six Man Street Fight Tag Team Titles. They were replaced by various World Entertainment Wrestling Titles, which is odd in retrospect given that, approximately four years later, the largest professional wrestling organization in the world would change its name to World Wrestling Entertainment.

However, Commissioner Fuyuki’s shuffling of title belts was nothing compared to the tricks that he played with FMW’s two top babyfaces, Hayabusa and Masato Tanaka. Hayabusa, a masked high flyer, was told by Fuyuki that he would have only a few more weeks with his gimmick, as he did not want his version of FMW to have superhero-type characters. Because of this edict, ‘Busa was going to be forced to remove his mask and wrestle under his real name of Eiji Ezaki. Tanaka, meanwhile, was put into an even less enviable position, as Fuyuki declared that his next loss in an FMW ring would be his last, as he would be forced out of the promotion if he were defeated in any way, shape, or form.
The company built towards an August 25, 2009 show which would be the final appearance of the Hayabusa gimmick. After Hayabusa was successful defeating long-time rival Mr. Gannosuke in the last match for the character, he was laid out not only by Gannosuke but also by Fuyuki and the other members of his stable Team No Respect. Eventually, the former Hayabusa would reveal that he was not going to wrestle under the name Eiji Ezaki but that he would instead be known to the world as H. It appeared that H had the number of Team No Respect, as he defeated several members of the group in an elimination match on August 27. However, before he could claim a complete victory over TNR, H was attacked by . . . Hayabusa?

Yes, Kodo Fuyuki had forced Eiji Ezaki to stop competing as Hayabusa, but he apparently did not stop the gimmick from being used at all in FMW. Mr. Gannosuke re-debuted as the “new” Hayabusa, destroying H in a brutal attack. Gannosuke and Fuyuki would work together over the next several weeks to do everything that they could in order to sully the legacy of the Hayabusa character, including casting Gannosuke in several pornographic films, which he would participate in while wearing the Hayabusa mask. (Remember what I said earlier about differing cultural norms?)

This all lead to Judgment Day on November 23. Tanaka was set to face Fuyuki in an electrified steel cage match, which, if won by Tanaka, would bring an end to the rule that he would be fired for his next loss. Elsewhere on the card, Hayabusa and H would lock it up in order to hopefully put an end to their rivalry. FMW wanted this to be the biggest card in the history of the promotion (which, to be frank, by this point was getting a little bit too large to be called an “indy”), and they weren’t going to stop with booking two singles matches capping off their biggest feuds. They also relied significantly on outside talent, bringing in Jazz, Raven, Tommy Dreamer, and Balls Mahoney from ECW. Japanese wrestling legends Terry Funk and Dory Funk, Jr. were also added to the card. In an even bigger coup, the company managed to attract SHAWN MICHAELS from the World Wrestling Federation to referee the Hayabusa-H match. Michaels was in part appearing in exchange for two of his trainees, a couple of guys named Lance Cade and the American Dragon, getting spots on several FMW shows.

What would occur at Judgment Day? Would Mr. Gannosuke and Eiji Ezaki finally put their feud to bed? Would Masato Tanaka be allowed to remain in FMW? Would Tommy Dreamer break down crying, as he is wont to do? Let’s take a look . . .

Match Numero Uno: Ricky Fuji, Flying Kid Ichihara, & Chocoball Mukai vs. Koji Nakagawa, Jado, & Gedo in a ladder match for the WEW Six man Tag Team Titles

All six of these men are FMW regulars, with Fuji and Nakagawa still wrestling in offshoots of the promotion, most recently Apache Army and FREEDOMS. Mukai we’ve seen before as a guest referee when I reviewed the IWA Japan 15th Anniversary Show. Essentially, he’s a porn star turned wrestler . . . though, unlike Val Venis, in Mukai’s case the backstory is a SHOOT. Ichihara, meanwhile, is not active to the best of my knowledge, though he may have been on every indy wrestling show to ever occur during the 1990’s. This was the case even though he wasn’t particularly good. Though you never would have guessed this at the time, Jado and Gedo went on to become the most successful FMW alumni of the whole lot, as they eventually got signed by New Japan Pro Wrestling, the country’s largest promotion. They were regular junior heavyweight competitors there for years, and now they’ve risen to the point that they have a hand in booking the company.

We are joined in progress, with Team Nakagawa having isolated Mukai. They take turns kicking a ladder in to the part of his body that made him his most money. After some clipping, Nakagawa and Ichihara are seen fighting atop a ladder, but it gets shoved over, causing them to fall into the ropes. Gedo tries to climb after that, but Mukai cuts him off with a dropkick and climbs. Chocoball is powerbomed off of the ladder by Jado, after which we cut ahead in the match to Gedo attempting to grab the titles. He is distracted by the opposing team’s female valet, who strips down to her underthings. That gives Ricky Fuji the chance to go after the belts, but he is distracted by HIS opponents’ half naked valet, which gives Jado an opportunity to halt his climb. The two half-naked women wind up in the ring together, with a Japanese announcer freaking out and screaming what I can only assume is that country’s version of the word “CATFIGHT!” Meanwhile, Gedo and Fuji are punching each other while standing on the ladder, and the camera misses the spot that results in Gedo losing that war. Why do they miss it? Because they’re busy filming the women, of course! They do, however, get a shot of Fuji grabbing the championship belt hanging over the ring to give his team the victory.

Match Thoughts: There wasn’t too horribly much shown here, so there’s not a lot to comment about. However, in concept alone, this match goes to show you how Americanized FMW had become in its later days. A ladder match in the opening bout with two half-naked women taking up half of the screen time feels like something that you’d see coming from a booker with the name of Russo as opposed to a booker with the name of Fuyuki . . . and that’s exactly what it looked like when viewing it, as well.

Shawn Michaels cuts a promo setting up his guest referee spot. He states that PMS is “post-menopausal syndrome.” I think Shawn needs to go back and re-watch the Our Changing Bodies film from junior high school.

Match Numero Dos: Kaori Nakayama & Emi Motokawa vs. Miss Mongol, Malia Hosaka, & Jazz

Though it was de-emphasized during Fuyuki’s run, one of the most successful portions of FMW in its heyday was its women’s division, which featuring entertaining deathmatches from the likes of Megumi Kudo and Combat Toyota. Here, the two babyface FMW women who were remaining at this point (Nakayama & Motokawa) are in a handicap match against long-time FMW heel Miss Mongol and two outsiders, Jazz and current SHIMMER star Malia Hosaka. Jazz was in ECW at the time, and, for some reason, Hosaka is being billed as a WWF wrestler. Though I know that she did some jobs for them over the years, I don’t recall her ever being a regular part of the roster.

The first action we see is Jazz in the ring with Nakayama. They avoid each other a couple of times with carthwheels, after which Jazz catches her opponent with a hard shot and lands a couple of slams. The match clips forward to Motokawa giving Miss Mongol a big belly-to-back suplex, after which Hosaka and Jazz run in. Emi takes them out of the ring with a headscissors/headlock takedown combo, and then she climbs the ropes. All three heel women eat a top rope cross body to the floor by Motokawa. More editing takes us to Nakayama wrestling Mongol. Nakayama rolls her up for two and then applies a rolling prawn hold before Mongol reverses a tornado DDT into a spinebuster for a nearfall. More editing gives us the two faces climbing to the top rope in the same corner at the same time, coming off with a simultaneous legdrop and splash on Malia. Oddly, she kicks out at one. Nakayama stays on the Hawaiian but runs into a boot. The two women fight on the second rope, and Nakayam pulls her opponent off with a Hama-chan cutter. That’s all she wrote for the match.

Match Thoughs: As with the opener, there was very little actually shown here. All of the women managed to get in one or two impressive spots during this glorified highlight reel, which means that they worked together surprisingly well for a crew of five women in which several of them had probably not worked together frequently prior to this evening.

Match Numero Tres: Bad Boy Hido vs. Willie Williams

This is a weird one, and I honestly can’t even explain why it’s being done. Hido is a regular FMW wrestler and was for quite some time. Willie Williams is a karate star from the 1970’s who is known primarily for a) fighting Antonio Inoki when Inoki was trying to put himself over fighters from many other disciplines and b) fighting A BEAR. Yes, a live bear. From what I understand, this was Williams’ last live public appearance of any sort.

It looks like this is going to be some kind of kickboxing match. We’re joined in progress during round one, as Williams lands some knees early but gets taken down by Hido, who briefly gets into the mount. He tries for a cross armbreaker from that position, but Williams gets a pro-wrestling style rope break. Clipping ahead to round two, Hido hits an ACE CRUSHER of all things in this supposed MMA bout, after which he attempts to apply a rear naked choke. Willie gets the ropes again and unloads with a series of kicks so fierce that he falls on to his own ass and bloodies Hido’s face. The pro wrestler is up at nine, but Williams immediately charges in and lands a couple more knees followed by a big kick to get the knockout victory. After the bell, Williams cuts a promo about Hido being a strong fighter whose “future will take off.”

Match Thoughts: I don’t even know what I can say about this one. It was a worked MMA match that last approximately two minutes and didn’t feature anything too horribly noteworthy, either in terms of being great or in terms of being godawful. I would suggest that you’re better off tracking down footage of the Williams/bear fight than you would be watching this.

Match Numero Cuatro: Dory Funk, Jr. & Terry Funk vs. Yoshinori Sasaki & Naohiko Yamazaki

This is an interesting battle of rookies and veterans. The Funks’ careers should be well known to just about anybody reading this column, as they were both about twenty years removed from being NWA World Heavyweight Champion at this point. On the other side of the ring are Sasaki and Yamazaki, who at the time were two of the newest graduates of FMW’s dojo. Sasaki, who I believe has a legitimate sumo background, would eventually adopt the nickname “Mammoth” and go on to infamy as Hayabusa’s opponent in his final match, during which he broke his neck and paralyzed himself while attempting to perform a lionsault.

Before the bell, the brothers Funk dedicate the evening’s match to Bruiser Brody, presenting to the crowd what are reportedly the boots that he was wearing on the evening that he was murdered. We flash forward from the pre-match promo to Yamazaki wrestling Dory. The veteran wrestler almost immediately gets in his spinning toehold, and Sasaki gets the same when he attempts to run interference. Yamazaki tries to break that up, so he eats the hold again. After a cut, Dory is unloading on Yamazaki with some of his patented European uppercuts. We get another jump cut, with Terry now peppering Yamazaki with his trademark jabs. Sasaki again runs in and again gets the exact same treatment that his partner just got. That sets up a Terry neckbreaker on Yamazaki for two, which he follows with a piledriver for another nearfall. Terry gets a bit confused while running the ropes, though, falling out of the ring. This allows Sasaki to attack him, and, when we clip ahead again, the younger wrestlers are double teaming the former ECW Champion. Yamazaki applies a chinlock and drops a leg and an elbow, but Terry reveres a headlock into a suplex. He fails in getting the tag, though, and Yamazaki applies a leglock briefly before bringing Sakai back in. He holds Funk’s leg while Yamazaki drops his full weight against it, and then Sasaki tosses Terry to the floor. Yamazaki sends his opponent into the guardrail before Dory runs over to make the save.

When the action returns to the ring, Sasaki lands a pair of big charging shoulderblocks for two. We clip ahead, and the young lions hit some sort of botched-looking double team move, after which Sasaki sets up for a chokeslam. Dory runs in to prevent the move from happening, but Yamazaki stays on top of Terry with a snap suplex and a diving headbutt for another nearfall. More clipping brings us forward in the match to Terry catching Yamazaki in the Kiwi roll, which provides the unusual setup for the hot tag. Dory is a house afire thanks to his uppercuts, and the brothers apply stereo spinning toe holds to their opponents for the submission victory.

When the match wraps up, Sasaki and Yamazaki bow to the Funks. Well, at least they know their place in wrestling.

Match Thoughts: All of the matches on the card this evening have been fairly heavily edited. This one was no exception, and, even though it was no more heavily edited than the other, less significant matches, the clipping here seemed to be placed more awkwardly so that the edits did more harm to the flow of the bout here than they did to the flow of the ladder match and the women’s match. At least from the editing, this appeared to just be some token offense from the young bucks in a match that was primarily about trotting out Terry and Dory to do as many of their famous spots as possible for easy pops.

Match Numero Cinco: Kintaro Kanemura vs. Balls Mahoney for the WEW Hardcore Title

Kanemura, alongside Masato Tanaka, was one of two wrestlers who were pushed heavily as proteges of FMW Atsushi Onita during Onita’s time with the company. For whatever reason, he didn’t take off nearly as well as Tanaka did in the days after Onita departed the promotion. Tonight he’s got Balls Mahoney in a match that, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t have much of a backstory aside from being a match between two men from different continents who were both known for their uncontrollable hardcore style. Kanemura is accompanied to the ring by a group of three men in Mafia style suits, who I am assuming based on their promos and the crowd’s reaction to them are some kind of Japanese comedy troupe. Balls, sadly, gets no accompaniment. I would make a joke about Kelly Kelly coming out to ringside with him, but, if my math is right, she would have been ELEVEN YEARS OLD during this show.

We are joined in progress with the two wrestlers in the middle of a chair duel. Kanemura’s weapon gets knocked out of his hands, so, like a complete idiot, he decides to run the ropes. Of course, this results in him charging directly into a chairshot from Balls. Seriously, who in the world would have thought that would be a good idea? Mahoney reels off his trademark combo of punches and plants his man with a spinebuster, after which a bodyslam connects. The ECW wrestler heads up to the top rope after that, connecting with a guillotine legdrop of all things. Surreal. The move only gets a two count, and we clip ahead to the two men brawling near the entranceway. Kanemura gets Irish whipped into part of the set, causing some fireworks to go off. Clipping ahead again, the wrestlers are backstage. Mahoney lays out W*ING on a table and tries to blast him with a sledgehammer but misses. A TV monitor is taken out instead, after which Kanemura whips his opponent in to a concrete wall. He once again charges at Balls like a complete idiot, getting hiptossed onto the hood of a car as a result. Mahoney goes for his hammer once more, but Kanemura catches him with a flying ass off of the hood. Then, in a bizarre spot, Kintaro completely ignores Balls and starts pounding away at the windshield of the car with the hammer. The purpose of that spot becomes clear a bit later, as eventually he throws Mahoney into the passenger’s seat and shoves his head into the shattered glass.

We clip ahead a little bit more, and the two men are still brawling by the automobile, except now Balls has the advantage. In a unique spot, he positions Kanemura so that he is standing in the frame of the open car door. He then slams the door into Kanemura’s torso, which essentially causes the passenger side window to EXPLODE in Kanemura’s face. The wrestlers wind up standing on the hood of the car, and Kanemura manages to give balls a DDT onto the hood for two. Another edit flashes us forward to Balls and Kanemura standing on the hood once more, this time with Mahoney POWERBOMBING his opponent onto the car roof. Somehow that only gets two. Undeterred, Balls grabs a couple of tables and sets them up side-by-side next to the car as Kanemura continues to rest on the roof. Mahoney tries to powerbomb W*ING off of the hood and through the tables, but Kanemura reverses it into a back body drop. Balls hits the tables, but they don’t break. Kanemura goes in search of more plunder but takes too long, allowing Balls to recover and pop him in the head with a garbage can.

We flash forward again, and the wrestlers are once more brawling by the entranceway. A member of Kanemura’s comedy troupe tries to interfere and hit Balls with a chair, but it has no effect. It does distract him, though, allowing the Japanese wrestler to give the American a back suplex onto the stage. Clipping ahead again, Mahoney inadvertently superkicks part of the stage, leading to more fireworks and the Hardcore Chair Swinging Freak selling his leg. Another edit sees Kanemura using a length of chain to tie Mahoney to two upright tables. Kanemura begins climbing a scaffolding on the stage and leaps off with a HUGE ass drop down on to Balls. That was at least a ten foot drop, and, though the legs snapped off of them, the tables STILL didn’t break. Sickening. Fortunately, that move brings an end to the battle.

Match Thoughts: I have to admit that Balls Mahoney is somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine. If you watch him in the very few straight, non-hardcore matches that he’s had during his career, he’s actually a significantly better wrestler than the majority of “extreme” style grapplers. I think that helps him out significantly when he is putting together his no DQ matches, because he is able to take his knowledge of where to time comebacks and how to sell from the regular bouts and apply them to the hardcore environment. Though the constant edits in this match made it a bit difficult to tell, he appeared to be doing that here, and the result was the most entertaining battle so far on this card. The two wrestlers paced the match well and the spots built in their intensity to the big finish, which is how you want a hardcore match to play out. In addition to that, I have to give them credit for coming up with some spots involving the car that I had never seen before and have not seen since. Heck, some of them were even safer than many extreme spots, since the automobile glass that they were using on one another is actually designed to break in such a way that it will do as little damage as possible to people. Though I’m at a point in my life during which I’m not going to advocate for any wrestlers slamming each other on hard metal objects or making risky twelve foot dives, if you accept the premise that this sort of match is going to be happening in the world, this was a damn fine example of it. Kudos to both men.

Match Numero Seis: Kuroda & Hisakatsu Oya (c) vs. Raven & Tommy Dreamer w/ Francine for the WEW Tag Team Titles

Kuroda and Oya are a couple of guys who, throughout their time in FMW, were always hanging out towards the top of the card and in the mix for various tag team titles with various partners, though, by this point, neither of them had gotten a run as THE man. Kuroda would go on to be the top heel in the company for a short period of time a year or so after this show, and he is still a regular in FMW offshoot promotions like Apache Army. Kuroda enters on a motorcycle with a gang of bikers, which is entertaining mainly because one member of the announce team sounds like he’s having a small orgasm every time a new bike comes out through the entranceway. Oya has quite the contrasting entrance, as he pulls a singing girl out in a rickshaw. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried . . . though I would say that I would be ten times as entertained if these entrances were done by Raven and Dreamer instead of by the Japanese contingent.

We’re once again joined in progress, with Raven and Kuroda fighting by the entrance. For some reason Kuroda small packages him, which results in the two men rolling down the ramp while intertwined with one another. Okay, that was pretty damn amusing. When they get up, Kuroda smacks Raven with a chair and runs back through the curtain, coming back with a ladder. He blasts the former Scotty Flamingo with it, and, when we clip ahead, he’s got the ladder in the ring and rides it down on to Tommy Dreamer’s chest. Dreamer fires back and places the ladder in between the turnbuckles, allowing Raven to whip Kuroda into it. When we flash ahead again, Raven gets a taste of his own medicine, which Kuroda tries to follow up by going to the top rope. Raven cuts him off, but Kuroda has the last laugh when he snaps the ECW rep’s neck over the cables. The grunger is quick to respond with an Evenflow, but it only gets two as Oya saves. More clipping takes us to Raven suplexing Kuroda onto the later, only to be caught immediately by an Oya enzuguiri for a nearfall. Oya then applies an Octopus hold, but Francine runs in to hit him with a chair. He attempts to piledrive her, only for Tommy to cut that off, giving Oya his own piledriver down on to the furniture. In a spot that I completely forgot that he used to do, Dreamer then misses a rope-walk elbow.

Seconds after that move misses, a spotlight comes down over the entrance ramp for reasons that I can’t immediately ascertain. Ultimately, it appears that the light was shined down on the ramp because Kuroda decided that was going to run the entire length of the thing to get the most momentum possible for a dropkick onto Raven. After that connects, we cut ahead again, with Dreamer placing Oya into the Tree of Joey Lawrence and dropkicking a table into his face. After that, he places Oya on the furniture and heads to the top rope, coming off with the lowest-elevation splash you’ve ever seen. Kuroda saves at two and hits Dreamer with the table and a lariat, getting a surprisingly quick three count.

Match Thoughts: I praised the prior match for containing some innovative spots, and that was especially impressive given the fact that we’re now ten years in the future and hardcore wrestlers have had significantly more time to run once-novel ideas into the ground. However, this match was the exact opposite of the previous battle. Instead of containing fresh material, it was just a series of spots that you could see these four wrestlers doing in perhaps literally hundreds of matches that they’ve had over the years. That was particularly surprising given how heavily edited it was compared to Balls/Kanemura . . . if these were the things that they left in, I can’t imagine how dull the footage on the cutting room floor might be.

Match Numero Seite: Kodo Fuyuki (c) vs. Masato Tanaka for the WEW Singles Title in an electrified cage match

We get some awesome pre-match footage of the electrified cage being “tested” before the show, with FMW officials placing a teddy bear up against the mesh and watching it slowly catch on fire. I’m ashamed to admit that, if that bear’s charred remains were placed on eBay tomorrow, I’d probably be the highest bidder.

It’s a battle of shoulderblocks to start, which comes to a head when Tanaka spears his opponent and unloads with some punches. He misses a diving forearm in the corner, though, giving Fuyuki the first opportunity to shove somebody into the electrified cage. Tanaka avoids it, and he dodges the bullet one more time when the champion throws him over the top rope. After that, the men exchange chops for a little bit, with Tanaka then teasing putting Fuyuki into the conductive mesh. The former ECW Champion finally gets things done as he climbs to the top rope and drops a leg over the back of Fuyuki’s head as the big man lays over the top rope, causing him to fall backwards into the electrified cage, which causes a big explosion. They pyro looks a little bit hokey, but the crowd is buying into it, so I can’t complain that much. Tanaka follows up with a running forearm, but Fuyuki blocks a second lariat with one of his own and then hiptosses Tanaka into the electrified cage. Fuyuki hits a lariat for a two count, and a fisherman buster gets the exact same result. A powerbomb then plants Tanaka’s shoulders down into the mat, but it is also incapable of finishing off the match. A second powerbomb attempt is reversed into a back body drop, after which Tanaka gets in his own lariat and shakes the ropes Ultimate Warrior style. Masato then unloads with a tornado DDT on his opponent, which garners a two count. Tanaka goes airborne again, this time hitting a missile dropkick. Again, it gets two. A third trip to the top sees Tanaka going for a frog splash, but Fuyuki gets his knees up and uses the opening to get in a series of kicks and a version of the dragon sleeper. Yes, we’ve resorted to submission wrestling here in this electrified steel cage match. The referee checks the arm in a ridiculously dramatic manner, but, instead of Tanaka Hulking up, Fuyuki releases the hold for some unknown reason and goes for a cover. Tanaka obviously kicks out. Seconds later, Kodo runs into his boot, setting up a guillotine legdrop and a lariat from the challenger for another nearfall.

Then, out of nowhere, Tanaka hits the Diamond Dust, his normal finisher. The fact that it wasn’t built up to at all made it obvious that Fuyuki was going to kick out at two. Tanaka charges and runs straight into a half nelson suplex, but he rolls through, no sells it, and nails a huge forearm. Fuyuki is also out of that at two, and Tanaka goes to the top rope again. Fuyuki cuts him off and plants a muscle buster before grabbing a wrench and disconnecting the top turnbuckle from the ringpost. He does the same with the second and third turnbuckles, periodically taking breaks to hit Tanaka with his wrench. Once all of the buckles have been removed, Fuyuki begins choking Tanaka with one of the loose ropes, after which he goes for a cover and gets a two count. After that, Tanaka attempts to Irish whip Fuyuki straight into the cage, but Masato blocks it and hits a leaping forearm onto his opponent that causes another huge explosion. Tanaka follows it with a powerbomb for two. After that, he pulls down his elbow pad. Fuyuki ducks the roaring elbow and hits a backfist, but he blows a lariat and fails to duck elbow number two. That can’t finish the match, though, and seconds later the men are trading strikes at mid-ring. They wind up tumbling into the electrified cage together. They both collapse, with Fuyuki having the presence of mind to roll over for a quick cover. It fails to end the match. Both men battle their way back up to their feet, after which Tanaka charges in with another running forearm to win the match.

After the match, Fuyuki is stretchered out of the ring, but Tanaka rolls him off of the backboard and into a conveniently placed garbage truck, which he then drives out of the arena.

Match Thoughts: This was . . . interesting. On one hand, everything that the two wrestlers did from a purely athletic standpoint looked good. They were both delivering tons of big moves, and the big moves that they delivered were all very well executed. However, the manner in which the match was put together just struck me as weird. Aside from the blood feud between the two wrestlers, the real draw of the match seemed like it should have been the electrified, explosive steel cage. That gimmick was used several times in the opening minutes of the match, after and then there was a period during which almost nothing but straight wrestling moves were relied upon. Then, without any real rhyme or reason, we went into the bit with Fuyuki undoing the ring ropes, and, at that point, the electrified cage gimmick became relevant again. It seems like the more traditional (and dare I say better) way to do things would be to hold off on using the explosions at all until the last five or so minutes of the bout. On top of that, though I thought that Fuyuki’s dismantling of the ring was clever in concept, it took a bit too long to accomplish and really brought the match to a screeching halt for a bit too long after a series of very high impact moves. **3/4

Match Numero Ocho: H vs. Hayabusa (Mr. Gannosuke)

Hayabusa kicks Michaels low before the match even starts, but H takes over on him and dropkicks him out of the ring, following him out to the floor with a flip senton off of the apron. Hayabusa finds himself whipped into the guardrail after that, but he reverses H’s second attempt at the same move. The two wrestlers then begin brawling in the first few rows of the crowd. Gannosuke gets the advantage and posts H, then tossing him back into the ring alongside a chair. Hayabusa lands a missile dropkick and follows it up with a pair of axe bombers, then going into a headscissors. I will use this resthold to point out the fact that I completely forgot that Shawn Michaels has one of the worst tattoos in pro wrestling history, namely an outline of the State of Texas on his calf. It’s on full display here. Eventually Hayabusa breaks the hold and hits what looks sort of like a Falcon Arrow, though I can’t imagine that’s what they’re going for given that it barely has any effect and that is usually one of H’s finishes. Hayabusa stays on H with fairly generic offense and shoves Michaels again, with the Heartbreak Kid threatening to “knock his ass out” if it happens one more time. The two wrestlers wind up in a fight over a chair, which of course results in Hayabusa hitting HBK in the gut with the furniture. Shawn makes good on his early promise, superkicking Hayabusa out of his boots and then attempting to remove his mask. H prevents the hood from being removed, though, convincing Michaels to let him take out Gannosuke instead.

Once Gannosuke has recovered from the kick, he removes the Hayabusa mask voluntarily. It doesn’t do him that much good, as he’s immediately hit with a rana, baseball slide dropkick, and Asai moonsault. Gannosuke is returned to the ring, where H hits a springboard senton. He tries to follow with a lionsault but misses, and both men tumble out to the arena floor off of a clothesline spot. HBK begins counting both men out of the ring, causing Gannosuke to yell “NO COUNT!” at the top of his lungs several times. Michaels eventually stops counting, which leads me to believe that he was never supposed to have started. H and Gannosuke fight over a Tiger Driver on the floor, which H eventually hits. He then drags Gannosuke up on to the ring apron, where he sets him up for another powerbomb. Gannosuke blocks it, lifting H up on to his back and jumping off the apron with what is essentially a Kryptonite Crunch from the apron to the floor. My first reaction was to type “I’m amazed H wasn’t paralyzed by that move,” but something about that seems to be in poor taste. Eventually H gets back up on to the apron, and Gannosuke looks to suplex him back in. That’s blocked, though, and H goes behind his opponent. Gannosuke reverses and maneuvers his man down into a sugarhold. They stay in that position for a bit, but H eventually gets the ropes. Gannosuke tries to follow with a powerbomb, but it’s reversed into a rana. ‘Suke pops up immediately from that, though, hitting a lariat that sets up an actual powerbomb. It only gets two. A German is next from the bad guy, but H no sells it and hits one of his own, followed by a spinning heel kick. H plants his opponent down with a fisherman buster and a tiger driver, but Gannosuke is out of the subsequent pin attempt at two.

A Falcon Arrow connects as well, but Gannosuke again manages to kick out. The crowd had surprisingly little reaction to that spot. H goes for another move, but Gannosuke rolls through into his patented Gannosuke clutch for a two count. He gets the clutch again for another two and then hits a backdrop suplex. Another suplex is cut off by H’s elbow strikes, and then he hits an early version of the Pele kick. H slams his man and heads up top, landing a 450 splash for a VERY close two count. A uranage results in another nearfall for H, after which Gannosuke gets in a desperation lariat out of nowhere. He follows that with a tiger suplex and a k-driller, but this time around it is H’s turn to kick out at the last possible second. Yet another powerbomb from Gannosuke connects, and yet again H kicks out. Gannosuke tries to climb to the top rope, but he’s cut off by a kick to the head from H, which he follows up with a top rope rana. A weak dragon suplex connects, as does a kick to the head and a shotei. That all builds to H hitting his uranage one more time. In a weird spot, H is on top of Gannosuke but Michaels doesn’t count, not realizing it’s a pin attempt. When HBK does count, Gannosuke kicks out at two. Michaels tries to cover by loudly saying to H, “You’ve got to go for a cover, you can’t just lean on him!”

H ascends the ropes after that, coming off with the ugliest Phoenix Splash in the history of man. H’s knees connected with Gannosuke’s midsection, and H himself landed face-first on the canvas. It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective, as it gives H the three count.

Match Thoughts: These guys were given a lot of time to work with and, from what it appeared, license to do whatever they wanted to do in the ring. Those were really the saving graces of the match. Aside from that, it was pretty ugly. There were some beautifully executed moves here and there, but the majority of what was being done was either merely competently executed or just flat-out sloppy. On top of that, it was clear at several points that Michaels and the two Japanese wrestlers were not on the same page AT ALL. Though it provided some entertaining moments in terms of unintentional humor, it put some severe handcuffs on the wrestlers and prevented this from being as good as it could have been otherwise. It wasn’t a BAD match by any stretch of the imagination, but, as a pay per view main event and a major turning point in one of the biggest feuds in company history, it was rather disappointing. **


During the mid-1990’s, it was hard to go wrong with watching an FMW show. I think that viewpoint is held pretty well universally by most wrestling fans who have seen the shows, minus those individuals who are just so disgusted by the concept of deathmatches that they can’t get past them to look at the more important aspects of the show. There are some diehard FMW fans who feel that the company was just that good until the day that it died. Unfortunately, I have to say that those fans were wrong. Things took a turn for the worse when Kodo Fuyuki came on board as one of the most influential figures in the company. Though a few of his storylines had legs (his feud with Tanaka wasn’t THAT bad, fro example), he abandoned a lot of the format of FMW cards that had made them successful in the first place. A big part of what made the company special was the variety of matches present on its shows, and, though Fuyuki retained token nods to things like the women’s division or the junior heavyweights that used to pop up lower on the card, by and large the cards wound up being very homogeneous from top to bottom. Though this card wasn’t quite as bad as things would become, it certainly featured several key steps in that direction. As a result, instead of this show being pleasant nostalgia, it was an unfortunate reminder of how a once great company began its death spiral.

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Ryan Byers

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