Don Callis is on commentary which is the sign that it’s time for a big New Japan show. That’s still kind of weird, isn’t it? Anyway, after a slightly meandering New Beginning tour, we’re finally onto the important stuff as The Knife Pervert got a chance to pick himself up a lovely new belt. Exciting!
Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) and Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka and Taka Michinoku)
Past reviews have seen me be a tad dismissive of Tenzan’s quest to bring out the old Iizuka. However, I want to go back on that a bit. That small mid-card story gave this multi-man tag meaning, as I was intrigued whether the end of the tour would see them reunite before the old cannibal’s retirement.
Well, it didn’t. For one second, it looked like Iizuka had come to his senses, stopping Suzuki from driving a chair into his old pal’s head. Sadly, it turned out he merely wanted to complete the act himself, earning the DQ with a shot to the throat. The chances of Iizuka teaming with Tenzan for his final match look slim.
Throw in Kojima and Suzuki beating the hell out of each other, and this was a fun opener. If NJPW want to give meaning to a few more of these filler matches, I’d be cool with it.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
Los Ingobernable de Japon (EVIL and Sanada) defeated Shota Umino and Ayato Yoshida
Not going to lie, this was a tad disappointing. It wasn’t bad, I was just hoping that away from the New Japan Dads, Umino and Yoshida would get a chance to shine.
Instead, this was a dominant performance from the tag champions. Poor Umino spent the majority of it selling, and while the Lions had their traditional near falls off a series of flash pins, they were restricted in what they could do. They battled, but they never did anything to convince me they were going to pull out the upset.
And, truthfully, that makes sense. EVIL and Sanada are the tag champs, they should be dominating these rookies. Let’s just hope that in the future, we get to see Umino and Yoshida let loose against these same opponents.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI) defeated Suzuki-gun (Taichi, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru)
Scroll back through my reviews and you’ll see I’ve been moaning about New Japan running LIJ vs Suzuki-gun on every show for what feels like an eternity. Unsurprisingly, this did not change my mind. Not only have we seen it too many times, but we’ve had the pay-off for both these feuds. LIJ won, let us move on!
It’s almost made more frustrating by the matches never being bad. In fact, they tend to be good. Its staleness is not down to a lack of chemistry. My problem is that if I were to close my eyes and act this match out alongside my TV, I’d get pretty close to nailing the beats. From the Suzuki-gun attack before the bell to Despy and BUSHI clawing at each other.
Honestly, this was easily the best match on the show so far. I just wish I hadn’t seen it twenty times before.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
As BUSHI and Shino made their way up the ramp, Roppongi 3K appeared in front of them. Then, in a very heelish move for RPG3K, they attacked the LIJ men, stole their belts and laid out their challenge after a bit of back and forth on the mics. Interesting. Not the match, we all saw that coming, but SHO and YOH heeling it up.
The Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi) defeated YOSHI-HASHI and Tomoaki Honma
Well, this happened. Although in a few weeks no-one will remember that it did, but it definitely happened. I have proof because I watched it, so it’s in my head. At least I’m pretty sure it is. There is something in there.
Everything about this match was summed up by Honma hitting the ring with the slowest hot tag I’ve ever seen. What was weird was that there was a lot of movement, but he never seemed to be getting anywhere and his attacks had all the bite of a Daddy Long Legs. It takes a lot to make me consider skipping a Chase Owens match (Best Undercard Wrestler In The World), yet they came close. At least he won.
The whole thing was just a bit strange. How did this end up fourth from the bottom? What is the plan? Are we about to get Chase and Yujiro going after the titles? Because they’re going to need more rehabbing than this before anyone buys that.
Verdict: Two Stars
KOTA’S HERE! Ibushi thanked the crowd for their support during his injury before promising that he wasn’t going anywhere and is entering the New Japan Cup.
Thank fuck for that.
I’m not bothered about New Japan losing most of the All Elite lot as they had done what they needed to in Japan (plus Kenny and Jericho seem to be sticking around). However, I believe that Kota Ibushi still has much to give. Let’s hope we see it.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) defeated Togi Makabe and Toru Yano
Tama Tonga’s good guy act is dead, Yano and Makabe couldn’t even make it down the ramp before GOD attacked them from behind. From there we went straight into the walk and brawl.
I don’t know if I’m going to be alone in this, but while fighting Yano in the crowd, Tama grabbed someone’s purse, opened it and emptied it out. That’s not on, right? She could have been had anything from medication to an IPad in there. We all know the rules as fans, you don’t touch the wrestlers. Well, by that same token, they shouldn’t be touching our stuff, at least not in that manner. This isn’t the first time Tama’s done something like that and, in my opinion, he’s crossing a line.
You could perhaps claim that soured me towards this, but I was already pretty sour anyway. I’ve made it clear that I think Tonga and Loa are a bit shit with matches like this doing nothing to change my opinion. It’s all shortcuts and mediocre wrestling apparently being done to set them up for yet another title shot. I can’t think of anything I want to see less.
Verdict: One And A Half Stars
Taiji Ishimori defeated Ryusuke Taguchi to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
We got the silliness out the way early, as Taguchi continued his mocking of Ishimori’s previous gimmick as a Sailor Boy (an idol group) in Toryumon. That was brought to an end when Bone Soldier made it clear he has no regrets about his past, pulling out the dance that Taguchi had been apeing. Unsurprisingly, he did it slightly better than Old Ryusuke.
After that, we began to see the emergence of big match Taguchi. Early on, Ishimori was dominating, avoiding the Funky Weapon and looking like he was going to walk away with this. Then, Taguchi found his next gear. He began ramping it up, and we started to see why this man has been a staple in NJPW for as long as he has.
A big part of that continued on from the story they’ve been telling all tour with Taguchi getting Oh My and Garankle locked onto Ishimori. Time after time Bone Soldier was forced to escape and the best near fall of the match came off his attempt to get out, an attempt which walked him straight into a Dodon and a fantastic two count.
Unfortunately, that would be Taguchi’s shot, and it wasn’t enough. The second time he went for Dodon, Ishimori wriggled out before striking hard and fast. A Bloody Crosses later and that belt was going nowhere.
This was proof that after a quiet 2018 for Taguchi, he can still go. It was him at his big match best and is well worth seeking out.
Verdict: Four Stars
As Taguchi was carried out, Ishimori turned towards the commentary desk and a certain Jushin Thunder Liger. It’s a rite of passage for every New Japan Junior to face off against Liger, and I’m glad Ishimori is getting his chance to do the same. Give The Thunder God a singles match, and he will deliver.
Kazuchika Okada defeated Bad Luck Fale
I love that Okada is still getting a pop every time he reveals those legs. The New Japan crowd are thirsty for Captain Kazu’s calves.
Bad Luck Fale has been on the decline for the last year or so. There’s been a distinct whiff of not giving a shit around his matches, as his weight loss seemed to somehow see him get less mobile. All of which made the sight of him bumping around for Okada quite remarkable. I thought performances like this were behind him, but the big man looked decent here.
A lot of credit for which has to go to Okada. The second half of 2018 saw me get so used to Broken Okada, that I’d kind of forgotten how fantastic he is. The Rainmaker made Fale look like a boss here, selling every blow like he’d been hit with a tank and throwing everything he had at The Underboss just to get him off his feet.
Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t great. Fale still has his limitations while Chase and Yujiro were a constant source of shenanigans on the outside until YOSHI-HASHI finally bothered to get his arse down to ringside. However, in comparison with the expectations I had coming in, this was a cracking match with a feel-good finish as Okada finally got one over on The Bullet Club with The Rainmaker.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Jay White defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title
Bow down before the Knife Pervert.
Just over a year after returning from his excursion, Jay White pinned Hiroshi Tanahashi in the centre of the ring, clean. That came about five weeks after he pinned Kazuchika Okada in the centre of the ring, clean. Does anyone have any doubts about whether he’s a star now?
Of course, this is not proof that he is a successful star. The crowd was noticeably quiet during the aftermath of his victory, and whether that was shock or apathy remains to be seen. This show was sold-out, but he was facing The Ace who is one of the company’s bigger draws. White has proven the company thinks he’s a big deal, now he needs to show the fans do.
However, that’s not the important part. The important part is the match itself, and I believe it was another success for Switchblade. This was booked to make him look like a beast. He went out there and dominated Tanahashi from the start, ripping his knee apart and, while Gedo popped up now and then, he ultimately beat him by catching him out of the air on a High Fly Flow before laying him out with the Bladerunner. It was as dominant a New Japan main event as you’ll ever see, and that was fascinating to watch.
And some credit must be given to Tanahashi. It’s no secret that he’s about as selfless main eventer as you will find, but could anyone have blamed him for baulking at letting this young kid beat him senseless? But Tana is better than us. All feud he has given everything he has to get White over, and if he does get as big as the company clearly expects him to, Hiroshi Tanahashi will take some of the credit. Much like he did with Okada.
Now, there is a caveat to all this, and it’s that this style of match, doesn’t always lead to the most thrilling of encounters. I’ve seen some people go low on the star ratings, justifying it by saying that while the story was great, the lack of a back and forth closing stretch hurt their excitement. However, that didn’t bother me. I thought this story was masterfully told, with both men more than carrying their weight. Throw in the fact that they had a couple sequences where they seamlessly dancing through counters and I was more than sold on the quality of the action as well as the quality of the narrative.
Look, I’ve been in on Switchblade for about a year now. He flopped at the Dome, but if you go back and read my Dash review, you can see that I was getting onboard by night two. By the time he beat Omega, I was sold. This moment felt like the payoff of a year-long story that I was with every step of the way. If you weren’t, you won’t like it half as much as me, if you were, come join the fun.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
I will always remember this show. Going into the main event, I had butterflies fluttering in my stomach as I prayed for a Knife Pervert victory. They gave me that, and I loved it. Thrown in with a few decent tag matches, a solid performance from Fale and an appearance from big match Taguchi meant this was a top show. The New Beginning tour hasn’t done much for me, but New Japan has saved it at the last.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/