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    Sunday, December 13, 2015

    31 Days of Wrestling (12/13/15): Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma, The New Beginning in Sendai

    As we near the end of week two, let us continue with our 31 Days of Wrestling by looking at a match that can be considered as a strong contender for match of the year and, at the same time, a true breakthrough performance for two men who deserve all the success in the world.

    #13: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma for the NEVER Openweight Championship, The New Beginning in Sendai

    Originally planned for the first tour of New Japan post-Wrestle Kingdom 9, being the two New Beginning shows in Osaka and Sendai, was a rematch for the NEVER Openweight Championship between the champion, Togi Makabe, and the challenger, Tomohiro Ishii. You see, a month prior to the planned rematch, Makabe dethroned Ishii in a brutal hossfest to win the title, and as such, Ishii had the right to a rematch against the Unchained Gorilla.

    However, Makabe was down with the flu some weeks after Wrestle Kingdom. As he was unable to defend the title at the event because of his condition, the title was vacated just a month after winning it, so a new champion would have to be crowned. Now, who would be foolish enough to face a pitbull like Ishii in a championship match?

    This guy:

    Who better to replace Makabe in this match than the man who can not only take as much punishment as he could also dish out, but is also a beloved underdog star who can make believers out of fans in Tomoaki Honma. Instantly, the hype levels have gone through the roof for a match where both men deserve to be in the spotlight.

    And as if there were no questions, the entire match delivered, with the quality being on par to the Nakamura-Ibushi battle a month prior. From start to finish, the match was a hossfest of epic proportions, with headbutts and stiff strikes all around, and unbelievable spots that would make even the most experienced of puroresu watchers cringe and drop their jaws to the floor. It seemed as though the only way the match would end is if someone was knocked out, seriously injured, or both. And you know what?

    The crowd loved it, 100%. The crowd cannot help but chant for both men, screaming and gasping at every move they do. In other words, the crowd was fully invested in this encounter. It is as if they knew that this match was worth more than the price of admission.

    Both men wanted to show that they belong to the upper echelon of the NJPW roster after years of playing sidekicks to main eventers. They certainly proved their point, with the general feeling that their match should have main evented the show instead of Shinsuke Nakamura VS Yuji Nagata for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The brutality mercifully ended with Ishii regaining the title he lost a month prior, but in all honesty, both men were the true winners in the eyes of the fans.

    What have we learned from this match?

    1. As previously discussed in the Shinsuke Nakamura edition of Cafe Puro, New Japan's championships were in a very interesting position, with the Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles being seen as equals, resulting to big business. Being said, the NEVER Openweight Championship, a title once seen as the flagship title of their NEVER brand (think NXT, a brand for rookies, if you will), suddenly reformatted into the "tough man's championship." The title had a spot in New Japan's order of things, and with that comes opportunities for other members of the roster.

    2. In the same way that DDP and Batista found himselves as megastars much later in their lives, Ishii and Honma proved that hard work pays off, and while it may take a while, the result will show through the love and support of the fans. In an age where most wrestlers could have taken the safe route and retire, they showed that they become better as they grow older and wiser.

    3. It is important to note about the way they booked Honma. The importance of long term booking is strong with their match, fans waiting in anticipation for the night he finally wins the big one. And when the day comes that Honma will gain his first singles title in NJPW, you can expect a huge pouring of emotions on that day. Here's to hoping WWE again understand how to look at the long term booking side of things.

    4. Based on Honma's win with Makabe at the recently concluded World Tag League, it seems that not even an alleged controversy can halt his run to the top.

    Ishii will face Katsuyori Shibata for the NEVER Openweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 while Honma will get his first ever title shot at the Tokyo Dome alongside Makabe against Bullet Club's Gallows and Gun for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Not bad for guys who finally got their groove back after all these years in the sidelines.


    #10: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, Wrestle Kingdom 9
    #11 Brock Lesnar vs. john Cena vs. Seth Rollins for the WWE World Title at  Royal Rumble

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    Item Reviewed: 31 Days of Wrestling (12/13/15): Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma, The New Beginning in Sendai Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Lance Tan Ong
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