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Zero1 Fire Festival N14: The Finals Review

July 31, 2019 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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Zero1 Fire Festival N14: The Finals Review  

Zero1 Fire Festival N14: The Finals Review

July 28, 2019

We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall for the final of this years Fire Festival. I know most people are busy with the G1 Climax at this time of the year but here’s an alternate tournament to get your juices flowing if you have no patience for a tournament that runs for 19 nights. Fire Festival is over in 14 and only three of those make tape!

SUGI, Yuya Aoki & Shoki Kitamura vs. Ikuto Hidaka & The Kubota Brothers: SUGI is a lucharesu god who would be a household name if he’d not got certain skeletons in his classic. Hidaka is a legendary cruiserweight. The Kubotas have spent most of their career hidden away in smaller promotions like Dove Pro. Aoki is a Big Japan guy, about three years in. Kitamura is a Zero1 kid who does all the opening matches. Zero1 undercards are usually pretty rotten if I’m being honest. It’s part of my enjoyment of the product to trawl through them trying to find something decent. Hidaka and SUGI do some good stuff but around that clash is some pretty ropey tag work. SUGI makes everything look so effortless. The level of difficulty in everything he attempts is so much higher than everything around him but he cruises through everything in second gear. Bastard. This could easily be clipped down to 3 minutes of SUGI doing cool stuff.

Final Rating: **

Super Tiger & Yuko Miyamoto vs. TARU & Yoshikazu Yokoyama: When I talk about Zero1 undercards being rotten I’m usually talking about Voodoo Murders (yes, that still is a thing) and especially Yokoyama who is probably the worst active full-time wrestler on the planet. Super Tiger has made a living based on his trainer; Tiger Mask (Sayama). He comes across like someone doing Tiger Mask cosplay. I’ve seen him have good matches over the years but this is not a good environment for him. Not one conducive to quality graps. Yokoyama is so horrible here. Just unbearably so. The finish is hilarious as they blatantly fuck up the set up and have to go through it again, for no apparent reason, until Tiger hits the Buzzsaw Kick and pins Yokoyama. Absolutely terrible. Total pass.

Final Rating: DUD

ASUKA vs. Kohei Sato: ASUKA was in the Fire Festival this year and seemed to have a nice time. As a result she’s got booked in with resident giant badass shoot headbutt machine Kohei Sato. Kohei only missed out on the finals of Fire Festival by one point. ASUKA gets a near fall off a backslide with the ring still full of streamers before bailing out and giving it the “sorry, sorry, sorry” business. Sato does a fantastic job of taking everything in the early going. Every cool looking spot ASUKA has leaves him reeling in frustration. Sato hits one elbow and the crowd are all “BOOOOOOO” and because Sato is such a kind-hearted gent he won’t hit her again. Don’t boo him, Tokyo, he’s only doing his job! Every spot he hits is greeted with a cascade of boos and he’s all “come on, guys”. This is a realty good match when you need to tell a story of size difference where the big guy doesn’t want to be a heel but you get that reaction anyway. They structure it really well, with ASUKA provoking Sato but in doing so isn’t hoping for babyface reactions but rather to unsettle him and take advantage for the win. It helps that a lot of her kicks look effective, even against a larger opponent. Sato eventually has too much for ASUKA but they told an effective story and I’ve really enjoyed the work I saw from ASUKA in Zero1.

Final Rating: ***1/2

NWA International Tag Team Championship: Masato Tanaka & Takuya Sugawara (c) vs. Chris Vice & Shogun Okamoto: Sugawara and Okamoto are both career Zero1 midcarders who occasionally get put in top matches and deliver but the rest of the time are simply fine. They seem fired up here and have a pretty decent brawl. I can’t come to terms with Chris Vice being in Voodoo Murders. He just doesn’t look like he belongs there. At least Okamoto has eye makeup. He gives off a vibe of ‘I’m too old to commit to a Gothic lifestyle’. There’s perhaps a little too much Voodoo Murders to this match. It doesn’t get the chance to naturally breathe because there’s so much plunder and outside interference. Vice shows some impressive power. They’re clearly trying to slot him into a spot vacated by James Raideen (aka Dylan James), which is a tough ask but he’s doing ok in that spot. The match has too much stop/start about it and it clearly effects the wrestlers rhythms in the ring causing unnecessary mistakes and positional issues. All the attempted good is massively offset by the bad, which is mainly due to TARU’s constant stream of bullshit from the floor. Both Okamoto and Sugawara are troubled by having to be in certain places and their work suffers. The champs end up overcoming and retaining but the path to get there was muddied by heel group interference. I did not enjoy this in the slightest.

Final Rating: *1/4

Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Jushin Liger & Great Sasuke: This is unreal. I grew up on these guys junior matches on tape in various tournaments. Liger, on his way to retirement, has stopped off to say goodbye to his mates from Zero1. Sasuke occasionally works Zero1 but is better known for his Michinoku Pro stuff where he has magical powers. He is completely insane now. I spend most of this match just basking in the auras of four marvelous pro wrestlers, knowing that sadly I’ll never see this combination again after today. The match is considerably better when Otani is working Liger. No offence to the other two but there’s a higher level of current ability there, not to mention legendary status. Otani irks Liger and draws out a vicious side that you rarely ever see. He breaks a chair on Otani’s knee (well, the ring post). There’s a contrast here with Sasuke fucking his dive up and Liger immediately nailing one off the apron. One guy has wrestled beyond his usefulness. One guy is going out on top, despite his advanced years. Liger looks so fired up here that I almost wish he wasn’t retiring and was instead embarking on a big tour of the Indies where he could randomly wrestle people without the need for NJPW. But I’m also aware that he’s going all out because he’s nearly finished. There’s no tomorrow, so fuck it. His refusal to sell the big boot in the corner is a particular highlight. I’m sad they don’t get to finish with a big Otani/Liger sequence as the best work in this was between those two. Instead Otani pins Sasuke and Liger gets to hold his head high, having put on another tremendous performance.

Final Rating: ***3/4

Fire Festival Final: Towa Iwasaki vs. Yuji Hino: Iwasaki wrestles like Jumbo Tsuruta and is Zero1’s new shining hope since Obata got injured and left the company. If they stick to their traditional booking approach he’ll lose here and keep coming close until they pull the trigger on him sometime in 2027. By which point Tokyo will be under water from global warming. Hino scores a tactical advantage by arriving with all the Revengers (the stable that seems to have most of Zero1’s roster in it). Iwasaki is a big burly boy and likes to run through his opponents with power but this is Hino. The story quickly becomes Iwasaki trying to match Hino in stand up and Hino simply overpowering him with superior strikes. The chops are devastating. It’s the pluck and spirit of Iwasaki that keeps him involved and they tell a good story of him battling to overcome the monstrous Hino. I love that Hino makes a point of telling Iwasaki he cannot hurt him and doing the hands-behind-the-back pose while Iwasaki elbows him. Laughing off Iwasaki’s strikes and just casually replying with punishing forearms with those meaty appendages he possesses. Iwasaki does a great job of trying to fire up but continually running into these huge power moves. Fuckingbomb finishes and Hino wins the Fire Festival. As I said at the top Iwasaki is here for the long burn. Hino is good for a title shot right now. Great match. A war!

Final Rating: ****1/4

The final score: review Good
The 411
Your typical car crash Zero1 undercard but a nice nostalgia bout for Jushin Liger and a tremendous main event. Fire Festival is usually very good and this year, from what I’ve seen, was no exception. They put together two interesting blocks and gave us a fresh final.