We’ll be doing things a slight bit different this week. I took a week away from writing the column and now I’m back with two weeks’ worth of Tiger Mask goodness. I would say that this is a double-sized edition, but because episode 31 was so dull, it’s about 25% more content.

With so much to talk about, let’s jump into Naoto’s trip to Kyoto and the continuing war between NJPW and GWM. Before we get into things, don’t forget that you can watch these episodes of Tiger Mask W over at Crunchyroll and if you want to find the rest of my recaps, you can do that here.

Tiger Mask W Episode 31 Recap
Showdown with the Arashi Juken Style

Friends, this show was the absolute definition of a filler episode. The worst thing I can say about this one is that if you didn’t watch it, you missed literally nothing. It wasn’t a bad episode, it was just pointless. The plot followed Naoto as he took a trip with Haruna and Kentaro to meet a martial arts master in an attempt to make a new killer move.

Tiger Mask then gets wrapped up in a dispute between two pupils of the Arashi Juken style, each claiming to be its master. The first master is kind and runs a shabby looking dojo with a pristine looking statue carved by the innovator of his martial arts style. The second master is stern and runs a spectacular looking dojo, but he also has a shitty looking version of the same statue as the first master with the exact same story to go along with it.

Naoto eventually buys the statue for 300,000 yen to keep the dojo afloat.

To make a long story short, it turns out that Naoto was conned by the second master and it was really the first master with a shabby dojo that was the real deal. This was a textbook case of don’t judge a book by its cover. I guess we have to teach the children lessons every now and then.

The episode ends super anti-climatically when Naoto is about to learn the secret technique from the real master and is pretty much just told to look for any opening that you can get. I wasn’t angry about that lame ending, I was disappointed. Fukuwara Mask was there too for some reason.

I’ve already lost interest in talking about this.

Tiger Mask W Episode 32 Recap

After the lackluster episode 31, the Tiger Mask team knew that they had to make it up to all of us.

This time around they came out of the gate strong with an episode called Lumberjack. Is Tiger Mask in a lumberjack match? Does Tiger Mask quit wrestling to become a cat themed lumberjack!!?? It’s probably the first one, but it’s an intriguing title nonetheless.

When the episode begins we find ourselves in the office of Miss X where she deals with Tiger’s manager, Haruna, and various contract issues. Haruna is rightfully pissed about Tiger working that strange snow globe match without prior notification. It’s almost as if you could just slot this episode in place of the Kyoto episode and act like it never happened…..

Thankfully for Tiger Mask’s sake, his next match in GWM will take place in a regular ring. An even more exciting aspect of the match for him and Haruna should be the fact that this is Tiger’s final match under his contract with GWM, allowing him to go where he pleases. Of course, that all depends on if he can survive his main event match with Miracle III or not. Following the meeting, Haruna notifies Naoto of his upcoming match and he doesn’t seem too worried. I mean, it is the third string Miracle, what is there to be concerned about? We later discover that Miracle III is secretly GWM’s Coach O’Conner, the scarred taskmaster that runs GWM’s school. Maybe Tiger Mask might actually have some trouble with this one.

On their way home from the Max Dome, Naoto and Haruna stop at the assisted living center to visit Takuma and Daisuke Fujii. Naoto stops by to see his trainer first and with tears in his eyes, he apologizes for acting so rashly and joining GWM. Daisuke gladly accepts his apology. He knows what it’s like to be a young wrestler and he knows that Naoto has a good heart. Naoto’s essentially his son and Daisuke knew he wouldn’t stray from his path for long.

Before Naoto goes to see Takuma, Daisuke tells him that he’s sorry about how things ended up with Ruriko. Naoto seems understanding, but there’s hurt underneath the surface. Naito and Haruna find Takuma working on his rehab with Ruriko and Naoto can’t bring himself to talk to them together. I had been saying it for weeks, but I knew that Naoto was going to screw things up with Ruriko. It’s good to see her with Takuma, someone who was more open with her than Naoto ever was.

While Naoto licks his emotional wounds, we go to the New Japan Dojo. Ryu Wakamatsu is busy clangin’ and bangin’ in the gym, trying to prep himself for the war with GWM. He tells Yuji Nagata that he’s ready to fight and surprisingly enough, Nagata agrees. Nagata says that he had wanted to put Ryu on the front lines of the war earlier, but the cards weren’t right for his big match. What a master spin doctor this Yuji Nagata is.

Following last week’s fruitless efforts to find a new killer move, Naoto and Kentaro work out on Mt. Fuji to try to get the creative juices flowing. This gives the Tiger Mask team the chance to insert some stock footage of Tiger Mask’s past matches. While Naoto has trouble finding inspiration, Haruna continues her secret wrestling training in the Takaoka Motors home gym. The girl throws a mean lariat and spin kick, but she really needs to watch out for the swing back of the punching bag.

The next day we head to the Max Dome for GWM’s Final Wars tour. Tiger Mask and Haruna arrive at the venue and run into Ryu, who is very nice to Haruna (as always), but is cold towards Tiger. Naoto knows that this will be a wound that won’t easily heal. The New Japan crew is made even more upset when they find out that their match is the semi-main with Tiger Mask’s match going on last.

Match 1
Yuji Nagata, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Ryu Wakamatsu vs. Miracle I, Miracle II, and Mike Rodriguez

The match starts off with some hot young boy action between Ryu and Mike. We hear that the action is heated and I say hear because we see more people react to the match than the match itself. It’s like Kevin Dunn directed this episode. At some point, Nagata tags into the match and puts Mike in the Nagata Lock. Tanahashi and Ryu play defense while Mike struggles to hang in the match. Before he can tap out, Miracle III enters the ring and breaks up the hold with a dropkick to the back of Nagata’s head. The Miracles gang up on the New Japan wrestlers until Tiger Mask jumps in to make the save. Things completely break down and the referee calls for the bell, declaring the match a no-contest. This was more of a lead in to the main event than it was a semi-main. Old school ECW booking from Tiger Mask W. **

Match 2
Tiger Mask vs. Miracle III- Lumberjack Match

Miss X orders the ring cleared following the brawl and declares that the main event is now a lumberjack match. Miracle III has the other Miracles and Mike Rodriguez behind him, but the New Japan team watches the match from afar, opting not to second their former friend. The bell rings and the large Miracle III charges at Tiger Mask, pushing him outside of the ring. Of course, the seconds are quick to put a beating on Tiger Mask before they throw him into the ring again. Like a true trainer would, Miracle III gets to work stretching Tiger Mask, putting him in a variety of submissions. Tiger reaches for the ropes, but Miracle III breaks his facelock and kicks Tiger Mask out of the ring.

Tiger Mask gets the boots put to him as Haruna watches alongside the NJPW team. Haruna’s had enough and she attempts to run down the aisle to save Tiger Mask, but she’s stopped by Ryu. With tears in her eyes, Haruna pleads with Ryu to let go of her arm so she can go save Tiger. Ryu tells her to forget it because he’ll go help and after he rallies Tanahashi and Nagata, they go with him as well. A brawl breaks out on the outside of the ring as the New Japan crew saves Tiger Mask from his triple team beating.

When Tiger Mask gets back into the ring, Miracle III tells him that nothing will change because he knows every move that Tiger has in his arsenal. Miracle’s rant is cut short when Tiger Mask nails him in the head with King Tiger’s axe kick. Tiger follows it up with a spin kick which knocks Miracle to the outside. Nagata makes sure to rough up Miracle III a bit before tossing him back into the ring. Things come to a close when Tiger Mask catches Miracle III with the Tiger Suplex for the three count. While this match wasn’t much when it comes to the in-ring, this was more about the story of New Japan coming to the aid of Tiger Mask. We see that when these two forces team up, they can take down GWM. ***

The New Japan wrestlers enter the ring and Tiger Mask is shocked to have a handshake offered to him by Tanahashi. He happily accepts and Tiger Mask is welcomed back to the team. Haruna watches from outside the ring and now it seems like she looks at Ryu a little differently after his heroic act to save Naoto. Maybe he’ll get that date after all.

Episode 32 is a huge improvement over episode 31. It’s amazing what having a story that matters will do to the level of quality. I don’t ask for much from their series to make me happy. All I need is to not be talked down to, a story that matters to the overall narrative, and some cool wrestling matches. I got all of that out of 32 and none of that from 31. Thankfully, it looks like next week will fill me with joy as GWM brings in the council of tigers to take down New Japan.

While you’re waiting for next week’s episode, check out the newly subtitled Kamen Rider movie featuring Tanahashi as Dr. Pac-Man’s henchman. Yes, you read that right. The movie is a ton of fun and features some cool Tanahashi moments, including him hitting a Sling Blade on one of the Riders. While I don’t think it warrants a full review, I would have felt remiss if I didn’t at least mention it here.

Enjoy some tokusatsu and I’ll talk to you next week!