Reviews

Weekly Pro-Wrestling in Tokyo Dome (Bridge of Dreams) 1995 Review

weekly pro wrestling japan

Imagine if WWE, AEW, TNA, ROH, MLW, NWA, IWA-Mid South, GCW, CZW, UFC, Bellator MMA, PWG and Women of Wrestling all came together and featured their wrestlers on a single show hosted by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter in 2021. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, something very close to this actually happened over 25 years ago.

On April 2nd, 1995, almost all of Japan’s biggest wrestling promotions put aside their petty personal and political differences and came together for a single show. This show, called Weekly Pro-Wrestling Tokyo Dome Show or Bridge of Dreams (you couldn’t ask for a more appropriate name for a show than that), was meant as an exhibition of each company’s biggest stars. All of them hoped to steal the show from the others and showcase what each one had to offer to the fans.

It was basically a litmus test using the fans in attendance as judges to determine which wrestling style and product they liked most. You couldn’t ask for a more direct and accurate way to determine what kind of wrestling the fans liked and wanted to see. With that, let’s look back at this historic show to see how it holds up.

Weekly Pro-Wrestling in Tokyo Dome (a.k.a. Bridge of Dreams)
April 2nd, 1995
Tokyo Dome, Tokyo
Attendance: 50,000

The show begins with a grandiose celebration with confetti and ceremonial music as the wrestlers representing each company are shown on stage. That’s followed by a guy that I presume is the owner of the Weekly Pro-Wrestling magazine, who cuts a promo on the history of wrestling in Japan and thanks the fans for attending. Then all the participating wrestlers are given bouquets of flowers as thanks.

The participants

Bridge Of Dreams featured wrestlers from the following companies:

  • All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW)
  • All Japan Women’s Pro-Wrestling (AJW)
  • Fighting Network RINGS
  • Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW)
  • Go Gundan
  • International Wrestling Association of Japan (IWA Japan)
  • JWP Joshi Puroresu (JWP)
  • Ladies Legend Pro-Wrestling (LLPW)
  • Michinoku Pro Wrestling (MPW)
  • New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW)
  • Pancrase
  • Pro-Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi
  • Union of Wrestling Forces International (UWFi)

 

Match #1: JWP: Cutie Suzuki, Devil Masami, Hiromi Yagi and Mayumi Ozaki vs. Candy Okutsu, Dynamite Kansai, Fusayo Nochi and Hikari Fukuoka

All eight women shake hands as the bell rings. Yagi and Okutsu start off and Okutsu lands some early kicks. A slam gets her a one-count and she tags in Nochi, who lands a crossbody, but then Yagi lands a crossbody of her own for a one-count and tags Suzuki. Suzuki lands a flying press and a back suplex for two and then tags Ozaki, who lands a diving senton press for another two-count. a bridging snap suplex gets Ozaki another two-count and then she tags Masami, who launches Nochi into her corner and tags Kansai. They have a suplex battle with neither woman succeeding in lifting the other. Masami dodges a wheel kick and Masami tags Ozaki back in. Ozaki lands a diving neckbreaker and then her and her team all land stereo high kicks to Kansai’s face. Yagi tags back in and sends Kansai into the ropes but Kansai counters and lands a big clothesline.

Kansai tags Fukuoka, who lands a shotgun dropkick and a back suplex and then locks in a Boston crab. Ozaki runs in to kick Fukuoka, but Fukuoka absorbs the kick and maintains her hold. I love it when wrestlers don’t break up their holds after being blindsided and fight to keep it maintained. Ozaki and her team all take turns booting Fukuoka in the back of her head until she eventually relents and lets go. But Yagi ends up in greater danger as Fukuoka tags the much larger Kansai, who applies her own crab while staring daggers at her team. Undaunted, Ozaki charges in and lands multiple boots to Kansai’s face and Kansai no-sells each one and then clotheslines Ozaki.

Okutsu tags in and lands a 16-revolution giant swing and pins for two and tags Nochi. Yagi counters an Irish whip with a crossbody and tags Masami, who lands a 18-revolution swing and tags Ozaki. Ozaki lands a sick powerbomb but only gets two. In comes Kansai. Ozaki kicks her hard in the face twice. Kansai blocks a third kick and goes for a clothesline. Ozaki counters into an armbar. Kansai struggles but eventually makes it to the ropes. Suzuki tags in and lands a foot stomp, but Kansai fires back with a huge backdrop suplex for her own two-count.

Fukuoka tags in and goes for a counter corner moonsault press but slips and misses Suzuki. She and Suzuki trade rear waistlocks until Yagi dropkicks Suzuki into a corner. Fukuoka keeps both of them at bay, has a clever counter sequence with Suzuki, and then applies a rolling cradle for two. Fukuoka attempts a powerbomb but Suzuki escapes, ducks a wind-up punch, and lands a bridging German suplex for two. She and Ozaki land a double-team DDT for another two-count and then Ozaki tags in and lands a doomsday senton for yet another two-count.

Fukuoka escapes one powerbomb but can’t escape a second, yet manages to kick out at two. Ozaki misses a Twisted Bliss-style splash and Fukuoka takes advantage with a moonsault press that gets two. Both sides have been saved thanks to regular interference from their partners on the apron. In comes Kansai who lands several kicks to Ozaki’s face. She goes for a Splash Mountain powerbomb. Ozaki escapes via arm drag and goes for a dragon suplex. Kansai escapes one but not the second. Kansai kicks out at two. Ozaki lands another powerbomb but Kansai’s teammates save her. Ozaki tags Masami and she goes for a top-rope leg drop but misses and Kansai punts her in the face. Masami escapes a Splash Mountain but Okutsu appears behind her and drops her with a German. Bridging northern lights suplex by Kansai. Suzuki makes the save. Nochi lands a diving dropkick and Kansai goes for a clothesline but Masami ducks and knocks all of Kansai’s partners off the apron. Masami and Kansai clothesline each other and both go down.

Masami gets up first and reverse powerbombs her own partner Yagi onto Kansai for another two-count. Masami lands her own powerbomb, which is followed by a diving press/leg drop combo from Ozxaki and Suzuki. Diving splash from Yagi. Kansai kicks out at 2.5. Yagi teases a judo throw but Kansai counters with another backdrop suplex for two. Okutsu tags in and ends up on the apron for a springboard attack, but Masami clotheslines her to the floor. All four of Kansai’s team end op on the floor and each of Masami’s team dives onto them from a different corner.

Chaos ensues ringside as all eight women fight and whip each other into whatever they can. in the ring, Kansai slams Yagi and Okutsu lands a diving splash. But Yagi bridges out Toyota-style and then counters a German suplex with a roll-through ankle lock. Okutsu reaches the ropes and then counters an Irish whip with a big boot. They go back-and-forth until Yagi lands a big overhead suplex and then goes to the top rope. But Okutu cuts her off with a top-rope northern lights suplex for two. Okutsu follows with quadruple rolling Germans but then gets attacked by Suzuki before she can land more.

Masami tags in and goes for a whip but Okutsu reverses it, allowing Kansai to kick her hard. Kansai tags in and the two bigger women clothesline each other again. Masami ducks a kick and lands a DDT. Ozaki and Suzuki land stereo diving foot stomps to Kansai and then knock the rest of Kansai’s team off the apron. Kansai knocks Yagi away but Masami manages to land a diving guillotine leg drop. She pains but Kansai’s team all save her. Masami goes to the top rope again and tosses a charging Okutsu to the floor. Then Fukuoka comes in and holds Masami in place. That allows Kansai to nail a diving Splash Mountain powerbomb for the pin and the win after 17:29.

Winners: Candy Okutsu, Dynamite Kansai, Fusayo Nochi and Hikari Fukuoka

Analysis: ****1/2 Fun and exciting opener. All eight women fought incredibly well and got a chance to showcase their talents. This was a great demonstration of peak joshi wrestling. The match was incredibly fast-paced with lots of high-risk moves out of nowhere, quick tags, and multiple saves on close near-falls. There were a few sloppy bits and moments of chaos here and there, but overall it served its purpose. I especially loved how Fukuoka and Kansai fought through what were probably stiff, full-contact kicks to the head and face to maintain their respective submission holds. It’s always nice to see wrestlers act tough by absorbing incredible pain while remaining focused on what they’re doing, instead of breaking up a pin almost instantly. I wish we had more wrestling like this in modern times.

 

Match #2: LLPW: Harley Saito vs. Shinobu Kandori

This is an MMA rules match. The only way to win is by KO, by a second throwing in the towel, by referee’s decision, or by a wrestler being unable to answer a ten-count.

Both women are wearing MMA gloves as they shake hands. Kandori avoids some early middle kicks and goes for Saito’s legs but Saito lands some knees and kicks right to Kandori’s head. Kandori gets up at the ref’s count of four. Saito goes for a high kick but Kandori lands a big right hand and lands a judo takedown. Kandori goes for a guard/cross armbreaker as Saito punches away with her free hand. Kandori transitions into a neck scissor as she lands punches of her own and then switches into a gogoplata. Saito gives up. The match went 1:12.

Winner: Shinobu Kandori

Analysis: **1/4 Not bad at all for an under-ninety second match. Actually, I shouldn’t even call it a match but more of a fight. This was an MMA contest back when MMA was still in its Wild West phase. It was simple and exciting with lots of quick switches and plenty of tension despite its short length.

 

Match #3: AJW: Manami Toyota and Blizzard Yuki vs. Aja Kong and Kyoko Inoue

Yuki and Inoue start things off. The bell rings and Inoue ducks a spinkick but eats a diving shotgun dropkick from Toyota. Inoue avoids a double team and she and Kong clothesline both Yuki and Toyota. The action spills onto the elevated entrance ramp and Inoue and Kong run up the ramp and clothesline Yuki and Toyota back into the ring. Kong tags in and she and Inoue double-team Toyota, who somehow became the legal person. Not sure when she tagged in, but whatever. Kong smashes her into different corners and lands multiple big chops and a big running clothesline before tagging Inoue. Inoue applies a brutal-looking Muta lock variation and then slingshots Toyota into a Kong clothesline. Toyota kicks out of a pin and then counters an Irish whip by jumping onto the top rope and landing a moonsault press. Great counter. Yuki tags in and lands four snap butterfly suplexes for a two-count. Inoue survives a double-team dropkick and escapes a vertical suplex and then clotheslines Yuki down after eating several chops to the chest. Kong tags in, punts Yuki as hard as possible, and follows with a drop suplex and an elbow drop for two. Yuki kicks out of a chinlock but Kong sends the next minute or so just mauling and then tags Inoue.

Inoue goes for a giant swing but Yuki counters with a roll-up for a one-count and tags Toyota. Toyota ducks a clothesline and goes for a rolling cradle but Inoue throws her off. Inoue goes for a backdrop but Toyota counters into a successful rolling cradle for two. Two diving dropkicks get Toyota a two-count and she sends Inoue into the ropes. Inoue counters with a springboard dropkick of her own and tags Kong, who counters a sunset flip by sitting on Toyota for a two-count. Toyota avoids a running splash and dives off the top rope but Kong catches her and then plants her on the mat. But Toyota doesn’t give up as she counters another Irish whip with a big front dropkick and tags Yuki, but Yuki’s shut down quickly due to a body block from Kong. Kong follows with a piledriver and a back suplex with each getting its own two-count. She tags Inoue and they double shoulder block Yuki and then Inoue locks in a Romero special/surfboard stretch. Yuki escapes two suplex attempts and lands a spinkick and tags Toyota. Toyota rushes Kong but Kong tanks her attacks like a boss, knocks her down, and tags Inoue. Inoue puts Toyota in the torture rack and then tosses her across the ring, then follows that with a deep camel clutch.

Kong tags back in and lands a slingshot backbreaker into a Boston crab, damaging Toyota’s back even further. She smashes Toyota chest-first into the corner, allowing Inoue to land a big corner body press. Inoue then holds her in place allowing Kong to do the same. Kong follows with a powerbomb for two and tags Inoue, who lands a diving back elbow for her own two-count. she whips Toyota into the ropes but Toyota counters with a gorgeous Manami Roll/Yoshi Tonic for a close two-count. Yuki tags in but gets quickly clotheslined to the mat. Twice. She escapes a pin attempt so Inoue goes for a powerbomb, but Toyota stops Inoue with a crossbody. They try a double-team but Inoue strikes first with a springboard back elbow.

Inoue whips Yuki into her corner but Yuki knocks a waiting Kong to the floor as Toyota attacks Inoue. Both Yuki and Inoue land diving splashes to the floor but the camera misses both of them. Yuki grabs both Kong and Inoue and holds them in place for Toyota, who lands a springboard quebrada to the floor. Amazing move.

Back in the ring, Toyota and Yuki land a doomsday dropkick for two as Kong saves her partner. Yuki goes to the top rope but Inoue cuts her of with an avalanche belly-to-belly suplex for two. Inoue goes for a Niagara Driver. Yuki escapes and lands a sick uranage and then Germans Kong. She lands three more on Inoue as Toyota holds Kong at bay. The referee counts one, two, no, Inoue kicks out at 2.8.

Toyota tags in and goes for the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (electric chair suplex) but Inoue escapes and lands a Bridging German of her own for two. She sees Inoue tag Toyota and charges for a Manami Roll but Kong counters it with a powerbomb for another close two-count. Kong goes for a superplex. Toyota counters with a diving sunset flip powerbomb for two. Kong avoids a snap moonsault and lands a doomsday back elbow with Inoue’s help. Kong pins but Toyota bridges out like a boss. Kong goes for a back suplex. Toyota lands on her feet and then blocks an Uraken backfist. Japanese Ocean Suplex (double hammerlock suplex) connects. Toyota’s too tired to maintain a pin. Toyota tries to place Kong on the second rope in the corner but Kong escapes. Toyota charges…and runs into a savage backfist. My God, you can hear the sound of Kong’s hand hitting Toyota’s face with full force. Kong pins as Inoue holds Yuki back. One, two, thr – no, Toyota kicks out. Inoue drops Yuki with a Niagara Driver as Kong lands a top-rope Air Raid Crash suplex-type move. That’s enough to get the pin and the win after 17:40.

Winners: Aja Kong and Kyoko Inoue

Analysis: ****1/2 This was similar to the opener in that it was exciting and full of intense action. Both Toyota and Yuki had to rely on their speed against their larger and stronger opponents, creating a nice David vs. goliath dynamic. Toyota was her usual self as she moved at blistering speed and did one cray move after another. Kong was awesome as the monster and both hit and took hits like a boss. Inoue was like the Undertaker: despite being bigger than most of her peers she moved with surprising agility and hit crazy dives alongside her usual arsenal of power moves. Lastly, Yuki was great as the underdog that knew exactly what to do at all times here.

 

Before the next match, the announcer asks the crowd to give another round of applause for the three joshi (women’s) promotions for their matches and the crowd obliges. No arguments here; that was some great wrestling and an interesting women’s fight. Then, he announces a special guest: Lou Thesz. Yes, THE Lou Thesz, the God of Wrestling and one of the most respected grapplers ever. He reads a pre-written message thanking the magazines for hosting and covering this prestigious event. He recalls his big match with Rikidozan from almost forty years prior and how ‘Riki’ is likely watching this show from Heaven. He mentions that he’s also a wrestling fan and then delivers this message: “Authentic pro-wrestling was, and still is, composed of highly-sophisticated wrestling skills and keenly-trained athletes. Please keep one important fact in your thoughts: wrestling is the most colorful and interesting art form of all contact sports. I love the game. Thank you very much.”

Analysis: it’s always great when a respected historic great appears on a show like this to give it credibility and prestige. Thesz was and still is highly regarded for his contributions to the wrestling industry and he spoke highly of this event and the wrestling skills needed for it to succeed. I also think his finishing lines were pretty great and they speak to the core of what wrestling is and should be.

Match #4: Go Gundan: Ryuma Go vs. Uchu Majin Silver X – Alien Death Match for the Go Gundan Interplanetary Title

The crowd’s making a surprising amount of noise as the bell rings. Silver gets a clean break on the ropes and then blocks two double-leg takedowns. Ryuma hits a shoulder tackle but then Silver clotheslines him down. Silver charges but runs into a grounded armbar but soon reaches the ropes.he lands some clotheslines but Ryuma counters one into another armbar. The ref gets distracted by one of Silver’s flunkies which allows another to pull Silver to the ropes. Ryuma argues with one of them and Silver clotheslines him out of the ring to the floor, where he gets quadruple-teamed. There’s no disqualification in this match, it seems. Silver hits Ryuma’s head and leg with a chair and then his flunkies tie him up with some ringside cables and stomp away on him.

Back in the ring, Silver lands another clothesline for two. He follows with some knee breakers and shin kicks, which send Ryuma back out of the ring and into danger. Ryuma suffers through more stomps and chairshots to his leg, which goes on for a while. He gets tossed back into the ring where Silver applies a Texas Cloverleaf but Ryuma gets to the ropes. Silver follows with a figure-4 but Ryuma gets to the ropes again. Suddenly Ryuma starts making a comeback with head-butts. He and Silver go back and forth with head-butts and Dusty Rhodes bionic elbows. Ryuma escapes a suplex with an armbar into a drop toehold into a chinlock. But one of the flunkies attacks Ryuma, forcing a break. Undeterred, Ryuma lands a dropkick and a neckbreaker and then locks in a single leg crab. But once again, one of the flunkies interferes as another distracts the ref. The referee sees one of them clothesline Ryuma after Ryuma tanks several kicks, so why bother with the distraction? Anyway, Ryuma lands a backdrop and a clothesline and then goes back to the single leg. More interference ensues and Ryuma can no longer absorb those kicks. Angered, he grabs some foreign object and starts whacking Silver and all of his allies as the crowd chants along.

Ryuma tosses Silver onto the apron and lands a big wind-up strike with the weapon. More weapons shots for the flunkies and a clothesline for Silver back into the ring. Then the flunkies strike back and Silver lands another knee breaker. Another cloverleaf hold and another ropebreak. Silver follows with a powerslam for two and then lands a diving clothesline for another two-count. Diving body press. Ryuma kicks out again. Silver lands one corner clothesline but misses a second and gets clotheslined himself. Something goes wrong on the following spot and then Ryuma runs wild on everyone, except one flunky that enters and leaves the ring randomly. Ryuma lands a backdrop for two connects with another clothesline. He follows with a diving clothesline and another running one for the pin and the win after about fifteen minutes.

Winner and STILL Go Gundan Interplanetary Champion: Ryuma Go

Analysis: *3/4 That was a bizarre match that went way too long. It was hard to tell if it was supposed to be serious or comedy. It was nonsensical with all the random interference and ringside beat-downs, while in the ring Silver actually applied logic and tried to take out Ryuma’s legs. Except he completely no-sold all of that and just spammed clotheslines and weapon strikes. There were several miscommunications in the match as well and overall the match lacked a proper flow. This should’ve been at least five minutes shorter and it would’ve accomplished the same goal of providing the fans with something a bit more lighthearted after three intense and serious joshi matches.

 

Match #5: IWA: Cactus Jack and the Headhunters vs. Leatherface, Shoji Nakamaki and Terry Funk – Barbed Wire Board & Barbed Wire Baseball Bat Bunkhouse Death Match

Both teams face-off on the entrance stage instead of in the ring. The announcer begins counting down to the start of the match and Cactus makes a beeline for the ring. Nakamaki gives chase as everyone else brawls on the stage. The bell rings as Foley and Nakamaki brawl closer to the ring. One of the Headhunters cracks Funk in the head with a chair as the chaos continues all over the place. Cactus makes it into the ring to grab the barbed wire bat and Funk ends up right behind him. Nakamaki gets choked with a chain by a Headhunter as Funk hits Cactus with the bat. Funk ends up triple-teamed as Leatherface saunters towards the ring. Cactus clotheslines Funk over the barricade as the Headhunters shred Nakamaki’s face with the bat. Lots of brawling and weapons shots ensue until a Headhunter lands a leg drop from the top rope to the entrance ramp onto Nakamaki. Cactus lands an elbow drop on Funk as the other Headhunter splashes Nakamaki. Cactus then smashes Leatherface with a table as Nakamaki gets worked over in a horrifically brutal way. Funk dodges a clothesline and Cactus ends up tangles in the ropes. One Headhunter frees him as Nakamaki DDTs another for two. Cactus whips Funk into one of the barbed wire tables as a Headhunter elbow drops Nakamaki for another two-count. The poor guy is then slammed on one barbed wire table as the other is dropped on top of him in some kind of morbid human-barbed wire sandwich. Then a Headhunter moonsaults onto the table, crushing Nakamaki. Suddenly, here comes Leatherface, wielding a (gimmicked) chainsaw. It shoots out sparks as it ‘comes into contact’ with Cactus and the Headhunters.

Leatherface tosses Cactus out of the ring and moonsaults onto a Headhunter for a two-count. he misses a splash on Cactus and Cactus lands a leg drop for two. Cactus finds Funk and starts hitting him but Funk fires up and lands punches of his own. More brawling follows as Leatherface kicks out of a superplex. Funk punches both Cactus and a Headhunter and then ignores Nakamaki holding the other Headhunter for him. Funk locks in his Spinning Toe Hold but Cactus breaks it up. Cactus flips over a table and douses it in lighter fluid as the Headhunters hold everyone else at bay. He tries to light it on fire but it doesn’t light, which leads to laughter from the audience. Meanwhile, Funk throws some chairs randomly, because Terry Funk.

A Headhunter superplexes Nakamaki onto one of the tables and then Cactus places the other table on top him and lands an elbow drop. Cactus follows with a stump puller piledriver that gets a two-count. Ringside, one Headhunter holds Nakamaki in place as the other lands a running suicide plancha, but he hits his partner instead. Then out of nowhere, Leatherface lands a top-rope splash onto both Headhunters and then Cactus clotheslines Funk over the ropes. a Headhunter puts Nakamaki in the electric chair and hits a Doomsday elbow drop with Cactus’s help. Cactus goes for another but Leatherface cuts him off and press slams him to the floor. Then Funk goes to the top rope and hits an asai moonsault to the floor, wiping out three people. In the ring, Nakamaki reverses an Irish whip into a barbed wire table setup in the corner. He rolls up the Headhunter that tried to whip him into it for the pin and the win after 18:28.

Winners: Leatherface, Shoji Nakamaki and Terry Funk

Analysis: ** Sloppy, bloody mess of a match. I’m generally not a fan of ultra-violent bloodbath matches, but I figured I’d give it a try here since this is such a special show. But I was disappointed by what I saw. This match was all over the place, lacking in structure or flow. The action was hard to follow, especially with the random camera cuts. The match was sold on its violent nature, which was showcased by Nakamaki screaming like he was being legitimately tortured. Leatherface did very little besides bring out a chainsaw, which only got a brief and middling reaction. There was obviously meant to be more spectacle since Cactus tried to set a table on fire but it didn’t work, so he had to improvise and what he came up with was…less than thrilling. So if you think that the Exploding match AEW put on recently was disappointing, rest assured that at least you got a decent match out of it before the finale. This match was almost twenty minutes of senseless garbage, but at least there was some interesting athleticism from all six guys involved.

 

Match #6: Pancrase: Christropher DeWeaver vs. Minoru Suzuki – Pancrase rules

Like the earlier MMA match, this one has more ‘realistic’ rules in terms of how a match can end. Words like ‘KO’ and ‘referee’ (stoppage) are mentioned. DeWeaver has at least a full foot of height over Suzuki as he starts with some knees. He backs Suzuki into a corner but Suzuki successfully double-legs him. This is followed by a long ground segment that last until both men lock each other’s legs. Suzuki applies a heel hook and DeWeaver taps out. Suzuki wins after 1:50.

Winner: Minoru Suzuki

Analysis: ** A completely passable MMA fight. I’ve seen a few fights that were more exciting and others that were a bit wilder, but this one was simple and straightforward. It was pure grappling with both wrestlers quickly going for submission holds. Suzuki was faster and more technically-skilled, which enabled him to lock in a stronger and more devastating hold.

 

Match #7: Fujiwara Gumi: Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Yuki Ishikawa vs. Carl Greco and Don Arakawa

Ishikawa and Greco start things off with some solid amateur grappling. Greco lands a high kick and applies a rolling butterfly lock but Ishikawa quickly counters into a heel hook. Greco reaches the ropes and then does the Goldberg move where he forward rolls into a leglock but Ishikawa quickly wrestles out of it. Arakawa tags in and lands some martial arts strikes much to the crowd’s delight. Ishikawa fights back and then tags Fujiwara and Arakawa tries to intimidate him but Fujiwara lands a lightning-fast strike to his face. Arakawa goes for more of his own strikes but Fujiwara dodges them and slaps his head in the corner. Greco tags in and takes Fujiwara down with a belly-to-belly and holds him place as Arakawa steps on his balls. Fujiwara manages to grapple control away from Greco but Arakawa takes advantage with a kancho (the double index finger up the ass joke popular in Japan). Comedy in a shootfighting match. Why not.

Ishikawa tags in and he and the match becomes serious again with amateur-style strikes and grappling. They trade holds back and forth until Greco applies another heel hook until Ishikawa gets the ropes. Greco lands a big high kick right to Ishikawa’s face and the ref starts the ten-count. Ishikawa gets up at eight and Greco fires away with slaps and knee strikes. But Ishikawa out-grapples him, takes control of his arm, and tags Fujiwara, who lands more takedowns but can’t press the attack because Arakawa keeps hitting him from the apron. Arakawa does tag in and when he does, Fujiwara takes complete control and then lands a huge forearm club to his chest. Fujiwara smashes him face-first into the steel ringpost and Arakawa does a huge over-dramatic oversell as he falls to the floor. Fujiwara does this forearm club spot a total of three times, but on the third he teases a big hit but instead slaps Arakawa’s head again. This enrages Arakawa and he starts head-butting Fujiwara rapidly, but then slows down when he realizes they have no effect. Meanwhile, one head-butt from Fujiwara sends Arakawa down hard and then he stomps on Arakawa’s balls as revenge for earlier. Arakawa gets a sudden second wind and lands falling head-butts that send Fujiwara out of the ring.

Fujiwara lands one more forearm club and tags Ishikawa. Arakawa manages to grapple his way into a pin for a two-count and then goes for a backslide but somehow hurts himself in the process. He tags Greco and he and Ishikawa do some more MMA-style strike teases and technical exchanges. Greco attempts a kata-hajime Half-Nelson choke and Arakawa stops Ishikawa from reaching the ropes by stomping on his foot. He locks in the choke but Ishikawa still gets to the ropes for safety so he goes for some high kicks but Ishikawa counters into a leglock. The exchanges and reversals continue until Ishikawa goes for a cross armbreaker but Greco reaches the ropes almost immediately. These exchanges continue until Fujiwara tags in and he orders Greco to tag Arakawa and he does.

They go at it and Arakawa takes Fujiwara down and goes for his eyes. Fujiwara then does the same and locks in a front chancery and refuses to let go despite the ref’s demands. He’s forced to let go before the count of five but reapplies it in a split second afterwards. Both Ishikawa and Greco tag back in and Greco lands big knee strikes to Ishikawa’s face. He makes it up at the count of six and Greco lands an uranage. More amateur take-downs. Ishikawa wrestles into a legit triangle hold. Greco slumps over and looks like he passes out. The referee calls for the bell after 16:30.

Winners: Yoshiaki Fujiwara and Yuki Ishikawa

Analysis: **1/4 Strange match. When Greco and Ishikawa were in the ring, it was a great technical affair that was typical of the shoot style that Fujiwara Gumi presented. But when Fujiwara and Arakawa were in the ring, the match deteriorated into comedy wrestling. That dichotomy led to a styles clash which ultimately led to the match suffering from a lack of identity. It had its strong points, especially with the realistic amateur grappling and the believable finish. But the comedy dragged it down. This would’ve been better off as two distinct matches instead of two opposing ideas competing side-by-side with each other in the same space at the same time.

 

Match #8: MPW: Gran Naniwa, Super Delfin and TAKA Michinoku vs. SATO (Dick Togo), Shiryu (Kaz Hayashi) and The Great Sasuke

Naniwa and Shiryu start things off…and Naniwa starts posing like he’s Hulk Hogan. Shiryu does a quick monkey flip and the two men trade Dynamite Kid-style exchanges. After a short standoff, they trade grounded headlocks and Naniwa starts working over Shiryu’s arm until Shiryu escapes with a takeover. They trade lightning-fast armdrags, leading to another standoff and loud crowd applause.

TAKA and Sasuke tag in next and a clean break on the rope ensues. They lock-up again and TAKA slaps Sasuke on the ropes and then dropkicks him in the back of his head. He rubs his foot on the back of Sasuke’s head and locks in a single leg crab but Sasuke quickly counters into a leglock of his own. After a ropebreak, TAKA tries to go for another leglock after catching Sasuke’s leg on a kick but Sasuke counters TAKA first into an ankle lock. They trade chops until TAKA knocks Sasuke out of the ring and TAKA does a flip to entertain the crowd.

Delfin and SATO tag in and have their own lightning-quick lucharesu exchange, complete with flips, kicks, dodges, leapfrogs and crazy headscissors. Sasuke and TAKA tag back in and have another quick exchange that ends with TAKA landing an overhead belly-to-belly followed by a top-rope diving kneedrop. TAKA lands one standing armbreaker and tries another but Sasuke counters with a chokehold. TAKA escapes but eats a wheel kick, which leads to a tag to Naniwa and Shiryu. Shiryu lands a crazy lucha arm drag followed by a kick and Naniwa sells like he’s been hit in the groin, which Shiryu denies. Shiryu tries an Irish whip but apparently he can’t even walk because of the pain he has down there. Then he gets up and shrugs as if nothing was wrong, which goads Shiryu into charging but Shiryu runs into a powerbomb. Naniwa goes for a second-rope splash but Shiryu starts rolling out of range, so Naniwa walks the rope while pretending he’s a crab (CRAB PEOPLE! CRAB PEOPLE! TASTES LIKE CRAB, TALKS LIKE PEOPLE!) Shiryu catches on and shakes Naniwa off the ropes and dropkicks him out of the ring.

TAKA and SATO tag in and have another quick exchange that ends with SATO slamming TAKA so hard he escapes to ringside to recover. Sasuke and Delfin tag in and Delfin lands a freaking sweet Atlantida argentine backbreaker. They do more lightning-quick ducking and dodging and Delfin clotheslines Sasuke hard. They trade kicks until Sasuke literally kicks Delfin out of the ring. Then Shiryu and Delfin tag in again and Delfin misses a dropkick and gets monkey flipped across the ring. He lands a funny headscissor takedown and then come comedy ensues with Shiryu kipping up and his opponents dancing along. Hey, it’s better than Arakawa’s earlier attempts at comedy. Shiryu lands light takedowns that send each of his opponents out of the ring, with Delfin landing face-first in one of his female second’s chest. She seems to have no problem with this, given the huge smile on her face.

Back in the ring, Shiryu gets triple-teamed and ends up in a camel clutch/Boston crab combo with Delfin stomping on his back as the crowd applauds loudly. He then gets tied in the tree of woe as TAKA and Delfin stand on his groin. A double suplex/springboard splash combo ends in a two-count so Delfin stomps on his groin again. He goes for a second one, but this time Delfin goes for a sharpshooter instead and then pulls on Shiryu’s mask while he’s locked in a camel clutch. Delfin and his team to another comedy spot by taking each opponent one by one and having Delfin land over-the-shoulder armbreakers as the fans clap along. But on the third attempt, Sasuke reverses this onto Naniwa and Delfin hits the move anyway, no knowing he’s doing it to his own partner. Delfin turns around and Naniwa gets in his face over this and then Naniwa leaves up the entrance ramp. Delfin apologizes by kissing Naniwa and they come back to the ring and try to triple-team Shiryu, but that plan blows up in their face as SATO takes them down one-by-one and Sasuke lands a top-rope crossbody onto all three for a two-count.

Chaos ensues with everyone fighting in and around the ring and stopping each other from diving. In the ring, Shiryu kicks out of a tilt-a-whirl slam but then ends up in a stereo arm-and-leg lock. But then Sasuke and SATO lock TAKA’s and Delfin’s free legs, and Naniwa crab walks into a pin for two. Triple simultaneous Frankensteiners. Everyone kicks out at two. Shiryu dives onto TAKA. Naniwa dives onto Shiryu. SATO dives onto Naniwa. Delfin dives onto SATO. Sasuke lands an asai moonsault onto Delfin. And TAKA launches himself over the barricade onto Sasuke. Awesome.

Back in the ring, TAKA lands a springboard dropkick for two and then SATO gets a two-count off some big slams. SATO lands a diving senton and pins but Naniwa saves his partner. Sasuke comes in and lands a moonsault body press on Naniwa for two. He goes for a powerbomb. Naniwa counters with a Frankensteiner for two and gets sent to the floor off a handspring back elbow. Sasuke lands a suicide dive to the floor while Shiryu and Delfin fight in the ring. Delfin takes control with a diving tornado DDT and locks in a Majistral cradle for the pin and the win after 22:25.

Winners: Gran Naniwa, Super Delfin and TAKA Michinoku

Analysis: **** That was way better than what I expected. Unlike the earlier Fujiwara match which had wrestling comedy done wrong, this match did the comedy properly by infusing it into the match in a seamless way instead of making it feel shoehorned. The match was twenty minutes of blistering speed and lucha libre-inspired action. But interspersed therein was some great slapstick comedy that was actually entertaining. It was a bit silly, sure, but at the end of the day all of that zaniness built to the car crash-style finale that MPW was famous for and ended with a solid payoff. All six men wrestled very well and they pulled off a fine little exhibition match here.

 

Match #9: RINGS: Akira Maeda vs. Chris Dolman – RINGS rules match

The match begins with some quick kicks and awkward-looking grappling and takedowns. Dolman takes control and grapples his way into a heel hook but Maeda gets to the ropes and then lands some kicks that Dolman no-sells. Dolman blocks a double-leg and applies a choke which forces Maeda to use one of his ropebreaks (RINGS used some point system and wrestlers had limited ropebreaks per match). Dolman gets another headlock in but Maeda fights out. They get back up and Dolman quickly takes control of Maeda’s head and both men apply heel hooks again, which forces another break. Maeda lands more kicks but Dolman catches his leg. Dolman goes for a heel hook but Maeda locks in a stronger one. Dolman gives up. The match ends after 5:26.

Winner: Akira Maeda

Analysis: * A disappointing, less-exciting version of the Suzuki/DeWeaver match from earlier on in the card. The crowd loved Maeda but Dolman didn’t do much of anything here. There seemed to be plenty of miscommunication with one or both fighters unsure of what to do next. That made the contest drag on at time and caused the action to look less controlled and smooth.

 

Match #10: UWFi: Nobuhiko Takada, Billy Scott and Masahiro Kakihara vs. Gary Albright, Gene Lydick and Kazuo Yamazaki – UWFi rules tag match

Once again, they announce the rules for this match, which states that a match can only end via KO, TKO, or a wrestler giving up.

All six men try to shake hands to start but Yamazaki is already angry and wants to face Takada right away. Instead, the referee pulls him back and the match starts with Yamazaki and Scott. The first two minutes or so are filled with excellent grappling and counter-grappling that ends with a ropebreak. They lock up again and Scott goes for a Boston crab but switches over to a headlock instead and then attempts different arm holds. Yamazaki grapples into a leglock but Scott escapes and tags Kakihara, who bursts in with a flurry of strikes on the veteran Yamazaki. But his eagerness is met with experience as Yamazaki quickly counters into a heel hook and Kakihara squirms his way to the ropes for a break. Lydick tags in and has a stiff strike exchange with Kakihara. They grapple and Lydick fights out of a guard into a rear naked choke that quickly gets broken up. Kakihara lands more brutal kicks that downs Lydick and the ref begins his count. Lydick gets up at three and tags Yamazaki as Kakihara tags in Takada. The crowd pops bigtime because they know how much of a feud these two men have had. Takada takes control with several successful kicks and blocks any that Yamazaki attempts. Takada goes for a full nelson but Yamazaki blocks it so Takada kicks him hard and he goes down. The ref counts again but Yamazaki gets up at eight. Yamazaki applies a leglock but Takada counters with a rear naked choke, only for Yamazaki to get a ropebreak. Yamazaki absorbs a big kick and then lands a German suplex before tagging in Albright. Scott tags in as well and Albright tackles him to the mat. Albright easily overpowers Scott and manages a deadlift German suplex as well. Albright locks in a full nelson but Scott reaches the ropes for safety.

Takada tags in and quickly out-maneuvers Albright to the mat. Albright reverses into another full nelson and locks in deep but Takada manages to get to the ropes as well. Takada tries more kicks but Albright just absorbs them and suplexes Takada down once more. But this time Takada counters into a cross armbreaker that Albright quickly escapes. Lydick and Kakihara tag in and Lydick takes control with a single leg. But Kakihara does an awesome reversal into a leglock of his own and does a lot of damage to Lydick’s leg. Takada tags in, gets Lydick in a guard, and then rolls into his own cross armbreaker but Lydick fights out. Then Takada kicks Lydick in the leg that Kakihara damaged with his leglock. Lydick gets up at three and Takada rushes in once again with kicks. Takada takes Lydick down and locks in a successful cross armbreaker. Lydick gives almost instantly. The ref calls for the bell after 15:17.

Winners: Nobuhiko Takada, Billy Scott and Masahiro Kakihara

Analysis: ***1/2 Exciting match given the circumstances. This was fifteen minutes of amateur-style wrestling with full-contact martial arts strikes and very realistic submission holds used throughout. It was all technique and legitimate grappling and the fans appreciated it by making tons of noise during key moments. There were some dead moments when nothing happened, but those were juxtaposed with exciting reversals and desperate escape attempts. In terms of pure mat wrestling, nothing else on the card thus far comes close, and this match more than blows away every other ‘shootstyle’ match on the card.

Post-match, there is a special retirement ceremony for a wrestler named Kintaro Ohki. Ohki wrestled from 1959 to sometime in the early 1980s and was a big name during the Rikidozan era. He was also one of the first people to wrestle Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba when they were rookies, and won several titles throughout the 60s and 70s. He’s helped to the ring by Lou Thesz and gives an emotional speech to the crowd and they applaud. Post-match he’s given many plaques, photos and flowers, and hugs the ringpost as a symbolic gesture as his ceremony ends.

Analysis: That was nice. It’s always good to pay respect to those that paved the way in wrestling, especially since so many people largely go unsung or unappreciated.

 

Match #11: FMW: Pogo Daioh (Mr. Pogo) vs. The Great Nita (Atsushi Onita) – No Ropes Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match

The camera pans to a separate ring that has been setup that has barbed wire where the ropes would be. Pogo comes out first dressed as a demon cyclops samurai while Nita comes out as the most blatant Great Muta ripoff I’ve ever seen, complete with mist and face paint. The bell rings and Pogo spits his own mist in Nita’s eyes. He goes to whip Nita into the “ropes” but Nita wisely falls to his stomach to avoid this. Nita tries to push Pogo into a barbed wire-filled corner but Pogo pushes back. They spend a lot of time pushing and shoving each other, inching ever closer to the ropes with each attempt. Then, Pogo sidesteps a charging Nita and Nita hits the barbed wire, causing a minor explosion. Nita is engulfed in smoke and when it dissipates he slumps down to the mat. Pogo grabs a kusarigama (a stick with a long curved blade in the end, like a sickle) and stabs Nita’s back with it. He uses it to rip open Nita’s ring gear and then stabs his exposed skin to a shockingly minor reaction. Then Pogo digs that weapon deeper into Nita’s back but Nita gets to his feet. Pogo places the blade against Nita’s throat and then in his mouth but Nita keeps fighting.

Pogo raises the weapon up but Nita spits green mist in his face and grabs the kusarigama. He swings it with full force and Pogo just runs around the ring. Nita lands a DDT for two and then lands more exaggerated sickle shots. Nita raises the kusarigama but Pogo blocks with a barbed wire baseball bat and hits Nita so hard he goes into another set of barbed wire ropes. Another explosion goes off. Pogo pins but only gets two. Pogo hits Nita some more with said bat but then Nita dodges and Pogo hits the ropes, causing another explosion. Nita grabs that bat and hits Pogo into a third set of ropes. an explosion goes off and it looks like both men get caught in its radius. Nita lands a random bulldog for a two-count and lands some head-butts but suddenly Pogo starts hulking up. Nita lands more head-butts and both men grab each other. Both of them hit the last set of ropes causing one final explosion. Both men collapse but Nita rolls on top of Pogo to get the pin and the win after fourteen minutes.

Winner: The Great Nita (Atsushi Onita)

Analysis: DUD Like I said earlier, I don’t like excessively-violent wrestling but I thought I’d give these wrestlers a chance. But once again, I was disappointed. This match was a train wreck. One minute Pogo was shoving a bladed weapon into Nita’s mouth and it was being treated like a real weapon, and the next Pogo was running around selling like he was being hit with a gimmicked kendo stick. They didn’t do anything exciting beyond throw each other into clearly gimmicked ‘explosive’ boards. I’m sure there are some people out there that might be entertained by the sight of two older wrestlers trying to kill each other with violent gimmicks and lots of sleight-of-hand deception. But to me it was both too silly and too gruesome. There are better hardcore matches out there that accomplish the same goals as this one without being this disappointing.

 

Match #12: AJPW: Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Stan Hansen vs. The Holy Demon Army (Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue) and Johnny Ace

The audio for this match is a bit off so we can’t hear much, including Misawa’s entrance. But from what was reported live, apparently the audience went nuts chanting Misawa’s name as he entered. That’s a big accomplishment in itself considering how rare coordinated chants are in Japan compared to stateside.

The bell rings and the crowd is going nuts already. Kobashi and Taue start things off with a clean break and a chop. Taue lands an early big boot but Kobashi quickly evens things out with a shoulder block and a delayed suplex for an early two-count. Kobashi lands some corner strikes but Taue blocks another one and lands a clothesline and then tags Kawada. Kawada lands his scoop slam/spine punt combo and follows with some short-range chops for two. Kobashi elbows out of a Dangerous Backdrop attempt, lands a sick discus chop to Kawada’s face, and then tags Misawa.

The bitter rivals lock-up and Kawada lands early chops against the ropes but Misawa fires back with elbows. Kawada goes to the floor and Misawa skins the cat on the ropes to taunt him. Misawa lands a crossbody for a one-count and applies a chinlock but Kawada gets to the ropes, so Misawa tags Hansen. They double-tackle Kawada and Hansen lands some elbow drops for another two-count. Taue saves Kawada from a powerbomb and the HDA duo double tackle Hansen.

Ace tags in and lands a diving clothesline for a two-count, followed by a DDT/elbow drop combo that gets the same. Hansen counters an Irish whip and lands a back elbow and then tags Kobashi. Kobashi lands sick chops and a kick to the gut but Ace counters an Irish whip and lands a dropkick, leading to a standoff. Taue tags in and lands a clothesline for two but then Kobashi fights out of a powerbomb and tags Misawa, who lands a big dropkick. Taue kicks out of a pin so Hansen tags in and lands some stuff strikes followed by an elbow drop/chinlock combo. Kobashi tags back in and lands stereo back elbows alongside Hansen. Taue reverses Kobashi’s suplex and tags Kawada who applies a deep abdominal stretch followed by some double-arm hold. They do the strength spot and Kobashi manages to reverse the hold onto Kawada on his third attempt, but Kawada quickly counters with a nice hook kick to Kobashi’s face.

Ace tags in and lands a back elbow for two and applies a chinlock but Kobashi counters with a backdrop suplex and tags Hansen, who lands an elbow drop for two. Ace counters an Irish whip with a clothesline but Hansen gets up first and lands a DDT for another two-count. Misawa tags in and applies a chinlock and blocks Ace’s attempt at a suplex counter with a front chancery. Ace gets to the ropes so Misawa tags Kobashi, who lands double kneelifts to Ace’s gut and chops in the corner. Ace reverses an Irish whip into another corner but misses a charge and eats another Backdrop suplex. Kobashi goes to the top rope following a kick-out but Taue cuts him off, allowing Ace to land a superplex and tag Taue in.

Taue drops Kobashi throat-first on the top rope and lands a running high kick for two and tags Kawada. Kawada wins a nasty strike exchange with Kobashi and hits a nasty spinkick and Kobashi sells like he’s out cold. Ace tags in and pins for two since Kobashi grabs the ropes, so Ace lands a second-rope Undertaker apron leg drop for yet another two-count. He follows with a deep abdominal stretch and a pre-Okada Rainmaker lariat but gets two once more.

Taue tags in and lands a tossing back suplex and holds Kobashi in place as Kawada lands a running big boot from the apron for yet another two-count. Kawada tags in and locks in a sharpshooter but Hansen boots him to break it up, so Kawada tags Ace and Ace lands a pumphandle drop that leads to another kickout. Kobashi tries to fight back but he eats a Samoan drop from Taue and a vertical suplex from Kawada, all of which get, you guessed it, two-counts. Kawada locks in the Stretch Plum despite Kobashi’s resistance as Ace knocks Misawa and Hansen away. Kobashi reaches out for a tag. Kawada answers by wrenching his body in the opposite direction. Finally Kobashi manages a tag and in comes Hansen. Kawada stepkicks him but Hansen no-sells and slams him down hard. Kawada tries and tries to maintain control but Hansen mauls him and drops him with a big powerbomb.

Hansen whips Kawada but Kawada collapses from all the damage he’s endured. Ace comes in but is quickly dispatched, but his distraction allows Kawada to land a desperation spinkick and tag Taue, who dropkicks Hansen across the ring. But Hansen tags Misawa, who wins a strike exchange and lands his diving spinning lariat. Taue escapes both a Tiger Driver and a Tiger suplex and lands a big boot. He charges but runs into a successful Tiger Driver from Misawa. One, two, kickout. Misawa and Kobashi dropkick Taue out of the ring. Elbow suicida by Misawa.

Kobashi’s the legal man in the ring as he DDT’s Taue. Everyone gets into the ring and Misawa, Kobashi and Hansen all DDT one of their opponents. Kobashi with a bridging German suplex. Taue kicks out. Kobashi follows with a discus chop and a diving moonsault. Taue kicks out again and then fights out of a dragon suplex. Kobashi guillotine leg drop him and goes back to the top rope. He sees Taue move and goes for a leg drop but Taue kicks him as he dives.

Ace comes in and lands corner clotheslines for two. Ace Crusher connects. Kobashi kicks out. Misawa saves Kobashi from a Doctor Bomb but Kawada attacks Misawa, allowing Ace to land a Rocker Dropper. Then Ace steals from Kobashi with a slam and moonsault of his own. One, two, no, Kobashi survives. Ace lands a corner kneelift and goes for an elevated DDT but Kobashi blocks it and lands a running neckbreaker. He tags Hansen and Hansen lands his own backdrop suplex for two, then lands a powerbomb for still yet another two-count. Hansen whips Ace into a Misawa elbow. Misawa whips Ace into a western lariat from Hansen. But Taue comes in before Hansen can pin and lands a big chokeslam and guillotines Misawa on the ropes.

Kawada tags in and drops a knee on Hansen’s head. He goes for a powerbomb but Hansen escapes both it and a Stretch Plum, so Kawada lands his own lariat. Kawada tries a Brainbuster but Hansen reverses and tags Misawa.

Thirty seconds left

Misawa reverses a corner whip with a back elbow and counters a Kawada block with an enzuigiri. Misawa elbow. Kawada gamengiri kick. Taue tags in and lands another guillotine drop. Misawa blocks a corner face smash but runs into a powerslam, only to still kick out.

Twenty seconds left.

Taue lands a Batista Bomb. Misawa narrowly kicks out.

Ten seconds left.

Misawa escapes a chokeslam and counters a second Batista bomb with a Frankensteiner that only gets two. Kobashi tags in and lands a full-power running shoulder block. But before he can do anything else, the bell rings, time has run out.

Match result: 30-minute DRAW

Analysis: ****1/2 This was on its way to becoming a true classic until the finish. Everything throughout the match was typical 1990s AJPW greatness: lots of back-and-forth action, great counters and believable near-falls. All the hard-hitting built up to an exciting closing third act that served as a sprint to the finish line. Or at least, that’s what it looked like while Misawa and Taue were in. They went for big move after big move, pin attempt after pin-attempt, fully aware that time was quickly running out. But once Kobashi tagged in he started prepping for big moves like he forgot there was a time limit. All that nail-biting urgency was suddenly lost as Kobashi jumped in and…went for a nondescript shoulder tackle. The big crescendo never came and the last note before the finale was a low one instead of something big or logical. Still, it was still arguably the best match on the card, which was to be expected given the sheer depth of talent in the match (yes, including Johnny Ace. He was more than solid here).

 

Match #13: NJPW: Masahiro Chono vs. Shinya Hashimoto

Hashimoto strikes to get a pre-match kick in but the referee pushes him back. The bell rings and Hashimoto dodges a yakuza kick and sweeps Chono down. He kicks Chono many times in the chest and shoves the referee back with authority. Chono answers with a spinkick and a flurry of different strikes to Hashimoto’s head. Hashimoto fights back with chops and goes for an armbar. Chono counters with a kick to the back of Hashimoto’s knee. Hashimoto gets back up and they do the Greco-Roman knuckle lock that gets broken with some kicks. They lock up again and Chono rakes Hashimoto’s eyes. Hashimoto no-sells some boots and goes for a DDT but Chono counters with a takedown which hurts Hashimoto’s knee some more. Chono spends the next few minutes working over that same leg, even as Hashimoto tries and fails to counter into a cross armbreaker. One of Chono’s allies tries to pull Hashimoto’s leg (literally), but the referee catches him before he can do anything.

Chono applies more leglocks to that bad leg of Hashimoto’s when suddenly Hashimoto starts going after Chono’s arm. Hashimoto attempts a vertical suplex (why would he bother knowing that requires two fully functional legs?) but Chono lands behind him and clips his knee again. Chono locks in an STF and the crowd goes nuts. Hashimoto lasts a long time in the hold and eventually gets to the ropes.

Chono goes for a double leg but Hashimoto takes him down first. He gets Chono into a corner and judo throws him from the top rope and pins for two. A jumping armbreaker gets Hashimoto a two-count, as does a second. Armbar by Hashimoto. Chono gets a ropebreak. Hashimoto follows with a Stunner with using the arm instead of his opponent’s head. He signals the end and charges but Chono counters with a Manhattan drop. Chono goes for more running boots to the head but Hashimoto no-sells each one and then lands an enzuigiri. Hashimoto lands a spinning wheel kick but only gets two. Snap Brainbuster. Hashimoto gets the pin and the win after about sixteen minutes.

Winner: Shinya Hashimoto

Analysis: **1/4 Bland and underwhelming for a main-event. Even with all the crowd noise, the match came across as lazy and disjointed. Chono had a strategy and attacked Hashimoto’s leg but Hashimoto ignored it completely, and not in the ‘power through the pain’ sort of way but the ‘screw this’ sort of way. There was a major lack of focus and flow in the match, which led to things being executed haphazardly and without any real meaning. The match just didn’t seem go really go anywhere and the finish came almost out of nowhere with no build. All in all, this was a disappointment considering how big the two wrestlers involved were.

Five stars of the Show:

  1. Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada – they stood out in their six-man match more than anyone else.
  2. Dynamite Kansai/Mayumi Ozaki – it was hard to determine which of them had more of an impact on the match so I went with both of them
  3. Manami Toyota/Aja Kong – same as above
  4. Kenta Kobashi – no one plays the babyface in peril better than him
  5. Gran Naniwa – he genuinely made me laugh with his silly shenanigans. And the best part was that his comedy was in the perfect spot on the card in the match best suited to showcase it.

 

Best match on the card: it’s a three-way tie between the AJPW match, the Zenjo/AJW match, and the JWP opener, with each one scoring ****1/2. But if I had to order them, I’d go AJPW first, JWP second, and AJW third.

Worst match on the card: the FMW match between Pogo and Nita (DUD)

Show rating (out of 10): 8.5

Based on match quality, I can divide this show into almost three equal pieces. The first one includes the great-to-awesome matches, which came from AJPW, JWP, AJW, MPW and UWFi. The second part would be the remaining shootfights, which ranged from OK (LLPW, Pancrase) to underwhelming (RINGS). Lastly, there were the real disappointments, which were courtesy of Go Gundan, IWA-Japan, Fujiwara-Gumi, New Japan, and FMW. Even with a lot of nonsensical hardcore garbage and a really underwhelming main-event, I think the actual ‘workers’’ matches more than make up for the bad matches, hence the score.

This show had four matches that I rated four-stars or higher and one 3.5-star match, which is really good all things considered. Most of the MMA fights got lower scores, but to be honest I didn’t really have many fights to compare them to. In the moment they were average and sound, but there wasn’t anything on the level of Holly Holm destroying Ronda Rousey or Frye and Takayama having a hockey fight without the hockey. And this was still the early days of MMA so a lot of its rules, styles and standards had not yet been defined.

In the end, this is a special show because I don’t think we’ll ever see one like it again. There’s no way that so many companies in North America can come together for such a supershow and wrestle for the fans instead of for their respective promotions. Not only that, with there being so many restrictions and challenges due to booking, logistics, contracts, copyright, broadcasting , licensing, merchandising and potential lawsuits, there’s no way something like this will happen in North America. It’s a shame, because this event really showed that different companies competing for the same market can work together once in a while. It’s just too bad that message is lost on this side of the Pacific Ocean.

Bridge of Dreams was never released commercially so there’s no way to buy a VHS or anything like that. I managed to find a video on YouTube, which I’ve included below. Keep in mind that it’s not an official video so the quality is hit-or-miss throughout. It also doesn’t include the actual main-event match between Hashimoto and Chono, just their pre- and post-match segments. But I did find that link as well and included it as part of that match review.

So if you have six hours to kill (yes, it is that long) then this show is definitely worth seeing.

Thanks for reading.