So what’s been going on in the real world of wrestling, lately? The British wrestling boom is in high gear, TNA had their best show EVER with “Total Nonstop DELETION,” and WWE… well, they’re doing what they do. But for New Japan, they’re in the middle of preparing for their biggest show of the year, their annual event at the Tokyo Dome, Wrestle Kingdom. Every title will be on the line, including the Ring Of Honor world title, but also, as I mentioned last time, there’s going to be a real-life Tiger Mask vs. Tiger the Dark match taking place at this show, as well. It’s going to be great, and I suggest you all catch it if you want to see a taste of what Japanese pro wrestling is all about. But enough of that, let’s get to business and talk some Tiger Mask W, shall we?
Episode 10 – “The Mysterious Mister Question”
We haven’t missed a beat from last episode, and now it’s time for Tiger Mask vs. Mister Question, who is informed by the dirt sheet writer that said foe was once a great wrestler from India, The Great Zuma. And it couldn’t be the same guy from long ago, there’s no way. Both men lunge at each other and trade blows and dodges to start their match. Tiger locks Question into a modified camel clutch (shoutout to Sheikie Baby), but the hold is broken and bent because… Mister Question is apparently double-jointed. Or maybe it’s just a lot of DDP Yoga doing its job. Oh, and for some reason, Fukuwara Mask and Miss X have joined the commentary booth; and you thought WWE was bad with that. In any case, Tiger goes for a cobra twist, but Question completely no-sells the hold and pulls Tiger off of him. He then goes for a figure-four leglock – and because I’m deep in the heart of Flair country, I have to do the following: WOOOOOOOOO!!!! – and it seems to work, given the pressure is on his legs and not his waist. But… NOPE, NOPE, NOPE. DON’T BUY THIS. Question stretches his arm out, like he’s Michael Jordan at the end of Space Jam, and grabs the bottom rope? That’s too much, even for me, and I saw a man get shot out of a volcano into a ring on TV, just recently. Don’t ask. Aaaaaanyway, I should say why Question is fighting Tiger in the first place; it’s not for money or status, it’s just out of a wanton desire. And it’s not stopping him from giving Tiger a powerbomb in the ring, but only for a 2 count. Question wants to see the true tiger inside of Tiger, but as he’s locked in a sleeper hold, he spots Yellow Devil out in the stands and powers out of the hold. He’s done pissed now, so watch out, Question. Although unable to dodge an enzugiri kick, Tiger withstands the onslaught of offensive, able to revers out of a piledriver and land a missile dropkick to Question before hitting a series of German suplexes into an arching pin. Tiger gets the 3, wins the match, and is moving on in the tournament. Solid match, Meltzer would give it 3 stars.
Next match in the tournament, it’s some GWM guy named Poseidon, going up against “It’s-the-Ace,” who looks suspiciously like a certain someone… hmmmm, who could it be? But before we can see the match kick off, “TO THE BACK!” with Tiger Mask and Mister Question having a little confab, involving Question revealing his identity to be… quite the old-timer. But no, he’s not The Great Zuma, only a former pupil. He wanted to see firsthand if Tiger could truly take on GWM, having experienced them tear apart the Indian wrestling scene firsthand. His work in the ring proved to this seasoned veteran what he wanted to see, a true tiger who will fight and fight and fight, but he gives Tiger a stern warning. He can’t beat GWM as he is, he needs a secret weapon: a signature finisher. And with that, we go back to the action, where “Ace” and Poseidon are going at it with each other, trading lariats before “Ace” hits a Sling Blade. He climbs the corner and lands a flying elbow that would make Randy Savage proud, and gets the 3 against Poseidon. And now, we’ve come to the final match of the prelims, Yellow Devil versus Dragon Young; but just who is this dragon fellow, anyway? Could it be Wakamatsu? But then… ohhhhh no, this is gonna go bad real quick. I’ll keep it short, it’s a squash match with Devil overpowering by a large margin and pinning him with a Death Valley Driver. Jeezus. And with that, the prelims are complete, as is the show. Next week, in the next round, it’ll be the following matches: “Its-the-Ace” vs. Yellow Devil and Tiger Mask vs. Tiger the Dark… huh, isn’t that a big coincidence?
Episode 11 – “The Tiger’s Killer Move”
Anyone who’s seen the show ¡Mucha Lucha! knows just how important the signature move is to a wrestler; by the way, anyone else remember that show? It was pretty good. Anyway, backstage, with the show over, Tiger Mask and Haruna are walking down the hall before finding his masked compatriots, where Haruna deduces that Dragon Young is, in fact, Ryu Wakamatsu. And as for this “Ace” fellow? Why, it’s none other than Hiroshi Tanahashi under that mask! What a shocking twist that no one saw—yeah, okay, it was really obvious. But, you know, kayfabe. Both men decided to join Tiger Mask at the tournament, so a deal was worked out for them to pull double-duty and work under masks, and Tanahashi tells Tiger that he wants to meet him in the finals; that’s a money match, right there, definite 4-star range. The next day, at the New Japan dojo, Tiger joins some of his colleagues on a workout, wanting to develop his own killer signature, and immediately goes to Tanahashi for some in-ring practice. And gets immediately locked into a German suplex, hit with a dropkick, and gets struck by a flying forearm. This is why you don’t play fighting games on hard when you buy them, folks. Tiger, still wanting to find his own signature, agrees to play the role of a crash test dummy and takes Tanahashi’s signatures, including his own spectacular finisher, the High Fly Flow (a top-rope crossbody splash). The workout continues, with Okada joining in, and Tiger’s starting to get winded from all of this, but still presses onward with Okada. And gets elbowed in the face for his trouble. Lock after lock is applied, and strike after strike connects, before Okada lands the Rainmaker Clothesline on Tiger. And who found himself taking a front row seat to this action? None other than the head of Los Ingobernables de Japon himself, Tetsuya Naito; that excursion to Mexico did him wonders, I tell you. He offers Tiger one lone piece of advice: “¡Tranquilo! Calm down!” Wise words from a somewhat wise fellow.
Meanwhile, all this time, the folks at GWM have been doing their own training at their facility, utilizing space-age technology and the farthest of advances, but it even gets to be too much for some of them. Let’s just say, when your treadmills have the same technology as Vegeta’s gravity chamber, you might be going overboard. Having experienced all of these moves firsthand, Tiger is taken to a waterfall out in the countryside, for a moment of focus and introspect, still pondering what his move should be. And this is before Tanahashi and Wakamatsu start to antagonize him with torches, as inspiration of some kind. A somersault kick? Good, but only temporary. The search for the ultimate finisher will continue on through the night, though, but time will not be on his side; there’s only one week until his match with Tiger the Dark, after all.
Things are starting to brew up in these past few episodes, with the next one being the showdown of the two tigers… you know, before it happens for real in Tokyo. It’s brewing to be a real big match, so don’t miss it. Or the match next time, either. And how about Naito showing up? Certainly a pleasant surprise to see him, especially in his Los Ingobernables gimmick. Naito better take his own advice, though, since he’s going to defend his IWGP Intercontinental Championship against Tanahashi on January 4th in the semi-main event, and knowing Tanahashi, that’s going to be a very tough challenge to take up.
Tiger Mask W is available on Crunchyroll as a weekly simulcast, every Saturday at 3:45pm EDT.