Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Pro Wrestling Zero-One "Vast Energy" 1/6/02

1. Sean McCully vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa

ER: On paper, McCully and Takaiwa matches did not factor into my decision to by the 2002 Z-1 set...but man did I love this. I now need to see all of the Sean McCully pro wrestling matches. McCully is a short MMA never was who brings an awesome cocky douche aura to Japanese pro wrestling, with his baggy shorts and smirk and bare feet (not even ankle tape!). Takaiwa seems vaguely uncooperative throughout, but shows too much ass to actually be uncooperative. It's a weird vibe. Takaiwa rushes him with a lariat and McCully ducks it and throws a spin kick, then a couple high kicks. Takaiwa bails to the floor and McCully jumps over the top after him, looking like he couldn't decide to land on the apron or the floor and just kinda ended up flying down onto the apron and Tak. McCully takes a mean bump into the rail and then gets blasted with a lariat that sends him sprawling wildly ass over elbow into the crowd. Holy shit. And then McCully calmly gets up and  WALKS UP THE RING ROPES to get back in the ring. Complete & Accurate Sean McCully arriving shortly. Takaiwa really seemed like he wanted to make an example of McCully...but also took plenty of hard kicks and throws from McCully. For a guy I've never thought about much I'll have to give credit to Takaiwa for making it seem like a dangerous atmosphere. Takaiwa is a guy who I kind of forgot about and might really need to seriously reevaluate. He looked really zoned in here. At one point he goes up top for an elbow that seems like a bad idea, and McCully moves as Tak just wrecks his elbow into the mat. McCully is always throwing body kicks and starts doing some great takedown suplexes, dumping Tak a couple times on his shoulder. Tak plants him with a powerbomb and dumps him with a stiff DVD. Man this was cool. What an unexpectedly great start to the Z-1 project.

PAS: Yeah this was a blast McCully was clearly not Pro-Wrestling trained, but Takiawa is the perfect guy to come in and potato shot an untrained guy. Those lariats by Takiawa seemed like they were trying to teach McCully some kind of lesson, just wound up smashes to the jaw and neck. I also have a feeling I will enjoy a Takiaea revisit.

2. Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Ryouji Sai

ER: This was a pretty basic Fujiwara match. Fun, because it's a Fujiwara match doing his thing, but not very substantial. He attacks Sai to start with a couple of brutal headbutts to the temple, and Sai eventually fights back with kicks. Fujiwara tends to absorb some kicks before going in for the kill, and that all happens here with one kick in particular flooring him and sending him rolling for the apron. Finish was odd with Fujiwara eventually just imposing his will on Sai, forcing him to the mat and bending his arm until he can get it into the armbar bearing his name. This was Fujiwara vs. a rookie.

PAS: I don't really disagree with anything Eric wrote but a Fujiwara squash is always something I am going to find awesome. I loved those vicious headbutts to the temple, they were very much of the Fujiwara shoot variety rather then the big worked ones, and they looked super nasty. I also loved the finish, Sai unloads with really fast multiple strike combo in the corner, great looking handspeed which isn't something you see a ton of in wrestling, Fujiwara gives him this little shrug, like "good job kid" and then just grabs and wrenches his arm down for the submission. Like he saw what the youngster had to offer and decided he was finished for the day.

3. Kohei Sato vs. Steve Corino

ER: I loved this period Corino. He was absolutely one of the best in the world at this point, for at least the year surrounding. And this is weird because he and Sato are kind of bizarro mirror image with their bleached blonde hair, black trunks and even remarkably similar body shape, height, everything. It's weird. Corino worked a southern cheating heel schtick here, but the schtick felt a bit too schticky after awhile. I loved it when Sato was throwing kicks and Corino was tossing punches at Sato's forehead, headbutting him and lobbing back elbows, but Corino would always revert to getting the feet on the ropes, choking with wrist tape, low blows, etc. It was amusing to a degree, but never as good as the actual ass beating, which I'd rather have more of. Sato had a nice takedown into an armbar and I liked him going after Corino's arm. This was overall good, but could have been really damn good.

PAS: I think I liked this a little more then Eric, I liked Corino trying to go toe to toe with Sato and failing, and having to resort to cheap shit to get an advantage. He gets caught in a triangle and tries to counter, fails and has to get to the ropes. I remember loving Sato back in the day and am really looking forward to revisiting him, nasty kicks, cool takedowns a fun poor mans Takayama vibe.

4. Naohiro Hoshikawa vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

ER: Wonder what the story was behind Kikuchi working this show. He didn't work any other Z-1. And the match was fucking weird and confusing and maybe if I was Japanese it would make more sense, embedded in the culture and interpersonal relationships? Because I don't know man. This was weird. It was essentially 10 minutes of Hoshikawa being asked to kick Kikuchi as hard as he could, while Kikuchi showed boredom at just how little damage Hoshikawa was doing. It starts good with Kikuchi jumping him at the bell with a kick, but Hosh kicking him to the floor, Kikuchi taking a tough bump into the rail, and Hosh hitting an out of control dive that sees him fly way to fast headfirst into the rail. And then back in the ring Kikuchi plops down on his butt like a kid playing with blocks, and Hoshikawa starts kicking him. Kicks him in the back, the chest, stiff low soccer kicks. And Kikuchi just sits there, unfazed, acting like nothing is actually touching him. Hoshikawa starts bouncing off the opposite ropes and throwing stiff low dropkicks, which kind of knock Kikuchi momentarily onto his back, but he always just pops back up showing no facial emotion. More sitting, more kicking. At one point Kikuchi makes Hoshikawa look like even more of a jackass by dodging one of the dropkicks, with Hoshikawa clearly not expecting him to move as he thigh slaps a missed dropkick. What the fuck is happening. The whole match goes like this. Kikuchi takes a furious beating, but most of the time acts like he's dreamily sitting in a field, not getting his chest and back kicked in. We get a couple nice German suplexes, but they don't matter as neither guy is going to give the other the satisfaction of acting like they hurt at all. The only time Kikuchi even sells an eensy bit is late in the match after getting dropkicked in the face, and Hoshikawa starts teeing off with kicks to a grounded Kikuchi. The rest of the time is spent with Hosh trying to get a reaction, dropping an elbow on the throat, anything. Eventually Kikuchi just decided the match was over and locked on a nasty kimura for the tap, and then held onto it for several seconds after the tap and Hoshikawa flips out and tries attacking him after the bell, but Kikuchi acts like nobody is even touching him and looks right past him. What in the actual fuck. I have no idea what any of this was. Was Kikuchi sent by NOAH just to show what pussies all the Z-1 guys are? I've never seen no selling to this degree before. Kikuchi was like a guy whose sexual fetish was getting kicked as hard as possible, but at the same time he is numb to his own fetish. He took what looked like some brutal shots and he just showed boredom the whole time. Clearly more to this, but I have no idea if we'll ever know. Hoshikawa worked a couple NOAH tags opposite Kikuchi the year before this, could be worth investigation (plus Taue/Kikuchi vs. Hoshikawa/Takaiwa just sounds like something I would want to watch anyway).

PAS: Really weird match, it was a couple of degrees away from being an awesome match. First minute or so was great, the match had big heat and a lot of violence. Kikuchi's gimmick was a guy who could take a hell of a beating, so I guess that was why he was no selling everything in such a weird way. He was actually selling fine during the final run, flying around for Hoshikawa's big kicks and I dug the Kimura finish, but the middle section with Kikuchi just sitting there was super weird and killed the match. Felt a little like the stinky Fujiwara v. Kawada match, where I am sure there was some Yakuza power play in the background of this match which explains everything.

5. The Predator vs. Josh Dempsey

ER: Oh man this was a blast. Dempsey is a former boxer and Terkay has yet to go full Brody, and they wisely kept it to 4 minutes. Dempsey is limited but willing to take some bumps (some unintentional, like when he clotheslines Terkay over the top and goes over with him) and doesn't hold back a lot when he's punching Terkay in his gigantic head. Predator keeps things to a lot of knees and slams and Dempsey just throws punches. But Dempsey had a lot of punch variety, like when you play as Balrog in SFII. Dempsey threw cool body shots (that Terkay could have sold better) and really blasted him with some hooks. Terkay had some big slams, loved his ring post wrap around and at one point he chucks Dempsey over the guard rail and into some chairs with a bodyslam. Dammmmmn. both men get counted out and there's a great pull apart after with both men spilling through chairs. Real fun mixed style bout.

PAS: For an ex-boxer Dempsey's boxing form was pretty terrible but his shots were pretty stiff especially his body shots, he also wasn't afraid to take some big bump, getting hurled over the rail and kneed in the head. I also thought Dempsey had a fun frat boy douchebag charisma. Totally fun nutso match and exactly the kind of thing we hope to excavate.

6. Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka vs. Samoa Joe & Tom Howard

ER: Howard and Joe were two of the guys I was excited about seeing on this project, as I remember liking Howard a lot and was curious how good Joe was 14 years ago. And this was a fun tag, even though it was really an awesome first half combined with a kinda sloppy disjointed second half. Howard gassed hard at one point and the structure totally fell apart, so that everyone was just lying around and/or getting in everybody else's way for what felt like a long time. But for a lot of this I dug Howard and all his sliding and standing side kicks. Joe was also far better than I remember, laying in stiff strikes and breaking out all kinds of suplexes I don't remember him using. He was also really quick, and really he worked like the best possible Taz. Otani has tons of personality which makes up for that thing Tanaka does where he sells a suplex by just sorta standing back up and looking vacant. Otani was mostly tasked with holding this thing together and trying to get it to a logical conclusion, and he was good running around making saves and I liked him paying Joe back for an earlier face wash. But yeah things did fall apart, but overall the match had plenty of charm. These teams should have a real good match in them.

PAS: I liked this a bit more then Eric too, I loved the UPW team as heel, Howard had so much fun nasty offense, I loved his brainbuster and his boot camp crawl to break a submission, I thought he did gas a bit, but Joe made up for it by being a total dynamo. You forget what an explosive athlete young Samoa Joe was, crazy hip strength on all of his suplexes and big nasty elbows and clotheslines. Finish run was a puro tag finish run, but the big moves were pretty huge and I didn't have a huge problem with any of the kickouts. I think I am going to like the weird Josh Howard matches more then the Ohtani/Tanaka workrate tags on this rewatch, but this was really good workrate tag.

7. Shinya Hashimoto vs. Nathan Jones

ER: So ummmmmm I kinda loved his. How was Jones so much better here, over a year before he was in WWE? Yeah, he was wooden in this, and yeah he had Hash staggering around setting stuff up, but he looked far more workable here than in any of his WWE stuff (outside of that awesome 4 on 2 match from Smackdown with Benoit/Angle vs. Lesnar/Jones/Matt Morgan/A-Train where Jones looked like everything was really starting to click), and he looked far more workable here than Khali did at any point in his WWE tenure, and Khali had a gig for practically a decade! But damn I really loved this. Hash was so damn good, at everything. Loved him getting bullied around by Jones, loved some of the weird situations they ended up in (Jones holding him in an over shoulder backbreaker, leading to Hash pushing off the tope rope and flipping back over Jones), and by the time we got to Hash beatdown I was flipping out. Hash launched all sorts of brutal kicks to Jones' thigh, chest and back (Jones leaned into all of these shots like a psycho), started tossing out his DDTs (which Jones took shockingly well), suplexed him over the top with Jones taking a wild "Vince MacMahon has no idea how to bump over the top rope" bump, and this was just all sorts of awesome. Jones certainly looked like a wooden stiff at times, but most of the time he was breaking out offense you didn't know he had (where did his high jump elbow drop come from??) or getting murdered by an arguably best wrestler in the world at this point Hashimoto, and this thing was just laid out flawlessly for max effect. I'm sure there is going to be tons of awful Jones throughout this project, but this wasn't that. This was killer.

PAS: Yeah this was totally dope, I remember loving this match back in 2002 and it totally held up. Jones should have been a bigger star, he is a crazy looking guy, cut like a bag of dope, 7ft tall and really athletic in a weird way. He isn't afraid to lean into big shots and Hashimoto lays in huge shots. He is far from a good wrestler, but has a set of tools. Hash shows his greatness, because he takes a guy with some very limited assets and builds a compelling match around those assets. Hash gets bloodied up with nasty slaps to his face and really looks like he can't solve this monster. Really impressive entry on Hashimoto's resume.

ER: Well I couldn't have asked for a better show to start out with. All the non-wrestling guys were fun, their native stable is diverse and also fun, the gaijin are unique and clearly busting ass, just a real satisfying roster that makes me excited for tons of different match-ups. No way the promotion keeps things at this high a level throughout 2002, but I'm excited for what's to come.

PAS: Yeah this was a really fun show I am very excited about checking out what this roster will do.

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