New Japan Pro Wrestling
FIGHTING SPIRIT UNLEASHED
September 30, 2018
Walter Pyramid, Long Beach, CA
A video package talking about the expanding US presence of NJPW and the return to Walter Pyramid gives us a rundown of the card. Jim Ross and Kevin Kelly are on commentary.
ROPPONGI 3K & ROCKY ROMERO
JUSHIN THUNDER LYGER, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & ACH
Taguchi is out with a rugby hat and American football. I adore that guy. Kevin mentions the victory Liger and Tiger Mask scored over the Junior Tag champs as the crowd chants for Liger. Liger and Yoh start us off. Lock up, Yoh puts Liger on the ropes and gives a bit of a cocky break. Liger gets a headlock, Yoh sends him off and Liger tackles Yoh down but Yoh kips back up and lands a nice dropkick taking down Liger. Liger fires back with that great tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and locks in the surfboard. Rocky and Sho try to intervene as Taguchi and ACH intercept and lock in ankle locks! Taguchi Japan waves his team on home against Yoh in the corner, and caps it off with a hip attack.
Taguchi calls the next play but Yoh reverses and sends Liger into Taguchi’s bum, and then… is that… Yoh’s take on thumb-in-the-bum? Whatever it was it sends Taguchi to the outside, and the action picks back up inside with Rocky setting Liger up for Yoh in the corner, who then tags in Sho, great tandem offense by Roppongi 3K. Tag to Rocky, who trash talks Liger. Liger fires back but Rocky takes out his knee and tags in Sho, and the trio teams up on Liger. Liger however is able to outsmart Roppongi 3K and lands another tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on Sho and is looking for the tag, and gets to ACH!
ACH is the house of fire, Sho tries for a German suplex but ACH fights him off, lands a dive on Rocky outside to then slide back in for a great stomp/kick combo on Sho, trips up Yoh and lands a seated superkick, Sho tries to break the momentum but ACH fights his way out and lands a HUGE deadlift German, bridge for only 2! WHAT A FANTASTIC SEQUENCE. Crowd chants for ACH. ACH lifts Sho who fights out, looks for the German, ACH escapes, Sho looks again and DUMPS ACH on his head with a deadlift German.
Sho tags in Rocky as ACH tags Taguchi who looks for the hip attack, but Rocky sidesteps him and Taguchi hurts his bum. Rocky winds up Forever Clotheslines and lands 3 before Taguchi gets a hip attack, and then gets 2 more on Roppongi 3K. Taguchi with V-Trigger Hip Attacks and does the Nakamura, Rocky and Roppongi look for the triple dropkick but Taguchi rolls out of it confidently! That was fun. Taguchi gets shots in, but eats a “triple atomic drop”, triple team on Taguchi leads to Rocky rolling him up for a good 2 count.
They call for 3K, but it gets broken up, ACH lands a double dropkick, kip up and nails a gorgeous suicide dive on Roppongi 3K, Taguchi back in the ring with Rocky and hits Dodon for the 3 count and the WIN!
Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH defeat Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero by pinball after Dodon
Jay’s Rating: 3 out of 5
I might be feeling generous here, but I found this to be a fun opener to kick off the night, a very well-received match by the crowd, gave ACH a HUGE chance to shine which he absolutely did, and was just an entertaining contest between great in-ring storytellers and tandem wrestlers. It may not have had much more to it than that, but it felt like the right way to kick off the show – a match with teams and players who are hungry and looking to win, but a match that doesnt need to serve any other purpose than to warm up the crowd. I think it succeeded wonderfully in doing so. It felt like they were having fun. If they can keep that up, I’m looking forward to the rest of the night.
HANGMAN PAGE & CHASE OWENS vs THE ADDICTION
The two SCU members play to the California crowd with the state flag in their entrance, and the crowd seems excited about this one. “SCU” chants. Kaz and Page start us off and lock up. Page sent to the ropes, and a tackle attempt dazes both but fells no one. Kaz shows his speed early on toward another tackle but still no one budges. Page and Kaz start slugging, Kaz really can do it all, Page gets the upper hand though in the slugfest until Kaz cuts him off at the ropes, Pages returns the favor, they both go for lariats, and a second, and cant take each other down. A third lariat staggers Kaz into a tag to Daniels, Owens in for Page. Action starts fast with Owens showing great combo offense, but Daniels gets control back with a neckbreaker, tags Kaz back in. Addiction double team on Owens, covers but Owens is out at 1.
Kaz stays on Owens with shots, whips to the rope, Owens ducks and Page makes the blind tag and uses it to allow Chase the advantage on The Addiction leaving them open for Page to keep the pressure on. Page with the dropsault on Daniels onto Kaz into a cover for 2 and the crowd LOVES IT. Page stomps the mudhole and tags Owens in, who keeps the pressure on Kaz. Owens lays forearms into Kaz’s back, then a backbreaker for barely a 2 count. Owens pulls Kaz back to Page, Page tags in, they hit a combo standing shooting star/knee drop for a 2 count, Page with the bridging pump handle fallaway suplex on Kaz for another 2. Owens back in and Bullet Club is keeping with quick tags, cutting off the ring, really great classic tag team wrestling. The crowd tries to pump up Kaz, who fights up and is able to get the over the back backstabber on Owens and makes the tag to Daniels!
Daniels in hot, takes them both out and lands a great STO on Page. Daniels catches Owens and looks like he’s setting up Last Rites, but then catches Page coming in for a urinage, and then urinages Page ONTO OWENS PANCAKING HIM. What a cool combo from Daniels. Daniels lines up Owens and faceplants him, covers but only 2. Daniels with a urinage and calls for BME but Owens rolls him for 2. Daniels with the ship but Owens avoids and opens up the Buckshot Lariat from Page who knocks Kaz down to the floor to follow. Owens with the slingshot backbreaker to Daniels, covers but Daniels kicks out at 2.
Page intercepts Kaz coming back and looks for the shooting star shoulder block, but Kaz intercepts him WITH A LUNGBLOWER! GREAT COUNTER! Owens looks for the Package Piledriver, Kaz intervenes but The Addiction takes the advantage and lands the BEST MELTZER EVER to a huge pop, the 3 count and the WIN.
The Addiction defeats Hangman Page & Chase Owens by pinball after the Best Meltzer Ever
Jay’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5
That was a hell of a fun tag match, with every single player delivering great stuff, good urgency and just having a blast as they soak up a crowd that feels just so so happy to be there. Owens continues to be one of the unsung heroes of the roster, Page is clearly a future superstar and its hard to find more a reliably competitive and fun (and at the same time as that) than The Addiction. The Addiction maintains some momentum moving forward given the overlap in viewership given the ROH/NJPW partnership, particularly after the loss to the Briscoes at Death Before Dishonor. Another fun match to keep the card moving along nicely.
JEFF COBB, CHRIS SABIN & FLIP GORDON vs HIROOKI GOTO & BEST FRIENDS
Nice pop for Jeff Cobb, who is out with the Ring of Honor TV Title (I won’t spoil how that happened but if you watched or are watching this show you’re gonna see it, sooo… an interesting choice though…).
The bell rings and Chuckie and Sabin start us off. They lock up and do some counter wrestling to begin, great speed from Sabin but Chuckie shows why you cant underestimate him either, both men snag near falls and they stand off. Then each man takes out the others team mates and that leads to all 6 players in at once! Team Cobb (due respect to Flip and Chris… but I’m standing by it) takes advantage and triple teams Chuckie in the corner, with Cobb squashing Chuckie leading to a running shooting star from Flip and a La Majistral from Sabin for 2.
Sabin misses a shot which allows Goto and Trent to assist, and Best Friends hit the toss cutter on Flip and look for the hug, but Cobb is in and DESTROYS FRIENDSHIP. Cobb then runs the ropes looking for a dive but Goto lariats him off his feet to cut him off! Goto outside with Cobb but Sabin lands an apron PK on Goto before being taken out by Trent. Trent looks to dive but Chuckie intervenes with the HUG! YAAAAAAAY! Best Friends keep the advantage and land 2 flipping dives over the top rope! The crowd eats it up.
Chucki back in with Sabin and tags in Trent who starts building hype for the move, the most dangerous move in wrestling, THE OVER THE TOP ROPE JUMP INTO A FACE TWIST, followed by Chuckie WITH THE SLOW SENTON! HOLY SHIT. 😉
Goto in and takes control on Sabin, landing an elbow drop but getting only a 2 count. Headlock on Sabin slows the action down, the crowd claps and gets behind Sabin (though not necessarily at the expense of Goto – they really are just loving the match). Trent in and gets a bridging northern lights for 2 on Sabin, then lights up his chest with a chop. Sabin fires back with e chop of his own, they trade with Trent getting the power advantage and tags in Chuckie. Sabin fights back but Chuckie goes for the eyes and Sabin looks for a tag in the wrong corner. Best Friends double team Sabin but Sabin shows great agility out of it (OH MY GOD HIS CHEST), looks for the tag, Best Friends try to cut him off but Sabin fights them off again and tags in Flip!
Flip in fast, gets his shit in right off the bat including his great springboard flip to the outside and then a huge crossbody for 2 on Trent back inside. Flip misses Trent in the corner but hits the springboard sling blade and heads up top, misses the 450 and eats the Sexy Chuckie Knee from Trent and both men are down! Great electricity from the crowd. They get the tags to Cobb and Goto and Cobb takes it right to Goto, crushing him in the corner. Goes for it again but Goto moves and they both eat lariats. Goto hits a 3rd one and takes Cobb off of his feet. Goto with the classic corner kick and Saito suplex for a 2 count on Cobb. Goto looks for Ushigoroshi but has trouble lifting Cobb, they go back and forth with Goto looking for GTR, but Cobb turns it around into a big vertical suplex! Cobb misses the standing moonsault (which looked great anyway), and Goto is able to take Cobb down again. Goto tags in Chuckie who looks to suplex Cobb but struggles, Trent in and together they get Cobb up and over cuz THATS WHAT BEST FRIENDS DO. They try to double team, but Cobb gets BOTH MEN UP IN A DOUBLE WRIST CLUTCH SAITO SUPLEX WHAT! Cobb is the immediate future of this art form. Holy shit that was awesome.
Crowd chants for Cobb, but Best Friends are able to take Cobb down with a double team, and Chuckie is able to get Cobb up and plant him with the piledriver but Flip breaks it up at 2. Chuckie positions Cobb for the moonsault but Cobb moves, lariats Chuckie out of reality, whips him to the ropes and catches him coming back with the Tour of the Islands for the pin and the WIN, a big one for Cobb on NJPW TV!
Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon defeat Hirooki Goto & The Best Friends by pinfall after the Tour of the Islands
Jay’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5
And that’s the hat trick to start us off. This was another super fun match, with a crowd that they have eating out of their hands and a bunch of performers who are using that to push themselves into some great urgency, pacing, storytelling and straight up fun. Plus, the potential of Cobb/Goto in Japan, where the dynamics of crowd loyalty will likely be very different but no less compelling, is super promising to me. A great match that left everyone looking pretty great while planting a seed for an exciting feud by two people whose styles, if calibrated right, could really combine into an explosive series of matches. Very into this evening so far.
After the match Goto takes a shot at Cobb, and we get some fireworks between them as Goto and Cobb both look defiant. Goto sends his message and then leaves the ring, and the crowd chants for Cobb. YES. PLEASE. SIGN ME UP.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA)
SUZUKI-GUN (Killer Elite Squad & Zack Sabre, Jr.)
Zack Sabre, Jr. Is in and there is no way he isnt getting cheered here. DEAL WITH IT. Of course, the crowd also loses it for LIJ, Naito in particular. And Suzuki-Gun attacks the bell, surprising no one. ZSJ and EVIL are left in the ring, with EVIL getting the advantage with a tackle and laying a boot into ZSJ. SANADA in and keeps the pressure on ZSJ. Whips to the ropes but ZSJ turns it into an abdominal stretch, SANADA reverse to one of his own, reversals take them into the Suzuki corner and Smith tags in and takes control. Smith lays into SANADA and whips to the ropes, SANADA ducks and takes out the knee with a dropkick. SANADA looks for the Paradise Lock but Smith powers out, SANADA stays on but Archer gets the blind tag and catches a back body on SANADA from Smith into a power slam and keeps control on SANADA as LIJ is taken out at ringside.
Archer keeps the action fast and impactful on SANADA in the corner and tags in Smith. Smith slows it down, slamming SANADA hard and then hyperextending the knee with cockiness, throwing a little Hogan taunt in there before pulling back the knee with a beautiful bridging submission, transitions into a Trailer Hitch of sorts, that into an STF and just shows wrestling dominance over SANADA. SANADA tries to fight back with chops but Smith gets a German suplex, holds the waist lock for a 2nd, but SANADA flips out of a 3rd and is able to take Smith down with a middle rope dropkick. Archer cuts off the tag attempt but SANADA ranas him and gets the tag to Naito!
Naito is the house of fire and takes out Smith, ZSJ tries to intervene but Naito gets the corner dropkick on him and a neckbreaker on Smith before playing to the crowd who loves it. Smith tries to get the advantage on Naito but eats an enziguri, but is able to catch him coming with a suplex allowing Archer to join him for a double team on Naito, including a double team off the middle rope and a cover for a 2 count. KES looks for the Killer Bomb but Naito fights it off and plants Archer with a tornado DDT! Archer tags in ZSJ as Naito tags EVIL, who lay shots in on each other in the middle of the ring. EVIL shows a power advantage, but ZSJ eats it and asks for more until EVIL takes him down and lands the senton. ZSJ gets the arm though and looks to manipulate the arm and wrist, but EVIL is able to reverse it into a fisherman buster and SANADA takes KES off the apron. They double team ZSJ and Naito joins in as well. SANADA takes out KES with a dive, EVIL looks for Everything is Evil on ZSJ but ZSJ turns it into the Octopus Hold, but EVIL turns that into Darkness Falls for a 2 count! EVIL looks for the finish again but ZSJ counters again into a bridging clutch while flipping off the crowd for the 3 count and the WIN!
Suzuki-Gun defeats Los Ingobernables de Japon by pinfall with a bridging clutch while flipping off the crowd
Jay’s Rating: 2.75 out of 5
I mean, it was a good match. Both teams showed great urgency, they kept the action tight and forward-moving, and I love the continued investment in Zack Sabre Jr specifically. That guy is another one who is defining the future of wrestling as we watch. I think I just am also like, ok, where else is LIJ/Suzuki-Gun going? I mean, there are some great individual matches here, and I dont know if there is anything more for Naito and Suzuki against each other but maybe? But I just dont know that I still care about this feud enough to sustain what feels like very similar matches on repeat. And they’re good matches, because they people involved are talented as hell. But its not satisfying, if that makes sense, because they are trying to make me care – its a feud after all – and I sort of just dont anymore. Lets cap this off and move on, because good matches can only sustain it for so long, and I feel that moment has passed.
After the match, Suzuki-Gun kills more Young Boys, including Smith hitting a running power slam on the floor. Look at them be jerks. What jerks they are. EVIL is catatonic on his knees in the ring, stunned by getting caught in the pin. Naito Is able to wake him up a bit, and the crowd chants for him.
JAY WHITE & GEDO vs HIROSHI TANAHASHI & KUSHIDA
Gedo is out in street fighting style clothes rather than his usual trunks, to signify the new attitude he is bringing to CHAOS with Jay White. Tanahashi and KUSHIDA are out to nice response, Tanahashi with G1 briefcase in hand.
Tanahashi starts off by running right out to ringside to take out Jay, and Jay goes down early. Tanahashi throws White back in the ring and looks to keep the fire on, laying in shots to Jay. Tanahashi with a greta dragon screw on Jay, and keeps on Jay in the corner. Jay able to reverse and dumps Tanahashi back outside and takes the boots to him, and strangles Tanahashi with the electrical cord at ringside. Jay is heeling it up and has figured out a great way to make it work with the crowd. Gedo rakes KUSHIDA’s face as Jay shops Tanahashi before throwing him back in. Jay with a corner elbow on Tanahashi, lands a snap Saito suplex and covers, but only gets a 2 count.
Jay with a chop to Tanahashi and tags in Gedo. Gedo with a headlock on Tanahashi as Tiger Hitori gets involved. Gedo keeps on Tanahashi, smiling as he picks him apart. Gedo takes him back to his corner and tags Jay back in, who slams Tanahashi and lands a big elbow drop for 2. White sends Tanahashi into Gedo’s boot, and Gedo comes back in as the crowd tries to rally behind Tanahashi. Tanahashi fights back with body shots and swipes at Jay, but that allows Gedo to take control back, but Tanahashi is able to get a counter with a cross body and both men are down. Tanahashi finally tags KUSHIDA who comes in fast with a springboard on Gedo and takes out Jay, hitting a great cartwheel dropkick on Gedo to take control. Chants for KUSHIDA, who gets the jumping DDT and rolls that through to the armbar, Gedo fights out but KUSHIDA counters into the Hoverboard Lock but Jay breaks it up. Jay drags Gedo to the corner to tag himself in, showing great ring intelligence, and chops away at KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA tries to fight off Jay and gets the handspring back elbow and a tag to Tanahashi, who is rested and gets on a roll against Jay.
Tanahashi keeps things moving on Jay who looks for Blade Runner, but Tanahashi counters into Twist and Shout. Tanahashi looks for sling blade, eats a chop but gets it after and covers Jay for 2. KUSHIDA and Gedo keep outside as Tanahashi looks for High Fly Flow, Jay distracts Tiger Hitori as Gedo sneaks up and nails Tanahashi with a foreign object! Tiger Hitori didnt see it! Gedo takes out KUSHIDA as Jay picks up Tanahashi, hits Blade Runner and covers for 3 and the WIN.
Jay White & Gedo defeat Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA by pinfall after Gedo lands a foreign object shot and White hits Blade Runner
Jay’s Rating: 2.75 out of 5
This was a match with a very specific job to do, and it did it pretty damn well. Tanahashi is very comfortable back in this particular spotlight, and showing some great aggression against White. White is an utterly spectacular heel. He sort of reminds me of the point in Triple H’s career where I really was into him, a moment for me that was defined by him being an UTTER ASSHOLE but also delivering some amazing storytelling in the ring with pretty much everyone he was in there with. I feel like Jay is that kind of asshole, and he’s only just beginning to sink his teeth into this character. I dont think the match in and of itself was really anything special, it was good, but it sort of wasn’t about that. And I didnt mind the weapon spot at the end because a) it fits the story and b) because the choice was then made to have Jay pick up Tanahashi and land his finisher before taking the pin – it made sure the story was still about Jay feeling dominant and entitled. This was a decent step on the road to more.
After the match, Jay takes the mic. The crowd boos loudly to drown out Jay. This feels like some great heel heat, hard to get in our current moment especially by someone so genuinely good in the ring as Jay is. His ownership of his character speaks volumes. “Fuck you Switchblade” chants make it difficult for Jay to even cut the promo. Jay plays right back at the crowd, which is EXACTLY the right thing to do – acknowledge it, dont ignore it. Jay looms over a fallen Tanahashi and claims the right to the briefcase since he beat Tanahashi. He asks what Tanahashi and NJPW are waiting for? He says they are scared because everyone knows Jay will win, and NJPW cant face the thought of not having Tanahashi at WrestleKingdom’s main event, and less so the thought of White in that spot. Jay finishes the promo with a call to the “new era.” You know, when everyone was first raving about Jay White, I really couldn’t see it. He was good in the ring, but also very non-specific. He didnt have anything to bring color to his ringwork, to bring storytelling to his in-ring choice making other than “I’m pretty great at this.” And as he’s been allowed to sink into the Switchblade persona, I get it now. It took him a minute, but this promo once again showed how locked in he is in this role, and is creating a true heel for 2018 in some exciting ways. I am so here for the Jay White takeover of CHAOS, in that I’m excited by where this character can go both within and beyond that story parameter. He’s been working hard to find his take on a character like this, and the work is paying off with a command that is fantastic and genuinely makes his matches and promos more interesting. Well earned, Jay White.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semi-final
MARTY SCURLL vs WILL OSPREAY
There is so much history between these two, and the crowd is into it before the bell. My only question going in is, how can they avoid this being “yet another Scurrl/Ospreay match”?
The bell rings and they go right at each other and OSPREAY CATCHES SCURLL IN THE STANDING SPANISH FLY! Cover right away but Marty is out at 2! Marty is out but Ospreay lands SPACE FLYING TIGER, rolls Marty back in and hits a Shooting Star Press but only gets 2! Calls for the Oscutter but Marty escapes but Ospreay follows with a suicide dive! Ospreay only now giving Marty a moment to breathe as he plays to the crowd.
Throws Marty back in and hits a springboard forearm that takes Scurll down, and then lays in some Yes Kicks. Marty catches the leg and SLAPS Ospreay, Ospreay fights back, Scurll hits some uppercuts, Ospreay outside but Marty hits the apron superkick, fully taking the advantage. The crowd chants for Scurll as Scurll takes it to Ospreay and rolls him back in. Marty dodges an enziguri and lands an UGLY stomp on the back of Ospreay’s head into the mat, and follows that with a series of strong chops.
Marty locks in the cravate and lays in knees, snapmare and lands a dropkick to Ospreay’s head and neck. Cover by Marty but only gets 2. Marty keeps on Ospreay with some physical headgames, chops him into the corner and laying hard kicks into the head. Ospreay stares down Marty but Marty keeps the aggression on, choking Ospreay over the bottom rope with dominance and firing up the crowd behind him. AND THEY ARE HOT. Ospreay is able to counter the momentum however with that amazing handspring flipping enziguri, taking down Marty.
Dual chants for Ospreay and Marty as they slowly get to their feet. Ospreay takes Marty down in the corner but misses the hesitation dropkick, lands an enziguri and top rope 619 however, to keep Marty off of his feet. Ospreay looks to springboard but Marty interrupts and takes Ospreay down to the outside, follows him out and whips Ospreay to the barricade. Scurll with chops and then brings Ospreay to the apron, Ospreay fights back, back and forth, chops and kicks getting traded, Ospreay looks for Spanish Fly off the apron but Marty holds on, Marty puts Ospreay back in the ring but Ospreay with a mid kick stuns Marty, runs the ropes and hits a HUGE SUNSET BOMB with a hat tip to Hiromu Takahashi on Marty! Holy shit chants.
Ospreay brings Marty back in and lands the Robinson Special (aka one of the most beautiful moves in wrestling), calls for the Oscutter, but Marty catches as a backslide, rolls it thru so Ospreay is on his knees and hits a super kick! Both men are down. Marty up first and looks for Graduation, Ospreay fights it off, looks for Stormbreaker, Marty drops out of it, they trade shots, Ospreay with a huge kick to the face and a HUGER LARIAT taking Marty down. Ospreay perches Marty up top, follows him up on the outside, but takes too long and Marty able to crotch him on the top rope! Marty know up top, and HE HITS A TOP ROPE RANA OF HIS OWN, then runs the ropes and drops Ospreay with a big clothesline and covers for 2!
Marty up and chops Ospreay, who eats it but will not go down, and another, and another, Ospreay selling (maybe over-selling?) the pain, they trade shots, and Ospreay almost has the advantage but Marty turns a suplex into a twist out into the CHICKENWING CROSSFACE WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? The hands are locked! Ospreay rolls into a pin but Marty rolls it back into a pin, both get only 2, Marty lands a power bomb for 2, looks for Graduation but Ospreay flips out on his feet, they trade more shots, and finally the strikes take both men down after an awesome sequence. God. Damn. The fans go nuts.
Ospreay, who landed the wraparound super kick right at the end, is up first and calls for Stormbreaker. Marty lifts Ospreay out of it and climbs the corner while Ospreay is hoisted, Ospreay out of it and lands Cheeky Nandos! Ospreay gets some crazy eyes and climbs up top, looking for the inverted 450, but Scurll is up and drops Ospreay, smacking his head into the corner post, and then looks for the Chickenwing on the top rope. Ospreay fights back, but Marty lands a GIGANTIC top rope Tiger Suplex, covers, but OSPREAY IS UP AT 2! Marty with a huge lariat, then a side package piledriver, and lastly Graduation and Marty Scurll gets the pinfall and the WIN!
Marty Scurll defeats Will Ospreay by pinfall after Graduation and advances to the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Finals against KUSHIDA
Jay’s Rating: 4 out of 5
Well that was just awesome. I think the only thing keeping me from scoring it higher was because it felt short for my taste, in spite of it making sense at this length as a semi-final match. In any case, the players just delivered some of their absolute best stuff with utter precision, playing off their history, finding new combinations and permutations, and creating real drama in a match that legitimately could have gone either way. Again, what a FUN match! Personally, I am a HUGE fan of putting Scurll in the finals. Ospreay is a star. He’s sort of already there, in that I feel like wherever he ends up being long term, whether here or elsewhere, will be looking at him for the main event soon. Its going to happen. Scurll deserves to be there as well, but I feel like people still dont always believe it – like, his shtick doesnt feel like main event shtick on a scale like NJPW (I feel like he would have the same problem on the main roster of WWE). But he deserves it, because the dudes ability to deliver great character, great ring work and great drama across the spectrum is also undeniable. So I love that a company like New Japan keeps putting him in real spotlight positions, ensuring that people keep seeing what he is truly capable of. The trust that exists between these two floors me, and it allowed them to once again deliver a top quality match that had the crowd on absolute fire. Great, great work all around.
IWGP World Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY vs THE YOUNG BUCKS (c)
I love GoD’s entrance for a similar reason that I loved Punishment Martinez’s in ROH – the slow ominous march gives such a more palpable sense of danger to characters that are meant to be dangerous. I am hoping for an actual match though, which Firing Squad hasn’t been as interested in as of late. The Power Rangers-riff sounds and the Buck’s are out to their new music which, yeah, is pretty great.
Tama throws the titles down to the outside of the ring and gets in the Buck’s face before the bell. Tama and Nick start us off as the crowd chants for the Young Bucks. However, the “GoD” chants perk up as well. They lock up to start with Tama taking Nick down with a tackle, Nick leapfrogs, Tama shows that incredible speed and defensive wrestling but Nick matches him move for move and they get in each others face and a shoving contest breaks out between all 4 and we have a brawl!
GoD whips the Bucks for the ropes, but the Bucks land a double team elevated dropkick, whip Tama to the ropes and hit tandem offense on both Tama and Tonga to take the advantage. Tama tries to fight off Nick, Nick tags in Matt and hit a double hip toss flip into a dropkick on Tama, except Matt holds his back after the backflip, showing some lingering injury. Matt sells the back and tags Nick back in, and Matt is frustrated as hell as Tama comes in and smells blood, taking control of Nick and Tonga works on Matt’s back outside. Tonga hits a running power slam on the floor to Matt and Tama brings Nick outside as well. Tama whips Nick to the ropes, and Tonga pulls a table out from under the ring and sets it up at ringside. Tonga throws Matt back inside as Nick reverses a whip on Tama, Tonga looks for an outside in suplex through the table but Nick breaks it up and hits an over the top suicide tope to the outside on Tonga.
Nick throws Tonga back in, hits his classic 2-on-1 offense but Tama pushes him off at the end and Tonga floors him with a lariat. Matt tries to come back into the match and climbs up top, but Tonga pushes him off the top rope through the table at ringside! And now GoD is firmly in control of Nick. Double team on Nick, Tonga and Tama both head up top to opposite corners and hit a diving headbutt followed by a frog splash, cover by Tama but only a 2 count.
Tama lays heavy elbows into Nick as Matt is still down at ringside. Nick tries to fight back but the numbers game is too much. Tonga in and hoists Nick up and drives him back into the GoD corner. GoD has slowed things down and are methodically picking apart Nick. Tonga holds Nick upside down for a great delayed suplex before finally dumping him, covers but only 2. Tonga tags Tama back in and they hit double headbutts on Nick. Nick fights back again but Tama shows great aggression keeping him back. Nick keeps fighting and looks for Matt but he’s still down, Nick avoids to the apron, kick to Tonga, outside in X-Factor to Tama and then takes Tonga down with the apron moonsault!
Nick crawls to the Bucks corner as Matt tries to crawl back, but Tama gets the Tongan Twist on Nick to break it up, covers but Nick is up at 2. Tonga tagged in as the crowd chants for the Bucks. “GoD” chants push through as the crowd is digging the work from both. Tama back in as GoD is firmly in control on Nick. Nick fights back again, but Tama manhandles him, Nick tries to flip out, Tama looks for another Tongan Twist but Nick twists out of it onto his feet beautifully and lands a HUGE superkick to take down Tama! Haku is shown at ringside cheering on his sons as Nick looks for Matt and gets the tag!
Matt comes in as hot as he can with shots to both members of GoD. Tama breaks it up and they double team Matt, who fires back with a jumping double clothesline that takes both Tama and Tonga down! Matt keeps the pressure on with shots to Tonga, sends Tonga up and over and super kicks Tama before nailing a through-the-ropes dropkick on Tonga before starting to hold the back again. Matt with a sunset flip on Tonga into a Sharpshooter which Matt locks in, but the back looks strained before Tonga is able to break it up.
Great double team from GoD on Matt, including a power slam from Tonga onto Tama’s knees focusing on Matt’s back, covers but only a 2 count. Tama keeps the pace slowed down, and slaps the hell out of Matt but eats a spear from Matt in reply. The crowd claps to fire up the Bucks and Nick gets the tag, springboard is caught by Tonga but Nick fights out of it and keeps the advantage, hits fantastic rolling offense on both Tama and Tonga in the corners. Nick is insanely physical. Matt in and they line up Tonga for superkicks, Tonga avoids Nick’s but eats Matt’s and then eats a double, Matt covers but Tonga is out at 2. “Elite” chants.
Matt hoists Tonga for More Bang, but Matt’s back gives out, Nick helps with the hoist and they hit most of More Bang For Your Buck but Matt is slow on the moonsault because of his back, but HITS IT, covers but only a 2 on Tonga. Nick helps Matt again to set up for Meltzer, but Tama catches Nick off the jump into a Gun Stun, and allows Tonga to hit Apeshit on Matt but Matt somehow kicks out at 2! They look for Guerrilla Warfare but Matt gets out and hits super kicks on Tonga and Tama, but then eats a 3D-style Gun Stun and GoD gets the WIN and the Championship!
Guerrillas of Destiny defeat The Young Bucks by pinfall after an elevated Gun Stun to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships for the 4th Time
Jay’s Rating: 4 out of 5
This was a pretty great tag team title match to take us into the home stretch of the show, and GoD takes the titles from the Bucks furthering the Bullet Club split as they also become the most decorated heavyweight tag team in Bullet Club history. Look, GoD took a while to find their groove a few years ago. Then they started really defining and specifying their ring work, but they started getting lost in the shuffle in the Bullet Club saga, especially with the Bucks moving to Heavyweight. And while I have had mixed feelings about the “Firing Squad” tactics especially during the G1 tournament, the storyteller in me gets it, as it allowed them to sow chaos in the lead up to this match. My big question was always, okay, but when this leads to a title match which it obviously will, how will they play it. And they played it aggressive, action-focused while telling a solid in-ring story, with the Bucks bringing back the lingering back issues and GoD showing that they can be a dominant tag team outside of DQs and interference. Having them take the title clean just because of aggressive tactics and good tag team wrestling was ABSOLUTELY the right move, because honestly however they want to play it now week to week, they have proved that they can go and win on their own merits – so cheating becomes that much more of a character choice rather than a crutch (all that is left is for booking to understand that moving forward). All in all this was a great showcase for both teams, the Bucks show once again why they are not only great ring workers but EXCEPTIONAL storytellers and GoD changes the title landscape with a 4th reign that I’d be lying if I didnt say I was sort of ready for. Really nice work again all around. So far this card is definitely proving that the audience for NJPW exists here. Loving this energy.
IWGP United States Championship
CODY vs JUICE ROBINSON (c)
Cody is out first and feels more locked in than ever. Juice is out and reference is made to a particular story to follow here, specifically how Juice – even with the title, even winning the title in the United States – still isnt quite seen as being able to carry a mantle, still struggles to be seen as one of THE guys. So Juice with something to prove here against Cody. Cody tears the shirt and plays to the crowd, really showing himself to be the star he is (his ring work isnt always the best, but he doesnt really let moments drop either – I feel like Cody is more along the lines of what Eli Drake talks about wanting back, but I think Cody strikes a balance with his ring work that keeps me comfortable with him getting the spotlight as much as he does). Juice gets some chants as well though.
They are slow to start up as the crowd is making their presence felt. They finally lock up, both look to wrestle at the top, back and forth until Cody gets a break in the ropes. They feel each other out and Juice gets the advantage, Cody goes behind but gets backed into the corner where Juice can snapmare him out of it, they continue back and forth with Juice getting into the ropes for the break. Cody lays some open chops to Juice who eats them and then fires back, back and forth, Cody to the ropes and is able to land the drop down uppercut, and ducks a leap by Juice which sends Juice outside. Cody scouts him and looks for the springboard dive, but Juice catches him and lands a belly to belly overhead on Cody on the floor! GREAT COUNTER. Juice stalks Cody as Brandi comes up behind and Juice accidentally “pushes” Brandi over, which allows Cody to hit a falling reverse DDT on Juice on the floor as Brandi and Cody celebrate their sneakiness. (Brandi is bringing back a classic managerial style and making it work and I love it.)
Cody rolls Juice back in and looks for a springboard elbow but Juice moves out of the way. Juice crushes Cody in the corner and calls for the cannonball, but Brandi grabs the foot to interrupt. Juice follows Brandi outside and gets in her face, but Cody takes advantage with Juice in the ropes, hitting a clothesline into a flatliner for a 2 count. Cody looks for Cross Rhodes but Juice counters and looks for Pulp Friction, reversal into a backslide by Cody for a good 2 count, roll up by Juice for 2 and Juice fells Cody with the jumping side kick followed by a cannonball into the corner. Juice takes Cody up for a running bomb but Cody hits a rana counter sending Juice into the corner, allowing Brandi to rake the eyes while Cody distracts the ref.
Cody puts Juice on the apron and looks for the Beautiful Disaster but Juice ducks and heads up top, and lands a GORGEOUS cross body for 2. Juice looks for Pulp Friction but Cody picks the leg and seamlessly transitions into the Figure Four. Juice tries to unlock the hold, but Cody is relentless. Juice looks for the turn, but Cody maintains control once again. Juice looks for the turn again and is able to reverse the pressure, forcing Cody to grab the ropes for the break. Brandi and Cody confer at ringside and Cody takes a drink of water, distracts the ref and spits the water in Juice’s face to set up the Beautiful Disaster, which takes down Juice for a 2 count. Cody flips off the crowd – god he knows how to work an audience.
Cody takes Juice up who fights him back into the corner, but Cody avoids, looks for an arm drag but Juice evades, Juice looks for Pulp Friction, Cody turns into Cross Rhodes, counter again into Pulp Friction and NAILS IT but Cody rolls to the ropes and Brandi helps him roll to the outside to avoid the cover. Juice stops the ref’s count out and follows Cody out to bring him back in, wanting to win definitively, but Cody plays possum and lands Cross Rhodes on the floor! Both men are down as the ref starts the count, getting to 19 and a quarter before both roll back in the ring, but struggle to get to their feet. Cody gets the advantage first, but Juice fires back, back and forth shots, trading Juice jabs (with the crowd chanting “Cody” on each of Cody’s), Juice gets control but Cody thumbs the eye and lands a big superkick that takes Juice down!
Cody looks for Din’s Landing, lifts Juice up and LANDS IT HARD (not steep, just heavy), covers but Juice is out at 2! Cody climbs to the top but Juice crotches him, and hits a big left hand on Cody to stun him. Juice looks for the superplex and lands it all the way off the top, but Cody pulls Juice into a small package with his own shoulder up and STEALS THE 3 COUNT AND THE WIN!
Cody defeats Juice Robinson by pinfall after a small package counter to win the IWGP United States Championship
Jay’s Rating: 3.75 out of 5
I really enjoyed the hell out of this match honestly, though I found a couple spots a little slow for my taste – not dropped, as these two were plugged into each other quite well throughout, just not pushing forward as well as I thought it could at moments. But this was a smart, compelling match that capitalized fully on the crowd love for both competitors. Juice needs to be a future star, and Cody sort of is actually a current star whether everyone realizes it or not. Also, big props to Brandi and her work with Cody – what she is doing has all but died out elsewhere, and it work in particular for me because she is not detracting from the match, not distracting from the match, but feeding the storytelling with her husband in an active and empowered way. She’s SMART AS HELL, and it makes me adore this “throwback” managerial approach by allowing it freshness through empowerment – neo-Sensational Sherri in a way. Its sort of brilliant. My biggest gripe is honestly taking the belt off of Juice so soon, especially if the story they are pushing is that Juice had the belt but still wasn’t quite feeling like a champion. Well, how does this help? Especially falling to Cody’s sneakiness rather than getting pushed fully to the limit? That feels like it creates more ground for Juice to now recover than is necessary, and actually hurts momentum. He already had the road to come back, with the hand injury affecting his G1 so severely. So, in a way, they had set him up well then to come back from a lackluster G1 to now have a series of title defenses which he could then emerge victorious from, redeeming the losses from injury and claiming that status more fully. Instead, they opted to put the title on Cody, which I’m not saying is a bad idea by any means or that it doesnt make sense with Cody’s current trajectory… I just think Juice’s story could have benefited more from the victory than Cody’s does, so I’m a bit confused there. But a great effort nonetheless from every participant in this match.
After the match, Cody celebrates with the IWGP US belt and his NWA World Heavyweight Championship, as Juice is sad in the ring.
KAZUCHIKA OKADA & TOMOHIRO ISHII vs THE GOLDEN LOVERS
Okada and Ishii are out first, as they talk about Okada’s title loss and rocky road back to winning ways. Golden Lovers are out next as Kevin Kelly tries to make the cultural translation of the nature of the bond between Ibushi and Kenny, which is “complicated” – a 10 year story, becoming adversaries then partners their friends, creating a deeply personal bond that has been reignited with their reunion as a team. The crowd is pumped for this one before it even starts. I mean, with these 4, how can you not be?
Okada and Ibushi start us off. Lock up to start, back and forth counter wrestling, pace picks up and Okada looks for Rainmaker early but Ibushi ducks and we have a standoff. Okada tags in Ishii, who asks for Omega who obliges. They lock up hard at the start and meet hard in the middle with neither budging. Omega tries to take it to Ishii, counters and ducks and Ishii finally lands a tackle that takes down Omega, and knocks down Ibushi spitting at him down on the floor. Omega lays shots in and Ishii just inhales each one before landing a hard one of his own. Ibushi comes in off the floor and kicks Ishii, who lays shots into Ibushi who does his best Ishii no-sell, he’s pissed, takes a shot at Ishii, Ishii sent to the ropes which allows some great double teaming on Ishii resulting in a Kotaro Crusher by Omega and a 2 count over Ishii. Omega tags in Ibushi, who lays some kicks in on Ishii. Ishii gets fired up with each one and lands that high chop on Ibushi. They trade, with both men firing up with each hit until Ibushi takes the advantage, but then gets floored by an Ishii shoulder block and Okada tags himself in, and shoots a look at Omega.
Okada with the Eddie-style slingshot senton and a taunt in the face of Omega, Okada trying to get in Omega’s head. Ibushi sent to the corner, Okada lays in boots and pulls him out into a neckbreaker for a 2 count. Okada keeps it slow, and pulls Ibushi in for a tag to Ishii, and CHAOS tackles Ibushi down and Ishii gets a shot in at Omega, which prompts Omega to come in swinging but Ishii gets the advantage and sends Omega into the barricades. Okada keeps Ibushi down and Ishii gets back in the ring, sending Ibushi into his corner and tagging Okada in – smart tag wrestling from CHAOS. Ibushi fights back but Okada gets control back and lands the running low dropkick.
Ishii back in and paintbrushes Ibushi, lands a big headbutt but Ibushi fights back and is able to take Ishii down with a high standing dropkick, and gets the tag to Omega! Omega up top and takes out Ishii with a cross body and swings at Okada but misses, goes back to Ishii who fights up, they trade shots with Omega landing a BIG chop. He hoists Ishii for You Cant Escape but Ishii escapes, but Omega is able to land a sloppy looking tornado DDT for a 2 count – Omega referenced his knee, and the move did not land right, so I’ve got an eye on that now.
Omega lines up Ishii in the corner but Ishii moves and dumps Omega with a power slam and looks for the tag. Okada is in with Omega, but Ibushi in to take Okada out with a dropkick and Omega dumps Ishii with a rana. Golden Lovers call for it and land an opposite corner Cross Slash on CHAOS to a great pop. Omega and Okada are the legal competitors.
Omega gets Okada up and lands You Cant Escape with an additional standing shooting star and moonsault from Ibushi, they both put weight on Okada but he kicks out at 2. They look for double team but Ishii breaks it up, Saito suplex on Omega but Ibushi hits a suplex on Ishii before getting SHOTGUNNED by an Okada Shotgun Dropkick into the corner, and Omega and Okada are in the ring.
The crowd feeds the moment and they trade first blows, the pace picks up with Okada landing a Euro uppercut, but eats a chop from Omega, Omega evades the dropkick, misses V-Trigger but dodges the Rainmaker, Omega looks for One Winged Angel but Okada drops behind, looks for Rainmaker again but Omega ducks and dumps Okada with the Snap Dragon Suplex! GREAT SEQUENCE. Omega has Okada lined up at the ropes and calls for V-Trigger, Ishii interrupts, Omega dumps him with a DVD and looks for V-Trigger again but Okada hits the Perfect Dropkick. Rainmaker is blocked by Ibushi catching the arm, opening Okada to a V-Trigger into a German Suplex from Ibushi! Ibushi takes out Ishii at ringside and Omega nails a V-Trigger against the ropes, picks up Okada for One Winged Angel, but Okada reverses into a tombstone, Omega reverses that into a tombstone and looks for Meltzer with Ibushi but Ishii takes out Ibushi and Okada reverses again and gets the tombstone, and sits Omega up so he can eat a sliding clothesline from Ishii, Okada with the cover but Ibushi breaks it up at 2! WOW. Yup.
Okada calls for Rainmaker, but Omega counters into a high angle urinage throw. “This Is Awesome” chants now. Yes it is. Ishii and Ibushi in now, they trade and eat strikes, Ibushi finally rocks Ishii and takes him down with a kick to the chest, and then lands a standing moonsault knee drop and covers him for 2. Beautiful. Omega picks him up for a power bomb into a German from Ibushi, covers but Okada breaks it up at 2. Ibushi calls for the Golden Trigger on Ishii, they get him to his knees but Okada back in, DDTs Ibushi hard and looks for a dropkick on Omega, but Omega counters into a HUGE sitout powerbomb! Ishii blocks V-Trigger and takes down Omega but Ibushi hits an amazing pele on Ishii and everyone is down. “New Japan” chants. HELL. YES.
Ishii and Ibushi on their feet, they trade slaps and shots, AMAZING eye contact, amazing focused aggression, and they just start WAILING on each other, intense back and forth, the crowd eating it all up, and Ibushi hits a MASSIVE lariat to take down Ishii for 2. Ibushi looks for Kamigoye, Ishii counters, looks to suplex Ibushi but Ibushi flips out of it, but Ishii lands a big clothesline and covers Ibushi for 2. Ishii looks for the Brainbuster, Ibushi behind and Omega in, Ishii evades the V-Trigger and dumps Omega with a German suplex, Okada takes it to Ibushi and CHAOS gets the double team, Ishii plants Ibushi with the folding power bomb but only 2! Omega tosses Okada into the barrier, Ibushi gets the advantage with kicks on Ishii, lands a bridging straight jacket German for 2, looks for Kamigoye out of it, Ishii counters but eats a kick from Omega, fights back with an enziguri, but double kicks stun him. Omega takes out Okada again, and they hit the Golden Trigger on Ishii for 3 and the WIN!
The Golden Lovers defeat Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii by pinfall after the Golden Trigger
Jay’s Rating: 4.5 out of 5
That was an utterly OUTSTANDING main event. The storytelling on every level, from Omega and Okada with the belt and history between them, to Ibushi taking every shot from Ishii and returning in kind, to CHAOS vs Bullet Club, to the ring-work and match pacing, to the build to the finish, it was just an all-star outing. The crowd was red red red hot, and so appreciative of this match from start to finish. FUN has been the name of the game tonight, and I mean that in the sense that everyone across the board has felt so locked into their work tonight, looking like they were enjoying performing tonight immensely. And as anyone with any experience in theatre and performance can tell you, that sense of fun ALWAYS translates to the product. This was such a special way to end this most recent venture into US programming, giving the crowd exactly what they wanted but ending on a match note that felt undeniably New Japan. Which I think is why then bringing a little bit of US in with the post-match – with the triple threat for the IWGP title being made – really worked for me: they prioritized staying true to the New Japan style to the very end here, but then can choose to bring in some US influence in a way that is curated from the US back to Japan. Its smart as hell. I dont even feel like I can talk about the in-ring performances – just go watch this match. Everyone here is so brilliant. And they really shared their passion in the ring, and it made every single moment land. (And in the post-match interview, Omega specifically talks about how tag team wrestling isnt dead, which makes me feel like one of the story agenda items for this match was delivering truly stellar tag team wrestling in a major promotion on US soil… and dammit if that was a goal they nailed it.)
Omega takes the mic saying that it may not have been a perfect night for Bullet Club, and acknowledges some empty seats, but also talks about how much the crowd seemed to enjoy the hell out of this, and thanks them for making time to spend with The Elite. Omega talks to Ibushi about the singles match, how people want to see the rematch, and calls for the rematch at Ryugoku in about a week. Cody hits the ring and takes the mic, and asks Omega to let him help them out. He asks if the crowd wants the rematch, and they respond positively. Cody says, so why not? We’re friends now sort of. King of Pro Wrestling, Kota Ibushi vs Cody Rhodes vs Kenny Omega, and proposes getting added to the match. Cody makes to leave but Kenny calls him back. Kenny says actually this is ingenious, there has only been one other triple threat for the IWGP Title, lets do it again and make history, triple threat for the IWGP Title in one week! Omega says its about the beauty and originality of pro wrestling. Good Bye and Good Night!
What an exceptional next chapter in New Japan’s foray into US promoting. The crowd was happy to be there, which fed the performers and the ring work. The performers felt happy to be there, which made the connection with the crowd so full and vibrant. It was an event that was made to matter, with the new tag champs and US champ being crowned, closing it with a huge title match getting signed, and delivering a show that really put everyone’s best foot forward in a variety of ways over the course of the event (with a couple of gripes, but nothing really egregious or that detracted from the event as a whole). If a goal of this event was to further establish an alternative to WWE on American soil but that still exists within our ever-globalizing moment of cultural exchange, they goddamn nailed it. It was an exciting event to watch – it felt like an event that captures well the moment of evolution we are finding this art form in, and an event that leaned into the skid in a ton of important ways without losing its anchoring in its tradition and what makes New Japan what it is. I’d make this an introduction event to people I meet looking to check out New Japan – its get some American vibe to it especially with the crowd, but it creates a fresh synergy with the things that are still essentially NJPW. Props to everyone on the creative side of things as well as the performance side of things for this event – that’s how you do it.