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Puroresu Love: Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome – January 4, 2007

July 11, 2007 | Posted by Mike Campbell
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Puroresu Love: Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome – January 4, 2007  

January 4, 2007

New Japan starts off 2007 in the Dome with plenty of All Japan participation. C.T.U. teams with The Voodoo Murders! The IWGP and the Triple Crown are both at stake! Nakamura’s face meets Kawada’s boot! And Tenkoji are back together in the main event!

Kohei Suwama . . . wrestle in the same match with Naofumi Yamamoto and I love it!
Minoru Suzuki . . . makes a poor decision to follow Yuji Nagata to a trip off the deep end.
Masahiro Chono . . . pays tribute to Hashimoto with some of his moves, but not his main event presence.

Other than the Raijin/Taguchi exchanges, there wasn’t anything groundbreaking here. Watching Taguchi and Raijin was sort of like watching the KENTA/Wataru match from 8/02. It wasn’t nearly as good, but it got the point across that the respective ‘Young Boys’ of each team took the NJ/AJ rivalry very seriously. As for the rest of the match and the rest of the participants, there wasn’t anything new here. Fuchi still treated Araya like his whipping boy, and despite several attempts from his teammates to assist him, Araya didn’t get a lick of offense in that counted. Kikutaro was funny at times, such as his aping of Mutoh’s moves, and his battle with the ref, but unless he’s got someone else in there to play off, like Delirious, Cabana, Kamen, etc, his act gets old fast. The only notable thing from El Samurai was his reverse DDT, and it was clear he was taking the backseat, and letting his pupil, Taguchi, shine on the big show. Which he did by pinning Kikutaro with his Dodon (Tiger suplex facebuster).

As unstable as Gedo and Jado’s work has been in the years since I’ve been watching them as a team, I’ve noticed that they seem to be at their best when they’ve got something relatively fresh going on, such as their late 2003 resurgence when Takemura came back as a heel, or their 2004 run when Lyger formed C.T.U. with them. If this is any indication, they need some freshening again. The match isn’t really *bad* it’s just dull, and nobody is willing or able it seems to step up and take it somewhere. Working the match as mostly a brawl makes perfect sense, but they don’t go all the way with it. So it’s mostly just a punch and kick type of affair. Gedo looks better than everyone else by a good margin, but even he only really brings a few spots with him (superkick, Complete Shot, and Superfly). The only big thing the AJPW team has is MAZADA’s tombstone reversal, which looks awful here. If nothing else, the finish seems to work with what they were going for. Gedo grabs a club of some sort and the ref is distracted trying to get it from him, which allows Jado the chance to hit a low blow on NOSAWA, and Gedo strolls over and drops the Superfly for the win. But that’s the only really worthwhile thing, and it’s gone as soon as it’s there.

There’s not a whole lot here that sets this apart from the previous tag match, but even that little bit is enough to make this more enjoyable. The big difference maker is that the GBH team aren’t afraid to throw any signs of sportsmanship or structure right out the window. It’s there in the first two seconds when Yano spits the water and them and GBH charges them and they start brawling on the floor. There’s several occasions where they charge the ring and knock the VM team off the apron and start triple teaming D’Lo in the corner, and at one point Yano grabs something out of his tights and starts going after D’Lo with it, and then later on he works over D’Lo on the floor with a chair. Tomko and Buchanan basically make token appearances just to hit a triple team corner charge and to hit or tease their trademark stuff. And with all the cheating he’d done, it’s somewhat fitting that the big difference maker that gave GBH the win, was Yano clocking Buchanan with a chair, allowing Makabe to do the lariat and score the pin. It’s those simple, little, things that the last match was lacking and made it a bore, and made this match enjoyable, if somewhat pedestrian.

The second match to have some good things, but the whole itself being anything but. It’s a bit cool that NJPW acknowledged Bernard’s VM origins from All Japan, rather than just playing it off as a heel from NJPW teaming with the heels from AJPW. The match just isn’t very interesting, and it doesn’t help that anytime they seem close to building up some genuine momentum, something will happen to tank it. The two biggest examples being Nakanishi hoisting up RO’Z for the Argentine Backbreaker, and dropping him the instant the crowd starts to pop, and Yamamoto’s hot tag to Chosyu coming on the heels of what looked to be a Sling Blade, but was horribly botched. The bulk of the match is the heels beating on Yamamoto, but aside from some nifty exchanges between Yamamoto and Suwama, which hint at something bigger happening with them, and Chosyu being smart enough to just jump in, fire off the Riki Lariat, and then tag back out, nobody is willing/able to take this to another level. There is far too little of fired up underdog Yamamoto, although the little of him that shows up bring the smartest moment of the match: Yamamoto fails to get Suwama up for his backdrop, so he lets him go and starts pelting the back of his leg with kicks, before trying again and hitting the move. And of course he doesn’t go down easy, taking a wicked Last Ride from Bernard, and a backdrop from Suwama, and still kick out, until Suwama goes all Jumbo on him with the Bridging Backdrop to finish him off. This could have been easily knocked down to two-on-two since Nakanishi and Iizuka were nothing more than filler, and RO’Z and TARU didn’t do anything of note.

Yet another match that could have been better served to jettison a few of the participants, thirteen minutes for ten wrestlers is not enough time. Thankfully, the match doesn’t seem to try to accomplish a whole lot, which means the few goals that seemed to be set were achieved. The big one seemed to be building to a Tanaka/Hayashi match, especially with Tanaka’s recent recapturing of the IWGP Jr. Title. Their exchanges are nice and hateful, and each of them gets the chance to win the match for his team by going over the other, Hayashi with the WA4, and Tanaka with a reversal of a Dragon suplex into the Minoru Special. Another aspect of the match was seeing TAKA take the brunt of the abuse, which looked odd with Inoue right there and doing nothing. But TAKA was up to task, doing a great sell job and facial after taking the five man corner charge, and another one when his leap frog was met with Lyger’s fist in his groin. Other than that, everyone else just sort of ran in and did stuff, sometimes it was cool, such as Milano tying TAKA up in the ropes, and the YASSHI/TAKA groin claw and headbutt exchange, but mostly it was nothing special. Tiger Mask, as far removed as ever from his days of tearing down the house, doesn’t add anything other than the midgets that accompany his team to ringside, and a dropkick, moonsault, and Tiger suplex to finish off YASSHI. Aside from the Kaz/Tanaka stuff, and TAKA taking the beating, there wasn’t anything, or anyone in particular, that was able to stand out here.

As far as matches featuring Kawada and quasi-shootstyle wrestlers go, this doesn’t even sniff Kawada/Albright from 10/95. Nakamura just doesn’t seem like he poses any real threat to Kawada, and neither Kawada nor Nakamura are able to alleviate that. Aside from his new Landslide move, the Nakamura shown here isn’t vastly different from the Nakamura of ‘04. He’s a fun guy to watch because you never know which armbar will get the tap out, but aside from a few suplexes, that’s all he really offers. And when you watch Kawada linger in the various armbars and occasionally sell his arm afterward, as opposed to watching him struggle and do everything he can to avoid Gary’s German suplex, tells you all you need to know about (A. How much Kawada regressed in that 11 year span, and (B. How much of a threat Kawada sees Nakamura as. Kawada’s arm selling, when he remembers it, is very good. But he doesn’t remember it very often.

To his credit, Nakamura takes a few different approaches to trying to show Kawada that he’s a genuine threat, even if none of them really work. At first it almost seems like Nakamura is trying to channel the Kawada of old, when he slaps him a few times, and then throws some knees at his head. Nakamura gets his wish as Kawada fires back with series of slaps, and kicks to the back, and finally drops some knees on his head. Nakamura also winds up in a suplex pop up sequence with Kawada, as a means to show his toughness, but in the end, they’re both on the mat and hurt. With his vast array of armbars not getting the job done, Nakamura tries a Triangle choke, and in the most humorous moment of the match, Kawada is barely phased, and starts to stomp Nakamura in the head to escape. Nakamura’s quickness also helps him out here, such as when he caught Kawada literally out of nowhere with the Minoru Special, and he’s able to dodge Kawada’s middle kick, even though Kawada hits the kick a few seconds later for the win. It really seemed like Kawada wasn’t quite sure what to do to make Nakamura seem threatening, and it didn’t help that most of the things Nakamura did, weren’t things that played big roles in the All Japan style.

The first five or so minutes were intense, heated, and hateful enough that they were easily the highlight of the show up to this point. And then they came crashing back to earth and fell in line with everything else, which is solid, but nothing outstanding. Suzuki reaffirms my faith in him that he’s a punk by feigning a charge into the corner, just to paintbrush Nagata in the face. When they start fighting on the floor, Suzuki swings a chair at Nagata’s head while he’s against the post and for possibly the first time in wrestling history, the chair connects. Once that’s past, and Nagata gets a chair shot of his own for some revenge (and juice) the match just falls apart. Any real sign of structure is cast aside.

It’s sort of understandable for Suzuki, since his whole shtick is basically that he’s a shooter and he goes into business for himself, but even he takes it to obscene levels here. While they’re still fighting on the floor, Nagata gives Suzuki a brainbuster on the floor, that in itself is insane considering how long the match had gone on to that point, but the real kicker is that it’s barely two minutes before Suzuki is back in the ring and trading slaps with Nagata. Suzuki also decides to randomly pop up after Nagata hits a backdrop, and again, that’s after Nagata had controlled the action for a decent amount of time, and Suzuki just pops up and hits a running knee. Nagata is no prince himself. He just can’t seem to make up his mind on what to do, whether it’s work over Suzuki’s arm, pelt him with kicks, or kill him with suplexes, so Nagata just sort of goes back and forth between the three of them. And the only good thing that comes out of it is Suzuki’s selling, and one nice armbar, with a sick facial from Nagata. They’re both quick to forget what they’re doing to get in another sequence of slap trading.

They do find their way back to earth for the finish, with Nagata costing himself the match by picking up Suzuki at the two count after his backdrop. But even then, Suzuki had barely been grazed by a brainbuster on the floor, so why would a regular one have much effect? And he’d already jumped to his feet after a backdrop, so why should another make a difference? Nagata attempts to knee Suzuki in the head and gets trapped in the sleeper, and a combo of not wearing down the arm enough, and of the pressure of the hold, leave him unable to escape and the ref calls for the bell. A disappointing performance from Suzuki is bad enough, but if this was an example of the hugely improved Yuji Nagata, then we’re all in big trouble.

Unless the four usually limited workers can pull off a miracle in the main event, I think we can safely call this match of the night. Aside from Tanahashi’s spotty selling of his back, they’re generally on the same page with what they do, and they’ve got a simple story that they both do a rather nice job at telling. A story with the underdog champion overcoming the odds probably isn’t the best thing to do with a champion lacking in credibility, especially considering that Kea has never been a real force to reckon with in All Japan, let alone New Japan, but again, they both generally do a nice job at telling the story.

In a funny coincidence, the match starts shaping up with the same sort of thing that started the previous match’s nosedive, a big spot on the floor, in this case it’s Kea hitting a TKO on the exposed concrete. When the action goes back into the ring, Kea finds relatively smart and simple ways to keep the focus on Tanahashi’s back, doing relatively simple moves like a vertical suplex and a bodyslam, but he makes sure to put more emphasis on the force of the moves, and Tanahashi’s sell job of the back is quite good, until he goes on offense. The first transition to Tanahashi on offense isn’t so bad. Kea picks him up for a TKO and Tanahashi slides down the back and locks in his Dragon sleeper. It’s after he follows that up that it starts coming apart, as Tanahashi hits a Sling Blade, his patented elbow, and a senton, all without a trace of selling.

They make things a bit worse after Kea goes back on offense, but they don’t go anywhere close to the insanity of Nagata/Suzuki. Kea’s strategy this time around is to put down Tanahashi with high impact moves, rather than focus on one area. But Kea isn’t able to find the right combination to finish him off. Tanahashi survives a brainbuster, backdrop, Surfing Suplex TKO 34th, and even a wicked powerbomb. Kea has also never been known for protecting the credibility of his offense, so it’s no real surprise that nothing here (with the exception of the powerbomb) put Tanahashi away. It’s Tanahashi who has the right combination though, when he plants Kea with a trapped German suplex, followed up by a release Dragon, and then finally the High Fly Flow for the win. It’s far from perfect, but, if nothing else, it’s a nice look at what a motivated Kea and Tanahashi are capable of churning out, when given the right circumstances.

The little Hashimoto tribute from Mutoh and Chono was touching, but this really had no business being the main event, especially after such a dull and rather underwhelming undercard. There were some pretty things going on, but the match itself was quite the opposite. It was lacking in just about every department in some way or other. There wasn’t any story to be found, at this stage in their respective careers, none of them have the ability to carry the match and make it good. TenKoji show a nice little mean streak at times, but the match is worked relatively evenly, so even that’s not able to develop to any great degree until almost the very end.

There are only two things that really help the match. The first are the occasional cool spots that come up, the best one being Mutoh somehow manages to hit Kojima with an elbow and simultaneously catch a charging Tenzan with a Dragon screw. Another one from Mutoh is his save from the double TTD by hitting a Shining Wizard off the back of the ref. There was also a handful of fun moments, such as Chono locking Tenzan in the figure four and at the same time Mutoh locking an STF onto Kojima. And the dual Shining Wizard/Shining Yakuza kick to Tenzan. The other is the Hashimoto tribute at the end, with first Mutoh and then Chono waylaying TenKoji with Hashimoto’s signature chops, and then his famous DDT, and Chono locking Tenzan in the Cross style STF (which looks 1,000 times better than his regular one) for the tap out. And the booking here says a lot about the recently reunited TenKoji, who were fresh off winning the 2006 RWTL, while Mutoh and Chono hadn’t teamed in years, and neither had any big matches in the near future (such as Kojima’s TC challenge). But then again, I’ll never be accused of calling NJPW’s bookers geniuses.

The 411: There are some fun bits sprinkled here and there, such as the Yamamoto/Suwama stuff, but on the whole, the show itself is rather dull and uneventful. The things that are really worth checking out like Tanahashi/Kea, and the 8-man tag could easily be downloaded. There isn’t any reason to go out of your way to get this show in full.
Final Score:  5.0   [ Not So Good ]  legend

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