Welcome back to Flashback Friday, and our apologies for our hiatus! When we last met, we were attempting our most ambitious undertaking yet — a review of a full and complete show, Wrestling World 2001! The show hosted a one-night tournament to crown a new IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but we’ve already reviewed the two quarterfinal round matches, and we’re up to the first non-tournament match of the evening. In this non-title match, IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Minoru Tanaka (also the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion) and Koji Kanemoto took on Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Shinya (Togi) Makabe!
First, if you missed ’em (or want to relive ’em), here are the show results so far:
***WRESTLING WORLD 2001***
MINORU TANAKA AND KOJI KANEMOTO VERSUS TATSUHITO TAKAIWA AND SHINYA MAKABE
JANUARY 4, 2001
TOKYO DOME, TOKYO, JAPAN
Tanaka and Makabe started things off for their teams, circling each other cautiously until Tanaka threw a leg kick, but Makabe blocked it with the side of his knee. They briefly locked hands, but Makabe backed away, then came back for a tie-up. The much larger Makabe easily backed Tanaka into the ropes, but Tanaka slid out of his grasp and hooked a waistlock and a half nelson, pushing Makabe into the ropes. He broke cleanly at the referee’s behest, and both men locked knuckles in the center of the ring. Tanaka broke his grasp and shot for Makabe’s leg, but although he grabbed it, the larger man stuffed him down and mounted his back, getting a waistlock. Tanaka quickly sat out, then got to his feet.
Tanaka backed into the corner for a momentary breather, then met Makabe again. Makabe faked a knuckle lock, but spun Tanaka around and grabbed him in a waistlock again. He then scooped Tanaka’s legs, knocking the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion to the mat. Makabe grabbed a crossface, but Tanaka slid out, got to his feet, and put Makabe in a front facelock. Makabe backed Tanaka into the corner, pulled his arm off to break the hold, and nailed him in the gut with a pair of knee shots. Makabe took Tanaka out to the center of the ring, dropped him with a big bodyslam, then flung him into the corner and tagged Takaiwa.
Makabe held Tanaka’s arms behind his back, allowing Takaiwa to chop his chest three times. As Makabe left the ring, Takaiwa stomped the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Tanaka fought back with a gut punch and a spinning back kick, though, then pulled Takaiwa up, brought him to the corner, and tagged Kanemoto. Tanaka tried to hold Takaiwa in the corner, but he broke free, so when Tanaka left the ring, Takaiwa and Kanemoto squared off as though the match had begun anew.
After a bit of feeling out, they locked knuckles, but only very briefly — Kanemoto slid behind Takaiwa and grabbed him in a waistlock. Takaiwa grabbed Kanemoto’s hand and applied a wristlock, but the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion dropped to the mat, grabbed Takaiwa’s leg, and pulled him down, applying a heel hold. He transitioned into an ankle lock, but Takaiwa pulled him down and tried to apply a body scissors.
Kanemoto kept the leg until Takaiwa tried for a cross-armbreaker, but Kanemoto slid out and tried for a waistlock. Takaiwa wrestled Kanemoto back to the mat and went for his leg, but Kanemoto got to his feet. Takaiwa picked the leg to take Kanemoto back down, then grabbed his other leg and applied a grapevine. Kanemoto used his free leg to pull Takaiwa to the mat, then tried for a cross-armbreaker of his own, but Takaiwa threw him off and both men got up.
Circling each other again, Kanemoto grabbed Takaiwa’s arm, then pulled him into a waistlock. Takaiwa fought out and tried to take Kanemoto down with a drop toe hold, but the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion stayed vertical. Takaiwa got his back, then applied a waistlock, but Kanemoto grabbed Takaiwa’s wrist and reversed into a wristlock. Takaiwa scooped Kanemoto up, then walked him to the edge of the ring and gave him a bodyslam near the ropes.
Takaiwa tagged back out to Makabe, who stomped Kanemoto while the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion held him. Takaiwa joined in on the stomping before leaving the ring, at which point Makabe lifted Kanemoto up and administered a series of forearms. Kanemoto fought back with a hard slap, then threw Makabe to the mat and tagged out to Minoru Tanaka.
After a snapmare to put him down, the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions fired off a barrage of kicks at Makabe’s back. Kanemoto headed out to the apron, leaving Tanaka to whip Makabe to the ropes and catch him with a perfect dropkick on the rebound. Tanaka flipped up to his feet, snapmared Makabe down again, kicked him in the spine, and locked on a head-and-arm choke. Makabe quickly fought out, trapping Tanaka’s leg and applying a heel hold.
Makabe wrenched the extremity, then to be safe, got to his feet and pulled Tanaka further from Kanemoto before reapplying the hold. Tanaka tried to roll out, but Makabe simply transitioned into a leg grapevine. He got to his feet to switch to another hold, but Tanaka wrapped his legs around Makabe’s leg and tried to apply a heel hook — unfortunately for the dual champion, though, the larger Makabe ended up on top, scolding him with a derisive, “Hey, hey, hey… no, no, no.”
Makabe mounted Tanaka with a cocked fist, but hesitated at the referee’s warning. This allowed Tanaka to flip Makabe over and get on top. He also cocked a fist, but thought better of it, then grabbed Makabe by the boot and dragged him to the corner. Kanemoto tagged in, and with each of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions grabbing a boot, they pulled Makabe’s legs apart. Kanemoto pulled Makabe up, and the teammates fired off several hard kicks to his left thigh, only stopping when the referee forced Tanaka out onto the apron — and even then, he administered a stomp for good measure.
Kanemoto snapmared Makabe down, then tried for a chinlock, but the larger man slid out. He was looking for a hammerlock, but Kanemoto took him down with a drop toe hold. Kanemoto tried for a waistlock, but Makabe sat out, still looking for the arm. Kanemoto tried to get him in a front facelock, but Makabe sat out again, then grabbed Kanemoto in a waistlock of his own. Kanemoto got up, but Makabe pulled him back to the mat, then grabbed a rear chinlock. Kanemoto got up, so Makabe grabbed a front facelock and pulled him to the corner, where Takaiwa tagged in.
Takaiwa kicked Kanemoto in the ribs as Makabe held him, then followed up with another kick, chops, and a hard slap. Kanemoto fired back with a slap, and when Takaiwa slapped him again, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion sent his opponent to the mat with a series of right hands. With Takaiwa prone on the mat, Kanemoto continued to rain punches down upon him. He then pulled Takaiwa up, kneed him in the gut, and went back to a slap. Takaiwa fought back with one of his own, but Kanemoto retaliated with a punch. Takaiwa hit a forearm, but Kanemoto got him in a clinch against the ropes. He hit a headbutt before releasing Takaiwa, then tagged out to Tanaka.
While Kanemoto held Takaiwa in place, Tanaka nailed him with a kick to the leg. He then took him over with a snap suplex and followed up with a jumping knee drop for a one count. Tanaka tried for a keylock, but Takaiwa kept his fingers locked, then pulled Tanaka off by wrapping his legs around the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion’s head. He kept the headscissors, doing his best to sap the energy from Tanaka. Tanaka managed to maneuver Takaiwa onto his back, then with a flip, he placed his body against the ropes, forcing the break. Unfortunately for Tanaka, he was still hung up against the ropes, and therefore, easy prey for a Takaiwa stomp.
The former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion followed up with another hard stomp to Tanaka’s head, then tagged out to Makabe. Takaiwa pulled Tanaka up and held his arms behind his back, allowing Makabe to chop him across the chest. Tanaka fired off a chop of his own, but another chop from Makabe knocked the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion down. Makabe then pulled Tanaka up, whipped him to the ropes, and caught him with a dropkick on the way back.
Makabe pulled Tanaka up and tried to scoop him for a slam, but the smaller man defended himself with body slaps and a clubbing blow. Tanaka then took Makabe over to the corner, allowing Kanemoto to tag back in. This time, Tanaka pinned Makabe’s arms behind his back, allowing Kanemoto to nail him with three sharp kicks to the chest. Returning the favor, Kanemoto held Makabe up, allowing Tanaka to kick him twice in the chest and once in the face.
When Tanaka left, Kanemoto nailed Makabe in the face with a right hand, then followed up with a slap. That annoyed Makabe, who fired back with a few hard slaps, then backed Kanemoto into the corner and forearmed him in the gut repeatedly. A shot to the face floored Kanemoto, and Makabe made the tag to Takaiwa. He entered the ring, and Kanemoto’s two opponents simultaneously drove their boots into his face. Takaiwa stomped Kanemoto after Makabe left, then pulled him up and into the center of the ring, where he delivered two hard chops to the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion.
Takaiwa grabbed a headlock, but Kanemoto shot him off to the ropes. Takaiwa came back with a shoulder tackle that floored Kanemoto, but the multi-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion kipped back up. Takaiwa ran to the adjacent set of ropes, and when he rebounded, Kanemoto tried to leap over him. Takaiwa, however, had the presence of mind to catch Kanemoto and plant him with a powerslam.
Takaiwa pilled Kanemoto up, chopped him twice, and slapped him across the face, but that fired the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion up. He drove a knee into Takaiwa’s gut, then floored him with a kick-heavy striking combination. Kanemoto pulled Takaiwa up, but Takaiwa drilled him in the gut with an elbow, then immediately hoisted him on his shoulders and planted him with a Death Valley Driver. He covered, but Tanaka ran in and broke up the count after one. That brought in Makabe, who kicked Tanaka and threw him out of the ring.
Looking to press his advantage, Takaiwa pulled Kanemoto up and set him up between his legs, but before he could deliver a powerbomb, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion took him down with a dragon screw. Kanemoto got to his feet and tried to regain his bearings, but Takaiwa popped up and took him down with a huge lariat.
Takaiwa signaled to Makabe, and the larger man started to climb the turnbuckles. Tanaka, meanwhile, ran around the ring to his opponents’ corner. Takaiwa hoisted Kanemoto up for a powerbomb, but before Makabe could dive off the top and execute the tandem maneuver, Tanaka knocked him down. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion then climbed to the top himself and leapt off, hitting Takaiwa in the back with a missile dropkick and forcing him to drop Kanemoto.
Kanemoto got to his feet and put Takaiwa in the Ankle Hock (ankle lock), but all was not well for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions — Tanaka had gone to the outside to meet Makabe, but he found himself overpowered by the larger man and whipped into the guardrail. Makabe then entered the ring and started drilling Kanemoto with forearms to the face. Finally, Kanemoto released the Ankle Hold and floored Makabe with a big right hand.
Kanemoto reapplied the Ankle Hold, but broke it again when Makabe approached him once more. Kanemoto kicked Makabe in the gut, then whipped him to the ropes. He tried to catch Makabe on the rebound with a big kick, but the big man ducked underneath, grabbed a waistlock, and took Kanemoto over with a German suplex.
A limping Takaiwa made his way over to Kanemoto, stomped him, then instructed Makabe to pick him up. The less-experienced member of the team complied, holding Kanemoto’s arms behind his back while Takaiwa hit the ropes and came back with a lariat. He followed up with a cover, but Kanemoto got his foot on the bottom rope after the one count.
Takaiwa and Makabe pulled Kanemoto to his feet, and after Makabe hit him in the gut with a knee, Takaiwa held him up. This time, it was Makabe’s turn to do some damage, and he hit the ropes and came back with a tremendous spear on the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. Again, Takaiwa told Makabe to go to the top, and again, Takaiwa lifted Kanemoto up for a powerbomb. This time, no one stopped Makabe from jumping off the top, grabbing Kanemoto and adding impact to Takaiwa’s powerbomb. Takaiwa immediately ran to the corner and knocked Tanaka off the apron.
The aggressors weren’t done. Makabe lifted Kanemoto to his feet, made a throat-slitting motion, and hooked the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion for a northern lights suplex. Takaiwa ran to the ropes, bounced back, hit the opposite ropes, rebounded again, and, having built up enough momentum, caught Kanemoto in the back of the head with a lariat. Makabe then took him over with the suplex… but somehow, Kanemoto kicked out after the two count.
Makabe was visibly surprised, but he was determined to continue the assault. He tried to pull Kanemoto up, but finding that the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion was dead weight, he settled for a stomp. Makabe grabbed two handfuls of Kanemoto’s hair to try and hoist him to a standing position, but again, he was unable. Frustrated — but still in control — Makabe stomped Kanemoto and taunted Tanaka. He then managed to pull Kanemoto up to his knees, and connected with a forearm and a knee strike, sending him back to the mat.
Makabe stomped Kanemoto again, then pulled him to his feet. He tried to lift Kanemoto up for a brainbuster, but after several attempts, the smaller man managed to hoist Makabe in the air and plant him with a Falcon Arrow. Kanemoto crawled over to Tanaka and made the tag as Makabe tagged out to Takaiwa, and the two fresh men made a beeline for one another. Tanaka threw a spinning heel kick, which Takaiwa ducked (although Tanaka landed on his feet), then Takaiwa hit the ropes but ran right into an overhead belly to belly suplex from Kanemoto. Tanaka caught Makabe with a dropkick, flooring him.
At Kanemoto’s behest, each of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions picked up an opponent and whipped him to the corner. Makabe and Takaiwa were not vanquished, though — Makabe came out with a spear on Tanaka while Takaiwa ducked a leg lariat from Kanemoto and then took him down with a lariat.
With Kanemoto knocked to the outside, Makabe worked Tanaka over with stomps. He then pulled Tanaka up and whipped him to the corner. Makabe whipped Takaiwa in after Tanaka, but the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion burst out of the corner, avoided a lariat from Takaiwa, and took Makabe down with a spinning heel kick. He then caught Takaiwa in a backslide, getting a long two count.
Tanaka ran to the ropes and came back with another spinning heel kick, but Takaiwa knocked him out of the air with a double axe handle. He then made the tag to Makabe, but the largest man in the match walked right into a dropkick from Tanaka. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion tried to capitalize by whipping Makabe to the rope, but Makabe reversed the whip and caught Tanaka with a powerslam on the rebound.
Makabe pulled Tanaka up and grabbed a waistlock, looking for a German suplex. Tanaka tried to fight Makabe off with elbow strikes, but Makabe got his head under Tanaka’s arm and attempted a backdrop. Tanaka flipped out and landed on his feet, then grabbed a waistlock of his own. Makabe broke free, ran to the ropes, ducked a palm strike from Tanaka, and planted him with a big German suplex.
Makabe picked Tanaka up and grabbed him in a waistlock again, bringing Kanemoto in. Takaiwa intercepted him, and though Tanaka grabbed the ropes for safety, Makabe pulled him back and delivered a bridging German suplex. Makabe scored a two count, but Kanemoto was able to escape Takaiwa’s grip and break the cover before three.
Makabe got to his feet and kicked Kanemoto out of the ring, leaving Tanaka alone with his opponents. Instead of working a double-team, though, Takaiwa left the ring to go after Kanemoto. Inside, Tanaka managed to take Makabe down with a flipping cross-armbreaker, putting the large man in a precarious position. Takaiwa darted in the ring and broke the hold, though, and Tanaka was forced to tag out to Kanemoto.
Makabe tried to spear Kanemoto when he entered the ring, but the multi-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion caught him in the head with a knee. Both men got to their feet and traded slaps and chops, with Makabe eventually knocking Kanemoto to a knee. He then followed up with a bridging German suplex on Kanemoto, but the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion kicked out at one, rolled over Makabe, and immediately grabbed an Ankle Hold.
Takaiwa ran in to break the hold, but Tanaka caught him with a dropkick, then flipped him into an Ankle Hold of his own. Makabe tried to drag himself to the rope, but Kanemoto managed to drill him with some short heel kicks from the ground while keeping the hold locked in. Finally, Makabe clawed his way over to the adjacent set of ropes and grab the bottom one, forcing a break.
An angry Makabe got to his feet and screamed at Kanemoto, then ran to the ropes. On the rebound, though, Tanaka caught him in the leg with a dropkick, sending the large man to the mat. Kanemoto jumped on Makabe and reapplied the Ankle Hold, and though Makabe tried briefly to get back to the rope, he was forced to submit at 18:02.
Not only was this an excellent match, but I suppose it’s a hidden gem — this show is mainly known for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship tournament (and Toshiaki Kawada’s participation in said tournament), but this match was a really pleasant surprise. Everybody looked great, and though there was more back and forth than in a traditional tag match, the action was non-stop and the wrestling was top notch. Anyone who’s a fan of any of these guys (or who wants to see a curiosity from early in Makabe’s career) would do well to check it out. ****
It’s good to be back, but that’s it for this week! Next week, Kendo Kashin takes on Takashi Iizuka!