ZERO1 hold their 19th Anniversary show in front of a reported 682 fans at Korakuen Hall. With COVID-19 sweeping the globe, the major promotions have been shutting down operation. Smaller promotions like ZERO1 can’t afford the monetary losses and are therefore forced to continue on as originally planned.
The shows features Yuji Hino defending the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship against Kohei Sato as well as dream tag team match between Strong BJ and Dangan Yankees. If you’re checking out this review because of the lack of Japanese Wrestling, this is the perfect time to jump onto ZERO1 for a truly great show.
Yuko Miyamoto def. Shoki Kitamura @ 9:58 via Boston Crab – **3/4
My general rule for rating clipped matches is that at least 65% of the match must have made tape. Six and a half minutes of the full ten made tape which is why you see the rating. Kitamura is a ZERO1 youngster taking on indie legend, Yuko Miyamoto. I made a statement on Twitter yesterday that I’d take Miyamoto over Hideki Suzuki on the basis that you’ll never seen Miyamoto take a night off. That statement is perfectly exemplified here in this match. He allowed this relative rookie (this is Kitamura’s third full year) get a lot of offense. Most of it came from strong counter-wrestling which Miyamoto is finally able to counter into offense of his own by rolling through Kitamura’s roll through, landing a double stomp and winning the match through a Boston Crab. Really good showcase for the youngster. Miyamoto over Hideki for sure.
Chris Vice, RAICHO, TARU & Yoshikazu Yokoyama def. Hide Kubota, Ikuto Hidaka, Takuya Sugawara & Yasu Kubota @ 10:56 via Yokoyama DVD on Yasu – NR
Only four and a half minutes made tape so no dice on a rating. Anyone who has watched Japanese wrestling for any significant lrngth of time knows Voodoo Murders are for the birds. They jump people, throw powder and have now paid off a referee. I’m enough of a dope to have enjoyed more of this than I’d like to admit but not enough to give it the time of day to explain.
Shuji Kondo def. SUGI @ 10:22 via King Kong Lariat – **3/4
Seven of the ten reached my eyes so there’s a rating. Two of the more underrated wrestlers if you’re just a casual Japanese wrestling fan. Shuji Kondo was Shingo Takagi before Shingo Takagi for Toryumon. He got the boot in 2004 and has gone on to have success in both AJPW and WRESTLE-1. SUGI is a gifted junior heavyweight who has had his fair share of controversy as well making this a better pairing in more ways than one. If you can get past SUGI’s shoddy selling and focus on his acrobatics, there’s a lot to like here. Kondo was trained to be a base for small guys like SUGI so you’re seeing springboard spots getting caught and turned into powerbombs. SUGI’s popular spot is running halfway down the top rope before launching off into a dropkick. There’s a lot of cool spots here so if it’s your first time seeing these guys you’ll leave impressed. Kondo walks off without a care in the world after having won via the King Kong Lariat.
Towa Iwasaki & Tsugutaka Sato def. Shinjiro Otani & Tatsuhito Takaiwa @ 15:51 via Iwasaki Backdrop Hold on Takaiwa – ***1/4
This is the first and only match on the show that didn’t receive any clipping. This is because ZERO1 want to show off their newest project, Toa Iwasaki. They started his year by having him face off in a singles match against ZERO1 legend, Kohei Sato, who is challenging for the title on this show. Here he’s going against two more of the promotions legends. Otani & Takaiwa started their careers in NJPW where they’re multiple time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champions and just earlier this year were featured on Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger’s retirement match. They still wrestle with the same amount of saltiness they did when they were kids.
Takaiwa may be the meanest man in all of pro wrestling. The guy hits drivers for days, showing no remourse for any neck he comes in contact with. The focus of the match revolved around Iwasaki needing to prove his toughness against the surly veterans. I’ve always like Iwasaki but they’re going too heavy-handed with this push. They’ve basically given him the exact image as Kazuchika Okada which is extremely off-putting. Just let the guy be the guy. Oh and Sato is in the match. He came in to help Iwasaki pick up the win at the end. I liked this match because Otani and Takaiwa are the guys but Iwasaki’s Okada look isn’t doing him any favors. The crowd didn’t react like you’d have wanted for a win of this size. He goes face-to-face with Otani after the match who the kicks the bottom turnbuckle and stomps off.
Iwasaki takes the microphone and addresses his win before handing it over to Shoki Kitamura who announces the trio of him, Iwasaki & Sato as New Spirits. The talent is there but Iwasaki needs to make that announcement himself and show confidence. His lack of confidence is why they’ve dressed him up as Okada.
Strong BJ (Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi) vs Dangan Yankees (Masato Tanaka & Takashi Sugiura) – 30 Minute Draw – ****3/4
We wound up getting twenty-four of the thirty minutes which is a shame considering the drama would have been even higher had we seen the full match. Billed as a first time ever dream match, the Dangan Yankees join forces once more to take on Strong BJ. Tanaka & Sugiura teamed up a lot back in 2014 & 15 but wound up going their separate ways. Strong BJ were a popular team back then too but have since began to split as well. This is a match that should have happened five years ago but no one is complaining that we get to see it in 2020. My favorite match of last year was Sekimoto & WALTER vs Okabayashi & Hino so this pairing is right up my alley.
A heavy dose of big dick energy, as you’d expect in a match between three bona fide legends and Yuji Okabayashi, one of the most consistent guys on the planet right now. Massive men slamming their parts against each other is everything I can ask for and then some. It’s impossible to overstate or overrate the girth of these men. For them to go at this pace for 30 minutes at their age, with the longevity they’ve been doing this is insane. This is something you have to watch in order to really appreciate what’s going on. There’s no doubt in my mind that this would have been my match of the year had we been able to see the full match. Whether your fandom is young or old, this will never not be impressive to see.
ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship
Kohei Sato def. Yuji Hino (c) @ 19:19 via German Suplex – ****3/4
My favorte wrestler on the planet takes on the guy who brought me into a world deeper than NJPW/Dragon Gate. For my money, no one in the world is better than Yuji Hino right now. He clicks all the boxes I want out of a heavyweight professional wrestler. Kohei Sato is arguably the scariest man in wrestling but up against Hino, he comes off like a poser. The fans can be heard cackling when these two begin trading overhands because they know these things must hurt yet neither man is giving the other the satisfaction of reacting. As the match goes on, these shots take their toll and they wind up grounding each other. Even with Sato flat on his back, Hino is still bent over and chopping his chest.
Sato uses the ropes to pull himself back up, puts him arms behind the ropes and invites Hino in for more. These shots again cause Sato to crumble, a strong price to pay for his stubbornness. He eventually pulls himself back up and gains the advantage with forearms and kicks as opposed to trading chops. Hino is dropped with a Falcon Arrow but is able to backdrop out of the piledriver and the two again start trading shots, overhands for kicks this time. Putting his hands behind his back, Hino invites Sato to continue kicking him, this time it being Hino’s stubbornness getting in the way. Sato traps Hino up on the second rope and looking for a brainbuster but Hino headbutts him off and follows with a frog splash off the top.
Hino looks for the Fucking Bomb, settles for a German but Sato pops right back up and delivers a German of his own for a double down. They get back up at six and start trading strikes, this time Hino’s chops versus Sato’s forearms. Hino plants Sato with a lariat but when he pulls him back up, Sato lands a series of kicks. Hino, in peak Hino-ism, responds with his own kick that grounds Sato and does so again with a follow up lariat. Sato, while being picked up to his feet by Hino, shoves Hino’s arms away and bashes skulls. Hino is gushing blood from the head, puts his arms behind his back and invites Sato in for another.
Sato lands a second headbutt, piledrives Hino but only gets two. Hino puts his hands behind his back once more, eats a third headbutt and smiles at Sato who delivers a fourth. Once more, Hino’s arms are behind his back but instead of a headbutt, Sato uses this opportunity to catch Hino in a German suplex to take the win. Absolutely insane match. The biggest of all big dick energies. You’ll see matches where guys do more moves but when it comes to testing yourself as a man, this is up there with the best of the best. Two of the grossest individuals in all of pro wrestling. This is what it’s all about.
After the match, Voodoo Murders come out to jump Sato from behind. Out of nowhere, Hartley Jackson makes his return and clears the ring. Jackson was a ZERO1 mainstay from 2016-18 and he uses this chance to announce his return. He tells the fans he respects Sato, Otani, Takaiwa and the entire ZERO1 family. Sato shakes his hand, Jackson hands the mic to Otani who announces that for the 20th anniversary, ZERO1 are planning to run Sumo Hall. A highlight video of ZERO1’s history plays and that’s how we go off the air.
The top two matches are going to rank very high on my end of year list. As it stands right now, both are in my top five of the year. ZERO1 offered up the two hardest hitting matches of the year and did so in back-to-back matches. As a top to bottom show, all six matches hit their point. I would’ve liked if the matches, especially the final two, weren’t clipped but with the Jackson angle and the video announcement, it was a necessity. I’m really excited if this was your first ZERO1 show because you’re going to see something completely different in the main event. These are some of the most talented wrestlers on the planet and now is the perfect time to give them a spotlight.
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