Pro Wrestling Love in Yokohama
August 11, 2016
Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium – Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan

KIKUZAWA, MAZADA & NOSAWA Rongai Def. Hiroshi Yamato, Jun Tonsho & Seigo Tachibana

If there’s one thing I like in my pro wrestling, it’s a hot opener. I am of the belief that a good opener sets the tone for a show. A good opener gets the crowd on their toes for what’s to come. I enjoy promotions that provide good openers. It doesn’t always have to be a show-stealer, just something people can sink their teeth into to build off of that excitement they had when they initially walked in, sat down and eagerly waited for the show to start. It’s something Gabe Sapolsky does real well.

Not every show can have a good opener, I suppose. This was not very good, it felt meaningless because it was meaningless, and it did not provide that excitement an opener should provide, especially on the promotion’s biggest show of the year. Skip it. *1/4

Hiroki Murase, Ken Ohka, Masayuki Mitomi & Shota Def. Andy Wu, Kohei Fujimura, Sanshiro Takagi & Seiki Yoshioka

Andy Wu and Seiki Yoshioka are two of my favorite wrestlers in WRESTLE-1, and Andy Wu specifically is one of the best, yet most underrated young wrestlers in wrestling today. I’ve never seen an Andy Wu match I didn’t enjoy and somehow he keeps getting better. If things work out for him, he’s going to not only be one of the best junior/cruiserweight wrestlers in the world, but one of the best wrestlers in the world in general by the time he’s 26. The guy has a world of potential. Everyone in the match did a fine job, but Wu was clearly the star, and it wasn’t particularly close. Hot, exciting little match that should have been the opener. **3/4

Hardcore 4-Way Tag
Jake Omen & Masayuki Kono vs. Jun Kasai & MIKAMI vs. Minoru Tanaka & TAJIRI vs. KAZMA SAKAMOTO & Yuji Hino

Jake Omen is from Cleveland-based wrestling promotion Rockstar Pro and has somehow landed himself a tour with WRESTLE-1. He looked decent here, or at least as decent as one could possibly look in a multi-team hardcore clusterfuck. Him winning came as surprise looking at who he was in there with, but he’s been teaming with Kondo’s group all tour so it appears as if they may have some plans for him moving forward. Weird, sloppy, but overall fun match. ***

Dick Togo, Kaz Hayashi & The Great Sasuke Def. Shuji Kondo, Toru Owashi & YASSHI

It’s Michinoku Pro vs. Aagan Iisou, how could you not be into that? Four of the six guys in this match are among the most underrated professional wrestlers of the past 20 years and are still on top of their game to this very day, as shown here. Sasuke’s obviously not where he was as a performer when he was at his peak but can still step things up when he needs to, while YASSHI is…well, he’s YASSHI. He isn’t very good. He had some nice interactions with Sasuke, everyone else worked hard, and it was exactly what you’d expect it to me. Nothing blow-away great but a fun spectacle that any Michinoku Pro or Toryumon fan can enjoy. ***1/2

WRESTLE-1 Cruiserweight Championship
Yusuke Kodama Def. Kotaro Suzuki (c)

Something about this felt special. Something about this felt important. It felt like long-term, yet very subtle booking coming to fruition.

Kodama has been on excursion in America for the better part of a year while Suzuki has positioned himself as the guy in the WRESTLE-1 cruiserweight division. Kodama wasn’t in the picture. He had to watch as Suzuki ran through the roster, waiting for his opportunity to come back and step up to the plate. Now was his chance. Suzuki fought as hard as he could, but Kodama kept up, and not only did he keep up, he surpassed him. Kodama came to class prepared, while maybe Suzuki just wasn’t as prepared as he thought he was.

Kodama was made into a star here. Kodama was positioned as the new guy here. He did his company proud, he avenged TAJIRI’s loss and did his mentor proud. Kodama is back, and he’s here to stay. ****

Kota Ibushi Def. Jiro Kuroshio

Kota Ibushi is, without question, the most interesting wrestler of 2016. You never know where he’s going to pop up, you never know where he stands with certain promotions, you never know what his true intentions are, and on top of it, he’s one of the best wrestlers on the planet. He’s having the time of his life right now, getting to wrestle guys he’s never had the chance to wrestle in North America from Cedric Alexander to fruit monsters in Kaiju Big Battel. I can’t hate on it. Who knows how long he’ll be doing what he’s doing now, he can sign a piece of paper tomorrow and be locked down somewhere, so enjoy this run while you can.

The match itself was highly enjoyable, easily the second best on the show. Jiro kept up with Ibushi working the Ibushi style of match, in what I thought was one of his better performances. It took me a while to get Jiro. I’ve always liked him, I always thought he was competent pro wrestler, but I never saw him as anything more. I’ve turned the corner on him this year.

Jiro Kiroshio is WRESTLE-1’s Tomoaki Honma. He wins on occasion but can’t get it done when it matters. He hasn’t gotten that big win yet. He hasn’t beaten Ishii at G1 yet. His Ishii hasn’t seem to come along. Who it’ll be, I don’t know. Could be Muto, could be Kondo, could be Soya, could be anyone. The big win is coming, now just wasn’t the time. ****

Jun Akiyama, Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi Def. Keiji Muto, Koji Doi & Kumagoro

Akiyama and Muto, owners of All Japan Pro Wrestling and WRESTLE-1 respectively, have some bad blood that goes back several years after Muto took a good chunk of the All Japan roster to start WRESTLE-1. Akiyama wasn’t in the position he’s in now back then, but in theory, it still effected him and what would become his business. They were the focus of the match, leaving Nomura, Aoyagi, Doi and Kumagoro to act as soldiers. Everyone did a nice job, the All Japan guys clearly being a step, if not several steps ahead of the WRESTLE-1 guys. Muto tried, and that’s all you can really ask of him these days given his condition. Fun match. ***1/2

WRESTLE-1 Championship
Daiki Inaba Def. KAI (c)

The best part of this match had nothing to do with what happened in the match, but what happened after the match. Watching all the young guys come out to celebrate with Inaba felt like a special moment. Their friend, someone they’re close to, someone they can relate to, accomplished the biggest thing you could possibly accomplish on the biggest show of the year. Watching KAI put the belt around Inaba’s waist felt like a special moment, because despite what we and the fans think of KAI, he’s someone Inaba looks up to, and they made that clear in the video package they put together before the match. It was truly a great visual and truly a great way to close the show.

Unfortunately, the match it followed did not deliver.

I’ve not been as hard on KAI as most people have been this year. I’ve never thought he was good, in fact, I’ve always found him actively bad, but even then I couldn’t fully see what others were seeing when talking about how bad he is. That said, this match made me realize that there’s no real hope left for the guy, even when I thought there might be a little bit earlier in the year. He’s a lost cause, he’s never going to be anything more than he is right now. When not making a complete fool of himself, his work is extremely dull. You can almost hear people breathing during his matches. No one cares about the guy. I like Daiki Inaba a lot, I think he has a lot of potential and could be a star if they want him to be. He’s good, but he’s not good enough to carry a lesser worker to a genuinely good match yet. This wasn’t terrible, this wasn’t one of the worst matches you’ll see this year, hell, it wasn’t even the worst match on the show, but it was far from the best and it failed to deliver. The rematch is set to take place in Korakuen on September 18th. Here’s hoping it’s better the second time around. **1/4