It’s the big one motherfuckers. Tanahashi vs Okada, the feud that carved the modern landscape of New Japan. Am I excited? You better believe it.
Jushin Thunder Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi and Tiger Mask defeated Shota Umino, Ren Narita and Yuya Uemura
The cubs were feeling tempestuous as they attacked before the bell. I imagine Uemura regretted his part in that when the grumpy kitty started kicking him. Someone needs to hug Tiger Mask, he’s always so angry.
Narita is starting to add a bit of flair to his offence. He managed to get Taguchi away from the ropes by rolling him through into a Cloverleaf. That wasn’t a Crab, young man. Don’t be getting ideas above your station.
If that were a danger, it wouldn’t have lasted long. Not long later, young Ren was tapping to Taguchi’s Ankle Lock. Still, a fun opener for the youngsters.
Verdict: Two and A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi) defeated Yuji Nagata and Tomoyuki Oka
Oka is slowly finding his feet. He went from Golden Boy to being overtaken by his peers. However, in the last couple of months, he’s started to establish what kind of wrestler Oka is. He’s a man who loves to throw people around the ring. That’s a character that I am more than happy to get behind.
He looked good here. Sadly, he was in there with the Greatest Undercard Wrestler On The Planet, so his chances of picking up his first win were limited. It was another lovely run out for the lad, though. You can never begrudge a youngster some time in the ring with his dad.
Verdict: Three Stars
Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH and Rocky Romero) defeated Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Taichi and Taka Michinoku)
Nope. It’s not happening. I refuse to watch it. Iizuka can fuck off.
It is worth mentioning that this is the second show in a row where Roppongi 3K have triumphed against a team mainly consisting of heavyweights. It’s New Japan. There’s a reason that’s happening.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) defeated Togi Makabe and Toa Henare
These long tours are a right pain in the arse for repeating matches. I love Ishii vs Henare. I would prefer if I didn’t have to stomach Yano vs Makabe at the same time.
Despite that, they had another fun outing. Those two big boys love beating each other up. Henare’s obsession with proving himself against the Stone Pitbull fascinates me. He shouldn’t stop until he wins then he can pick a bigger target and move on to them.
He didn’t get his win on this day, despite having a few impressive moments. He’s added a Running Spinebuster to his repertoire which looked great. Sadly, it wasn’t enough to stop Ishii dropping him on his head with a Brainbuster.
Verdict: Three Stars
CHAOS (Jay White, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated Juice Robinson, David Finlay and a piece of shit
Or, perhaps you could look up a local shelter or charity which helps sufferers of abuse and either donate to them or offer your services in some way?
Verdict: Fuck Michael Elgin
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, Evil, Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi) defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado and Davey Boy Smith Jr)
It was another Suzuki-gun vs LIJ ten man tag. If you’ve seen any of the others, you’ve seen this one. I enjoy them, but I can’t be bothered writing about it again.
Verdict: Three Stars
I will write about what happened post-match as Jericho attacked Naito. He left the top Ignobernable with his face masked in blood, which looked fucking awesome. I’m not a bloodthirsty wrestling fan. In a moment like that though, the sight of Naito’s eyes staring through his crimson mask sold this feud better than a million words.
They’ve confirmed that their match will be taking place at Dominion. It will be interesting to see if Y2J’s second appearance in NJPW causes the same stir as his first.
The Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa) defeated The Bullet Club (Cody, Hangman Page, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson and Marty Scurll)
I rag on Cody Rhodes a lot. There’s a good chance I will continue to do so in the future. However, he nails this heel shit. Running into the crowd to retrieve the shirt that Omega had tossed out was a genius touch. Not a great wrestler, most certainly a fantastic character.
In the actual ring, Scurll continued his quest to slam Bad Luck Fale. It gave the match a more light-hearted edge, despite the faction wars behind it. It was only when Kenny and Cody came face to face that things got serious. Those two hate each other. You’ll notice Cody and Hangman went out of their way to prevent Kota and Kenny being face to face with The Bucks for too long. Perhaps worried about the old friends rediscovering their mutual ground?
Sadly, Scurll’s mission to prove himself would be his downfall. He got Fale up for the slam, but rather than putting him down again, he crashed to the ground under the weight. There was nothing he could do as the ref counted to three.
Afterwards, Kenny chased Omega to the back. Without the presence of their squabbling leaders, the men left in the ring ended up throwing up the Too Sweet and getting along. The Bucks apparently value that friendship more than they worry about being sued.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Will Ospreay defeated KUSHIDA to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Wow, it says a lot when I can comfortably say that this was not KUSHIDA and Will Ospreay’s best performance and yet can also say that you won’t see many better matches this year. Those two men bring the best out of each other with the latest chapter in their feud being as thrilling as all the others.
The story here was that both men were coming in with injuries. Their necks were wrapped up, and they took it in turns to take advantage of that. However, KUSHIDA seemed to be that little bit fresher which made a huge difference. He was able to control the action, flooring Ospreay and working over his arm and neck to set up for the Hoverboard Lock. Will occasionally found space, springing over the ropes with a Space Flying Tiger Drop or driving KUSHIDA to the mat with a German, which is when the injury would step in. Cutting him off as efficiently as his opponent did.
It all led to some genuinely outstanding selling from Will. He did everything he could to get across the idea that he was in agony. All while taking some brutal looking moves. At one point, KUSHIDA hit a Rolling Thunder DDT to Will taking him off the apron and headfirst down to the floor. Who the fuck agrees to take that?
The story of Ospreay’s title reign is that he is finding levels he didn’t know he had. That would once again prove to be the difference here. KUSHIDA was vicious, throwing those knockout strikes and looking to put Ospreay down for good. Will refused to die, though. Despite roaring in agony, he fought back and proved himself the equal of the Junior Ace. He’d eventually manage to hit his new modified neckbreaker (Stormbreaker) and get the three. What a performance from both men.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
The drama wasn’t over either. After KUSHIDA and Ospreay had paid respect to each other, Tama Tonga of all people made his way to the ring. He then introduced us to the returning Bone Soldier, who attacked Will from behind. Except, it’s not Bone Soldier, it’s Taiji Ishimori. It’s almost unfair how many great Juniors NJPW has.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Title
Where the fuck do we start with this one? Once again, I think it’s fair to say this wasn’t Tanahashi and Okada’s masterpiece. Yet, it was still outstanding wrestling.
The tale they told was simple. It was Tanahashi’s last shot. Okada took his title and every record he had apart from one. As much as he clings to the idea that he’s still the Ace, the truth is that those days are gone. But maybe, just maybe, he could find it in him one last time to rise to the top and prove himself to be the best wrestler on the planet.
On the other side of the ring, Okada didn’t give a shit about any of that stuff. He was out there to end Hiroshi Tanahashi. Kazu doesn’t have any respect for him, he’s Kazuchika Okada, the unbeatable champ. All he wanted to do was drop Tanahashi on his head and take his title home.
In the early going, it looked like that was precisely what he was going to do. It was all Kazu, as he hit a pair of Hangman DDTs, one in the ring and one on the floor. From there, he began to mock the Ace. Standing on his chest and shrugging off his strikes. Okada was able to take his time, slowly working the neck and looking to put the old man to bed.
Hiroshi Tanahashi might be old, but he’s still Hiroshi Fucking Tanahashi. There was no way he’d go quietly into the night. He finally managed to get a toe into the action as he reversed a Neckbreaker into one of his own. It seemed to embolden Tana, and he began to find his momentum, working over the knee of the champion. It culminated with Okada hitting the Rainmaker pose only for Tanahashi to leap to his feet as the camera zoomed out. Standing eye to eye with his foe and proving there was some fight in the old dog yet.
Suddenly, we had a match on our hands. The two legends went back and forth, slugging it out. Okada trying to get the Tombstone while Tanahashi was able to hit a High Fly Flow to the floor and use those Dragon Screws to great effect. As they got deeper into the action, these two men’s genius only became more evident. On the half-hour mark, Okada blocked a High Fly Flow, a callback to their last bout which ended in a thirty-minute draw.
And it’s that genius which made this so devastating. Tanahashi gave it his all. He ducked Rainmakers, hit Tombstones of his own and even broke Okada’s wrist control. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough because now, Kazuchika Okada is better than him. In the end, it took just one Rainmaker for the legend to go down and stay down. That’s pro-wrestling.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
Okada’s night wasn’t over. In his promo, he listed the people he’d beaten. There was one big asterisk on that collection of names. He wants to put an end to Kenny Omega once and for all. No time limit, two out of three falls. That’s going to be a long match.
A fun undercard, but it’s all about those main events. Two different matches and yet both proof of how diverse and intricate wrestling can be. It wasn’t only jaw-dropping action, it was also outstanding storytelling. If you have any love of this art form, you owe it to yourself to watch them.