Metalhead’s Riff : From Japan to Eternity (NJPW’s New Beginnings, Warrior, WM30, Connor Michalek)

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It’s been a fun week to be a wrestling fan, unless you limit yourself to watching RAW of course. From a better than expected Lockdown last week-end (judging from the commentary’s at least, haven’t gotten around to watch it yet) going to an very enjoyable NXT Rival on Wednesday, and if that wasn’t enough there was also NJPW’s New beginnings on the same day. Adding to that I found this little gem on the WWE network I started to watch to pass some time before sleeping and ended up completely absorbed by it. But more on that later.

Let’s start with the wrestling shows first. The talk of the week is of course NXT’s Rival, and rightfully so. a great show, with some awesome matches it got me riveted to my tv screen almost from start to finish. The only exception being the Corbin/Dempsey match. OK, enough have been said about poor Corbin already so I’m not gonna say that during that match two of my cats were play-fighting, and actually managed to put on a better show than the two wrestlers. No, not gonna say it. Not one to kick a man when he’s down.

Anyway, like I said RIVAL is the talk of the moment so, of course, I’m gonna talk of something else, cause that’s what I do. Actually I’m gonna talk about two very different things today, So without further ado, let’s start with:

Part 1 : Japan

Ever since I started watched NJPW programs again (and credit to Steven Berkman’s excellent reviews here, as they helped me get back into that particular saddle) I’ve been more and more absorbed by the various feuds and programs featured on the shows. While I was still familiar with some of the stars, others were completely new to me, so it’s been a fun few months discovering and re-discovering all the various wrestlers that populate the rich NJPW roster. Now let’s take a closer look at what transpired at The New Beginning in Osaka.

Sho Tanaka vs Yohei Komatsu

As I stated earlier, I’ve only recently started watching Japanese wrestling again, so I still have a lot of catching up to do. I mention this, because, while doing some research on those two young lions, I discovered that this was their 37th single match against each-other in a little over two years time. Wow. But it shows, they had great chemistry and assembled a solid opener. Sho Tanaka, in particular, showed great promise on his way to victory. Something tells me he might move on to bigger things in the second part of 2015. Good opener, liked it.

Mascara Dorada & Tiger Mask vs Captain New Japan & Manabu Nakanishi

Mmmh, this is sometimes the problem I have with some Mexican wrestlers. I do enjoy watching all the high risk moves and the high flying spots, but, sometimes, seeing someone do back-flips and stuff just for the sake of doing back-flips and stuff kind of turns me off the match. This is what happened here, a bit rough around the edge, I expected much better. Dorada even seemed to have to rush to be in place for the match-winning cradle-reverser. This was supposed to be a big win for the Juniors against the heavyweights, but, I don’t know, just didn’t feel it. neither did the crowd. Bit of a mess, card-filler nothing more.

Rob Conway & Chase Owens vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Jushin Thunder Liger

At first I was totally unimpressed by Conway’s performance, until I read he had an appendix operation only 4 weeks ago, so sorry Rob, respect. He worked hard with the tools he had, but Tenzan was the workhorse here. Owens hit his moves and Liger actually didn’t do much. I was a bit puzzled at the purpose of this match, until I realized that at New Beginnings in Sendai, on February the 14th, it’s gonna be Conway (NWA Heavyweight Champion) and Liger (NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion) defending their belts against, respectively Tenzan and Owens. Oh, a set-up match, OK I get it now. Not bad, not great, they just tried to give you a taste of what’s to come.

Tomoaki Honma vs Kota Ibushi

I must say that, until now, apart from the opener, there was little that screamed must see to me, so thank god for Honma and Ibushi. I can’t help it, I absolutely love Honma’s “I’m gonna it that damn diving headbutt or die trying” routine, and the crowds I’ve seen thus far are well into it also. It’s quite a spectacle watching the crowd go “Oooooh” every time he misses and then explode when he finally nails it. Simple but extremely effective and entertaining. Ibushi was his usual dazzling self  and both worked well together to assemble a great match. Ibushi went over in the end after a breathtaking finish. MUST WATCH!

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – reDRagon (c) vs Young Bucks vs Time Splitters

Of course after Honma vs Ibushi you wonder what in heaven’s  name can follow that. Answer is simple, trow those three teams in there and they’ll get the job done. And boy, did they ever. Fast-paced action, innovative double, triple, quadruple team moves. High spots festivals can feel a little overwhelming at times, but not the case here, they kept the attention of the crowd from start to finish by adding some intense storytelling on top of everything else. Young Bucks took this one after another finish that had you literally on the edge of your seat. Those teams have tangled several times already but somehow always manage to keep things fresh. I don’t know if they could have an average match even if they tried. MUST WATCH! SEVERAL TIMES!

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title – Kenny Omega (c) vs Ryusuke Taguchi

Erm, I don’t know about this one. Let me see if i got this straight. So Omega is attacking Taguchi’s ass to prevent him from using his fkying ass attack. What?  Is Vince Russo Booking this one? Very strange match, kinda killed the crowd since both seemed more intend on sodomizing each-other with flag poles than doing some actual wrestling. And no, I’m not making this up. The ending wasn’t too bad since they actually did some wrestling, but, Omega really needs to tone things down because this is getting ridiculous. Shame really, both are good wrestlers, but, what the hell was that??? Don’t know what to say here. No idea.

Toru Yano, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuchika Okada vs Yujio Takahashi, Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale

Correct me if I’m wrong but Fale his the pits isn’t he? I mean really, really bad? Every time he got into that ring the match seemed to  die. Aside from that I don’t even know why Sakabura was there because he did next to nothing. Only Okada and Tonga shined trough here, and the Rainmaker finish was great. Otherwise, just a match designed to give those six something to do. Watch the finish, forget the rest.

Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Shinsuke Nakamura vs Tetsuya Naito, Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima

I’ll admit to probably being a bit subjective here, and seeing this match as being better than it was for the simple reason that every time Nakamura appears on my screen, he entretains me, no matter what he does. Gods that guy is a natural. Goo, fun six-way i thought, the exchanges between Ishii and Kojima were particularly entertaining, the crowd was really rooting for YOSHI-HASHI and, as usual, Nakamura got everyone eating out of the palm of his hand every time he did something. Set-up for Nakamura vs Nagata in Sendai also, but fun anyway. Nakamura is god so watch!

IWGP Tag Team Titles – Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows

Good match between those four I must say, nothing innovative or exceptional, mind you, but they worked well together, everybody had his role and did whatever he was supposed to do well. Solid, old-fashioned tag-team wrestling, the Bullet Club Boys got this one in the end. Not must see but harmless to watch.

IWGP Heavyweight Title – Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs AJ Styles

A great match was expected and a great match was what we got. Much like at Wrestle Kingdom 9, the dangerous Styles Clash finisher was a focal point of the story, especially since Tanahashi had the audacity to use it in front of Styles in the run-up to New Beginning. Apparently, according to some other reviewers,  Tanahashi busting his face up early into the match wasn’t entirely anticipated, but it didn’t derail this one, on the contrary. Another bout filled with top-notch action from two of the very best in the world. AJ Styles makes it a clean sweep for the bullet club in the end. MUST WATCH!

New beginnings was never going to top Wrestle Kingdom 9, I think we all knew that, too many fillers six-man tags, too many set-ups for the event in Sendai. Still with three great matches, enough fun things going on and only a few duds here and there I can recommend this one. The goal was to entertain and they’ve achieved that. Whatever you do don’t miss, the three MUST WATCH matches, or you’ll regret it!

Moving on to the second thing I want to talk about today:

Part 2 : Eternity

Every once in awhile I watch some of the 1-hour programs WWE networks presents. Some are good, some are pretty generic, some are bad, but hidden in the mass you can find some real gems here and there, this is one of them.

As part of WWE 24 here is a special look at Wrestlemania 30.

At first I was anticipating something in the vein of the Mania of Wrestlemania documentary they did for WM19, (btw for those who haven’t seen that, watch it, it’s great), but this turned out to be something quite different.

The show starts with the dramatic statement “The streak is over” and the Undertaker walking away, followed by Vince backstage calling for some help.

And then shifts to 24 hours earlier as various wrestlers and stage hands are speaking about the “New Orleans” welcome and the preparations for the big one. The show then turns bittersweet with the presentation of Connor Michalek as we watch him interact with (amongst others) Ryback, AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan. The way both Bryan and Ryback have fun with the kid really made me smile here (Ryback trying to convince Connor to ask Bryan not to hurt him, and the boy adamantly refusing was particularly funny) and I settled down for something very different than I was expecting at first. And I got it as the show shifted to the  HOF ceremony with backstage clips of The Rock, Austin and Hogan meeting up and talking and Warrior arriving. We see Warrior in a pre-show meeting with Triple H and McMahon and then preparing, and the loving way he regards his daughters, particularly in view of what would happen a few days later, brought a tear to even this old, rugged metalhead.

And this is the theme of the show, they show us clips of the HOF and WM30 all intersected with backstage clips of the people involved, the whole thing expertly mixed given you the feel you are backstage with Warrior, Bryan, McMahon and others and living the whole thing with them. You’ve got to hand this to the WWE, they screw up on occasions, but this kind of thing they do extremely well. I’m not gonna do a play by play of the whole show, watch it, it’s worth your time, but I just want to highlight  three particular moments.

First the backstage reaction of The Rock and Austin, as Hogan makes his Silverdome slip is pure gold. Both look at each-other and both think the same. 3Yeah, now we got him”. Great stuff

Secondly, the Undertaker losing is of course a big part of this show. But, it’s done in a way… There is this moment where, just after Lesnar pins him, we see shots of the shocked crowd, we see twitters and newspaper titles on our screen, conveying the moment, and all that is accompanied by this absolutely amazing little piano version of ‘Taker’s theme. Maybe you guys know it but I never heard it before and the whole thing send chills down my spine. This is the one time The Undertaker really got to my soul. (And here the Vince calling for help thing is explained as it is revealed Undertaker had to be taken to the hospital with a concussion).

Lastly, at the end, cause of course the Bryan matches also take a big part, just after Daniel won the title, he goes over to Connor, hugs him, tells him to keep on fighting, and then turns away, and in a brief moment you see Bryan’s face breaking down with emotions. And no, it’s not because of the title, not in that moment.

Of course this whole documentary takes a whole different meaning because of both the Warrior and Connor’s death only a short time later. It is a real eye-opener for seeing how the WWE superstars really went out of their way to make Connor feel welcome, and how committed Warrior was to mending fences and make it all right again. Lots of other things happen on this show of course, but it’s a must watch for the Warrior’s and Connor Michalek’s story.

Which brings me to the last thing I wanna say today. Ch Punk also wrote about this some time ago, but i want to add my voice to his on this one since apparently WWE really is thinking about adding Connor to the hall of fame and, also apparently, some “wrestling fans” really are against this. To them I wanna say:

Come on guys. Aside from the fact I’m now convinced, after watching this, that the whole WWE locker room would genuinely fight for Connor’s right to be included (and that Daniel Bryan would lead that particular charge), why be against this? It doesn’t harm anyone or anything in the least. Let his memory have this, let him be a legend and sit besides Warrior and all the others.

Just let him in, the kid deserves it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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