Just got back from Tokyo, so a quick cut and paste of my daily posts on the Love The Graps Facebook group where after a show (or a day's shows in this case), you post three things you liked and three that weren't to your taste about the show and in some cases the wider experience of attending:
Pro Wrestling Wave, Korakuen Hall, 29/12/19
LTG 1: I made it to the show. Thought it was a non-starter when the plane took twenty minutes to taxi to the gate, but I managed to go from my plane seat to my show seat, including immigration, customs, baggage reclaim, picking up my SIM card from the post office, three trains, finding a free locker and eight 100yen coins to use it, and buying my ticket, in under two hours.
LTG 2: The main eventers did that thing where the champion and the top contender have a match over New Year and try to do the best match on the biggest show.
LTG 3: The first thing I saw when I got my data service working here was Pro Wrestling Chaos coming back from the dead.
NMG 1: The show ran under 2 hours and had five matches, including one that was almost/entirely guests (Yuu announced as "from Pro Wrestling Eve.") I don't follow Wave much but for the theoretical biggest show of the year that seems like a very small roster. Perhaps not unconnected, there were four womens shows in Tokyo in a two-hour period today.
NMG 2: The "standard" flight schedules from Europe to Japan couldn't be better designed to destroy your body clock. Most flights arrive early morning, so you're getting there right at the time you'd go to bed (thus getting little if any sleep on the plane), then you have to kill about six hours before you can get in to your hotel.
NMG 3: Air France's drinks policy. I'm all for an aperitif, but just for health reasons on a plane you should probably be giving people more water than cognac
OWE Stronghearts @ Korakuen and Big Japan @ Korakuen, 30/12/19
LTG 1: I got to see the actual Chinese lads (now Cambodian) and I didn't even have to go to Liverpool. Though it wasn't a straight OWE show with all the fast-paced flippiness, but rather a series of OWE vs Japanese promotions (DDT, Big Japan, Just Tap Out, Wrestle 1) matches, so a lot more "thick dude vs skinny dude" matches.
LTG 2: I was not expecting Takeshita vs T-Hawk, so that was a nice old surprise.
LTG 3: Koji Kanemoto was on the Big Japan show.
NMG 1: Big Japan had a six-man tournament and it looked like we'd get a quarter final of Okabayashi/Hino/Hyodo vs Sekimoto/Zeus/Bodyguard. But we didn't. Because the booking was "interesting" instead.
NMG 2: The OWE show started four minutes late which is the equivalent of 90 minutes on a UK show.
NMG 3: OWE ran three hours, which is too long for human buttocks and hips in a Korakuen Hall seat.
Ice Ribbon @ Korakuen and DDT/Big Japan @ Korakuen, 31/12/19
LTG 1: I saw in the new year with Kieran Lefort and Mort.
LTG 2: I saw 67 matches in one day. The DDT/BJW tournament helped, but it was largely because of an Ice Ribbon wrestler retiring and doing a series of one-minute time-limit matches against everyone on the roster and several who weren't. It means I can 100% legitimately say I've seen Manami Toyota have a match, even if it was a time limit draw that consisted solely of doing multiple tequila shots.
LTG 3: Drew Parker was in the first ever pro wrestling match of the 2020s while Chris Brookes was in the first match to start in the new decade.
NMG 1: Sitting ringside and having to be warned not to start eating my sandwich until after the light tube match so I didn't get any shards or powder in it.
NMG 2: Went to the Giant Baba exhibition in a big department store and it had shut early for NYE.
NMG 3: The bit where I wound up eating high-end sushi standing up while sheltering from the wind behind some bins.
Zero One @ Korakuen and Wave @ Shin-Kiba, 1/1/20
LTG 1: Some solid stuff at Zero One with Okabyashi and Hino having the predictable big boy battle and a fun match with Stronghearts vs Masato Tanaka and pals.
LTG 2: The thought that with seven billion people in the world, statistically somebody must have the specific fetish of seeing Japanese women in mens shirts being hit with softball bats, then sprayed with green mist, then getting cake in their face before shouting at a Canadian woman to wake up, and that whoever that is going to love the main event of the Wave show when it goes online.
LTG 3: While obviously problematic for non-Japanese speakers, Wave tried to spice up their lack of roster (it appeared to be five full-time regulars and tonight was trainee heavy) with a gimmick where every match had randomly selected rules, the best being "the ref must count fast for one wrestler and slow for the other", with a nice twist where the one who'd been getting pissed off she couldn't get a pin easily realised she could refuse rope breaks for ages.
NMG 1: Jetlag fuelled by coffee and beer. Laid awake till 7 then suddenly dropped and was out till 1pm, pretty much wiping out the non-wrestling part of the day.
NMG 2: WAVE had such a small crowd it actually made Shin-Kiba look empty.
NMG 3: First NMG notwithstanding, the fact that I'm far too old to replicate a friend of Mort's who did eight shows without a break between yesterday afternoon and tonight.
All Japan @ Korakuen and Big Japan @ Korakuen, 2/1/20
LTG 1: Six years or so ago I watched a young lad billed as Roger The Cabin Boy in what Cagematch lists as his 10th ever match. I've seen him many times around the south west, but today Danny Jones won the annual All Japan battle royale!
LTG 2: The oldest comedy match ever as Great Kojika (wrestling in a seventh decade), Abdullah Kobayashi and BJW ref Frank Atsushi took on Masanobu Fuchi, Tajiri and the Great Sasuke. Highlight was Sasuke and Kobayashi doing a sequence where they exchanged moves and holds and sold the movement/impact/pain. The only difference was that at all times they were several feet apart and not touching.
LTG 3: Okabayashi-Hashimoto was the predicted banger.
NMG 1: Jetlag persists and another night without sleep, though it did mean I went for a 6am walk and wound up listening to the latest LTG podcast while passing Budokan Hall.
NMG 2: Turns out the nine-storey department store I went to the other day is just their little train station outlet and the one I wanted was down the road. Which is a sneaky way of saying I saw the pop-up Giant Baba exhibition including posters, ring gear and the original Triple Crown belts.
NMG 3: People who think all death matches are the same and there's no skill or psychology should watch a Takeda main event match and then a Kobayashi main event. The latter is a funny character who'll bleed for the team, but he shouldn't be in the top spot.
All Japan @ Korakuen and DDT @ Korakuen, 3/1/20
LTG 1: A member of this group (not me) wrestled Masato Tanaka and then revealed he's moving to Japan for a year.
LTG 2: I saw a Kento Miyahara Triple Crown match, complete with post-match angle.
LTG 3: I found the three things I was looking for at Toudokan, namely the programmes for the Weekly Pro Tokyo Dome show in 95, the first Super J Cup and Vader vs Takada at Jingu Stadium.
NMG 1: A member of this group (not me) was molested in public. (UKFF note: Gwailofilms got Dinoe-ed at DDT.)
NMG 2: I didn't have the £700 needed to buy George Hackenschmidt's autograph.
NMG 3: A wonderful night's deep sleep, but I was still nodding off/head snapping awake at points during the second show.
TJPW @ Korakuen and NJPW @ Tokyo Dome, 4/1/20
LTG 1: I saw the world's best promotion put on its biggest show of the year. Then I went next door to watch New Japan.
LTG 2: I saw Aja Kong in a six person match largely based around the idea of "wouldn't it be funny if we did all out standard spots, but with Aja Kong" and the answer was yes.
LTG 3: I was second row at Korakuen and though it's a promotion I love for its colourful characters, it turns out the TJPW wrestling is way crisper and more solid than it looks on camera.
NMG 1: Tokyo Dome seats are not made for Western hips.
NMG 2: I missed Doug Williams in Noah next door and Chris Brookes in the 'burbs doing... something.
NMG 3: I think I fell asleep in some of the big Dome matches, but also was woken up by the crowd whenever something big was about to happen, but I also suspect that was everything that happened, so it was a confusing experience. Especially when the big screen had a match graphic involving the Intercontinental title belt surrounded by a starburst and in my less conscious moments I kept thinking it was a jam roly poly.
TJPW @ Itabashi Green Hall (which isn't green) and NJPW @ Tokyo Dome, 5/1/20
LTG 1: Tokyo Joshi spot show is a whole bunch of fun: lots of comedy spots, a couple of properly good matches (heroic Maki Itoh vs dastardly Thunder Rosa the main), and all done in 2 hours.
LTG 2: The foreigner section was the place to be for the biggest pops and unhinged celebrations for Naito completing the job from two years ago.
LTG 3: I got an aisle seat in the Dome, meaning my internal organs remain unsquashed.
NMG 1: I have spent 58 MINUTES this weekend watching Jay White perform his "great heel psychology."
NMG 2: I was wide awake for the whole show today, making yesterday's drowsiness more frustrating.
NMG 3: Going to TJPW meant I missed Noah at Korakuen. And Sendai Girls at Shinjuku FACE. And SeaDlinnng at Shin-Kiba 1st Ring. And Shinshu Pro Wrestling at the bottom of the Skytree Tower. And Pure-J at their dojo. And Osaka Style at the Tokyo Art Centre.
(Can't find the post, but I did New Year's Dash, which was in a cool old venue and better than expected.)
Bolshoi Productions, Tokyo Dome City Hall, 7/1/20
LTG 1: Old school promotion. I couldn't find anything online for a show tonight. I assume Puwota missed this as it's a Russian promotion on tour. Luckily I spotted a poster in a corner shop window.
LTG 2: A great MC/host. Slightly odd look as he'd gone for a classic shirt and bow tie, but mixed it with dungarees and a bowler hat and was clearly wearing foundation. There were a lot of gimmick matches with ladders and a cage and the like that took a long time to set up (great work by the ring crew), but he filled in these gaps well and did some lovely crowd interaction. Not sure if I should mention this as he didn't make a big deal of it, but he's the first MC I've seen who is mute.
LTG 3: Some fantastic aerial action. I've always missed Dragon Gate so the one thing I've not seen much of on shows here is flips (Ospreay-Hiromu sequence and OWE monk aside.) This show had all sorts of stuff, highlighted by an eight-man scramble where it felt like they in the air most of the time. (Could have been crowded, but the ring was bloody massive.)
NMG 1: Animals working, which is obviously problematic. In 2020 the bear gimmick is ridiculously outdated and this one really fell flat. To be honest, it didn't feel like they were pushing the competition at all and we were just meant to be impressed that it did some incredibly basic spots. Definitely a mistake to do the challenger from the audience gimmick with an animal as the young girl vs the cat will definitely contend for worst match of the year. Only real positive I can find was that the horses were good bases for the tilt-a-whirl routines, though none of them bumped for the quebrada.
NMG 2: Curious merch setup. They were really pushing the programmes hard, and they did good business with the polaroid gimmick with a horse. (I assume it was out injured as it hadn't worked a match.) However, none of the performers had their own shirts let alone anything else. They reportedly pick the line-up from a roster of 4,000 so you'd think people would want to establish their characters better, though from what I read they've historically been employees rather then independent contractors so there's less motivation to market themselves.
NMG 3: Leaving aside the fact it was a bit too choreographed for my tastes (I suspect they do the same stuff move for move on every show), the booking was atrocious. They did something like 15-20 matches and every one had the same lack of finish: the spots built and built to be more impressive and then just when you though it was peaking for the finish, they simply took it to the back for what I assume was a double countout.