WWE – Beast In The East (Cert 15)
1 Disc DVD (Distributor: Fremantle Media) Running Time: 119 minutes approx.
With the WWE Network subscriber numbers still in the solid but below expectation ballpark, the ideas for new content have been bandied about with numerous new shows being commissioned, usually more documentaries, interviews and silly “comedy” shows. However the most popular show of recent months was, believe it or not, a wrestling show!
Initially just another house show of the Japanese tour, the addition of Brock Lesnar to the card – in his first WWE house show since 2004 and his first trip to Japan since 2009 – became a massive selling point and some bright spark thought about broadcasting it live on the WWE network and ye gads it was a massive success. Who’d have thunk it?
The funniest thing about it was the American fans objected to having to get up at 5:30am to watch the show live – well, now they know how we Europeans feel having to get up at 1:00am for the past two decades to watch the shows live!
Taking place on July 4th 2015, at Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan before 8,646 fans, your commentators – live from Titan Towers – are Michael Cole and Byron Saxton, and while no results will be given away but expect some opinion.
Chris Jericho vs. Neville
Jericho had been making surprise appearances on the house show circuit but this was his first televised bout since Night Of Champions 2014. This was a great match to kick things off with, both guys popular in Japan with Jericho as the legend and Neville as the young upstart. Some newer fans may have been confused by the early going of chain wrestling and mat work before the high flying begun but that is what the Japanese fans are into so they were obliged and well rewarded. One can question the result but the quality of the match is undeniable and a great showing by both guys.
WWE Divas Triple Threat Title Match – Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige vs. Tamina Snuka
Anyone who has seen Joshi or women’s wrestling from Japan knows that they are just as hard hitting as the men in the ring so the usual Diva fare wouldn’t fly here, something the girls were clearly aware of. Formulaic in its content due to the pre-Divas Revolution dearth of talent in the divisions, the ladies worked hard with Tamina relegated to power moves while Nikki and Paige did most of the work in between some decent three way spots. A short but solid and perfectly acceptable affair.
Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston
It’s fair to say that both men have had better matches in their time but since Lesnar returned to WWE and has been repackaged from a wrestling machine to a bulldozing beast, nothing short of Kofi’s obliteration would have sufficed here. And that is exactly what we got and the crowd certainly enjoyed it to boot. Yes, it was short given the hype of Lesnar being the top promoted talent but a lot of fun for what it was and didn’t disappoint as we knew it would be a total one sided decimation.
NXT Title Match – Kevin Owens (c) vs. Finn Balor
This may have seemed an odd place for an NXT title match but Finn Balor, under the name Prince Devitt was a huge star in Japan through his work for New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW), where he dominated the Junior Heavyweights and founded the now popular cult heel group Bullet Club. Therefore giving Balor his big title opportunity in Japan was something of a no-brainer and he was afforded the full streamer treatment from the fans which is a rare spectacle even in Japan these days where it was once a prominent feature.
Balor was in full body painted demon mode while Owens managed to rile the normally respectful Japanese fans, demonstrating what a great heel he is. The match was fantastic as you might expect despite the clash of styles and told a great story of the returning hero looking to topple the evil champ. If you’ve not seen NXT (and why not?) then this is a great introduction to Finn Balor, while giving others a taste of how he made his name in Japan.
Dolph Ziggler & John Cena vs. Kane & King Barrett
I’m not quite sure how this was supposed to follow the previous match, presumably having Cena involved was to be the clincher. Not a bad match but it went too long for what it was (the longest match on the show) and came across more like those random tag matches they used to tape for the old Coliseum Home Videos than a bona fide main event. You can probably already guess who took the pinfall.
There are numerous reasons as to why this is such a great show – the wrestlers actually wrestle, the Japanese crowd are enthusiastic and receptive to this change in the style they are used to from their wrestling (even joining in with the “This Is Awesome” chants), the matches were given time and the simple stage presentation made for a refreshing change from the huge neon lit eyesores that WWE use for TV and PPV.
Michael Cole and Byron Saxton called the action from the US and were actually better than usual as they were left to call the matches didn’t have Vince McMahon shouting his usual nonsense in their ears the whole time. However Cole was prone to some gaffs – he claimed Sumo Hall was one of the biggest and most famous sports arenas in Tokyo (Tokyo Dome and Budokan Hall say hi) and he mispronounced Tatsumi Fujinami’s named as “Fuji-ami” and Bull Nakano as “Nakana”).
There were two “pre-show” matches which we fun little bouts to get the crowds going – Cesaro was way over as he took on Diego of Los Matadores (watch out for the collapsing chair botch) and a fun little tag match pitting the super over Lucha Dragons against New day.
It’s fair to say that this was an unqualified success in terms of providing something different and unique for the fans, drawing big numbers for the Network and drawing a decent crowd in Japan which WWE hasn’t done for quite a while (although NJPW get closer to the 13,000 capacity). So, if you missed it first time round get this DVD to remind yourself of how good WWE can be when it actually focuses on wrestling!
Best match – Kevin Owens vs. Finn Balor
Cesaro vs. Diego of Los Matadores
The New Day vs. Lucha Dragons
Rating – ****
Man In Black