Oh New Japan how I’ve missed thee.
A company that have had a really tough time as of late. Trying to run shows during the pandemic has resulted in a year marred with constant struggles, cancelled shows and sudden last minute card changes galore. Understandable given the situation, but I have struggled to keep up and maintain my investment.
This weekend embodies that sentiment to a ‘T’, a show riddled with bad luck from minute one to the final hours. It’s a miracle the event is even happening with the Japanese capital in a state of emergency thanks to a worrying COVID surge. A show taking place in the background of an Olympics with no fans is sure a unique setting.
Then this week Kota Ibushi was pulled with him currently suffering from asphyxiation pneumonia! Forced to recast the #1 Contender for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and one half of the intended main event mere days before the show.
A seemingly cursed title headlining a cursed show, I’m sure it all went fine and dandy! Let’s not faff about then, how grand a slam was the wrestling on this Wrestle Grand Slam?
IWGP Jr Tag Team Championships
El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori vs Rocky Romero & Rysuke Taguchi
Opening the show in true Tokyo Dome fashion with that quickened energy in the style of the Junior tag titles. A clash of experience and… being a dick?
Hair extensions Ishimori flying through the air as Taguchi propels a butt into his face. Phantasmo defying with 450s and Topes over cameramen, shortly after chatting shit with back rakes.
The Styles Clash wasn’t enough to keep Rocky down, Taguchi’s ‘Bum’aye not quite Strong Style enough for the win. The match eventually evolving into a run of constant tag offence, peaking with an awesome Moonsault from Phantasmo springboarding off the apron and over the guard rail. Such mighty height from the Bullet Club man!
Grabbing the ankle afterwards in what became the focus of the match… the mystery of El Phantasmo’s totally not loaded boot. I love that note, the flight to the outside hurting him because he’s got something planted in there. Sorry, I mean because… he’s… trained so hard kicking trees that his shin is pure tight muscle 24/7!
Later Phantasmo taking too long to hit his Superkick due to him having to shake his boot for no reason. Resulting in Taguchi catching the leg and using the boot against the cheeky Bullet Club lads, in the chaos Rocky getting his hands on the loose footwear to shock and disbelief. Inside! There’s something insi- NO THERE ISN’T. Boom! Kick! The distraction of the boot enough for baddies to benefit and bring home the win.
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship
El Desperado vs Robbie Eagles
Robbie Eagles the first Australian to have a singles match in the Tokyo Dome, good on yer lad. “OI, OI, OI!” and all that.
On top of it all he also became the first to win as well as first of his nation to become IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion. Eagles making Aussie history! As the wrestling nerd in me cheers at the guaranteed future banger in him facing Hiromu Takahashi in his first defence.
What a rise El Desperado has had over the pandemic era, truly one of those wrestlers who ran with the opportunity from those suddenly available spots made by the lack of foreign talent. Once they returned the man kept right in the mix and now holding singles gold having main evented the company’s anniversary show.
Despy working the Aussie’s tweaked knee as the Sniper adapts to a new one-legged way of flying. The bigger hindrance seeming to be Eagles’ other method of wearing down in his kicks, you can fly with one leg… even more unwise to try and kick with it.
Fighting through the selling into giving the Suzuki-gun champion a taste of his own medicine, hammering home the work with a 450 to the leg. After that there was no escape from the hold for the masked lad in a damn great way to crown a new babyface champion. Eagles looked fantastic here and Desperado played a perfect failed foil.
Special Singles Match
Kazuchika Okada vs Jeff Cobb
TIME FOR THE BEEF! And a damn delicious dish this bout was.
I’ve been big on Cobb for a few years, but watching him cemented as a trusted force as part of Ospreay’s heel Empire stable has been a real treat. The banger against Shingo Takagi at Wrestle Kingdom this year really made a statement.
Now look at him! In a Tyler Breeze “Prove Yourself” against The Rainmaker himself as this slice of steak continues to sizzle. Dropkicking Okada out of the ring in at the start of the match certainly set a tone and boy did they play the following notes strong.
Seriously, Cobb’s insane mix of power and athleticism is such a strong pairing for Okada’s counter style. The Rainmaker winding up only to be slammed in the chest with a mighty oomph of beef. A combination of sick strikes, Powerbombs and Moonsaults is just showing off at this point, Jeffery.
The back and forth into a sudden Okada cradle pin in the end had me watching in awe, counter after counter after counter as both lads reversed the other about five or six times in a singles minute. A brilliant ending to a top notch match, but that’s what you get with Okada in the Tokyo Dome!
To be fair that’s two-for-two when it comes to bangers for Cobb in the Dome as well.
IWGP Tag Team Championships
Tetsuya Naito & SANADA vs Dangerous Tekkers w/Miho
Dangerous Tekkers have been a revelation in elevating the IWGP Tag Team scene as they’ve routinely fought big names in these semi-main event marathon matches. Dashing all hopes of this show not eating up 4 hours of my Sunday, but who’s complaining when it does so in such fashion!
A slow start that gradually builds and builds to a frantic fever of ferocity, four singles lads coming together to compose an epic. Breaking down about 20 minutes in and never lifting their foot off the gas. An ever increasing tempo made all the tastier by Sabre Jr and SANADA’s silky smooth style, “Give me smooth, give me silky!”
It’s fair to say Naito & TAICHI are no slouches when it comes to this style either, a “grand slam of main players” as Kevin Kelly put it. Kicking up the pace first with a slew of offence, second the silky back n’ forth, before we finally drive a car through counter city. Flying down the motorway at 70mph with the destination still out of sight.
37 minutes of madness! Practically formed a fellowship.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Shingo Takagi (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
All of a sudden we’ve found ourselves watching 22nd Tokyo Dome match for Hiroshi Tanahashi, albeit not under the circumstances he would have wanted. Confirmed to be replacing Kota Ibushi hours before the show to truly confirm a Tokyo Dome show like no other, main evented with a truly cursed new Heavyweight title.
Oh aye the match banged though! You can bank on few things in life, but Hiroshi Tanahashi delivering a MOTY in the Tokyo Dome is sure one them. Let’s not just rest on the challenger, Takagi himself has been breathing fire since arriving in New Japan. Becoming one of their most reliable performers as he’s rapidly climbed from Junior MOTY with Ospreay, to Beefy Big Boy MOTY against Cobb and now as defending Heavyweight Champion against The Ace himself.
Just like he did against Okada, Shingo rising to the challenge of New Japan’s stiffest competition. Countering with force, powering his way into the Last Of The Dragon and fighting through the pain. That New Japan fighting spirit on display as he slapped off the fatigue and exchanged strikes with the multi-time Tokyo Dome main event star.
The Ace himself finding ways to dig deep and bring out something new: nailing the Kamigoye to ground his oppponent for a High Fly Flow, delivering a headbutt to win a back n’ forth. Tana showing us as to what level our new champion needed to rise, the desire he needed to display
The Dragon shocking the crowd by kicking out of the High Fly Flo, but that was just the beginning of the flow! Both lads lamping each other over and over, a tad of that NEVER style forearming its way into the main event. It took three Last Of The Dragons, but Shingo Takagi knocks off another New Japan top dog in retaining this title.
Determined to break the initial curse and associate this new IWGP Heavyweight Championships with some hot fire from The Dragon.
As long as he doesn’t bloody lose it to EVIL. Ah man, you can’t escape this curse!
And now we can get hyped for the road to the G1 Climax in October! What did you make of Wrestle Grand Slam? Comment below, I’m always popping in trying to respond to everyone.
Toodles chaps, assen na yo.