GAEA JAPAN (July 21st):
* So only two days after a major GAEA show propping up all their rookies in huge, hard-fought matches, here’s another show! Hey, why did their rookies get shitloads of injuries early on and most of them retire early, again? This one is interesting because it features a Pancrase Rules match where Toshiyo Yamada, more familiar with “Shoot-Style” wrestling, goes up against KAORU, who is the opposite sort of worker and has to adapt. Then it’s Chigusa Nagayo & a 3rd-year against two other 3rd-years in a “What have you learned?” match, and finally an interesting one where Yamada dresses up as Akira Hokuto’s masked identity and wrestles a completely opposite type of match herself. I mean, you don’t see THAT very often, and hell- it’s an impressive performance!
KAORU vs. TOSHIYO YAMADA:
* Okay, so KAORU is wearing the GAEA kickpads Chigusa gifted her a few shows ago, so there’s continuity here. An all-new look for her, too, as she’s dropped the one-piece singlet look for a sports top and long shorts, plus has much shorter hair. And she’s up against the new big star of GAEA in Yamada, fresh from AJW. Both are in black in the same gear and OH, this is that Pancrase Rules match I read about on Quebrada.net! Okay, then. So Pancrase was a then-popular shootfight promotion, which a VERY controversial amount of works (those within it deny that there were many, but the fact that there were any AT ALL throws absolutely everything into question)… so this is fought like it’s UFC but it’s a work. Oh, and you get four rope-breaks before you lose.
They trade kicks, KAORU doing more pro wrestling-style front kicks- Yamada wins a takedown, but KAORU reverses and does her own near-submissions to show she can “hang” and Yamada burns her 1st Break. Yamada does the “grab the leg” submission used as filler in normal matches for KAORU’s 1st Break, while KAORU throws more shoot-style side kicks that look pretty good because of her long legs, but don’t have much velocity to them. KAORU does the other “grab the leg” filler move, then fights out of Yamada’s keylock for another Break. KAORU surprises her with another leg-grab while faking doing another thing, and that gets some drama (and a Break), but Yamada eventually jolts her with some kicks and then PLASTERS her with a huge one to the face. KAORU’s “knock out” sell isn’t exactly super-convincing (she looks more like she’s napping and then comes up with a pretty blank look), but she’s up at “8” and when Yamada moves in for the kill, she snaps on an anklelock for some more drama, but Yamada Breaks and catches one of KAORU’s soft kicks for an anklelock of her own and KAORU has to make the ropes, which I guess is her fifth try and that gives Yamada the win (as I look up actual Pancrase rules just now and rewatch the match, lol) at (10:16). KAORU sells the ankle as severely hurt and they have to take her boot off, but she bows to Yamada & stuff.
This is two people pretending to fight UFC-style for 10 minutes, so was about as good at it was gonna be- the holds were kept VERY basic, probably for KAORU’s sake. She’s a good athlete and does good spots but doesn’t normally do the “put a match together” stuff as well, so it’s at least unique to see her in such a different context and hold her own okay. But it was kept simple and Yamada probably led her through a bunch of it. No one was really gunning for huge strikes, which is kinda funny given the style (and Yamada’s MO of wearing people down with ass-tons of thigh-kicks). The Break rules add drama to things, though it’s funny they don’t just submit if they’re on their last one. Of course, the REAL point here is to jump on the “Shooto!” bandwagon and to put over Yamada as a serious GAEA wrestler after being a JTTS in AJW for years (and Chigusa flattening her in a ton of matches over the past 12 months, too).
Rating: *3/4 (um, yeah- it’s fine but KAORU’s strikes are weak and the submissions were all super-basic, simple stuff)
CHIGUSA NAGAYO & TOSHIE UEMATSU vs. MEIKO SATOMURA & SONOKO KATO:
* Chigusa teams with the green 3rd year against the red & blue 3rd years- the drama here will be if they can dust off Toshie if she’s alone, or if Chigusa is enough to stop either. This is heavily joined in progress.
Chigusa holds Kato for Toshie’s missile kick as I find that spot has infiltrated a lot of GAEA now, but Kato manages her bulldog after some Toshie offense. Toshie counters another and tries a victory roll, but slips off and Kato covers for two- that was maybe a cover for a slip-up. Toshie tries a slingshot elbow but misses and a variety of rollups on Kato & Meiko that do NOT look good, and I’m thinking this was JIP very late because she is loose and sloppy here. Two flying moves get two on Meiko, but they quickly start beating on her and hit that awesome Hart Attack European Uppercut. Toshie springs to life and beats on them both, but Meiko rips up her arm and Chigusa has to save. They even beat her down, but she kicks out of the fireman’s/splash combo at “1”, only to end up in a Fujiwara armbar and the Death Valley Driver for 2.5. But Chigusa just rips out of another one and hits a Spinning Powerbomb for the pin at (6:21 shown of 20:22). Oh yeah, that explains Toshie being so sloppy.
eh, hard to rate the last third of a hard-fought match, but it’s mostly Toshie hamming it up and being unable to hit anything flush (I don’t mind that in the context of a long match, though) and the rookies trying but failing to beat the veteran. Chigusa’s offense remains unimpressive to me but as a dominant wrestler she fulfils an important role.
Rating: ** (fine enough but we don’t get enough to rate)
“REINA JABUKI” & INFERNAL KAORU vs. OZ ACADEMY (Chikayo Nagashima & Sugar Sato):
* A weird comedic match, as KAORU takes on her old masked identity again, while Toshiyo Yamada dresses up as Akira Hokuto’s luchadora character with a big mask and a rainbow-sherbet outfit. She is completely unrecognizable, but as Hokuto herself is at ringside watching, the fans obviously know it’s somebody new in that mask.
Chikayo disses KAORU immediately and Germans her before the bell, but Jabuki flies onto OZ- they still do an LCO pose on KAORU, but the veterans dump Chikayo on her face a few times and Jabuki does a weird upside-down hold that makes it clear she’s doing “lucha style” and the crowd appears to be as confused as I am as to who’s actually in a hold. The kids come back and Chikayo nails KAORU with the single wimpiest, softest chairshots in all history, making Lance Storm look like The Rock, but KAORU comes back and that fight literally lasts several minutes while Sugar works holds in the ring to avoid distracting the fans. She lands a run-up flying back elbow for two and OZ nail the vets with chairs and slam ’em onto them, but attempt stereo flying headbutts and smash into the chairs themselves. The vets do stereo La Mahistrals for two, then Chikayo’s rana is reversed so she leaps up and sunset flips KAORU instead, only to get powerbombed trying a rana again.
Chikayo Germans KAORU off the second rope and hits a bridging one for two, but KAORU reverses another to her own release German for two. Brainbuster & Moonsault- Sugar saves. Chikayo comes back with a sunset flip powerbomb for two, but their Rocket Launcher misses and Jabuki hits the headlock/headscissors double-takeover and KAORU moonsaults both kids. Jabuki with a turning splash to both and KAORU adds a running no-hands plancha and Jabuki does Hokuto’s Tope Con Hilo to both girls! Northern Lights suplex in the ring gets two on Sugar, but everyone scrambles for a bit until Sugar misses another elbow, dragon screws the leg to set up a Doomsday Device move, but KAORU springboard dropkicks Chikayo off the top and Jabuki finishes with a Poison Rana (!) into a Japanese leg roll clutch for the win at (10:27).
Okay, I’m impressed by Yamada here, because if I hadn’t been told this was her, I would have had ZERO CLUE she was wearing the mask- she was doing lucha spots more or less like that was her natural offense and did none of her usual stuff like kicks or her established finishers. It wasn’t the prettiest stuff, but everything I know about wrestling suggests it’s REALLY HARD not to show any “tells” and to just use entirely different offense to your natural moves. And she even does Hokuto’s suicidal Tope Con Hilo and finishes with a Poison Rana! Granted the fans were pretty quiet because they were like “…” to the mystery Jabuki. The match itself is fine otherwise- a basic 10-minute bout and not exactly dramatic in terms of false finishes or anything.
Rating: **1/2 (10 minutes is a pretty solid match time- it doesn’t give the Main Event Effort, but it avoids a lot of time wasting, too)
This was a short review this time around, but these are a lot easier to write than the MONSTER show from last week, lol. But have no fear- there’s a SECOND review for this week on Friday, and it’s… well it’s a bio on Akemi Torisu. Who nobody cares about. But it’s something, darn it!