By R.W. Andrews
Part 2: -Gun
In an absolutely tragic turn of events, NJPW World with its vast library of footage, has failed to deliver Satoshi Kojima’s match against Togi Makabe for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Pay homage. So here’s the quick rundown – Kojima won. Yep, that’s the quickest review you will ever receive in this series, so take a deep pull off of it. Continuing a remarkable comeback run, the newly crowned champion defeated WWE Sports Entertainer Shinsuke Nakamura in his first title defense. It was a match that saw perennial lapdog Taichi accompany him to the ring, and thus, Kojima-Gun is born. The story is a little more dense than that, but for the sake of time, let’s just call that the genesis.
Unable to escape the tidal wave that is Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kojima decided to press his might on the company by attacking the Golden Boy after a tag match. It was a bold first move along their path to another bout scheduled for Wrestle Kingdom, though even the champion had to realize that it would take more than a cheap shot from being caught in the current. But hey, at least he’s going to swim head-on to shore in an attempt to escape with his title reign intact.
Match 2 – Satoshi Kojima (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
Wrestle Kingdom at the Tokyo Dome
January 4, 2011
Coverage picks up with a shot of referee Red Shoes limbering up at the ropes. THAT’S the first image we get for a Heavyweight title match at Wrestle Kingdom? Unno always gets his shit in, doesn’t he? During his balletic display, we overhear tit-for-tat ring announcing of the native tongue infused with a classic boxing voice booming “Ladies and Gentlemen, blah blah blah, main event of the evening!” as the camera pans around the dome. After watching Red Shoes splay his limbs out all over the hard camera, the stream lets us soak in the beauty that is Tanahashi’s entrance – his up-tempo stride in sync with that 128-bit berceuse amidst the backdrop of fireworks shooting out like flames. Curiously, the champion’s entrance gets skipped, transporting us right to the ring. But Kojima-Gun is in full swing, the champion’s shadow embraced by Taichi and his attempt to up the ante on anime with a clusterf— of a hairstyle; his long blonde mane front-loaded and swooped over half of his face.
After Red Shoes signals for the bell, Tanahashi christens our second chapter by popping Kojima’s sweater meat with a chop. The response is swift, a side headlock reversed in kind as Kojima escapes via head-scissors to a break so clean that the entire dome applauds. A second round of side-headlocks finds Kojima bumped off quickly, his retort piggy-backed by a high speed shoulder tackle that trucks Tanahashi to the mat. After a counter basement dropkick, Kojima’s arm is turned into the focus of Tanahashi’s attack, wrenching on it before hitting a standing High Fly Flow to the arm! That’s up there with KUSHIDA’s arm-bulldog to Omega as far as limb damage is concerned. Great stuff. Tanahashi counters a whip with a springboard crossbody, prompting Kojima to throttle down the pace with a Dragon Screw Legwhip comboed with a basement dropkick and uppercut to the kneecap. With Tanahashi on the run, Kojima halts his egress with a sickle to the leg to stay in control.
Kojima goes for a Scorpion Deathlock, his position juuust off-kilter to allow Tanahashi to army crawl to the ropes. The challenger’s respite is brief as he’s backed into the corner and laid to waste by a machine gun chop spitting out rounds before being smooshed into the pad by a lariat. Kojima tries to peacock his hops, leaping off the top rope with an elbow drop that more resembles a mid-air seizure. They break into a Batsu, with Kojima kicking Tanahashi in the leg whenever he’s in trouble, but leaves his face open to get rocked by a slap. Tanahashi takes the win with a flying forearm, mercifully giving his knee a little downtime.
He slams Kojima to the mat before hitting a second-rope front-flip senton, but backs off a German Suplex attempt after an elbow stings him in the socket. Kojima spins in Tanahashi’s grip, breaking free to hit a DDT followed by a neckbreaker modified to make his knee the splash zone. He goes for a stunner, beautifully countered in the free fall by a spinning lariat. Tanahashi doggedly smacks Kojima with basement dropkicks, a potential hat trick broken up and countered with a stunner. Kojima hoists Tanahashi onto the top turnbuckle, an exhaustive climb where he leashes Tanahashi by the head and leaps off with another stunner! He covers quickly, with Red Shoes’ arm swinging in an arched freestyle stroke for two.
Kojima takes off for the ropes, but Tanahashi stays in tight quarters to roll him up, going an extra rotation to pull Kojima to his feet and hit a bridging straitjacket suplex for two. He follows up with a Dragon Screw Arm Whip, the twist resulting in Kojima laid out flat on the mat like he’s been shot! It’s so beautiful. I love it. Tanahashi heads up top, crushing Kojima’s back with a High Fly Flow. And much like in August, as Kojima flips onto his back, Tanahashi catapults castle walls to try and take the crown with a second High Fly Flow – an amnesic decision that grounds him with a set of knees ready to break his fall.
Kojima sits up, his face twisted in a nauseated, over-stuffed expression with eyes groggily swaying about. Red Shoes screams for both me to keep fighting, a challenge answered by Kojima who lariats Tanahashi in the back of the head. Tanahashi’s daze is shaken by a spilt second of clarity to counter a headshot with a Slingblade. Burning through the fuel tank, he gets that big bastard up for a Falcon Arrow…twice! He heads up top again to cruise the altitudes, this time crashing atop Kojima with a High Fly Flow for two that leaves both men lying in a heap of flesh. We are f—ing cooking now, folks.
Kojima is up first, back-dropping Tanahashi onto the apron before blowing him up with a lariat that sends his body into a corkscrew backflip with his neck once again banging into the edge of the apron on the way down! Again!? Unreal! Red Shoes is out quick to check on him, his medical training skeptical at best as he pets Tanahashi’s ribcage before sliding back in to count him out. Tanahashi is barely on his feet at seventeen, a precarious position that leaves him at the mercy of Red Shoes’ hand. But Kojima wants more than a count-out win, grabbing Unno’s arm and forcing him to stop. Red Shoes is PISSED, his eyes projecting orbital daggers piercing into Kojima’s soul. But he’s a professional, making a mental note to key the champ’s rental car later before giving him a little shove and kindly asking that he step back so Tanahashi can get in.
Kojima brings Tanahashi back in the hard way, hauling him up and over the ropes with a stalling brainbuster! He covers, but Tanahashi squeaks out at two. He perches Tanahashi up top, his stout frame defying gravity with a top-rope Frankensteiner! Oh…my…God. He calls for the lariat instead of covering, a decision blocked and countered with two Dragon Screw Arm Whips! Tanahashi goes on a second wind spree, blazing a trail while ducking two lariat’s aimed at ejecting his spine from his torso. Ahh, but the third connects with a dense thunk, damn near netting that Sub Zero finish as Tanahashi’s body levitates from the collision. Kojima clutches at his injured arm as Tanahashi’s body finally crashes down, his attention jolted by Red Shoes jumping up and down and smacking on that same injured arm. This f—ing narc actually points to Tanahashi and tells Kojima to cover him! 1, 2, Tanahashi kicks out as the crowd explodes, leaving Red Shoes aghast with his arms spread wide at his sides!
As Tanahashi begins to rise, Kojima tees off with another nasty lariat! With his arm tucked at his side like it’s in a sling, he crawls to Tanahashi and falls lifelessly atop him for the pinfall. Red Shoes slides into position – 1, 2, Tanahashi kicks out again – the cameraman producing visual art by capturing the view of both men lying lifelessly while Red Shoes’ right leg is sticking straight up in the air while the rest of his body is practically ironed on the mat in the background.
Kojima is up first again, scraping Tanahashi off the canvas to deliver another lariat at point blank range. Tanahashi dips low and counters with a dragon suplex, but Kojima is up first AGAIN, roaring at him before unleashing another lariat. And again Tanahashi ducks out of the way, countering with a bridging Dragon Suplex as Red Shoes dives over their bodies to flop into position. 1, 2, Kojima kicks out! Ok, f— your chant, but this IS awesome!
Tanahashi shakes his head in disbelief, pumping his fists to chip power from the crowd before hitting the ropes. He ducks a lazily tossed out lariat, bouncing back with a Slingblade that drives Kojima to the mat. He flies to the top rope as Kojima gets to his feet, hitting a standing High Fly Flow. In a flash his body is over the ropes and scaling the buckles before taking in one last breath and soaring skyward. His body achieves astounding heights before descending upon Kojima in an almighty crash! Barely sticking the landing, he covers with Red Shoes at the ready, his next breath as that of a champion.
Winner: Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
After the match, as Kojima ices down his wounded arm with Taichi following the walk of shame, Tanahashi’s hand is raised as Red Shoes gives him a pat on the back. Then the red carpet is rolled out – the new champion presented with hugs, gifts, a trophy, and finally the belt, snapped on by none other than the man who was almost instrumental in his demise – Red Shoes.
Impressions: Good lord, Man! The f—ing drama in this match was off the charts with both men damn near on life support towards the end. Tanahashi took so much high impact offense that I’m surprised that the backflip neck-first landing didn’t immediately send the match into rest hold-fest just so he could get through it. And Satoshi Kojima was so good in this match – just a tremendous wrestler that I am pleased to have finally been able to watch in all of his glory. He kind of follows the same pattern from what I’ve seen, but I love his game plan of unloading lariats until the other guy can’t get up. And finally, Red Shoes. I am not kidding when I say this – he was just as enjoyable to watch in this match as the wrestlers. I loved his sniveling behavior with Kojima. I loved that he screamed at the guys to keep fighting although they were both lifelessly slumped on the mat. I just love his ref-rate in general. Kudos to everyone involved for delivering an insane match that easily bested the initial offering.
Next Week: Kojima/Tanahashi III
Reticulating Splines (NSFW Language Ahead)
A Friendly Game of Mishegoss
So you drafted Willie Snead did you? Yeah, last Friday probably wasn’t that great for your breakout pick. Hey, just sit tight and ride those three games out. He’ll get his when he gets back. I still believe that he’s primed for a breakout, though that three game ban did halt my hand from placing his placard under my team’s logo. So let’s take a look at the benefactors and who might possibly become a permanent target in the eyes of our fantasy-friendly gunslinger, Drew Brees.
Mike Thomas – No change. He’s a beast and I doubt there will be that many more targets funneled his way.
Brandon Coleman – Man, I thought for sure that this was the new Marques Colston. God, how wrong I was. He has the stature – damn near mimicking the most productive receiver that Brees has ever played with. Hey, I said receiver, not tight end. I’m still not convinced that Coleman is a non-factor to be cast aside once his rookie deal is up. However, perhaps he just needed an extra offseason to get on the same page.
Coby Fleener – Speaking of dudes needing some extra time to study the pages… Yet another guy tabbed to pick up the pieces left by one of Brees’ personal favorites, Jimmy Graham. When Fleener was with the Colts he flashed some real potential to be a monster on short to intermediate throws, but he’s also blessed with the speed to take it to the house if the alleys aligned. Alas, last year was terrible. He just never fit with what Brees was trying to do, and even when force-fed targets he had some incredibly bad drops and even just forgot the pattern completely. So he’s had another summer to get with the program, and with Snead out for three games a heaping serving of passes could be headed his way. Just, uhh, remember your routes and your Stickum, Bub.
Ted Ginn Jr. – Ahh, the favorite in the clubhouse to win the Drew Brees Target Tour. Mainly used as a burner to blow past safeties, Ginn had a very productive season in Carolina, one good enough to attract Sean Payton and Brees’ eyes in the offseason. The best part about Ginn, while Fleener and Thomas are taking a chunk of the coverage with them, all he has to do is run straight. That’s it! Ok, maybe throw a hitch in there or something, but his route tree has been pruned of so many branches that all that’s left is a straight shot to the end zone. I’m not saying that you can expect those bonus points to rack up every week, but you’ve got yourself someone who could carve out a week-winning Flex role in one of the easiest pass schedules in the NFL this season.
And you’re winner is…probably some combination of everyone above actually. It’s the Saints. Everyone could be a factor on any given week. Who knows, maybe they’ll just deploy a heavier does of their RB platoon to make up the difference. In fact, remember when Darren Sproles played for New Orleans? I hear Alvin Kamara is pretty good at catching footballs.
The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Frank Zarrillo discussing his film "The Wrestler: A QT Marshall Story", which includes appearances by Matt Riddle, Damian Priest, Gerald Brisco, Kevin Kelly, Steve Corino, and many more, the involvement of Marshall's wife and mother, and much more. Stick around after the interview for Powell's audio review of Wednesday's AEW Dynamite television show...