Full Throttle #2: Take it to the T.O.P
The lights dim in Yokohama Radiant Hall to signal the start of Full Throttle’s second show. A spotlight focuses on the centre of the ring. The crowd claps in unison as Full Throttle’s GM and advisor make the short walk to the ring, ropes held open for them by the two dojo trainees. Kojima gestures towards Toi, who reaches to take a microphone from Yuji Shindo. Toi clears his throat nervously, shifting his feet slightly, as he reaches into his blazer pocket for a cue card. Looking around the invisible audience, hidden by the dimmed lighting, he begins his announcement:
“There are many ways to choose a champion. We think it’s important that our championship candidates have earned their place. There are five wrestlers who, as of today, have earned a personal victory and suffered no losses – Marufuji, Mochizuki, Ueno, Kodama and Omori. In addition, we have six wrestlers here today with no record and two, Hara and Meiko, with a chance to get a personal win.”
Toi looks over at Kojima, standing with hands clasped in front of him. Kojima nods for him to continue.
“Tonight is about choosing contenders. Contenders who, at ALL OR NOTHING, will be competing for the Full Throttle Openweight Championship. Some of our roster with winning records are already tied up with competing for the Twin Engines Championships so Kodama, Omori, Marufuji, Harashima and Taiji are ruled out of the running for Openweight contenders. That leaves our possible eight contenders as: Ueno, Yoh, Yo-Hey, Hiromu, Maya, Meiko, Kushida & Mochizuki. Mochizuki is not scheduled for today’s show and will therefore automatically advance to the Openweight championship match. For the remaining seven, a personal victory will secure their place, any kind of loss or draw could lose it.”
Toi, clearly getting into his role, looks up, grinning.
“With that said, let’s give four of those seven a chance right now! Our opening match today will be a tag match between the A-YO team of Yoh and Yo-Hey and the special tag of Hiromu and Maya Yuhiki. Full throttle, engines start!”
MATCH ONE: YOH/YO-HEY (A-YO) VS HIROMU TAKAHASHI/MAYA YUHIKI (SEIKI-GUN)
Yoh and Yo-Hey enter first, both in bright white with blue accents, the most notable of Yo-Hey’s being his bright blue tongue, which he makes sure the crowd gets a good look at.
Maya enters first for the seiki-gun team, posing in the ring in split length tight/shorts, with a cut-off jacket that looks suspiciously like it might have had a previous life in the wardrobe of her teammate for the day, Hiromu. Maya leans casually in the corner as Hiromu bounds into the ring, the two sharing a nod. The moment of understanding is more than just recognition however, as the two immediate fly across the ring to attack their unsuspecting opponents. Maya drags Yoh to the outside by the neck of his jacket and then headfirst into the ringpost, leaving Hiromu to deal with Yo-Hey in the ring. He does exactly that, slamming Yo-Hey to the mat. It’s an easy spring back up for Yo-Hey however and the two end up dodging each others running attacks until a misdirection by Yo-Hey gets Hiromu caught in a hurricanrana.
Yo-Hey and Hiromu both seem pretty pleased with their exchanges, grinning throughout. Yo-Hey even takes a moment to wag his finger at Hiromu, though he most likely regrets it when Hiromu grabs his fingers and uses them as leverage to get a headlock. There are some heavy hits, including a missile dropkick from Yo-Hey, and some tough forearms from Hiromu, but neither seem to wipe the smiles off their faces.
By mutual agreement both tag in their partners, leaving Yoh and Maya to circle. They exchange wrist control, then headlocks, then go to the ground. Yoh has a clear technical advantage but seems to lack Maya’s viciousness and willingness to make full use of any time before a rope break. As a consequence, he ends up expending rather more energy than Maya early on and finds himself on the receiving end of more than a few boots to the face. A running elbow is enough to turn the tables though and a backdrop gives him the chance for the first pin attempt.
Unsuccessful, Yoh drags Maya to the corner. Yo-Hey tags in and the pair manoeuvre Maya to the centre, throwing her off the ropes and into a double clothesline. Yo-Hey makes a pin attempt of his own, which Maya kicks out of easily. Her frustration is clear as she stands and Yo-Hey earns a slap for his trouble. There is a brief exchange of slaps before a kick combo by Maya has Yo-Hey back at the ropes and tied up for Maya to land some chops. The exchange is broken up by the referee eventually but it’s Maya who comes out of the exchange grinning. Yo-Hey makes a few further attempts to get the best of the situation but tags out eventually to the fresher Yoh.
Yoh seems more prepared now for Maya’s offence and manages to get her to the mat and dragging her way out of a single leg boston crab. Although worn down, Maya is out for revenge. She manages to trip Yoh, leaving him hanging over the second rope. Maya climbs onto the apron to deliver a knee to the side of his head that leaves him dazed enough for a pin.
Maya’s pin attempt on Yoh is broken up by Yo-Hey but also attracts considerable attention from her own corner, with Hiromu also stepping through the ropes and not necessarily to stop Yo-Hey. As a pin here could earn any one of them a chance at the title, the incentive for teamwork is rapidly diminishing as time passes. Whilst the A-YO team at least have the bond of their tag team to fall back on, Hiromu and Maya’s connection only extends as far as sharing wardrobe.
Hiromu’s entry to the ring doesn’t go unnoticed and Maya’s glances back to her own corner leave her vulnerable to Yoh’s attack, going down to a jumping knee. Maya manages to escape Yoh’s attempt at a sharpshooter by scrabbling for the ropes but she’s now very much on the defensive. A dropkick from Yoh sends her flying into the A-YO corner and Yo-Hey is only too happy to tag himself in once his partner gets close. Yoh doesn’t look thrilled but Yo-Hey waves him off, laughing cheerily.
Yo-Hey pulls Maya up by her hair as Yoh exits, earning a punch to the stomach for his audacity. Having earned a slight rest from Yoh’s slow exit, she’s able to push Yo-Hey back and proceeds to remind him why he tagged out before. She knocks him into the ropes, making sure he stays there and down by grinding her heel into his face. With Yo-Hey seated and face pressed back under Maya’s boot, the referee forces a break. It looks like Maya will follow up with a running kick to the downed Yo-Hey but he manages to trip her into the ropes, setting her up for the Ganmen G. Maya scrambles out of the way just in time, instinctively reaching to tag in her partner, something she instantly seems to regret, screaming in frustration as Hiromu bounds into the ring.
Yo-Hey seems pleased at another chance at Hiromu but struggles to match the power of his attacks. A shotgun dropkick from Hiromu sends Yo-Hey flying across the ring and he never seems to quite recover. Follow up dropkicks from Yo-Hey to keep Hiromu away cost him and, although he manages to create some opportunities to strike back, Hiromu is able to push out of both a cutter attempt and a roll up. Hiromu ends up the only one still smiling, lifting Yo-Hey up and then into the Timebomb II.
Hiromu def. Yo-Hey with timebomb II (11:30)
Yoh rolls in to take care of Yo-Hey, their team seemingly undamaged by the potential conflict. Yo-Hey leans heavily on Yoh as he leaves, still clutching at his ribs. Maya watches from the apron, notably pouting as Hiromu gets his hand raised and his place as a challenger for the Openweight title confirmed. It seems like there might be a falling out but Hiromu extends a hand over the ropes which, eventually, Maya accepts.
MATCH TWO: SHO (SEIKI-GUN) VS FUMINORI ABE (A-YO)
Despite his loss last week to Ueno, it’s a cocky looking Sho who makes his way to the ring for this match. With neither competitor eligible for a title challenge, this match is solely about pride and a test of their skills. Abe, coming to the ring, looks to be wholly unaffected by his opponent’s smirking overconfidence.
Observable only to those in the crowd facing the entrance door is the face of one man keeping a close eye on the action in the ring. Yoh appears to be taking an interest in his former partner’s activities, though he disappears as soon as the match ends without comment or involvement.
There’s an atmosphere of expectation amongst the crowd as the two begin to circle slowly, both shaking out arms and legs. The first few moments are a battle of wrist and waist control, both managing to twist out of the others grip with little hesitation and the flair of a flip or two. As they lock up for the third time, it’s Sho who manages to get control of Abe’s arm, pressing his opponent to the mat. A series of reversals follows, Sho seeming to inflict the most damage but Abe scrambles free yet again, launching a hefty kick at the back of the seated Sho. Sho is on his feet immediately, squaring up to Abe in the centre of the ring, both baring mouthguards at each other as they press chests together. Sho hits Abe with a forearm, only to be knocked back with a violent slap. Naturally, Sho is happy to respond, the crowd audibly reacting to the echoing of slaps around the small hall.
Abe lands the harder slaps and then elbows, Sho driven to his feet. Abe calls for support from the crowd as he uses the ropes to land yet another solid kick on the back of the seated Sho. Sho jumps up again, furious, hitting Abe with a DDT and then grabbing hold of his legs for a boston crab, applied with a deep squat. Sho grins as Abe struggles to drag himself to the ropes, pleased to be punishing his opponent with such a simple attack.
The feeling-out phase of this match very definitely over, they alternative between aggressive attacks in the corner and trying to do as much damage as possible to their opponent on the ground. Abe focuses particularly on Sho’s legs, trying to weaken his base for any more explosive offence. Another extended exchange of strikes in the centre seems to give Sho an advantage and a follow up lariat gives him a chance to manipulate Abe into a triangle choke. Abe is not done however, managing an impressive backwards toss to loosen Sho’s grip and roll out. The pace picks up suddenly, with leg strikes from both men leaving them down and catching their breath. A slow rise to their knees leads to yet another elbow exchange, followed up by a bridging suplex from Sho for a 2 count.
Once on his feet again, Abe is fired up, all kicks and punches until he goes for an octopus stretch on Sho. He struggles to lock it in but finally manages it, forcing Sho to shuffle his way to a rope break. Sho returns Abe’s fire, the crowd getting louder in their applause as the pinfalls come faster now. Another suplex from Sho keeps Abe down momentarily but doesn’t seem to wear him out. Sho drags Abe to his feet, looking for a shock arrow, but Abe works his way out and pushes Sho back with kicks and a frankensteiner to regain control. Two flash pin attempts from Abe frustrate Sho, whose attacks become less coordinated. An attempt at a spear meets Abe’s kick and another suplex attempt leads to a back elbow and an enzuigiri that has Sho dazed. Capitalising quickly, Abe sweeps Sho down, rolling him into an Onryo clutch and keeping him down for the count.
Sho, exploding out of the hold moments too late, slams the mat in frustration. He looks up at a smiling Abe with a look of disgust, slamming the mat again and huffing all the way to the back.
Abe def. Sho with an Onryo clutch (16:00)
Yuki Tanizaki, the older of the two dojo trainees, clambers in the ring as the crowd finish applauding the departing Abe. He hands ring announcer Shindo a note, which seems to cause some confusion. After a few moments, the issue appears resolved and Tanizaki leaves. The crowd awaits Shindo’s announcement.
“A stipulation has been added to today’s advertised match between Jackets and T.O.P This will now be a 4 on 4 elimination tag match, with the last person standing being given the right to challenge for any of the Full Throttle belts. If only members of the same team remain, elimination rules will still apply until one person is left standing.”
Match Three: JACKETS Vs T.O.P (Right to Challenge tag elimination match)
The Jackets team are the first to make their way to the ring. Even given that a circuit of the ring should only take around 20 seconds, Jiro manages to extend that to 5 minutes, being the last to join his teammates in the ring to pose.
There’s some confusion as T.O.P enter – with only three members, the crowd are craning to see who might be joining them. But T.O.P seem as confused as anyone, shrugging as they make their way to the ring. Both teams look over at each other warily. After last week’s match between MAO & ASUKA and Seiki & Jiro, there appear to still be some hard feelings, at least on ASUKA’s side. With no fourth member seemingly appearing, Jackets remove their…jackets, looking to get down to business, and T.O.P start a game of janken to decide who goes first. Before the bell is rung however, there’s a shout from the corner and Toi Kojima, dressed in black and pink trunks – the T.O.P colours – races into the ring. Use of the colours or Toi’s entrance do not seem to have been approved by the team who stare confusedly at Toi before huddling in the corner whispering, albeit very loudly, snatches of their conversation reaching both the crowd and a grinning Toi, who gradually loses his smile.
“…fits…I am not!..”
“But..fired?!?…give me 5 minutes…”
T.O.P look up and over at the hopeful looking Toi, who smiles and nods encouragingly, before bowing their heads again.
“..just for…you do it…no”
MAO leaves the group, hands behind his back, walking over to Toi. He clears his throat dramatically.
“We would like to offer our illustrious General Manager, Toi Kojima, a one night trial membership”
MAO thrusts out his hand in Toi’s direction.
“Full membership” MAO looks over Toi’s shoulder at his teammates, frantically shaking their heads. Toi turns to look over his shoulder, prompting the pair to attempt to cover up their head shaking by miming following an imaginary fly around the ring.
“Full…membership?? Are you sure? Is that a good idea?”
“I’M THE BOSS AND I WANT IN!!!”
MAO holds up his hands in defeat, Toi grabbing one and shaking it to seal the deal. With the two distracted in the very vigorous handshake, the Jackets team seize the initiative, running in to attack them both. MAO and Toi are separated by the strikes to their backs and whilst Toi’s new teammates are able to distract Seiki and Watase from their attack on him, MAO is left to deal with Jiro and Kushida. He finds himself whipped into the ropes but manages to hold on to avoid the twin dropkicks. MAO runs across the ring, narrowly ducking under their outstretched arms once, twice, three times, until a trip from Kushida sends him sprawling. The bell finally rings and something approaching a normal match is able to start.
Kushida stays in the ring to take on MAO, whilst their respective team members retreat to their corners. Kushida pulls MAO up from the neck, only to toss him back down to a seated position and deliver a handspring dropkick. It’s a flashy start for Kushida’s first appearance in Full Throttle and appreciated by the crowd. He follows up by gaining control of MAO’s left arm, stretching it back, forcing MAO to follow his movement. MAO flounders on the mat temporarily but is able to stretch a foot out to the ropes before Kushida is really able to gain an advantage. On their feet MAO seems more comfortable and the two end up throwing each other into the ropes, MAO managing to knock Kushida’s feet from under him and follow up with a leg drop. The two seem evenly matched with a quick pin attempt coming off a handspring enzuigiri and superkick combo for MAO. A kimura from Kushida looks to have MAO in trouble until it is broken up by ASUKA and Ueno. Sensibly, MAO tags out after managing to knock Kushida down again, replaced by Ueno for the T.O.P team.
Ueno takes a more technical approach, the two locking up and trading arm control until Kushida manages to twist his way out and tag in Seiki. Seiki goes for a faster paced approach to Ueno’s offence, rocking Ueno early with a scissor kick. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem quite able to match up to Ueno’s strength, finding himself lifted up and crashed down as Ueno catches him off a run. Ueno gets in an elbow drop for good measure before attempting an early pin. He fails to get more than 1.5 but is buoyed by the attempt. Seiki manages to recover well, landing several heavy kicks to Ueno’s chest to push him back. The two get into an exchange of elbows that ends in Yuki able to get a grip on Seiki and a suplex that leaves him dazed on the mat at Ueno goes for the T.O.P corner.
Toi tags in, going straight for a diving crossbody on the still slightly disoriented Seiki. He follows up with a leg lariat and a quick pin attempt. Seiki kicks out emphatically, getting momentum back once he is on his feet, knocking Toi down easily with an enzuigiri. With Toi on his knees, Seiki goes to hit a running PK but pulls up short as Toi holds up his hands and shouts, eyes closed “ELIMINATE ME AND YOU’RE FIRED!!”
Seiki looks down at Toi, now grinning like he’s just discovered his superpower, which he has. Sort of.
Seiki leaves Toi and walks over to confer with his corner. Shrugs all round leave Seiki distracted as Toi gets to his feet and starts attacking Seiki from behind. It’s enough to give Toi an advantage, getting Seiki back to the centre of the ring for a dropkick and swift 1 count. Seiki kicks out, scrambling to his feet to land a couple of kicks in Toi’s midriff. He pulls Toi into the corner, looking to follow up with an elbow but again Toi makes his intentions known “I said FIRED”. Seiki pulls up, shakes his head, wanders to his corner and forcibly tags in Watase.
Watase, it seems, has a plan. After a few moments of circling in the ring, he gains control of Toi’s arm, twisting it behind him and steering Toi to the T.O.P corner.
“Tag him out”
T.O.P exchange glances and each step back, dropping from the ring apron and out of reach. They seem to have figured that this is the route of least resistance. ASUKA blows a kiss back at the ring and a frustrated Watase. Watase, having little other choice, chooses violence.
It momentarily appears that normal service may have resumed, with Watase and Toi exchanging blows and Watase managing to get Toi in position for a backdrop. Toi kicks out of a follow up pin of his own accord but as Watase drags him up for a short range lariat and tries again, Toi returns to a more vocal offence, making it very clear that Watase can expect to be walking back to Tokyo and without a job. Watase releases the pin, sitting up and letting a laughing Toi roll out of the way.
Ueno, perhaps realising his chance to win is somewhat diminished with a power hungry teammate in the ring, reaches out a hand, offering it to the laughing Toi. Toi shrieks at him, eyes wild “No Tags! I’ll fire you too! I’m going to WIN!!!”. A burst of maniacal laughter follows. Watase, still sitting in the centre of the ring, looks exceedingly annoyed.
Both the Jackets and T.O.P teams confer in their respective corners whilst Toi, still laughing, kicks at Watase, who is sitting with his arms crossed sulking. After a few moments MAO beckons to the Jackets team. Warily, Kushida crosses the ring, ignoring Watase and Toi, to whisper with T.O.P. He nods vigorously in response to their whispering, crossing back, still ignoring Toi, now attempting unsuccessfully to pin Watase.
Finally a solution to Toi’s power madness is found. Kushida distracts Toi, whilst Jiro throws his Jacket over Toi’s head. No longer able to see who is attacking him, both the Jackets and T.O.P teams leap into the ring to hold down their struggling GM for the count. They scatter once the deed is done. It looks for a moment like Toi might rebel against the decision as he looks around frantically for who should pay for this. Fortunately, the teams are saved by the arrival of Kojima, who firmly places an arm around the defeated Toi and leads him from the ring.
Toi eliminated via…jackets? (7:12)
Toi’s departure leaves the teams free to continue on. Ueno enters to take on Watase, with a high speed exchange and mirrored dropkicks picking up the pace again. With attempts from both to get control of their opponent, it’s Ueno who eventually gets the upper hand with a backdrop suplex. He kicks out of Ueno’s pin attempt but with Watase down, T.O.P storm the ring to knock their opponents off the apron. MAO and Yuki then climb up on opposite corners to land sequential frogsplashes on a tired looking Watase. Ueno goes for a pin, with Watase narrowly kicking out yet again. Watase manages to land a heavy forearm to Ueno’s midriff as they stand, letting him escape to tag in Kushida. Kushida and Ueno feel each other out again, Ueno missing his shot to take Kushida down and paying for it by getting caught in an armbar attempt that has both scrabbling on the mat until Ueno can reverse control. He backs off, tagging in MAO.
MAO’s speedy offence is more effective against Kushida as he avoids getting caught in a grappling match and focuses on landing quick blows. Both manage to catch the other attempting handsprings into the ropes but for Kushida it turns the tables, MAO now less keen on running into Kushida’s strikes. MAO manages to hold his own initially but a series of strikes in the corner, followed by the jackets team collectively landing several elbows as he lies in the middle of the ring, wears him down. Kushida manages to secure the hoverboard lock whilst his teammates see to it that ASUKA and Ueno are otherwise occupied. MAO is forced to tap, leaving just 2 members of T.O.P to the Jackets 4.
MAO eliminated by Kushida by submission (10:45)
Ueno, getting away from the grip of Seiki on the outside, enters the ring quickly, knocking Kushida down just as he stands. There’s some impressive teamwork from the remaining T.O.P pair to even the score, with Kushida briefly trapped between kicks from Ueno and ASUKA until Seiki drags ASUKA from the ring. T.O.P rally again when the Jackets team return to their corner and Ueno manages to whip Kushida into the ropes that ASUKA is pulling down from the outside, making it easy for Ueno to finish the job with a lariat.
Kushida eliminated by Ueno over the top rope (12:01)
Delighted, Ueno raises his arms in the ring, apparently momentarily forgetting that he’s still a target. Jiro rushes in to land a forearm to Ueno’s unprotected stomach. He follows up with some punches, which Ueno staggers away from. Jiro makes the error of trusting Ueno’s weakness, launching himself at Ueno, sat clutching his stomach by the ropes. Ueno reacts fast, grabbing the top rope down and extending a leg to make sure Jiro finds himself tripping. Ueno has to grab Jiro’s legs to lever him over and follow up with a kick to finish the job but the score is suddenly even, much to Jiro’s annoyance.
Jiro eliminated by Ueno over the top rope (12:53)
Watase is wary of getting in the ring with Ueno but Ueno tags out, giving ASUKA an opportunity. The two circle slowly, locking up and breaking apart a few times before Watase secures a headlock on ASUKA. ASUKA manages to throw Watase into the ropes and catch him with a kick to the face. Another sequence running the ropes has Watase going for a dropkick, failing to connect as ASUKA holds on to ropes, taunting Watase as he falls flat. ASUKA follows up with a kick to the downed Watase and some posing before they resume their offence.
Watase catches ASUKA off the ropes with a forearm, sending them reeling. There’s an exchange of elbows until Watase loses patience, going for several. It turns out to be a mistake on Watase’s part. He’s already worn down from his earlier time in the ring and ASUKA is fresh enough to withstand the onslaught and respond. A beautiful bridging suplex, followed up by a moonsault press puts Watase away emphatically.
Watase eliminated by ASUKA by moonsault press (16:03)
ASUKA tags Ueno back in to face the wary Seiki. In contrast to their earlier clash, Seiki appears to have the advantage, having spent less time in the ring. Seiki’s kicks, particularly to Ueno’s chest, prove effective an keeping Ueno at a distance and slowing him down for Seiki’s speed attacks. Unfortunately for Seiki, he’s disadvantaged by ASUKA’s interference, twice having to shake off attacks that prevent a pin attempt. Eventually Seiki decides to focus some of his offence on ASUKA on the outside, knocking them off the apron with a boot to the face. Ueno, seeing an opportunity, goes to attack Seiki’s back. Unfortunately this gives Seiki the opportunity to lift Ueno up and flip him over the ropes. Ueno holds on on the outside but Seiki uses the momentum from the ropes to hit Ueno with a running elbow as he attempts to leap back into the ring and Ueno is eliminated.
Ueno eliminated by Seiki over the top rope (19:00)
As the last two in the ring, ASUKA and Seiki take some time to get reacquainted, neither wanting to earn a loss at the last hurdle. Their cautiousness doesn’t last long though, both aware that their stamina can only last so long in what has been a chaotic match thus far. There is a brief exchange of kicks before the harder offence follows. A springboard rolling elbow and DDT from ASUKA earns a 2 count. Seiki responds with hard knees to ASUKA’s midriff and a leg lariat to also get a pin attempt. Seiki lands a series of kicks on ASUKA whilst they are down, prompting a frustrated fist to the mat from ASUKA and an exchange of forearms that leaves the two shouting and glaring at each other in the centre of the ring. The temperature of the match seems to have gone up dramatically as they re-engage, exchanging chest kicks now. Seiki manages to force ASUKA back to the corner with a series of kicks and then a running knee. He drags ASUKA by the hair to the centre of the ring, looking for a crush driver. ASUKA struggles out, only to be knocked down moments later with a mid-kick and scissor kick combo. The pin attempt by Seiki fails but, as ASUKA struggles up, they are caught with a kick to the head. Seiki is able to gain sufficient control for a powerbomb, leaning over ASUKA as they struggle to lift a shoulder in time but to no avail. Seiki wins.
ASUKA eliminated by Seiki by powerbomb (22:23)
After Seiki’s hand is raised, with ASUKA stomping away from the ring, Special Advisor Satsoshi Kojima makes his way back to the ring, accompanied by a sheepish looking Toi, still in his black and pink shorts, clutching the box containing the Full Throttle challenge hi-tops. Kojima reaches for the mic, congratulating Seiki and offering him the shoebox. Seiki takes the shoes carefully, showing them the respect they deserve. He opens the lid to show the trainers to the crowd, who oooh and ahhh appreciatively. A round of handshakes later and Seiki leaves the ring with his prize, leaving Satoshi Kojima to make a further announcement.
“Earlier today we told you that we wanted our champions to earn their place. And we do. But being a good champion doesn’t just mean earning a win.” Kojima looks pointedly over at Toi, still rubbing his neck awkwardly. “It’s also about earning respect and support from each other and from you, the fans. That’s why, as we still have one belt not yet accounted for, we’d like to announce another sort of contest. There are 4 spots available to compete for the Lightspeed Championship. Those 4 spots go to the 4 wrestlers who sell the most portraits during the intermission of this show. We thank you for your custom.”
Kojima and Toi leave the ring, Kojima putting his arm around Toi’s shoulder as they head to the back. There’s an initial murmur and then a clamour as fans search their wallets to make sure their favourites get an opportunity.
MATCH FOUR: SATOMURA (S&M’S ALLIANCE) V YAMASHITA (BRAVE-RE)
It’s a determined looking Miyu who makes her way to the ring first, a little extra fire in her kick as she poses in the ring. There’s a definite hint of nervous energy as she stands to the side, waiting for Satomura to enter. Satomura, in full robes, takes her time making her way to the ring but once in her corner wears a similarly serious expression to Yamashita.
The match starts out with high energy from both as they each look to take the centre of the ring, circling quickly and then making contact with low kicks. Miyu is notably cautious in her distance but manages to grab Satomura’s leg and get in close, steering her back into the ropes. She attempts to keeps her pressed there but Satomura’s strength overpowers Yamashita’s and their positions are reversed.The swift and painful kick Satomura lands as she backs off gives the aura that this match is going to get heated. The referee has to get a little distance between the two for the match to continue, something that is increasingly needed throughout the match as the two repeatedly try to inflict extra strikes and kicks wherever they can. At one point Yamashita has Satomura in the corner with Wada calling for Yamashita to step back. She does, but only to the distance where she can land a series of kicks to Meiko’s chest and has to be forcibly pulled back. Despite the aggression on both sides, this doesn’t feel like desperation. After each heated exchange, Miyu or Meiko back off, reset and start again. Each contact feels like a new opportunity to build on the damage done before. Even a screaming exchange of forearms feels as much tactical as emotional.
On the ground Meiko has a clear advantage and it’s there that she keeps trying to take this match. Miyu is clearly wary, keeping close to the ropes where possible to avoid Meiko’s swift takedowns. However, there’s only so much she can do and still be on the offensive and a quick hip toss, transitioned into an armbar by Satomura takes some effort for Miyu to fight her way out of. She does, managing just to maintain control of her arm and twist to get Satomura pressed to the mat but she is notably less energetic as they make their way to their feet. At already 12 minutes into this match, longer than she lasted in their previous encounter, it looks like defeat is on the cards. Satomura looks much the same as when she began the match, Yamashita, though not showing it in her breathing, looks to be a little less light on her feet. However, Miyu cannot be wholly counted out and she manages to catch Satomura with a blow to the midsection and a follow up roundhouse kick that knocks her down but not out. Yamashita follows up with kicks to a kneeling Satomura but, in her haste to capitalise, gives Satomura the chance to grab her leg and turn the tables, twisting Miyu into an ankle lock.
It’s at this point that some of Yamashita’s desperation begins to show through. She manages, scrambling wildly, to drag herself to the ropes and kick Satomura off. They both stand and the follow up exchange of kicks to the chest echoes around the hall as the crowd are increasingly holding their breath. An overhead slam, followed up with a leg drop from Satomura leads to a close pin but Miyu yet again manages to push herself. Responding, the pace of the match picks up, both trying to land running elbows. Yamashita yet again manages to land her kicks at the right time, winding Satomura coming off a flying forearm attempt and briefly looking like she might have a chance. But Meiko seems to kick easily out of the resulting pin attempt. Both are caught off guard by the one minute call as they kneel in the ring exchanging forearms to the face. Satomura picks up the force in her strikes, something Yamashita can’t match and she finds herself on her back for another pin attempt. She narrowly kicks out but Satomura drags her up, hitting her with knees to the midriff as she attempts to lift Yamashita for a death valley bomb. Yamashita is saved only by the bell ringing, dropping to her knees as Satomura relinquishes her grip.
Time limit draw (20:00)
As Satomura stands in the centre of the ring, Miyu crawls to the side, clutching her ribs. She props herself up against the ropes watching, pained, as Meiko stands, hands on hips, clearly frustrated. Miyu drops her head, looking to slide out of the ring, but a shout from Satomura calls her attention back. Meiko reaches out for a mic.
“Yamashita. I wanted to beat you. I wanted to show you how far you have to climb. But I felt your strength. You haven’t grown enough but you have grown. Don’t hang your head!”
Miyu nods, a determined look on her face as she uses the ropes to ease herself to her feet. Meiko continues.
“Growth is important. Even I must continue to grow. Yamashita, I have a proposition for you. As you know, I lead the dojo at Full Throttle. I believe you have much to teach our trainees about growth. Join me in leading the dojo.”
The shock causes Yamashita to straighten, wincing as she does, but the hard look of determination in her face has softened. She looks genuinely surprised at Satomura’s proposition, a sheen in her eyes that betrays the tears springing up. She seems to hesitate for just a second, then “yes” as she steps forward to grasp Meiko’s hands, bowing deeply. Yamashita winces again as Satomura raises Miyu’s hand in recognition but it’s followed with a smile this time. The two leave the ring together to enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
Ahead of the main event, Kojima and Kojima yet again make their way to the ring to announce the contenders for ALL OR NOTHING. Toi Kojima is first, announcing the four contenders for the lightspeed championship.
“Sales have been counted and we have our four leading contenders for the lightspeed championship. In order, we have Miyu Yamashita, Yo-Hey, MAO and Hiromu Takahashi. Hiromu is otherwise engaged on that night and hence is delighted to offer his place to the fifth placed wrestler, Yuki Ueno. At ALL OR NOTHING we will see Ueno, ASUKA, Yo-Hey and Yamashita face off in a four-way match for the Full Throttle Lightspeed Championship!”
Toi hands the mic to the man next to him, Satoshi Kojima. Kojima smiles broadly at the crowd.
“And it falls to me to inform you that the Full Throttle Openweight Championship will be disputed between our two roster members with a winning record – Masaaki Mochizuki and Hiromu Takahashi!”
Kojima pauses for the applause to soften.
“Without any further delay, let’s determine the final match-up for ALL OR NOTHING. It’s the Twin Engines contenders!”
MAIN EVENT: HARASHIMARUFUJI (S&M’S ALLIANCE) VS KOTAIJI (BRAVE-RE)
Kotoge and Taiji enter first, reprising their sleeveless hooded jackets from younger days – Kotoge in pink (obviously) and Taiji in yellow. They appear in good spirits and ready to face off against the more experienced team. Harashimarufuji enter in an equally good mood, Harashima flashing plenty of smiles at the crowd as he and Marufuji climb up onto the apron. Marufuji seems more focused on grinning at his opponents, clearly keen to show them the error in their choice of challenge.
After minimal deliberation, Harashima and Kotoge enter first, both light on their feet as they stretch out fingers warily. Heads down, they struggle for control, each trying to get hold of a wrist or arm. Harashima manages to manoeuvre Kotoge into a headlock, Kotoge throwing him into the ropes to escape. A sequence of them avoiding each other off the ropes is ended by Kotoge’s dropkick but, as he attempts to follow up with more running offence, he’s caught with a boot to the face and a follow up foot stomp. Kotoge is then dragged to the corner and positioned on the ropes for a jumping footstomp and, as he writhes on the floor, dragged back to the centre for an early pin attempt.
Harashima takes Kotoge to the corner, knocking him down and using the leverage of the corner post and ropes to stomp on Kotoge’s chest and shoulders. He tags in Marufuji, all too happy to follow up on the damage to Kotoge’s chest with a series of chops that turn Kotoge as pink as his shorts. When they get into the centre of the ring the pace picks up, the two narrowly avoiding each others’ shots as they come off the ropes. Kotoge gains control of Marufuji’s wrist but a twist and cartwheel to escape from Marufuji makes the point that he can stand up to his junior opponent’s speed, for now. An exchange of running kicks from both seems to have them evenly matched but Marufuji decides to earn himself some rest, knocking Kotoge down with a lariat and applying a chin lock. It’s a short but tiring drag for Kotoge to get to the ropes. When he does Marufuji gives him the space to tag in his waiting partner, keen to get reacquainted with Taiji’s talents.
It doesn’t take long for Marufuji to goad Taiji into a chop exchange that Taiji inevitably comes out of worse. However, Taiji also plays on his own strengths, managing to launch Marufuji across the ring with a well placed dropkick. Taiji follows up the kick with a cheeky roll up that has Marufuji scowling as he kicks out. Low kicks as they circle each other leave them both wincing but without a clear winner. Taiji ends up going to the top rope to secure an advantage, Marufuji following him, managing to prevent any aerial attack and slamming Taiji to the mat in the process. A jumping knee from Taiji manages to swing things back his way though, securing a DDT and a two count on Marufuji.
The strategy from the Kotaiji team seems to be relying on their speed and a quick exchange of tags. The Harashimarufuji team, by contrast, seem more content to pick their moments and wait out the quick attacks of their opponents. Where the teams really differ though is in their teamwork. The Harashimarufuji team are confident, neither rushing the pace to match the more frenzied approach of their opponents and rarely entering the ring together. The Kotaiji team, by comparison, appear to be throwing everything at their opponents from an early stage, connecting with a cutter-baseball slide combo on Harashima and a series of running elbows to Marufuji that get Marufuji particularly fired up.
Although the Brave-RE pair are successful in preventing their opponents from getting too great an advantage, the heavier assaults from Harashimaruji start to wear them down, particularly with Marufuji being inclined to take Taiji and Kotoge to the outside at various points to make sure they have the additional hard impact of the floor or ringposts. Kotoge spends an uncomfortable amount of time in the corner at the mercy of Harashima’s heavy kicks. Harashima, unsurprisingly, is tireless but Kotoge is too, repeatedly kicking out of any attempts to by Harashima to turn the advantage into a win. The extended attack on Kotoge gives Taiji a chance to gather his energy so when his partner finally manages to reach out to make the tag, he’s up on the ropes, landing a swandive on Harashima to knock him down.
Taiji wastes no time in securing Harashima’s arm and applying a face lock to the man still pressed to the mat. Dragging himself with his free arm, Harashima makes some progress towards the ropes but Taiji releases the hold as they get close, standing and thrusting a kick at Harashima’s back to keep him down. Taiji backs off but makes the mistake of turning his back on Harashima, who is quick to his feet. A dropkick to Taiji’s back knocks him, face first, into the ropes, half hanging out of the ring. As Taiji slumps, his torso draped over the top rope. Harashima rushes to the corner post, climbing and only pausing momentarily before launching a foot stomp onto Taiji’s back, to the audible gasp of the crowd, tipping him out of the ring and onto the floor. Harashima follows Taiji out onto the floor. It looks like Kotoge might intervene but Marufuji hits him from behind and gets him in a headlock, steering him away from the action and Taiji getting a backdrop on the outside.
Back in the ring, Harashima returns the favour with a face lock on Ishimori. With Kotoge tied up with Marufuji on the outside, it takes several attempts for Taiji to make it to the ropes, leaving him drained. It seems for a while that Harashima may have the better of Ishimori as they grapple on the mat but Taiji finally escapes, hopping away from a near ankle lock to tag in Kotoge.
Kotoge throws Harashima to the corner for some elbows. Heavy kicks from Harashima earn him a 2 count on Kotoge but as he makes for the corner post to follow up, Kotoge scrambles to hit him from behind, delaying his climb. Kotoge is joined in the ring by Ishimori and, as Harashima turns on the ropes to face his opponents, Ishimori manages a top rope hurricanrana, setting Harashima up for a swan dive and pin from Kotoge. It’s not enough and Harashima is up and striking Kotoge within moments. A running cutter attempt from Kotoge is blocked with a kick, followed up by a second that has Kotoge down yet again. And yet again, he manages to thrust a shoulder up from the mat at the last second. Marufuji looks to interfere, growing frustrated that things don’t seem to be going their way, but Ishimori catches him with a dropkick and the two end up brawling on the outside.
Harashima looks to put Kotoge away for good, slinging him into the corner opposite a gearing up for a run. But the distraction of Marufuji and Taiji seems to have given Kotoge breathing room and he scrambles out of the way of Harashima’s Somato, leaving Harashima on his knees and unprepared for the kick Kotoge lands to his head. He’s even less prepared for a follow up leg lariat and to find himself rocked, staring at the ceiling. Marufuji is still kneeling by the apron and with Harashima on the other side of the ring, doesn’t seem to quite recognise the danger his partner is in. Kotoge sets up Harashima for the kill switch, as Taiji climbs to the top rope, delivering a stomp to Harashima’s back as he hits the mat. Harashima narrowly kicks out but Kotoge drags him to the centre of the ring for a second kill switch whilst Taiji tackles Marufuji attempting to slide into the ring. It’s too much, too fast for Harashima and an exhausted looking Kotoge collapses on top of him to hold him down for the count.
Kotoge def. Harashima with the kill switch (23:14)
Taiji races into the ring to throw his arms around the grinning Kotoge, who stays seated, still catching his breath. Harashima stays, staring at the ceiling. Waiting for the helping hands of his partner. Marufuji however is standing on the outside staring at Harashima in the ring, his expression blank. After barely a moment he walks off to the back, leaving Harashima to be rolled out of the ring by trainee Ryota.
The atmosphere in the ring is a mix of pure delight as Taiji holds up Kotoge’s arm and painful disappointment as Harashima exits, defeated and alone.
The challengers are joined in the ring by the champions, Omori wearing a jacket for the occasion to go with the shiny belt over his shoulder. The teams face off briefly, the champions holding up their Twin Engines belts in the defiant faces of the Brave-RE challengers. Taiji grabs the microphone for a brief address.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been tag champions. But that’s about to change, thanks to you two. We look forward to taking those belts out of your hands”
The champions look at each other, shrug and then simultaneously slam the belts that they are holding into the faces of their opponents, knocking them down. Kodama retrieves the mic from between Kotoge and Taiji, aiming a kick at Kotoge’s side as he does.
“I SO appreciate this cute little reunion. But don’t get ahead of yourselves. At ALL OR NOTHING you’ll need to do a lot more than beat up some old guys. We plan on keeping our undefeated record.”
Kodama drops the mic, retrieving his belt alongside Omori’s, the two exiting the ring laughing. Kotoge and Taiji help each other to stand, looking dishevelled but determined. The two exit the ring to applause from the crowd, leaning heavily on each other as they make their way to the back.