WEEKLY PRO WRESTLING “BRIDGE OF DREAMS”:
* Welcome to Part Two! This is the part of the massive interpromotional show that sees Michinoku-Pro and All Japan put on their best stuff in 6-Man Tags, and then New Japan putting on… that match. The story goes that they were gonna put on a throwaway bout until everyone else brought their A-game matches, so they had to scramble and put their top stars in a bout to be a proper “Main Event”. But… oof. They also hit the YouTube video with an immediate copywrite claim over the Main Event, so it’s missing from the show above, but I managed to finagle an MP4.
“TL;DR- What’s the Deal?”: 4-5 all-time classic matches, the women showing up nearly everybody, worked shoots, bloodbaths, spotfests, comedy- something for everybody. Two more ****+ matches to go!
TAKA MICHINOKU, GRAN NANIWA & SUPER DELFIN (w/ Sakie Hasegawa) vs. THE GREAT SASUKE, SHIRYU & SATO:
* Michinoku Pro Wrestling is a regional promotion in Northern Japan, mostly famous to Westerners for Kaientai, who got big here and came to the WWF. Their style is famously fast-paced and full of insane double-teams, but also has a ton of comedy and goofy posing. It was created by Great Sasuke as a showcase for his type of wrestler.
The Wrestlers: Sasuke was a big, big deal, and the top star of his own promotion, known for an insane, death-defying style (one reviewer always screamed “DIE FOR US, SASUKE!”) combining martial arts, lucha and puro. Shiryu (skinny, in blue with a mask) & SATO (fat, red Oni mask, shirtless) are a baby Kaz Hayashi & Dick Togo, respectively. Both were good hands and mid-tier stars in these promotions. Taka Michinoku is the second-biggest star of M-Pro and of course had a weak WWF run, where he was the highest-flyer in a company that didn’t do much flying, and by the time better workers arrived he was a comedy jobber. Naniwa is a goofy guy with a mustard-yellow crab outfit, inspired by Osaka’s love of crabs and goofy comedy. Super Delfin is much the same- he’s got a dolphin mask, and was a Journeyman until forming the comedy promotion Osaka Pro from 1998-2008. They’re accompanied by Sakie “Blizzard Yuki” Hasegawa in a Delfin outfit. Hilariously, M-Pro guys are so tiny that the 5’7″ Sakie is the same size as everyone here, and would have easily fit into the match.
They really take their time to start, milking a lot of moments- Taka is a great shitass, digging in his moves. Lots of kicks, flips (even from Togo!) and lucha-style things to impress the crowd, and Taka lands a SWEET overhead belly-to-belly/springboard knee smash combo on Sasuke, but eats a roundhouse kick. Shiryu’s acrobatics impress, too. I like the pacing- they let their flashy spots “breathe” by doing a comedy routine or posing afterwards, so it’s not just a spotfest. Naniwa blocks Shiryu’s Rana with a Powerbomb and goes for the CRAB WALK ELBOW, but Shiryu keeps rolling out of the way, making him restart it, then shakes the ropes. They do the “Delfin armbars the other guys over the ropes, but is tricked into armbarring his own partner, too” spot as well- are these routine gags or just Tokyo Dome things? They did that at Big Egg Wrestling Universe, too! Poor Naniwa runs away to pout, and Delfin has to console him! A dropkick sends Delfin scurrying into Sakie’s arms, and the girl just cracks up.
Taka’s team triples down on Shiryu for a while, do the tree of woe dick-stand and repeated double-teams into flying splashes. Togo tricks the masked boys into elbowing Taka, then Sasuke splashes them, then SHIRYU does, and a triple-pin gets two. Everyone teases dives, but gets tripped.. and then it’s a goofy triple-submission while Naniwa does his crab walk and then goes for a pin, lol! Triple Ranas from Sasuke’s team! And then, FINALLY, after all those dive-teases… Shiryu dives! Naniwa dives! SATO tope! Delfin dives! Then Sasuke hits his Quebrada and Taka SAILS off the ropes and over the first barricade, crashing Sasuke into the next! Springboard Dropkick gets two on SATO, but a snap powerslam & FAT-ASS SENTON get two on Taka! Sasuke Asai Moonsaults Naniwa, but is Rana’d out of a Powerbomb for two, but hits the Handspring Elbow and then the most motherfucking insane Tope in history, slamming into the barricade and going head-first on the ramp. DIE FOR US, SASUKEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!! (sorry, I had to). Then Super Delfin finishes Shiryu with the Tornado DDT and the Delfin Clutch (cross-armed/figured-foured pin) at (22:25).
A great example of this style- 10% comedy and 90% rad, with all the big spots interspersed instead of spammed out, and they TEASE things, too- endless dives were attempted before they finally started hitting, which reminds me of Tommy Dreamer’s “Make the people cum” analogy. And they went INSANE with all the dives in the end, then gave us the crowd-pleasing spot of Delfin finishing while Sasuke died for our pleasure. Very little psychology outside of the teases, as pin-worthy moves weren’t attempted until the final five, but it was good, fun nonsense. Naniwa’s interesting in that he gave us most of the comedy and then acted as a crash test dummy for Sasuke’s insanity- good use of a guy who wasn’t the most athletic of this crew.
Rating: ****1/4 (great pace and a slow build to the death-defying car crash stuff, with Sasuke at his best)
AKIRA MAEDA vs. CHRIS DOLMAN (Retirement Match):
* Fighting Network RINGS is Yet Another Fucking Splinter Promotion, following the breakup of the UWF as another worked-shoot company. Centered around Akira Maeda, it eventually turned into an MMA shoot promotion, but was killed off by PRIDE in 2002. It came back a few years later.
The Wrestlers: Maeda is a legit tough-guy but also a craven coward, turning a shoot-kick in a worked match against Riki Choshu into a big career as a “real fighter” after being a successful New Japan guy for years. He formed the initial UWF, it died, formed Newborn UWF, and it died, and finally formed RINGS after everyone quit his second attempt (he, um, seems to have issues working with others, is my guess). Maeda was a legit bad-boy superstar, though. Akira Hokuto took her stage name from him. Though he looks like some generic Dad Bod Japanese guy, albeit with a theme song that combines the Manheim Steamrollers, soft jazz and alien noises. Dolman is a Dutch longtime martial arts star, and is 50+ years old here, doing his retirement match.
Dolman uses his weight to gain back control, twice, and keeps stuffing Maeda’s stand-up. Finally he brings him down with a leg hook, but Maeda cranks on Dolman’s leg (or ankle) and gets the submission win (5:26). Dolman gets a big send-off, with a ton of trophies awarded, Maeda giving him his robe, then standing aside for the retirement.
Rating: 1/4* (Nothing much to it- five minutes of dry-humping and then one guy is the winner. I don’t really get this style)
Nobuhiko Takada- megastar of the ’90s by pretending to be a top-tier shooter.
NOBUHIKO TAKADA, MASAHITO KAKIHARA & BILLY SCOTT vs. GARY ALBRIGHT, KAZUO YAMAZAKI & GENE LYDICK:
* The Union of Wrestling Forces International is one of the greatest and most bizarre flash in the pan stories in wrestling history. Another promotion that faked “shoot fights”, they acted like braying jackasses and threw out challenges to all the “fake” wrestlers, booking Takada as their Ace, until the wheels fell off over being exposed as fake themselves, having one of their top guys get Bart Gunned by a Gracie, and failing to promote other guys to the top. They went from the hottest act in Japan (selling out Dome Shows immediately) to out of business within only a couple of years, and then ran an “invasion” of New Japan that’s credited with giving Eric Bischoff the idea for the nWo.
The Wrestlers: Takada (in purple trunks) is the Ace of UWF-I, and is your basic Stoic Japanese Guy. He was a huge star and led them in the feud against New Japan, becoming IWGP Champ and being treated as legit until he had to pay the piper and job out. His Faux-MMA style was big, but he was eventually exposed as a weak real fighter, but turned up as a comedy wrestler of all things later on! Kakihara (in yellow) is a small-ish but built guy who was apparently very good but under-pushed and uncharismatic according to what I read, going from UWF-I to AJPW to NJPW before taking years off- he’s only won some tag belts. Scott (in turqouise) was trained by Billy Robinson and mostly retired in 1997. Albright is a big tubby white dude who was pushed as a legit star in Japan, going to All Japan after UWF-I died- he started in Stampede, was a consistent top star in UWF-I during its big run, and moved to AJPW tag team stuff before he died of a heart attack in the ring in 2000. Kazuo was a New Japan guy who followed Maeda, then Takada around, but bailed for NJPW when a push never materialized, and ended his career there helping them against the UWF-I invasion- he looks pretty old. Lydick only has a four-year career, all with UWF-I. He’s a pretty broad, shorter dude in black trunks.
Kazuo DEMANDS Takada right now, but the champ just stares at him with an amused look on his face from the apron. He takes Scott instead, and they do that thing where it’s supposed to “look real” but an MMA-knowledgeable audience can immediately recognize is worked, like sitting in a keylock like it’s nothing or using restholds/long submissions. Kakihara sells his ass off for a leghold but throws kicks at Lydick- you can really see the influence on modern Indie Kickpad Guys here. Kakihara knocks him down after fighting through a rear naked choke, and now we finally get Takada/Kazuo. Kazuo gets tripped, but fights out of a Dragon Suplex (!!) and gets kicked in the side and sells that as devastating- he’s up at eight and hits a German Suplex, tagging Albright. The crowd boos the SHIT out of Takada for bailing, too!
Albright mauls Scott with amateur stuff and deadlifts him into a German, which is rad. Scott quickly tags out, and Takada flips the big man down but gets dominated on the mat. Rear-mount full nelson, but Takada powers up (lol anyone thought this was real? Albright is 100 lbs. heavier!) and into the ropes, but eats a belly-to-belly. He manages a rear mount and we get a HUGELY dramatic cross-armbreaker fight and Albright jams his foot into the ropes. They tag out, Kakihara handles Lydick, and then Takada dominates him with stuff and finishes with a Cross-Armbreaker at (15:17).
I think I’m not a really big fan of “Shoot Style”, thinking about it. I mean, who wants to see people just pretend to fight? I mean… well, you know what I mean. But it is a good mimic of MMA fights. Everyone was kind of a Moveset Clone until Albright went in there- I’m a mark for Big Fat Heel guys, and he was at least something different. I think this was more of a showcase for their style, as the Ace just demolished the lowest-ranked guy in the end rather than having a big, dramatic fall like the other bouts did.
Rating: *** (interesting and fine, I guess? Didn’t really hit this until Albright’s segment)
NO ROPES EXPLODING BARBED WIRE DEATH MATCH:
THE GREAT NITA (Atsushi Onita) vs. POGO DAIO (Mr. Pogo)
* Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling was the big “death match” promotion of the ’90s, inspiring ECW and countless imitators, but was actually a bit more well-rounded than I suspected, with the Mains typically being blood & guts, but it had power wrestlers (Mike Awesome), high-fliers (Hayabusa), women in standard matches (Megumi Kudo & others), and more- a real “Three-Ring Circus” trick with something for everybody. They went out of business and their owner committed suicide to restore honor and what-have-you, giving things a really sad end.
The Wrestlers: Puro Fail- I’ve literally never seen Atsushi Onita before. He was a HUGE draw and a centerpiece for FMW’s bloody style, wrestling this kind of Death Match all the time- he was so over that his Retirement Match drew a sellout at the Dome even before the match was actually announced. Unfortunately, the company couldn’t really survive without him. Mr. Pogo is one of his great rivals. Both are now doing Comedy Gimmicks, with the “Great Nita” being a Great Muta riff in pink facepaint and a shiny pink outfit. OMG, he comes down to a “Traditional Japanese/Rock Guitar” version of “WILD THING”!
So because they have to have no ropes, they’re in a barbed-wired ring off in the corner. Both guys mostly tease going into the wire, which happens in both of the Barbed Wire Rope matches I’ve seen before- it’s more based around the psychology that “barbed wire hurts and we want to avoid it” than “let’s do a lot of bleeding”. Nita misses a charge and goes into the wire, and BOOM! Everyone sells the pop & flare like it hurt just to be in proximity, which is great. Then Pogo gets out a SICKLE of all things, bringing it down like an ax on Nita’s back (which… would be fatal), then cutting his shirt open and doing it again. Pogo digs the sickle around the “cut”, Nita’s throat, and his MOUTH, but this is all just restholds. Nita pulls out the MIST to come back, stabbing with the sickle and hitting a DDT for two, but Pogo slams him into another explosion using a barbed-wire bat. He takes a running swing with it, but hits the wire! He’s knocked into another explosion, that gets two, and then Nita hits him with a facecrusher and runs him into another explosion for three (13:59). Nita hilariously milks for a reaction for a preposterous amount of time, but the fans are completely dead, so it looks ridiculous.
Rating: *3/4 (Totally dreadful, “two washed-up guys slowly hitting each other with a weapon every 20 seconds” match, and made them look super-lazy compared to the IWA match from earlier. At least explosions are fun)
Johnny Ace is in this match. I was preparing the snark, but like… he’s actually awesome, it turns out.
MITSUHARU MISAWA, KENTA KOBASHI & STAN HANSEN vs. TOSHIAKI KAWADA, AKIRA TAUE & JOHNNY ACE:
* All Japan Pro Wrestling was formed in the old JWA split between AJPW & NJPW, with the respected, honest Giant Baba leading a bunch of stoic manly men to success. AJPW was nowhere near the draw NJPW, UWF-I or whatever Onita was doing during the ’90s, but their guys were top-tier in terms of respect- Puro Nerds of the ’90s and beyond learned to accept their stuff as “The Style”, lead by the Four Pillars. Baba was known as the most trustworthy promoter in wrestling, earning him undying loyalty from his boys. The company would lose almost all its talent after Baba’s death, forming NOAH.
The Wrestlers: Misawa you probably know- the Ace of the company, he unseated Jumbo Tsuruta, and is basically Elbow Jesus. Kobashi is his #2 guy and the hot-tempered, fired-up mega-babyface to Misawa’s Stoic Dad. Stan Hansen is AJPW’s biggest Gaijin superstar, and is a big, burly Texan who is past his prime, but other dudes can thread matches around him very easily, as his stuff is ultra-credible and his Lariat is treated as the Finisher of All Finishers. In the 1990s there’s Jake’s DDT and there’s that and nothing else. Kawada is Misawa’s old partner turned hated rival, known for the best (and least-worked) kicks in wrestling. Taue is a big ol’ lummox who didn’t get a lot of online respect back in the day, but is way better than most credit him for- he’s ungainly as balls but his timing is great. Johnny Ace is of course WWE’s former Head of Talent Relations and a Dynamic Dude, but was also Mrs. Baba’s favorite wrestler, earning him a big push and a LOT of online snark. He invented the “Ace Crusher”, now generically called a “Cutter” after DDP swiped it. I’ve actually never seen him wrestle before.
First time I’ve seen an “All Japan Style” match in a while, with a “slow burn” created from doing simple strikes and lariats & stuff instead of restholds. Unfortunately the sound cuts out here. Kawada handles Kobashi, but gets blitzed by Misawa. Hansen eats Ace’s flying lariat. Johnny looks so out of place here, being a taller, lankier guy with bleached hair doing dropkicks & flying stuff. Taue tries a powerbomb but gets the shit beat out of him by the babyfaces. He reverses a suplex on Kobashi and Kawada tortures him with stretching, sold with the most dramatic expressions ever by the Orange Crush. Kobashi reverses out but gets kicked in the face. Some quick restholds for a bit, but Ace superplexes Kobashi with Taue’s interference. Taue then garrotes Kobashi on the top rope and hits a HUGE big boot- Kobashi of course gives it the mother of all sell-jobs, flipping his head back and his arms out, spinning around and flat-backing.
Kobashi tries to use his trademark FIGHTING SPIRIT to come back, but Kawada eats him alive with kicks, leaving him staggering into a glassy-eyed stare. Jesus, he’s good. Ace hits a legdrop over the 2nd-rope and short-arm clothesline, and Taue launches him from atomic drop position. Then he holds him so Kawada can run down the fucking ramp and DESTROY him with a Running Face Kick! God I love All Japan. They take turns on him until Kawada hits the Stretch Plum and Kobashi makes it look like the most dramatic thing ever to make the tag to Hansen, who no-sells the “machine-gun face kicks” and beats the shit outta Kawada and Powerbombs him. Hey, the sound’s back! So everyone runs in and brawls, Misawa teases the Tiger Driver & Suplex, gets kicked, then reverses a Taue charge to a Tiger Driver for two. ELBOW SUICIDA! Stereo DDTs from the Hero Team! Kobashi Bridging Germans Taue for two- Moonsault! Taue barely kicks out, but gets eats a flying knee and tags out. Ace lariats Kobashi around and hits the Ace Crusher for two- damn, that looked terrific.
Johnny hits a Fameasser and a MOONSAULT for two- damn! Kobashi eats a leg lariat in the corner but fires back with a lariat and Hansen backdrops Ace & hits a Powerbomb for two, Misawa elbows him… LARIAT!!! The MDK finisher of All Japan! The crowd loses it, but Taue immediately runs in and Chokeslams him, then drops Misawa on the top, then drags Ace’s corpse to the corner like a good heel. Kawada can’t get any momentum on the cowboy, and takes elbows from Misawa, but hits a Jumping Face Kick! Taue hits the drop-on-the-ropes, snap powerslam and then a Ligerbomb as time winds down! That gets two, Misawa armdrags out of a Chokeslam and Ranas him from another Ligerbomb attempt- Kobashi in, and he runs the ropes and knocks down Taue as time is over at (30:00), ending a completely amazing contest. Slow spots in the beginning and middle, but Kobashi does the best “Face in Peril” stuff ever and they escalated the big moves like nuts and let everyone get their shit in. Ace looked like a great worker, Taue was a perfect Hoss, Hansen was great as power-man, and everything worked.
Rating: ****1/2 (another great example of the “All Japan Style”. Where else are you left wanting more after 30:00?)
lol Jesus Christ. Google Image Search, how dare you?
MASAHIRO CHONO vs. SHINYA HASHIMOTO:
* New Japan Pro Wrestling was the brainchild of Antonio Inoki, popularizing a style of martial arts-tinged wrestling with himself winning fake fights against real fighters. By this point, their Main Event style was kinda decried by online smarks, but it was the most popular company in Japan for most of the time.
The Wrestlers: Masa Chono was the coolest dude in the room- when my family hosted some Japanese kids during a school exchange in the ’90s, they assured me that “Chono” was the best wrestler. He had style for days, an STF finisher, and a big “Mafia Kick” strike. Hashimoto is a big tub o’ guts with Elvis hair and so much baby-fat he even has those little triangular titties, which always left me incredulous that the ‘net considered him this amazing worker. Not that I’d ever seen a match- I’ve seen maybe one. Both dudes were top stars in New Japan, with Shinya being arguably the top star over Chono & Great Muta, being champ for some enormous reigns in the mid ’90s. He shockingly died of a brain aneurysm in 2005, while Chono simply broke apart due to constant injuries.
Some epic Fighting Game Boss Music for Chono, and he gets the SHIT kicked out of him, but fires back with head-kicks of his own, and they have a New Japan Chops Of Manliness Contest… and then immediately take a big ol’ rest with arm stuff and a test of strength. And another one. Chono slowly kicks away, then works the leg. Hashimoto is doing this weird selling noise like Principal McVicker from Beavis and Butt-Head and it’s weirding me out. Chono does the laziest leg submissions of all time, then finally hits the STF, which is treated like a big deal. Shinya wails in the hold for like a minute and a half before finally inching his way to the ropes.
Weird bit as he uses the POWER OF OBESITY to just skoosh Chono when he goes for a leg-pick again. Shinya judo-flips him off the top (*Joshi Snob Mode* Hiromi Yagi does it better). Chono sells this like death (I mean, come on, he was just seated on the top- it’s not THAT huge a bump). A couple sorta-arm-trap DDTs get two, and he does some weird “grab the arm and fall over” thing that I’m not sure should ever hurt. Chono gets an inverted atomic drop and does a lazy series of Mafia Kicks (running kicks to the head) that look more like he’s just pushing his forehead. Shinya does an enzuigiri and a rolling kick and I guess his leg is just fine now, then picks him up… Vertical Drop Brainbuster! And… that’s it?!? (15:56) and we’re done. Three moves is his entire comeback?
Holy god, this was DREADFUL. I was hoping to be delightfully surprised with all the negative hype I’ve heard over this, but these two just went out there and shit the bed with the laziest match possible. Chono’s leg submissions were GARBAGE, consisting of ducking down to grab a leg and kinda twist it, and that was it. Dean Malenko he ain’t. The STF was good, I guess, but went on for a long-ass time, and then didn’t matter. They sloowwwwwwly did kicks and Shinya’s arm stuff, and then Chono did a bunch of lazy “wobble and slowly do a running kick” moves until he got caught with two kicks and we went right to the finish. Like, ZERO EFFORT there. Where’s the finishing surge? The dramatic back and forth?
Rating: * (oh god it’s lazy as SHIT and as bad as I’ve heard!)
According to Manjiimortal, New Japan was humiliated that two women’s promotions, All Japan and freaking IWA Japan of all companies one-upped them so badly on this show, and they blocked a commercial tape of this show from ever being released (hence the poor quality of what’s left). This messed up their relationship with Weekly Pro, who financed and put on the show, as this and other things caused them to be barred from NJPW shows, and the rift was only healed a couple years later.
JWP 8-Woman Tag: ****3/4
Shinobu Kandori vs. Harley Saito: DUD
Toyota/Yuki vs. Aja/Kyoko: ****1/4
Ryuma Go vs. Uchi Maijin Silver X: DUD
Cactus/Headhunters vs. Shoji/Funk/Leatherface: ***3/4
Minoru Suzuki vs. Christopher DeWeaver: N/A
Greco/Arakawa vs. Fujiwara/Ishikawa: **1/4
Taka/Naniwa/Delfin vs. Sasuke/Shiryu/SATO: ****1/4
Akira Maeda vs. Chris Dolman: 1/4*
Takada/Kakihara/Scott vs. Albright/Yamazaki/Lydick: ***
Great Nita vs. Pogo Daio: *3/4
Misawa/Kobashi/Hansen vs. Kawada/Taue/Ace: ****1/2
Shinya Hashimoto vs. Masahiro Chono: *
-Hmmmmm- yeah, I’d say hitting ****+ FOUR TIMES is a pretty great card, and another match came damn close to it. This is rivaled only by Dream Slam 1, St. Battle Final and probably a couple of recent New Japan shows for “Best Card Ever”, held back only by the occasional P.O.S. fake-shoot or comedy match in between them. It’s a great Three-Ring Circus of “something for everybody” though, with goofy comedy, flips, the AJW “GO GO GO!” style, MMA, fake-shoots, bloodbath weapons matches, and more- you can’t beat this for variety. JWP gets match of the show and completely made every other bout look slow-paced by comparison (even the M-Pro one!), but AJW, All Japan, M-Pro, and IWA all brought their A-games and put out a ton of effort. New Japan’s guys were lazy as hell by contrast and made their company look bad- why would you half-ass it after seeing the effort the others put in?