New Japan took a wander Down Under at the weekend, as they put on their biggest show yet in Australia. With their ventures to the UK and America getting a lot of attention, people seem to have missed NJPW’s quiet moves into that part of the world. The scene out there has a lot of talent, and Gedo wants to be the one who gets his hands on it.
Toa Henare, Shota Umino and Nick Bury defeated Mark Tuai, Michael Richards and Andrew Villalobos
Ren Narita couldn’t travel, so Nick Bury stepped into his spot. The commentator (Don Marnell is on the desk with Chris Charlton) told a story about him flying himself out to the New Japan Dojo in LA only to find it was closed because it was the weekend they were in New York… I hope that’s not a shoot.
The other team was representing Fale’s Dojo with Richards and Villalobos in Young Lion gear while Tuai is a graduate and current trainer there. The kids looked decent enough, executing the fundamentals without shining while Tuai showed a bit more personality.
Of the newbies, it was Bury who got the most attention, though. The Aussie crowd was hot for him, and he was happy to play up to their cheers, turning the Fale Dojo team into the heels as he ate the heat section. The final act then saw Henare come in and remove Villalobos’ head with an incredible Lariat before getting the win with the Toa Bottom. A solid opener with the Aussie representatives all doing a good job.
Verdict: Three Stars
Slex defeated Aaron Solow
You’ve got to believe that this was essentially a trial match. Slex has previously worked for NJPW, putting on a good match with Okada. Solow, meanwhile, is an indie veteran who hasn’t had the chance to do his thing on a bigger stage.
I suspect this will be a recurring theme, but the hometown boy, Slex, was over. He played into that, showing off some eye-catching offence early on. That was fine by Solow, who slipped into the arrogant heel role, looking to cut the momentum out from under the fans’ new hero.
And they had a decent, if unspectacular, match. When they upped the pace and went at it, they looked good, but I’m not sure they did enough of that. There was a bit too much pissing around. Slex was doing some weird shit involving his sunglasses, and while it was over in the building, I’m not sure it will have ingratiated himself to the wider NJPW audience. I’m not going to go as far as calling this an opportunity missed, but it’s hard to call it one grasped.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
CHAOS (YOH and Toru Yano) defeated The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and Gino Gambino)
New Japan has had some real issues with flights as SHO joined Narita in not making it. I’m a little bit sad to discover SHO and YOH don’t travel everywhere together holding hands.
When YOH and Ishimori were in the ring, this was an enjoyable match. They weren’t going all out, but they did enough to get the fans excited and ran through some fun spots. When you’re as good as those two, you don’t have to do much to impress.
The rest of it was fine. Live crowds long Yano and Gino played along with his antics. The big man did a great job commentating during the Super Juniors, but this was my first time watching him wrestle, and he’s, well, he’s alright. The commentary desk might by his future.
Still, the fans enjoyed themselves, and it’s hard to get too grumpy about this kind of match. It’s for those in the building rather than those sitting at home.
Verdict: Three Stars
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated The Bullet Club (Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi)
Chase Owens is unique within the world of New Japan. He turns up and plays that old-school heel to perfection, winding up crowds while making his opponents look great. I enjoyed the interactions between him and Ishii as the chicken shit heel came up against the Stone Pitbull.
Unfortunately, the other people involved were Yujiro and YOSHI. It’s hard to care when you’re watching Yujiro and YOSHI. There is nothing interesting about those men, and this match proved it. Ishii and Chase basically ditched them halfway through to have a singles match, and we were all better off for it.
Verdict: Three Stars
El Phantasmo defeated Rocky Romero to retain the British Cruiserweight Championship
I love Rocky Romero. If New Japan was bestowing national treasurehood on a wrestler, Rocky would be a decent choice to get the honour, but fuck me, did I find large portions of this match a struggle.
Because the first umpteen minutes were plagued with nonsense. The structure was similar to their Super Juniors’ match, with Phantasmo playing the cocky heel who views Rocky as beneath him. He was standing on Romero’s balls and spitting water at commentators, all of which just served to slow down the action. I’m all for building things up, but I was falling asleep.
And it was all the more frustrating when they did speed things up because that was fun. Rocky continued his tactic of going after ELP’s arm to set-up for the Diablo Armbar, and he’s brilliant at doing so within that underdog persona. He never just locks on the move, there is always a route into it via something else, sneaking his way into position to try and get the victory.
And then, just as Rocky spun out of a Tombstone position into a Canadian Destroyer (awesome spot), the stream died. It’s possible these two were on track to winning me back around, it certainly felt like they were heading that way, but if I can’t watch the end of the match, I can’t talk about it. This was half a meh effort and a quarter of a good one, so I guess it was alright?
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tonga Loa) defeated Juice Robinson and Mikey Nicholls to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
I am so fed up of GOD. Their matches suck with both men seemingly putting in as little effort as they can. The second they vanished into the crowd to brawl, my brain switched off. At one point Marnell said we were seven minutes into the match and I would have honestly guessed it was closer to twenty. It’s like time stands still when they wrestle.
So yea, this sucked and was a waste of the always popular Juice Robinson. For whatever reason, Mikey Nicholls and New Japan are not working, and even the Aussie crowd struggled to get excited for him (which was a problem when they built to his hot tag). If you’re watching this show and haven’t been bitten by the completionist bug, skip this, you’ll be happier for it.
Verdict: Two Stars
Will Ospreay defeated Robbie Eagles to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Ospreay had his sword with him again, and I hope that isn’t going to be a regular thing. It’s very silly. In the other corner, Robbie had an ELP with him, but before the match started, he asked him to leave as the Melbourne crowd made it clear Eagles was a babyface in this town.
That can’t have been a surprise to the wrestlers, and Will played the heel right from the start. It was an intriguing dynamic, as Ospreay was the one controlling the match and slowing the action down, which is not a role you see him in often. He was almost getting a bit panto as he played into the fans’ boos while working over Eagles.
Thankfully, the wrestling made up for Billy’s over-acting as these two proved once again to be a perfect combination. Robbie was brilliant in the underdog role, attacking the leg of Ospreay to prepare for the Ron Miller Special. People have a tendency to talk about these matches as if they’re all Will’s work, but that view is redundant, Eagles has proven he belongs.
And it wasn’t perfect. Will struggles to sell leg work because he does so much with his legs. It’s hard not to be jolted out of the moment when he goes from not being able to run across the ring to backflipping into kicks. However, when everything else is great, that’s easier to forgive, and everything else was great.
Towards the end, ELP (who had returned to ringside) became a factor. As he teased getting involved in a similar fashion to their Super Juniors’ match, Eagles appeared out of nowhere, wiping him out with a Tope Suicida. It was a move that took out Will too, leaving it up in the air whether he was specifically targeting ELP or not. That question was perhaps answered later on as a Red Shoes’ bump saw Phantasmo return to the ring and attack Will. Then, as he set-up to hit Ospreay with the title, Eagles was the one who stopped him, allowing Will to take ELP out of the equation.
That left us with Robbie Eagles and Will Ospreay facing off, head to head in the centre of the ring and, ultimately, Will proved to have too much for Robbie. It was close, but as they swung for the fences, he responded to Eagles kicking out of a Shooting Star Press at one with a Hidden Blade and a Stormbreaker for the three. Fantastic match.
Verdict: Four And A Half Stars
After the match, ELP tried to console Eagles and drag him away from Ospreay. In response, Robbie elbowed him in the face and shook Will’s hand. I predict that man will win the Junior Title and he’ll do it while a member of CHAOS.
Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated The Bullet Club (Jay White and Bad Luck Fale)
Look, I get why you put this match on last. It’s got all the star power in it. However, it also has Bad Luck Fale in it and a Hiroshi Tanahashi who is either genuinely struggling or is saving it all up for the G1. Combine that with the fact they went twenty minutes (!), and this was always going to struggle to follow the Junior Title match.
Honestly, I zoned out. It was these four guys working a house show main event style as they played the greatest hits and not much else. Large parts of it were slow and plodding with no-one working particularly hard. It was another one that was put together for the live crowd (and I will give some credit to Okada for leading them in an Aussie, Aussie, Aussie chant), so if you’re watching at home, feel free to give it a skip.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hm, what did I think of this show? It was good, I think? Eagles vs Ospreay was incredible, some of the undercard matches were alright and Rocky vs Phantasmo was getting somewhere. However, there was a lot of shite and the others were just there. If you only watched the Junior Title match, you wouldn’t be missing out.
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