Omori Captures Awa Heavyweight Title!
January 23rd, 2005
Takao Omori made good on his promise and successfully became the 32nd holder of the AWA World Heavyweight title! Many of the Japanese athletes and pro wrestling fans had figured in Steve Corino to win the title due to the inclusion of the well-known gaijin Referee Mr. Fred Rubenstein. Yet as he had called it, Omori defeated the Japanese 2004 MVP Kensuke Sasaki and the "Fire Festival 2004" winner - Kohei Sato in the Japanese 3-way semi-final. Then in the finals he took defeated former ECW and NWA Heavyweight champion Steve Corino to be the third Japanese AWA World Heavyweight champion in history, the previous being legends Jumbo Tsuruta (1984) and Masa Saito (1990).
This win is the culmination of quite a struggle considering other obstacles Omori faced to secure the AWA throne...including basically winning the title only to have it yanked away from him by the AWA officials last year.
The semi-final 3-way matches weren't very long, but consisted of Heavyweights unloading their entire arsenals on each other. Initially in the Japanese 3-way the two ZERO-ONE fighters, Omori and Sato, teamed up on Kensuke Sasaki. But that all changed once the match began heating up. At one point all three athletes were down, and the Ref counted all the way to 7 before they rose to their feet. Finally, as Sasaki sat dazed in the corner, Omori hit the Axe Guillotine Driver on Sato and the followed it up with the Axe Bomber for the victory.
In the gaijin 3-way former ECW and NWA Tag team champion, Simon Diamond, finally made his first appearance in ZERO-ONE. Initially the two "Extreme Horsemen" (Corino & Diamond) teamed up on Tanaka, performing double team moves and hitting double superkicks until Simon saw an opening in Corino's defenses and took his shot. This caused a rift in that alliance and the two began to fight each other, until eventually Corino knocked a beaten Tanaka outside to the floor, and then finished Simon with the Lariat-O. Afterwards Corino and Diamond shook hands. The match opened with all three locking up at the same time and then breaking, only for it to turn into a huge chopfest as they all struck each other to the delight of the crowd.
The main event final saw Takao Omori versus Corino in a long (almost 25 minutes) and hard fought battle. Before the match began, Omori confronted Referee Mr. Fred Rubenstein and told him to watch his counts, calling out to the audience to watch for any foul behavior as he battled. Early on Omori hit the Axe Guillotine Driver on Corino on the outside, leaving him to be counted out. Corino made it back in at the 17 count, and the two continued to brawl outside the ring, with Corino throwing Omori through the chairs and using one as a weapon (Referee Fred was distracted...). As they fought, Corino continued to work on Omori's right arm doing significant damage, Omori eventually blocked a flurry of offense from Corino, hit the Axe Guillotine Driver, and two Axe Bombers for the 1-2-3.
Omori raised the AWA World Heavyweight title in triumph, as Otani ran in to secure the belt around his friends waist. Corino asked for a handshake but Omori could only offer his left hand since his right was injured from the accumulated damage. All the ZERO-ONE fighters then came to the ring as Omori took the mic and told the fans he's appreciated the strong attendance at the show (Otani also came out before the show to thank the fans for coming in such numbers) and gave the "3-2-1- ZERO-ONE!" call with all in present in Korakuen Hall. Afterwards during interviews with the media, Omori announced that according to AWA regulations he has to defend the title in the United States in 2 months time.
The semi-main event of the show was a Junior 6-man tag "E-Style" match between ZERO-ONE wrestlers and three well known US independent wrestlers, Spanky, Super Crazy and Sonjay Dutt. The ZERO-ONE team was represented by current PWF Universal Tag Team champions Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita teamed with Tatsuhito Takaiwa. Under the "E-Style" (Extreme Style) rules, the match spilled to outside the ring right at the bell! Very soon Fujita's face was a bloody mask and the high-flying Juniors began moonsaulting and diving everywhere! First is was Super Crazy of a scaffold, and when back in the ring one after another flew to the outside.
Finally the ZERO-ONE wrestlers began to gain the advantage, as Takaiwa began using his well-known power! As Super Crazy had Fujita locked in a turantula hold on the ropes, Takaiwa hit Spanky with the Death Valley bomb but Sonjay broke up the pin! So Takaiwa then used the same move on Dutt! Finally Fujita was able to get the pin on Sonjay with a facebuster at around 15½ minutes.
Other matches on the show saw Fudo beat Jeto Yamagasa, Yoshihito Sasaki beat Nami.
Press Conferences - AWA Tourney Principals Comment!
January 21st, 2005
Today and yesterday several of the combatants taking part in the AWA World Heavyweight finals on Sunday came to the ZERO-ONE offices to view the finalized fight card and meet the press. The most outspoken of the fighters present was Masato Tanaka, who said he couldn't understand the reasoning of AWA's Oscar David turning the AWA Finals into a 3-way and then adding an additional 3-way representing "International" fighters. The thing that perplexed him the most was why he wasn't included in the Japanese 3-way and is instead facing fellow ECW alumni Steve Corino and Simon Diamond in the International block.
He also mentioned Kensuke Sasaki and said he's not scared of Sasaki but is a little scared of his wife! (This did not amuse Sasaki, by the way)
Shinjiro Otani on the other hand expressed joy that he would be teaming with his former New Japan trainer on the February 4th "New Years Special" show against Takaiwa and Sato. He said he'd heard some negative stuff from fans about Sasaki appearing in ZERO-ONE but it doesn't bother him. He also commented on Tadao Yasuda's recent release from New Japan and said that it's a possibility he might show up in ZERO-ONE MAX but right now it's just idle speculation.
And finally, today Takao Omori also commented on the chain of event and the upcoming match. He said it was aggravating to think he had won the tournament only to have the rules changed. And he said he will win the AWA title anyway against Sato and Sasaki, and said he will use his brain and experience to win the match, especially since Sato is distracted by his anger for Kensuke.
Omori, along with First On Stage President Mr. Nakamura, did show some concern that Referee Mr. Fred Rubenstein is going to be the AWA Referee. Mr. Fred built himself a reputation in ZERO-ONE working for the NWA and treating the gaijin wrestlers more favorably than the native fighters. They expect this isn't a coincidence that he's here. Mr. Nakamura stated that Mr. Fred's presence makes the chance "...next to nothing" that a Japanese wrestler will win the AWA title.
Omori swears he will hold both the United National title and the AWA World title at the end of the day.
AWA World Title To Be Decided On January 23 In Tokyo!
January 13th, 2005
The stage is set for Korakuen Hall on Saturday afternoon, January 23, when we will finally see one man walk out of the ZERO-ONE MAX ring as the 39th AWA World heavyweight champion.
We learned on January 10th that there was going to be a 3-way match featuring United National champion Takao Omori, Fire Festival '04 Tournament Winner Kohei Sato, and Japanese MVP for 2004 and former IWGP heavyweight champion Kensuke Sasaki.
Today it's announced that there will be another 3-way featuring the gaijin locker room and the winners of the 3-way matches will meet in the main event to crown the new AWA World champion. ZERO-ONE MAX US champion Steve Corino will take on the WORLD-1 champion Masato Tanaka and, making his ZERO-ONE MAX and Japanese debut - SIMON DIAMOND!
One of these six fighters is going to become the first worldwide-recognized AWA World champion since Larry Zybyszko in 1990. Who has the most momentum going into the 3 ways? Lets take a look:
1. Takao Omori: The United National champion has been on a tear since defeating Masato Tanaka in October for that title. He avenged his Fire Festival '04 tournament final loss to Kohei Sato by defeating him twice in singles matches and also increased his singles record to 3-0 against US champion Steve Corino. Could he be the favorite?
2. Kohei Sato: The 2004 Fire Festival winner has been hot and cold of late. He went 3-2 in his 5-match singles challenge in November beating Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Ryoji Sai, and Hirotaka Yokoi. His losses however were against Corino and Omori. Kohei has proven that he can win the big matches by beating Omori in the finals of the Fire Festival and by beating Shinjiro Otani two times in a row. Sato, at 25 years old, would be the youngest AWA World champion in history...
3. Kensuke Sasaki: What more can be said about the 2004 Japanese pro-wrestling MVP? After ending 2003 without a company, Kensuke started the Kensuke Freelance Office and began working for every Japanese company. He even won the IWGP heavyweight title on two occasions in 2004. This will be Kensuke's debut in a ZERO-ONE MAX ring and he plans on making quite an impact!
4. Steve Corino: The ZERO-ONE MAX United States champion is also on a hot streak. Over the past eight weeks since regaining the ZERO-ONE MAX United States championship from Kohei Sato he has scored pinfall victories over Shinjiro Otani and All Japan Triple Crown champion Toshiaki Kawada. And all with a broken jaw! Corino would be only the third pro-wrestler in history to win the NWA and AWA World championship (also achieved by Pat O'Connor and Gene Kiniski). If he wins his 3-way this will be the first time that he has wrestled two times in one night in Japan.
5. Masato Tanaka: The King of E-Style Wrestling used his status as the oft forgotten WORLD-1 champ to secure his spot in the Gaijin 3-way. Tanaka, one half of the Intercontinental tag team champions, is a former United National champion and has won his last two singles matches against Corino. Tanaka can wrestle any style: American, Japanese, or E-Style. And you never know which style he will pull out! Tanaka is looking to win his first World championship since he won the ECW World Heavyweight title in 1999.
6. Simon Diamond: The "Blue Chipper" might be the dark horse in this because he has never wrestled in Japan before but this might be to his advantage. Diamond has wrestled Masato Tanaka once in a W1 tag match last year and is 2-1 in singles matches with his "Extreme Horseman" partner Steve Corino. A former NWA World tag team champion, Simon Diamond is looking to show the world that he is ready to win that World heavyweight singles championship that has eluded him his whole career.
Three Years Ago...
by Matt Striker
January 12th, 2005
Roughly three years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Steve Corino after a PWF show in Pennsylvania. We said hello to one another and I expressed the desire to work for the PWF in the future. I couldn't help but notice a huge bruise that covered Corino's entire bicep. I asked him what had happened-and he simply replied, "Japan."
As I began to work up and down the East Coast of the United States with tours of England and Ireland, I kept with me the hopes to one day realize the honor, the dream, the prestige of being invited to Japan to fight.
I recently realized that dream on Dec. 16th when I touched down in Tokyo to start my inaugural tour for the ZERO ONE Company. I cannot express in words what this tour has meant to me as a person and as a professional wrestler. Everywhere I went, fans and press alike were courteous and receptive.
Many American fans and wrestlers are aware of the "legend" of the Japanese wrestling fan base and media from tapes and tales, but until you experience it first hand you cannot really comprehend the major role that the fans and press play.
When I first stepped out into the arena in Chiba, the fans responded like a rising wind with a roll of thunder on the end of it. As I climbed into the ring and heard my name announced in Japanese, I knew I had reached another goal and was indeed living the dream. To make things even more special- the match featured, Steve Corino, and world-renowned superstars, Masato Tanaka and Jun Kasai. What made this match unique to me was the "feeling" of the arena and the promotion of ZERO ONE MAX in general. There are no guardrails to separate the fans from the action, they are right there with you, in the heat.
Afterwards, many of the fighters were accessible and receptive to the fans, making ZERO ONE MAX genuinely feel like a family event. Afterwards, the gracious Japanese press came to the back to ask questions. Steve Corino took the press on a whirlwind ride with his silver tongue laying out the plans of the future for ZERO ONE and the AWA. One member of the press was kind enough to ask me what I thought of wrestling in Japan, I told them that "inside me lives a child and tonight that child realized his dream in the greatest wrestling in the world, in front of the greatest fans in the world, and I am grateful and humbled to be fighting in Japan" I always speak from the heart and that night was no different.
As the tour continued, I learned so much from grappling and adapting to the international styles of Hidaka, Sato and Sai. I truly believe that I have returned home to the states a improved athlete because of these challenges and experiences. To know that I have walked the same streets and halls and eaten in the same places as some of the greatest names in all of wrestling is something that will stay with me wherever I go, whatever I do. The best part about Japanese fighting, for me, is the competition, the battle. In the states, wrestling fans sometimes seem to be desensitized and even jaded. Many times you will see young athletes trying desperately to break into our great sport without any merit. Either they do not have the athletic ability, the appearance or worst of all, the respect for the sport. When fans see this night in and night out of course they are going to grow restless.
In Japan EVERY SINGLE fighter that graces that ring is accomplished, trained, and above all has the respect and reverence for all those who have come before him. There is truly a great mystique, a certain untouchable air, that surrounds Pro wrestling in Japan and the fans see, feel, and contribute to it every night. I have always been a true fan of this great sport. Growing up I was drawn to the sport and felt like these superstars leaped off the pages of magazines and television screens and into my life. Needless to say when I stood face to face with the likes of Ohtani, Tanaka, Ogawa , Takada, Takaiwa, etc. I truly understood how special the opportunity was.
Now, I am so excited for the opportunity that lays ahead of me. I have been invited by the offices of ZERO ONE MAX to join their roster for an extended stay of 90 days. I lay awake at night and try to envision all of the things I am going to learn training in the dojo and immersing myself in Japanese culture. I am a Social Studies teacher in my "other life" and I know Japan is rich in history both world and wrestling. Everywhere the ZERO ONE tour bus goes fans smile and children wave and it is great!!
I have Mr. Nakamura, the great sponsors, Ohtani, Tanaka, and of course Steve Corino to thank for this opportunity of a lifetime.
It has been said many times, but it is ever so true...Follow your dreams…because we sometimes regret the things we DON'T do-as opposed to the things we do.