Every now and then, I think about what ties the connection between anime fans and wrestling fans together. Is it the over the top storytelling? Is it the colorful characters? Or is it simply a shared fascination of watching big, muscular men beat the crap out of other big, muscular men? Perhaps we’ll never know the true answer, but one thing is for sure – Tiger Mask W is a real good blend of both, and this week, we have a real good helping of New Japan star power getting some screen time.
It seems that Naoto’s made quite the impression with the higher ups at New Japan Pro Wrestling, as Tiger Mask has been invited to take part in a “series.” Clearly, he’s become a hot commodity, as their event is a sell-out, and Okada gives Tiger a warm welcome. Out at the merch table, though, a lone talent named Fukuwara Mask is trying to shill some keychains, when he’s met by – cue the big pop – Togi Makabe, making small talk. But out comes Tiger Mask, and the few folks at the merch table are now interested in buying Fukuwara’s keychains – along with a handshake from Tiger, of course. As for this Fukuwara Mask fellow, he’s playing the role of a comedy relief wrestler. And not a good one. There have been a number of failed comedy gimmicks in wrestling, such as Kizarny (a freak from a carnival), Eugene (a mentally retarded wrestler, ha ha ha ughhhh…), and anyone out of mid-90s WWF. And this guy? He’s among that elite group, he is BAD. Major go-away heat bad. And yet, he managed to win his match against Wakamatsu via countout, by “outsmarting” him and throwing him into the ring post. Later on, Tiger Mask is having quite the match against Tomoaki Honma, capitalizing after a missed flying headbutt and winning the match after a German suplex bridge cover. This definitely feels like a New Japan house show, that’s for sure.
Things are gearing up for GWM, though, at their show in NOT New York at the NOT Madison Square Garden, with a marquee battle royal main event rounding out the card. But it seems as though Tiger the Dark has gotten himself some backstage heat, as some of the more seasoned wrestlers decide to give him some punishment by way of the upcoming battle royal. He’s not phased by it, though, as he’s ready to take them on. Here’s how it goes down: 20 men are competing, one coming out at a time, and eliminations can take place by being thrown over the top rope, by submission, or by pin fall. So it’s pretty much Lucha Underground’s Aztec Warfare match. And coming out first? Much like Roman Reigns in the 2016 Royal Rumble, it’s Tiger the Dark coming out first to take all the punishment. But back at New Japan, though, they’re having a battle royal of their own – two battle royals in the same episode? DAMMIT D’LO. All the stars are here: Makabe, Honma, Tomohiiro Ishii, even Okada and the Ace of New Japan, Hiroshi Tanahashi, are here. And for good measure, Yuji Nagata is in this battle royal, too, because why not. I won’t do a whole play-by-play for this, but poor Wakamatsu and Nagata, getting pinned out first. In a stunning upset, Okada is eliminated second-to-last, and it’s now all between Tiger and Fukuwara, but with a kick right in the face, Fukuwara’s bleeding profusely through his mask. Back at GWM, though, Tiger the Dark is holding his own, right as Bosman, playing the role of Triple H in the 2016 Royal Rumble, enters last to dish out the harsh punishment. But back in New Japan, Tiger Mask fights off the so-called mind games of Fukuwara Mask and gets the win with a German suplex bridge. For Tiger the Dark, though, he’s on the verge of victory, with him and Bosman the last two in the ring, but as he’s locked in a bear hug, he thinks of Yellow Devil’s attack on his father, and that gives him enough to counter out of the hold and land several hard elbows to the forehead and hit the Darkness Driver for the TKO win.
My notes on Fukuwara Mask: This is like Santino Marella at the 2012 Elimination Chamber levels of awful. Terrible gimmick, how is this getting over with the crowd? Not a whole lot to talk about with this week’s episode, it was all about the wrestling without much in the way of plot development. A nice breeze of an episode with some good action, bad comedy gimmick aside, although they’re getting a little too on the nose with the whole “GWM” allegory thing. A fill-in for New York City and Madison Square Garden? That’s Vince’s turf, and they know it.
A brief side note, please forgive and pardon the sudden schedule slip for my anime recaps, they’ve been on the backburner due to some personal things taking precedent. Nanbaka and Yuri on Ice will be up with two-episode recaps very soon.
Tiger Mask W is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Saturday at 3:45pm EDT.