Pre-Show Opener: Yohei Komatsu, KUSHIDA, Tiger Mask and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Mascara Dorada, BUSHI, El Desperado and Captain New Japan
Fun way to kickoff the show. Some great fast-paced action by Mascara Dorada and KUSHIDA as to be expected.
As always, my boy Yohei Komatsu looked good hitting a lovely bridging German on El Desperado for a near-fall, despite taking the loss for his team. Oh, the life of a Young Lion. Yohei was pinned after La Guitarra de Angel by El Desperado at 09’16”.
Match 1: “The Forever Hooligans” Alex Koslov and Rocky Romero vs. “The Young Bucks” Matt & Nick Jackson for IWGP Jr. Tag team Championship
Un-bloody-believable! This match was the TITS! So great! The young Bucks and The Forever Hooligans put on a spectacular title match. They just click. Both teams are such a great combination of comedy, innovative offence, brilliant reversals and fast-paced high-flying action. Best of all, it wasn’t a straight up spot fest, as can sometimes be the case with wrestlers of this style. Sure, both teams hit their usual spots, but as a match it felt smooth and flowed well.
After both teams hit each other with pretty much all the moves in their respective arsenals, the Young Bucks retained after pinning Romero with More Bang for your Buck at 15’09”.
A good start to the night for the Bullet Club.
Note: Matt Jackson teasing a super kick to the kid handing the Bucks their trophies was a nice touch.
Match 2: Takashi Iizuka and Toru Yano vs. Shelton “X” Benjamin and Minoru Suzuki
Dear lord when will this feud end. Suzuki and Yano desperately need something new to do. I’m a huge fan of Suzuki, but watching in this fed month after month is doing my head in.
On top of that, Benjamin jumped Iizuka before he had a chance to gift the world his latest Shinpei Nogami art piece. AND Suzuki didn’t kick anybody as he entered the ring. So not only is this never-ending feud from hell continuing to never end, we don’t even get the little things that help us forget these troubled times.
Yano and Iizuka won by DQ when Suzuki handcuffed Yano to the ropes and put choked him to death. Strangely enough, the referee didn’t seem to mind the use of handcuffs in the match, it was only when Suzuki kept the hold on and threw the ref from the ring that the DQ was called at 09’02”.
Somehow, despite being choked to death, Yano slipped out of the cuffs and put Minoru in them after the match. And the crowd loved it, because of course they did?
Please be the end of this feud, though with that ending, it isn’t likely!
Match 3: Satoshi Kojima vs. Wes Brisco for the NWA Heavyweight Championship
Not a bad match, but it felt a lot longer than it actually was. Was Brisco hasn’t changed a whole lot since his Aces & Eights days — as in he wan’t great then and he’s not much better now. To be fair, he’s a million times better than the Miz at putting on the figure four. What’s a million times terrible? Kojima won with the lariat at 09’25” to retain the NWA Heavyweight championship.
Match 4: Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto
Bit of weird match this one. The action between Shibata and Nagata was very good, lots of stiff shots, no selling and a lot of intensity. On the other hand, the action between Goto and Nakanishi, while not bad, suffered from off timing and a slightly bother finish. Nakanishi went up top for a missile drop kick on Goto, but for some reason Nakanishi made Goto stand there and wait while he stood clapping fro a very long time on the top rope. Then in the final sequence Goto botched the Shoten Kai on Nakanishi, losing control on the way down, but quickly recovered and put Nakanishi in a Sharpshooter of all things the make him tap at 10’50”.
After the match Shibata stormed off to the back looking very unhappy. Not entirely sure why.
Match 5: Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi for the IWPG Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Really good match here. Ibushi won at 14’03” with the Phoenix splash, after hitting a sit-down power bomb for a 2-count.
Ibushi continues to be amazing in the ring — he’s such a great hight flyer, but he also knows how to put on a great wrestling match — not simply a bunch of big spots with a pin at the end.
Taguchi also got a bit more of a reaction from the crowd than he has been getting since his return to action. The only problem for me is that I never bought Taguchi actually having a chance to win this one. He did get a better than usual reaction, but he’s still missing something. Great action though!
Match 6: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma for the Never Championship
Absolutely wonderful! Great start to the match – Ishii and Honma traded chops for about 2 minutes straight, with neither man budging an inch. That probably didn’t feel great! Fun to watch though.
This match was brilliant. FINALLY, Tomoaki Honma was given the chance to show how good he actually is when given the time and the right opponent. Honma truly had me believing he could defeat Ishii, who continues to be the best part of these NJPW shows. Not only did Honma have me believing, the crowd was strongly behind him also. Ishii has been getting consistently strong reactions over the past few months, but here the crowd was pooling big time for Honma’s numerous near-falls on Ishii. A great pot near the end was with Ishii and Honma battling to power the other person up into a brain buster — eventually it was Honma who won out.
Maybe the most amazing thing is that Honma not once, but twice connected with his top rope flying headbutt — once in the ring, and once all the way to the floor on the outside. In the end, Honma went for one flying headbutt two many. He missed the headbutt and Ishii took advantage and finally hit the brain buster for the pin at 14’07”.
Match of the night so far!
Please give us more Honma matches like this, New Japan!
AND like this match wasn’t good enough! Kota Ibushi came out and challenged (I assume) Ishii to a match for the Never championship. Ishii vs. Ibushi!!! Check, please! Now that is a match i’m excited for!
Match 7: Jushin Thunder Liger, Tetsuya Naito, Tougi Makabe, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tama Tonga, Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows, ”The Machine Gun” Karl Anderson (Special Rules: Elimination style where you can, pin, submit or throw your opponent over the top rope)
After a quick start by Liger, The Bullet Club took control and dominated early on. Fale was the first to go when Naito reversed a Grenade tempt in to a roll up. Before Naito could fully recover, Tonga quickly came up from behind and threw him over the ropes for the next elimination. Tama Tonga was eliminated next after a bizarre Lou Thesz Press into a pin by Liger. Is that really a move?
Liger celebrated too long and turned around right in to a big boot (I think. The camera missed it!) by Anderson who got the next elimination.
That leaves the tag champs against Tanahashi and Makabe. Makabe kicked out of about a million double team moves and eventually lariated Anderson out of the ring. Anderson is eliminated. With only Gallows left, Tanahashi and Makabe absolutely destroyed him with their signature moves. Tanahashi pinned him with the High Fly Flow for the final elimination at 15’36”.
OK match, felt a bit too long and not terribly exciting.
After the match, Makabe and Tanahashi challenged Anderson and Gallows to a title match. But before they could accept (or decline), Goto and Shibata came out and challenged Makabe and Tanahashi. Or maybe just Shibata challenged Tanahashi – Not sure. Shibata vs. Tanahashi is definitely something I’m done for though!
Match 8: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rolles & Daniel Gracie
Boring. The big Gracie tapped out Sakuraba at 08’30”. Sorry, not my cup of tea this one.
After the match, Nakamura and the smaller gracie mixed words. The smaller Gracie wants an IC title match. Sarcastic great!
Match 9: IWPG Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. A.J. Styles
Pretty good match, a bit slow to start but once it got going it was a lot of fun. The crowd really held it back from being as good as it could have been. A.J. Styles is great in the ring and worked really well against Okada, but the crowd couldn’t give two s#$ts about him. All of AJ’s offence was met with deafening silence. Even the crickets didm;t care enough to chirp. And it’s a shame because the match itself was good, but came off feeling flat.
A lot of interference by the Bullet Club, and Yujiro Takahashi turning on Okada led to Styles defeating Okada with the Styles Clash at 24’31” to become the 60th IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
If only Japan cared!
Pretty good show overall. Ishii vs. Honma was wonderful, as was the Jr. tag team title match between the Bucks and the Hooligans. Suzuki and Minoru need to move on already and do anything but face each other again. Japan needs to show some kind of emotion towards AJ Styles, anything is better than nothing at this point. The guy can go, Japan. At least clap his cool moves or something!