January PPV - 31/01/04
This PPV is headlined by a UWA Trios title match between a temporarily re-united Shin M2K (Masaaki Mochizuki, Kenichiro Arai and Dragon Kid) and Hagure Gundam (Yasshi, Dotti Shuji and Touru Owashi). The card is also notable for featuring the return of Henry II Sugawara to the full time Japan roster. I'm quite a fan of Sugawara's, so it's a most welcome return. The semi-main event of SUWA/TARU vs. Magnum TOKYO/Susumu Yokosuka provides an opportunity for Magu/SUWA to face each other in the run up to SUWA's challenge for the UDG title.
The Royal Brothers (Antony W Mori and Henry III Sugawara vs. Don Fuji and CIMA (CrazyMAX)
Henry enters in his crown to Rule Britannia, and the Royal Brothers do the synchronised bowing thing. Ah, memories. I think I might be the only person who misses Junya "Philip J." Fukumasa. This match is a good one, with the main gist of it being an isolated Antony trying to get the tag. There is some miscommunication between the Royal Brothers (who haven't teamed for a long time), and Henry shows the short temper that was becoming evident on the Mexico shows. A miscued missile dropkick leads to Antony hitting Henry, and Henry is pissed.
Despite their best efforts (including Henry busting out the Buckingham backbreaker~!), Henry is eventually stranded on the outside again and CIMA is able to pick up the win over Antony with the Schwein. Oddly, CIMA decides to follow up by applying the Delfin clutch and doing a Delfin-esque taunt following the 3 count. I presume this was a nod to his involvement in Osaka pro's J Cup in February. Antony rolls back into the ring when CrazyMAX have left and Henry stands over him, still looking angry.
Sensing this, those opportunistic Hagure Gundam scoundrels turn up and confront Henry. He is offered a place in their group and some free shots at Antony, courtesy of Dotti Shuji who is holding him up. Henry thinks about it clenches his fist and lunges forward only to SWERVE and kick Yasshi in the gut instead. Henry and Antony leave together, as Dotti says something that's probably similar to "This isn't over."
A good 10-minute opener and a pretty cool post-match bit. Sugawara looked good in his return to higher profile matches, and the other 3 were as good as usual, with CIMA in particular looking really up for it.
The Florida Brothers vs. Genki Horiguchi and Ryo Saito
A surprisingly competitive match for the Florida brothers, who actually have the advantage on a couple of occasions. Genki fails to hit the beach break again in this match, and his signalling for it gets weirder every time. I have to believe that the next time he successfully hits the move it will receive a huge crowd reaction. When Ryo is on offence, he keeps yelling at Yagi to note the lack of cheating and to keep his eyes open for potential screwiness. After ten minutes or so of solid action with some comedy mixed in the screwjob takes place. Yagi is distracted in a new way. Daniel at ringside trips Michael as he runs the ropes and scurries away, blaming Susumu Yokosuka for the trip. Susumu is the picture of innocence at ringside. FloBro introduce their special stars and stripes chair, throwing it at Genki in order to frame him. Genki has done is research however, and throws it right back. Michael raises it up to hit Genki but is unable to when Ryo grabs the top of his chair.
The ever-crafty Iwasa punches the seat part of the chair up and pulls the frame of the chair down over to his head before dropping to his knees in pain. Yagi turns round to see Ryo clutching a chair that he has seemingly wrapped round Michael's head and calls for the bell. The look on Ryo's face is comedy gold, as are his and Genki's protests to Yagi. FloBro celebrate as the anthem blares, but Genki cuts it off and delivers an angry promo of angriness in which he mentions 'X', a mystery opponent he plans to find in order to make FloBro pay for their crimes. He ends with the Florida brothers' own catchphrase "bye byyyye."
This might just be my favourite Florida Brothers match so far. The cheating is inventive and Ryo's expressions are brilliant. This PPV makes use of an instant replay for the finishes, which is new, so you get to see the reactions to the dirty screwjob in super slo-mo. Good stuff.
Milano Collection AT and Yossino vs. Super Shisa and Second Doi
The disbanding of shin M2K allows for some more varied Toryumon Sekigun teams, hence the Doi/Shisa team for this match. Shisa is very keen to start this one against Yossino, and these two have some superb high speed exchanges based around arm locks and take downs. Second Doi has improved so much since his debut, and in 2003 he was consistently great. Milano is as good as usual too, but the best exchanges definitely come from the Shisa/Yossino interactions. Eventually 2nd Doi falls victim to the AT lock and taps out. Another good match, this PPV is on quite a roll so far. Shisa cuts a promo post match and makes a challenge for Yossino's NWA Welterweight title. Thankfully Yossino agrees to this, which the crowd responds very well to. I personally am really looking forward to getting to their singles match as they can clearly work very well together.
During the interval some clips of Magu and SUWA's previous encounters are shown. SUWA attacking Magu's dancers, their subsequent match, a 2002 El Numero Uno match. Certainly beats looking at people milling around the arena and listening to the commentators (though I imagine the latter is more interesting if you speak Japanese).
SUWA and TARU vs. Magnum TOKYO and Susumu Yokosuka
Not a bad match, but nothing spectacular either. SUWA and Susumu have the best exchanges in this one, and the crowd are really into it by the end. SUWA comes out of it looking very strong, especially because repeated use of the JUMBO NO KACHI! lariat from Susumu isn't enough to put him away. He nails the John Woo on Susumu and eventually puts him away with the FFF. This is perfectly watchable and achieves its purpose, but it's certainly not a reason to pick up the tape in itself. Saying that, SUWA owning everyone is always good to watch. Post match there are verbal exchanges between Magu and SUWA, which I presume relate to their upcoming UDG title match.
UWA Trios Titles: Dotti Shuji, Brother Yasshi and Touru Owashi ( C ) vs Masaaki Mochizuki, Kenichiro Arai and Dragon Kid
A solid and entertaining main event that goes for about 20 minutes. The Hagure Gundam team are on of the most dominant UWA Trios title holding teams in a long time, and their consistently excellent defences have made these titles one of my favourites in wrestling to follow.
All 6 are on decent form, though Yasshi is probably the stand out. Dotti is impressive as usual with the power moves, I like the way people attempt to get their feet back on the ground from his vertical suplex and he just hoists them up again. At about 20 minutes in, Dragon Kid hits a swan dive DragonRana on Dotti Shuji and scores what seems to be a three. The crowd are so caught up in this that they don't notice that Takagi has the ref distracted, and some of them throw streamers in to celebrate what they believe to be a title change. Then comes the turn, Mochi comes in as Hagure Gundam have Arai immobilised and delivers a kick to the face of his former partner. Arai takes quite a beating, ending with Owashi's diving body press from the top.
Mochi gets on the mic as the crowd tries to take in what's happening, and Shogo Takagi brings in a banner with the name of the faction that has just officially formed. Yasshi in typical crowd-baiting fashion tries to get an "Aagan Iisou!" chant going. The group pose with the banner and the successfully defended trios titles as the show ends.
I liked this show. All 5 matches were watchable, with the opener, the third match and the main being good (opener) and very good (the other two). The turn is done well, and is a fitting conclusion to the Mochi depression angle, as he does something about it in true rudo style. Recommended.