By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Kazusada Higuchi and Yoshihisa Uto vs Isami Kodaka and Yuko Miyamoto 12/31/16
There is nothing really that better highlights the year round nature of wrestling than the Shuffle Tag Tournament – and its variants – ran in Japan over the past few years. Not content to just have a show on New Year’s Eve as a way of celebrating another year of wrestling, the tradition has now become for multiple puro promotions (All Japan, BJW, DDT and others) to put together a festival of graps for the enjoyment of all fans, with the new year being celebrated as and when it falls during the course of the tournament.
What this tournament also helps to showcase is the ever narrowing borders when it comes to viewing wrestling from around the world. Not only is it a great celebration for those who are fans of puroresu and promotions involved, but thanks for the involvement of multiple people, such events are now accessible to people around the world. No longer is this just a celebration for the minority; everyone can watch an ostensibly Japanese take on New Year’s Eve within hours of it taking place, if not quicker. It is the beauty of being a wrestling fan in the 21st century.
The rules for the tournament in 2016 saw a ten minute time limit in place, with a sudden death, one count fall deciding which team would go through to the next round if that ten minutes wasn’t enough. With the wide world of wrestling meaning much more footage is available year in, year out, I’m not going to profess to knowing who many of the wrestlers who entered the competition are, though names such as Daichi Hashimoto, the Great Kojika, Joey Ryan, Abdullah Kobayashi and Daisuke Sekimoto were familiar enough to someone who is involved within the world of the internet wrestling community. An opening match with the Brahman Brothers, including multiple abuses of water and the crowd, set the tone nicely for the evening for anyone who may not have been the most au fait with the wide variety of wrestlers on show.
The listed match, which saw Uto and Higuchi team against Kodaka and Miyamoto, wasn’t even the final of the tournament. As a semi-final contest that ran over the ten minute time limit, it meant that perhaps the limit had been restricted for the semis and final, especially as the latter would go to twenty minutes long. That, or it could have been to offset the time spent celebrating the new year that occurred in the middle of the match.
Higuchi and Uto were the bigger men and were able to work over both members of the opposition with no nonsense strikes, until Miyamoto landed a basement dropkick to the knee of Uto to turn the tide of the contest. This led to a sustained assault on the leg, with quick tags allowing Miyamoto and Kodaka to keep the fresh man in having already wrestled twice that evening. It took a double clothesline to halt a double team attack on his knee to allow Uto to make the tag to Higuchi. He fared little better as synchronised dropkicks sent Higuchi to the outside.
Both Miyamoto and Kodaka set up to go for aerial moves to the outside, only for the ten second countdown to New Year to begin in earnest. The ten count greeted with cheers by the crowd served as a starting pistol for the two high flyers as they celebrated the start of a new year with stereo dives to the outside in a beautiful sight for many a wrestling fan. It also signalled a shift in pace, with Higuchi getting hit with two basement dropkicks in the corner, but catching a Kodaka crossbody off the top rope and dumping him with a slam. A second rope clothesline by Uto was only good enough for a two count, but a trip by Kodaka targeted the injured knee with an STF.
Uto managed to get the ropes after a real struggle, and somehow managed to survive after a brainbuster planted him into the canvas. After some more back and forth with Kodaka, a clothesline, tiger driver facebuster and a lariat almost turned Kodaka inside out and was enough for Uto and Higuchi to win. They would also be victorious in the final, defeating Hideyoshi Kamitani and Konosuke Takeshita.
Whilst a perfectly enjoyable match, it is more about the moment than anything else. What better way to celebrate each and every day than by enjoying wrestling to its fullest? Day in, day out, wrestling is there to be savoured. Go out and find some.