Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Second Japan Trip Part 1

Warning - This is a long post, but there's no filler.

After my first trip last year, I finally made a second trip to Japan to see pro wrestling again. This time the stakes were upped, with over 16 shows in 10 days. This was an absolutely insane trip, and in this article, I will talk about some of my experiences during the trip.
I arrived on 12/27 in the evening. Not even an hour after arriving into Japan, I had run into a K-1 fighter. I did not catch his name, but I believe he was Errol Zimmerman. After arriving into Tokyo, it was time for the first show of the trip, Dragon Gate’s Buyuuden show at Korakuen Hall featuring Masaaki Mochizuki’s celebration for 15 years in professional wrestling.
Buyuuden ended being a terrific show. There were no bad matches, and the card was packed with many stars like The Great Sasuke, Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Shinjiro Ohtani. One of the best matches on the show featured Cyber Kong versus Daisuke Sekimoto. They provided a very entertaining match where they showed off various feats of strength, and fought to a double count out. Another match featured Kikutaro against Stalker Ichikawa in a comedy match where both wrestlers impersonated Stan Hansen. It was a hilarious match, filled with many Hansen mannerisms. The main event on the show featured Masaaki Mochizuki & Shinjiro Ohtani versus Koji Kanemoto & Minoru Tanaka. On paper it looked like an amazing match and it did not let me down. This was a hot 22 minutes of strikes and false finishes which kept the crowd hot throughout. In the end, this was a very good show. When they show ended, I got to meet Kikutaro and Munenori Sawa (one of the nine times I ran into him there), who were both very friendly and helpful.
After leaving the show, I was dead tired from 16 brutal hours on planes, and wanted to head to bed. Getting back to the hotel was no easy task though, as there were 1,000 teenage girls leaving some concert at the Tokyo Dome at the same time.
The next morning I had woken up and rushed over to JWP’s show at Korakuen Hall to purchase a program since I could not attend the show. While there, JWP wrestler Kayoko Haruyama was nice enough to sign my program. I then headed over to one of the top wrestling stores in the world, Toudoukan ( Toudoukan is an absolute must-see for any fan of Japanese puroresu. The store has anything you could ever imagine including signed memorabilia, rare programs dating back to the 1960’s and American merchandise, making this a true dreamland for any fan. The crew at Toudoukan were even kind enough to let me enter the store before opening time and give me directions to the next show, Ito Dojo at Shinjuku FACE.
The show was pretty stacked in my opinion, with Ayako Hamada(who is very nice in person, and speaks english and spanish), Manami Toyota, Miho Wakizawa(coming out of retirement for her match), Yumiko Hotta, and the ZAPS. The Ito Dojo show ended up being very good after a slow-start. Before the show even started, I ran into some English speaking Japanese fans that were very friendly and helped me out. The top match on the show was the main event. This match was 2 out of 3 falls and was filled with brawling and numerous dives from all over the arena. Ayako Hamada, the daughter of wrestler Gran Hamada, particularly shined along with Manami Toyota. I got to meet Toyota after the show, and after a little translation help from my Japanese friends, Toyota excitedly remembered me from last year. If you think the lobby's at Korakuen are crazy, they are even worse at Shinjuku FACE. There you get pushed in 5 different directions and angles. At one point, I almost even got toppled into a guy on a wheelchair which was no fun at all.
As soon as I finished talking to Toyota, I ran to meet my friend and get ready for the next show, Queen Bee at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring. However, after my friend and I met, we ended up meeting a few more wrestlers as well. We first ran into Misae Genki. She was very nice and directed my friend and me on where to buy tickets to her retirement show on 12/31/2008, since the Korakuen ticket office said they weren't selling them(Wrong!). Then, when going up to the Korakuen Hall ticket office, we ran into Sonoko Kato. We had previously met Kato, and she instantly remembered us. She was surprised and excited to see us, which alone made the trip worthwhile. We then talked to her and found out what shows she would be on in the upcoming days. We also got to meet her friends, two other popular wrestlers named Carlos Amano and Chikayo Nagashima. With time running out, we rushed over to Shin-Kiba 1st Ring for Queen Bee.
The card only featured four matches, two of which were good, and two of which were awesome. We also got to sit front row for this, which made the matches even better. One of the awesome matches was Fuuka versus Natsuki*Taiyo. Fuuka recently won a real kickboxing match against another wrestler, so this style was a perfect fit. Both women hit each other very hard during the match, with Natsuki giving Fuuka a particularly nasty looking spin-kick to the face. This was my pick for the best match on the show, though the main event was great as well. The main event featured the Passion Red team of Kana & Nanae Takahashi versus newcomer Chihiro Oikawa and AKINO. The match featured Oikawa getting her nose busted open, leaving the ring a mess. At one point she got kicked in the face, and blood went squirting three rows. I’ve seen many matches, but I’ve never seen anything like that. Oikawa, even though she is a rookie, is really skilled and should have a very bright future ahead of her. After the show, Oikawa was crying because of the pain. She was fine after a few minutes, and was generous enough to talk to the fans. Munenori Sawa was also at the show, and remembered me from the night before. He then gave me a free Queen Bee poster signed by Oikawa, which was very nice of him. I also managed to get a picture with Yuki Ishikawa during intermission. I almost snagged one with Esui and Yuko Yamada too, but oh well.
The next day (12/29/2008), there was only one puroresu show going on. Because of this, my friend and I had a lot of time to check out the various puroresu stores. One of these stores is called CHAMPION. CHAMPION has an amazing selection of videos and puroresu merchandise, and is definitely worth checking out. The staff is also incredibly nice, which I cannot stress enough.
That day's show was Kasu Ichi. As soon as we got in, we thought we saw SUWA. Unfortunately, he was a little busy selling tickets so we couldn't find out if it was actually him. In the opener, MEN’s Club made its presence known. The highlight of the match was actually before the match started. Danshoku Dino found a child and tried to kiss him. The kid ran up and down two flights of stairs to get away from Dino, which he did successfully. It was hilarious, and was something that would never happen in America. It sounds really creepy, and I’d say it probably was, but those that have seen Dino before might be able to understand the psych behind it.
The show had two very cool surprises in an Ultimo Dragon match, then a SUWA appearance. Since this show featured many Toryumon students, it was only natural that the old boss of Toryumon, Ultimo Dragon, would have a match. SUWA, a popular but recently retired wrestler, came out to help Ultimo Dragon after his match.
The top match on this show was the Brahman Brothers of Shu and Kei Sato versus Minoru Suzuki and Yoshihiro Takayama. The Sato brothers are another pair of wacky characters. They come to the ring in KKK and Wiccan outfits, they puke slime (this is something that must be seen), and have haircuts that very strange. The match featured the Sato’s doing many odd things, like throwing worms at their opponents and into the crowd, throwing water balloons, and spitting black mist in the face of Takayama. It was a really wild match, and had the crowd in it throughout. In the end, Takayama’s team prevailed. After the show, my friend and I were fortunate enough to meet Ultimo Dragon and get a picture with him, which was really special for me. Ultimo also knows some english, so I could ask him a question or two.
The next day (12/30/2008) featured a show I had been waiting for. This show was Devil Masami’s retirement show. Because of how important Devil Masami is to women’s wrestling in Japan, her retirement show was very big. The show had over 6 promotions come together, and featured more names that I could possibly ever describe. Because of how many matches and wrestlers the show had, each match besides the main event had a 10 minute time limit. This sucked because all of the wrestlers worked house show style matches for the most part, minus the Oz Academy match. The card also featured two song performances by Devil Masami, and a retirement ceremony that Ric Flair would be jealous of. While many people think that Ric Flair’s retirement ceremony was the first of its kind, they would be very wrong. Japan has had many big retirement ceremonies for years, and may have even possibly inspired Ric Flair’s. Devil’s retirement ceremony alone lasted over 40 minutes and had appearances by many top wrestlers. At the end of ceremony, the bell was rung 10 times, and with a packed ring full of presents and flowers, streamers were thrown which covered the ring and Devil herself. It was a nice ceremony and was something special. When the show finished, my friend and I waited around. Luckily we did, because we got to meet the Hulk Hogan of joshi, Chigusa Nagayo. Chigusa is possibly the biggest name ever in joshi, and was unmatched in popularity during her top run. Meeting her was something I will never forget.
On 12/31/2008, I closed out the year with a bang. My friend and I traveled to Akihabara in the morning, and found Backdrop. Backdrop ( is an American wrestling store in Japan. They have very unique items, including some that I have never even seen in American stores. It’s somewhat funny, because their selection of American wrestling items is much better than any store in America. The staff there is very nice and friendly. They gave me a small Original Sheik figure and a magazine as a present, which goes to show just how wonderful some people can be.
After Backdrop, it was time for the second retirement show of the trip, this time featuring NEO’s Misae Genki. This was another stacked show. Genki was the bulk of the show, as she competed in 3 different matches. First she fought and easily defeated one of her protégé’s, Aya Yuki. Then, in a match that I’m sure TNA will not even mention, she defeated TNA’s Awesome Kong. The match with Kong was a great match, and one of the better matches of the whole trip. It featured Genki getting powerbombed from the ring through a table, and all kinds of crazy brawling around Korakuen Hall. It was great to see Kong back where she belongs, in the style that she does best. The final match of Genki’s retirement featured Genki versus legend and NEO boss, Kyoko Inoue. The match couldn’t compare with the Genki/Kong match, but it still was good. Kyoko ended up pinning Genki after a lariat. After the match, Genki had her retirement ceremony, and may have had even more streamers than Devil the night before.
The card also featured two good tag matches. One of the tag matches (Kyoko Kimura and Atsuko Emoto versus The Neo Machine Guns) got bloody with light tubes even coming into play. This was unexpected and added to the drama of the match. Kimura & Emoto won, defeating the long time champs. The other really good tag match on the show was the Passion Red team of Kana & Natsuki*Taiyo versus Yoshiko Tamura & Ayumi Kurihara. The tag match had a scary ending unfortunately. A powerbomb finished got messed up, and to cover it Natsuki punted Ayumi Kurihara in the head so the finish would look strong. Ayumi had just come back from a pretty bad injury, and I was worried that she may have gotten injured again. Fortunately, she was only out for a minute and only ended up with a shiner under her eye.
After the show had ended, there was a meet and greet in the one room of Korakuen Hall. Crazy is not the word to describe it. It was jam-packed, and the only way to get through the room was to hope someone would you push you through. It was honestly a human death trap. It was worth it though, as we got to say goodbye to Kato, and get our pictures taken with Kyoko Kimura, who is not usually available for pictures. I'm also sad to report that Kimura got rid of her trademark afro.
Later on in the day, there was one more show. This show was the annual Pro Wrestling Summit at Korakuen Hall. Every year, this show closes out the year by bringing many top names from different companies in Japan. Since there are over 50 companies in Japan, there are many different wrestlers available.
MEN’s Club again came out for the show. This time the leader, MEN’s Teioh fought different members of his club in a very odd gauntlet match. On the screen at Korakuen, different names would be drawn and after MEN’s was able to successfully hit a move on one wrestler, another would come in. Instead of a bell for this match, they had a big drum that was beat by Big Japan Wrestler, Abdullah Kobayashi, wearing only a sumo thong. TAKA Michinoku also oversaw the match, and tried to put MEN’s down unsuccessfully himself.
The show also had an important moment as The Great Sasuke wrestled his first light tubes match ever. Sasuke’s arm was bloodied, and glass was everywhere (including in the stands) after this match was over. I was really surprised to see Sasuke working this, and I don't expect to see him doing another one anytime soon. The match was not that great, but it left the ring and the fans covered in light tubes. Me being a wuss put glasses on, just to avoid getting any glass in my eye. The BJW website actually warns the fans ahead of time of the possible dangers such as this when coming to a BJW show.
Almost all of the matches on this show were good, with Yuji Okabayashi in the opening match shining along with Yuta Yoshikawa of Battlarts. Okabayashi has the body to be a star, and has tons of intensity, which will get him places. My favorite match was Keita Yano and Shuji Ishikawa vs Suzuki and Takayama. Suzuki in particular just beat the ever-loving crap out of Yano, and seemed to enjoy every second of it. The main event was also good as it featured many power moves between the likes of Sekimoto, Mammoth Sasaki, and Yoshito Sasaki.
I'll put the next part in a seperate post.

No comments :

Post a Comment