Having made the mistake of watching the entirety of Destruction in Beppu, I shall not be fooled again. This review will cover the Young Lion matches, the two main events and nothing more. The tag matches will all be the same as they were in Beppu, so here’s a tip, don’t watch them. Stick with me, and we’ll focus on the important stuff.
Yuya Uemura (1-4) defeated Clark Connors (3-2)
Yuya Uemura has struggled to make his mark on the Young Lion Cup. Sitting at 0-4 coming into this match, he was playing for pride alone, desperate to show he wasn’t there to merely make up the numbers.
One way to make that impact was to leave a handprint on Connors’ chest, and that certainly seemed to be Uemura’s goal. These two had no intention of holding back, and by the home stretch, they were swinging at each other, stiff slap after stiff slap as both men battled desperately for the win.
At that moment, though, it was Uemura who kept his head. They were both going for knockout blows, but he also spied an opportunity, and as Connors hit the ropes he connected with a beautiful Arm Drag before following up with a Double Overhook Belly to Belly. Connors fought valiantly against the Crab that followed, but he didn’t have enough left, and when Uemura dragged him back to the middle of the ring, he had to tap.
That was a fantastic showing from both cubs. They showed a lot of heart and fire while the finishing stretch was a shitload of fun. Uemura might not have racked up the points, but that kid is good and Connors ain’t bad either.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Ren Narita (4-1) defeated Michael Richards (1-4)
My God was this boring. I hate to be harsh on the cubs, they’re young in their careers and still figuring stuff out, but Narita and Richards spent most of the match in a headlock.
Part of the problem is that I still don’t buy Richards as being on the same level as his peers. I’m not saying he’ll never have it, but he’s a step or two behind the rest.
Narita got the win with the Belly to Belly, and this was probably the weakest match of the Cup so far. Oh well, onto the next one.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
A bunch of other matches happened with the main headline being that YOH pinned Tonga Loa. I’ve no idea what that is building to, but it’s interesting, and anything that adds a bit of variety to the tag scene is appreciated.
The Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo) defeated Birds of Prey (Will Ospreay and Robbie Eagles) to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles
I’m going to sound like a right grumpy cunt reviewing this one, so let’s start with the positives. Ospreay and Eagles have great chemistry and have already come up with some cool team moves. In fact, this was a match bursting with cool moves and moments as there was more than one where I gave the TV an appreciative nod, impressed at what they’d just pulled off (although, there were a few they didn’t pull off too).
The problem? None of it meant anything. I had zero emotional connection to it, and that’s not because of the people involved (I like three of them a lot). The match was built around moments, not story-telling, and that left me cold. I’m not one that feels everything has to have an intricate tale, but I need to feel something more than ‘that was cool’ when you’re at the top of an NJPW card.
So yea, this wasn’t a problem with the wrestling, and it wasn’t even a problem with ELP (who has failed to impress me so far), it was a problem of structure and what they were trying to achieve. New Japan tells its stories in the ring and the only moment that came out here was when ELP and Eagles were left alone, and even then it was all of five seconds before we went back to doing fancy shit. Maybe I’m being a grump, but I wanted more.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Kota Ibushi defeated KENTA to retain his G1 Contract
Turning KENTA heel is going to go down as the smartest booking decision of the year. He attacked Ibushi as he made his entrance, smashing the briefcase that Kota was so proud of over his head before making sure to break it beyond repair. Then, when the bell actually rang, he went after Ibushi head, stomping and slapping it before chanting along with Ibushi’s hometown crowd as they willed their hero on. Christ, what a dick.
And it helps when that hometown hero is one of life’s perfect babyfaces. Everything KENTA did was greeted with boos, and every sign of life Kota showed like the second coming. As the match went on, the Great Betrayer changed his strategy, hoisting The Golden Star over the barrier to drive his leg into the English announce team’s table. He then followed up by going to work with submissions, grinding the life out of Ibushi. KENTA had an answer to every question Kota asked, and they all involved pain.
It all added up to a match that was built perfectly. Kota was showing more and more signs of life backed by the stubborn defiance that has come to define his year. Then fucking GOD showed up as KENTA grabbed a hold of Red Shoes. It didn’t play into the finish (which pulled some momentum back) as Ishii and YOSHI chased them off, but I still didn’t need it. It was all too WWE.
All of which added up to a slightly frustrating match. I was having a lovely time with the slow pace they were working, KENTA luxuriating in the boos as he cut Ibushi off time after time. What I didn’t enjoy was the GOD bullshit. The match had hit a point where KENTA was the biggest heel in the world and Kota the biggest babyface, you didn’t need anything else. A fun back and forth, culminating in the finish that we got would have left everyone ecstatic. The interference was overkill. Still, there was enough here to make this great it just made sure that it never got close to special
Verdict: Four Stars
After the match, EVIL came out to challenge Kota for the contract (and perhaps the smashed remains of the briefcase? We shall see).
I’m going to be very intrigued to see what the consensus on that Junior Tag Title match is as I suspect I’m going to be in a minority. Anyway, I enjoyed this more than Beppu because I didn’t watch most of it. When you exclude that, it was still a slight improvement, as the tag match was good rather than utter bollocks. Plus, we got a Kota victory, and a Kota victory is always a good thing.
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