Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Third Japan Trip

12/21 - In a prelude to the trip, I got sick on this day and got little sleep. This ended up affecting my whole trip and is still bothering me right now.

12/22 - To start off the trip, It took over 3 hours to get to the hotel from the airport. I gave up when the bus got within a few stops of the hotel and took a train instead. Unfortunately, somewhere around then one of my suitcase wheels gave up on me, so I had to drag my bag to the hotel. By this time, I was already late for the J Cup and missed atleast the first match.

J Cup Night 1 - From what I can remember, this was a pretty good show. Kanemoto/Hayato was easily the match of the night, being exactly what I thought it could be. The crowd was more into Hayato and Ibushi than anyone else the whole night. So, of course they both lose in the first round. What really made no sense is that Ibushi lost while Danshoku Dino advanced into the next round. I missed a little bit of the main event but that seemed to be alright.

12/23 - I was probably more excited for this day than any other. I had a choice between 3 joshi shows at the same time(JWP Dojo Show, Fuka Matsuri and Oz Academy). However, there was no way that I was skipping Oz.

After getting to the show, I saw Takako Inoue arriving. With her huge sunglasses and American attire, I almost didn't notice her. Then I bought a ticket and immediately saw Sonoko Kato. I've met Kato 3 times now and am always friendly with her during my trips. She spotted my friend and I and went insane nearly knocking both of us down with hugs. That pretty much made it worthwhile right there. She was so excited and happy to see us. Because of her and puroresu in general, I started studying Japanese in May. She talks way too fast for me to understand, but fortunately she could at least understand me. Surprisingly, she said that she had also been studying some English to communicate with us! I was really impressed by that. Then she called up Manami Toyota and we all got to chat for a little while. They asked us to cheer for them loudly during their matches that day. It was a huge mark out moment and something that I will not forget.

The show itself was really good. Nao Komatsu made her debut and had a great debut. Her family supported her cheering loudly and bringing signs for her. She didn't mess anything and showed a little fire. She's a little small and a little chubby(by japanese wrestling standards), but she's cute.

Kyoko Inoue(substituting for Hiren) had a good match with Takako Inoue. Kyoko bumped huge for her and ended up being a great replacement.

The next match between Aja Kong & Hiroyo Matsumoto vs Ayumi Kurihara & Dynamite Kansai was probably one of the best matches of the trip. Aja was awesome and may be the best older AJW worker. Her and Kansai stiffed each other alot and made for a great match.

The next 3 matches were all pretty long. We had bleacher seats at Korakuen which did not help. They are so hard and become unbearable after an hour or so. Ozaki had a good but long match against Kaoru with Kaoru getting a big beating. Kato/Nagashima vs Ran/AKINO followed. It wasn't bad, but immediately their pacing showed that it would be a draw. Then Manami Toyota main evented against Carlos Amano. Toyota did a great job bullying Carlos around. Toyota has gotten into better shape now and is showing signs of the Toyota of old. She messed up her shoulder somewhere along the way during this and Carlos took home the Oz Academy gold.

After the show, my japanese friend joined us in the gimmick room. I got pictures with Dynamite Kansai and Toyota in there. Fortunately, my friend translated for us, so we actually got to have a good conversation with Toyota and Kato. They enjoyed our gifts that we brought them, and in return they gave us signed pictures of them. Because Kato is so popular, we had to make it quicker than we would have liked, so we forgot to get our picture with her. She said that she was really excited to see us again and considered us her friends. Toyota said that she plans to keep going strong and wants us to be able to come see her wrestle every year that we come.

After leaving the J-Cup show, we got to chat with my japanese friend about wrestling for a few hours. Unfortunately, around this time my sickness started kicking in. I barely made it through awake. I attempted to go to the J Cup show that night, but by the first match I was already done for. I ended up leaving at intermission and got some much needed rest.

12/24 - Due to some miscommunication with my friend and I, I didn't get to go to the NOAH show that night unfortunately. I ended up just chatting with one of the japanese wrestling shop owners, which ended up being just as fun.

12/25 - I went to Dragon Gate on this day. Dragon Gate was totally disappointing. They had Gurentai on the show(which is never a good thing) and everything was being built towards the big show on the 27th at Fukuoka. They mentioned it so many times that I was asking myself why they even bothered having this show. What sucked was that there were 3 consecutive Korakuen crowd brawls during 3 matches. It got extremely old and at pretty much every other show they had another crowd brawl. I never want to see another Korakuen crowd brawl again. It went along badly with the usual 2.9 style of DG.

12/26 - I went to the NEO Dojo show in Yokohoma. The NEO Dojo is a small little dojo. It only holds 50 fans and is pretty much just a ring and some weights. It's very different. The wrestlers even sell homemade soup there.

The dojo show was actually pretty fun. It lasted about 75 minutes and features 5 matches with 10 women. None of the matches were too serious, and the women were stuck with not being able to brawl outside the ring or to jump too high due to the low ceiling. There was a really strange spot with Matsumoto intentionally nailing the ceiling. The main event was a really weird graffiti battle royale. Anytime a woman was eliminated, the other girls would hold her down and draw designs on her face. Kyoko got Tamura's glasses drawn on her and in return, Kyoko started acting like Tamura. Even Nagisa Nozaki, who wasn't in the match, got involved. After the show, for only 1,000 Yen, there was an opportunity to take a picture with all of the girls at the show(minus Esui) in the ring. The girls got a big kick out of this, as did I. They probably could have charged 4 times as much and I would have paid it. It's probably one of my more favorite photos.

The show was fun overall. All of the matches were interesting and getting the wrestlers pictures was great. It cost about 5,500 Yen overall to get out there and back, so the price was a little high.

After the show, my friend and I headed to Shin Kiba for Fukumen. After a long day of travel, again I was completely out of it. I slept through most of the show and the only highlight for me besides Koriyuki's mask was talking with the announcer from DREAM MMA. He's a really cool dude and has a great voice.

12/27 - This day started off with Azumi Hyuga's retirement show. Azumi is the ace of JWP and is really the last thing they have to hold onto. They are going to be completely screwed without her and may have a rough few years.

The show was really good. There were no bad matches and there were some appearances by Meiko Satomura, the Great Kabuki and Jaguar Yokota. As well, Cuty Suzuki and Shinobu Kandori came by to give Hyuga flowers. The main was not very heated even for Hyuga's last match, but it was still good. I probably had one of the best times at this show. After it, I managed to get photos with Jaguar, Meiko(who speaks a little English), Nanae Takahashi, Ray and Emi Sakura. I also watched as a whole group of fans chased Hyuga out of the building to get an autograph. Unfortunately, she would not sign. Another interesting note is that apparently Kaori Yoneyama drives the JWP van(an everyday van with JWP posters taped to it).

DDT followed after and had a good show as well. Every year DDT constantly surprises me. Due to their comedic style, I often don't expect much, but they always deliver. The main event in particular really delivered and was one of the best matches on the trip. Ishikawa and HARASHIMA did a great job and hopefully will have a rematch somewhere down the line. DDT had a great crowd for this show as well, and seems to be one of the fastest growing promotions.

12/28-12/30 - I didn't go to any shows on these days. Instead I did some other fun things like karaoke(singing Beauty Pair songs!), eating yakiniku, and seeing the Japanese version of Disneyland. Tokyo Disneyland is very different and not really worth it if you have already been to an American Disney. The language barrier is a huge problem and the place was super packed. Anyone who's been to Japan knows about their habit of pushing in lines, and combined with everyone going in different directions at Disney, makes for an annoying time. I can't say I'd recommend it. With cold weather and being sick, it was not the happiest place on earth for me. I also went to a maid cafe on one of these days. It was a complete waste of time. I have no idea why anyone would spend their money on that.

12/31 - I hit NEO and the BJW/DDT/KDojo show this day. NEO had a great main event, but had possibly the worst match I've ever seen. It was a stupid comedy match and featured West Gate Puroresu. All of the wrestlers are terrible imitations of other wrestlers and are just flat out annoying. Of course, their match was one of the longest of the night. The show did feature a great match between 3 different Matsumoto's - Dump, Hiroyo and ICE RIBBON's dancing queen Miyako(who does indeed come out to Dancing Queen). Dump beat the crap out of Miyako, and Miyako sold it so well. This was one of the most entertaining matches I saw. Kana was probably the best performer on the show during her main event match. She is super hot and is the hardest kicker out there right now. She's on track to being the best woman wrestler in the world. After the show I talked to Nagisa Nozaki for the 3rd time. She's a really friendly and nice girl, but is always getting injured unfortunately. She plans to make another comeback in 6 months, so hopefully she can stay injury free for awhile. I also talked to the Shirai's and got to pose for them!

According to a rumor, Nanae and Kana got into a real fight after the match with Nanae supposedly delivering a real beat down to Kana. Obviously, Passion Red is having some problems, but hopefully they can stay together, as they are by far the best thing in joshi right now.

The 3 promotional show had a really funny blindfold match with Antonio Honda. It was super entertaining and should be worth checking out. The show also featured Bambi whipping wrestlers with her whip, and the return of TIGER CHUNG LEE to the ring. Overall, it had something for every kind of fan and was pretty wild. Oh yeah and it also featured a 108 man battle royale.

1/1 - Zero-1 had the only show this day and had two great matches. Before the show started I got to meet Akebono. Akebono is huge in person and may be a little too big for his own good anymore.

The show had a great match between Toshiaki Kawada and Daisuke Sekimoto. It could have been a classic, but it was atleast pretty good. It was a big moment for me to finally see Kawada live. The other good match on the show featured a tag between Hidaka & Mochizuki vs Sawa and Hayato Fujita Jr. This was just as good as you would expect and featured a ton of kicking.

1/2 - I saw a mediocre All Japan show this day and BJW. All Japan just does not produce entertaining shows for the most part. The talent is there, but pretty much every show I've been to of theirs has been disappointing. It feels like WWE sometimes, as the wrestlers just don't really go fully out of their way to do something special.

BJW featured an amazing 4 vs 4 elimination death match. It was 27 minutes of straight action and violence. It was undoubtedly the best match I saw on this trip. Every wrestler brought their own weapon including a light tube tree decorated for New Years. Of course, the wrestlers took pictures while bloody after the show. Because of this, I have been able to get pictures with nearly all of the BJW roster at some point. BJW is undoubtedly number 1 in dealing with fans.
1/3 - I went to an even worse All Japan show on this day. Too much Gurentai, and the main event was too long for my tastes. However, I must say that Hama is awesome. He is amazing for his size and is so much fun to watch. If there was a fat wrestler of the year award, he would own it.

1/4 - This was probably the most interesting day wrestling wise for me. I went to see ICE RIBBON and WAVE. Yes, I skipped the NJ Dome show.

ICE RIBBON was actually a really good show. There are very few underage girls left(except for Riho who is better than most wrestlers already at the age of 12) and to fill out the card they brought Nanae, Natsuki Taiyo, Kenny Omega and Yoneyama. Every match was pretty good and I had a great time there. Having not watched much ICE RIBBON, I was surprised by how much these girls have grown.

WAVE was also really good. Because WAVE is not shown anywhere, I couldn't skip this. Fortunately, I managed to record this show myself, since I'd never get to see it again otherwise. It had a great comedy match featuring Mima Shimoda(who almost died of laughter) and the returning Sakura Hirota. They did a spot where they worked super slow and then had to work super fast right after. After the match, GAMI and Misaki Ohata both got cake put in their face, since it was their birthday. Aja Kong also was on this show working an anime gimmick where if she is unplugged, she only has 5 minutes to live until dying. No, I'm not making this up.

After the show, I caught up with my friend who was hanging out with Terry Funk. They went to a bar with an already very drunk Funk. Due to my allergies to smoke, I was not able to stay very long.

1/5 - While taking the bus to the airport, I talked with Matt of Zero-1. We saw a wrestler in a New Japan suit on the bus, but could not figure out who it was. After seeing his haircut and hearing his accent, we figured out that it was Ultimo Guerrero! Let's just say that he wears a mask for a reason.

I was supposed to leave on this day, and technically I did. However, I also technically made my 4th trip to Japan on this day. What happened was that during preparation for the flight, someone got a whistle stuck inside the door of the plane. This cracked a window and became a real problem. So, our plane randomly made a U-turn and circled around. No one had any clue what was going on. Eventually, we landed back at the airport where another problem was discovered with the wing. Since it was late at night, there was a curfew. This meant that we were stuck in Japan for one more night. They put us in a hotel and fortunately we flew back safely the next day.

Overall, it was a fun trip but it was hurt by my sickness and fatigue. DVDVR was really represented in Japan with me getting to hang out with Osito, Matt, LeMuso, JacquesRougeau, Ohtani's Jacket, Ka-to, and possibly some others. I think that really made the trip, as it wouldn't have been as much fun without these guys. They are all great guys. So thanks to everyone and I can't wait until I return!

Here are my pictures with wrestlers in japan(All pictures up until Shingo on the 2nd page are new):

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