It’s New Japan’s 46th Anniversary and to celebrate the occasion, they’ve put together a sexy little card for us. The main event leaps off the page as Okada and Ospreay go face to face for the first time since the RevPro fight that played a part in getting Ospreay signed. Throw in Makabe challenging for the Intercontinental Title, a Junior tag three-way and a handful of other singles matches (although one does include Taichi), and we look set for fun. Let’s dish out some stars.
Jushin Thunder Liger, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask and Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Yuji Nagata, Ren Narita, Tetsuhiro Yagi, Shota Umino and Tomoyuki Oka)
Yuji Nagata being tasked with keeping his unruly students in line is the seed of some very sweaty fan fiction.
Having a decent ten-man tag in under ten minutes is impossible. By getting everyone on the show, you are ensuring that none of them gets a chance to shine. It’s nothing more than a runout for the Young Lions.
Still, it was enjoyable enough for what it was. Watching the cubs get smacked around the ring has a certain perverse pleasure to it.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) defeated Juice Robinson, David Finlay and Toa Henare
Juice gets more flamboyant with every show, that outfit was fabulous.
Toa Henare’s desperate attempts to try and beat up Ishii are fantastic. It’s been his quest since World Tag League, and, on the whole, it is not going well. I love it, though. Those two beefy bastards should hit each other forever.
That aside, an enjoyable if unspectacular tag match. The inclusion of Juice, Big Dave, Henare and Ishii meant I had plenty of favourites on display, so I was always going to have fun. However, in the broader scheme of things, it doesn’t mean much. Although Finlay must have been delighted to be on the same side as Henare, he got a night off from taking the pin.
Verdict: Three Stars
Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) and Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Why was this a three-way? You could have had multiple excellent feuds with these teams. Instead, it’s all been smushed together because Gedo (despite spending most of his career as a tag-team wrestler) can’t book tag-team wrestling.
Which isn’t to say it was a bad match, I’d go as far as saying it was a fantastic match. Poor Roppongi 3K probably didn’t have a good time, though. Young YOH had Takahashi go all slappy wee prick on his chest while SHO is still selling that back injury. There is an ongoing story being told where the rest of the Junior Tag Division treats them like Young Lions, bullying them and attempting to embarrass them by beating them with Crabs. It’s a fresh dynamic, and 3K’s excellent selling makes it all the better.
Despite all that, I’m not sure how I feel about the finish. Roppongi have now won and lost the tag titles twice in under six months, and it’s too much. They have the excuse of people spitting at them, but it’s still another defeat. On the upside, any combination of these teams can segway into a feud now, and I’m happy to watch these guys do it again. Let’s just stick to two vs two, yea?
Verdict: Four Stars
Sanada defeated YOSHI-HASHI
YOSHI-HASHI is now the man that people beat after losing to Okada. I guess that’s as good a mid-card role as any.
I came to this one not quite sure what to expect. YOSHI-HASHI is a charisma vacuum while Sanada is capable of delivering yet often chooses to chug along in second gear.
A feeling which probably played a part in me being pleasantly surprised by what we got. These two had great chemistry and built a story around the Skull End. Sanada was desperately trying to get it locked in, but HASHI kept finding a counter for it and even looked like he might be able to get a submission victory of his own with the Butterfly Lock.
Which he, of course, didn’t because no-one has ever tapped out to the Butterfly Lock. However, it was still a decent match. Sanada raised his game, and as much as I slag off YOSHI, he can deliver between the ropes when he’s in there with one of New Japan’s elite workers. While low-expectations might have played a part, this worked for me.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Tetsuya Naito defeated Taichi
Christ, I can’t believe the singing ballbag is getting a push. I’m going to throw a prediction in here because then no-one will notice it. Taichi will beat Tanahashi in the New Japan Cup.
Taichi may have moved up a division, but he’s still up to his usual tricks. A microphone stand to the side of the head followed by a powerbomb on the ramp put him in control of Naito.
A position which he maintained for a surprising amount of time. While, on paper, this screamed Naito squash, the LIJ leader gave a lot to the Suzuki-gun troll. Taichi was wrestling a very different style. He came across like a bruiser, using his size (which he certainly hasn’t had to add too) to bully Naito. Of course, he was still bending every rule in the book, he was just doing it in a few different ways. There was no bell hammer for one thing.
Except, he wasn’t in there with an honourable opponent. He was in there with an Ingobernable, and Naito was equally willing to cheat. Throwing the ref into TAKA gave him an opening to smash Taichi over the head with his own microphone and steal the victory. He out trolled the troll.
Look, I still think Taichi is a ballbag. However, until this night I had him down as having had one decent singles match in my time watching NJPW (the final night of last year’s Best Of The Super Juniors against Liger), I guess I can now bump that total up to two. Taichi as a heavyweight might not be a total disaster.
Verdict: Three Stars
Minoru Suzuki defeated Togi Makabe to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Title
Togi Makabe was a different breed of challenger for everyone’s favourite grumpy old bastard. He is one of the rare nutters who want to stand and trade strikes with Suzuki. Makabe is bigger and stronger, and he tried to use that to his advantage.
Except it doesn’t matter how big and how strong you are, Suzuki will take you down somehow. If he has to break the rules, he will, but he’d prefer just to beat you up. Plus, he can take a beating and even if you do get a few shots in, you can bet he’ll be going blow for blow with you.
No-one came into this one expecting a classic, and we didn’t get one. However, these two did better than expected. With a combined age of 94, Suzuki and Makabe aren’t going to be delivering dynamic bouts. Instead, they went out and worked hard by hitting stiff and dropping each other on their heads. You’d be a dick to ask for more.
I’m going to take a second to point out that Suzuki is having an outstanding year. He’s cut back on the shenanigans and had two excellent and one good match in New Japan. On top of that, he’s been having stand out tags in the UK with Zack Sabre Jr. After a slightly dodgy 2017 (with a few exceptional moments) it seems like there is life in the old codger yet.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay in a non-title match
Ospreay and Okada started slowly. It was teacher and pupil feeling each other out, neither willing to push the boat out and start smacking around their foe. Then Ospreay responded to some patronising pats to the chest by slapping the Ace across the face, and we were off.
The real reason Okada is the greatest wrestler in the world is his ability to adapt to his opponent. We got a perfect example of that here. Once again he slipped into his heel role, but he took it a step further. He was playing the cocky teacher, flooring his unruly pupil and teaching him a lesson. At times he was almost lackadaisical. As if despite the mutual respect between them, he knew Ospreay wasn’t in his league.
And while Ospreay might not be in his league in kayfabe, he is one of the few that stands close to him as a worker. That kid somehow keeps getting better. He was brash and arrogant, desperate to show that he was as good as his idol. Yet, at the same time, he sold his ass off. Ospreay went out of his way to make Kazuchika Okada look amazing as if the bastard needs it.
This wasn’t a match of the year contender or anything like that. It struggled to throw off its exhibition feel, and they never convinced me that Ospreay could get the win (although he did pull off one of the coolest Rainmaker counters yet as he somehow transitioned into a powerbomb). However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t great. Okada and Ospreay are two of the best and if Ospreay ever does go to heavyweight, let’s hope we see this one again.
Verdict: Four Stars
What a treat that was. From the Junior tag forward it was fantastic with even Taichi putting on a decent match. New Japan hasn’t had a bad show this year and it kind of feels like the good times are set to continue through 2018. Fingers crossed that’s the case.