Saturday, February 26, 2011

AJPW B-Banquet #284 + #285

AJPW B-Banquet 284 (New Year Shining Series 1/2/11)
January 2nd, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 2,100

So I promised I'd give All Japan a fair shot again in 2011 after disappointing me for the last several years. Tonight we open up the year with the first of a doubleshot weekend of shows at Korakuen, which has been split into two episodes of All Japan's television show, B-Banquet. Big matches tonight include Kaz Hayashi defending the Jr. Heavyweight title against Minoru, along with a 15 Man Battle Royal for our main event. We've got a sellout crowd tonight so let's see what AJPW has in store for us.

Manabu Soya vs. Takumi Soya

These two men are brothers and this is Takumi's debut match for All Japan. Manabu is the older brother and has been wrestling for All Japan for several years after being trained by Osamu Nishimura. Both brothers trade side-headlocks to start us off, jockeying for position on the mat. Takumi tries for a body slam but can't lift the elder brother up. Vertical suplex from Manabu followed by a scoop slam and an elbow smash, but Takumi only stays down for a one count. Manabu gets taken off his feet briefly by a few big elbows, but Takumi can't capitalize. Snap suplex gets Takumi a quick two, but Manabu is able to comeback with a big back suplex. Big lariat and then Manabu makes his younger brother tap out with a Boston crab at 8:19. After the match the two brothers shake hands. Decent opener here, it feels like they may have clipped off 20 seconds or so, but that's no big deal. Takumi looked okay in his debut, but it's too soon to tell if he's got much of a future.

Shuji Kondo/Hiroshi Yamato vs. MAZADA/Super Hate

MAZADA and Super Hate are both members of the VOODOO MURDERS stable, a group of disrespectful rebels who are constantly causing trouble for the resident babyfaces of All Japan, while Kondo and Yamato are two of the better upper-midcarders in the company. It's chaos to start with Super Hate and Kondo battling outside while Yamato and MAZADA fight in the ring. Yamato dropkicks MAZADA and then tags Kondo in. Hate comes in to meet him and gets a big powerslam for his troubles. Big spear gets Yamato barely a one count as MAZADA breaks it up. Yamato flies out after MAZADA with a tope suicida! Meanwhile in the ring Hate hits an elbow drop for a two count on Kondo and starts taunting his opponent. This of course is a big mistake as Kondo is built like a house and he just lariats Hate right out of his boots for the quick pin at 5:40. Pretty short match here and not very serious, but Kondo and Yamato looked good.

AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Kaz Hayashi (C) vs. Minoru Tanaka

Kaz should be familiar to US wrestling fans for his stint in WCW as a part of the great Jung Dragons team, but he's dominated the junior heavyweight scene in All Japan for quite some time now, having held the title for the last 23 months in one of the longest reigns in company history. Minoru Tanaka previously wrestled primarily for NJPW and TNA before jumping to AJPW. Each man is cautious to start, trying to feel the other man out before both wind up taking quick breathers to recollect themselves outside the ring. Hayashi tries for a monkey flip and ends up tossing Minoru to the outside floor where he gives him a swinging DDT off of the apron! Back inside Kaz tries working a cross-armed choke on Minoru, but Minoru bails again only for Kaz to follow him out with a tope suicida! Hayashi is in control now, laying in mocking kicks to Minoru in the corner, taunting his younger opponent. Minoru tries coming back with a few spin kicks but get's a dragonscrew legwhip for his troubles and then has his head slammed so hard into the second turnbuckle it sounds like his skull hit the ring bell. Minoru counters a slam attempt with a vicious armbar, but Hayashi gets to the ropes quickly for the break. Handspring back spinkick from Hayashi lays Tanaka out. Kaz climbs to the top and takes Minoru down with a frankensteiner, but Minoru counters with a rollup! 1-2--NOO! Hayashi kicks out and comes back with a superkick-spinning headlock elbow drop combo. Hayashi then positions Minoru on the top rope and gives him another spinning headlock elbow drop off the top! 1-2--NOO! Minoru kicks out. Hayashi flips out of one German suplex attempt but gets hit with a second, and then Minoru hits a quick brainbuster for a two count, transitioning right into the juji gatame armbar! Hayashi counters with a cradle, but again Minoru kicks out. He shrugs off a back suplex and they trade huge superkicks before Minoru takes Kaz out with a big bicycle kick! Crowd is chanting for Minoru now, heavily behind the underdog. Hayashi however hits a big Kudo driver, dropping Minoru right on his head! Tanaka won't stay down long though, sending Hayashi flying with a release German suplex. Tanaka tries for a super-fisherman's suplex, but ends up drop-kicking Hayashi in mid-air instead! Now Minoru hits the super-fisherman's suplex off the top! 1-2--NOO! Kaz kicks out! 450 splash from Minoru, but again Hayashi kicks out before the three. Celtic Cross and a gourdbuster from Minoru, but still the champ kicks out at two. Hayashi gets a cradle for two and then tries for a reverse DDT before rolling Minoru up once again for a close two. Twisting neckbreaker and inverted suplex from Hayashi! 1-2--NOO! Minoru kicks out. Hayashi counters another spinkick attempt into a cradle, but he just can't put Tanaka away! He tries a flurry of big kicks but Minoru counters with the juji gatame armbar once again! He's really got it hooked in now and Hayashi had no choice but to tap out at 22:08! We have a NEW champion! The crowd is shocked and delighted and so am I. An absolutely staggering title reign by Hayashi is finally put to an end to kick 2011 off with a bang. Minoru got put over like a million bucks and this was a fast-paced, evenly fought match up that really shakes things up for the junior heavyweight division. ****

That'll do it for the first episode of B-Banquet from this Korakuen show, but the next episode is on directly after this so I'll be reviewing that immediately after this.

Bottom Line:
Well it's one show less than an hour long and we've got an excellent and extremely important main event with Kaz Hayashi finally being ousted as Jr. Heavyweight champion after 23 months by Minoru Tanaka. Considering more than half this show is the excellent main event, it's an incredibly easy Thumbs Up.

Score: 8/10


AJPW B-Banquet 285 (New Year Shining Series 1/2/11)
January 2nd, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 2,100

This is the second half of the same 1/2 Korakuen Hall show from the last episode of B-Banquet, so let's hop right into it. Our main event in this episode is a big 15 man battle royal including the likes of Keiji Muto, Masakatsu Funaki, Minoru Suzuki, and many others.

Suwama/Seiya Sanada/KAI vs. Keiji Muto/Masakatsu Funaki/Minoru Suzuki

This is basically a battle of the old grizzled veterans (Muto/Funaki/Suzuki) taking on the young guns of All Japan (Suwama/Sanada/KAI) so this should be pretty decent. Suzuki and KAI start us off with each man trading a standing wristlock. Muto and Sanada tag in now and Muto slaps on a side-headlock. Sanada counters with one of his own and then Funaki and Suwama tag in. Funaki tries going for an armbar and then a triangle hold but Suwama struggles free. Suzuki and Muto hit the ring now and all three team-members apply a submission on Suwama simultaneously while Sanada inadvertently distracts the ref. Suzuki and Muto trade quick tags in now, all taking turns hitting a few signature moves on Suwama. Funaki tags in but gets an overhead belly-to-belly suplex as soon as he does, allowing Suwama to tag KAI in. KAI hits a huge running enziguri for a quick two count on Funaki. Suwama tags back in and hits an elbow for two. Huge double-chop sends Funaki to the mat and then Suwama gives him another overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Muto and Sanada tag in now and Muto gives him a dragonscrew legwhip, Springboard dropkick attempt by Sanada but Muto dropkicks his leg in mid-air and then locks on a figure four leglock. Sanada counters with an enziguri and gets the tag to Suwama. Running powerslam on Muto gets him a two count. Muto tags Suzuki in now and he hits a Yakuza kick into the corner, followed by a kneestrike for two. Suwama counters with a big belly to belly and then KAI tags in with a springboard ropkick. All three men start ganging up on Suzuki, with KAI hitting an awkward legdrop for a two count. Funaki hits the ring and cleans house now with Suzuki and Muto. Muto accidentally hits Suzuki with an elbow and he and Suzuki share an angry glare. Muto, Suzuki, and Funaki all lock submissions on the middle of the ring, and then Suzuki gives KAI a big cradle piledriver for the pinfall at 16:45. After the match Suzuki and Muto shake hands. Pretty good stuff here, but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. **¾

Masanobu Fuchi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. BUSHI/NOSAWA Rongai

BUSHI is pretty awesome, NOSAWA...not so much. Fuchi and Kikuchi are longtime respected veterans from the Golden Age 90s, so on paper this wouldn't look like a very even match up. Fuchi and BUSHI start us off with Fuchi hitting a shoulderblock and a body slam. BUSHI dropkicks him to the floor and then slingshots out with a splash, taking out old man Fuchi on the floor. Fuchi gets dropkicked out again, and BUSHI just hits another splash. Woah, deja vu. Fuchi teases just walking out but Kikuchi convinces him to come back to the ring and tag out. Kikuchi looks like he might actually be higher than NOSAWA, but Rongai tags in now so we can see for sure. Lots of goofy facial expressions from Kikuchi and Rongai here. Fuchi tags back in and slams NOSAWA. BUSHI tries coming in but gets slammed as well. Kikuchi and Fuchi trade quick tags back and forth but NOSAWA fights them off and tags BUSHI in. BUSHI misses a missile dropkick and then Kikuchi hits a big bridging german suplex for the pin at 6:38. Just some comedy match filler here. Shame, I'd rather see BUSHI doing something worthwhile. ¾*

Ryoto Hama vs. Yasufumi Nakanoueno

Hama is one of the main guys that was turning me off the All Japan product over the last few years, being an incredibly obese ex-Sumo and utterly terrible professional wrestler who nevertheless keeps getting pushed in the main event, to the point where he was actually the Triple Crown Heavyweight champion for several months in 2010. I'm pretty unfamiliar with Nakanoueno, so let's see how this match-up plays out. Nakanoueno tries taking Hama off his feet with several shoulder-block attempts, but of course, Hama is a fucking cow and he just easily knocks Nakanoueno around with his mammoth fat rolls and then just stands on his chest, crushing his ribcage under his ample weight. Nakanoueno tries to slam Hama but obviously that's not happening and Hama easily slams him instead. He tries for a back suplex now, but again, there's just no way he's going to get Hama off his feet. Hama gives him a choke slam, but Nakanoueno kicks out surprisingly. He tries rolling up the big man, but only for a two count. He tries for another roll-up but Hama just sits on him for a two count and then he finishes Nakanoueno off with an elbow drop at 5:08. After the match Hama raises Nakanoueno's hand in a sign of sportsmanship. Typical Hama squash match, if you've seen one you've seen them all. ½*

15 Man Heavyweight Battle Royal
(Featuring Keiji Muto, Ryoto Hama, Seiya Sanada, Manabu Soya, Minoru Suzuki, Taiyo Kea, Suwama, KENSO, KONO, Akebono, TARU, Osamu Nishimura, Masakatsu Funaki, Yasufumi Nakanoueno, and Takumi Soya)

Not sure about any real point or prize for this battle royal, just a gimmick match for the sake of the gimmick really. Apparently pinfalls count in this battle royal as well as over-the-top rope eliminations. Once everyone makes their way to the ring things start off rather strangely as TARU just climbs over the top rope and leaves the minute the match starts. O...kay? This distracts Akebono long enough for KONO to come up behind him and eliminate him, only for Muto to come up behind KONO and eliminate him next. KENSO tries for a cross-body block on Muto but he just ducks and KENSO goes flying out of the ring, eliminating himself. This is a strange start here as no one is really wrestling, just kind of walking around, waiting for someone to make a move and then eliminating that person. Muto and Suwama start trading blows in the middle of the ring but then Suwama ends up getting rolled up by Taiyo Kea for a pin and then somehow rolls Kea up for a pin on him as well, somehow eliminating both men. could Suwama pin Kea if he had just been eliminated himself? Whatever, moving along. There's still no action at all here with everyone just standing around the ring staring at eachother. Muto and Suzuki decide to team up against Manabu Soya, Sanada, and Hama now, but Suzuki quickly turns on Muto and everyone starts beating the legend/booker down. Big splash from Hama and the help from a few others gets the pinfall on Suzuki now, eliminating him. Everyone starts ganging up on Muto now but Hama decides instead to lariat his co-attackers and unsuccessfully try for a pin on Muto. You know, Funaki, Takumi Soya, Nishimura, and Nakanoueno are all listed as being in this battle royal, but I have no clue where they went off to. I guess they just walked out, eliminating themselves while everyone else was busy playing grab-ass with Muto. Shining Wizard from Muto on Manabu Soya and then a splash from Hama elmiinates Manabu and we're down to just Muto, Hama, and Sanada now. Muto tries to get Hama and Sanada to fight each other and succeeds, but that's a battle Hama quickly wins and he just sits on Sanada to eliminate him. Muto then runs right up and hits the Shining Wizard on Hama for the pin and the win at 13:53. What in the name of God did I just watch? This was the most bizarre battle royal I have EVER witnessed with people just walking out of the ring for no reason, absolutely no action to speak of, and wacky almost comedic eliminations. Check this out if you want to see one of the weirdest battle royals ever. ½*

After the match Muto gets on the mic and says something in Japanese (obviously), which I of course can't understand. He's handed an envelope so maybe he does get a prize for winning that Bizarro World Battle Royal after all. The arena empties out while Muto answers a few questions backstage during the post-match interview, and that'll do it for B-Banquet 285.

Bottom Line: Strange show here mostly, we get a Hama squash, a fairly solid six man tag match, and the weirdest battle royal I've ever seen. I suppose there's something to see in that, but truthfully there's nothing here you really need to see or can't afford to miss. Thumbs Down, slightly.

Score: 4/10

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