WRESTLE-1 “2nd Anniversary”
A Review by Kevin Wilson

Date: September 21st, 2015
Location: Tokyo Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 1,402

To the surprise of many, including possibly myself, WRESTLE-1 has lasted as a mostly touring company for two years! Sure they have no money and are losing some of their bigger stars but they are still alive and putting on wrestling shows. This is a special one, as Tenryu pops in as he continues his retirement tour, as he stands across the ring from the Great Muta for the first time since 2007. There is also a WRESTLE-1 Championship match as well!  Here is the full card:

- MAZADA and Koji Doi vs. Ryota Hama and Shota
- Hiroki Murase and Shotaro Ashino vs. Kaz Hayashi and Shuji Kondo
- AKIRA, Jun Kasai, and Kumagoro vs. Yasufumi Nakanoue, Seiki Yoshioka, and Jiro Kuroshio
- Minoru Tanaka and Hiroshi Yamato vs. TAJIRI and Andy Wu
- Genichiro Tenryu, Shiro Koshinaka, and Masayuki Kono vs. Great Muta, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, and NOSAWA Rongai
- WRESTLE-1 Championship: KAI vs. Manabu Soya

My first W-1 event in a while, should be exciting.

MAZADA and Koji Doi vs. Ryota Hama and Shota

This is a pretty standard opening match for W-1, except that Hama isn’t usually this low on the card. Doi started with Smash/WNC and came over to W-1 when WNC closed up shop in 2014. MAZADA is a life-long freelancing midcard tag wrestler, and Shota mostly wrestles in Guts World as one of their leading wrestlers.  Hama is the only wrestler here that has had much success in W-1, otherwise it doesn’t look like anything special on paper.

Shota and MAZADA start off and trade elbows, dropkick by Shota but Doi runs in and drops him with a backdrop suplex. Hama waddles in and shoulderblocks Doi out of the ring before hitting a leg drop on MAZADA. Doi helps MAZADA regain the advantage and MAZADA rakes Shota in the face. Doi is tagged in as legal and scoop slams Shota for a two count. Doi tags MAZADA back in as they take turns on Shota, Shota hits a jawbreaker on Doi  and then an enzuigiri, giving him time to tag in Hama. Hama squishes people as he does and hits a DDT on MAZADA before tagging Shota back in. Hama stays in the ring, both Doi and MAZADA are thrown in the corner and Hama hits a body avalanche. Shota goes up top and hits a diving elbow drop on Doi, but Doi kicks out. Hama goes after MAZADA while in the ring Doi catches Shota’s superkick and hits a lariat. Pedigree by Doi, and he picks up the three count! MAZADA and Doi win the match.

I think that Doi has some potential, maybe not as more than a tag champion since he isn’t very big but he seems to have some of the intangibles. He is almost like a mini-Hino. But this wasn’t a good match, when a match is only six minutes long you really don’t need the slow motion meandering beatdown section. Hama did fine at what he does but he wasn’t much of the focus since he out-ranks the other wrestlers in the match quite a bit. Very skippable.

Hiroki Murase and Shotaro Ashino vs. Kaz Hayashi and Shuji Kondo

This is a bit of a mismatch, to put it mildly. On one side you have two seasoned veterans multi-time champions in promotions ranging from All Japan to NOAH and every promotion between. On the other side are two young wrestlers with no titles nor any notable success.  Murase started with WNC and switched over to W-1 last year when WNC ceased operating, while Ashino just debuted this year in W-1. Ashino and Murase will try to hang with the more accomplished and probably grumpy veterans, we’ll see how that goes.

Murase and Hayashi start the match but Murase refuses to engage and plays with the crowd before tagging in Ashino. Off to a solid start. Kondo comes in too but Murase tags back in, Hayashi also tags in and he chases down Murase. Hayashi and Kondo throw their opponents out of the ring and they brawl at ringside. Hayashi and Ashino return after a big and Hayashi puts Ashino in a crab hold which is broken up by Murase. Murase throws Hayashi out of the ring and goes out after him, stomping Hayashi against the mat. Kondo runs over to help but Ashino grabs him and puts Kondo in a sleeper. Murase goes back to Hayashi and throws him into the crowd as they battle into the bleachers. Ashino comes over with a chair to help and he throws Hayashi back in the ring, stomps by Ashino and Murase comes in so they can stomp Hayashi together. Kondo comes roaring in the ring and tackles Ashino, he elbows both but is eventually tosses back to the floor. Double vertical suplex to Hayashi but Kondo jumps back in to even the odds. Handspring kick by Hayashi to Murase and he hits a tope con giro down to the floor. All four brawl around the ring again and Hayashi is double teamed up on the stage.  Murase gets a laptop and hits Hayashi in the head with it, they then sit Kondo in a chair and Ashino delivers a running kick to the head.  Ashino and Murase both return to the ring, the referee finally starts an official count, and he counts out Hayashi! Murase and Ashino win the match by Countout.

Going in I didn’t know the backstory, so they did a good job of conveying that the young guys really don’t like the old guys. It felt like a feud from the start and not just a random undercard match, which is always a plus, and they kept the basic story going from bell to bell. This might be better if you care about the wrestlers but even for a relative outsider to W-1 such as myself they showed a lot of fire, and the laptop attack was a memorable spot. About all you can hope for from a short undercard tag match. Mildly Recommended

AKIRA, Jun Kasai, and Kumagoro vs. Yasufumi Nakanoue, Seiki Yoshioka, and Jiro Kuroshio

No need to think too hard for the reason behind these pairings. Kasai joined W-1 in the summer (he still officially represents Freedoms) and is part of a group called New Wild Order with AKIRA and Kumagoro.  The Nakanoue team is called “Jackets” because well Kuroshio wears a jacket. I know, that is deep. So this is six man faction war in essence, for whatever it matters I don’t think the “Jackets” name came until later but it’s the same team so we are rolling with that.

AKIRA and Nakanoue begin as the legal men, AKIRA still has some moves and quickness at his age, probably helped he has been a part-time wrestler for so long. Keeps the body fresh. AKIRA dropkicks Nakanoue and they trade armdrags, with neither getting an advantage. Kuroshio and Kumagoro are next, shoulderblock and chop blocks by Kumagoro but Kuroshio keeps kipping up. Kasai and Yoshioka are the final two to face off, Kasai drops Yoshioka on the apron and then pushes him out of the ring. This leads to a six man brawl outside of the ring as they all pair up, Kasai and Yoshioka return to the ring and Kasai spits water at him. Piledriver by Kasai and he covers Yoshioka for a two count. Kasai tags AKIRA, scoop slam by AKIRA and he starts working on Yoshioka’s leg. Kumagoro is tagged in next as they take turns on Yoshioka until Yoshioka hits a jumping heel kick on AKIRA. He tries to tag out but Kumagoro cuts him off, Yoshioka gets away however and makes the hot tag to Nakanoue.  Nakanoue clears the ring and puts AKIRA in a crab hold, Kasai comes in but Nakanoue knocks him to the mat and applies a single leg crab hold to both. Kumagoro runs in but Kuroshio superkicks him and puts him in a stretch hold. Both Kasai and AKIRA make it to the ropes, AKIRA hits Nakanoue with a jumping lariat and tags in Kumagoro. Kumagoro picks up Nakanoue and hits a Samoan Drop followed by a senton, picking up a two count. Nakanoue snaps off a DDT and makes the tag to Kuroshio, strike combination by Kuroshio to Kumagoro and he hits a big kick in the corner. Kuroshio goes up top but Kumagoro avoids the missile dropkick. Kasai and AKIRA both run in and Kuroshio is triple teamed in the corner, AKIRA goes up top and he nails the body press. Kasai then goes to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving press of his own, Kumagoro goes up top next but Nakanoue and Yoshioka run in and clear the ring. Yoshioka joins Kumagoro and hits a Frankensteiner, diving elbow drop by Nakanoue and Kuroshio finishes him with a stiff superkick. Cover, but the pin is barely broken up. Jackets all dropkick their opponents in unison, Kuroshio slams Kumagoro to the mat and he nails a moonsault for the three count!  Jackets wins the match.

There wasn’t much to this one. I enjoy seeing AKIRA still wrestle like he is 20 years old, it doesn’t seem like he has missed a step even after a career that spans 30 years. But beyond that it was your normal six man tag match, a few beat downs, then a few triple teams, then it ended with nothing to set it apart from any other of these matches you’ll see. Not bad wrestlers, just nothing special about it.

Minoru Tanaka and Hiroshi Yamato vs. TAJIRI and Andy Wu

There is some method to the madness for these two teams. Tanaka is the current WRESTLE-1 Cruiserweight Champion, and Wu challenges him for the title in two days. TAJIRI and Wu didn’t start teaming until this tour so they are a bit thrown together, and Tanaka didn’t start teaming with Yamato until this tour either. So really it is about Tanaka vs. Wu, with the other two thrown in to make it a tag match.

To prove my point, Tanaka and Wu are the first two in the match, they trade wristlocks to start but neither can get the upperhand. Irish whip by Tanaka but Wu hits a hurricanrana before dropkicking Tanaka out of the ring. Wu charges the side ropes but Tanaka quickly slides in before Wu can dive out. Wu dropkicks Tanaka from behind as he goes to tag in Yamato, which pisses him off but he already made the tag so Yamato stays in. Wu tags in TAJIRI, Yamato and TAJIRI go back and forth until Yamato hits a weird back splash for a two count. Yamato goes off the ropes but TAJIRI avoids the springboard attack and hangs Yamato over the corner by this legs. Back in the ring TAJIRI covers Yamato for two, and he tags in Wu. Wu suplexes Yamato but Yamato gets away and tags in Tanaka. Elbows by Wu to Tanaka but Tanaka plants him with a dropkick. Tanaka throws Wu out to the apron but Wu jumps back in and hits a tornado DDT for a two count. Wu goes up top but Tanaka punches him and joins him. Tanaka gets down, Wu goes for a crossbody but Tanaka dropkicks him on the way down. Avalanche fisherman buster by Tanaka, but Wu barely kicks out. Wu sneaks in a schoolboy for two, he rolls up Tanaka again but it gets the same result. Back up, elbows by Tanaka but Wu hits a jumping kick. Tanaka hits a jumping kick of his own, and both men end up down on the mat. They both crawl to their corners and tag out, and TAJIRI hits a handspring elbow on Yamato. Yamato comes back with a springboard back splash, he gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a diving back splash but it only gets two. Tanaka comes in and kicks TAJIRI in the head, missile dropkick by Yamato and he hits the Northern Lights Suplex for two. Yamato holds TAJIRI but Wu runs in and slams Tanaka to the mat. Wu goes up top and hits a diving kick onto Yamato, he then runs to the corner and dives out onto Tanaka. Small package by TAJIRI to Yamato and he gets the three count! TAJIRI and Wu win the match.

This had some bright spots here and there but generally wasn’t necessary. The parts with Tanaka and Wu were solid, they have good chemistry and they were both really smooth.  Yamato’s back-based offense I still find bizarre as hell and TAJIRI didn’t do a lot here of note outside of his usual few spots. Not a bad match but certainly nothing special, even though I have faith the Tanaka vs. Wu title match will be quality.

Genichiro Tenryu, Shiro Koshinaka, and Masayuki Kono vs. Great Muta, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, and NOSAWA Rongai

The only thing that matters here is Tenryu vs. Muta, the rest is just filler since a singles match between them would probably be a bit uneventful.  In their long careers, Muta and Tenryu have only faced off four times previously, twice in singles matches and twice in six man tags. Muta got the best of Tenryu the last two times however so Tenryu is looking for a bit of revenge here. The match time of this one I saw and it made me dread it a little bit but hopefully the younger (relatively) wrestlers control the action while the legends come in for their crowd-pleasing spots.

The legends start off the match and begin rather pleasantly, with tie-ups and basic limb work. It is not fast paced action as you can probably imagine as Tenryu gets Muta to the mat first, but Muta gets to the ropes. Muta bails out of the ring, he takes out a table but then stops to scare a kid. Tenryu throws at water bottle at him from inside the ring to get him to leave the kid alone, Muta goes back under the ring and gets a broom. The referee takes it from him so Muta returns to the ring without it and tags in Nosawa. Tenryu tags in Koshinaka but SAKAMOTO runs in too and everyone except Tenryu and Muta brawl on the floor. Nosawa gets on the apron but Tenryu gives him a Guh Punch and Koshinaka attacks him some more on the floor. Koshinaka gets back in the ring with Nosawa and he hits a hip attack, he throws Nosawa in the corner and tags in Kono. Tenryu comes in also and chops Nosawa, punches by Tenryu and with Koshinaka they hit a shoulderblock. Nosawa finally manages to tag in SAKAMOTO, SAKAMOTO punches and chops Tenryu into the corner but Tenryu punches him to the mat. SAKAMOTO quickly tags in Muta, stomps by Muta in the corner and he bites Tenryu in the head. Flashing Elbow by Muta and he covers Tenryu for two. Muta puts Tenryu in a keylock, but he releases the hold and tags Nosawa. Tenryu rolls out of the ring but Nosawa goes after him and hits Tenryu with a chair. Back in the ring, chops by Nosawa but Tenryu absorbs the blows and chops Nosawa to the mat. Nosawa tags in Muta and everyone attacks Tenryu in the corner. Kono comes in and dropkicks both Nosawa and SAKAMOTO, but Muta drops him with a dragon screw.

Koshinaka eats a dragon screw as well, he nails Tenryu with a Shining Wizard but Tenryu gets a hand on the ropes. Tenryu tags SAKAMOTO, chops by SAKAMOTO but Tenryu chops him back and tags in Kono. Kono hits a jumping knee on SAKAMOTO then another one in the corner, backdrop suplex by Kono and he covers SAKAMOTO for a two count. Kono goes for a chokeslam but SAKAMOTO blocks it, chokebomb by Kono but it also gets two. Kono goes off the ropes but SAKAMOTO connects with a superkick and tags Nosawa. Kono lariats both of them and tags in Koshinaka, and Koshinaka hits a hip attack on everyone he can find. Hip attack off the apron by Koshinaka onto SAKAMOTO, he gets on the top turnbuckle but Muta throws a chair at him to knock him off. Muta gets in the ring with the chair and hits Kono with it, Kono takes away the chair but Muta blows red mist in his face. Tenryu comes in the ring and punches Nosawa, Muta tries to mist Tenryu but Tenryu puts his lips against Muta’s, takes the mist out of his mouth and spits it at Muta! Yes I typed that right. Muta retorts with a Shining Wizard, Nosawa tries to lariat Koshinaka but he hits SAKAMOTO by accident. Hip attack by Koshinaka to Nosawa, he then gets up top and hits a diving hip attack on Nosawa for the three count! Tenryu, Koshinaka, and Kono are your winners.

So this match, as I mentioned, was really just about Muta and Tenryu and in that way it delivered even though the match was too long. The spot with Tenryu literally taking the mist out of Muta’s mouth with his own mouth was crazy, I’ve been watching wrestling for 25 years and I’ve never seen anything like it. So in terms of doing something memorable, they certainly nailed it as Tenryu and Muta’s interactions were all choice. It didn’t need the other wrestlers and it didn’t need to be so long, but it was special in its own unique way. Mildly Recommended

© KAI vs. Manabu Soya

This match is for the WRESTLE-1 Championship. It had a pretty good build-up as in August, WRESTLE-1 had their Grand Prix, which is a single elimination tournament. The winner of the tournament got a shot at the title, and on August 30th it was Soya that defeated Kondo to win that shot.  KAI recently won the WRESTLE-1 Championship, defeating his nemesis Hideki Suzuki on July 12th. This is his first title challenge, will he be able to overcome his first hurdle?

They feel each other out to start before they start trading elbows, they go back to the tie-up and KAI elbows Soya against the ropes. Soya snaps off a backdrop suplex, KAI falls out of the ring but he rolls back in before Soya can dive out and dropkicks the big man in the knee. KAI dropkicks Soya out of the ring and then sails out onto him with a tope suicida. Back in the ring, KAI kicks Soya in the leg and he applies a single leg crab hold, but Soya makes it to the ropes. KAI trips Soya and applies a submission hold but Soya gets to the ropes again, they both return to their feet but KAI promptly gets Soya on the mat again. KAI gets on the second turnbuckle and hits a splash plancha onto Soya’s legs, and Soya rolls out of the ring. He returns after a moment, more leg kicks by KAI and he twists Soya’s leg in the second rope. KAI goes for a suplex but Soya blocks it, Soya goes for his own suplex but KAI lands on his feet and applies a sleeper. KAI switches it to a grounded necklock but Soya returns to his feet and suplexes KAI to get out of the move. Lariat by Soya in the corner and he follows it with a bulldog and a neckbreaker for a two count cover. Soya picks up KAI but KAI kicks him in the leg, Soya picks up KAI but KAI slides away and dropkicks Soya into the corner. Jumping kick by KAI and he dropkicks Soya in the knee, he runs to the corner but Soya jumps up and hits a lariat.

Soya puts KAI on the top turnbuckle and joins him, but KAI pushes him off. Soya clubs KAI in the leg and headbutts him while he is still on the second turnbuckle, Soya grabs KAI and he drops him with a package Piledriver. Vertical suplex by Soya, and he covers KAI for a two count. Soya picks up KAI and hits a death valley bomb, but that gets a two as well. Soya goes up top but KAI kicks him in the head as he jumps off. KAI goes off the ropes and hits a springboard kick, lariat by KAI and he covers Soya for two. KAI picks up Soya and goes for a lariat, but Soya back bodydrops out of it. KAI delivers a series of kicks, he picks up Soya and plants him with a powerbomb for a two count. KAI goes up top but Soya gets his knees up when KAI jumps off. Both wrestlers slowly get up, boots by KAI but Soya levels him with a lariat. KAI quickly comes back with a superkick, and both wrestlers are on the mat again. KAI is up first and hits a series of superkicks, elbows by KAI but Soya elbows him back. Punch by KAI but Soya blocks the jumping kick, he goes off the ropes but KAI punches him in the face again. Soya slowly gets back up but he eats a superkick for his trouble, cover by KAI but it get  two. KAI picks up Soya and hits another folding powerbomb, but it gets a two as well. KAI goes off the ropes but Soya hits a hard lariat, another one by Soya but KAI barely gets a shoulder up.  Lariat to the back of the head by Soya, he runs to the front and nails the Wild Bomber, picking up the three count pinfall!  Soya is your new champion!

First, just a note on the booking.  The booking for the W-1 Championship has been really bizarre for all of 2015. KAI gets the big win over Keiji Mutoh to win the title, which seems to cement him as the ace of W-1. Then he loses in humiliating fashion to Hideki Suzuki a few months later. He avenges that loss and beats Suzuki, but then he loses it again in his first defense against Soya. I have no idea what they are doing with KAI, personally I like Soya better so I am not really complaining but he is pretty dead in the water at this point.

As for the match, the idea was good and I liked the theory, but it was a bit dull and the leg work meant nothing. I know I just said I liked Soya but in this match, he totally blew off the leg work that KAI spent half the match on, and KAI blew it off too as the last five minutes or so they went into trading power moves. Honestly if they just hadn’t done the leg work I’d have been happier as I liked the beginning and the ending stretch, but the whole middle ended up being pointless. Plus the leg work wasn’t even particularly exciting leg work anyway. So there were parts I enjoyed, and the ending was entertaining, but as a package deal I thought it was a bit lacking. Mildly Recommended

Final Thoughts:

This was an interesting show. It was basically a two match event, as while a few of the tag matches had some fun interactions there was nothing to get excited about.  The Muta/Tenryu interactions I enjoyed, I just wish it wasn’t stuck in such a long match that otherwise was a bit dull. Then there was the main event, which on paper was well laid out but had poor execution, even though I did think the ending stretch was entertaining. Overall this isn’t a show I can give much of a recommendation to, the novelty of seeing Tenryu and Muta face off one last time is the main appeal here with the rest ranging from filler to matches not fully living up to expectations.

Grade: C

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event reviewed on 10/19/15