Inside Pulse 12

Metalhead Reviews NJPW Invasion Attack 2016 (Naito vs Okada, Now THAT’s A Main Event)

First thing I have to say about the show is, what a great way to spend your Sunday morning. But you’re probably not very interested in the ways I like to spend my Sundays, so, without further ado, let’s see what NJPW’s Invasion Attack had in store for us:

Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yoshiro Takahashi) defeated Juice Robinson and Ryusuke Taguchi in 3:45 via pinfall:

Not much to it, heels jumps the faces before the bell rings, faces rally, Robinson gets some moments to shine against Takahashi before being flattened by Fale. Whole point was to remind us all that Fale was the gajin monster here I guess. Avoidable.

Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Yuji Nagata and Satoshi Kojima defeated CHAOS (Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI and Kazushi Sakuraba) in 7:06 via pinfall:

Let’s call this the real show opener, shall we? Another short match but thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. YOSHI-HASHI worked the bulk of the match for his team and was great in his role. Sakuraba had some good exchanges against Nagata and Shibata while Yano tried to squeeze in some comedy only to find out the legends were in no mood for it. Spotlight was clearly on Liger and Nagata (we would find out why later). Nagata scores the win for his team after a knee to the head and backdrop on YOSHI-HASHI. Typically fun six-match involving some of New Japan’s most legendary names.

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL and BUSHI) in 10:36 via pinfall:

A prelude of sorts of the main event insofar that this played off the current CHAOS vs Los Inobernables war. Very good tag match with EVIL going toe to toe with two of New Japan’s stiffest strikers. Great physicality and while the chemistry between Ishii and EVIL was expected, the real eye-opener was how well Goto and EVIL interacted. They were clearly pushing for a feud between those two, and, after seeing this match, I’m all for it. In the end, BUSHI got pinned after a great looking Ushigoroshi/Sliding Lariat combo from Goto and Ishii. Post-match, Goto and Evil got in each-other faces which ended with a wild pull-apart brawl. This CHAOS/Los Ingobernables war might very well be the best thing going on in wrestling right now.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match – Roppongi Vice (Baretta and Rocky Romero) defeated Ricochet and Matt Sydal (c) in 15:48 via pinfall:

One very good tag match is followed by an excellent one as we got a (too) rare straight tag match in the Junior heavyweight division. Some great spots in this one, but also a good story as RPG Vice’s game plan was clearly to keep the amazing Ricochet grounded. Great back-and-forth between the two teams but, in the end, it was RPG Vice’s superior teamwork that won over Sydal and Ricochet’s aerial assaults. After a great finishing stretch, Romero blasted Sydal on the outside with a suicide dive, soon after  Ricochet got caught in the strong Zero and we got new champions. The fact that the belts changed hands here and, perhaps even more importantly, that Ricochet took the pin gives us another hint about the awesome high-flier’s future. Add to that that LU wrote him off story-lines during their recent TV tapings and you know he’s almost certainly headed to NXT now. I do hope that HHH and Co will know what to do with them because it would be a shame if such a fantastic talent got buried over there. As for the new champs, well, they will once again tangle with reDragon and The Young Bucks. Now that we know Ricochet isn’t sticking around, this division needs new tag teams, fast.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match – KUSHIDA (c) defeated Will Ospreay in 15:07 via submission:

Some already had an inkling about how great Opreay could be, but actually watching him on a big(ger) stage must have been quite an eye-opener for everyone. I know it was one for me. The commentary team also made a big deal out of the fact that it was Okada who discovered the British talent (during a match the two had in England) and that he was the one who pushed for Opsreay not only to come over to NJPW but also to join CHAOS. Quite an endorsement right there. So, to say expectations were high for this one is an understatement, but, boy did they deliver. First of all, it took Ospreay about one minute to get himself over with the Japanese crowds and that is saying something. Secondly, the two then proceeded to work one hell of a match that had the crowd begging for more. Ospreay obviously relied on his aerial skills but KUSHIDA was the one with the game-plan here as he almost immediately started targeting Ospreay’s arms, not only to stop him doing all those flips and twists but also to weaken him up for his trademark submission holds. That didn’t slow the Aerial Assassin much at first though, as Ospreay proceeded to do some of the most amazing aerial moves you’ll ever see WITHOUT even using his arms. Great spot around mid-match as Ospreay actually teased the Rainmaker pose, which earned him a great pop. Finishing stretch was heart-stoppingly amazing as you really had the feeling this could go both ways. In the end, KUSHIDA’s groundwork proved to be the deciding factor, as he caught Ospreay in a arm-bar which he turned into a triangle hold before smoothly transitioning into the Hoverboard Lock.

I loved everything about this, the action was awesome and intense, the pacing was great, the story was well-told and emphasized by Ospreay actually selling his damaged arms and everything was spot-on. For those who think Junior heavyweight matches are just spotfests, watch this one, you’ll see that spotfests can also tell a story when you have two amazing talents in there. Both worked an incredible match, but this is really a star-making performance by Ospreay. He might have lost here, but I have no doubt he’ll play an essential role in the upcoming Best of Super Juniors and Super J-Cup tournaments.

Post-mmatch, Jushin ‘Thunder” Liger came out, to another great pop, said he wanted that 12th Championship reign and challenged KUSHIDA to a match. The champ expressed his respect for the legend and accepted the challenge. This is great for KUSHIDA, as not just everyone is granted the legend rub, certainly not when said legend is Liger. Could be a passing of the torch moment right there.

NEVER Openweight 6-man tag team Championship match – Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Yoshitatsu defeated The Elite (Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks) (c) in 14:46 via pinfall:

Great entrance by Omega who takes a shot at WWE by saying people wasted their money on Wrestlemania and that he is going to show them what the should have been spending it on all along. Yoshitatsu gets the spotlight with a solo entrance, well-deserved after all he went trough to come back from a career-threatening neck-injury. Omega immediately proved what an awesome dick he can be by attempting the styles-clash on Yoshitatsu almost from the start. This would be a theme throughout the match as The Elite would isolate Yoshitatsu and Omega would attempt to “hurt” him with the move that almost ended his career. As a testament to how effectively finishers are booked in NJPW, the crowd gasped each an every time this happened. There was also less good news though as Cody Hall (who accompanied The Elite) might have suffered an injury after Nick Jackson landed a big flip off the entrance on everyone. Hall was motionless for several minutes afterwards and had to be stretchered out. I’ll keep you all posted on Cody’s condition as soon as I know more.

The Elite then worked on Tanahashi for awhile until Tatsu (eventually) made the same. Big Mike then unleashed his powermoves but Omega “blinded” all faces with his coldspray (or whatever the hell that is). Tatsu then becomes the target and survives several near-falls until Omega again threatens to use the Styles Clash. The save his made by Tanahashi and Elgin who uses The Elite’s sprays against them. The end came when Elgin stopped a Meltzer driver (by powerbombing Nick to the outside) and then proceeded to Superbomb poor Nick into oblivion. One three-count later and we got new champs. Very fun and entertaining match that was unfortunately marred by a potential injury for Cody Hall.

Post-match, Omega and Elgin got in each-other faces, with Omega stating he was still IC champ and Elgin answering: not for long. Should be awesome. Also post-match Fale blindsided Tanahashi and destroyed him before his teammates could intervene. This should be less awesome, but I guess they do have to keep Tanahashi busy in Japan while he goes after Lethal in ROH.

NEVER Openweight Championship Match – Katsuyori Shibata (c) defeated Hiroyoshi Tenzan in 10:47 via pinfall:

I must say I was a bit worried about Tenzan being able to keep up with Shibata here, but, in hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have because they smartly played up to Tenzan (remaining) strength which is brawling. And since Shibata’s specialty is ass-kicking this quickly became as good as anyone could hope for. Tenzan headbutts looked downright dangerous and Shibata, as always, reveled in the intensity and physicality of the match. Perhaps the only flaw here was that everybody knew Tenzan had no chance of winning. And indeed, Shibata scored the win after a viscious PK.Post-match everybody was expecting Nagata to challenge Shibata, but they did a rather amusing twist here. As Nagata was tending to his fallen comrade Shibata first bowed in respect to Tenzan, before “inviting” Nagata to challenge him by way of a stiff kick to the head. Judging by Nagata’s expression, that particular invitation was received loud and clear. Shibata is just awesome in that bad-ass take-no-prisoners ass-kicker role. Fun and entertaining brawl.

IWGP Tag Team Championship Match – Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) defeated G. B. H. (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) (c) in 16:54 via pinfall:

Honma worked hard to make this one a more than decent tag match, although I preferred the previous Los Ingobernables/CHAOS scuffle. Tonga was clearly the leader of his team, helping Roa get through his first NJPW experience without much trouble. With the guerillas working well to keep Makabe off the ring, Honma had a lot of in-ring time and effortlessly entertained the crowd with his selling, come-backs and Kokeshi’s. Amusingly, Honma landed most of them (for once) expect for the big, top-rope Kokeshi that was supposed to be a match-winner but ended up being his doom because Tama moved out of the way at the last possible instant. Guerillas hit a Powerbomb/reverse DDT followed by a Snapshot to become the new tag team champions. Crowd was stunned by this result. Here is hoping more teams (Goto/Ishii, maybe even Tanahashi/Yoshitatsu) enter the title chase soon.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match – Tetsuya Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada (c) in 28:50 via pinfall:

What a main event this was! Crowd started by chanting Naito’s name which clearly establishes how popular the dastardly heel has become. Okada did quickly regain the crowd’s favor, because, well, he’s Okada after all. There was a lot of interference here, but, for once, I didn’t feel like it hurt the match simply because with los Ingobernables being involved, it was expected. Indeed, the group has established such a reputation for controversy that if they had done nothing, fans would probably have been disappointing. Gedo was great at ringside, at times doing what needed to be done to negate BUSHI and EVIL’s presence. There was a very intriguing story within this match, with Okada being presented as, perhaps, the better wrestler while Naito was the one willing to go to any length to get what he wanted. The violence and intensity only increased as time went by as both made it clear they would rather die than be beaten by the other. The finishing stretch was amazing with some amazingly close near-fall and a match that felt like it could go either way in an eye-blink. The turning point came when a masked man suddenly appeared and Nailed Okada with a TKO. the masked man revealed himself to be Sanada (of AJPW and TNA fame) and, obviously, the newest member of Los Ingobernables. Naito then tries to capitalize with an enziguri, but Naito lands a huge German suplex and then goes for the rainmaker only to be countered by the aptly named Destino. One three-count later and Naito’s destiny is accomplished.

Post-match, Los ingobernables attack Gedo and Okada until Ishii and Goto make the safe. Ishii and Naito have a face off in the ring, with Ishii making it clear he wants a piece of the new champ, while Naito mockingly invites him to leave the ring. During the crowning ceremony, Naito actually behaves… for a couple of minutes before destroying referee Red Shoes. Afterwards, Naito cuts an awesome promo, mockingly thanking the fans for their support and declaring Los Ingobernables is taking over. In the ultimate act of defiance towards NJPW, he then tossed the belt into the ring and left without it. Crowd literally ate out of Naito’s hand here, chanting NA-I-TO, NA-I-To until they were hoarse..

 

Conclusion: Invasion Attack was another very successful PPV for NJPW. Aside from the first match, everything ranged from solid to excellent, new stars were made (Ospreay), new stories/feuds/challengers were introduced and the red-hot war between Los Ingobernables and CHAOS was delivered big time. Indeed, the main event was everything it needed to be AND got the right result. Like stated in my preview, Naito NEEDED to win this one, much more than Okada needed to. Because even if The Rainmaker lost the title,  has gained something much more important, a new nemesis that will challenge him to go even beyond what he went through to defeat Tanahashi. NJPW is also a winner, because they now have a controversial (in the right way) champion that will undoubtedly make waves and be the talking point of the wrestling word, something a prolonged Okada reign would have struggled to achieve. But beyond that we also witnessed the definite ascension of Naito to super-stardom. When you’re an heel and you’re achieving this degree of popularity, to the point fans WANTS you to win even against the company’s most popular face, then you’ve done an awesome job. For a long time most observers thought Naito was gonna be a, to borrow a certain phrase, B+ Player. Naito just disproved everyone by showing he was not only capable of successfully main eventing one of new japan’s biggest shows, but also by proving he was the most effective heel characters in wrestling today.

Elsewhere on the card, we also witnessed the rise of a new superstar, Will Ospreay, who, mark my words, might very well become the break-out star of 2016. Add to that Shibata and KUSHIDA receiving strong support from the booking team and the continuing war between Tanahashi and friends and the Bullet Club, and you realize NJPW is right on track to have their most successful year yet since their revival from the near-death (in 2006). And that without Nakamura and Styles. Say what you will about NJPW booker Gedo, and I do not always agree with him either, but, when it comes to the BIG storylines, he gets it right each and every time.

At the end of my WrestleMania review, I wrote: Wanna watch a wrestling show? Watch Invasion Attack next week. Even I didn’t realize how right I would be in this case. Want great wrestling, great storylines, great characters, great matches, great drama and a great crowd? Then Invasion Attack is indeed a MUST-watch for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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