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Pro Wrestling Hyper J Commercial Tape
I. Intro (duction)
Because I am a Loser, and because I met Doron Diamond who plies me with all sorts of tapes if only because we live in the same region and watch the same things (and he's also one of the few people who knows the True Rev Pro Way), I recently came into this tape. And I figured that since I've been a Lazy Ass lately about columns and such, I should review a buttload of stuff, so here's some stuff.
II. But First: An Apology to Scott Keith
In my review of Scott Keith's "The Buzz on Professional Wrestling", I accused him of plagarism in a semi-roundabout way as pertaining to the timeline. I got an email from Scott Christ who informed me that Scott has gone on record as saying that he had nothing to do with the timeline. I'd like to take this public opportunity for accusing Mr. Keith of plagarism; in the writing world, there are few more serious claims, and I apologize sincerely for levelling it injustly.
I maintain that the two timelines are VERY similar, though; I simply withdraw accusing Mr. Keith of it. If by some chance Mr. Keith is reading this and he DOES have an idea who was behind it, I'll be more than delighted to call them on it very publicly. I personally suspect the editor needed some last-minute content, as the book wasn't put together very professionally, but I'm basing that more on instinct than anything else.
So, to wit: Mr. Keith, I apologize to you as a writer and a critic for that particular error.
Now I believe I have some bitching to do about Big Japan
III. Big Japan Pro Wrestling Hyper J Tournament
Big Japan is a very curious beast. It began in the mid-90s as a way to theoretically cash in on the then-boom times of garbage wrestling.
But first, a quick word about garbage wrestling from your local affiliate.
To coincide with the release of this review, the Surgeon General issued the following statement concerning "garbage" wrestling, also known as "hardcore" wrestling:
In recent years, there has been some confusion as to what exactly garbage wrestling is. Basically, it demonstrates a reliance on props instead of on actual wrestling, and usually forgoes psychology in favor of brawling segments and makes use of extensive bleeding to pop the crowd. The Surgeon General has determined that while small doses of garbage wrestling on occasion are acceptable and have no long-term effects, extensive exposure to garbage wrestling can lead to a condition known as Vampirism, wherein the viewer rates any match containing blood very highly, regardless of its actual worth as a match. Widespread cases of vampirism have been reported in the CZW and XPW territories.
Yeah, well, whatever. Make your MLM "Failed Bit Warning" jokes wherever you want. The basic point is that garbage wrestling sucks for the most part. And in the mid-'90s, there was a LOT of it, and it sucked a LOT. We got classics like the King of the Death Match Tournament in '95, which is probably the most frequent "first Japanese video" among the wrestling population, which is roughly the equivalent of losing your virginity to Bea Arthur...while she's making the Maude face the entire time.
BJPW was originally a way to cash in on this boom, and keeping with the Japanese Wrestling Tradition of creating strange stipulation for matches that end up sucking because of them (a tradition capped off by the infamous Anal Bomb match between Hayabusa and H), we got suck shitfests as the Grocery Store Death Match, the Balloon Thumbtack Death Match, and the Scorpion Cactus Desert Death Match. And just in case the stipulations didn't limit the wrestlers enough, we got the World's Worst Wrestlers in those matches. You think Viscera's bad? The only thing Tarzan Goto can do is bleed. At least Viscera can do a splash and make it look painful.
But then something funny happened.
Right after this tourney happened, the company began imperceptibly changing towards a more workrate-emphatic style. Guys like Ryuji Yamakawa, Tomoaki Honma, Abdullah Jr. Kobayashi, and Shadow WX (along with another individual who went on to become a bigger star than any of those four... but you'll recognize him when I start reviewing the tourney itself) began having matches that not only didn't suck, but were occasionally pretty good. The secret to their success lay in them actually having a background in wrestilng; Honma and Yamakawa in particular had obviously gone through some training, and knew how to work a match. Everything REALLY started coming together when they realized that the best way to have a death match isn't to have (to paraphrase JDW) a "deathmatch, starring two wrestlers", but rather have "Wrestling match, with special guest death match". The salad days came in 1999, when everything clicked, and the fed put together a KILLER run from June to February '00; over the course of those nine months, the fed was witness to the two best deathmatches in history (Yamakawa vs. Honma on 6/22/99, available on The Comp, and 1/2/00), a top-five affair (Honma/Yamakawa vs. Shadow WX/Winger on 11/8/99), and a match that would have been the best death match of the year had it not been the swan song to the run (Honma vs. Kobayashi on 2/22/00).
Of course, after that the federation decided it would be a GREAT idea to work with CZW, and proceeded to let everyone not named Trent Acid (from what my reasearch tells me, the lone worthy wrestler in CZW) stink up the joint with the exact same type of garbage wrestling that BJPW had transcended. As a result, Honma, almost universally regarded as the fed's best worker (although I personally don't think he's THAT much better than Yamakawa), decided that he'd had enough of that crap, and in the last four months packed his bags. He's currently working the indy circuit, although reports persist of him joining AJPW or NOAH.
But I digress. If you want to trace the roots of the Deathmatch Workrate Revolution of '99, all the roads really lead back HERE, to this junior tourney to crown the first BJPW Junior champion. It's not the most highly regarded junior tourney; hell, it's not even considered required viewing as far as junior tourneys go. But I've got a rule: there is NO junior/lightheavyweight tournament around that fails to entertain. And in that spirit, I put this tape in the VCR at three in the morning and sat my ass down to take some notes.
Match 1: Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Gran Naniwa
Yes, that would be the most famous of the BJPW grads. Tajiri, and this is going to be a stretch, did a bit of work in Japan, although he never really got out of the indies. '97 was his coming-out party, as he scored a fluke win over Shinjiro Ohtani in the annual Best of the Super Juniors tourney that, by virtue of it being a competitive - not to mention a very good - match, elevated Tajiri to the realm of threat. He also did a bit of work in BJPW, most notably losing his mask (from when he wrestled as Aquarius) to Dr. Wagner. Gran Naniwa, on the other hand, used 1997 to learn how to SUCK ASS, which was depressing as he was always a threat to be a top-ten guy in the Japanese indies at all times, and transformed overnight into a guy who was a study in contrasts at best. He also wears giant crab claws to the ring, in what may be the best ring attire of all time. And in the pre-match interview, he's wearing GLASSES over his mask, which just makes me go "Yesh". Tajiri's interview, on the other hand, is most notable for him looking EXACTLY like Ohtani + about 15 pounds. As for the match itself, BJPW demonstrates a willingness to clip the hell out of their matches. We join it as Naniwa reminds us that he IS a study in contrasts; he's good at first, which he shows by either kicking Tajiri right in the face or whipping out a KICKASS lariat, and then he BRINGS THE SUCK, as he takes long breaks to shriek or pull out a uglier-than-sin Doctor Bomb (gutwrench sitdown powerbomb). Mercifully, we CLIP and now we've hit something that people may be able to understand: Tajiri's kicking the ever-living SHIT out of Naniwa. That seems to be the most noticeable thing about this match: both guys brought the stiffness with them. If Naniwa hadn't checked his ability to not blow spots at the door, it could have been something that I'd bitch about how it was clipped. Naniwa does the Crab Walk Elbow (gets on middle ropes, walks along them side-to-side out to the middle, then jumps and nails the opponent with an elbow), and then, in going for it again, reminds me that he IS awesome by, when Tajiri gets up while Naniwa's sidling towards the center, he starts SIDLING BACK. Great stuff. Of course, he follows it up with the Worst Swinging DDT Ever, so that's Naniwa for you. But then Tajiri takes over for the end run; we get some NICE kickout, and a GREAT reversal of a Doctor Bomb into a cradle for a 2.5-count, and finally a counter of a lariat into a crucifix-y rollup for the pin and the win. I can't rate this fairly, as the match itself couldn't have gotten more than three or four minutes of tape time, but the action looked to be about **-ish.
(BTW, long-time juniors fans will appreciate the irony of Naniwa jobbing out in the first match in the first round of the tourney, as he refused to job to Damian 666 in the opener of the J-Cup '95, and in doing so denied Damien the ability to face his idol - Jushin Liger - in the semis. Instant karma, etc etc etc.)
Match 2: Minoru Fujita vs. Minoru Tanaka
YESH! YESH! YESH! I'M all O-ver THIS! Fujita, the lesser known of the two, hit his stride in 2000, delivering legit ****-ish matches with CIMA before unfortunately disappearing. Seeing as how he nearly works shootstyle, he should work REALLY well with Tanaka, who is currently one of about three people on earth who is almost a guarantee to raise a match by * regardless of who he's facing (along with Chris Benoit and maybe Aja Kong). To be fair, this is back when these two guys were still getting their act together... they weren't QUITE there, but it was pretty obvious that they were going to be something special. Match begins with Fujita sneak-attacking Tanaka, removing him from the ring, and then hitting a nice-ass tope, possibly in retribution for Tanaka wearing the World's Pinkest Tights (so pink, they're almost orange). And from there, we go into the story of the match, as Fujita is throwing EVERYTHING in his arsenal - piledrivers, dragon suplexes, ridiculously wrenched submission holds - at Tanaka, who plays the heavy favorite - he doesn't get as many moves in, but they hurt a lot more. Both guys apparantly didn't know that the object of garbage feds is for the weird-ass objects to do the damage, and not the MASSIVE OFF-THE-CHARTS stiffness, because that's what they bring. They're just MURDERING each other with kicks and such. Better yet, they do the one thing that makes mat wrestling really cool - hold on in between moves for one fluid motion instead of doing everything separately. The effect is subtle, but cool; it makes both guys look like they know what they're doing. There's also a heavy emphasis on ring position in the match, which again highlights the need for wrestling a SMART match. In the end, Tanaka takes it on one of his many rollthrough moves - if the bomb-ass Northern Lights Suplex -> jujigatame combo doesn't do it for you, his roll-through-on-a-suplex will - and Fujita taps out of a very, very short match. It couldn't have been more than 7 minutes. I'd *LOVE* to see these two get 15 minutes today. I'd bet that they could scorch this match, which was about **1/2.
Match 3: Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Masayoshi Motegi
The downside to that immutable Junior Tourney law is that you're going to see LOTS of Motegi, who very much sucks but manages to get included in every junior tourney under the sun. Ryuji Yamakawa happens to be MY favorite deathmatch worker ever; Honma may be a better overall worker, but until he has the urban cowboy gimmick, the sitdown double underhook facebuster finisher, and Journey's "Separate Ways" as theme music he can SUCK MAH BUTT relatively. But this is pre-godliness, so we're going to have to see how great he GOT instead of how great he WAS. If he carries Motegi to a ** match, he always walked on water. And Motegi sure isn't making it easy for him; over the course of the match he throws the World's Worst (a) chairshots, (b) top-rope dropkick, and (c) powerbomb. Maybe it's his gimmick that he does the worst possible variation of every move, because he sure does suck ass. Fortunately, this is clipped to hell, and in this case, that's a GOOD THING, as Motegi looks to be running the show. In all fairness, Motegi does a few things right, like a nice released German...but compared to the Heaping Piles of Suck that he leaves on the mat, it ain't 'nuff. After about a million years, they clip to Yamakawa's comeback (rolling through on the third rolling german, then they trade mule kicks), and he caps the match by PLANTING Motegi with the best double underhook facebuster EVER. I mean, you just see Motegi's face hit the mat. I was, needless to say, minorly thrilled. Motegi, being the professional that he is, still tries to kick out. Bah, ick, feh, fnyeh, and so on. Clipped too badly, but if the stuff I saw went over 1/2*, a miracle occurred between cuts.
Match 4: Tomoaki Honma vs. Gedo
MAN, it's weird to see Honma with no hair. You should buy the tape just to see Gedo get interviewed... I swear to god, it's like they caught him in the bathroom. He's lost the pompadour between the '95 J-Cup and this tourney, but as a result he just looks like a shorter, thinner Aja Kong. The thing you NEED to know about Gedo is that he's a fucking punk who gets pushed over WAAAAAAAAAY too many good workers in these tourneys. For some reason, he always gets pushed to hell in these tourneys. Tomoaki Honma, who would be everyone's favorite wrestler if he had a definitive cool-ass finisher, is obviously the first victim in the Train of Gedo Suckitude, so he's PISSED, and takes it out on Gedo's arm. And by "takes it out on Gedo's arm", I of course mean that he plays Great Britain to Gedo's arm's Falkland Islands. EVERYTHING Gedo tries ends up with Honma working the arm. And it's GREAT, because he wrenches back on it to make sure it looks all hurtified and such. My personal favorite would be the kip-up -> armdrag combo, but I liked the swandive headbutt (Gedo's signature move) -> T-Bone ->uranage sequence a lot too. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the World's Worst Ref, who counts LIGHTNING fast, then literally PAUSES, hand mid-air, where the three should be. It must have been a half second before Gedo caught up to the timing and actually kicked out. LOOKED LIKE THE SHIT. Anywho, I've really got no problem with Gedo as long as he's selling, but when he goes on offense, it usually bodeth illeth for mine eyes. And as always, Gedo doesn't disappoint; Worst Powerslam Ever. Honma, still green at this point, isn't what you'd call "good" at his tope con hilo (the one that he'd do to send him sailing over the bed of nails in the Two Best Deathmatches Ever), but Gedo sucks so much dick in this match that it looks cool as all hell. To be fair to Gedo, he DOES hit a nice brainbuster (and follows it up with a feculent frogsplash, which is what I'd rename his variation of the move if I had the authority - it looks like he sort of bends his knees, then changes his mind) for the DAMNED DAMNED PIN. Match was about **1/2 from what I saw. At this stage in his evolution in the Pantheon of Workers, the amount of Good that he brought was only slightly greater than the Bags and Bags of Shit that Gedo brought.
Match 5: Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Minoru Tanaka
YEAH BABY YEAH! For posterity, I should point out that Tanaka has switched from the World's Pinkest Tights to the World's Greenest Tights, just so that we're all on the same page. The pace is set RIGHT off the bat as Tanaka turns a knucklelock into a leg bar, establishing that he's going to go for submissions uber alles, on the off chance that there was any doubt. A lot of this match is also about the fight for position, as the two spend a LOT of time rope-breaking out of each others' holds. But the real story seems to be submissions vs. power moves, as the stiffness is at a pretty high constant. They set it up GREAT - Tajiri's main threats for submission comes pretty early on when he does the World's Goofiest Submission Move that Tanaka wouldn't tap out to due to sheer goofiness, while Tanaka's attempts to make it a moveset game are met with Tajiri shrugging them off for the most part and countering with moves that hit harder, like his released German and his spinning Samoan -> German suplex. They also tease moves and sequences from the previous match a lot; Tajiri is able to block both the NLS ->jujigatami combo and the roll-through legbar. It's neat how they play off of the shortness of the first match to establish how it doesn't take a lot of Tanaka's submission attempts to put you out, because Tanaka doesn't get a LOT of offense in when Tajiri gets going, but he makes it count. Finally, Tajiri nails Tanaka with a German suplex, then a Dragon suplex for the pin. This was a whole shitload of fun. I'll call it ***1/4 - I liked the story, I likd the stiffness, I liked how they worked the Tarantula in, and I liked the teased suplexes and reversals, but the ending was barely built up and the match was really short. This is another one I'd like to see again today.
Match 6: Ryuji Yamakawa vs. Gedo
as Yamakawa channels Ludacris and throws them 'bows (causing twenty-inch
eyes among the DJC-stiffness-loving faction. I *DID* mention that I
Special Bonus Interlude: A Lot Of Clips From One Six-Man Match
I recognize nobody. It looks kinda shitely, except for one guy who drops a slingshot leg drop off of a balcony onto a table that doesn't break. Otherwise, blah blah blah, I got this tourney for Tajiri.
Match 7: Yoshihiro Tajiri vs. Gedo
We rejoin wrestling as Gedo comes to the ring to what has to be the absolute definition of 80's porno knockoff music. Tajiri gets in the ring, looking PISSED, and offers the Hand of Friendship to Gedo, who FLIPS HIM OFF. And folks, we are OFF TO THE CIRCUS; Tajiri is just taking to Gedo like Gedo stole his baby or something, laying it in HEAVY. Early highlight is Tajiri ramming Gedo's big fat head into a camera. But the big focal point of the match soon pops up; Tajiri injures his shoulder and Gedo's all over it like an insulting analogy. For the record, this is the FOURTH Tajiri match I've ever seen (the other being his match vs. Ohtani), as I do not get ECW and thus haven't seen his shiz. But for GOD'S SAKES... if he sells like this in every match, then he may be good enough to join Tanaka, Aja, and Benoit. It makes a fucking Gedo match watchable. And it's not like Gedo's doing anything special...just striking at the shoulder and putting on a variety of submission moves (although the double chicken wing is pretty choiuce). Tajiri just goes out there like he was put on the earth to Sell the Shoulder; he sells it on kickouts, hurricanranas, and frogsplashes, not just when Gedo's hitting it. Once Tajiri gets back in control, the match's story becomes CRYSTAL clear - Gedo is clearly the inferior wrestler (it's a SHOOT BRUTHA), but as long as he works the shoulder, the match is competative. It's a great way to get sympathy for Tajiri and get heel heat for Gedo, all at the same time, and it's an example of HOW to use a body-part oriented storyline. Tajiri continues to impress, as he nails Gedo with a SOOOWEET Asai moonsault and a 'rana that plants Gedo right on top of his fat head. I HEART TAJIRI FO-EVAH! In all fairness, Gedo does do the one worthwhile thing in his otherwise worthless life and work the submissions REALLY, REALLY well, I can't believe I'm saying it, but Gedo slaps a hammerlock on Tajiri that couldn't look more painful. The finish gets telegraphed (as if it wasn't telegraphed enough already due to the fact that Gedo doesn't work for BJPW and Tajiri does) when Gedo hits his frogsplash... to Tajiri's shoulder... and it doesn't do it. There's some TREMENDOUS chain wrestling at the end, which manages to overcome the only psychological fuckup of the match when Tajiri lariats Gedo with the bad arm. The ending's just SUPREME; Gedo goes for a mule kick, turns away, and Tajiri just PUNTS him straightaway in the ya-yas, then German suplexes him out of his boots for the pin, the win, and the title. This was all of that. Probably Gedo's best match ever, and considering that he's had matches against Dean Malenko, Jushin Liger, and Chris Benoit, that's quite a feat for Tajiri. Especially considering how young he was. Call it ****1/4, match of the night, and take it on home.
Post-match, Gedo, Prick At Large, attacks Tajiri and walks off. But then, in a great moment, everyone else comes out of the back for the presentation, and Tajiri cements a place in my heart by SELLING THE SHOULDER DURING THE AWARDS CEREMONY (!).
I mean, what do you want? It was great good fun, and it had a legit ****1/4 match in there too. The clipping suxxorz occasionally, and the Tanaka matches are a bit short, but such is life. Just don't think it's a blow-away show like the J-Cups, because it's NOT. But hell, if you're looking for something to while away 80 minutes, you could do a shitload worse. Hell, it was good enough to sell me on Tajiri forever (tough sell, I know). Out of ten, this is a solid six.
Anywho. Some of us have midterms tomorrow, so until next time, BUY THE COMP!
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