FMW DirecTV PPV, 4/30/98
review by Stuart
This was FMW's first PPV, after the company had used Samurai! TV as it's main television outlet. The card was full of top notch matches, FMW giving just about everything away. Many of the big feuds from the past 6+ months were to have their big matches here. Sadly, as the show begins, a look at the arena exposes an embarrassing mass of empty seats. I guess it could have been worse and I'm not expert on FMW's numbers, but with all the big matches, I'm surprised it wasn't more packed. The show starts with Go Ito (Team No Respect manager) and the announcers talking, before we go to a goofy video montage of Hido in a tropical location, prancing around in his white underwear.
Hido vs. Hideki Hosaka
Two former W*ING Alliance members, now on opposite sides. Hido wants acceptance and Hosaka wants... a win or something. Hido isn't very good at normal matches and is best at the classic, old school FMW Street Fight style, where his weaknesses can be hidden and he can contribute. The match is JIP, Hosaka throwing some slow European uppercuts, then a Rydeen bomb for 2. Hido hits three lariats, the third getting 2 3/4. Hido misses a moonsault press and Hosaka hits some lariats of his own, missing the third. Hido tries to cripple his old buddy with a sloppy avalanche-style Ace Crusher. Hosaka hits a Liger bomb and Go Ito screams, "Jesus Christ!". Hosaka hits a Frankensteiner, but Hido uses leverage to roll Hosaka up for the win (7:32). Hido has the (dubbed?) '80's music that Gran Naniwa used at the '95 J Cup. Hido's wife, former FMW joshi queen Megumi Kudo, walks out and hands Hido a pair of pajamas. Hido's facial expression is priceless. The match wasn't priceless and was very slow.
Hisakatsu Oya vs. Koji Nakagawa vs. Chris Chetti
In it's continuing attempt to experiment, FMW uses the ECW "three way dance" concept for this match and shows an ECW video package with a lot of sick bumps. This match is FMW vs. ZEN vs. ECW and Chetti isn't the fat Ricky Martin wanabee yet. We instantly clip forward to Oya wrenching Nakagawa's bandaged arm and forcing him to tap out. Another clip to where Chetti hits a nice German suplex hold for 2. He follows with another cool move, a double springboard moonsault press, but tries another moonsault after that and misses. Oya slaps on the Octopus hold, though that's quickly broken. Two of Oya's devastating, neck-crunching backdrop suplexes follow and he covers for the win (9:48). Very little shown, but it looked okay.
Ricky Fuji & John Kronus vs. Jado & Gedo
Clips of The Eliminators are shown, with the emphasis on Kronus, since Saturn had taken off for Turnerland by now. I love the "Fast forward! No rewind! No fast forward!" clip of Joel Gertner being killed with Total Elimination. Kronus and Fuji are one of the goofiest teams possible and cut a promo where they just scream a lot. Jado and Gedo get their own video where they force the interviewer to put on a pair of white briefs and do the TNR dance. Clipped immediately to Gedo hitting a second rope moonsault on Fuji. Fuji DDT's both opponents, then Kronus does a slow motion somersault senton on Gedo. Fuji and Kronus hit Total Elimination and Kronus hits the firebird splash, but Go Ito has the referee distracted. Soon, Jado low blow's Kronus, hits a lariat, then a brainbuster for the win (11:52). Lots of spots and fun to watch, but nothing better than a low key spotfest.
Jinsei Shinzaki vs. Yukihiro Kanemura in a Barbed Wire Baseball Bat Match
We see clips of Gannosuke powerbombing Jinsei off the ring apron and through a table. Kanemura continuously mocks him and somewhere during the angle, Hayabusa gets a fireball blown in his face, which sees Shinzaki protecting him by laying over him, as the two TNR members taunt and mock. Nice montage, with ethnic music playing in the background to make you want to weep for Shinzaki and throttle Kanemura. Kanemura dances for the crowd and gets a cold stare from Shinzaki. Go Ito then leads out a special referee, a former Japanese boxing great who's now behind bars. The corrupt referee angle. Whoopie. They go outside early, Shinzaki thrown into the rail at ringside, hurting his leg. Kanemura drags him to a table, mocks him by praying, then hits a diving body press, putting him through wood! Kanemura whacks Shinzaki in the gut with the barbed wire bat, then just throws it at him. He swings again, but makes contact with the post instead of Jinsei. Shinzaki grabs the bat, but the referee orders him to drop it. BOOO! Kanemura strikes with a blatant low blow and more bat shots, to the chest and throat. He makes the mistake of posing and is dropkicked. tumbling out. Shinzaki follows with a tope suicida, then sets a table of his own up. Both stand on it and Shinzaki hits the Praying powerbomb, putting Kanemura through wood! Shinzaki, showing just how good he can be when he wants to, returns to the ring with a springboard dropkick to Kanemura's neck. He covers, but Go Ito decks the referee. Shinzaki checks on him, which gives Kanemura time to attack from behind. He connects with a diving senton and rather than cover, grabs one of those thick wooden boards that never seem to break. Shinzaki blocks, grabs the board and delivers three shots to Kanemura's head, then a backflip kick. He takes Kanemura down with a 360 dragon screw, then locks on the Goku-Raku Gatame! This brings in Go Ito again. Shinzaki gives him a dragon screw also, which gets a good pop. He puts Go in the Goku-Raku Gatame too. Kanemura breaks up the hold and approaches the special referee, angry. The referee slaps him and Jinsei follows with a jumping high kick, then his Praying powerbomb for the win (7:50). He shakes hands with the referee. After months of torment from the TNR members, Shinzaki beats both Gannosuke and Kanemura within the space of a week or so. They did the heel/face story to perfection here and built a good match around it. It could have been longer, but they told a great story and Shinzaki was in top form. The fans actually responded too, after being lukewarm to the first three matches.
Super Leather & Horace Boulder vs. The Gladiator & Tetsuhiro Kuroda
Leather and Boulder are the unlikely TNR members, although neither lasted long. This was Horace's last match in FMW, since he had already signed with WCW. His cousin, Mike Awesome, and Kuroda are both part of Onita's ZEN team, which was nearing it's climax after some exciting stuff when it originally formed. We clip forward straight away to a big brawl, with Awesome and Leather scuffling on the top rope. Awesome tries to powerbomb Leather, but is hit with a chair by Horace. Leather hits an avalanche-style suplex, then an assisted powerbomb for consecutive near falls. Kuroda hits a Northern Lights suplex hold on Boulder for 2, then sends him back down with three lariats. Horace powerbomb's Kuroda and Awesome has to break the cover. Kuroda neatly drop toehold's Horace on the bottom turnbuckle. Both go up and Horace hits a spinebuster variation from there, winning the match with that (11:01). Awesome chases them both off. WHY have Horace pin one of the rising stars of the league when he's leaving? Just a lot of brawling, with nothing much exciting, since both TNR members were uncarryable by this stage.
Bam Bam Bigelow vs. Masato Tanaka
Bigelow does a cartwheel on the way out and is over because of his past association with New Japan. Bigelow instantly takes control, avalanching Tanaka in the corner. He misses a second and Tanaka jumps on his shoulders for an apparent Frankensteiner, but is drilled down with a big powerbomb. Tanaka fights back with a backdrop suplex, followed by a missile dropkick. He goes up again and hits a diving elbow smash, then a lariat, which sends Bigelow out. Tanaka follows with a pescado, but is caught by the powerhouse and rammed into the ring post. After some fighting outside the ring, they return to it (the ring) and Tanaka hits his patented chair dash, then a botched tornado DDT, where he loses his grip as Bigelow's head nears the canvas. Bigelow hits another powerbomb, but has trouble setting up a table. When he does, Tanaka is put on it and Bigelow lands a body press... but the table doesn't break, instead just slipping away. He scoops Tanaka up and spear's him through the table for a 2 1/2 count. Bigelow press slam's Tanaka out on to Mr. Pogo Dos, then hits a few moves, before being powerbombed from the top by Bam Bam for 2 3/4. Tanaka connects with several regular elbow smashes, followed by a running variation. He lands a rolling elbow out of nowhere, but can't get the 3 count! He hits two enzuigiris, but is caught coming off the ropes. Bigelow screws up the Greetings from Asbury Park, Tanaka's head not even touching the mat, but it gets the win (15:10). Bigelow praises Tanaka after the match. A pretty good match, with a lot of cool spots, but Bigelow wasn't as good as he could and should have been. He carried Rob Van Dam to an excellent match the same year, so was still capable and not yet the slob he is today. Tanaka was very good here and made the match what it was.
Kodo Fuyuki vs. Atsushi Onita
I covered the entire FMW vs. ZEN war in my Story of F Stage 3 review/guide. ZEN was initially formed as an invasion group, with Onita turning heel for the first time ever in the company he created. He formed a huge faction and was very dominant, but on 12/20/97, after he, Gannosuke & Kanemura lost an awesome War Games Cage Match to Hayabusa, Shinzaki & Tanaka, his two partners turned against him and attacked. Koji Nakagawa made the save, joining ZEN, and on 1/7/98, Team No Respect was finally formed when Fuyuki and Jado helped Gannosuke, Kanemura and Hido beat up ZEN members. Thus forming one of the most controversial groups in wrestling history. Guys dancing in briefs, urinating on the company president, masturbating on TV... Team No Respect! Clips of this feud are shown, with Onita's Muta spoof, The Great Nita, blowing green mist at Fuyuki. Fuyuki gains revenge by dressing as Onita (fake scars and all) and pinning Nakagawa in a tag match with Onita's Thunder Fire powerbomb finisher. Fuyuki is flanked to the ring by TNR and two nurses. Onita doesn't even use "Wild Thing", instead walking out to ZEN's music, but it's just not the same. Onita without "Wild Thing" is like The Sandman without "Enter Sandman". They start by declaring their invincibility, no-selling each others chops and stuff. Onita tries to take Kodo to the mat, but that goes nowhere and the action spills outside. Onita gets a TNR beatdown and gushes blood already. Fuyuki does his patented growling and screaming, hitting a PLANCHA! That is SO surreal, since Fuyuki is a fat man and shouldn't even be leaving his feet. Back in the ring, Fuyuki hits a Fisherman's suplex hold for 2, then a powerbomb for 2 1/2. Fuyuki lands his running lariat for a good 2 3/4 count.
Onita comes back with running headbutts, then throws Fuyuki out and hits a TOPE SUICIDA! It's All Japan junior Onita all over again! TNR and ZEN brawl, providing this awesome background to the match. Kind of like a scene in a war movie, where two focal characters battle, as thousands of others kill each other around them. Onita piledrive's Fuyuki ON TO a table because the table takes it's sweet time breaking. Fuyuki is playing a crazy bump boy today. Onita hits a Tiger Driver for 2 1/2. Both go up top, Onita suplexing Fuyuki from there. He hits a THUNDAH FIYAH POWERBOMB for 2 3/4! So both men have now kicked out of each others finishers. Fuyuki hits Onita HARD with a wooden board and hits another running lariat for 2 3/4! Onita blocks another attempt, but Fuyuki lands a backfist for another near fall. A Thunder Fire powerbomb by Fuyuki gets 2 3/4! Go Ito is back in the ring and he whacks Onita with a crutch. Fuyuki hits a very sloppy powerbomb, which could have ended Onita's life, and covers for 3 (14:32). The two factions keep brawling and Onita powerbomb's Ito. I quite dug this match. I was expecting something average, but both surprised me with good performances. They used a lot of basic moves, but placed them well to make the match interesting and full of drama. They even busted out some big moves such as Fuyuki's plancha, Onita's Tiger Driver and Onita's tope suicida. There were a lot of near falls too, which got the crowd into it. I didn't like the booking though. Onita was being buried badly here, because he no longer owned FMW and was slowly being phased out. He would leave in November on the same show that Fuyuki beat Hayabusa.
Mr. Gannosuke (c) vs. Hayabusa for the FMW Double Titles
#1 face vs. #1 heel. A classic feud between legitimate childhood friends who were trained to wrestle together. One of the most compelling storylines in wrestling history. Clips of the feud are aired, including photographs of the two as kids. Gannosuke left FMW for IWA Japan and returned in 1997, immediately confronting Hayabusa. Hayabusa won their first match (Mask vs. Hair), but there were tons of tag matches after that with different results. Gannosuke beat Tanaka for the Double Titles to set up this match. The two stare each other down to start, Shinzaki looking on from behind Hayabusa. They start with a quick mat sequence and square off. Hayabusa hits a Frankensteiner, sending Gannosuke out. He tries a pescado and lands on his feet as Gannosuke steps aside, but gets decked by a lariat. Back in, Hayabusa dropkick's Gannosuke's knee and bam... that changes everything. Gannosuke severely injures his knee, legitimately I have to add, and has to fight through the pain for the rest of the match. The creepy thing is, Hayabusa works over the leg with submission holds, so I won't try to comprehend Gannosuke's pain. Hayabusa lifts the leg, but receives an enzuigiri that switches the tide of the match. Hayabusa tries to charge, but is taken down into a wakigatame. Gannosuke works over the arm for a short time, before Hayabusa badly botches a springboard dropkick that barely makes contact. Gannosuke dodges a quebrada and hits a Michinoku Driver II, but sells the leg injury, as a result not getting the execution he would have liked.
Gannosuke mocks long-time nemesis Shinzaki by hitting a Praying powerbomb, but a second attempt at one is countered by another Hayabusa Frankensteiner. A typically gorgeous tope con hilo follows, as Hayabusa throws himself out at Gannosuke. He returns to the ring with a springboard legdrop for 2. Gannosuke pulls his Gannosuke clutch out of nowhere for 2 3/4! Hayabusa moves into his famous sequence of moves, starting with the firebird splash and following with a Falcon Arrow, but can only get 2 1/2 for each cover. Gannosuke catches him coming off the top and decimates him with a release German suplex. He goes for his Fire Thunder driver and hits it, but again doesn't get proper execution because of the leg injury. Gannosuke loses control when Hayabusa hits a Tiger suplex hold for 2 3/4 and then hits a NECK-BREAKING Falcon Arrow for another 2 3/4 count! Hayabusa springboard's, but jumps right into a closed fist. Gannosuke hits a (nise Thunder Fire) powerbomb for 2 3/4 and a Northern Lights suplex hold for a similar result. Hayabusa lands a high kick, then hits a killer release Dragon suplex. Finally, he comes off the top with the AMAZING Phoenix splash for the win and titles (21:45). Amazing, yes. Gannosuke solidified himself as a world class wrestler here by battling through an injury that would keep him out of wrestling for something like 6 months after this match. The selling was great, because Gannosuke HAD to sell the leg injury, because he WAS in agony. Hayabusa's highspots were dazzling as always and Gannosuke's craftsmanship made them look better and very important. They fought almost one year exactly before this and Hayabusa smoked Gannosuke as a worker. By this point though, Gannosuke had improved so much and passed his buddy. Gannosuke's injury lost him the #1 heel slot and leadership of TNR (to Fuyuki, who has been the top heel ever since). A worthy main event between two excellent wrestlers and undoubtedly the best match on the show.
Overall, FMW's first PPV was a good show, with one outstanding match and several in the decent to good range. There was a lot of junk underneath, but there was too much good stuff to let it ruin the show. The Americanized storylines from 10/97 to around this time were good, booked by Go Ito, because they weren't outright goofy and were logical. This had been the best era since the FMW vs. W*ING stuff from 1995 and 1996. The quality of FMW's product soon started to slip though, keeping a good main event standard, but getting even worse on the undercard, and the "spirit" of the company seeming to slip away. The storylines here made more sense than the current ones do. The current ones are booked by the giddy Fuyuki, who tries to emulate some of the WWF's worst stuff (transvestites, dead guys) and that, to me, hurts the product even when the matches are good. This is one of FMW's best PPVs and worth checking out.
For more of Stuart's thoughts and opinions on puroresu, visit www.puroresufan.com