For the first time, New japan World proposed an English feed on top of the usual feed with japanese commentary. Depending on how well that did, this is something that should happen more and more in the future and I’m fine with that. Matt Striker and Kevin Kelly did rather well. It wasn’t an home-run, as far as commentary goes, but they were still light-years better than any WWE commentary team because they talked about the damn matches instead of being all over the place. I still wonder why Mauro Ranallo, who provides commentary on the AXS TV shows wasn’t chosen, because he has been excellent all year, but Striker and Kelly did a good job and should grow as a team if they are paired up on regular basis. Now let’s look at what NJPW had in store for us.
Jushin Thunder Liger, KUSHIDA, Mascara Dorada, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask defeated David Finlay, Jay White, Juice Robinson, Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu in 8:47 via pinfall:
Fun opener with the Young Lions playing heel and ganging up on Jushin Liger. After a shaky start, Juice Robinson (formerly CJ Parker in NXT) seems to slowly adapt to his new environment. David Finlay also was impressive and the other three continue to show they are ready for other things. On the other team, Dorada was once again the star, dazzling viewers with his offense. Dorada scored the pin in what was an enjoyable opener.
Tomoaki Honma defeated YOSHI-HASHI in 8:55 via pinfall:
Not the best Honma match I’ve seen, to be honest, but with Honma still being insanely over with the crowd and YOSHI-HASHI always up to provide entertainment, this was always going to be tons of fun. Commentators put over that if YOSHI-HASHI won, he was assured of his spot in next year’s G1, while if Honma won, he was next in line for the NEVER championship. The later happened (as I predicted) as Honma scored the win after a top rope kokeshi for a great pop. Good, very enjoyable match.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata defeated Captain New Japan, Hirooki Goto, Katsuyori Shibata and Kota Ibushi in 12:12 via pinfall:
The stars of New Japan vs The NJPW Jobber Squad. OK I’m exaggerating but this is the feeling NJPW Booker Gedo gave us before the match. That being said, the match turned out to be a solid outing. There was an amazingly entertaining segment between Ibushi and Nakanishi and after, Nagata and Shibata just beat the crap out of each-other. Lots of teamwork between Nakanishi and Nagata which seems to suggest they’ll form a team at the world tag league. Captain New Japan ate the pin of course after being hit by almost every finisher from the other team. Good match but it seems that, while Goto and Shibata would at least get something to do later on, NJPW has no plans for Ibushi for the moment which is perplexing considering how talented he is.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly)(c) defeated Roppongi Vice (Trent Baretta and Rocky Romero) in 15:21 via pinfall:
Good match that was, unfortunately, completely marred by the finish. I’m not sure what happened but someone screwed up. I don’t think it’s ref Tiger Hatori’s fault either as he just continued his three count, but either Baretta failed to get his shoulder up in time or Romero was late with his safe. Whatever happened this felt completely awkward and Fish’s exaggerated celebration confirmed something was botched here. Romero looked furious. Aside from the finish this was your typical, enjoyable, well worked reDRagon match. Too bad.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega (c) with Cody Hall defeated Matt Sydal in 15:26 via pinfall
Despite this being a very good outing, the crowd was uninterested for a good part of the match. And I can’t blame them. Sydal, as good as he his, was just another name in a long list of challengers who was just trowed in there without much storyline except for the fact they need a challenger for the champion. Kudos to Sydal then for making the best of the opportunity and going all out to get the crowd interested again, which he succeeded in. Omega once again proved that he is one hell of a wrestler when he concentrates on wrestling. According to some, Omega retaining could lead to a rematch with KUSHIDA at Wrestle Kingdom 10, but NJPW needs some structured storytelling to set this division on fire again.
Kazushi Sakuraba, Shinsuke Nakamura and Toru Yano defeated Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson in 7:03 via pinfall:
Obligatory build-up towards the Shinsuke Nakamura/Karl Anderson Intercontinental Title match. Everybody worked well, with even Fale and Gallows doing their part. Anderson of course excelled in the heel role, shouting at commentary that Nakamura sucks and taunting the champ throughout the match. Yano scored the pin on Fale with his usual, rather entertaining routine. Post-match, there was the also obligatory Nakamura/Anderson confrontation. Not essential viewing but Nakamura vs Anderson will be fun.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii defeated Togi Makabe in 17:54 via pinfall:
Well, this was your typical Ishii/Makabe match, meaning those two guys beat the hell out of each-other until one of the two couldn’t take it anymore. That turned out to be Makabe this time. I like Ishii so I didn’t mind the repetitive nature of this match too much but it’s clear this series has run its course (I already said that at Dominion, I believe). Post-match, Honma came out and challenged Ishii which should give us an awesome match at Wrestle Kingdom 10.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Nr 1 Contendership: Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Tetsuya Naito in 19:54 via pinfall:
Difficult to call this one as the match was more a set-up for the closing angle than anything else. Two masked men came out while Naito was being introduced, one of those men turned out to be Naito himself. The Los Ingobernables connection was clearly made here. The match was slow with Naito playing the dickish heel exceptionally well, but we had to wait until Tanahashi finally snapped for the match to really start. Towards the ending, the masked man in Naito’s corner interfered and unmasked revealing Takaaki Watanabe. Problem was Watanabe’s look has changed so much since he left that the crowd didn’t really recognized him. Things picked up when Goto and Shibata ran in to protect Tanahashi and make sure he wasn’t screwed over. High Fly Flow for the Tanahahsi win and, post-match, Watanabe planted Goto with a beautiful STO. I didn’t mind the angle as such, but the whole reason for this match to happen was that Wrestle Kingdom contract and that ended up being secondary to the angle. Again, this wasn’t bad, on the contrary, but something else was expected for a Naito/Tanahashi match.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) defeated AJ Styles in 30:15 via pinfall:
This was great, had the big match feel you’d expect from a NJPW main event and the crowd was 200% behind Okada from the start. I felt this was a little below their Dominion match, and the Bullet Club interferences are to blame for that, but at the end, it didn’t matter because the story told was awesome. This was about Okada finally leaving Styles laying in the dust. Okada knew how to counter Styles’ biggest moves, while Styles couldn’t counter Okada’s Rainmakers. Wrestling is so much fun to watch when the stories told are logical and simple. Styles’ aura remains untouched despite his loss and Okada is red hot going in for his big moment against Tanahashi at WK 10. Fantastic main event.
With no bad matches, this was a good card. Solid wrestling all around, good to very good matches, not much to complain about in short. OK there was that botched finish for the reDRagon match but that happens. That being said, NJPW’s main problems are still there. While the Heavyweight Title has been handled beautifully, the other title scenes still look a bit stale without real structure or storytelling. At least we know we’ll get an awesome NEVER title moment with Ishii vs Honma at WK 10, but what happens after? Also, the treatment of Ibushi and KUSHIDA remain a mystery. On a roll not so long ago, almost an afterthought now. To quote Finn McInnes, those two should really stop pissing in Gedo’s morning cereals. But the big story was Okada being crowned as NJPW’s King of Pro Wrestling, and that will shape NJPW for the months (years?) to come. Can’t wait.
Final conclusion: Overal match quality was below Dominion, for example, but I was entertained from the first to the last minute so what more could you want from a wrestling event? Definitely one to watch.
Tags: AJ Styles, Hirooki Goto, hiroshi tanahashi, Jushin Liger, Karl Anderson, Katsuyori Shibata, kazuchika okada, Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Kushida, Manabu Nakanishi, Mascara Dorada, Matt Sydal, redragon, RPG Vice, shinsuke nakamura, TenKoji, Tetsuya Naito, Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, Yoshi Hashi, Young Lions, Yuji Nagata