June 1968 goes down in history as a very notable month across the world. In the United States, Presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy was assassinated at a hotel in Los Angeles. The United Kingdom saw the sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant went on strike over pay which ultimately led to the Equal Pay Act two years later. In Brazil the March of the One Hundred Thousand took place as the population of Rio protested the military government. And in Yokohama, Japan, on the 17th day of the month, Minoru Suzuki was born.
A little over 50 years later, in what will go down as one of the hardest hitting matches ever seen in this country, Minoru Suzuki defeated Tomohiro Ishii to become the RPW Undisputed British Heavyweight Champion. This crowed off a night which saw Suzuki-Gun nominate Chaos in a series of matches between the two factions. Overall this was an excellent show live, and the two singles matches which closed the show are must-see-matches.
Suzuki and Ishii received huge reactions from the near 3,000 in attendance at Planet Ice Altrincham, but there was no questioning Suzuki’s status as the favourite amongst the fans. Both men fought with incredible intensity, neither giving the other an inch and refusing to show any signs of weakness. The sound of each hard slap to the face, of each stiff elbow to the head, echoed around the building. Anyone who was there will never forget those sounds. This was not a pro wrestling exhibition. This was not wrestling as art. This was a fight. This was a war.
Suzuki dominated the match with strikes and submission attempts. Ishii took everything Suzuki could throw at him, firing back with hard shots of his own and overpowering his smaller opponent with suplexes when the opportunities presented themselves. In the end though, after an unbelieve striking exchange Suzuki was able to drop Ishii on his head with the Gotch-Style Piledriver, and less than 30 miles from where his mentor was trained at the Snake Pit, add another championship belt to his collection.
In the Semi-Main Event Zack Sabre Jr scored what I would consider a surprise victory over former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada with a trademark bridging pin. Okada, sporting new red and black long gear complete with Randy Savage-esque tassels, got the kind of superstar reaction you’d expect, and the crowd seemed evenly split in their support for him and his British adversary.
The story through the whole match was ZSJ constantly having Okada’s number. All of the Rainmakers trademark moves – the top rope elbow, dropkick, tombstone and the Rainmaker itself – were caught and reversed by ZSJ who applied punishing submission holds in his usual fluid style. The focus of Zack’s offense were the arms of Okada and this paid off as when the former champion did hit the Rainmaker the impact further damaged his hurt arm and he was unable to capitalise. Unlike the violence we were to see in the main event, this was a beautiful match and you could sense the crowd slowly being sucked into the idea that ZSJ could actually get the win.
This was a huge win for Zack, who was already being positioned a major player in New Japan following his New Japan Cup win earlier this year. But becoming one of the handful wrestlers to have defeated Okada in a singles match since the Rainmaker Shock in February 2012 is a huge vote of confidence in him from Gedo and the NJPW hierarchy.
The defeat also continues to show what appears to be a slump from Okada following his championship loss. Interestingly he was not accompanied to the ring by Gedo. Is this a sign he wants to prove to himself he had get the job done without his mentor? All his trademark moves being caught by ZSJ could also be a sign he may be looking at implementing some difference offence to try and build himself back to up to IWGP Championship level.
Illness unfortunately meant Chris Brooks was unable to appear, which meant a change of opponent for IWGP United States Champion Switchblade Jay White. His replacement was the Aussie Arrow Kyle Fletcher. This was a fun match, but nothing special. Switchblade is becoming much more than Jay White in a different outfit and is showing much more character in his wrestling. In an evening full of hard hitting it was White who’s chops opened up a cut on the chest of Fletcher who showed what can only be described as fighting spirit taking chop after chop with his arms tied up in the ropes. The finish came somewhat out of nowhere. Fletcher looked to have slipped and landed awkwardly attempting a move of the second rope and White immediately grabbed hold him and hit a brutal looking Blade Runner for the pin.
The second half of the show opened up with David Starr retained his Undisputed British Cruiserweight Championship in a four-way against Tiger Mask, Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo. Phantasmo was unquestionably the star of the match, although I was terrified was going to kill himself on more than one occasion, but everything went as planned for him and he hit some spectacular high-flying moves. David Starr was excellent as always in his heel role, going after the mask of Tiger Mask and at one point succeeding in tearing it off and then rolling him up for a three count. This was not a crowd that wanted to boo anyone, but to Starr’s credit he managed to get them booing hard.
The main event of the first half was Will Ospreay facing Taichi. Taichi did was Taichi does. Personally, I get a kick out of it, but I fully understand why it’s not to everyone’s taste. This was not a classic Will Ospreay match, but it didn’t need to be, and I was glad to see him taking more care of himself than usual. There were a few stiff kicks from Taichi which made you remember he was, in fact, trained by the legendary Toshiaka Kawada, but this was mostly Ospreay chasing and Taichi running away. Taichi won following interference from Yoshinobu Kanemaru which Ospreay managed to initially overcome but the distraction allowed Taichi to hit the Ariel Assassin with his microphone and then deliver a Last Ride Power Bomb. There was quite a bit of surprise at the result, but it continued the overall story of the night and it takes exceptional circumstances for a Heavyweight to lose to a Junior in NJPW.
I have never had more respect for Yujiro Takahashi than I did for him after his match with WALTER. After coming to the ring with two ladies dressed in the same style as Tokyo Latina he took one hell of a beating from the big Austrian. WALTER took Yujiro to each side of the ring and pounded his chest with some hard formarms, and as with the strikes in the main event, the sound of impact was impressive to say the least. WALTER picked up the win following a Power Bomb.
The six-man tag match between the Chaos team of Gedo, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI were defeated by the Suzuki-Gun team of Kanemaru, El Desperado and Takashi Iizuka. Yano was by far the most popular wrestler in the match and one of the most popular on the whole show. Iizuka entered through the crowd and we were treated to the dreaded Iron Fingers towards the end of the contest. Kanemaru pinned Gedo following a Deep Impact DDT to finish a fun but inconsequential match.
The other fifty-year-old on the show, Yuji Nagata faced 21-year-old Young Lion Shota Umino in the first all New Japan match of the night. This was a very good match perfectly placed on the card and being able to see Nagata up close was a real treat. It’s also very clear that Umino is going to be a big star one day, and maybe that day isn’t all that far away. Nagata bested his young opponent with hard strikes and throws, but Unimo refused to give up and continued to fight back the best he could, at one point locking the veteran in a full Boston Crab. Nagata however prevailed with a submission win via the Nagata Lock.
The opener saw RPW youngster Danny Duggan facing a mystery opponent, who turned out to be ‘Dominator’ Great O-Khan – formerly known as Tomoyuki Oka. O-Khan won following a Mongolian chop delivered from the second rope.
Picture Credit: @shaunathegrinch on twitter