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Toryumon on GAORA 7/9/00
by Digable James Cobo

Ah, Toryumon... my first and primary love. It's really everything that wrestling COULD be; it's balls-out WRESTLING based angles mixed with deepdeepDEEP characters mixed with off-the-charts spotfu wrestling. And most remarkably, they're all in perfect balance, unlike, say, the WWF, where the potential for all three is DEFINITELY there, but the higher-ups elect to put a bare minimum of %80 on the sports entertainment portion of the pie, which is why I stopped watching it in near-entirity.

But them's bad vibes, and TORYUMON IS LOVE. It's just the easiest thing in the world to get into; I was really, really pissed off at everything when I slipped the tape in the VCR, and two hours later I was MUCH improved. Why, you ask? For that I say READ ON, intrepid reader; read on.

Oh, and as always, this is on the Cornette/Dooley system, which is as follows:

*****: Best example of its style ever; a perfect match in every sense

****: A very good match, with only a few problems keeping it from being a match of the year contender.

***: A good match

**: An alright match

*: A bad match

DUD: A dud.

Just remember this scale, and refer back to it when I call a match a "breathtaking triumph of Pro Wrestling" and then give it ***3/4. Je suis une contradiction de la marche!

Toryumon on GAORA 7/9/00: Dragon Storm!

Boy howdy, does their opening montage ever kick all the ass in the world. I wish I knew the song title so I could download it right quick-like (hint, hint). Anywho, I'm dubbing this for someone who ordered tapes from me, which means that I actually have to sit through the pre-match yak-a-thon, about which I could not feasibly care less. Except for that this time, Sumo "Dandy" Fuji has a gigantic afro wig on, which causes me to laugh uproariously. Why? ANSWERS LIE WITHIN!

1. Stoker Ichikawa vs. Aja Kong Aja Kong is, quite simply, everything that American women's wrestling is not. She is NOT attractive in the least (unless you likes 'em titanic), she is NOT graceful (i.e. Lita & Molly Holly), and most importantly, she can wrestle her way out of a paper bag. Scratch that; she's probably one of the five best wrestlers on the planet at any given time. Aja Kong IS brutality; probably her biggest move would be the Uraken, better known as a spinning backfist (face someone and spin around, slamming the back of your fist into their jaw). It's simply one of the most brutal things in the world of professional wrestling; I'm surprised she doesn't break someone's jaw every f'n time. But that's just a facet of Aja's work; Aja's all about storytelling in the ring. She doesn't go out there without a clear plan of what she wants to do, and what it's going to mean. If you haven't seen Aja vs. KAORU yet (and I can promise you that it'll be on RC Comp 2 - thumbs up, big goofy-ass smile), you haven't seen why people are getting into joshi at an alarming rate.

Stoker, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Aja in every way. I'm not sure where his picture's going to be on this page, but you'll take one look at those big goofy ears and bust out laughing. The guy's built like a dart, ferchrissakes. And it's not just that; he does genuinely funny things. I mean, one of his signature moves is a *swan dive ass poke*, which literally made me spit out milk. Stoker's just fucking FUNNY.

And nothing exemplifies that more than his entrance in this match; don't think "goofy dart-guy with big ears", think "CAN-CAN LINE of goofy dart guys with big ears who all crumple in a heap when the leader stops". RIOT. THAT'S comedy. It even tops the BVDs he's wearing under his Gi with a stuffed bear stapled to the crotch. Somehow, I know I'm going to love the shit out of this.

And we're off... and Stoker's down. And Aja's pulling her punches. And... STOKER GRABS AJA KONG'S BOOBS! GAH! GAH! GAH! GAH! GAH! ENDLESS CYCLE OF GAH! Aja just gets this INCREDULOUS look on her face, and so do I. It was in that one moment where Stoker Ichikawa sealed the fate of his jaw and guaranteed that it would be well-met with a Uraken. Massive edit, and we get the swandive ass poke to the sleeper... which leads to Aja just falling on her back, Foley-on-Vader's-back-esquely. And then an Uraken, and we be done. Wow. That sucked that they edited that, because I was enjoying the hell out of it. Can't give it more than 1/4* in good conscience, but the Train of Stokers and the ass-poke and the boob-grab all combine to the more important Overall Worthwhileness Rating, which was roughly in the seventy bazillion star range.

2. TARU vs. MAKOTO We join this one mid-match as well. The first thing you'll notice upon watching will probably be the stiffness; TARU's not really one of the guys who likes to sell, but he does like to get his kick on. And he busts out the springboard Chunky Sir moonsault, which is ALWAYS MONEY IN THE BANK. Overall, though, the match isn't really anything to write home about. There's LOTS of great moves - TARU just PLANTS MAKOTO with a bunch of Northern Lights Bombs, and MAKOTO gets in two linked DDTs into a facebuster, but they don't really do anything in between to build the spots or establish a context for the match. I remember one spot in particular; MAKOTO had TARU hooked into a jujigatame (scissor the legs around the shoulder while pulling on the wrist) immediately following all the neck work of the DDT-> DDT -> facebuster combo, and TARU just didn't do anything except sit there and scream. Had he, say, leaned forward so that his shoulder was hyperextended, then the move would have made sense in the scheme of MAKOTO's attack (he was targeting the neck and shoulders). But him just sitting there made TARU look almost unprofessional, like he had no focus. And yeah, it was cool to see all them thar Northern Lights Bombs at the end, but jeez-o-matic, why not build to just one instead? Differences like that are what separates the Jung Dragons/3Count Starrcade match from the Hardyz/Blondz No Mercy match. This match, on the other hand, looked to be about * from my perspective. Postmatch, TARU extends the Hand of Friendship and Comeraderie, and gets STARED DOWN COLD. That made me say "ooh".

3. Dragon Kid vs. SUWA Oh YEAH BABY! This is going to be gooooooooood. See, DK and SUWA are two of the only pure faces/heels in the company at this point. You may have noticed a lot of people whose names are in all caps; that's done to make the person more ostentatious and show (which is why TAKA did it back in his KDX days of milk and honey). Since heels are usually the ones who want to go that route, they're usually the ones to take it on. However, in recent years, the rise of the tweener has seen a bunch of cool heels or edgy faces take it on.

This is NOT the case with Judo SUWA. Judo SUWA is a heel's heel; he doesn't play cool heel (although his amazing talent makes him cool), he plays DICKS. And not just dicks - dicks who know they're better than you, and they're right, too. You say you liked Eddy Guerrero's stint as a rudo in WCW? FUCK THAT SHIT, Judo motherfucking SUWA is doing that kind of character to the NTH DEGREE in a fed where it sticks out like a great big green thumb of awesomeness. And it's not just novel, either - it's SCARY. But that kind of character doesn't work unless you've got the skills to pay the bills, and that's where SUWA really shines; he can WORK. As recently as two or three months ago, I was one of the people who thought CIMA was a better worker due to the fact that his moveset reflects his amazing natural charisma; let me just say this - what SUWA lacks in charisma, he makes up for in unpredictability. CIMA can wrestle a hundred matches and they all come down to an (admittedly awesome) formula; SUWA judges every second of every match he's in as JUDO SUWA, asking himself "What would SUWA do in this situation?" The end result is a much wider range of possibilities for excellence, and a better wrestler overall.

Then we have Dragon Kid, who's puroresu's answer to Rob Van Dam - that is to say, spotty as a crate of cheetahs. Except for where RVD couldn't sell penicillin to Elektra, DK possesses a modicum of selling abilities, and where RVD devotes two thirds of his matches to posing for the camera, Dragon Kid's ALWAYS moving, and where RVD doesn't use his gimmick in terms of match work (unless you count the posing, which I call a detriment to the match work), the simple fact that DK wears a mask and is very protective of it adds drama to every match these two have. You see, DK's a FACE in the traditional sense of the word, and like true heels, true faces are going the way of the dodo in TORYUMON. Both SAITOs have a bit of an edge to them, and Magnum Tokyo... well, ten years ago, an exotic dancer wouldn't have gotten much of a reaction. As a result, Dragon Kid's the only real high profile FACE in the fed. When you put him against a guy who works better in a face/heel structure than likely any other junior worker around today, well then.. gold, sez I.

These two also work well together because SUWA's able to calm DK's spotty ass down; if SUWA handles the pacing of the match, then it does wonders for the impact of DK's spots on the audience and gives him the mental allowance necessary to set up his convoluted spots. Like, say, right at the beginning; DK nails what has to be the most elaborate arm drag in the history of, I dunno, time, and then nearly fucks a second-rope Orihara moonsault (from inside the ring to outside) like an Alabama sheep. But then SUWA takes control, and you start to realize what the match is all about: him being a colossal jerk who plays the ref off so that he can get back in the ropes safely, or drops down on his stomach when doing a sleeper - not so that he can get better leverage, mind you, but rather so that he can put his feet on the ropes. It's clear that DK's still getting used to the setting, as he tries to force some transitions that hurt SUWA (by making him look weak) and does an ugly-ass armdrag and the World's Ugliest Powerbomb Reversal Rana, but SUWA just picks up DK's hand and pats it and says "Just do what I say and we'll be aight". And from there, it just goes balls-out great. Everything has a build to it; SUWA's very much a ground-based wrestler, so any time he goes up top, you know something cool's going to happen. But then the Kid starts busting out these little fundamental things that catch SUWA by complete surprise, like rollups, and the tide GRADUALLY shifts, finally solidifying with his double-jump moonsault. And just then, just when the tide has seemingly changed, SUWA torpedoes DK with a charging shoulder, and nails him with two bad mf'n power moves - a stungun without the chin-to-the-ropes portion (so his face just gets driven into the mat) and a spectacular inverted powerbomb. This is why SUWA's so great; he sets up the story of pulling the face to the limit so that the build to the DRAGONRANA~!~!~! (450 splash into a hurricanrana) is just that much more important. And better yet... when the ref gets pulled by Nefarious Outside Trickery and Chicanery, DK just SNAPS, taking it directly to SUWA like SUWA just shot DK's mom. The finish has been done a bit, but it's still cool - SUWA drops DK in a powerbomb, and at the LAST POSSIBLE SECOND DK reverses into a 'rana, but SUWA *rolls through in mid air, countering the 'rana* for the pin and win. That's a ***1/4 match if ever there was one - it was really entertaining, but the shaky start hurt them in the end. Postmatch, SUWA beats the everliving fuck out of DK and takes his mask, but then Jinsei Shinzaki (probably better known to youse as the WWF's Hakushi) comes down the aisle out of NOWHERE to avenge DK.

4. TARU/SUWA vs. Dragon Kid/Jinsei Shinzaki Joined mid-match. Shinzaki's actually looking pretty motivated, even if he's mainly using kicks and helping DK leapfrog him so that he can 'rana TARU off the top rope. But then the momentum swings back to CRAZY MAX, and TARU hits his bomb-ass Miracle Ecstasy Bomb (better known as the Albert Bomb, or a chokeslam into a sitdown powerbomb), which looked ON tonight - his chokeslam movement was TOTALLY in sync with the sitdown portion. Oddly, SUWA blows a spot pretty badly in the match, which isn't something he's known to do, which is followed by probably the ugliest Dragonrana since that move came into existence. They then rush to the finish, which is Shinzaki pray-powerbombing TARU, then locking him in that cross-arm camel clutch-y thing he does that actually looks massively painful. Weird, but Shinzaki was probably the most consistent performer in that match, and not even in a bad way or nuthin'. Match was * if that, thanks mostly to ridiculous clipping, but hey hey hey.

5. Tiger Mask 4/Great Sasuke vs. CIMA/Sumo "Dandy" FUJI This match has the stip that the losing team must face each other in a mask vs. mask match (if TM4 and Great Sasuke lose) or a hair vs. hair match (if it's CIMA and Sumo). And while I personally kinda wish that it was SUWA instead of Sumo, the fact that it's Sumo means that we'll get a lot more cool double-teams. And not to mention, Sumo came to PLAY today - he's working stiffer than hell tonight, and gets a cool spot early on where Sasuke tries to backdrop him, but buckles under the weight of Sumo, who drops down on him in a pin attempt.. And hell, it's not like SUWA doesn't get into the action at all; he gets his mask rip on like nobody's bidness. Of course, since it's Sumo Fuji instead of Alexander Otsuka, we get a massively shitty giant swing. I also don't like the way Sumo's telegraphing his selling; he buckles his knees really noticeably before taking a dive from TM4. Then CIMA tags in, and everyone goes NUTS. I can't express enough how much of a treat it is to watch CIMA in the ring; he may be married to some spots and their placement in the match, but damned if his natural personality doesn't cover up more than enough for me. And hey, he's working with two of the better workers around, especially TM4, who's REALLY going to blow up big this year. I'm serious - he's so due. He can work almost shootstyle if he wants to, but he's better than just about anyone around in the Japanese Indy scene at working an old-school NJPW junior match with some TRICKED OUT highspots thrown in. Sasuke, in the meantime, is pretty much one of my five favorite wrestlers ever. There may be more graceful things in this world than the Great Sasuke in the air, but I'm not sure I want to know about them; he's just amazing to watch. And his tendency to oversell actually works well in this match; take the Spot of the Match, where CIMA turns a Sasuke Asai moonsault into a facebuster, which Sasuke sells like he's been shot. It works there, to be honest; it's a big spot, and one that Sasuke conceivably would be horrendously surprised at getting reversed. The finish comes on CIMA, as TM4 nails him with a half-dragon-half-choke suplex that couldn't possibly put CIMA more on his head, then disqualifies that exaggeration by dropping him about ten billion times more on top of his head with a Tiger Driver '85 for the pin, and the end to a really fucking good match. ***1/2; Sumo brought the match down a little, and the storyline seemed to be a bit lacking, but other than that, everyone came to play.

6. CIMA vs. Sumo "Dandy" FUJI in a hair vs. hair match WHEN CRAZY MAX COLLIDES! Pre-match, CIMA just SMACKS Sumo at the pre-match handshake. The story of the match seems to be that the two are really equals, as the opening portion of the match is spent establishing parity, up until Sumo ups the ante by *COMING OFF THE TOP*, at which point he goes on the offensive. One of the major complaints against CIMA is that he oversells just about everything like a simple strike just took all the life out of him; well, it really works in this match as a result of Sumo's power offense. And the fans start chanting for CIMA, despite all of his cockery. I really like the way they tease Sumo's finisher (top rope nodowa, or chokeslam, for you American Peegs), but have CIMA get out and bust out the venus (jumping palmstrike to an opponent on the top rope) => Iconoclasm (top rope crucifix Michinoku driver), and I like it even more because Sumo kicks out. It's all about the parity, baby. Sumo continues to impress, as he just WHIPS CIMA to the ground with a powerbomb variation (CIMA went for a sunset flip, but Sumo wouldn't fall, so he whipped him over his back to the ground in a powerbomb), and nails some cool-ass rolling nodowas. CIMA then embarasses the old-school spirit of Everyone Who Ever Worked Against Ric Flair by pulling off the most protected-looking piledriver in history (possibly because Sumo's probably not too used to taking piledrivers, so he had to protect him from neck death), but gets back all that respect by PLANTING Sumo with a bastardly Michinoku Driver. The finish comes as they make reference to Sumo kicking out of the Iconoclasm when CIMA does the Venus=>Icono combo, but then seals the deal with the Mad Splash. One, Two, and Sumo's doing what I need to do - getting a haircut. ***, and probably Sumo's best singles match ever. Sumo then proceeds to get his haircut exactly how I got my last one - from himself, and he shaves himself bald, thus explaining why he's wearing that afro wig in the talking segments . Him, CIMA, and SUWA all do the CRAZY MAX salute one more time for old time's sake, but really, it's the end of an era - this match was the end of CRAZY MAX as the bastard heels that they were, as the arrival of M2K as TRUE heels made them turn face. CRAZY MAX, we hardly knew ye.

7. M2K (Masaaki Mochizuki/Susumu Mochizuki/Yasushi Kanda) vs. CRAZY MAX (CIMA Nobunaga/Sumo FUJI/Stoker Ichikawa) M2K, the group so heelish that they turned CRAZY MAX face. Their characters are all basically just assholes, with no real rhyme or reason (although they have a vendetta against CRAZY MAX. Oh, and they're all pretty good, especially Kanda. Sumo does the coolest thing in the world by WEARING THE AFRO WIG IN THE MATCH, until it gets knocked off; that's just too awesome. As if there were any doubt in their turn, the slapfest between Kanda and Sumo establishes CRAZY MAX as the faces in the match, which is kind of depressing. Then CIMA gets in against Masaaki and they have a KICKFUCKINGASS lucha sprint sequence. Let that be a lesson to people who doubt CIMA's working ability - he's still a really great wrestler. And then we get the number one and the best spot ever: CIMA drags Masaaki over into one corner and bends him over, and Sumo catapults Stoker across the ring with the flying ass poke. Just beautiful. If I wasn't dubbing the tape, I would have rewound that a billion times. And Masaaki goes NUTS (and brings the rest of M2K with him): he rips Stoker's mask off and spike piledrives him on the floor, rendering him deader than Elvis, and then gets back in the ring and goes to stiff-town on Sumo. It never ceases to amaze me as to how much they bite CRAZY MAX's style, as they totally steal about five moves and three triple teams from them, including the locomotion splashes and the triple-dropkick that explains why CIMA has all those arrows pointing to his ass on his trunks. But they're about a billion times more old-school heelish than CRAZY MAX (which probably explains why SUWA's not in the match), doing things like ripping off the turnbuckle pad and such, generally laying a hellacious strike-dominated beating on poor Sumo (including one threatened strike with a razor scooter, which narrowly beats the umbrella from the debut NOAH show for Best Weapon Ever), who turns out to be a better face-in-peril than anyone (read: I) expected. And of course, he comes back with one of the best nodowas he'll ever pull off. This is soooo awesome. Too bad they have to get Susumu in the mix, as he blows a DVD pretty badly. He goes for the pin... and HERE'S STOKER! Good GOD, I was marking the hell out. That was AJPWishly good setup. I mean, he'd just been GONE for pretty much the meat of the match, and just comes ROARING back in. The crowd goes NUTS, and I don't blame them. I don't like, however, how that wasn't a turning point for the match; it was REALLY well worked and all kinds of dramatic, but then Susumu goes straight to his finisher, a sort of samoan-drop-into-ace crusher (or Stone Cold Stunner, for ye who didn't know). Post match, M2K kicks Stoker's ass some more (and Susumu steals his mask and wears it like a headband with the ears sticking out), and that's it. ***1/2; Sumo worked waaaaaaaay over his head, and if it weren't for some rookie nerves from M2K, this could have hit ****. Drama + humor + great work + unexpectedly great selling + creative playing with the face/heel structure = one happy DJC.

(As a lover of electronic music, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that they were playing Bob Sinclair's kick-ass track "Gym Tonic" over the closing chat section. Good song to end a good show.)


Was this worthwhile? Worthwhile's so limp and tepid... I'd rather say that this is one of the best Toryumon shows around. The first two shows of the fed are probably better overall for workrate (gotta love the title tourney and the kick-ass elimination match), but overall - there aren't many federations around that can put on four ***+ matches out of seven (let's see... GAEA, BattlArts MAYBE, EMLL's got the talent I guess...yep, that's about it). Put simply, if you've never seen Toryumon and you'd like to know what all the fuss is about, this tape's a great place to start.

Until next time, BUY THE TAPE!

Digably Yours,
Digable James Cobo
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