review by Jason Manning
Date: March 2nd, 2003
Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan
This was ZERO-ONE’s third anniversary show, aired live on PPV on March 2nd, 2003. Hashimoto always goes all out for his big shows, and this was no exception. Loads of notable matches here. A trio of three ZERO-ONE juniors faces a trio of three All Japan juniors in a fun-looking 6-man tag match. Daisuke Ikeda and Takashi Sugiura from NOAH come to ZERO-ONE to face Masato Tanaka and Kohei Sato. Yoshihiro Takayama also makes a special appearance, teaming with Hirotaka Yokoi against the Predator and Jimmy Snuka Jr. And in a Z1 vs. AJ main event, Hashimoto and Otani face Muto and Arashi.
The ZERO-ONE “music video” plays before the show starts and IT RULES. If anyone has this song, GET IT TO ME. All the wrestlers come out to start the show while the song plays. That American guy with the cool voice then runs down the card. ZERO-ONE has the best production ever.
One “dark match” was run before the festivities, and that was Kuroge Wagyuta defeating Fugofugo Yumeji (5:51) with a lariat. Sounds like a fine match with Wagyuta proving that he’s really surpassed his partner (he joined Emblem on the previous tour) by beating him quickly.
Ikuto Hidaka vs. Pentagon
This was an OK little match, especially for the opener. Pentagon’s fine enough and Hidaka is, well, Hidaka. They put together some fine sequences and hit some nice spots, the highlight being Hidaka’s awesome pescado into a hurricanrana. There was a little sloppiness, but not enough to drag the match down. At times this almost seemed like Hidaka by the numbers, but even Hidaka by the numbers can rock. Hidaka hit the Shawn Capture basically out of nowhere to get the win ( 7:51 ). Yep, this was alright.
Don Arakawa & Jun Kasai vs. Shinsuke Z Yamagasa & Fuyuki Takahashi
It looks like Kasai’s going all out with the monkey gimmick in Z1, as Arakawa carries him out by his tail and he runs away, but Arakawa uses some bananas to lure him back. This was a comedy match more than anything, and was fine for what it was. Arakawa’s more entertaining than say, the NOAH guys, as he can at least move. Kasai and the rookies did manage to work in some OK exchanges at times as well. Arakawa hinted a tope later on and actually freaking jumped, only to land on his nuts in the middle of the ropes. Kasai hit Yamagasa with an enzuigiri for the win ( 10:44 ).
Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Vansack Acid vs. Low Ki & Paul London
This was pretty darn good. Three of the four I’ve never seen, and then of course there’s Tatsuhito Takaiwa, who rocks you. This was worked really well and was consistently enjoyable from start to finish. Ki and Takaiwa had a nice little exchange early on, and then everyone went into a really nice chain-of-spots sequence that saw Takaiwa bust out a pescado, Ki hit him with a handspring face kick, Acid hit Ki with a somersault attack from the apron, and then London bust out an awesome SSP from the apron. After that, Ki and London wore down Acid, and they did a fine job of it, always keeping things interesting. Their offense was a bit spotty at times, though. Takaiwa was eventually tagged in and had a fun sequence with Ki where Ki kept countering Takaiwa’s big move (DVB and powerbomb) attempts with the Dragon clutch. Things eventually nicely transitioned into the closing sequence, which rocked pretty hard and deserved more heat than it got. London tried some cradles on Takaiwa for some nice near falls, but ran into a lariat for another nice near fall (saved by Ki). London got to bust out his awesome SSP on Takaiwa with some help from Ki, but Acid made the save for another nice near fall. After some good back-and-forth stuff between Takaiwa and London, Takaiwa GREATLY (and easily) countered a ‘rana with the endless powerbombs into a DVB (such a great move) for the win ( 15:22 ). Really fun little match that smoothly rolled along with a lot of good action. Takaiwa wasn’t in much, but when he was he was awesome as always. Ki was also fine, although his extended offense was mostly “hit a move, wait, hit a move, wait, hit a move, etc..” London and Acid were mostly on defense and sold well enough, but managed to impress with the brief offense they did get, both showing good atheism and hitting some nice spots. Things built towards the finish well and got really great then with Takaiwa being the ring general. Overall, a fine, fine tag.
The All Japan juniors cut a promo backstage. Hijikata’s wearing a Machine mask. Kashin pushes Kaz and Hijikata away and walks, setting up the “story” for the next match.
Naohiro Hoshikawa, Ogasawara & Yoshihito Sasaki vs. Kendo Kashin, Kaz Hayashi & Hijikata
This was pretty disappointing actually. It just seemed like your everyday undercard match, which is fine in theory (since this IS on the undercard), but this is All Japan vs. ZERO-ONE and there was just no real interpromotional hatred going on. Hoshikawa vs. Kaz and Hoshikawa vs. Hijikata, sequences I *CRAVED*, left a lot to be desired. This was just kind of “eh” for 16 minutes before they decided to call it a day. No direction, no nothing. None of the guys in the match really worked hard either. Hosh just didn’t seem to care, Ogasawara just kicked (he did have some fun kick flurries, though), Sasaki was pretty fun and the highlight of the match (but he of course was hardly in), Kashin was barely involved and when he was, he was crappy, just playing the “problem child” and being lazy overall, Kaz seems to have really regressed, and Hijikata, while full of energy at times, did a lot of weird no-selling. Blah. This was decent at best, but it’s hard not to think how much better it could’ve been. The finish came when Kaz spiked Sasaki with the WA4, but Kashin pulled him away at 2. Kashin then tagged himself in and after a brief tease of Sasaki taking over on offense, Kashin slapped on a cross armbreaker for the win ( 15:46 ). Nothing more than a solid undercard match, but look at who’s involved. This could’ve been world’s better.
Tengu Kaiser vs. Akio Kobayashi
Kaiser is the awesome Kamikaze, who many hardcore fans may be familiar with. However, this was awful. Just a squash basically, but really boring, even if it did last only 5 minutes. Akio got in some kicks and palm strikes, but even doing that he looked bad and slow, and seemed blown up just a few minutes in. Kamikaze seemed really uncomfortable with the mask on, most notably tripping on a springboard spot. He comes across to me as a poor man’s Hayabusa (he even looks like Hayabusa). Kaiser delivered his Tengu Tornado (corkscrew moonsault) for the win ( 4:45 ). A total waste of time. Hopefully Kamikaze can get used to the mask.
Masato Tanaka & Kohei Sato vs. Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura
Ikeda brings the big sword and cape to Z1~! This was pretty fun, although I was expecting a bit more from Masato fucking Tanaka, Daisuke fucking Ikeda and two really capable rookies. The match was fine, but there really wasn’t much to it, just simply going from start to finish with no real problems in between, but nothing beyond your everyday match really. There was some nice hatred going on, and Ikeda really took it to young Sato at times. Tanaka vs. Ikeda was a lot of fun when it happened, although they never really got to go at it, as there was a lot of double teaming here. Sato and Sugiura were also pretty fun as they brought the ROOKIE HATE~! to each other. The finish was pretty great and the high point of the match, with Ikeda and Sugiura beating on Tanaka, but Tanaka refusing to go down (or Sato refusing to let him go down). However, Tanaka made a simple comeback with a rolling elbow on Sugiura, which got the win ( 13:06 ). Sugiura jumps up post-match and acts as if it was a shock. Pretty good match, but it was a bit lacking.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Wataru Sakata & Katsuhisa Fujii vs. Matt Ghaffari, Steve Corino & King Adamo
GAH, this was fucking awful. Is it a comedy match? Or are you actually supposed to take the gaijin seriously? And why are Sakata and Fujii’s personas even near this type of thing? And why the fuck did I have to see Fujiwara sell a stink face? Ghaffari dropped his Ghaffari press on Sakata for the 3 count ( 11:20 ). See, the big problem I have with a guy like Ghaffari is that he’s supposedly the gaijin ace for ZERO-ONE, holds the tag titles, had a tour named after him and gets in all the offense on his opponents (one of which is supposedly the top junior in the promotion and even he’s bumping around for him), but HOW CAN YOU TAKE HIM SERIOUSLY? If he was doing comedy matches with Arakawa and the rookies were bumping around for him, cool. However, as he is now, he’s just some fat guy getting an undeserved push and he needs to get off my TV. Now.
Yoshihiro Takayama & Hirotaka Yokoi vs. The Predator & Jimmy Snuka Jr.
YES, TAKAYAMA~! The big point of this was to see Takayama vs. Predator, and the crowd was PSYCHED for it at the start, but when they actually started wrestling, the crowd totally died. Beyond his fun entrance, Predator really doesn’t have that “Bruiser Brody” appeal and just doesn’t do too much for me in the ring. Takayama wasn’t really in any mood to take this above decent, though. Everything in between Takayama vs. Predator wasn’t really a step up either. There really wasn’t much to the match, really. It was either Takayama beating up Snuka, Predator beating up Yokoi, Yokoi and Snuka going back-and-forth (which wasn’t much), and the aforementioned Takayama vs. Predator stuff. Just one of those matches that’s completely watchable, but isn’t much overall. The real problem is that the whole story surrounding the match was Takayama vs. Predator, but their sequences were basically just them lumbering around. Yokoi wrapped Predator’s own chain around him for the finish, and Takayama basically killed Snuka for a bit with knees before delivering THE GERMAN for the win ( 13:59 ). Pretty decent undercard attraction (this isn’t the undercard, but it’s the best way I can describe the match). Everyone brawled afterwards for a while.
Naoya Ogawa vs. Tom Howard
This was a really weak semi-main. It was a little awkward at the start and they just kind of went back-and-forth, making it clear that they didn’t like each other. However, like in the last match, while the crowd was originally into the heat between them, they died when they actually had to watch them wrestle. Ogawa and Howard just don’t do much for me, and the first half of this was pretty boring. Howard eventually started controlling the offense and worked the leg a bit, which was a small step up. Ogawa sold for Howard, but didn’t put over the leg pain at all, and it was forgotten after a few minutes. Ogawa eventually just started no-selling and made his comeback. He gave Howard an STO and Howard got up, so Ogawa kept delivering them and Howard kept getting up. After *SIX* STO’s, Howard’s gaijin friends threw in the towel ( 12:32 ). Crappy match, and that finish was already done in 2001 when Ogawa beat Fujiwara.
Shinya Hashimoto & Shinjiro Otani vs. Keiji Muto & Arashi
ZERO-ONE vs. All Japan closes out the show. Hashimoto just beat Muto for the Triple Crown and Arashi’s going to soon be challenging Hash for the Triple Crown, so you’ve got a little story beyond the interpromotional hatred. Anyways, this was pretty freaking great. The real gem overall was the build of the match. It was just awesome and didn’t get everyone (Muto and Arashi especially) tired or goofy early on. There were some fine “feeling out” sequences early on, with all the possible pairings going at it. Otani vs. Arashi was the best I’d say, and Arashi got the most heat he’s ever gotten and looked really fired up (he remained stoic the whole time too, which rules). He just put a lot of force behind his moves and was really fun to watch. The first half was a bit dreary at times, but it all built up well and there were still some fun bursts to keep it interesting. There were also some mini-stories to go along with the festivities, including Otani and Arashi having a little animosity between them, the AJ guys working over Otani’s leg for a bit (and Otani selling it greatly while they did it), and then Otani almost trying to prove himself as Hash’s second (there were some cool shots of Hash looking almost pleased on the apron whenever Otani took it to the AJ guys). Around 15 minutes in things really began picking up, and the finish was great with a lot of good action and some good near falls. The end eventually came with an AWESOME spot, where Hash got Arashi in a triangle choke hold and Otani put Muto in a Cobra hold. Muto desperately tried to get out and save Arashi (the holds were done RIGHT next to each other), but Otani refused, wanting to prove himself. Muto even brushed Arashi at times, but Otani kept the hold on, and Arashi eventually had to tap ( 23:00 ). Really good match, way better than I thought it’d be. Otani was Otani and was definitely the best, just ruling it and doing all these little things to make the match so great. Arashi also really impressed me and actually looked the best I’ve ever seen him. Hashimoto was pretty good while Muto didn’t look too good, and has regressed so much, but he didn’t actively drag the match down or anything. He just didn’t make it anything special. But, the other three were there to do that. The build was also really awesome, starting off slow and then smoothly transitioning into the big stuff, with some fun bursts even when things did slow down. A great way to end the show, with four guys putting together a great match.
Post-match, Otani attacked Hashimoto. Satoshi Kojima then attacked Otani and EVERYONE ran-in. HASHIMOTO! OTANI! KOJIMA! PREDATOR! TAKAYAMA! OGAWA! GH..A...FFA...RR...I..! THESE BRAWLS ARE SO FREAKING GREAT. So many people are in the ring and they all hate each other. Hashimoto vs. Otani? I’M THERE. Hashimoto vs. Takayama? I’M THERE. Takayama vs. Ogawa? Uh, SURE. I’M FUCKING THERE. Too bad none of these matches ever come together. But the thought is there.
Final Analysis: ZERO-ONE always brings THE VARIETY and I love them for it. Despite a couple weak spots, this was a really fun show overall. Even the weaker matches had some sort of point to them and there was at least SOMETHING positive about them (except for the 6-man; the Kaiser match was at least short). The best matches were definitely the Takaiwa tag, the Z1 vs. NOAH tag, and the awesome main event. This is Recommended.
Back to ZERO1 Event Reviews