If you’re new to NJPW, think of New Year Dash as a bit like the Raw after WrestleMania. With the big show out of the way, it’s time to set-up the year ahead with recent years featuring the return of Suzuki-gun and Jay White turning down Kenny Omega and Bullet Club. With the Dome seeing a changing of the guard, it’s an interesting time for New Japan fans, and this show will give us an insight as to what we should expect.
Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH and Rocky Romero) defeated Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr and Takashi Iizuka)
Roppongi 3K have a habit of sneaking wins against Suzuki-gun heavyweight teams. With The Bucks seemingly on their way, SHO and YOH would appear to be their natural successors, and after taking the fall the previous night, this was a perfect way to rehab them.
It’s also worth pointing out how good Rocky is in these matches. He does exactly what he needs to do, never overshadowing his younger charges, but impressing at the same time. He comes across like the consummate professional, and while that’s not the flashiest role, it’s one that you’ve got to respect.
Considering my thoughts on the Suzuki-gun side of this match (I think they all stink), I enjoyed this a lot. It was a well-executed big man vs little man contest and while we’ve all seen that a million times, that’s because it works.
Verdict: Three Stars
Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi defeated Toa Henare and Tomoaki Honma
At the time, this seemed like a weird match-up. Four guys who did little to nothing at the Dome chucked together in a random tag. You could have read it as Chase and Yujiro going solo, but its true purpose only became clear after events later in the night.
Without the benefit of hindsight, it was fine. If you’ve dabbled in my New Japan reviews before you’ll know that I rate both Henare and Owens, so having them face off was fun. Chase did a particularly great job winding up the crowd as he mocked Honma. The old stealing the face’s move trick isn’t exactly complex, but, much like the big man vs little man trope, it works, and Owens does it better than most.
Despite that, if you’re going to skip a match on this show, make it this one. It was very much just there.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
David Finlay and Juice Robinson defeated The Best Friends (Chuckie T and Beretta) by Disqualification
Beretta challenged Juice during his post-Cody victory press conference, so we’re building to that. It was also a rematch from Tag League where Taylor flipped out and beat the crap out of Finlay. Sadly, history was to repeat itself.
Before we got there, we had a lovely moment where Beretta pointed out that everyone had to behave because his Mum was in the crowd. He’d then vanish halfway through to go and give her a hug. I loved that shit. You could see the pride on her face as Big Greg embraced her among the Japanese fans and it was a genuinely lovely moment.
Less lovely was Dustin launching a chair into Finlay’s head. If you thought Chuck behaving himself the night before was a sign that he’d cooled it, you were wrong. Poor Dave took a bit of a beating and then Juice got one too. There was even a moment where it looked like he was heading towards Beretta’s Mum, only to change his mind at the last moment. It’s the strongest hint yet that this feud ends with The Best Friends coming head to head, and I’m not sure my heart can take that.
Until that moment this was a good match. Again, nothing special, but the moment with Beretta’s Mum and some fun action will keep you smiling.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto and Will Ospreay) defeated Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb and KUSHIDA
If New Japan ever decides to take their trio’s division seriously, can I recommend they build it around Will Ospreay and his NEVER Dads? That’s a lovely team.
Although the word lovely doesn’t cover their personalities. They were all grumpy boys in this one. You expect that from Ishii and Goto, they’ve always been liable to start smacking people about, but it’s nice to see Ospreay embrace the fact that he’s not a very likeable chap. If the switch to heavyweight sees him lean into his own arrogance, then I’m cool with that.
This was also a clear step-up in quality from what had come before. In fact, there were pockets of genuine brilliance here. KUSHIDA and Ospreay are always great, but Ishii and Nagata were getting involved too, seemingly determined to beat the crap out of each other. Jeff Cobb, meanwhile, continues to shine and there’s no way NJPW aren’t taking notice of him. He’s too good not to.
The ending also answered a lot of questions about the future. Firstly, KUSHIDA was easily pinned, clean, in the centre of the ring and afterwards shared a fist bump with Will. He’s since officially announced that he’s off, but you only had to watch that to see it was true. While he’ll be missed, it’s clear he’s gone as far as New Japan is ever going to let him go and I hope he gets what he wants in the future.
On top of that, Ishii and Nagata’s interactions continued into the post-match. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that they seemed to develop a tiff. A tiff that involved them hitting each other really hard. More of that, please. Elsewhere, Cobb and Goto were making eyes at each other, so it looks like Old Hirooki will be taking a shot at that ROH TV Title.
Gosh, that’s a lot of excitement, isn’t it?
Verdict: Four Stars
The Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa and Taiji Ishimori) defeated Togi Makabe, Toru Yano and Ryusuke Taguchi to retain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Titles
The theme set-up in the last match continued in this one as it was all about building for the future. Sadly, the action didn’t quite live up to it as it suffered from a little bit of a talent drop off… okay, a huge talent drop off.
Still, there were things to take from this. Firstly, it looks like Taguchi is going to be Ishimori’s first title defence. That’s a decent spot for Bone Soldier, as he’ll pick up an easy win against a staple of the division. Whether it goes down as a great performance or not will depend which Taguchi turns up, but he’s certainly capable of turning it on.
Then there was the finish, as Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi stormed the ring just as it looked like the belts were going to do what they always do and jump ship. I’m not entirely sure that makes sense from a storyline point of view (they were left lying alongside Kenny and co during the original turn), but there’s nothing else for them to do. Plus, if it leads to a Chase push, I’m cool with it.
Elsewhere, Tama Tonga continues to bill himself as a good guy, and I couldn’t give less of a shit. You know why? Because he’s not very good. A fact that was made abundantly clear by the action in this match. Still, I’m sure the Bullet Club Block Party will sell some tickets, so that’s nice.
Verdict: Two And a Half Stars
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado) defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, EVIL, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI)
Fucking hell, Taichi. He started this by bashing Naito in the head with a chair, and it’s safe to say he didn’t hold back. That, while I want to condemn because that shit ain’t necessary, did look fucking vicious. I guess it achieved its goal even while being monumentally stupid.
Suzuki-gun’s brawling can be infuriating, but in moments like this, it’s also kind of genius. They managed to set-up three different feuds as they vanished into the crowd and beat the crap out of each other. Firstly, an obvious one, Despy and Kanemaru aren’t done with Shingo and BUSHI. Those four will get a chance to do it two on two, and I’m intrigued to see how it goes.
Secondly, that chair shot wasn’t just for Taichi’s enjoyment. It looks like Naito is defending that big white belt against the singing ballbag as he ended up taking the fall after a belt shot and Black Mephisto. Look, I’ve made my feelings on Taichi clear, I think he’s garbage. However, one of his handful of good showings last year was against Naito, so that might not be awful.
The one I’m most excited about is EVIL and Sanada vs Zack and the King. Suzuki and ZSJ have been an awesome team in RevPro, and a lot of people have been calling for them to get together in NJPW. Well, this is our chance, and it has the chance to shine. It’s a fresh match-up with a lot of chemistry, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.
Considering this went around sixteen minutes, that was a lot of leg work for those minutes to cover. They did a cracking job, as that LIJ multi-man magic came to the fore. I feel like I never need to see them wrestle Suzuki-gun or CHAOS again, but that doesn’t change the fact that it always delivers.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
The Bullet Club (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale and Gedo) defeated Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi and YOSHI-HASHI
YOSHI-HASHI got a haircut! If there is good to come from his injury, it will be that. Well done, YOSHI. I’m proud of you.
There was a lot of star power in that ring, and it shone through. I know they’ve been doing it for a while, but Tanahashi and Okada being in the same team is still spell-binding. Little moments like Tana giving Kazu the thumbs up after he hit a Dragon Screw Leg Whip make me giddy. It’s like being a kid and seeing Batman and Superman get on the same page.
It’s also time for those who haven’t accepted Jay White is the future to realise that they are clinging onto a hopeless dream. Because this match was all about putting him over. He might not have pinned Okada or Tanahashi, but, more importantly, the action wasn’t centred around them. It was built around Knife Pervert and having dispatched the Rainmaker, he’s now after The Ace. I have a sneaking suspicion he’ll make short work of him too.
As for the in-ring action, Gedo, Fale and HASHI being involved, combined with Dome fatigue meant it was never going to be a classic. Still, it did a good job of telling the stories it needed to tell. YOSHI-HASHI got his return, we built to White vs Tanahashi, and we got the justification for a Fale vs Okada match which is a good chance for Kazu to get a win back. Job done.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
If you were looking for a big story to get the Twitter machine speculating, New Year Dash might have fallen short of your expectations. However, it was still an entertaining show that did a lovely job of setting up the next few months in New Japan. There are a lot of coals in the fire coming out of this one, and with NJPW seemingly setting themselves up for a massive year, I’m excited to see how hot they can get it.
Watch New Year Dash: https://njpwworld.com/