wrestling / Video Reviews

Puroresu Love: NEXESS

December 7, 2004 | Posted by Mike Campbell

May 3rd 2004

This was an interesting time for New Japan, and not a very positive one. Starting with the shocking (and short lived) IWGP Title win by Shinsuke Nakamura. New Japan has made a point to push their younger wrestlers so that they can become big stars and help carry the company down the road. While it seems like a good business plan, the problem is that New Japan was neglecting the wrestlers who could potentially help carry the company at the present, until the young guns like Nakamura, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Katsuyori Shibata are in better positions.

The IWGP title in the hands of Bob Sapp has a potentially good outcome. Because whoever defeats Sapp, will definitely become a superstar. Unfortunately, Sapp’s drawing power lies within him being used as more of a side attraction. Bob Sapp, headlining this New Japan Tokyo Dome show brought in a mere 40,000 fans. Down by 10,000 for the January show, featuring Sapp in a special attraction tag match.

Finally, with Puroresu itself on a decline in popularity, thanks to the MMA crazy going on in Japan. New Japan began a rivalry with the K-1 Kickboxing promotion. Bob Sapp, the IWGP Champion is among those associated with K-1. So we have yet another Tokyo Dome show, the biggest stage of all for New Japan, with shoot influence in it.

My version of this show is a two-disc DVD set. The opening junior six man tag isn’t shown unfortunately, which is one match I was looking forward to seeing. The main event for the IWGP title is shown on both discs, but I’ll be reviewing it as part of the second one, since it’s the main event. And as a result, it should go on last.


This match is only a squash for Lyger. It seems odd, because Lyger could once have a good match with anyone. But here we are on the biggest stage of all, and Lyger has to give a sixteen year old seven good minutes. The high points come when Lyger stretches the kid with various submissions, most notably the Romero Special. At the age of forty, Lyger has done it all and he’s earned it. Not Keichi Yamada, but Jyushin Lyger. So when he sees a sixteen year old kid, entering the ring, Lyger definitely will make sure he pays some dues and doesn’t get a free ride. It’s the same thing that is currently hampering New Japan’s heavyweight division, but the junior division is Lyger’s to control.

Lyger comes across like Masa Fuchi in this, but with the GHC Jr. Title around his waist, he needed to come off more like Minoru Tanaka, as the man. Lyger gives him a few openings, but aside from a nice rolling kick, Nakajima never takes them and tries to go on offense, and that’s one of the positive things actually. Making Momota, Hashi, and Suzuki look like legit GHC Jr. Title threats is one thing, but a sixteen year old is quite another. It’s a bit disheartening to see the shotei get less and less respect. The move was once Lyger’s ultra killer, the one thing that would always put them away. But now its simply a set up move. The crab hold finish was to be expected with someone of so little experience, but watching yet another match where the shotei isn’t enough to do the job, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Good lord have mercy, this is so not-good. The main detraction from this is that Suzuki isn’t letting Murakami be the psychotic ass kicker that he’s known for being. So he’s exposed pretty quickly for not having much clue. Suzuki ties him up, and Murakami just has to lie there and wait for Chono to bail him out. It was fun watching this sort of thing in the champions last defense, because Nakanishi was opening himself up to getting caught in all those chokes. This time its just boring. Chono and Takayama didn’t feel like bringing anything along to help, except Chono’s Shining Black. Takayama just does his kicks and knee shots, and leaves. There was one cool spot where Chono got sandwiched between Suzuki and Takayama’s roundhouse kicks. The botched ending just makes this all the more pitiful. Murakami doesn’t even take the piledriver on his head, instead landing flat on his back. “Drill hole” indeed.


Well even with Yoshie involved, this is still better than the last match. Although 9/10 of that is because of how short this is. First off, if you’re going to pull the whole NJPW Wrestler vs K-1 Kickboxer gimmick, then there needs to be bits of logic thrown in there. Suffice to say that surviving a head kick from a kickboxer doesn’t show much logic. Especially when its someone like Yoshie, who has no real legit fight training. Also, it doesn’t help get the kickboxer over as a legit tough guy, when he’s being driven back with Yoshie’s rather wussy looking back fist shots. One thing that does work, and it’s a bit of a surprise, because I often dislike Yoshie’s matches because of it. Is Yoshie using his size to his advantage. He gets his first real offense by doing a banzai drop on Nortje. A kickboxer doesn’t have to generally worry about his opponents jumping on him with their ass. The diving body press, to set up the submission also works. Yoshie probably wouldn’t have gotten it, had he not softened up Nortje by jumping off the top rope onto him.

I was expecting this to be better than the Yoshie match, if only because O’Haire has experience in both kickboxing, and pro wrestling, so the psychology should be a bit better. They work the usual underdog story which is where Tanahashi is best suited. But the match itself is disjointed and a bit meandering. O’Haire will throw out a few pro style moves and then revert back to his kickboxing, and then be left standing there waiting for Tanahashi to try a comeback, and Tanahashi is selling the attacks he’s taken. When Tanahashi is on offense, O’Haire doesn’t give his attacks the respect they deserve. They never seem to be on the same page at all, until O’Haire attempts the Sean-ton bomb, and Tanahashi moves out of the way. The Dragon sleeper as the ending was expected, although not in the flash submission way they pulled it off. Tanahashi come out looking lucky, rather than good. Which is how he usually does. But it would have had a lot better effect if O’Haire had kept his offense going instead of constantly stopping and then starting again.

This match goes by K-1 rules. I’m a fan of shoots (although not in pro wrestling), but reviewing them is a bit out of my element, and I haven’t seen anything out of K-1 before. For what its worth, it was pretty fun to watch though. Shibata also looked to be clearly out of his element, and he kept taking Musashi down to the ground to gain some sort of advantage. Musashi was prepared though and made sure to keep himself close to the ropes. When Musashi started connecting with his kicks more and more often, you knew Shibata wouldn’t have much left. He survived the first round, but when Musashi started up again in the beginning of the second round, he had no chance at all, and wound being knocked the hell out.


Couldn’t New Japan find two lower wrestlers to throw out there with Makabe in a pointless six man tag. I’m not positive who the Machines are. Super Strong is almost certainly Junji Hirata, and Giant Machine is probably Giant Silva. I have no idea who New Strong Machine might be though. They just run through some motions and nothing of real consequence takes place. The Machines finish off Makabe with a double choke slam. Followed up by New Strong Machine standing there like a fool, until it hit him that he should pin Makabe and end the match. It’s a shame that New Japan had nothing better to do with Tenzan and Nishimura, who are over as both a team and as singles, than to throw them in this tripe. Giant Machine unmasks after the match. Its not Silva, but I don’t know who it is. Some big fat white guy with blonde hair.

A grudge match usually implies that there is deep running hatred between two adversaries. However, until the last few moments of this match, you’d never know it. They work a very dull shoot style match, none of the stiffness or flashy looking submissions to keep the crowd entertained, or exciting looking counters. If one didn’t know better, they’d think they were watching an actual MMA fight, except for the slow pace of it.

Considering how long New Japan had been building this up (almost a full year) there was no way the fans were going to be happy with the outcome. Its slow paced, its meandering, and there isn’t anything to really put over intense dislike. Both of them do silly things, like put over attacks, but then jump up at the nine count and dish them out like nothing happened. The Makai Club interference and the DQ ending, just make the fans feel that much more screwed. They boo at the ending, but I boo at the whole match. They talk some smack afterwards and Shamrock says he wants a rematch. Just what we need.

To say that this was devoid of selling, would be like saying that the NOAH ring is a bit green. Everything that gets thrown out just gets blown off two seconds later. Blue Wolf’s brother acts like its his first ever match. He connects a “Mongol Slam” (Angle Slam) and jumps up and down, and poses like he just won the world title. Sumiyabazar is the biggest offender of no-selling as well, just edging out Meng for that honor. The clincher was when he took Tenryu’s famous jabs and afterwards just stood there wondering if that was all. The only one who’s anything mildly interesting in Tenryu, and its only for about ten seconds. When Sumiyabazar storms to the floor all pissed off because Tenryu no-sold one of his moves. He gets a chair, threatens Yasuda on the floor with it. Does some more playing to the crowd and then Tenryu dives off the apron at him and tackles him. Beyond that its just dull and meandering, and the first one who hits their finisher (Blue Wolf with the Mongol Hammer in this instance) gets the win.

The story of Nagata continues. So far he’s been betrayed twice in tag team matches against the Pirates. So he’s paired off with someone else who hates Nakanishi. The downfall is that Ka Shin isn’t anymore reliable as a partner than Chono or Nakanishi were. Look at his track record to see that, the guy always turns on his partners, betrays them, and screws with them. So Nagata still only has a 50/50 shot of coming out in good shape. When Nakanishi is in the ring, the main offense is slaps. Slap fests with both Nagata and with Ka Shin. Kensuke, actually brings a move set with him though. Its not much of one though, as the main strategy seems to be for the Pirates to use their strength to their advantage and take care of Nagata. Sasaki does bring some nice counters with him, to avoid Ka Shin’s Juji-Gatame. Nakanishi goes for the cheap embarrassment heat, by hooking on a Nagata Lock II.

Ka Shin keeps the fans in suspense several times, by wandering over to chat with a few people in the middle of the match, leaving Nagata in the corner screaming for him, so he can tag out. Nagata has more problems though, since he still can’t seem to learn how to properly structure a match. For starters, *not* using the only submission move that is over at all, when its not the planned finish. Even more so when he hasn’t done any sort of arm work that might heat it up. Ka Shin is a different story, because his submission is passable as a flash submission. On the grandest stage of all, Yuji Nagata finally gets some redemption and revenge. When Ka Shin shows that his allegiance does lie with Nagata and that he won’t turn on him. He even does some cheating of his own in the form of power to the face of Nakanishi, to enable to Nagata to score the pin. The match didn’t actively suck, which will probably make it the best match of the card.

BOB SAPP © vs SHINSUKE NAKAMURA (New Japan vs K-1 – IWGP Title)
The beauty of this match is that Nakamura and Sapp, for everything both of them currently lack in terms of skills and experience. They each have one that is undeniable. Sapp’s power, and Nakamura’s submissions. They each use that skill for all they can in the match, and they wind up canceling each other out. Sapp uses his power to escape Nakamura’s submissions. At the same time, Nakamura can counter Sapp’s power moves into a submission hold.

One thing Sapp does understand about being the champion, is that he’s the one who has to be knocked off of the pedestal. So he has to spend a good amount of time on defense. Sapp manages to keep his offense spread out and let Nakamura do his thing. The key though, is that whenever Sapp does connect with something, it really counts. Sapp’s first bit of offense is his jumping dropkick. An impressive visual, but usually not effective. Nakamura takes the move, falls out of the ring, and lays there until he can just barely crawl back in at the count of eighteen. Nakamura reciprocates with his submissions. When Sapp tries for the Beast Bomb too early, he finds himself on the receiving end of a Triangle choke, and if he wasn’t close enough to the ropes, he’d have been finished. Whenever Nakamura tries to go directly for the submission, it fails like with the Juji-Gatame while Sapp is on his back, or the Shining Triangle when Sapp is on one knee. Sapp is prepared and uses his power to prevent it. But when Nakamura’s countering into chokes or an armbar, is when he has the success he needs. Nakamura’s lack of experience kicks in here as well, when it shows that he clearly doesn’t understand how much energy Sapp has left in him. For a big guy, who’s been moving pretty quickly, Nakamura figures he’s gassed out. Add in that he’s been in and out of Triangle chokes, and armbars for the duration of the match and Nakamura figures he has Sapp right where he wants him. So he tries to go head to head with him, and gets flipped over, a complete 180 by Sapp’s lariat.

The fans, solidly behind Nakamura, go apeshit when he kicks out of the Beast Bomb at the one-count. There was a good opportunity to play off that, and have Nakamura counter the next attempt into another choke. But they waste it by just having Sapp connect with the Beast Bomb and score the win. Sapp could have at least bothered to hook a leg, or cradle him up or something. If nothing else, to establish that Sapp was taking no chances with Nakamura kicking out, or to help put over Nakamura as he may have survived it, had Sapp not been smart enough to cradle him up and ensure the three count. That’s really a minor quibble though. Its just as logical to assume that Nakamura used his last bit of strength and energy to kick out. Leaving himself tired and worn out, at the mercy of Sapp. It’s a fun little match, its nothing blow away great or anything, but after a depressing card like this. It certainly is a bit of fresh air. ***

Conclusion: This is one of the worst Tokyo Dome “efforts” by New Japan, that I think I’ve ever seen. Avoid at all costs. Not even the fun in the main event is worth it.


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