More from New Japan’s Tokyo Dome Show from May 2005!
Last week, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe took on Osamu Nishimura and Yutaka Yoshie in a bland opener, Minoru Suzuki massacred poor Alexander Otsuka in a fun Shoot-Style collision and we closed off with Hirooki Goto getting a heart-warming big win in a very good Junior Heavyweight tag team bout.
This week we cover matches 4 to 6, featuring the likes of Tiger Mask IV, Yuji Nagata and Keiji Muto in action, so if you like those guys then stay tuned!
The event is emanating from the Tokyo Dome on the 14th of May 2005
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champ: Tiger Mask IV Vs Black Tiger
This version of Black Tiger is Rocky Romero, who still occasionally wrestles and is one third of the best commentary team in wrestling along with Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton. The Tiger Mask wrestling character is based on the Tiger Mask anime, which featured the titular character feuding with a foe known as Black Tiger. As a result, whenever New Japan has booked a version of Tiger Mask they’ve usually brought in someone to play Black Tiger at certain points as well. Notable men to have worn the mask are Marc Rocco, Eddie Guerrero and Tatsuhito Takaiwa.
Sadly they don’t give this version of Black Tiger the same theme that Eddie’s version used, which remains one of my favourite New Japan themes. Tiger Mask has a cute entrance where he enters with some kids wearing Tiger Mask attire. It plays into the idea of the original Tiger Mask incarnation being a big fan favourite with the younger audience, which was why New Japan first licensed the gimmick to begin with and why All Japan even had a bash at it with Mitsuharu Misawa in the 80’s.
Black Tiger gets a lot of offence in right from the very beginning of the match, with Tiger Mask not really getting a traditional shine. It feels like they’re trying to establish Black Tiger as a threat right from the off, and are doing so by having him take most of the match. The wrestling is good for the most part, although there are some moments where their timing isn’t quite right. The crowd doesn’t really care that much though, even though both men are working at a quick clip and even brawl up the ramp at one stage, where Black Tiger gets a Tombstone Piledriver.
Titles can change hands via count out in Japan, so Black Tiger seems happy to win via that method, but Tiger Mask is able to drag himself back into the ring before the 20 count can be completed. Tiger Mask is finally able to wake the crowd up a bit with a big super back drop from the top rope, and after an occasionally iffy start the two wrestlers are starting to click a bit now and the match is getting good. Tiger Mask sends Black Tiger out of the ring and fires off a TOPE SUICIDA, leading to both men only just beating the count back inside to a pop from the crowd.
There is some good action in the finishing stretch, although there is a silly bit where Black Tiger mule kicks Tiger Mask in full view of the referee and the ref can only chastise him a little bit because he can’t call for the DQ, which just makes him look stupid. There are some good near falls though, with Black Tiger coming off the top with a knee drop for two before Tiger Mask rallies with a Tombstone and a Tiger Suplex for three.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TIGER MASK IV
I thought Black Tiger was going to win that one to be honest, but he was given a lot of offence prior to losing at least. The match itself was a tad bit sloppy at points, but mostly good overall and they eventually managed to get an indifferent crowd to care, which is a testament to how hard they were working
Black Tiger grabs a mic post-match and cuts an intelligible promo before attacking Tiger Mask and stealing his mask. You can’t do that, now he’s neither a masked man nor a Tiger! Thankfully they had another mask at ringside to stick on Tiger, just in case such a situation happened to arise I guess.
Yuji Nagata Vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka
Nagata recently wrestled on AEW Dynamite and was one of New Japan’s top guys from this period, but he was often poorly booked and was even forced into shoot fights around this time as well, which did a real number on his star power for a while. Kohsaka is a shooter from RINGS and PRIDE that came in and got a big push, because Inoki loves that stuff. Kohsaka had put Nagata out with a choke in under 5 minutes in a previous meeting, so Nagata is looking for revenge here.
Before the match starts Kazunari Murakami and Katsuyori Shibata show up in suits to watch the fight, with the idea being that they’re both outsiders, even though Shibata is actually a home-grown New Japan guy originally. You can tell they’re both tough because they keep adjusting their necks like they’re Agent Smith in The Matrix or something. Someone else has come with them who I don’t recognise and he gives Nagata some trash talk during his entrance, which Nagata seems to laugh off.
We actually get a handshake prior to the match starting, and in a nice touch Kohsaka refuses to do traditional Pro-Wrestling spots such as Irish Whips, because he’s a shooter and that stuff doesn’t fly in a real fight. As with the Suzuki/Otsuka match in Part One, if guys working in shoot elements to their worked matches isn’t for you then you might not like this, but if you quite like that style of wrestling then this will probably be right up your alley as the work itself is good and the crowd gets into it.
The majority of the match is the two men throwing strikes and going for MMA styled submission holds on the mat like arm bars, with it starting out relatively good natured but eventually building to them throwing slaps at one another. Because Kohsaka has already choked out Nagata in a previous match the crowd reacts immediately when he tries it again, showing that the overall story is over with them if nothing else. Nagata gets to the ropes a few times to save himself, but Kohsaka tenaciously goes back to the hold, with Nagata selling it really well.
When he can’t tap Nagata out, Kohsaka instead tries knocking him out with a kick, but Nagata beats the count and then knees Kohsaka flush in the face for a double down. That knee look great and Kohsaka sold it excellently. Nagata starts Pro-Wrestling it up a bit with some suplexes, including a vicious release Dragon Suplex at one stage, and then follows up with a back suplex pinning hold for the three count.
WINNER: YUJI NAGATA
I enjoyed that but your own mileage may vary if you don’t like all the submission based stuff. I do like the story of how Nagata was able to use traditional Pro-Wrestling moves to defeat the shoot fighter in the end though. It was like something out of a Kengan Ashura episode in that regard
Kohsaka is a good sport post-match and shakes hands with Nagata. Nagata grabs a mic and calls out the bloke who arrived with Murakami and Shibata, which leads to him coming into the ring to start up a pull apart brawl.
Keiji Muto Vs Ron Waterman
Muto might be better known to some of you as The Great Muta. During this period he was ostensibly an All Japan guy, but he worked in lots of other places too and he even worked NOAH’s Dome show the year prior to this event when he teamed up with Taiyo Kea against Yoshinari Ogawa and Mistuharu Misawa. Waterman is a shoot fighter who had a development deal with WWE at one stage but never ended up making the main roster. These days they probably would have given him a huge push with his look and legitimate athletic background.
The video package ominously announces “He’s Back” in regards to Muto, and we get clips of Waterman destroying things like watermelons and frying pans with his bare hands to show how strong he is. Muto gets the first big genuine superstar pop of the show for his entrance and introduction, but this match feels kind of thrown together for a latter half bout on a big Tokyo Dome card.
It’s worked mostly on the mat in the early going and it’s decent, with Muto knowing how to work that style of match and Waterman being able to hang with him in that arena for the most part. Things get a bit sloppier when they try and run spots together, and Waterman may be a big strong scary looking man but his elbow drop is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. His stomps are pretty rubbish too, which might explain why WWE didn’t put him on TV.
Waterman’s power moves do look good though, especially when he muscles Muto up into a Gorilla Press Slam at one stage. So long as he’s keeping it on the mat or throwing Muto around then he looks okay, but when he’s trying to throw any kind of strike or doing stuff that requires him to have some semblance of coordination then he looks pretty rough. His selling is pretty lacklustre too, especially when Muto starts kicking him in the leg and he just limps a little bit whilst staring blankly.
Thankfully Muto has such immense charisma that he can get the crowd to react at certain points, especially when he locks Waterman in a Figure Four and mugs for the camera. Waterman immediately stops selling his leg the moment he gets out of the hold however, and is running around like Muto never went near his legs. They either botch a powerbomb or Waterman tumbles over deliberately because he suddenly remember his legs were supposed to be hurting, I can’t tell which.
Muto seems legit annoyed by it, so I’m guessing it was a botch, and he proceeds to smash Waterman right in the face with a Shining Wizard, which leads to Waterman gushing blood from his nose. Waterman keeps going though and gets a Pearl River Plunge for two, only for Muto to reply with even more Shining Wizards for two before heading up with a Moonsault for the win (Well, it is a Dome show, that justifies him destroying his knees even more I guess)
WINNER: KEIJI MUTO
Yeah, this wasn’t good. Waterman was way out of his depth and Muto realised after a certain point that he was in there with a big lump, so he decided to just get through the match in one piece and stopped even trying to have a good bout as a result
Muto doesn’t bother to stick around after that and gets out of there sharpish.
Very little on this Dome show has really felt “Dome Worthy” so far. The two Junior Heavyweight matches and Nagata/Kohsaka at least had some proper storylines going in, which helped give the matches themselves a bit of extra spice to them, but the rest of the show just feels thrown together like one of those under-cards from the Attitude Era in the WWF where they’d throw something like Marc Mero Vs Droz out there on a pay per view just to fill time.
I enjoyed Nagata/Kohsaka, but I’m not sure it’s the sort of match that everyone will like due to the shoot elements, but if you’re willing to give that a try then it’s worth seeking out.
I’ll hopefully see you next week for Part Three, which will likely be the Final Part as well, but we’ll see what happens.
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