Cewsh: So, that KUSHIDA is pretty nifty, huh? New Japan’s most prized Jr. Heavyweight star is one of the fastest rising stars in all of Japan, and is pretty much single handedly holding down the hallowed ground of Tiger Mask, Jushin Liger and countless others, not to mention tearing it up in Ring of Honor in front of a whole new audience. By the time he’s done, he’ll have an easy Hall of Fame resume, but while most people will remember his time with New Japan, few will remember that his rise to fame truly began in a little promotion called SMASH. And while it was little, and it didn’t last long, it came at a time when Japanese wrestling was at it’s weakest in decades and was a light in the darkness that brought energy back to a dormant Japanese wrestling landscape.
So today, let’s go back to our review of the very first show of this odd, odd promotion. To the dawn of KUSHIDA, the building of KANA’s greatest adversary, and the weirdness that was the Cult of Tajiri.
Welcome, cats and kittens, to yet another installment of the best globetrotters not located in Harlem, Cewsh Reviews! Tonight we have a special treat for you, as we travel back to the land of the rising sun and check out the grand debut opening of Yoshihiro Tajiri’s new promotion SMASH. Now we’ve covered all kinds of wrestling through the years, from mainstream WWE stuff, to European stuff, Mexican, Korean, Japanese, and everything in between, but this will be the first time that Cewsh Reviews will ever be able to say that it covered the opening of a brand new promotion happening here and now. To be honest, we couldn’t be more honored to put our faith in the hands of TAJIRI, a wrestler who has captivated each of us over the years and now stands to create something special of his own.
But worry not. This wont be one of those stodgy reviews where all we talk about is tradition and history and the like. We’ll save that for another day, because this is a card filled with rookies, serial killers, blimps, and Tommy Dreamer (or was that repetitive?) and we’re going to have all the fun in the world bringing it to you. So set your phasers to stun, and strap in boys and girls. It’s going to be a wacky ride.
Cewsh: The very first image that we’re greeted with is that of Tommy Dreamer staring directly into the camera, which scared the hell out of me the first time I saw it. He talks about how this is his first time back to Japan in awhile, and how he loves the Japanese fans more than anything and is super excited to get the chance to work in front of them again, seeming very humble and down to earth.
Then we get a rad punk song going and see TAJIRI posing in front of a Japanese skyline, looking like the ultra warrior we all know him to be. He talks about what SMASH is and is meant to be, and then runs down each match on the card for us, talking about how he has high hopes for all of these rookies, especially KUSHIDA, and about how he hopes Akira-san beats the ever loving bedonkeys out of Leatherface due to a bit of a tif that Leatherface and TAJIRI have been having lately.
The gist is that this promotion is the new hotness, and TAJIRI is leading the charge with his friend, Tommy Dreamer. As such, it really puts the promotion over as fresh, young and new, and gets me pumped up for the show.
Cewsh: Our first match here is a World Tryout Match for Mentallo, meaning that it’s part of a series of matches to gauge whether or not Mentallo is deserving of a spot on the roster. At least in theory that’s what it is. Most of the time Japanese promotions use it as a chance to get exposure to new up and coming freshly signed talents by pitting them against higher card guys and letting the look good before losing, so the fans get used to them and find something to like.
Actual tryout or not, Mentallo is up against TAJIRI here, so his odds of escaping with the mammoth upset victory are pretty slim, but he’s clearly very proudly representing Canada, so he has my vote if that counts for anything.
Both men come to the ring, and we get ourselves started. They start off with a respectful handshake (eliciting an “Awwww” from us) and do some chain wrestling for each man to feel out the other. Mentallo goes for a headlock and TAJIRI counters it into a leg scissor across the head which Mentallo just stands on his head and kips up onto his feet to get out of, which is exactly as impressive as it sounds. They do some more move and counter move, and Mentallo takes the lead again by exhibiting some lucha libre knowledge, springing up to the top rope, and then springing off into an arm drag that puts TAJIRI on his heels, and then nailing an Asai Moonsault to the outside, much to the approval of the crowd.
Mentallo continues to push the offensive, staying on TAJIRI, trying to stop the wily veteran from shifting the momentum, but after making on mistake, he earns himself a boot directly the the face, and the legend takes over. A few suplexes, submission holds, and kicks later, and the rookie is in some rough shape, and things start to seem bleak for him. The rookie refuses to give up though, giving TAJIRI all he can handle with chops and kicks of his own, refusing to be put down so easily in the match that could make his career. Finally he slams home a Shining Wizard in the corner, and leverages it into an amazing Northern Lights Suplex, pinning TAJIRI’s shoulders down by holding himself straight up in the air and using his full body weight, but somehow ever this isn’t enough to give him the victory.
Seeing victory in sight, Mentallo hits a Fireman Carry Slam, and rolls through to hit a moonsault off the top rope. But TAJIRI is unimpressed and shoulders his way out of the predicament again. He brings out the handstand elbow smash and goes for his Buzzsaw kick that has beaten the best that this industry has to offer, but Mentallo moves, and grabs him in one smooth motion, catching him with a devastating German Suplex. 1…2…NO! TAJIRI manages to shoulder up one more time, fatigue settling in heavily, and the frustration and disbelief are clear, even through the mask of the young warrior. He signals for the end and climbs the top rope, going for a moonsault, but when he lands, there’s no TAJIRI there to break his fall, only the unforgiving canvas below. As it turns out, that one mistake is one too many when faced by a veteran like TAJIRI, because before he can react, a Buzzsaw kick buries its way halfway into his brainstem, and this match is over.
Now I don’t know how much experience Mentallo actually has, or who he really is, but if this is his start in this promotion, he couldn’t have had a much better one. He never looked like TAJIRI was carrying him, and he displayed fire and athleticism that should serve him well in the years to come.
A great opening match to an already exciting show. It doesn’t get a ton better than this.
72 out of 100.
Vice: This was a very fun opener, I’ve got to say. Realistically, Tajiri could have kicked this guy’s head clean off within a minute and a half, but he made this a very competitive bout and made Mentallo look very good here. There was lots of good back and forth action, and for a moment or two I almost believed that Mentallo could actually win this, which illustrates how great of a performer Tajiri is, and how he can elevate anyone who steps into the ring with him.
Only through a rookie mistake is Tajiri able to put his years and years of experience into play and capitalize off that critical error from Mentallo. Good performances from both guys, and I hope to see more of Mentallo.
I must say how much I enjoy the concept presented here. Rookies get an opportunity to step into the ring with a legend and try to prove how capable they are. How much heart they have. How far they’re willing to go to achieve that dream of theirs. I wish more companies would have a concept like this, but their top stars probably have way too much of an ego and feel that something like this is beneath them.
This show is off to a lovely start.
TAJIRI Over Mentallo Following The Buzzsaw Kick.
Cewsh: After the match TAJIRI brings a young lady down to the ring, with an enormous ceramic doll head on.
After she gets in the ring, TAJIRI introduces her, and then they run through some training exercises, making it clear that she is his student, and that she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with sooner than later. I don’t know who she is, exactly, but she definitely looked impressive, and that makes her the second rookie on this show so far that has outshined many veterans that I’ve seen recently.
Whatever TAJIRI is feeding these kids, he should keep it up.
Cewsh: I’m going to say it right out here in front of everything else. This is not only the best women’s match I have seen this decade, it may be one of the best matches that you will see anywhere this year.
The story here is that Meiko Satomura is the established veteran, with a mile long reputation, and a history of knocking people right the hell out. Shuri, on the other hand, is still a relative newcomer who had never really been taken seriously as a singles wrestler of her own. So in much the same way as the first match, this one is about Shuri attempting to prove herself as worthy to the fans by taking on a top dog and trying to take her out. Also very important Satomura’s kickboxing and MMA background, which Shuri made a point of trying to prepare for by incorporating those elements into her arsenal as well. She’s locked and loaded, and this is her big chance. Will she rise to the challenge?
After each woman makes her entrance, we start things off with a respectful handshake, and then immediately get down to business, as Satomura goes for a test of strength and Shuri surprises her with a lightning fast kick that back Satomura up a few paces. Meiko nods to Shuri, as if to acknowledge that if she wants to play, then they’re going to play, and then launches into it. They start with a series of matching kicks, with neither woman getting the upper hand, and then trade holds for a little while, with Satomura exhibiting her advanced knowledge of holds and counter holds to stay in control throughout. She bends Shuri every which way, exhibiting her dominance every bit as much as she’s trying to actually defeat this rookie that has dared to test her.
Shuri suffers for several minutes under the ministrations of her nemesis, showing a rare spirit to keep kicking out and struggling to get back in the game. After what seems like an eternity, she stops a headlock, and trips up Satomura instead, and delivers a devastating axe kick to the back of Satomura’s head, that leaves the veteran seeing stars, and nearly catches her for the three count before she regains her composure. Shuri wastes no time admiring her work, an immediately sets up Meiko with wild punches and slaps, followed up by an armbar attempt, driving home that she will not be dismissed so easily. Satomura manages to escape, but now the smile is wiped right off of her face. She knows she’s in for a tough battle now, and it’s time to get her serious business on.
Things start to get extremely stiff as each woman tries kick after kick, looking to punish their opponent, but neither can find a combination that will actually land successfully. Satomura takes the lead again with a series of slams, and takes Shuri back to the mat, but Shuri is full of more fire that I’ve seen in any babyface in years, and she wont give up or stop fighting for anything. She takes an incredible beating from Satomura, but she just keeps right on coming back, screaming her defiance, and using her heart to overcome her lesser skills and to keep her in the match. She finally gets Satomura to the outside of the ring and just starts unloading on her, with devastating kick after devastating kick, each one harder than the last. Even this isn’t enough to stem the tide, though, as Satomura answers back with a crushing elbow shot, and goes right back to delivering punishment on the would be upsetter.
The crowd starts to really come alive in support of Shuri’s fiery refusal to quit, and the cheers bring her to her feet, even as Satomura is devastating her with stomps and kicks that would fell a tree, much less a human. As Shuri rises once again from an attack that should have put her down for the count, Satomura steps back and stares at her in disbelief, with the crowd exploding all around her. Shuri will not quit. She will not die. Satomura screams for Shuri to give her her best shot, and they go back and forth, trading cannon shots in kick form. Satomura gives up and signals for the end, hitting a huge splash from the top rope, but even this only gets a one count as Shuri starts to fire up yet again, to the blatant dismay of Satomura. She goes for a huge kick, but Shuri counters it into a roll up that nearly surprises everyone with a win. Satomura gets back up and tries another. Yet ANOTHER roll up that Satomura avoided losing to by the narrowest of margins. Then Shuri pulls a spinning flip over arm bar out of absolutely nowhere and Satomura is in serious, serious trouble as she STRAINS for the ropes.
She reaches them finally, but Shuri is not done by a long shot. She tears into Satomura with wild and crazed slaps and chops to anything that Meiko leaves uncovered to be hit. Meiko responds with straight punches to the jaw that leave Shuri dazed. Back and forth, back and forth, like a pendulum swinging from side to side as each woman tries desperately to put aside the pain and fatigue to find the combination that will end this war at last. Finally, Shuri makes her first true rookie mistake and misses a kick that sends her reeling off balance and directly into the waiting arms of a rock solid sleeper hold from Satomura. Shuri struggles in vain to escape, but the embrace of Meiko is not so easily broken, and at last she kicks her final resistance and the referee calls for the bell and the end of this conflict. Satomura is victorious at last, and before she leaves, she bows to Shuri to signal that she has truly arrived and is a force to be reckoned with.
God, I could talk about this match all day. About how Satomura played the veteran surprised and staggered by the upstart rookie to perfection, and about how Shuri was an electrifying face that wore her defiance and fire in her every scream, every facial expression, and every movement. She was the very picture of a young, hungry rookie who was willing to put it all on the line to make a name for herself, and that is exactly what she did tonight. I said before that this is a match of the year candidate, and the best match I have seen women put on since the 90s, and I mean every word of it. This match was a complete surprise, tucked in here in this card and getting almost no notice beforehand, but it has me talking now.
Consider the show stolen. Better luck next time, boys.
90 out of 100.
Cewsh’s Download Seal of Approval.
Vice: Over the years, I’ve been very disappointed the majority of women’s wrestling and I’ve been very vocal about that. However, it generally doesn’t come down to the female wrestlers themselves as much as it comes down to how they’re treated by the promotion. If they’re only given 3 minutes to put on a match, are a complete afterthought, or are booked in ridiculous storylines because they’re women, of course they’re not going to be able to succeed. They’re in the same sport as the men, so why should they be treated differently?
Right here was a showing by two women that went out to prove that they can wrestle just as well as the men if given the opportunity. Boy was this a very unexpectedly good match. Shuri was fantastic as the smaller woman who could take a beating, and had the heart to refuse being defeated. This got the fans behind her and wanted to see her triumph. Likewise, Satomura was fantastic as the bigger, more experienced woman who was definitely the aggressor in this match. She absolutely punished Shuri with stiff hits, powerful slams and some nasty submissions.
There was a great moment where Shuri was frogsplashed by Satomura, and used all of her power to bridge herself out of the pin at 2.80, which was just a great visual and a great way of showing heart and refusal to quit. It’s little touches like that, that can make a match much more memorable. How’s that for alliteration?
The finish to this match was absolutely amazing and I loved every second of it. No matter how much pain Satomura unleashed on Shuri, she just wouldn’t give up. If her heart was still beating and she was getting oxygen to her brain, she was going to keep fighting back. Satomura realizes this, so if Shuri refused to quit, then Satomura was going to make her body quit. She immediately slaps on a choke hold (not quite a sleeper, not quite a rear naked choke.. somewhere in the middle) to cut off the blood that’s keeping her opponent standing. What happens next is one of the greatest moments of desperation I’ve ever seen in a wrestling ring, and I seriously do mean that. Shuri knows that this move WILL cost her the match if she doesn’t get out of it, so she immediately claws at the forearm across her windpipe in the event that it’s not fully cinched in. It’s tight. She then starts firing off very quick elbows to the side/stomach area of Satomura, which simply cannot do enough damage to get her to break the hold.
Knowing she’s running out of time, she immediately flails to the left and then just as quickly she flails to the right in an attempt to get enough momentum to better her position and possibly slip out of the hold. Satomura says no and falls to her back, bringing Shuri down with her. Satomura goes to lock her legs around the belly of Shuri, but Shuri is able to avoid the legs and roll to her side. Satomura immediately rolls off her back and right back on top. Shuri tries to get to her feet, but only manages to get to one knee before Satomura just brute forces her way down on top of Shuri as she makes a desperate reach for the bottom rope to break the hold. Satomura not only denies her the ropes, but actually positions herself between Shuri and the ropes so there is absolutely no chance of her reaching them. During this scramble, Satomura keeps one arm across the throat of Shuri, but was forced to use the other one to get the positioning. However, it’s too late for Shuri because she just doesn’t have enough life in her to capitalize. Satomura props her up, gets to one knee and fully locks the choke in. The ref drops the arm of Shuri and it’s over.
Seriously, this all took place in a matter of moments, but it was exceptional. Very few other times have I fully been sucked into something as much as this one, because it honestly felt like Shuri was literally fighting for her life once that choke was locked in. Incredible finish to a very good match. If you don’t think women can perform as well as the men, watch this match. I dare you to tell me they still can’t.
The post match stuff was great, too. Satomura was relieved to have won the match, but you can tell that she couldn’t believe how much of a fight Shuri put up and how much it took to take her down. When Shuri regains consciousness, Satomura is right there to help her up and show her respect. It was just a wonderful moment. As Satomura leaves, she looks like she’s in more pain from beating Shuri up than Shuri is from taking it, which makes her look like an absolute warrior. I can’t say enough about all of this.
How to explain this match? First, it’s important to understand that Leatherface has been around for a long, long time. You may know him for being part of Mick Foley and Terry Funk’s Japanese Deathmatch journey back in the day, but if you’re an old time wrestling fan, you may also remember him as Corporal Kirchner from the WWE in the 1980s. After he left there he made his jaunty way to Japan where he took on the mantle of the villain of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies, and set about raising so much hell, you can hardly contain it in one man. Akira, for his part, is a former MMA guy who actually runs the MMA branch of SMASH’s operations. I don’t know what that entails exactly, but Vice assures me that he has taken some faces in his day, so I can’t dispute that.
The story here, such as it is, is that Leatherface attacked TAJIRI, and TAJIRI is already booked in two matches tonight, so he’s having his buddy Akira take care of things for him. Leatherface, on the other hand, just likes to beat people up. Which is pretty much all you need to know.
To be honest, this match is pretty ugly. It’s a brawl from the get go, and saying that the styles of these two guys doesn’t mesh is like saying that peanut butter and gravy don’t mix. It should be pretty clear without trying it. But for guys with their limitations (Leatherface is 50 for pete’s sake), this actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable, with both guys having a good time with it, and Leatherface looking like a completely indestructible monster. It’s not the greatest of matches, but hey. Sometimes you just want to watch something nuts, and this certainly fulfills that need in a big way.
63 out of 100.
Vice: All I can say here is that Leatherface is amazing. I mean, he’s no Ricky Steamboat in the ring, but what a crazy awesome gimmick. Chainsaw that makes noises and shoots out 15 foot sparks? Check. Butcher apron? Check. Leathery skin mask? Check. Chop off the top rope for a finishing move? Check. This is wrestling, but Leatherface is almost actually scary. I love it.
This match isn’t fantastic by any means, but the style of match and the placement on the card is like peanut butter and jelly. It goes together very well as a come-down match after the match before it, so I don’t think I have anything to complain about.
Ok, this wouldn’t be a Cewsh Review without me complaining about something, so I’ll say it now. Why can’t I have an awesome chainsaw like that??
Cewsh: Alright, let’s be honest for a minute. We have been huge jerks to Tommy Dreamer over the years.
We’ve made fun of everything from his weight to his jobber status and everything in between. He has remained an easy target for me especially, as I didn’t watch very much of the original ECW, and never truly saw him outside of the WWE universe and all that it represents, so I didn’t have a ton of fondness for him to begin with. All I saw when I looked at Tommy Dreamer was a broken down wrestler whose time had passed him by a decade ago and who had nothing left to offer. And, let’s be frank, many of you agreed with me.
And then I saw this video.
I don’t know how you could watch that video and not come out of it thinking so much more about Tommy Dreamer, just as a human being. His friend needed his help, and he was willing to do whatever it took to help him. To fly all the way out to Japan for his first match after being released and having his WWE imposed retirement. It’s just such a cool gesture, and TAJIRI is so clearly touched by it. It’s great.
Vice: I loved the friendship and respect shown right before the match began. You can really tell that Tajiri and Dreamer have a ton of history and are great friends. Too often, wrestling is just “RAAAAHHHHH I HATE YOU”. Friends can go out there and have a great competitive match too.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting a ton going into this match. These matches can be fun, but over the years I feel like I’ve become very desensitized to them due to how often they happen, and how high the bar has been raised (often with stupidity and danger) over the years. Unless someone does a 3360 flip off the top of the building onto a guy stacked on 17 tables, on fire and covered with broken glass, you often think “well, I’ve seen this all before”, and then the match just sort of fades into darkness and is never found again. This match didn’t actually do anything crazy, nor stupid, or even dangerous. This match focused on the fundamentals of what makes these matches entertaining. It’s something that I can’t completely explain, but wish I could.
These two knew exactly what they could given their capabilities, and actually put on a very entertaining match. A match that went totally beyond what I thought it ever would or could be. See, you can set out to build a 10 story building and only finish 8 of the stories. 8 stories is excellent, but they didn’t get the full 10, so you feel let down. These guys set out to simply build a really nice, functional house, and did an exceptional job at it.
One of my favorite things about this match was the faulty table that just refused to hold Tajiri’s weight. Far too many times over the years, we’ve something go wrong in the ring, and every wrestler handles it in a completely different way. Some go into panic mode and lock up, not knowing what to do next. Some go into rage mode and just get angry that things are not going right. And then some people, like Dreamer, make it seem like it was supposed to happen all along. With the table’s legs not staying locked into place, the table tips over and Tajiri flops onto the canvas. While most American audiences would just collectively groan and roll their eyes at the faulty table, the Japanese crowd here just bursts out laughing.
If someone less professional than Dreamer was in this position, I think it could have been a fairly ugly moment, but Tommy plays off the crowd and the interaction with the ref perfectly. A full recovery is made until he “fixes” the table, puts Tajiri back on it, and, well, it’s still a faulty table. Knowing it’s not going to support Tajiri still, he tells the ref to help hold the table up in a comical moment. Knowing the ref can’t solo this job of keeping the table from falling over, he actually points to someone outside of the ring and calls them in. I’m not sure if it was a photographer, member of the press or even a fan, but some completely random person slides into the ring and holds the table up.
The minute or two that this all took place during not only added a ton to the match, but I actually really took note of Dreamer’s improvisational skills and professionalism. He could have just stood there scratching his head, but he turned it into a wonderful addition to the match.
This bout was surprisingly entertaining and showed that you can definitely do more with less if you know how to do it right.
Cewsh: That all pretty much says it for me too. I have been vocally against garbage wrestling for a long time now, and while I think there are a few examples where it is done well, they are definitely the exception to the general rule of badness. This match, though, managed to be a lot of fun, and it managed to show off, more than anything else, Tommy’s true gift for improvisation, as he was completely cool under pressure, and took situations that could have been awkward for anyone else, and just made them work for him. It was very cool, and it made me think a lot more of him than I ever had before.
So I stand corrected. Tommy Dreamer has more value than I ever could have realized. And he’s a better human being than I ever could have imagined.
I mean seriously, would you fly all the way to Japan just so your friend could do this to you?
Cewsh: In order to relate to you why this main event is both awesome and distinctively odd, let me give you a little background. For the past few years TAJIRI has been the main star of the HUSTLE promotion. While he was there ripping things up, KUSHIDA and Ohara were lower midcarders trying to carve out a name for themselves in a very unconventional promotion. They never quite succeeded in getting over the hump, and now that HUSTLE has closed, TAJIRI has brought them here, and they’re getting a chance to be the big dogs in this new and exciting promotion. KUSHIDA, especially, is pretty much tapped for greatness from the get go, as he has the look, the style, and the right mentor (TAJIRI). But the oddness is pretty much in the fact that TAJIRI made these guys the main event instead of saving that spot for he and Dreamer. It’s a big statement about his faith in these two, and their importance for the future. And it is not a gesture to be missed.
In the ring, these guys have the kind of match you might expect from two youngsters on the rise, given the chance to really main event for the first time. It’s a very clean, fast paced, and simple match, built around their competitive nature, and geared towards getting both of them (okay, maybe KUSHIDA a little bit more) over. It works. Between his fighting spirit, and his repertoire of fun looking moves, KUSHIDA is a hit with the crowd right from the get go, and Ohara does everything in his power to highlight all of KUSHIDA’s best qualities while still making a name for himself, with some especially devastating maneuvers and holds.
When the dust settles, both of these guys look great, and TAJIRI seems validated in his decision to give them the main event slot. This isn’t the greatest match ever contested, but it feels like the beginning of much bigger things. And those things, I cannot wait to see.
77 out of 100.
Vice: The main event was intriguing because I didn’t know who either of the guys are in the match. Cewsh informed me that Kushida was Tajiri’s protégé, which was very nice to hear. For one, that means he’s probably going to be good, and two, it’s very noble of Tajiri to give the main event to Kushida when he could have easily given it to himself and Dreamer.
The match itself is very fun. These two guys go all out to put on an entertaining show for everyone there. What I loved most about this wasn’t how huge it was, but rather the simplicity of it all. It was just two guys going out there and having fun. No epic story, no kicking out of tanks running them over, no blood loss, no wacky finish, didn’t go 45 minutes.. just two guys showing a lot of heart and proving they’re capable of being in the position they are in.
Kushida impressed me right off the bat, showing what training under Tajiri will give you in terms of skill and ring prowess. I wasn’t sold on Ohara at first, but as the match went on I became more and more sold on him. He doesn’t have that aura that makes him feel like a giant star just waiting to break out, like Kushida, but he has that rare essence that will allow people to become stars through him. That is, arguably, just as important if not even more important, in the big picture.
Plus he has really sweet pants.
Vice: To close out the show, Tommy Dreamer, Tajiri and Kushida all stand in the ring with a microphone. Dreamer kicks it off with a.. dead mic. It’s one of those moments that even some of the most professional people in the world will get thrown off by. You’re ready to go and know exactly what you want to say, but it delays your speech and can easily take someone out of the zone. Not Dreamer though, because he plays off the laughter of the crowd. Once the mic is turned on, he bonks himself in the head with it a few times to get another laugh. Perfectly done. He cuts a very heartfelt promo about why he left WWE, and is incredibly sincere about it. He no longer felt special there. I’m no wrestler, but I can relate to something like that. There have been times where I once felt special at a job, then felt like everybody else, then later felt like I wasn’t even a human being. At that point, they could give me a great moment or two, treat me like they once did here and there, maybe even give me an increase in pay, and it wouldn’t mean anything to me. Tommy had a very nice exit from WWE/ECW, but how much did it mean to him?
While cutting the promo, you can slowly see Tajiri in the background becoming more and more overwhelmed by what Tommy is saying about their friendship and their past. Tommy hands the mic over to Tajiri, and Tajiri, speaking almost as fast as John Moschitta (the dude from the old Micro Machines commercials, and Blurr from the NOT Michael Bay Transformers movie), blurts out “thank you for coming, Tommy” before falling to his knees in tears. Right here is when I seriously wish I knew Japanese, because I can’t understand a single thing that Tajiri says at this point, but regardless, it’s so incredibly emotional that it made my eyes water quite a bit. Kushida then takes the mic, gets the crowd laughing, and says some very respectful sounding things.
Just when you think it’s about to end, Tommy Dreamer says it isn’t. Or at least that’s what he would have said if the mic didn’t die. Again. But, as if it was written this way, he laughs it off, bonks his head with it a few times much to the crowd’s delight and goes about saying what he was going to say. What happens next takes me back years and years and years, around the time when I REALLY got into wrestling back during the Monday Night Wars. Tommy says he has a present for the two of them, then unzips his track jacket to show a SMASH t-shirt, which totally made me think NWO, but more awesome. My second thought was that it’s a really fantastic shirt, and I totally want one. The three hug in the middle of the ring, Kushida goes nuts on the mic, and then the three of them simultaneously do Tommy’s pose as the camera pans out to close out the show.
That right there.. that is why I love smaller wrestling shows. That whole segment was as absolutely real as it gets. Not just in the wrestling world, but the world in general. I’ve picked on Tommy a lot over the years, most of the time just for fun, but through the course of this show I’ve come to respect the heck out of him. Firstly as a performer and, more importantly, as a person.
Cewsh: I don’t know what to say other than ditto.
Man, what an emotional night.
Cewsh: Man, what an unexpected treat this show was.
From top to bottom, this show perfectly represents exactly what I’ve always wanted independent promotions to be. Great wrestling with young up and comers wrestling established veterans, and a main event centered around burgeoning stars. The show was only two hours, and the amount of awesome that they packed into it could rival any two hours of wrestling that I have seen anywhere recently.
These men and women of SMASH made a fan out of me tonight. I just wish I had some merchandise so I could proudly show them off, because, no joke, they really do deserve it that much after a first show like that.
Well done to all of you. Keep up the good work.
Vice: First shows are always incredibly important. It has to be entertaining. It has to show potential. It has to draw you in and make you want more. It has to be memorable. Most importantly, you can’t give away everything on the first night, because you have to save plenty for the future. This show accomplished everything. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect heading into this show other than lots of Tajiri with an appearance by Tommy Dreamer, but this show really delivered in every department. I’m sold on this promotion, and I want to see more from it.
Consider me a fan.
Well that’ll do it for us this week boys and girls. We hope you enjoyed our trip to Japan together, and we heartily encourage any of you to track down SMASH wherever you can find it, and support a product that seems like it could be pretty special. Indies survive off of the support of hardcore fans, and if we can get them any, we’ll consider it a job well done. Next week, of course, Ms. Cewsh and I will be covering WWE’s Over The Limit, as WWE blows off all the big feuds from Wrestlemania, and continues on into the summer with a host of wacky new changes and storylines. But we’ll investigate that more next week. For now, remember to keep reading, and be good to one another!