It’s time for the big one! New Japan is in the Garden. And, well, I guess Ring Of Honor is there too. The G1 Supercard should be the show of the weekend, and if ROH weren’t there, I’d be putting money on that being the case. Sadly, I don’t trust those cunts, so we’ll have to wait and see. Still, Ibushi vs Naito could fart into a kazoo for thirty minutes, and I’d stand up and clap, so I’m going to have a good time.
Kenny King won the Honor Rumble
THEY OVERDUBBED KAZE NI NARE! A pox on whoever is responsible for that. A pox I say!
There was an abundance of ROH geeks in this. I lost count of the number of times music hit, and I had no idea who was about to come out. If you’re going by crowd reaction, I wasn’t the only one either. Although to give the likes of Rhett Titus some credit, the fans might have known who he was and were quiet because they didn’t give a shit.
Thankfully, New Japan picked up a bit of the slack. While the likes of Will Ferrera wandered out to the sound of someone in the tenth-row farting, Taguchi and Shingo got everyone excited. There was also the occasional guest spot with Haku and The Great Muta (in awesome Alien inspired gear) of all people turning up. It may have only been the pre-show match, but it already felt like this would have benefitted from ROH staying home.
The match itself was fine. Who doesn’t love a rumble? However, they were shoving people through the curtain as fast as they could which meant there wasn’t time for the people in the ring to do anything inventive. There were a couple of fun spots, with my highlight being Yano insisting that Cabana take his place before joining commentary instead. Colt sounded a bit gutted that he wasn’t wrestling at MSG on his latest pod, so that was lovely. Apart from stuff like that, it felt like it was there so those involved could get an entrance at the Garden.
Of course, there was another reason. Jushin Thunder Liger. The moment Liger arrived was the moment the fans remembered to care. With the Thunder God on his way out booking him to win this and challenge for the ROH World Title should have been the easiest decision in the world. We all know he wouldn’t win it, but it would be one final big match in America.
And for five seconds it looked like they were heading that way. It came down to Jushin Thunder Liger vs Keiji Mutoh, and people were having a lovely time. Then, fucking Kenny King reappeared and ruined it. What an awful decision.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Jeff Cobb defeated Will Ospreay to win the NEVER Openweight Title and retain the ROH TV Title
You know fine well that Cobb and Ospreay were sat backstage planning on making the night difficult for everyone that had to follow them. They came out hot too, Cobb tossing Will around the ring as he gets better and better at playing the hoss. I’ve said before that he needed to learn how to carry himself as a champion which is what he was doing as he manhandled Will.
As they went on the two of them ramped up the physicality. Will’s attempts to take to the air were ending with him being thrown across The Garden, so he transitioned to strikes, trying to cut Cobb down with a lethal selection of kicks. In doing so, he opened up the TV Champion to other moves, hitting a Spanish Fly and reversing out of Tour of the Islands into a Sunset Flip Powerbomb (it was awesome).
We then got an incredible false finish where Will tried for the OsCutter only for Cobb to catch him and launch him into the corner. Except, Will landed on the second rope and leapt straight back into the Oscutter for an awesome two count that got a huge pop. It would prove the decisive moment in the match as it forced Will to change tactics and go to Stormbreaker to try get the win. While going for an Avalanche version of the move, Cobb was able to power out and hit Tour of the Islands from the second rope. He followed up with another for good luck, and Cobb has got his hands on an NJPW title.
Well, that was a shock. I was confident Will was going to win this match as it seemed a lot more likely he’d hold an ROH Title than Cobb a New Japan one. There is no denying it is an intriguing move, though, and we’ll have to see what this means for Big Jeff’s relationship with New Japan.
Verdict: Four Stars
Rush defeated Dalton Castle
Dalton Castle got a superstar entrance then got squashed by Rush. It’s a shame for Dalton, but in the world of ROH, Rush just became a star. Simple booking is often the best booking. Post-match Castle destroyed The Boys in a rage, so we shouldn’t worry about him. A new direction will do him no harm.
We went backstage to Juice Robinson who had been attacked. I assume he’s injured? Fuck knows. It does mean the US Title won’t be featured on New Japan’s biggest show in America which is hilarious.
Kelly Klein defeated Mayu Iwatani to win the WOH Title
Kelly Klein wrestled this match like someone who had never been in a ring before. Stardom could have sent Saya Iida, who has (at the time of writing) wrestled eighteen matches, and she would have had a better showing with Mayu Iwatani. I get that walking out at MSG would be intimidating as hell, but it looked like Klein froze in the spotlight and forgot what she was doing. Considering she wasn’t particularly good beforehand, that was a problem.
Mayu tried, she took an insane bump off a German while everything good about this came through her. However, some mountains are too big to climb. It’s alright, though, The Beautiful People turned up afterwards to save the day. They’ll succeed where Mayu failed and drag Klein to a good match… right?
Verdict: One And A Half Stars
Flip Gordon, Juice Robinson and Mark Haskins defeated Bully Ray, Silas Young and Shane Taylor
Jesus fucking Christ, an ECW match broke out. Bully came out to beat-up some nerdcore rapper before Flip answered his open-challenge (the reported injury must have been a work). That brought out Silas Young and Shane Taylor to beat up Flip before Juice (which means we could have had the advertised bout) and Haskins made the save. It then became an ECW style trios match. It was awful, fuck this shit.
Verdict: One Star
Dragon Lee defeated Bandido and Taiji Ishimori to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Thank fuck, we’re back to something good. These three went out and worked a frantic sprint that was all kinds of fun. I am always moaning about companies booking three-way-dances, and Dragon Lee vs Ishimori would have undoubtedly been better, but after all the nonsense these three blew into the arena like a cool breeze on a sticky summer’s day. It was stupidly talented wrestlers going out and doing cool shit until the fans screamed their names. Unsurprisingly, it worked.
Bandido wins the award for doing the best of the insane stuff as he hit both men (at the same time!) with an Avalanche Moonsault Fallaway Slam. Fucking mental. Somehow that wasn’t the finish and soon after Dragon Lee pinned Bandido to win the belt. That’s got to mean what it’s got to mean, right? Come home, Hiromu, come get what still belongs to you.
Verdict: Four StarsGuerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) defeated Villain Enterprises (PCO and Brody King), The Briscoes (Homophobe 1 and Homophobe 2) and Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada and EVIL) to win the IWGP and ROH Heavyweight Tag Titles
I usually ignore the Briscoes’ matches. However, with three other teams in there with them, I decided to review this one. They are still scum, so I encourage you to avoid supporting them.
We kicked things off in bizarre circumstances as PCO was shocked to life by an electric chair. When did ROH become this company? They’ve also sent Tiger Hattori out to be the ref which has got to be a rib. What bastard thought he was going to keep up with eight men? He has adopted the stand in the corner and leave them to it tactic.
I want to complain about this being a four-way-dance, but I’ll take anything over a straight-up GOD match. It’s hard for them to bore me when Brody King and PCO are being fucking mental. By the way, those two were the MVPs in my book. Much like the previous match, it was worked as a wild sprint with everyone trying to grab their moment in the sun. It’s hard to outshine huge men throwing themselves through the air, though. PCO even hit his Swanton on the ring apron for the first time in ROH.
GOD got the win after Powerbombing PCO out of the ring (I’ll give them that one, it was fucking cool) before a Jado kendo stick shot set King up for the Gun Stun and a Super Powerbomb. For the same reasons I expected Ospreay to win the earlier match, this makes sense to me. GOD can easily work an ROH tour or two.
After the match, Enzo Amore and Big Cass jumped the barrier. It was brushed over on the stream as ROH is trying to sell it as a shoot, but it wasn’t. They made sure you could see them in the back of shots and security didn’t get involved. The cunts have hired Enzo Amore. Fuck them.
More importantly, Yano has stolen the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles, so that’s going to be fun.
Verdict: Three And Three Quarter Stars
Zack Sabre Jr defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi to retain the British Heavyweight Title
The crowd seemed subdued as Sabre and Tanahashi built the foundations of their match, but it’s likely they were recovering from being subjected to Enzo Amore. I imagine there were a lot of ‘what the fuck was that?’ conversations going on.
However, you had Sabre and Tanahashi in there, so it didn’t take them too long to warm them up again. These two continued from where they left off in the New Japan Cup with Tanahashi using that Dragon Screw Leg Whip to lethal effect and Sabre going after the arm of Tana. The Ace is kind of the perfect opponent for ZSJ at this point. He’s so beat up that Zack can choose any limb he wants and it’s probably one that Tana should have surgery on six years ago.
And, as you’d expect from these two, it was a classy encounter. After the feeling of chaos that had settled over this show (mainly on the ROH side), they came out and shone because they are both stunning wrestlers. In the end, Zack locked on, em, I get all his moves muddled up. The arm one. That’s ‘Hurrah! Another Year…’ isn’t it? Whatever one it is, it looked fucking painful, and Tana had no chance except to submit verbally.
Verdict: Four Stars
Kota Ibushi defeated Tetsuya Naito to win the Intercontinental Title
To understand Kota Ibushi is to elevate this match beyond its obvious genius. For all his magic, Ibushi sees his time in New Japan as one of failure. Every time he’s got close to one of the big ones, he’s fallen short. From the IWGP Heavyweight Title to the G1 to the Intercontinental Title, he’s come close, but he’s never made it. And while all those setbacks hurt him, the truth is that the one that cuts deepest might be that IC title. Because the two times he’s lost, have been to the two men he respects the most. His Gods, Nakamura and Tanahashi.
So, that brings us to Tetsuya Naito, a man who he used to count as a friend, but who has become a bitter enemy. Since they went their separate ways, Ibushi has had to watch from afar as Naito did what he could not. While Ibushi has challenged twice for the IC Title and lost both, Naito has fought for it three times and won every single time. Then, when the belt was in his possession, he treated it like shit. Dragging it across the ground and throwing it against the ring post. He disrespects the honour that Ibushi’s heroes held.
All of which sets the scene for Madison Square Gardens and this match. In Naito and Ibushi’s previous encounters they have pushed each other to extremes. It’s never just a wrestling match between the two, as they both seem determined to cause lasting damage to the other. They have an obsession with dropping each other on their head and focusing on their necks, so it was no surprise that this match was no different. We had Hurricanranas off the apron, vicious German Suplexes and time after time the sickening sight of someone crashing onto their neck.
The difference this time? Ibushi found an inner conviction that he never had before. He recently signed a New Japan contract for the first time, and that seems to have bred a new conviction. No longer is he the flighty genius. Now, he’s determined to prove he belongs. Perhaps it was that which allowed him to kick out of the Running Destino that Naito hit despite everything that the Ungovernable One had already done to Ibushi’s neck during this fight.
Or perhaps, it was the spirit of Shinsuke Nakamura. A pair of Bomayes proved the defining moment as it swung this whole thing in Ibushi’s favour. One to the back of the head, one to the front. Seconds later he hoisted Naito up for the Last Ride, and while Naito delivered a flurry of punches, desperate to escape, Ibushi clung desperately on and brought his foe crashing down to the ground. Naito would kick out of that, but it was his last act of defiance. A Kamigoye later and Ibushi had put a few of those doubts to rest.
Verdict: Four And Three Quarter Stars
Matt Taven defeated Jay Lethal and Marty Scurll to win the ROH World Title
Ha, they gave the belt to Matt Taven. ROH is such a joke.
Sending these three out after Naito vs Ibushi was cruel. Making them do a seven-hour long ladder match was just downright torture. I don’t think anyone could make that interesting. Especially as I’m pretty confident I could have won it in five minutes. While the rest of them were faffing around doing DIY and making weird ladder houses, I’d have just climbed one and taken the belt down. Easy peasy.
Anyway, as you may have guessed, I did not enjoy this. All three worked hard, Scurll was stupidly over and they took some risks (although Lethal went further than most by being a fucking dumbass and managing to throw a cross of ladders into the crowd), but I never cared? And coming out of a match that reduced me to tears, that was a problem. If it had happened two hours ago and been a ten to fifteen-minute clusterfuck I might have been on board, but second from the top and thirty minutes? Nah, you’re alright.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
Kazuchika Okada defeated Jay White to win the IWGP Heavyweight Title
I bow down to the Knife Pervert, but even I didn’t want Jay White to win this match. New Japan’s biggest show in America needed to end with The Rainmaker stood proud. It just made sense.
He had to work hard for it, though. This match followed the beats of Okada and White’s feud as the early going saw Jay, with the occasional helping hand from Gedo, take control. Okada would have little bursts of offence, but Switchblade always seemed to have an answer to them. He even fell back on just having a seat when Okada went for the Rainmaker.
But as the minutes ticked by, those Okada bursts came more and more frequently. White was pulling out all his high impact offence, from vicious suplexes to dumping Okada over the top rope, but unlike at the Dome, this was the real Okada. Back then he strutted down that ramp like he was back, but ultimately, that was just his first step to recovery. It wasn’t until Captain Kazu battled through CHAOS and pinned Sanada in the New Japan Cup that Okada had achieved true redemption. To beat this Rainmaker, White would need more than he’d ever given before.
He gave it a bloody good try too. For one thing, he kicked out of the Rainmaker. Not a half version or the discus one, but the actual honest to god Rainmaker. That’s an honour given to very few, and the shock around MSG was palpable when it happened. When he did it, you wondered whether they were going to have MSG end with a bitter taste in the mouths of their fans.
Except, Okada wasn’t done. They went into a fantastic final sequence, dancing between counters as only these two can, but ultimately Kazuchika Okada, the champion of my heart, came out on top. A Spinning Tombstone followed by a second proper Rainmaker and the IWGP Heavyweight Title is going home with Captain Kazu.
I don’t think this match was as good as their match at the Dome because it didn’t have the frantic shock factor that one did, but it was still phenomenal. It was a proper New Japan main event style match-up, and while some people get frustrated with the slow build of those, I adored it. It was a perfect short story in wrestling form that climaxed with Okada back on top, how can you not love it?
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
A fantastic New Japan show which had a Hogan era TNA taping spliced into it. Not sure how that happened. If you strip away the fat, this would have been the show of the weekend. Sadly, you can’t do that, so I think NXT might still nick it. However, I put five matches at four stars or above, so I had a lovely old time. More fool you if you didn’t.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/