When TNA ventured across the Pacific Ocean earlier this year for a combined show with New Japan Pro Wrestling at the Tokyo Dome, it was a landmark event no one really took notice of here in North America.
Thank goodness for DVDs. Global iMPACT!-Japan is one to get your hands on.
Just the main event was shown on free TV here in North America where TNA World champion Kurt Angle made Yuji Nagata tap to the ankle lock in the IWGP Heavyweight title match. The other five matches are pretty decent and the extras add flavor, literally, to the DVD. Prior to each match, too, all wrestlers involved get a kick-butt video hype job.
The entire event, held January 4th, is an annual event in NJPW that kicks off the New Year. This year, TNA was invited to participate. Commentators Don West and Mike Tenay are great calling the matches and explaining Japanese culture. Jeremy Borash serves as the ring announcer for the TNA stars.
One interesting item to note is that the crowd at the Tokyo Dome seems more suited for a library. It's pretty much silent throughout the show. The plethora of ringside photographers is also something not seen too often.
Match #1 - Petey Williams, AJ Styles & Christian Cage vs. Milano Collection AT, Minoru & Prince Devitt
A solid, solid opener. Devitt and Cage both get dizzy from an airplane spin. Now there's a move not mentioned that much nowadays, eh? The match has great flow and all wrestlers end up on the floor at one point. Back inside, the TNA guys all hit their finishers with Styles pinning Minoru after the Styles Clash.
Winners via pinfall: Petey Williams, AJ Styles & Christian Cage
Match #2 - IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match - Christopher Daniels vs. Wataru Inoue
It's explained that even though Daniels had been "fired" from TNA prior to this match, his contract with NJPW allowed him to wrestle here and represent TNA. This match should make the average fan want to see more Japanese wrestling. Daniels plays the heel in this match. Both Daniels and Inoue counter each other's moves and the crowd respects that with applause. One cross-legged brainbuster isn't enough to beat Daniels, but the second one is.
Winner and still IWGP Jr. Heavyweight champion: Wataru Inoue
A post-match ceremony sees Inoue get a trophy for retaining the title. Daniels saunters to the back and West and Tenay speculate on his future in the company.
Match #3 - Abyss vs. Manabu Nakanishi
Abyss stares down the photographers as he makes his entrance and he's compared to Bruiser Brody, Abdullah the Butcher and the Sheik by Tenay for his unorthodox style. The majority of this match is outside the ring and on the entrance ramp where Abyss takes a bulldog into the tacks. Pretty routine Abyss match that has Nakanishi win with a German suplex and bridge. Abyss' shoulder appears to be up, but the pin counts nonetheless.
Winner via pinfall: Manabu Nakanishi
Abyss chases the photographers away from the ring and then heads to the back.
Match #4 - Hardcore Match - Team 3D vs. Tohgi Makabe & Toru Yano
Imagine the old ECW in a library and that's exactly what this match was. The blood flows, chairs, chains, a ladder and a kendo stick (and the infamous garbage can) are used repeatedly and it's a free-for-all with no tags at first or control. Brother Ray puts a trash can lid on Yano's crotch and then tattoos him with a chair. Brother Devon gets a table (a much smaller version that what we see around these parts) and Yano takes a second-rope powerbomb through the wood. A 3D later to Makabe gives the ex-Dudleyz the win.
Winners via pinfall: Team 3D
Jeff Jarrett is introduced to the 30,000-plus in attendance and he comes to the ring to hype TNA and thank the fans for coming to the show. He gets booed by the fans, too.
Match #5 - IWGP Tag Team Title Match - The Steiner Brothers vs. Tomko & Giant Bernard
Sad to see how immobile the Steiners (introduced before the match as former NWA, WWE and WCW tag champs) are now, but they still have a pretty good match. A pre-match video montage shows highlights from Japan runs from probably 10-15 years ago. The Steiners hit their top-rope bulldog on Tomko, but Rick hits the ref on the follow-through. Yano interferes, but takes a guitar shot from Jarrett. Makabe then runs in and pushes Rick off the top rope. Tomko and Bernard then hit a whiplash move, the Magic Killer, on the Dogfaced Gremlin and retain.
Winners and still IWGP Tag Team champions: Tomko & Giant Bernard
After the trophy presentation post-match, Bernard grabs the mic, but gets cut off and we're left to wonder what he said.
Match #6 - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - Kurt Angle vs. Yuji Nagata
What a match. What a freaking great match! The DVD is worth purchasing it for this match alone. The bout goes about 30 minutes. Angle nearly taps to an armbar submission, but rallies to get the ankle lock tap-out. The behind the scenes look at the build-up to this match is incredible.
Winner via submission and still IWGP Heavyweight champion: Kurt Angle
Extras on the DVD include pre- and post-match interviews, a trip around Tokyo with Tomko, Cage, Brother Ray and Bernard (where they eat raw liver), sushi night with the Steiners and a trip to the Sensoji Temple with Tomko and Styles (where Styles wants to buy a spoon because he's been eating with chopsticks all trip). Having Tomko, who is a regular competitor in Japan, along to tour the city gives the viewer great insight into Tokyo from an outsider's perspective.
The DVD, that can also be played in Japanese, will add glitz to anyone's wrestling collection. It's highly recommended and is worth every penny. If only TNA could be this good every week for free we'd have something. But alas, we're relegated to spend dough on DVDs like this.
January 16, 2008: Bob Kapur's Journal from Japan
Matt Mackinder's father lived in Japan as a child. Matt, however, has never been to the Land of the Rising Sun. He unfortunately doesn't have Bob Kapur's cash supply. Email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.