I was at a total of four shows in Japan and all of them have been pretty good to great.
On the 31st I was at the DDT/BJW New Years Eve Tag Tournament. I didn’t even really know what this show was going in, mostly going there to pass the time to midnight and to see Korakuen Hall from the inside. However, this show turned out to be absolutely awesome. I don’t follow either company but did a bit of research afterward. Only two wrestlers on the card I recognized off the bat: Colt Cabana and TAKA Michinoku.
The show was a tag team tournament with wrestlers from both DramaticDreamTeam and Big Japan Pro Wrestling with the teams being pulled out of a hat, which they illustrated via video package before the show. As it is with DDT the show veered somewhat into the comedic but that was pretty great. One match was decided at gun point which was hilarious. The show also featured The Brahman Brothers who basically turn every show into a GWAR concerts, throwing all sorts of liquids around, batting hard boiled eggs and fruits, and other stuff, plus mist spots and one spot where they throw a bowling ball against a suit case, the suit case being nestled into the crotch of an opponent sitting in the corner.
Anyway, the show was really fun, but also quite long, as they included a year-end award show as well as
a special match for TAKA Michinoku’s 25th anniversary of his pro debut. However, that match also had my favorite spot of the night. The heel team had one guy from the face team pinned into the corner. They then proceed to clothesline him. Then they do it again. Then they irish whip his teammates into him. Then they get a bunch of the ring crew and throw them into the guy, including the ref. And then like 20 people from the locker room also show up to clothesline the poor fellow. Some people added other gimmicks, like spitting water in his face, hitting him with a prop, and Colt Cabana took a selfie with him. At some point they also brought a fully equipped camera guy and threw him into the guy.
On the 3rd I went to see Stardom at Shin-Kiba 1st ring. That hall is tiny, seating only about 250 people. I had almost ringside seats and the girls put on a good show. Unfortunately it was also rather short with only five matches and a total of less than an hour of in-ring action. It opened with a mini-idol concert of a group I unfortunately don’t know, then some new years greetings from Stardom’s GM and then an introduction of the entire roster. Not sure that happens every night or if it was just for the first show of the year.
All the matches were pretty great, but of course the last match, a 4-on-4 match between the factions Queen’s Quest and Oedo Tai was the best. That is to be expected since pretty much all the bigger names of Stardom were in there, including Io Shirai, Kagetsu, AZM, HZK, Hana Kimura, and my favorite Kris Wolf. In fact before this match there was a special announcement with Ring of Honor’s Delirious showing up, presenting the new Women of Honor championship title and announcing that in addition to Mayu Iwatani (who was not at this show) there would be additional Stardom wrestlers participating in their tournament to crown the initial champion. They are Kagetsu, HZK and Hana Kimura.
On January 4th I went to the Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling event at Korakuen Hall, and then of course to Wrestle Kingdom 12.
Tokyo Joshi Pro is the female division of DDT. Unfortunately their show started on a rather bad note with a debut match for for members of what seems to be an idol group and they were pretty terrible. I guess I can’t be too hard on them but I think it was too early for them to debut. Fortunately the show picked up after that. It also included a special match between Maki Ito and Danshoku Dino. Ito portrays a kind of stuck-up and bossy idol-singer character, while Dino is actually a male wrestler from DDT whose gimmick is being a heavily exaggerated homosexual. What is funny here is that Dino usually has a spot where he kisses an unwilling opponent, while here the tables got turned and Ito started doing it to Dino, which he of course hated.
Ultimately the show culminated in two genuinely great matches. The first of them was a match for the promotions tag team championship, and the other for the promotions singles championship between Miyu Yamashita and champion Reika Saiki. They also ran an extensive videopackage before and though I only speak very limited japanese I very much understood the gist of it. And the match was really great. The best womens match I’ve seen in a while.
And then there was of course Wrestle Kingdom. I had a great seat in the house, but I still caught myself looking at the broadcast screens instead of at the ring, unfortunately. The show was great and not a bad match among them. My favorites being the fatal 4-way for the Jr. Heavyweight title, and of course the Alpha vs. Omega match which was much better and certainly longer than I anticipated. I will definitely go back and watch the broadcast some time this week.
Unfortunately the very end of the show somewhat disappointed me. I also still can’t get behind Jay White as a character. Maybe it would be different had I already been watching NJPW when he was a Young Lion, but it just seems so rushed that this guy shows up out of nowhere and gets to challenge for the second most important title immediately, currently being held by the biggest legend in the company.
Nevertheless, and while this show was probably worse than last year’s WK, it is still a very fantastic show and better than any WWE PPV in the last decade or so.
I also watched New Year Dash live in my hotel room. I was kind of annoyed with a title change on the show. At WK I had a moment were one of my favorite wrestlers finally got to hold a belt, and the next day it was gone again. NYD is also of course the point where NJPW introduces some new “twists”, though the element that it is expected at the show kind of undermines it. I also thought that the “twists” were kind of disappointing, well, until the very end of the show when I genuinely was surprised and taken aback. Definitely looking forward to that match, and I assume it’s going to be at the Long Beach show.