Just over eight years have passed since Michinoku Pro ran their first show on March 16, 1993. The company that brought us so many fun and/or great matches in the middle-to-late 90s looked considerably more lucha on their debut show than they do today. The roster was made up of a few of the faces that would become Mpro fixtures in the glory years and assorted traditional lucha libre cast members. Names like Sasuke, Delfin, Hamada, TAKA, Shiryu, Terry Boy/MEN'S Teioh and a man who would go on to set the standard by which all caveman gimmicks would be compared to, Akihiro Yonekawa aka Yone Genjin would go on to from of the cornerstone of Mpro during its peak years. This show is a pretty decently shot handheld considering the obscurity of the promotion, the eight years which have passed since then and the three generations of dubbing that the show has endured before finding a home in my tape collection.
The show begins with the traditional introduction of the wrestlers working on that particular evening. This goes along without incident until just after the last wrestler is announced and a pull-apart brawl breaks out between Great Sasuke and Super Delfin, who was a heel at this stage in his career. This feud would build to the mask vs. title match that is available on an Mpro commercial tape from the summer of 1993. .
Buffalo Chohe is someone I know nothing about although I believe he's shown up periodically on the older Mpro shows from time to time. Shiryu is of course Shiryu, aka Kaz Hayashi aka Mr. Wrongfully Assigned to HWA. Its fun to look back at these older shows and see just how much someone has changed over the years. One thing I noticed in this match was just how skinny Ted Tanabe was back in 93. He was rather slim back then compared to his Brazo de Plata-esque physique of today. Also of note is a very young looking Masato Yakushiji clearing the ring of the prematch streamers and serving as a ring boy for the night. Shiryu was still wearing the awesome afro-mask back then while Buffalo wore what looked like a Black Warrior-style mask. Shiryu showed great athleticism in this, particularly during a series of four dropkicks that were as high as anyone his size could possibly get. He also did a very nice tope suicida that had great distance on it. Chohe didn't really do anything of note in this other than a lot of side headlock takedowns and a couple of backdrop suplexes. Immediately after the second backdrop Chohe got the win with a camel clutch in what was his only real offensive sequence of the match. This was not bad at all but aside from Shiryu's mad hops (word!) it had nothing that was all that good either. Chohe did waaaaay too many side headlocks for a match that only went 5:01.
Leopard Negro would be better known as Hanzo Nakajima to Mpro followers although in this match he has full Tiger Mask gear on with a black/yellow motif working and a third rate version of Tiger Mask IV. Yonekawa is the man who would put crappy wrestling cavemen on the map eventually as Yone Genjin. Yone is the better of the wrestling cavemen while Tsubo Genjin is funnier although neither of those statements is much of a compliment. Negro kicks and kicks and kicks at Yonekawa with none of the kicks showing the grace and fluidity that Tiger Mask IV would give to them. Yonekawa does a pair of spinning heel kicks and that's about it for his offense in this match actually. I guess there was a reason he switched to the comedic life of a cavemen. He wasn't embarrassing or anything though. The only time when Negro really reached TMIV's level of grace came off a top rope in-ring plancha that saw him get some very nice air. After Negro got a pair of near ten counts from kicking Yonekawa, weak kick to the stomach "knocked out" Yonekawa and Tanabe stopped the match after just under seven and a half minutes. The first time I saw this match I actually thought Leopard Negro WAS Tiger Mask IV in a pre-TMIV gimmick but on further viewings there is just no comparison between the two apart from the outfits. Like the opener this wasn't bad but it wasn't anything special either.
Terry Boy is not yet blonde here which is strange to see after seeing so many matches with him as a blonde. TAKA is only 18-19 years old here but he was already very smooth in the ring. Teioh wasn't bad either but he wasn't as polished as he would become in his prime years of 96-97. TAKA oversold a Teioh punch by flying three quarters of the way across the ring and out to the floor. Teioh did a great release butterfly suplex that saw TAKA thrown from one side of the ring to the other. Teioh also did a very ugly piledriver which is interesting since it would become one of his most used moves later on and none of them looked THIS bad. We're talking Brian Adams-level bad here folksJ Other hilights include them each doing a sequence of consecutive armdrags, Teioh doing almost over-the-head lucha armdrags and TAKA doing the super cool backspin armdrags that I've never seen him do before (Or maybe I just can't rememberJ). TAKA also unleashed his Spaceman Plancha on Teioh outside the ring that looked incredible especially since he got great distance on it. A short series of nearfalls between the two were exchanged before TAKA won with a German Suplex in around nine minutes. There are plenty of matches that are better than this involving either of these two but considering their experience level at the time it was a pretty fun little match.
TAKA and Terry Boy stay in the ring because up next is a…
TAKA Michinoku, Terry Boy, Leopard Negro, Buffalo Chohe, Akihiro Yonekawa, Shiryu
& some other guy who is indistinguishable thanks an eight year old handheld and three generations of dubbing
Match starts with some random pairing up of the workers until all are brought together in the middle of the ring by the power of a seven-person side headlock! Next everyone takes a turn and bodyslams the unidentified guy. This all goes well until Yonekawa displays some of his Yone-ish incompetence by falling back with the unidentified guy on top and with the help of the other five in the ring Yonekawa is pinned and eliminated! Immediately after that everyone grabs a limb on the unidentified guy and with the help of Leopard Negro sitting on Mr. X's chest, they eliminate him. In mere seconds after THAT elimination TAKA and Terry Boy team up and pin Shiryu off of a sunset flip BUT TAKA quickly turns on Terry by flipping the sunset flip over and helping the already eliminated Shiryu to pin Terry Boy! Now THIS is how you book a battle royaleJ The next five seconds pass without a single elimination…then Leopard Negro quickly applies a jujigatame to Buffalo Chohe and TAKA pins Chohe to end the elimination drought. Now we're down to Leopard Negro and TAKA and I must say this is taking me much longer to type out than it does to watch it. After the two remaining wrestlers circle each other once, feigning pacing, Negro gets one kick in followed by a snap suplex and a cover for a two count…then while still holding on after the kickout he does a powerbomb. Instead of going for a cover though he grabs the legs and turns TAKA over into a really painful looking Boston crab for the submission win. Negro bent back so far on it that his own back was touching the mat. OUCH. This might have been six minutes total and had non-stop action from start to finish. This wasn't the worst battle royale you will ever see and the eliminations were all done cleverly enough to make it fun. Sasuke needs to cut back on the coffee though.
Rocky Santana, Super Delfin & Mongolian Yuga
El Sagrado, Kendo & Blackman
This would be the first trios match in the history of Michinoku Pro, which has become quite famous for matches of these type I've heard. I see the kids these days love this kind of match but I don't know. Back in my day we had Australian rules tag team matches with teams of two pitted against each other. There was a tag rope that was held by the "tag" partner not currently in the ring. Once "tagged" you had five seconds to leave the ring or risk disqualification. That was enough for us.
There are exactly TWO good workers in this match (Delfin & Kendo, who is underrated as a comedy wrestler), a far cry from the ten deep roster that Michinoku Pro would roll out for their most famous ten-man matches from 10.10.96, 12.9.96 and 12.16.96. This match shows Kendo doing what he does best, getting the fans to chant his name and doing lots and lots of kip-ups. Kendo's athleticism goes pretty much unnoticed by the masses in my opinion for someone who just turned 45 on September 18th. While this match might be in 1993 I've seen Kendo show the same spark against Ball Rei (Super Boy, doing a soccer gimmick) in late 2000.
Rocky Santana and El Sagrado did a very solid and basic lucha mat sequence which saw each momentarily get an advantage by rolling into a Dandina Cradle, only to have it reversed and put in a Dandina Cradle by his opponent. I was really surprised by Rocky here as he was just awful in late 2000 Mpro blocks while here he did the standard armdrags/takedowns/cradles lucha sequence with Sagrado in a more than competent manner.
Blackman and Delfin try and have a collar-and-elbow hookup but each time Blackman gets the advantage Rocky runs in and kicks Blackman thus breaking it up and forcing a restart. This happens at least three times. Once Blackman finally gets an advantage on Delfin he armdrags him to the floor and gets a shot in at Rocky on the apron while he's at it. As that happens our man Kendo tries to somersault into the ring to back up his partner against the rudos but ends up falling flat on his face. Of course this is Kendo we're talking about here and goofing is 50% of his arsenal so the fans eat it up and Kendo gets a bigger pop than he would had he successfully done the spot!
Mongolian Yuga enters and does a nice handspring elbow into the corner to Kendo. The rudos double-up on Kendo but he foils Rocky and Delfin's plans and proceeds to show them up with a serious of kip-ups that confuse the rudos greatly. Ahhhh Kendo, what are we to do with you?
Sagrado and Rocky have a nice sequence that is commonplace in traditional lucha, the technico aversion dance. Sagrado outsmarts Rocky through monkey-flips, headscissors, backflips and armdrags until Rocky has no choice but to cut his losses and let Mongolian Yuga in, hoping that his partner fare somewhat better against the wily tecnico.
Mongolian Yuga does not.
Blackman was tagged in and further humiliated the rudos by staying one step ahead of Mongolian Yuga for the brief exchange they had.
The last two minutes of the match see the rudos take nearly every textbook tecnico armdrag and headscissor in the book with the highlight being Blackman's super cool backspin variation on Rocky. Blackman ends up doing a tope suicida into Santana who has been dispatched to the floor. Kendo follows that up with a pescado to the floor on Yuga. Then, in the only offensive sequence of the match for the rudos, Delfin hits his tornado DDT and puts Sagrado in the Delfin Clutch for the surprise rudo victory.
This was a pretty fun abridged version of the kind of trios match this company would eventually set the standard in. In this match though the rudos got in very little offence and instead took all the armdrags and lucha headscissor counters the tecnicos threw at them. The finish really came out of nowhere but for a match that ran barely over twelve minutes the tecnicos were put over well with the rudos getting their credibility back in a way with the flash victory. Good times.
Great Sasuke & Gran Hamada
El Signo & El Rudo
Michinoku Pro was really almost like pure lucha libre at this point as this was another match where the tecnicos were the stars and the rudos took all the moves to make them look the tecnicos look the part. Gran Hamada is a spry 43 years old at this point and he pulls out a few moves that he doesn't do much these days (spinning headscissors, a number of dropkicks, takes more bumps) in addition to his regular headbutt and hurricanrana (no tornado DDT in this match) offence.
The rudos do get a bit more offence in this match than their counterparts in the previous match did. El Signo and El Rudo had the advantage a bit more through basic brawling and the use of lucha submissions (I'll be darned if I can describe them. They're goofy lucha hybrid submission moves for gawd's sake) every now and then.
The end comes after Hamada hits a Sasuke-assisted plancha onto El Signo on one side of the ring. Sasuke has not suffered any fractured skulls yet at this point in his career so he has no problem doing a somersault plancha from the top corner ringpost to the floor onto El Rudo. After hitting his dive Sasuke is attacked on the floor by a lurking, chair-swinging Super Delfin. The rudos return to the ring and I assume win by countout after about thirteen and a half minutes of pretty back and forth action. The ref must have been counting by fives though because it seemed like barely five seconds had passed between the time Sasuke was attacked and the referee awarded the match to the rudos.
Post match Delfin drags 19-year-old TAKA into the ring for a beating, throws Ted Tanabe to the floor and fights off a revived Gran Hamada before Sasuke can make the save. Soon the ring is filled with workers and most of them are hard to put names to (I THINK one was the old Monkey Magic). Then because this is a handheld the guy shooting the action gets bored and walks off…but he quickly returns and shows that the ring is still full of workers with Sasuke and Delfin brawling in the corner. Then because this is a handheld its hard to tell what is happening but the end result is Sasuke ending up with a red towel covering his head so I'd guess that dirty Delfin unmasked him.
While this was the first Michinoku Pro show you could already tell who the stars of the company would be. Shiryu, TAKA, Terry Boy, Hamada, Delfin and Sasuke were all allowed to shine in their respective roles although Delfin was showcased more as a heel character than as a wrestler here. Kendo also had a nice showing here and he really is underrated as a trios worker. The matches weren't all that memorable and the action was more of a traditional lucha style but you could certainly see potential for a strong in-ring product in the future to build around.