We Are Suzuki-gun
June 9, 2015
Tokyo, Japan – Korakuen Hall
Naomichi Marufuji (NOAH) vs Yuji Nagata (NJPW)
These two men have faced each other once per year since 2012, with Nagata holding a 2-1 edge coming into this one. Nagata won the first two bouts, defeating Marufuji at the 2012 G1 Climax and the 2013 Global League, with Marufuji taking the 2014 match-up, which was a GHC Title change. Neither of these dudes are strangers to show host and resident puro wise ass Minoru Suzuki either, who relegated his two rivals to young boy curtain jerker duties, complete with no entrance music and imploring both to practice their crab holds. Fun match, with Nagata controlling most of the way and Marufuji breaking out a million different variations of his superkick to escape danger.
The closing stretch was all about the two all timers showing off their great timing to produce some solid drama. For the second time this week (the first being the great 5/28 Twin Towers vs Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi BJW bout that every person reading this should go out of their way to see), I watched a time limit draw that I genuinely didn’t see coming (OK, I did see this one coming, but not until the final minute or so). 60 minute draws almost always stink, for two reasons. One, 60 minutes is waaaaay too much time to tell a story in pro wrestling while keeping people engaged, so there is always ample stalling. Two, in almost every 60 minute draw, it is worked in such a way that it tips off that they’re going the distance. Why bother watching or caring once the drama is removed? This was a 15-minute match (remember, young boy treatment), so they didn’t have time to tip off the draw. Same for the Big Japan match, which was 30 minutes of brutality that didn’t even give you a chance to think about the time limit. Two nifty little draws that were better than any 60 minute draw I’ve ever seen in my life, and this coming from someone who saw the Joe vs Danielson match from ROH “Fight of the Century” in ’06 live (and knew they were going the full 60 roughly ten minutes into the bout. Zzzzzzzz.) ***1/4
Genba Hirayanagi & Hitoshi Kumano (NOAH) vs Jack Gamble & John Webb (NOAH/WLW)
I was not very impressed with Gamble or Webb during the latest NOAH tour, but to be fair they looked a little better here. They did the old “partners who don’t get along” routine, which at least gave this short bout a little bit of a story. Kumano is an impressive NOAH young boy, and Genba is the sleazy veteran comedy heel. Kumano’s selling is always a highlight, and it was again here, and Gamble took a really great looking bump at the finish, which saw Kumano score the pin after a Genba palm thrust. If you’re planning on cherry picking the show, this match is a good spot for a skip. **1/2
Captain New Japan & Captain NOAH vs Zack Sabre Jr (NOAH) & Gedo (NJPW)
I won’t bury the lede here. In a scene that will go down in history with other traitorous acts such as Shawn Michaels sending Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window, Andre the Giant tearing the shirt off of Hulk Hogan’s chest (and bloodying his nipple), and Harley Race firing The Barbarian from Team Vader for being pals with Cactus Jack, Captain NOAH turned on Captain New Japan, gave Gedo a very familiar looking fist bump, and the good captain was triple teamed to his eventual death. I don’t know who is under that Captain NOAH hood, but I know he’s dastardly, so here’s hoping Captain New Japan gets his hands on this scoundrel, and hopefully it happens in the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2016. **
Taichi & El Desperado (SG) vs Yoshinari Ogawa (NOAH) & Jushin Thunder Liger (NJPW)
Taichi cut a pre-match promo and must have said something about someone’s mama, because Ogawa & Liger were absolutely incensed before attacking him mid sentence. Lots of mask tearing and wild brawling, and then it was the Ogawa show as Liger effectively took the night off. Ogawa is 48, but moves and works like he’s 28 despite being a guy who took plenty of head drops in the head drop days. He also spent time on the shelf with a major neck injury from a botched Bison-tenial (Styles Clash) in a match against the late Bison Smith. He’s known as “Rat Boy”, because, well, he looks like a fucking rat, and also because he’s sneaky. Ogawa is realistically the last link on the NOAH roster who can still work at an acceptable level to the All Japan glory days. Ogawa & Liger had only teamed one other time ever before this, a six-man match back in 2009 (Liger, Ogawa, & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi def. Akihito Ito, Ricky Marvin, & Taiji Ishimori). Despite tons of heel shenanigans from the Suzuki-gun team, Ogawa rolled up Despy to pick up the win. Post match, Liger tore off Desperado’s mask (and threw it into the crowd!), which appeared to set up a match. **3/4
Shelton X Benjamin & TAKA Michinoku (SG) vs Takashi Sugiura & Daisuke Harada (NOAH)
Kind of a weird match. First, the good. We got Good Shelton. We’ve all seen Bad Shelton, and nobody likes Bad Shelton. Let me take that back, we didn’t even get Good Shelton. We got a new Shelton in this match, Bully Shelton. Shelton bullying and beating the shit out of Harada was fun stuff. Harada looked tiny, and I mean tiny, working with Benjamin. Among other subtle things, single cam shows really exemplify size (or in this case, lack of size). TAKA was utterly fantastic in the closing stretch, as per the usual. He’s still very, very good, especially in his current non featured role. Now for the bad. The crowd was firmly behind SG, which was weird dynamic since they worked as heels and this was a classic babyface (Harada) in peril match. Sugiura was a non entity here, and Harada, who is the next challenger for NOAH’s junior title, sold nearly the entire way before scoring a banana peel win on a school boy. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to fire people up for his title challenge. **3/4
NWA World Tag Team Titles – Killer Elite Squad (c) (SG) vs TenKoji (NJPW)
First, stats. These two teams face each other a lot. Like, really a lot. This was the 12th meeting overall since October of 2012, and the 8th in traditional two vs two scenarios (there are four other bouts involving these teams that were either three or four way matches). KES now holds a 5-3 edge head to head, with the teams deadlocked at six wins each if you count the multi team matches. TenKoji holds a 6-4 lead in title matches, but in NWA title bouts KES is ahead 3-2. People roll their eyes when these teams are booked against each other, and this is the go to match to bring up if you like to point to the repetitive booking in New Japan, but these teams always seem to over deliver against each other despite the staleness of the match up. But then again, can you really call it over delivering? We don’t think of this as a great match up, but I think a lot of that has to do with the perception that Tenzan is a weak link. When you look at the other three guys involved, these matches should be very good. Kojima still performs at a high level, especially when in with other great workers. Davey Boy Smith Jr has really found himself in New Japan. Lance Archer is arguably one of the most improved wrestlers on Earth over the last three or four years. “Been there, done that” aside, why wouldn’t these teams deliver? And here, they delivered again. KES won clean as a sheet, pinning Kojima in the center of the ring (Kojima had to take the fall unless they were doing a title switch, since Tenzan is the NWA World champ) after basically eating the entire KES double team moveset, culminating with a Killer Bomb. Really good match. ***1/2
Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka vs Maybach Taniguchi & Yoshihiro Takayama
Many moons ago, Shuhei Taniguchi was a decent looking prospect climbing up the ranks in the NOAH system. Then, Maybach showed up. Every promotion has a Maybach. New Japan has Yujiro. All Japan has Kenzo Suzuki. Big Japan has The Brahman’s. Even Suzuki-gun has their own Maybach, Iizuka. This is not the theoretical neighborhood you want to live in if you’re a pro wrestler (although it would be a pretty great actual neighborhood…imagine waking up early on a Sunday morning to catch Iizuka rummaging through your trash, or to see Yujiro’s Saturday night date making her walk of shame to the car).
Anyway, the primary issue with this match was that Maybach was actually the second best performer bell-to-bell, and as noted, he stinks. Ol’ Melty Face Takayama tries hard, but he can barely move, and he looks like he’s on the verge of either falling apart or unknowingly shitting his pants every time he takes a step. Iizuka is Iizuka. Suzuki even dogged it here, spending the majority of this mess crowd “brawling” ( and this wasn’t exactly vintage Mid South Coliseum level brawling, so don’t think this is just me and my anti crowd brawling bias), and trying halfheartedly to make Maybach look decent when they were in the ring together. Suzuki tore off Maybach’s mask (I mean, who cares, they don’t even pretend that everybody doesn’t already know who he is), so Maybach spit mist into Suzuki’s face. He then did the same to Iizuka, leading to Iizuka taking a Takayama German suplex for the finish. At least the German looked good. This was boring, if not sloppy and completely non compelling in any discernible way, and none of it was over, with the crowd scary silent for most of it. Maybach is the next title challenger for Suzuki, and you might be better served to rummage through your neighbors garbage than waste 20 minutes of your life watching this debacle, or the upcoming title match. This was shit. *
Final Thoughts: Despite the shitty main event that’ll go down as one of the worst main event matches of the year, this was a fun show with a really good opener and semifinal, and a bunch of enjoyable stuff in between. Watch the first six matches and blow off the main event. Even Suzuki’s charisma couldn’t save that dud.