Some wrestling show impressions:
I’ve been enjoying the princess cup! The lack of commentary is too bad, and so I’ve watched them with a mix of all of my different modes - directly, while doing anki, and while working. But TJPW has a lot of wrestlers who are fun to watch even when they aren’t at the top of the card (like Raku’s lullabies or the Hyper Misao shenanigan of the day are consistently fun - I enjoyed Misao forming a sentai-style ranger team, for example) so it was always a good time, and I have to keep up with the translations to help, after all!
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 1 (from 2007)
Probably the weirdest bit of minor pro wrestling trivia is that the “Wrestle Kingdom” name for the January 4th show NJPW holds every year was taken directly from an Xbox 360 game made by Yuke’s, the company that made a bunch of WWE games and also is making the upcoming AEW: Fight Forever game, because Yuke’s owned NJPW for a bit there. Very weird to imagine from the state of NJPW nowadays.
Similarly – I wouldn’t have guessed from modern shows how common interpromotional shows were at the Tokyo Dome around this time. This one is built entirely around NJPW vs. AJPW, and I found it at least quite a bit more enjoyable for me than the previous year’s NJPW vs. indie, mainly because it felt a lot more unified and the booking made more sense (and Brock Lesnar is nowhere to be seen). It’s also unexpectedly relevant to at least current-day AJPW, as Voodoo Murders style Suwama shows up here (with a lot of WM in general on the card).
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Toshiaki Kawada I don’t think was as great as it sounds like it could have been from those two participants, but I thought it got across well the danger of Kawada’s kicks and Nakamura’s sudden submissions.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Yuji Nagata for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship was really good! It was cool to see Suzuki in top form (which is to say – exactly like he is now but a little plumper and with the full like, crest of hair and spirals style that only he can pull off). They spend a while blading at the start but it doesn’t get nearly as bad as Nagata/Sasaki and while at first I thought it wasn’t as intense of a match as I’m used to from current-day Suzuki… that impression definitely changed by the end!
Hiroshi Tanahashi’s IWGP title defense was against an AJPW guy I don’t think I’d ever heard of, 太陽ケア, who at first I was unfairly biased against because of that. But I thought he played the dominant foil for Tanahashi quite well! Tana really shone as a fantastic babyface with plenty of moments tricking me into thinking he might not persevere and then getting me to cheer as he did just that.
The main event, rather than either of the heavyweight matches, is a “dream tag match” between Tencozy and Mutoh/Chono, which I didn’t necessarily have the background to appreciate as much but provided a good opportunity for Mutoh and Chono to memorialize Hashimoto at the end (and for Tenzan to lose again).
One other highlight was getting to see Milano Collection A.T. wrestle! I think he’s a great color commentator, and from this brief impression it seems like he was a talented wrestler too! He did the Paradise Lock with far more theatrics and aplomb than I’ve ever seen from SANADA…
I haven’t gotten around to reading the 2007 chapter of the Nakamura biography, and Wrestle Kingdom II is barely on NJPW World because it’s a co-promotion with TNA of all things! So although it would be kind of fun to watch lots/all of the “Wrestle Kingdoms”… we’ll see. I suppose there’s no rush, in any case.
STARDOM in SHOWCASE vol.1
What an odd show! This felt like… a year’s worth of King of Pro-Wrestling trophy matches compressed into one card.
One major disappointment is they went with the maximum copyright-avoidance style of VOD for the Stardom World version of the show, with wrestler entrances and celebrations cut out except for the rumble. That sucks! From the air horns and what little could be heard – it sounds like they weren’t using anyone’s regular entrance music? Which might be the reason? I would be curious how much additional novelty vibe would be conveyed if I’d been watching the PPV version. I imagine there’d be at least SOME context for stuff like the airhorns.
My favorite match was definitely the Falls Count Anywhere match! I was curious if they would acknowledge the elephant in the room…
… and boy did they! The commentary team had a lot of fun by referring to Koguma as just くま and the inflatable bouncy castle elephant as just ぞう, and well – sometimes pro-wrestling is high stakes emotional fights, and sometimes it’s a wrestler and a bear magically swapping clothes inside of a giant elephant.
Mayu Iwatani was the guest commentator for the later matches, and she was a fantastic choice because she’s a very receptive audience! She laughed A LOT when Koguma tripped trying to jump down the big inflatable slide, and I also liked the commentators explaining the nuances of “I quit” to her during the I Quit match.
Speaking of the I Quit match, this and the other more violent stipulations could probably have been a lot more intense on a less novelty-ish show, but it was still pretty fun! I’m glad for the good excuse to make better note of Kurumi Hiiragi’s name (and “Holly Walnut” is a memorable one, after all!), and an I Quit match is heavily reliant on how gutturally the babyface can scream that they aren’t quitting yet… so Syuri is a great fit!
Similarly the hardcore match was fun - I also like a lot Suzu’s “arrivederci! mata na!” in the backstage comments.
The skeleton turned out to be Yuu! I recognized her from shupro, as her tag team with Chihiro Hashimoto, チーム200kg, seems lauded, although I never mentioned them much in my summaries (partly since not watching the promotions they were in, I was never sure at a glance how crassly or not crassly the weight theme of the team was handled). They also currently hold the tag team belts in Sendai Girls as of the last magazine I recapped, so it was a total surprise to me when the 謎の死神 was her! I don’t know yet if it’s a one-off, the start of her being signed to Stardom, or guest appearances, or what, but my impression is she’d be a very cool addition in whichever slot.
I also somehow appreciate Stardom making “dress up in a horror monster costume and emotionally and physically torture Stardom wrestlers, then when you debut take it off and never do anything like that again because it was completely out of character and implausible for you to have been the one doing it in the first place” like, the orthodox way for a surprise wrestler to join the company. I don’t think it’s good storytelling… but I do think it’s very funny! My personal head canon is it will keep happening because when people want advice on joining Stardom they go for advice on how to make a good first impression from a famously successful ship-jumper… and end up running with Giulia’s unintentionally terrible communication advice.
The “cosmic rules” match was the kind of thing I would have absolutely hated knowing it was coming from the WWE writers room… Stardom retains at least a little bit of the benefit of the doubt from me that the premise and/or details could have come from the wrestlers themselves, but it was still very juvenile. I suppose one positive thing to say about Pheremones in contrast is they don’t pretend like professional wrestling isn’t already a pretty inherently risque activity. Teasing stuff like wet t-shirts and towels just seems sort of childish when we’re already watching mostly naked people be physically and emotionally intimate with each other… but whatever.
One thing I’ll say as a definite positive – I only realized after the fact that this and MidSummer Champions were Stardom running the same venue two days in a row! I think I actually liked this approach much much more than a 2-day show where both days have basically the exact same kind of card. It gave different wrestlers a chance to shine on both days and I think probably gave for example Syuri a bit of a break (although that’s weird to say about an I Quit match) instead of having intense championship matches back to back.
Despite the flaws here, I would like to see them do this again, I think! With some tweaks and polish it could be a great novelty like that cage match show ended up being, or it could just keep being a pretty fun grab bag.
ガンバレ☆プロレス WRESTLE SEKIGAHARA
I don’t know anything about Ganbare (I guess they’re a DDT-affiliated promotion with an emphasis on working with other promotions?) but I watched this because I like the name and the ads made it look pretty cool.
I enjoyed the show! I bet if I were a Ganbare fan I would have loved it. I was especially impressed by both tag teams. Yuuri also seemed cool and “Lingerie Mutoh” was a surprisingly faithful impersonation, albeit with obligatory knee jokes and uh, lingerie. I also enjoyed Manase/Sayaka, and thought the Suzuki match was a really fun classic style Minoru Suzuki match, complete with audience seating disruption and hassling of young wrestlers at ringside.
Yumehito Imanari vs. Ken Ohka in the main event seemed like it would have been super cathartic and good if I’d been following those wrestlers previously - the moment I highlighted in the last recap was touching. I only knew Ohka as “guy in Ganbare posters” and Imanari from the magazines as “pervert movie director from Pheremones and the Great Space War” (the latter of which I was wrong about – turns out I was conflating him with, in true Michinoku Pro fashion, a nude Joaquin Phoenix style Joker who also carried a camera around). So it was interesting to see him in a more serious and wholesome light.
Stardom MidSummer Champions 2022 in NAGOYA
I really enjoyed this show! Going in, Syuri vs. Tam Nakano is a definite headliner for Stardom right now, and with Tam’s recent momentum from the Natsupoi thing, it was going to be Syuri’s riskiest title defense match to-date, and so it made the match very exciting. And Syuri retained! But I believe Tam that this is the beginning of the end for the 朱世界… I wonder if this means Tam will win the 5 Star GP and challenge again more successfully, or if that would be too similar to how Hayashishita/Syuri played out?
The tag title match I also thought was super enjoyable, and the Artist of Stardom match too! It’s fun to hear people say “スパパパパーン” so much and I love the thing that team does where they chain the belts together. Kashima snuck up on me… she was in the background for a while, but she’s really entertaining. And I always forget she does a shoryuken until she hits it again.
Saya Iida was the guest commentator! She’s been speaking in a very confident superhero-ish register recently in promos, which I think is fun, and she wasn’t doing that here but she acquitted herself well for a first time commentating. They had some fun joking about “Super Strong Stardom Machine” from the rumble the previous day.
I saw on twitter Thekla’s out of the 5 Star GP to recover from injury (replaced by Momo Kogo who should be good, but still too bad!) and Suzu and Kurumi are missing a Prominence show due to COVID so we’ll see how all these round robins go huh
The N-1 Victory blocks were announced though, and I thought they looked pretty good. I’m maybe most curious about Hideki Suzuki’s matches - he seems like someone who it would be interesting to see different wrestlers try to deal with in singles matches. I was surprised during the announcement no one had participated in more than 4 of those tournaments… until I realized they were only counting the ones under the “N-1 Victory” name, which only started in 2019…