I started watching New Japan at Wrestle Kingdom 9, with Global Wars of 2014 being a precursor and introducing me to some of the more prominent talent. Now, I subscribe to NJPWWorld.com and enjoy New Japan on a regular basis. I bring up Wrestle Kingdom because I became a fan of two men in particular that night. Both men lost that night, but I also promised myself on that January 5th or 6th that I would continue to follow these men through their careers, no matter where they went. Now, Tetsuya Naito and Tomohiro Ishii fought in the main event, delivering a great match that was preceded by a series of really good matches. But first, there was…an undercard.
Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Juice Robinson and Captain New Japan in a similar squash match to Invasion Attack. This is the second opening squash where these two have beaten Juice and another wrestler. After Fale pinned Captain New Japan with a Bad Luck Fall, Robinson left the defeated Captain in the ring alone, looking frustrated as he left. I really couldn’t care less.
¾* for a nothing match that I watched on auto-pilot.
Kazashi Sakuraba, Gedo, Will Ospreay, and YOSHI-HASHI defeated David Finlay, Jay White, Ryuske Taiguchi, and Tiger Mask IV in what I consider the true opener for Wrestling Dontaku. There was a really interesting intensity in the opening minutes of the match between Sakuraba and Tiger Mask, which may lead up to a larger match further down the road. The main focus of this match was the Juniors in the match who are going to be in the BOSJ in a few weeks. Finlay and Ospreay were the final exchange that made Will look really good. Ospreay won with a Springboard Ace Crusher, which is his new finish apparently.
**, and I can’t wait for Best of the Super Juniors. If only a member of the site would do an introspective look at the tournament as a whole…
IWGP Jr. Hevyweight Tag Team Championships
Ricochet and Matt Sydal defeated Rappongi Vice, in the first of many odd endings on this event. We have a team of two men who would be better off as singles wrestlers in the division, going up against the strongest looking Jr. Team in the company right now. While this match was good I feel like I’m starting to numb to the Jr. tag appeal in New Japan, losing focus a few times as I watched. However, that’s not to say there weren’t good aspects from all four men. Sydal and Ricochet ended the match with the stereo shooting stars, solidifying themselves as 2-time champions.
**1/2, because I know it could’ve been better if given more time, but nothing went majorly wrong. My only gripe was that the titles just bounced from ReDragon, to the Bucks, to Ricochet and Sydal, to RPG Vice, and BACK to Sydal and Ricochet. Just depreciates the value of the belts to me.
NEVER Openweight 6-man Tag Team Championships
The Elite defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, and Yoshitatsu, with no Cody Hall on the outside with the Elite. Hoping he’s not seriously hurt and comes back one day at 100%. Yoshitatsu’s HHH cosplay needs work, is what I originally wrote. But later, he made a firey comeback that included Game-esque knees, a facebuster, and a spinebuster. 100 fictional points to Yoshi here. During this match, one of the Young Bucks called Tatsu a "mark" and I think something hemorrhaged in the higher function part of my brain. Definite spot of this match was Kenny accidentally hitting Tiger Hattori with his ColdSpray, and managing to have the most distraught and apologetic look on his face. Omega would go to low blow him later, but the fact remains that Kenny is a great personality and deserves to carry the Intercontinental title as long as he wants. The Canadian eventually hit Yoshitatsu with the One Winged Angel for the pin, and the second title change on this show.
***1/4 for a fast, hard match that almost matched the Invasion Attack predecessor. The ping pong nature of the 6-man belts doesn’t bother me as much as with the Jr. Tag belts. After the match, Tanahashi challenged Omega for the IC title, and Kenny made the match a Ladder match. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle this match on whichever PPV this is gonna be on.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
Guerillas of Destiny defeated Great Bash Heel in what was a better match than what I was expecting. It seems to be the cool thing to hate Tongas Tama and Roa, but I think they’re both decent enough with potential to grow. There were two aspects to this match; Roa and Makabe being big stiff bastards, and Honma with Tama doing a quicker paced outing. While it wasn’t the most technically impressive match, there certainly wasn’t anything wrong with the match itself. Eventually, Makabe was layed out, and Honma was done in by Guerilla Warfare.
**1/2 for an okay match that positioned the Samoan brothers as the premier tag team in the Tag league.
I want to lament for a second, on the status of the Bullet Club. With Styles, Anderson, and Gallows gone it seems the group is steadily drifting apart, with the Guerillas of Destiny, the Elite, and the pair of Fale and Takahashi all off doing their own things. It seems only sensible and imminent that the Bullet Club will be split by year’s end, unless something happens where they all unify again under one banner.
NEVER Openweight Championship
Yuji Nagata defeated Katsuyori Shibata in the most surprising outcome tonight. I don’t think anyone, at least the English audiences, expected the Third Generation man to defeat Shibata. This was akin to the previous match with Tenzan, where they were able to add story to the traditionally action oriented NEVER matches. Since Wrestle Kingdom 9, the most story a NEVER match has gotten was “X wants title, and Y wants to keep it.” But here we got Shibata wanting to make a name for himself over the aging veterans of New Japan. I expected this to be just a good match that would get the incumbent champion over, but I was filled with legitimate excitement and emotion when Nagata hit Shibata with the Backdrop Hold.
*** for a really good match with a solidly heel Shibata and still-over-as-ever Nagata. How long Nagata will hold the belt is to be seen.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
KUSHIDA defeated Jushin Thunder Liger in a surprisingly high spot on the card. This match was built off respect, like the previous match. But unlike the match, it was built off the mutual respect between champion and challenger, as opposed to a lack of respect. Much a majority of the undercard, this was a very basic, by-the-book match. In what may have been Liger’s last shot at a singles title in New Japan, he tapped to the Hoverboard lock.
**3/4 stars for a solid match, with not much messed up. Best of the Super Juiniors is around the corner, and we’ll most likely get our next contender from the winner of that tournament.
EVIL defeated Hirooki Goto in a match that started off hard and fast, with the two meeting in the aisle for a brawl. There was a lot of emotion I this match and it was interesting to see what kind of story these two could tell. This match was very hard hitting and fast paced for most of the match. It was enjoyable, and showed what these two were really capable of. After changing the momentum with a series of near falls, EVIL finally pinned Goto with the STO.
***1/4 for a really good match that gets by mostly on the intensity both men brought
Kazuchika Okada Defeated Sanada in what was another surprisingly good match. Although why this wasn’t as emotional as the previous match I have no idea. Sanada cost Okada the World Title, and they had a standard match. Granted, it was still good. I feel like the members of Los Ingobernables de Japon need to look strong if the group’s gonna be around for a while. I realized as I watched Sanada’s entrance that he was coming out with a skull mask, “Cold Skull” on his jacket, and a baseball bat in hand. The part of my brain is overclocking and I don’t know why…anyway, I’m watching the Monday Night Wars DVD right now and it’s a really good watch. Sanada was given considerable offense to get over, but in the end, fell to the Rainmaker.
***1/2 from the TNA token Japanese, hoping to see more of them from the future.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Tetsuya Naito defeated Tomohiro Ishii in what was my favorite match this year in any company so far. Both men brought A-games and delivered far more than I was expecting. I can hardly put into words how good this match was. Both men showed me something new that they had never shown me before. Ishii showed me psychology that he had not used in any matches in at least the past year. The ROH TV Champion was working over the right leg of the champion, with dragon screws, elbows or kicks, and various submissions to the leg. His typical strategy of bludgeoning his opponent was present, but this new offense was mixed in for a great challenger disposition. Naito showed me something different too, pain. His selling was wonderful in this match. Again, his cockiness and personality were still there, but when he was hurt and in holds you could really feel his pain. Tetsuya Naito eventually hit Destino on Ishii for the cover at the end of a half hour classic. This match may be on Dailymotion, and I would tell ALL of you to find this. OR you could register for NJPW World, which I recommend too.
****1/4 for two men not typically in the main event, showing how much they could really do, in a match that went longer than most. Classic.
Overall the show was…decent. The fantastic second half outweighed the odd booking of the undercard and the strange title changes. While not as good as Invasion Attack, this was still a really solid show that could be enjoyed by any fan.