Spotlight on Japan

Hey, Jake Mulligan here with you 2nd week of Spotlight on Japan. This week we’ll look at some NOAH news with some title matches and Kenta Kobashi’s next 2 matches! Also, we’ll be starting a series I plan to continue for a month or two, a retrospective on each major company in Japan. We’ll start with a smaller company today, but one close to my heart: Dragon Gate. We’ll go over the year in a very detailed fashion, name MVP, top 10 matches, and more, so be sure to check it out. And with that, let’s get to it!

PRO-WRESTLING NOAH
NOAH recently announced the cards for their upcoming First Navigation tour, and there’s some very interesting stuff to see here. For those interested, the foreigners for the tour are Rocky Romero, Davey Richards, ROH World Champion Nigel McGuinness, Doug Williams, and of course Bison Smith. On night one of the tour, we will see more of the KENTA vs. Ogawa feud that started on the Kobashi Comeback show, as it will be Yoshinari Ogawa and former rival (as Mushiking Terry) Kotaro Suzuki vs. KENTA and regular partner Taiji Ishimori. Also on the card, Atsushi Aoki will have Match 2 of his trial series, and so far the only trial match for him on the tour, as he will face Davey Richards. Then, Yoshinobu Kanemaru will make his V2 defense of his GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, against Rocky Romero. And finally, in the main event, the team of GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa, Go Shiozaki, and Ippei Ota will take on Takeshi Morishima, his rival Naomichi Marufuji (???), and Mohammad Yone. Damn Battlebowl NOAH booking. Other than that though, the show looks fun, especially if you like Romero (I don’t). It will air, so expect it shortly after it occurs on 1/6.

Then, there are a few excellent looking untelevised shows, so hopefully some matches will make it online through NOAH’s IWTV (think 24/7) service. 1/11 will feature some of the great KENTA vs. Morishima exchanges, as it will be KENTA and Ishimori vs. Morishima and Aoki. And in the main event is Kobashi’s 2nd match back, Kobashi, Tamon Honda, and Go Shiozaki vs. Akira Taue, Takuma Sano, and Masao Inoue. Then, on 1/13 will be KENTA vs. Marufuji action with KENTA and Ishimori vs. Marufuji and Aoki. I would expect to see KENTA vs. Aoki soon in Aoki’s trial series. And in the main event, it will be Kobashi, Honda, and Shiozaki vs. Jun Akiyama, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Kentaro Shiga. Finally, 1/18 will feature Kentaro Shiga defending his Hardcore title against Akihiko Ito. Expect him to retain.

The final match of the tour only has match announced, but it’s, in a way, a biggie. Kensuke Sasaki returns to NOAH to be the first opponent in Shuhei Taniguchi’s Trial Series. Hopefully it leads to more Kensuke Office – NOAH stuff, like Nakajima in NOAH to help the junior divison and maybe, just maybe, Sasaki vs. Kobashi 2. I can dream, right?

BIG JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING
BJPW had a big show on Dec. 14th, with title matches, death matches, NJPW participation, and more. The last five matches look good, with some big stuff out of all of them. The MEN’s Club of MEN’s Teioh, Makoto Oishi, and 2007 Breakout Star Kota Ibushi beat the Anti-MEN’s Club of Shinobu, Tomomitsu Matsunaga, and Michael Nakazawa. Ibushi pinned Shinobu, so that could lead to little-to-no Shinobu in BJPW anymore, as he will be full time for Dragon Gate soon. In the next match, gaijin Masada and NOSAWA beat Abdullah Kobayashi and Shadow WX, with Masada stepping up and pinning big name Kobayashi with his “Skullfucker” move. Sounds Skull-Fucking-Tastic. Next, in a “Glass and Alpha” Deathmatch and a rematch of most people’s MOTY for BJPW, Takashi Sasaki defeated Yuko Miyamoto with his D-Geist in the last match of Miyamoto’s Deathmatch series. Very excited to see that. In the semi-final match, the Tokyo Sports 2007 tag team of the year, GBH of Togi Makabe and Toru Yano, traveled from New Japan to defeat Katsumasa Inoue and Daisuke Sekimoto, Makabe pinning Inoue. And in the main event, Ryuji Ito won BJPW’s Deathmatch title from Jaki Numazawa in a match that seemed to be four corners of Christmas, with much merry weaponry around and surely, a light tube or two (or a hundred). A live review of the show gave very high marks for this match, so look out for it. I’d expect them to build to Ito vs. Sasaki and Ito vs. Miyamoto built on his series, for his next couple defenses.

RANDOM JAPAN NEWS
We also have some news from the smaller companies of Japan (and those whose news didn’t deserve a full section). Zero-One MAX recently reported they would break into two groups next year, though no one really knows the extent of this yet (whether it will be a feud, a RAW/Smackdown! style thing, or something else). The two “captains” will be 2007 MVP Masato Tanaka and Takao Omori. In the last MUGA show, Yutaka Yoshie won the Dragon Cup tournament, pinning Go Shiozaki in the semis and Tatsumi Fujinami in the finals. Next year, MUGA will become…Dradition. Yup. In All-Japan, on 1/3 in Korakuen, Satoshi Kojima and TARU will defend their tag titles against Real World Tag League champs Keiji Mutoh and Joe Doering. Finally, Dragon Gate has booked some interesting matches for the one of their last shows of the year. On 12/23, Genki Horiguchi and Yasushi Kanda will face Akira Tozawa and Yuki Ono. If Tozawa-juku wins, they get their stolen gear back, but a loss will cost them their hair. And in the main event, Masato Yoshino defends his Brave Gate title against Susumu Yokosuka. Yoshino recently got a pin on Yokosuka, and has three tag titles to focus on, so I give Yokosuka VERY good odds there. Speaking of D-Gate…

DRAGON GATE: YEAR IN REVIEW
D-Gate was coming off a very disappointing 2006, and wasn’t looking good coming into the year. Blood Generation and Final M2K were due to split up, and Muscle Outlaw’z weren’t very hot, either. Magnum TOKYO left early in the year, and never returned. And the main event scene was leading to a Don Fujii vs. Masaaki Mochizuki title match, which while sure to be good, wasn’t exactly a new generation match. The first quarter of the year led to the 3/25 PPV, building up a Liger title challenge. In January, we saw Mochizuki and Fujii lose their IJ tag titles to the CTU team of Jado and Gedo, in NJPW. CTU was gaining steam in DG. Also, BloodGen and FM2K had their goodbye match against each other, ending with Don Fujii pinning K-Ness. Later on, Keni’chiro Arai formally joined Tozawa-juku, and formed one of the year’s star teams, AraIwa, with Taku Iwasa. Ryo Saito and Genki Horiguchi were having problems within Do FIXER, and were thought to have reconciled. Most expected a Ryo heel turn, but Genki shocked everyone by turning on Ryo and joining Muscle Outlaw’z. On the same show, Don Fujii pinned Masaaki Mochizuki in a very good match to retain his Open the Dream Gate title. Soon after this eventful show, Jushin Lyger continued the CTU invasion by securing a Dream Gate shot, and CIMA started to solicit members for a new superstable. Muscle Outlaw’z successfully defended their trios titles against POSHearts, forcing them to disband. This gave CIMA the spark he needed, as he created Typhoon, of himself (from BloodGen), Ryo Saito, Dragon Kid (both from Do FIXER), BxB Hulk, Anthony W. Mori (POSHearts), Jack Evans, Matt Sydal (ROH) and Susumu Yokosuka (Final M2K). So, with all those stables gone, it came down to Typhoon vs. Muscle Outlaw’z. In their first encounter, a elimination match, Genki Horiguchi stood out, pinning CIMA and Susumu before falling to rival Ryo. Later in February, Jado and Gedo defended their IJ Titles against CIMA and Susumu, Jado pinning CIMA, to start the CTU vs. CIMA feud. MO’z also defended their trios titles again, against a Typhoon unit. After the match, they revealed their newest member: defecting from Typhoon, Jack Evans! Also, Matt Sydal defeated Masato Yoshino to win the Brave Gate title in this time, and brought the title to America to defend against Austin Aries. As mentioned, all this led to the first PPV of the year on 3/25, where CTU finally made it big in DG, and titles switched like it was going out of style. Genki Horiguchi ended Matt Sydal’s quick reign, and DG’s strongest team of Ryo Saito, Susumu Yokosuka, and CIMA ended the MO’z Triangle Gate reign. In the main event, Lyger defeated Don Fujii to win the Dream Gate title, and then accepted a challenge from Mochizuki. And with this, the road to World was on…

But the spark that started DG becoming truly interesting this year was the formation of New HAZARD. The Typhoon vs. MO’z war raged on, with multiple Triangle Gate changes in the same tour, and a Genki vs. Dragon Kid feud over the Brave Gate title. This all led to one, full-on, confrontation. In Korakuen Hall, in April, was a 7 vs. 7 elimination match featuring all of MO’z vs. all of Typhoon. Both units promised they knew of a “traitor” in the other. The match went smoothly, and Typhoon won, Dragon Kid pinning Naruki Doi. But after the match, the traitors came out. BxB Hulk turned on CIMA, and Cyber Kong turned on Doi. But not to join the other stables, but to start their own, with their leader, the returning Shingo Takagi! In the main event, Lyger defeated Mochizuki to retain his belt, and then told CIMA he would need to win some singles matches before getting a shot at the belt. New HAZARD was granted a shot at Typhoon’s Triangle Gate, in May at Korakuen. At the show, Jack Evans turned, and joined New HAZARD. And in the main event, NH won the Triangle Gate in an excellent match, Shingo pinning Saito. And with three strong units, the famous 3-way trios match came back. In a classic MOTYC, Yoshino pinned Kong and earned MO’z a Triangle Gate shot. And so, the card for World was set, with MO’z vs. New HAZARD exploding, and an all out DG vs. New Japan war.

CIMA unsurprisingly won his challenge match to earn a shot, beating Gamma. Saito and Susumu earned an IJ shot at Jado and Gedo, and Mochizuki challenged Kanemoto, so a three match series of sorts would occur. Nagata also came, to face Stalker Ichikawa. At World, Dragon Gate reigned supreme. In a super fun match, Yasushi Kanda brought home the Brave Gate title, defeating Genki. Ryo and Susumu won the IJ Titles, sending Jado and Gedo back to NJ. Mochizuki lost an epic battle to Kanemoto, but gained respect. And CIMA avenged a loss from 7 years earlier, defeating Lyger, sending him home but also earning his respect. The show was a huge success, and the match of the night was an excellent Triangle Gate match with New HAZARD retaining over MO’z. And so, with a new champ, DG trucked on to their next PPV…

D-Gate was forced to vacate the Triangle Gate due to an injury to BxB Hulk, and ran WrestleJAM, showcasing gaijin and luchadores. The tour ended with MO’z regaining the Triangle Gate over a New HAZARD team with Evans replacing Hulk. Then, DG ran a tag league, with a huge cash prize. When all was said and done, four teams were tied before the last night: Tozawa-juku reps Keni’chiro Arai and Taku Iwasa, MO’z reps Naruki Doi and Masato Yoshino, Typhoon reps and IJ Champs Ryo Saito and Susumu Yokosuka, and New HAZARD reps Shingo Takagi and Cyber Kong. In a one night tournament, Shingo/Kong beat Saito/Susumu, and Doi/Yoshino beat Arai/Iwasa. Doi/Yoshino beat NH, and then used the money to establish a true DG tag titles, the Open the Twin Gate. A series was set to unify the titles with the IJ belts. In the series, Ryo/Susumu beat Kong/Shingo to retain their titles, and a match was set for the 9/22 PPV with Arai/Iwasa. Also, due to their win, Doi earned a Dream Gate shot against CIMA, and Yoshino earned a Brave Gate shot at Kanda. But before the PPV, MO’z had to defend their Traingle Gate against the “Over 30’s”, Don Fujii, Masaaki Mochizuki, and K-ness. MO’z lost in a great match. Gamma, after a disappointing tag league performance, was kicked out of MO’z and DG altogether. Also, CIMA defended his Dream Gate against major underdog Taku Iwasa, who put in a great effort. And so, we reached the 9/22 PPV. Yoshino took the Brave Gate from Kanda, becoming the first two time champion. The O-30’s defeated a New HAZARD team, retaining their belts. In a classic match, Arai and Iwasa won the IJ Titles and earned the right to face Doi/Yoshino in the first Twin Gate matchup. It was an emotional win for the vets, and the crowd was behind them. In the main event, CIMA retained his belt, beating Doi with his super finisher, the Scwein Redline. As DG wound down their year, we had one more PPV to reach.

The October Korakuen show was quite eventful. Shingo Takagi beat Mochizuki, and laid out a challenge for the Dream Gate. Then, Doi and Yoshino beat Arai and Iwasa to win the Twin Gate in an excellent match. Afterwards, MO’z promised three bombs over the next month. The first two were huge. Gamma returned, and had a key making himself the #1 contender, not Shingo. Then, Yasushi Kanda joined MO’z! A Gamma vs. Shingo match was made for the #1 contendership. That night, MO’z provided there third bomb: the debut of…Kenzo Suzuki. It bombed, excuse the pun. But, that night in a super fun match, Shingo defeated Gamma, and earned a shot at CIMA. So the 4th and final PPV was set. At it, Doi/Yoshino defeated Saito/Susumu in an excellent match, and CIMA pinned Shingo after much difficulty with a roll-up. In the undercard, the O-30’s retained their trios titles. Also, Kenzo jobbed to Dragon Kid, and was sent packing. The show was another success, wrapping up the PPV season for DG. Sometime next year I will cover December, but for what is available, here are my awards for DG, in what was a really good year.

MVP: CIMA. It just has to be. He main evented 3 of the 4 PPV’s, made Doi look great, and even if he didn’t elevate THAT many people, he did draw, and you can’t hold that against him. So, while Doi, Shingo, Ryo, ect were more spectacular, CIMA is the MVP.

Most Improved: Cyber Kong. Fell into the role of “dumb ape” SO greatly. Plays it to perfection in matches against K-ness, Mochizuki, and others. I hope to see him in some Triangle and Twin Gate matches next year.

Top 10 Matches of the Year
1) Shingo/Hulk/Kong vs. Doi/Yoshino/Kishiwada vs. Saito/Susumu/DKid, 6/5
2) Shingo/Hulk/Kong vs. Kishiwada/Doi/Yoshino, 7/1
3) Saito/Susumu vs. Arai/Iwasa, 9/22
4) CIMA/Saito/Susumu vs. Shingo/Hulk/Kong, 5/10
5) Doi/Yoshino vs. Saito/Susumu, 11/25
6) Fujii/Mochizuki/K-ness vs. Shingo/Kong/Ibushi, 9/22
7) CIMA vs. Doi, 9/22
8) Doi/Yoshino vs. Arai/Iwasa, 10/12
9) MO’z vs. Typhoon Full Confrontation, 4/17
10) Don Fujii vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, 2/4

And with that, we’ll wrap it up. As always, any suggestions, comments, or anything, it’s jmull911@yahoo.com. So seriously, check out some puro!

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