As fate would have it, my March/April GAORA tapes got lost en route from Fukuoka Japan, so I don't have anything new to review unfortunately…so here's a 3 month old Arsion review!!
Well, here it is, Arsion's first regular TV show. Many fans have high hopes for this, as Arsion has lacked TV coverage (although they've released copious amounts of videos) and that was often pointed to as a step they needed to take. Hopefully they will use this forum as a means to really solidify their style and set some definate goals to work towards.
A brief history of Arsion for newer fans. They started in 1998, with Aja Kong and Mariko Yoshida as the main draw and trainer, respectively. They really worked to develop a new style in joshi, training with Pancrase workers and implementing a style that mixed shoot-style with more traditional joshi style. It was really interesting and a true breath of fresh air, and the workers got very good at it. As time has passed, they've sort of left it somewhat behind, returning to a more standard joshi style mixed with an increased lucha influence. As of now, the champion is the well known and well liked (in the US anyway) Ayako Hamada, who had been protected for two years before getting the Queen of Arsion title in December 2K. Now, on to the show!
The production is decent, it seems to look like a mix of their various commercial tapes, with an unquestionable SamuraiTV influence. They open with highlights from early January, including Miyuki Ryo's bloody debut against LCO. They do brief pre-match interviews with really cool posedowns (the kind you do yourself when nobody is around) and start the matches.
(JIP, 2'15 of 5'25 shown)
Well, what would Arsion be without massive clipping?? Somethings are just meant to be I guess… Anyway, there's not much to this match, obviously. Takase is a about a year in, Yamagata a few months. Both are showing some pretty decent in-ring charisma, there's potential anyway. Takase looks really good here, she's super fluid and confident, while Yamagata is understandably green. Takase takes it with a cool reverse hammerlock takedown. Takase seems to be "old school" Arsion style wise and really could be good.
(JIP, 4'23 of 6'09 shown).
Bionic J is Arsion's resident gaijin, and it's pretty rough around the edges, but improving. Tamada is most famous for a)getting absolutely destroyed by Aja Kong in 1996 and b)dropkicks. Many dropkicks. Too many dropkicks. She was a decent AJW rookie who got more push than any of them, and instead of improving seemed to degrade rapidly every year. She's not an abysmal worker, just sort of annoying and disappointing.
Anyhow, the match. Not much here, some cool moves including a diamond dust, tornado ddt, and an awesome "inverted splash mountain to jawbreaker" type of thing by J. Unfortunately, the match was sloppy and completely heatless. J wins with a DVD into MDII.
goes to lunch with
Well…they do. They talk about Yumi's health, and her retirement, and the food. This is OK, but it went on for 10 minutes and they really didn't talk about anything really exciting. Good to see Sakie though ;)
GAMI, PIKO, and PIKA
ASARI, AI FUJITA, and FABI APACHE
(JIP 5'50 of 13'20 shown)
Wow, this match is completely butchered. The clipping made it come out even more disjointed than usual, but given who's in it maybe the clipping doesn't really matter ;). I will go on record and say now that PIKO (aka Boilshoi from JWP) is really good. I don't even feel dirty. It seems that she realizes that since she doesn't draw now, her best role is working consistently and helping the greener workers through more complicated matches. Her rollups are super quick and I am digging it.
They cut to the dive sequence, and there's some nice ones. Big quebrada by ASARI, ringpost moonsault by Fujita and a corkscrew plancha from Fabi. Then, it's over as the new ReDrug member PIKA (Linda Star) goes over ASARI. Asari has been getting jobbed mercilessly this year, and I know for a fact that she's kind of upset by it, but she's a professional and accepts it. Still, losing to LINDA STAR in a match when either of your partners are a lot lower than you must be confusing.
PIKO and ASARI were both good in this, as was Fabi to a lesser degree. GAMI and Fujita were clip victims, and PIKA is completely lost in matches like these.
AJA KONG, MIYUKI RYO, MARIKO YOSHIDA
LCO & MICHIKO OHMUKAI
(JIP, 3'51 of 20'00 shown)
Errg. I'm not too upset about the clips here because what was shown looked hideous. Ryo is really really bad, even for a rookie. I mean, she missed a standing backfist by about 6 inches somehow. Ohmukai is cripplingly hot, and smartly doesn't sell most of Ryo's offense. This isn't the "you're a rookie" no sell, it's the "that looked too pathetic" no sell. Even in clips we're treated to Ryo missing and redoing spots. It goes to a draw.
YUMI FUKAWA comes out and asks booker Hiroshi Ogawa for a retirement match, and he agrees, provided it's exhibition style and there's no danger of her bumping her head.
Brief clips of Candy Okutsu matches from 98-01, and I wish I was watching those shows instead. Arsion really did wonders with a lot of ignored and/or underrated workers, especially Candy and Fukawa. It's really too bad they retired, they were more important to the promotion than a lot of people think.
AZUMI HYUGA (JWP)
Finally, a complete match!! Azumi Hyuga (aka Tomoko Kuzumi) was once supposed to be a total breakout wrestler for JWP. She showed a world of potential, and somewhat realized it. She a classic case of being excellent when motivated, and mediocre when not. Of course, I wouldn't be motivated if I was in JWP from 98-00 either, but I digress.
Mari hits a tope to start, and back in for some MAT WRESTLING. Some fun lucha submissions from Mari, including a totally boss figure four STF that looks to hurt like shit. Gory lock!! Azumi sets the mood by using her speed and quickness to come back, hitting a diving victory star drop (one of the coolest named moves in wrestling) and effectively no-selling all the leg submission's Mari had been doing for the last 5 minutes. Mari bails and takes a top rope somersault plancha, then takes a drink, of water. Hyuga promptly kicks her in the back as she's drinking, nice! Back in and a straightjacket suplex gets 2.
Azumi completely blitzes Mari with a release German out of nowhere, and Mari no sells it and throws a lariat. I don't mind occasional no selling, but when you do it to the most powerful move in the match, it's annoying. They could have used it to get sympathy for Mari, as well as put over Hyuga for her title match on the next show, but nah, it's forgotten as it happens. Mari goes for an MDII but it's slickly countered into a DDT, and Hyuga hits a victory roll for a close two. All these nearfalls are creative and well done, but they mean nothing given what's already happened in the match. Sloppy rolling German for two more.
Hyuga gets fired up suddenly and calls for the end, and NOBODY cares. Ack. This place is deader than Scott Keith's bedroom. Oooh! Cheap joke worked into net recapper form never fails. Seriously though, I think Arsion drew 800 to this show (it seats 1800). This was partially due to really poor weather in Tokyo, making it hard to get to Differ which is hard to get to as it is. BUT, also, the 800 could be 18 for all the noise they're making.
Anyway, Hyuga hits a destiny hammer for two, but ANOTHER lariat for Mari turns the tide. Mari with a powerbomb and stiff ghetto booty somersault senton for two, and she locks on the wakitgatame. And then time expires. Auuuuuuuuuuughghghhhgh. I'd talk about Arsion's booking history here, but I don't think I need to. Needless to say, Hyuga didn't even get a win against a lower-mid level worker, and Hyuga has the next title shot on TV. Sigh.
The work and individual performances were fine, but they didn't have much chemistry (OK, none) and the complete lack of any heat hurt this match. That is also partially the workers' fault, because the match wasn't really laid out to evoke any emotion from the crowd. Still, it was OK.
Clips of Ayako Hamada's birthday with her dad are shown. This is from a Lady's Gong photo shoot, and it's fun watching Gran Hamada make his daughter drink booze. Gran Hamada looks blitzed. He's drunk, it's funny!!
for the QoA
Well, former partners meet for the title on the first show. This could have been built up to more but…it's Arsion. Hamada is pretty good, I agree with others that say she's both overrated and underrated. Some people act like she's the second coming, which is laughable, and a lot resent her for her push in spite of tradition and in some cases, talent. AKINO, however, is a damn good worker with a damn near nonexistent personality. Either way, both are capable and this match should be good.
It starts, and AKINO blows off Ayako on a handshake. It's little things like this that show how aware a wrestler is of their audience. The crowd was horrible all night, and this match had no heat between the two, nor did anyone really think AKINO would win. So she immediately tried to put some heat into it, even if in a small way. It even worked to some degree as there was SOME response during this match.
They start with basic lucha, armdrags, leg trips, etc. AKINO takes Ayako to the corner and promptly gives her some nasty bootscrapes, adding more fire to the matchm, and showing her maturity in the process. This leads to some MAT WRESTLING, with AKINO leading Hamada through some really nice fluid exchanges. They then go to the highspots, AKINO hitting a top con hilo and a huge swandive dropkick for a two count. Hamada counters with flying stuff and a lionsault.
Hamada sets AKINO up on the corner and goes for a Venus and Iconoclasm, but it's blocked, but a second Venus scores and she hits a top rope diamond cutter for two. This is like a Damien 666 match without the names being yelled. AKINO sells this like she's been deep sixed, but AMAZINGLY loses the concrete shoes and reincarnates so she can hit a bunch of backdrops getting a two count.
They really seem to be rushing through the rest of the match now, and I can't really blame them. They've tried to do their best to get the crowd into it, but there really isn't much hope. It seems like they decided that working the holds or selling at length wouldn't be the best option, and they're probably right. It seems like eight minutes of stuff crammed into three. Hamada hits three really sweet and stuff spin kicks, and get the win at 12:53.
This was for sure the best match of the show, hampered only by the rushing and the limitations of the workers, but they deserve respect for really trying and putting on a ***1/2 match in such shitty conditions.
Overall, I was pretty disappointed in this show. Having followed the promotion closely since it started, I really want them to succeed and do well. They were off to such a great start. However, the last year and a half the promotion has been going slowly downhill. Aimlessly bad booking, retirements, abandoning of their original style, rushing the main title onto someone who wasn't over and maybe not mature enough to handle it, all these things have become more apparent as time goes on. I look at groups like AJW who do ten times as much with half of the roster. I look at groups like Jd' and NEO who have nothing going for them financially, but bust their asses to do their best and put of good matches and an appealing product. I look at GAEA who have such an unmoving loyal fanbase that they could get lazy, but never do. I don't look at LLPW, does anyone?! I look at all those groups and then look at Arsion, who has so much going for them and so much potential, and I just wait for them to start using it to the fullest and putting out a cohesive product, and their first TV show would have been the perfect opportunity. And they didn't. It's frustrating as a fan, and as someone who cares about pro-wrestling companies and pro-wrestlers. I think they can continue to be moderately successful as they are now, but it could be so much more. Oh well. If anyone wants to discuss this, or has any comments or suggestions, feel free to throw me an email. Take care!