First Post-Nakamura-and-AJ Styles PPV for NJPW and what an important one it was. Admits lots of speculation about how the company would cope with the loss of two of their biggest stars, NJPW bookers and wrestlers rallied to show the world that NJPW wasn’t about just two wrestlers, it was about one of the most talented rosters in the world. Now that all sounds fine on paper, but, did they succeed? Let’s find out:
Jay White defeated David Finlay Jr. in 7:01 via submission:
As I said in my preview, with Komatsu and Tanaka on learning excursions in Mexico, it’s up to White and Finlay to carry the Young Lions banner. And they did just that in this match, a rock-solid, technically sound and entertaining match that showcased both young stars’ talent. While Dave Finlay Jr did a fine tribute to his father at times, he also showed he has grown as a performer in recent months and delivered a good performance in the process. As for White, he is talented, enthusiastic in the ring and charismatic, he’s also starting to get the crowd firmly behind him. Finish came with the obligatory Boston Crab submission which White then turned into a Lion Tamer. Very good opener from two who will undoubtedly become wrestling superstars in the future.
Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask defeated Gedo, Kazushi Sakuraba and YOSHI-HASHI in 7:25 via submission:
Entertaining filler match whose sole reason for existing is to feature some of NJPW’s legends. Highlights were the Liger/Sakuraba interactions, Gedo screaming “MOTHERFUCKAH!” at Taguchi (which was rather funny) and the finish which saw Taguchi reverse a Gedo-clutch into a ankle lock. Fun, nothing more.
TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) defeated Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata in 11:05 via pinfall:
The problem with any match involving Nakanishi is that it will slow down the pace of any card, especially when following matches involving Junior Heavyweights. That aside, any time Nagata and Kojima where in there, the match picked up pace which was more than enough to deliver yet another entertaining bout. I almost had a heart-attack though when I saw Nakanishi climb onto the third rope towards the end, I think he did too. Please stay in the middle of the ring playing brick wall Manabu, It’s safer for everyone. Fun finishing sequence with all four going all out and exchanging finishers and submission attempts until Kojima nailed Nakanishi with two Lariats for the victory. Post-match, both teams showed respect for each-other and both Nagata and Kojima stated they weren’t finished yet. TenKoji certainly isn’t as they are now the Nr 1 contenders for the tag titles.
Los Ingobernables De Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and Tetsuya Naito) defeated Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA and Michael Elgin 8:48 via pinfall:
Naito took his sweet time coming to the ring and when he finally got there he got in the face of NJPW commentator Jinpei Nogami, mocking him and bellowing “LOS” at him. Nogami responded with “JUSTICE” (Nagata’s group) which ended when Naito tore off his Justice T-shirt. While the faces made their way to the ring, Naito would continue to taunt the poor commentator. Just awesome. Good showing from Los Ingobernables who worked well as a unit. They also did a fine job of presenting BUSHI as a real threat to KUSHIDA’s title on Sunday. Naito continues to be awesome character wise and Elgin’s power-moves are super-over with the Japanese crowds which bodes well for his NJPW future. A Naito/Elgin feud was briefly teased here and I’m all for that. Robinson showed spirit and enthusiasm in his performances, clearly gaining confidence as time goes past, but, his presence kinda gave the finish away as he is still the guy who will take the pin for the bigger stars. After BUSHI took out KUSHIDA with the dreaded Green Mist, EVIL nailed Robinson with an STO for the win, while Naito kept Elgin occupied on the outside. Fun stuff.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Yujiro Takahashi) defeated Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe and Toru Yano to win the NEVER Openweight 6-Man titles:
So, one month after winning the newly created 6-man belts, Yano and the Briscoes already lost them to the Bullet Club. And will probably regain them on Sunday. I’m not sure NJPW needed another hot-potato belt, they already have the Junior Heavyweight tag team belts for that. Good things were Shiori’s (Takahashi’s girlfriend) entrance, Mark Briscoe’s and Tama Tonga’s spirited performances and Shiori being involved in the post-match celebration. You guessed it, ultimately this all felt somewhat pointless. That being siad, the fact that Tonga was clearly pushed as the leader of the Bullet Club team IS good news. By far the most talented of the three, Tonga definitely deserves more attention from the NJPW booking team. I’m just not sure being a 6-man tag champion will do the trick for him. Probably the weakest match of the card.
Matt Sydal and Ricochet defeated The Young Bucks (Matt and Nick Jackson) (c) with Cody Hall and reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish) in 14:59 via pinfall:
Very good match featuring the fast-paced action, innovative offense and high-flying madness these teams have accustomed us to. Incredibly fun skit towards the end with O’Reilly falling into Hall’s arms almost by accident, and Hall, after a moment of confusion, deciding to just run of with the hapless reDRagon member. With Fish already taken out that left the Young Guns sure of victory after destroying Sydal only for Ricochet to make the save. Twin shooting star presses that gave Sydal and Ricochet the win and the titles. Now, on the surface, I couldn’t be happier with this result, as Sydal and Ricochet form a great team that is not only super-over with the crowd (Ricochet is extremely popular in Japan) but also brings a sense of excitement and unpredictability to a scene that has been growing stale in recent months. Then again, nothing really changed. The Young Bucks are still in the running, since, having lost the belts, they are entitled a rematch, while reDRagon once again avoided the pinfall. OK, this time it was by kidnapping which was funny as hell, but it also means, Sydal and Ricochet will probably keep the belts only until the next match between those three teams, where the hot-potato game will resume. And I think that’s simply lazy booking. I hope I’m wrong, I know Gedo is a smart booker so he has to see that keeping the belts on the new champs for awhile will benefit the whole division as they are the most over team right now. Only problem is, he has grown so accustomed to his stale formula involving giving the belts to a “tag-team of the month” and then quickly moving on to the next team he might be incapable of doing anything else for this scene right now. Still, good match, great result and we’ll see what happens next.
Champion Katsuyori Shibata defeated Tomohiro Ishii to retain the NEVER Openweight Title in 18:47 via pinfall:
And then we got another 19 minutes of Ishhi and Shibata beating the hell out of each-other. I’ve said this before, this is not for everyone, and, especially on the heels of Bryan having to retire due to repeated concussions, those head-busts they’re delivering are cringe-worthy. But, on the other hand, there is such a mesmerizing quality to what these two are doing in the ring that you can’t help but be swept away by it all. Without a doubt the best match of the night, but, damn this HAS to hurt. But I also love the way they are somehow managing to sell all those moves… By no-selling them. That, my friends is mastery. Slightly different match than their WK 10 match, this was clearly designed to get Shibata over in every possible way and Ishii happily obliged by giving another great performance. Shibata seems completely rejuvenated now he finally has the NJPW booking team behind him and it shows. he was excellent before, he’s now edging closer to awesomeness. No wonder there are rumors of him being the designated successor of Nakamura’s “King of Strong Style” Crown, there simply isn’t a better candidate. Great match, great booking, crowd is clearly wishing Shibata will go on to even bigger things soon, and, this time, it’s very possible their wish will be granted. Essential viewing if you enjoy the Japanese strong-style or wanna know what it’s all about.
Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson and Kenny Omega defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma in 17:11 via pinfall:
I thought I had this one figured out but, as it turns out, I was wrong since the Bullet Club ended up completely dismantling Tanahashi and GBH. And it’s a good move, don’t get me wrong, as it adds some great suspense to the two title matches this Sunday. Well, when it comes to the IC belt at least, we all know who’s gonna win the tag team match, given Anderson and Gallows are on their way out. Match in itself was your average NJPW multi-man tag match, some good stuff overall but nothing extra-ordinary as the big matches are for Sunday. But, for Tanahashi, the venom was in the finish as, after Omega (who looked great here) put Honma away with the One-Winged Angel, the Bullet Club completely destroyed Tanahashi, with Omega literally adding insult to injury by using Tanahashi’s own High Fly Flow to injure his arm. The result of the IC title match is now more uncertain than ever but more on this in my preview tomorrow. OK match with a great angle to finish it.
Champion Kazuchika Okada defeated Hirooki Goto to retain the IWGP Title in 25:27 via pinfall:
Good main-event with Okada being spot-on with everything he did and Goto working his ass off to give the champ a worthy title defense. But therein lies the problem of this match. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, believed Goto could win here. Which explains why the crowd didn’t seem to really care about poor Goto. NJPW had apparently anticipated this and Goto came out sporting a new look (which kind of reminded me of Hakushi back in the days) and, supposedly, a new attitude but that wasn’t enough. There was simply no sense of urgency to his quest, he had no chance of winning and that was it. Too bad because Goto does deserve better. Anyway, as said, still a good main-event with Okada cementing his status as NJPW’s top star and the Osaka crowd fully approving of that. The finish came after three consecutive RainMakers (Okada was taking no chance of Goto countering with one of his submission moves) which proved to much for Goto to overcome.
Post-match, Okada took the microphone for what proved to be a very entertaining (and surprising) segment. First he acknowledged the changes NJPW was going through but then immediately said: It’s OK, I’m here, I’ll take us to the next level. He then chocked the crowd by saying: “Goto, you gave it your all, you lost. But I think I still want change in you. How about joining CHAOS”. That got a great reaction. Finally he took a subtle dig at Nakamura by saying: “Pro Wrestling is the best thing in the world (which is what Nakamura said when he said goodbye to the Japanese crowd at Road to New beginning)? Nah. NJPW is the best thing in the world”. Great stuff by the champ and NJPW’s undisputed Ace.
There is no denying that the shadow of Shinsuke Nakamura still floated over this show. Everybody, NJPW fans, wrestlers and personnel, will have to get use to not having Nak around anymore and that might take a few more shows. But NJPW is not staying inactive or crying about it either. They took action by pushing Okada firmly into the role of the company’s top star, while not forgetting to repetition the likes of Omega, Tanahashi, Shibata and Naito into positions where they can play an important role in the company’s immediate future. Nakamura and AJ Styles might be gone, but, it’s possible that, in the end, that turns out to be a good thing for NJPW, who now has to create new stars and move forward with new storylines. If only someone could get Gedo to give a bit more attention to the Jr Heavyweight and Tag team titles. Ah well, I’m sure they will get there, eventually.
Don’t forget to check out my New Beginnings in Niigata preview tomorrow, with more predictions about what the future of CHAOS might look like.
Tags: bullet club, BUSHI, dave Finlay Jr, GBH, Gedo, Hirooki Goto, hiroshi tanahashi, Jay White, Jushin Liger, Katsuyori Shibata, kazuchika okada, Kenny Omega, Kushida, Los Ingobernables, Matt Sydal, Michael Elgin, New beginning In Osaka, njpw, redragon, Ricochet, Tencozy, Tetsuya Naito, The Briscoes, The Young Bucks, Tiger Mask, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano