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Scout Report by Wrestlingscout
WWF in Japan Empty House Smackdown?
Everyone and their mother (assuming they're puroresu fans) knows that the WWF in Japan is not going to be the rousing success they seem to assume it'll be. The line-up seems to definitely be hinting a few things, including a split. I'll start by running down the card and talking about any Japanese appeal the wrestlers may have.
Kidman vs. Hurricane Helms. I don't believe Kidman ever went to New Japan as part of WCW and I know Helms never went. Both are good enough, but I'm not sure if the gimmick will really go over. These two are familiar with each other though and can have an okay opener, but I doubt it'll be anything riveting.
Edge vs. Test. Bad choice here. Edge went over with Tokyo Pro in the mid-90s, so no one will remember him. These guys are okay, but would be better suited in matches against different people. I doubt this'll be anything special, hopefully Edge will still have the IC strap though.
Hardy Boys vs. Chuck & Billy. My nightmares tell me this may be a Tag title match with the reaction Chuck & Billy get. The gay gimmick is nothing new and they don't do it better than anyone I've ever seen do it and I think it'd be offensive to the traditionalist Japanese crowd. Jeff Hardy competed in BattlARTS, under a hood, so he's at least been over there, but like the first two match, nothing special here.
Kane vs. DDP. If Kane's size gets over and Page can make this match decent, this one could be passable. Otherwise, this'll be a flop. I don't know if Page ever went to Japan, but I'm pretty sure Kane didn't, so again no real return appeal here either. This seems like a RAW sub-main event.
Haku vs. Big Show. Finally two guys who'll both be returning and should be remembered by the fans. Haku toured with SWS and WAR, holding tag titles in both companies. I doubt he's going to sell tickets, but he's a name at least. Big Show's size should instantly get him over. He did come over with New Japan, I'm not sure how many times or if he even did multiple shows, but Show's been there. I expect this to be a stinker of a match, they'll definitely garner some interest though.
Tajiri & Funaki vs. Dudley Boyz. Another match with four returners, including two natives the only natives. Tajiri's accomplishment in Japan include being a hot up-and-comer as Big Japan's junior ace and he also competed in Top of the Super Juniors `97. Funaki was a member of Michinoku Pro's super-heel group, Kaientai Deluxe and he wrestled in BattlARTS in his formative years. Tajiri was recently given an award by the Japanese media, so he's not forgotten. Funaki's made a few returns and when TAKA returns, which he's hinted at once his contract is up, Funaki very well may come back as well. The Dudleys toured FMW back in their ECW days and were actually given top gaijin spots going head-to-head with some of FMW's top guys. Though a Tajiri-Funaki match would be much better, the WWF insists on making carriers carry instead of wrestling each others in very good matches. This should be the best undercard match and with Tajiri and Funaki it may very well steal the show.
Chris Jericho vs. The Rock. Interesting. The Rock does have name value, he needs to be carried. Jericho has been to Japan quite a bit, but is a main eventer now, not the charismatic young gaijin he was. I'm yet to see any of his pay-per-view matches with The Rock, but I'm told they're good. I expect Jericho will go all out, more so than any of the foreigners, but will that make for an awesome main event, I doubt it.
This card is a weak one in my view and due to Japan's over-saturation, current recession, and ticket prices (think New Japan could charge WWF PPV ticket prices in the US and do good?). Who knows how things will be a month a half from now with the events of last week and how much will the WWF change? I expect them to get the building around half-full and maybe a hair more, unless the novelty factor is incredible. I think not offering an excellent undercard match is a mistake, not a surprising one though. Tajiri-Funaki would've sufficed and been nice for WWF television for story and good quality reasons. People like Lance Storm, Christian and Perry Saturn should be on this one and I would've liked to see Dean Malenko as well. This event should be one of the most talked about shows of the year, in all its mediocrity, which I find funny in an odd way.
I'd also like to say congratulations (as if they'll ever hear this) to Minoru Tanaka and Yumi Fukawa, who were wed on 1/18. I'm hoping for a match between them and Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto not really. But they may be the best wrestler couple now and hopefully they can bless us with a super-worker child.
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