The Pro-Wres Digest for April 9th – 15th.
Katsuyori Shibata and Kazuchika Okada had what many people are calling the mach of the year on 9/4 inside a packed Sumo Hall at New Japan’s Sakura Genesis. The two put on a 38 minute masterpiece, however in the days following the match all the discussion has been centered around Shibata’s sickening unprotected headbutt. Tokyo Sports were the first to report on 9/4 that Shibata was rushed to hospital after he collapsed backstage following the match and the next day on 10/4 it was reported that Shibata underwent a five-hour operation to treat a subdural haematoma; claims that Shibata suffered some kind of paralysis to the right side of his body due to the injury were also made.
Tokyo Sports covers pro-wrestling in Japan as if it were a real sport and will often report on worked injuries/storylines as if they were legitimate. This caused a lot of the western wrestling media to be skeptical of the story, with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer questioning whether it was all an angle to get over the brutality of the match. Meltzer even had a great story in the Observer this week about Mitsuharu Misawa working a neck injury during the 1994 Champion Carnival and revealing only to Doug Furnas, whom had supposedly caused the injury, that he was in fact not injured. Tokyo Sports had comments from Doctor Shunji Asumoto of the International Medical Welfare University Mita Hospital on 11/4 and neurosurgeon said that the injury would be “easy to recur if it comes to the future as a professional wrestler, strict examination will be necessary, I can not optimistically.” Meltzer wrote in the F4Wonline daily update on 13/4 that while it is not 100% confirmed, the situation is “very bad” and the injuries are “not storyline.” Shibata was still in the hospital as of 14/4; he is said to be able to have conversations and remembers the match itself. If what is being reported is true then it could very well be the end of Shibata’s in-ring career, so I’m still holding out a little bit of hope that this is all a just an expertly worked angle. Sadly, with each day that passes it becomes less likely that this is an elaborate storyline. Shibata will not be working the upcoming Dontaku tour; hopefully we’ll have an update next week.
Joaquin Roldan, the man who had been running AAA since Antonio Pena died in 2006 and one of the most powerful men in the industry, passed away on 8/4 after battling cancer. He was 63 years-old. Joaquin started as a lawyer for AAA back in the nineties and was married to Pena’s sister Marisela, who inherited the company when her brother passed. While Joaquin had the most power in the Roldan family, his son Dorion became the public face and spokesman for AAA, Cubsfan noted that it seemed the big decisions were made as a unit. He was also one of the people responsible for Lucha Underground, as he owned a percentage of the promotion and was shown in the crowd on the first few sets of tapings. Joaquin was the onscreen babyface authority figure for many years, feuding with his son Dorian who had joined Konnan’s rudo stable, La Sociedad. Dorian even shaved his father’s head at TripleMania XX in 2012 as part of their long running saga. The feud was dropped when Konnan left AAA and Joaquin took up backstage duties at the TV tapings. He had not been seen publicly for a while, however he was the sole inductee into the AAA Hall of Fame at last year’s TripleMania – a move that was heavily criticised at the time since AAA only induct one person a year. If the family knew Joaquin was ill then the decision is certainly a lot more understandable with hindsight. We offer our condolences to the Roldan family.
Fishman (José Ángel Nájera Sánchez) also passed away on 8/4; he had just turned 66 two days earlier. He was a national star in the late 70s as part of EMLL, with his iconic green and yellow mask making him standout in the magazines. Fishman took the masks of many a’ famous luchador, including El Faraon, Sangre Chicana & Cobarde I, and also defeated Blue Demon for the NWA World and National Welterweight titles in the span of just 16 months. He jumped to UWA in 1978 and became one of the top light heavyweights during the strongest business period in the company’s history, feuding with Perro Aguayo, Villano III & his old foe Sangre Chicana. There was a brief tour of New Japan in 1981 where he faced Tatsumi Fujinami on numerous occasions and a stint in All Japan in 84, working with the likes of Hector & Chavo Guerrero, Gran Hamada, and even a young Toshiaki Kawada. He went back to New Japan for a month long tour in 1985 and was even on the first seven shows W*ING ever ran in 1991. Fishman was one of the original luchadors to join AAA when the company started in 1992 and although he was past his prime, he continued to work AAA and CMLL until 1999. He lost his mask to Mascara Sagrada in 2000 for the indie group GWAS in front of only 800 people and retired full-time later the same year, however he did return for a few one-off nostalgia matches from 2011/13. Our condolences go out to his friends and family. (Thanks to Cubsfan and LuchaWorld, who both had great bios of Fishman on their sites.)
“Pretty Boy” Larry Sharpe (Larry Weil) sadly passed away on 10/4 at the age of 66 after battling liver cancer for a number of years. He was brought into the WWWF by Gorilla Monsoon & Wild Red Berry in 1974 after a strong amateur career and had mid-card stints in Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Detroit, and other territories throughout the rest of the 70s. In 1977/8, Sharpe teamed with Jack Evans in Puerto Rico as the Hollywood Blondes and held the WWC North American Tag Team titles on two occasions. Sharpe worked briefly for All Japan in 1979, New Japan in 1980, and went back for another WWF run from 1980-82. In 1983, Sharpe joined with Buddy Rogers and opened the famous Monster Factory wrestling school in Paulsboro, NJ; Rogers’ name helped raise the profile of the school, while Sharpe was the one doing the training. The standout pupil was Scott “Bam Bam” Bigelow, who Sharpe came out of retirement to manage and team with in Memphis in 1986. Sharpe also was with Bigelow when he got his break in New Japan and teamed with his Bam Bam against Dick Murdoch & Tatsumi Fujinami in 1987. During the early/mid-90s, Dennis Coralluzzo would regularly use Sharpe’s Monster Factory students on his independent shows in the North East. Some of the names Sharpe is created with training are: Big Show, Tatanka, Chris Candido, Cliff Compton, D-Lo Brown, Charles Wright, John Zandig, Balls Mahoney, 911, Giant Silva, The Pitbulls, Duane Gill, King Kong Bundy, Raven, Roadblock, Ted Petty, Virgil, The Headbangers, Sonjay Dutt, Tony Atlas, amount others. Shapre sold the Monster Factory to Danny Cage in 2011, but stayed involved with the school until his health began to deteriorate. Our condolences go out to his friends and family.
New Japan packed Sumo Hall with 10,231 fans on 9/4 for Sakura Genesis and in the main event Kazuchika Okada had another five-star IWGP title defence against Katsuyori Shibata. (9) Okada beat Shibata with the third or fourth Rainmaker of the match at 38:09. It was a special performance by both men and the amount of punishment Okada took throughout was staggering. Shibata did his stomach-churning unprotected headbutt and split himself open; it was a great visual and added to the drama of everything, but it would be better for all involved if he never does it again. There’s been a lot of talk already about whether this match was better than the “six star” Okada/Omega classic. Ultimately, it all comes down to taste and what kind of match connects with you the best. Okada/Omega was an epically spectacular performance by two extremely gifted performance artists, while Okada/Shibata felt like the two best pro-wrestlers fighting to be the champion of the world. Both were worthy of five-stars, whichever was better really depends on what you want out of your gigantic world title main event matches. Bad Luck Fale came out afterwards and killed everyone’s buzz by laying out Okada and challenging him for the IWGP Heavyweight title. Okada is well on his way to becoming the wrester of the year and if he can have a match even half as good as his last four with Fale, he will surely be nailed on for that honour. (*****).
The other top matches on the show delivered too. (8) Semi-main event was a total shocker, as Hiromu Takahashi retained the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title over KUSHIDA in just 1:56. KUSHIDA dove off the post to the floor to start things off; Hiromu came back with a Sunset Bomb off the apron, hit a Death Valley Driver into the buckle then pinned him with the Time Bomb. The fans were shocked and were buzzing long after the match ended. Ricochet came out challenged Takahashi for the Junior title afterwards. It’s hard to rate a match like this; in terms of getting Takahashi over it was completely perfect. (***). (7) Hirooki Goto retained the NEVER Openweight title over Zack Sabre Jr in a very good outing. Sabre looked great and took most of the match, working over Goto’s arm. Minoru Suzuki tried to interfere but Goto fought him off and pinned Sabre with the GTR at 16:16. Suzuki and Goto brawled afterwards to set up Minoru going after the NEVER title. (***¾). (6) War Machine beat TenCozy for the IWGP Tag Team titles in 14:06 in a good match. War Machine looked good, especially Hanson, and Kojima worked most of the match, while Tenzan did very little. The Guerrillas of Destiny challenged War Machine during a backstage interview. (***½). (5) Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet beat Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI in 11:30 when Juice scored the upset pinfall over Naito. Naito did an amazing sell job for Juice’s Pulp Friction finish and Juice said he wanted a shot at the IC title. (***¼). (4) Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale downed Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano in 10:15 when Omega pinned Ishii with the One Winged Angel. Match was full of Yano’s antics, so it was a lot of fun. (***). (3) Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi retained the IWGP Jr Tag titles over Jado & Gedo in 10:26; match was decent, Kanemaru pinned Gedo with the Deep Impact DDT. (**½). (2) YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice beat Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku in 6:50 when HASHI pinned TAKA with Karma. (1) Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens beat Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask & Tiger Mask W in 8:40; Tonga pinned Tiger with the Gunstun. (0) Opener was Manabu Nakanishi, Jushin Thunder Liger & David Finlay over Hirai Kawato, Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura; Finlay pinned Kitamura with the Prima Nocta in 7:00. (**¾).
The dates and locations for the 2017 G1 were announced at Sakura Genesis. The tournament will run for 20 nights from July 17th to August 13th.
2017 G1 Dates:
Korakuen hall 20/7-22/7
Sumo Hall 11/8-13/8
New Japan also announced the lines up for their next set of big shows, which is known as Golden Week in Japan.
NJPW – Road to Wrestling Dontaku, 27/4/2017, Hiroshima Green Arena.
* Jushin Thunder Liger, Hirai Kawato & Tomoyuki Oka vs. Tiger Mask IV, Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino.
* Toru Yano, Will Ospreay & Jado vs. Takashi Iizuka, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku.
* Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay vs. Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Chase Owens.
* IWGP Junior Tag Championship: Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi (C) vs. Rocky Romero & Barreta.
* Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Ricochet & Yoshitatsu vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi.
* Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi.
* NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto (C) vs. Minoru Suzuki.
NJPW – Wrestling Toyonokuni, 29/4/2017, B-con Plaza, Oita.
* Jushin Thunder Liger, Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato vs. Tiger Mask IV, Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino.
* Rocky Romero, Beretta & Jado vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & El Desperado.
* Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu vs. SANADA & BUSHI.
* Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & David Finlay vs. Tama Tonga, Tanga Roa & Yujiro Takahashi.
* Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay vs. Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka & TAKA Michinoku.
* Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano vs. Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens.
* IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi (C) vs. Ricochet.
* Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL.
* IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Tetsuya Naito (C) vs. Juice Robinson.
NJPW – Wrestling Dontaku, 3/5/2017, Fukuoka International Centre.
* Yoshitatsu & Hirai Kawato vs. Tomoyuki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura.
* YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens.
* Tiger Mask W, Tiger Mask IV & Togi Makabe vs. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi & Jushin Thunder Liger.
* Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Jado, Rocky Romero & Beretta vs. Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi & El Desperado.
* David Finlay vs. Cody.
* Juice Robinson & KUSHIDA vs. Tetsuya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi.
* NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi & Ricochet (C) vs. SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI.
* IWGP Tag Team Championship: War Machine (C) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. Guerillas of Destiny.
* Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega.
* IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Bad Luck Fale.
Last week, Kenta Kobashi announced the line-up for the fourth Fortune Dream show which will take place on May 14th at Korakuen Hall. Here’s the card:
Fortune Dream 4 – 14/6/2017, Korakuen Hall.
* Emerald Dream: Kotaro Suzuki (FREE) vs. Kazuhiro Tamura (HEAT-UP).
* Beautiful Dream: Meiko Satomura & Mika Shirahime vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto & Konami.
* Crossing Dream: Yuji Okabayashi (BJW) & Kaito Kiyomiya (NOAH) vs. Go Shiozaki (NOAH) & Takuya Nomura (BJW).
* Fortune Dream 4 special talk battle: Kenta Kobashi vs. TBA.
* Dangerous Dream: Yoshihiro Takayama & Shuji Ishikawa (both FREE) vs. Joe Doering (AJPW) & James Raideen (ZERO1).
* Fortune Dream: Daisuke Sekimoto (BJW) & Suwama (AJPW) vs. Kohei Sato (ZERO1) & Shingo Takagi (DG).
Kaientai Dojo’s 15 Anniversary show is on 23/4 at Korakuen Hall and a main event of Kota Ibushi vs. TAKA Michinoku was announced this week. We’ll have a full line-up in next week’s Digest.
Masaya Takahashi won the BJW Ikkitosen DeathMatch Survivor tournament on 8/4 at Sasukino Mars Gym in Hokkaido. Takahashi beat Isami Kodaka in a Florescent Light Tubes match in the finals.
Angel de Oro won the CMLL Reyes del Aire for the third time on 7/4 at Arena Mexico, after winning in 2011 & 2012. Oro submitted Euforia at 29:44 to win the elimination match, which also featured Volador Jr, Luciferno, Barbaro Cavernario, Titan, Maximo, Gran Guerrero, Hechicero, Dragon Lee, Mephisto, La Mascara, Valiente, Mistico, Caristico & Niebla Roja. The match was a lot of fun and is available here.
The Crash have announced some big matches for their 5/5 show in Tijuana. Already signed was The Young Bucks vs. The Lucha Brothers (Rey Fenix & Penta el Zero M) and newly added to the card this week was Zack Sabre Jr (making his debut in Mexico) vs. Daga. Ricochet is also booked for the show.
DTU and Game Changer Wrestling announced a bizarre working relationship this week. Matt Tremont will be working for DTU in June/July, while GCW’s show on 23/4 will feature Penta el Zero M, Juventud Guerrera & Violento Jack.
Dr Wagner Jr vs. Psycho Clown was scheduled to be the main event of the AAA show in San Luis Potosi on 12/4, however the heel group Nuevo Poder del Norte attacked them both before their match and Vampiro – as he has been doing up and down all the AAA shows of late – changed the main event to a tag match. Wagner & Psycho lost to Carta Brava Jr & Soul Rocker after Mocho Cota Jr interfered to help his stablemates out. They also challenged Wanger & Psycho to an apuesta match at the big Verano de Escandalo show on May 4th where it is believed someone will put their mask on the line. Wagner vs. Psycho is still penciled in as the main event on 21/4 in Tijuana, however it remains to be seen whether the match actually takes place. Cubsfan noted that he suspects Vampiro will change any advertised Wagner vs. Psycho matches, as the two are expected to face each other in the main event of this year’s TripleMania.
Ultimo Guerrero retained the NWA World Middleweight title over Atlantis in the main event of CMLL’s Arena Mexico show on 14/4. Match was said to be a good outing, with Guerrero winning the second and third falls in a total time of 17:00. Semi-main event saw Caristico, Dragon Lee & Mistico beat Euforia, Gran Guerrero & Niebla Roja in 11:33. Also on the show, Soberano Jr won the A Block of La Copa Jr Nuevo Valores after his victory in an elimination match featuring, The Panther, Hilo del Signo, Canelo Casas, Oro Jr, Drone, Espanto Jr & Cuatrero. The B Block will be decided next week, with Blue Panther Jr, Forastero, Sanson & Esfinge amoung those in the match.
Maximo will defend the CMLL World Heavyweight title in the main event at Arena Mexico on 18/4 against El Terrible.
There was a note in this week’s Observer regarding the WWE/ROH buyout and the deal is apparently “considered dead.” ROH & WWE are still reportedly in talks about licensing old content for the Network, however no deal has been made.
Rev Pro ran York Hall on 13/4 for their Epic Encounter show which featured the debut of Hirooki Goto and the return of Hiromu Takahashi after 4 years. Main event saw The Elite (Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) beat Lio Rush, Ryan Smile & Shane Strickland. Semi-main haw Zack Sabre Jr retaining the British Heavyweight title over KUSHIDA. James Castle over Sha Samuels in a No DQ match. Josh Bodom downed Will Ospreay to win the British Cruiserweight title. Hiromu Takahashi beat Marty Scurll. Hirooki Goto over Zack Gibson. Jay White defeated Angelico. Open was Chris Brookes & Travis Banks over Martin Stone & Sami Callihan.
Mauro Ranallo will be calling the Rizin FF show on 16/4 at the Yokohama Arena with one of his old broadcast partners, Frank Shamrock. Ranallo has not spoken publicly about the reports of bullying from John Layfield and the word is that contract settlement talks with WWE have been initiated. Main event of the seventh Rizin show is Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Anthony Birchak.
Impact apparently ran a PPV on 14/4; this must have occurred in a parallel universe where people actually cared.
RAW on 9/4 did a 2.35 rating with 3,422,000 viewers, down 9% from the show after WrestleMania. 8pm did 3,432,000. 9pm did 3,600,000 and 10pm did 3,236,000.
SmackDown on 10/4 did 3,105,000, the best number since the Draft back on July 19th 2016, which did 3,170,000.
Impact on 13/4 did 302,000 viewers, down slightly from 309,000 the previous week.
Total Divas on 12/4 did 593,000 viewers.
Thanks for reading, everyone! We’ll see you next week.