When Minoru Suzuki made his excursion of the United States last September and October, it was a bit of a revelation for many here stateside. A shock to the system, if you will, of wrestling in the United States. Certainly, many words were written on this very site by diverse hands, eager to spread the gospel of the King Himself, Minoru Suzuki.
We can thus rejoice, as Suzuki has returned to these shores, working many and varied promotions as he did before, although this time, with a different sort of mission. Last Autumn, Suzuki was here to have matches across promotions large and small, with as diverse a set of opponents as one could ask for.
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This time around, if two particular matches that took place during WrestleMania Weekend in Dallas have anything to say about it, Suzuki may be molding the shape of things to come for professional wrestling in the USA.
The Dirty Daddy
One of the first matches announced for Suzuki’s latest jaunt across the Pacific was the first ever rematch in the nine-show history of GCW’s Bloodsport, the no-ropes, knockout-or-submission-only MMA-inspired shows that have become a staple of WrestleMania Weekend since 4/5/2018 in New Orleans, when it was branded as Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport. Suzuki main evented at that show against the man whose name was on the marquee, as a late substitute for an absent Low Ki. As one of the founders of the event’s style, Suzuki’s involvement may have raised more interest for the event than there was originally. Suzuki beat Riddle in the main event, and thus a Mania week staple was born.
When the sequel event came around, it was rebranded as Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport, due to Riddle signing with WWE. Suzuki once again faced the person for whom the event was named in the main event on 4/4/2019 in Jersey City, this time with Suzuki and Barnett going to a 25-minute time limit draw, to the delight of the crowd at White Eagle Hall.
Five other Bloodsport events took place before Suzuki’s return on 10/22/2021 in Los Angeles, against the “Dirty Daddy” Chris Dickinson. Dickinson, for his part, had also been part of Bloodsport since the beginning, losing by KO at the very first event to “The Beast” Dan Severn. Going into his match with Suzuki last year, Dickinson amassed a 3-4 record, beating Andy Williams, JR Kratos and Shane Mercer; however, he fell to Barnett, Jon Moxley, and Jeff Cobb, in addition to Severn. All of those names are higher in stature that Dickinson is. Or, perhaps, were.
In the run-up to Bloodsport 7, Dickinson had gathered quite a bit of buzz around him, not only in GCW, but also Ring of Honor, and, crucially, NJPW of America, becoming a regular feature on their NJPW Strong streaming TV series, which debuted during the pandemic. Dickinson had been part of several big angles on Strong, including a match with Suzuki prior to their initial Bloodsport meeting in Philadelphia at the NJPWoA event Showdown 2021, which Suzuki won.
And such as it was in LA, with Suzuki beating Dickinson in just over fifteen minutes. Dickinson had failed in “his house,” leaving himself dejected. Then, fate intervened, as Dickinson suffered a nasty hip injury at a NJPWoA event on 11/13/2021 in San Jose that left him sidelined for what was initially estimated to be 5-6 months.
As it turned out, it was only four months, and Dickinson’s return match would be against none other than Minoru Suzuki in Dallas at Bloodsport 8 on 3/31/2022, the first time a rematch had occurred on this event.
Suzuki certainly had the momentum going into the match, but Dickinson did not back down. Indeed, the two ended up having to be separated by Barnett during the event’s opening ceremony. The anticipation was high heading into the main event (a stellar semi-main between Jon Moxley v. Biff Busick didn’t hurt), the crowd singing “KAZE NI NARE” during Suzuki’s entrance, something unheard in Japan during the pandemic-era restrictions on crowd cheering.
The crowd was into both men, equally so, during the opening grappling exchanges on the mat. The two countered one another deftly, never really holding an advantage over the other for very long. Suzuki would mount Dickinson, throw some strikes, Dickinson would reverse, and repeat. Dickinson then slapped Suzuki right across the jaw and dared the King to come at him, prompting a great camera look by Suzuki, and “You Fucked Up” chants from the crowd.
The two men went right for a chop battle that Suzuki came out on top of, taking down Dickinson into a leg grapevine before resuming the chop fight.
Suzuki then rocked Dickinson with an elbow strike, and a knockout was almost secured. But Dickinson recovered and had the crowd with him until a questionable kick to the abdomen took Suzuki off his game long enough for a combination of an enzuiguri, a suplex, and elbow strikes for a referee stoppage victory. The crowd was divided over the victory, but Suzuki did what he was meant to do – get Dickinson over as a star in the making.
A More Benevolent King
Which is a good thing. During Suzuki’s last excursion, the only losses he took were to big names like Jon Moxley and Brian Danielson. Not even GCW’s icon, Nick Gage, could overcome Suzuki. This time around, Suzuki started his jaunt by giving Dickinson the biggest victory of his career so far. Suzuki is nearly 54 years old; he will not be here forever. He recognizes the need for new stars for the eras to come.
At the same time, contrast that with what Suzuki did the next night. Suzuki was due to face champion Rhett Titus for the Ring of Honor World Television title at Supercard of Honor 2022, the first ROH show of the new, Tony-Khan-owned era for the company. I’m not going to take up a lot of space with this match; it was exactly six minutes long and was not great. I’m not an expert on the Many Worlds Theory, but I am fairly certain there is not a world where Rhett Titus was ever beating Minoru Suzuki, title or no title.
Suzuki is Tony Khan’s first ROH World TV Champion, holding his first ever title in the USA. For whatever reason, Suzuki is part of the plan for a new direction of a company under new ownership. Suzuki’s value is that, whoever beats him for that belt will also either already be a star, or, more importantly, be made one in the process. That’s part of what Suzuki is doing in America this time around – making new stars, or giving an already existing one one of the matches of their career.
Since that title win, Suzuki has beaten the likes of Effy, “Speedball” Mike Bailey and Blake Christian in GCW, as well as Barrett Brown on a Texas indie show. Then there’s the match on tonight’s AEW Dynamite – Suzuki will defend the ROH TV title against one of the top names of the early days of Ring of Honor, Samoa Joe, himself newly arrived to AEW.
I don’t know what will happen in that match, but it will be an indication of where American wrestling is headed in 2022 and beyond. Regardless, The King, Minoru Suzuki, will has a part in the direction those winds will blow.