New Japan’s trip to the Hammerstein Ballroom led to an interesting old night for the Japanese company. Apparently, someone had called earlier in the day, cancelling the ambulance that is required to be on hand for wrestling shows. That led to a delay that stretched over an hour and whispers online about sabotage. Whether that was the case or not, New Japan needed to deliver a show worthy of the time the fans spent sitting around waiting for it to start.
TJP defeated Ren Narita
With the delay in starting the show, the fans were fiery by the time Narita and TJP got out there, desperate to see some wrestling.
And while TJP is a bellend of a human being, he made sure that Narita’s first showing of his US excursion was a successful one. Perkins heeled it up, getting the fans behind Ren and giving him an exciting run of offence to keep them onside. It was simple wrestling, but it was simple wrestling being done well.
Narita looked good for it too, showing some fire and getting very close to hitting his Belly to Belly before reversing a TJP submission into a nice flash pin in a last gasp attempt to get the win before he tapped to the Pinoy Stretch. It was everything you’d want an opener to be.
Verdict: Three Stars
Lance Archer defeated Karl Fredericks
Archer took a second out of his entrance to boot Fredericks in the face, before going into the corner and doing his pose anyway. You can take that as your reward for winning the Young Lion Cup, Karl.
Jokes aside, both men played their roles to perfection in this match. I sometimes find Archer a bit too over the top, but he is a brilliant bully, delighting in murdering Young Lions. It helps that Karl is both big and fast enough to look like he can hurt Lance, rather than just being a bump in the road in front of him.
Of course, there is a world between hurting someone and beating them. Karl may have won his wee Young Lion Cup, but he isn’t in Archer’s league yet, and after Chokeslamming him into next week, Lance pulled his shoulders off the mat to finish him with the claw. That was a lot of fun.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Juice Robinson and Mikey Nicholls defeated Clark Connors and Alex Coughlin
I can’t be the only person who assumed the Mikey Nicholls’ New Japan experiment was done. Whatever it is, he ain’t been showing it, and he would be fourth on my list of wrestlers I’m excited to see in this match.
Despite my misgivings, the action was built around him. It was Juice who the cubs worked over and Nicholls who came in with a mild tag. He’d then get shown up by Connors who out-fired him with a couple of Powerslams before later taking a slightly insane bump over the top rope.
Eventually, Nicholls got the win with a pretty awesome Mikey Bomb, but it will take more than that to turn his New Japan career around. As for this, it was a perfectly acceptable tag that you can happily skip if you’re in a rush.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
The Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tonga Loa and Jado) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO, YOH and Rocky Romero)
Jado doesn’t pull on those boots too often these days, so it always nice to see him in the ring. I mean, he kind of sucks, but he’s got those veteran instincts and kicked things off with some mildly amusing comedy involving YOH.
Outside of that, there wasn’t much to this. GOD and Roppongi 3K had their title match the previous night, so it had the feeling of people treading water knowing that the feud is over. We got some nice hoss work from SHO, suplexing both members of GOD, and Roppongi are always good, but it wasn’t enough to keep me gripped.
I will give GOD some credit for the finish as Loa threw Rocky from a Powerbomb position into a Tama Gun Stun, but that’s about as far as I go. This was boring.
Verdict: Two And A Half Stars
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express (Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson) and Hiroshi Tanahashi defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi and BUSHI)
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Express teaming up with Tanahashi to fight LIJ is some fucking weird made-up booking. Wait, that happened? Bloody hell.
For all that a certain section of the Western NJPW fanbase likes to claim Gedo has ruined Naito and LIJ, they were hella over in New York. The crowd seemed split on who to cheer for, seemingly in love with everyone involved and went from cheering Shingo to popping for Tanahashi and RnR teaming up to take him out.
Gibson and Morton might not be the team they were, but for men in their sixties, this was an impressive performance. Morton rolled back the years to sell for LIJ, pulling out every trick in the book to garner the fan’s sympathy as he tried to dance with the much younger men. Gibson is carrying his years a bit more, but you’d have to be a dick to be too harsh on him.
It all added up to a match that was just a shitload of fun. Sure, the wrestling wasn’t extraordinary, but who cares? It was a unique thing that, let’s face it, we’re never going to see again. Not everything needs to be a five-star masterclass, and the sight of Ricky Morton hitting a Tope Suicida on Shingo will stay with me a lot longer than another CHAOS vs LIJ match would.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
After the match, Tana and RnR paid tribute to Tiger Hattori on what was his last match in the US. They then had his family join him in the ring with his two grandchildren who he held proudly as the fans chanted thank you. It was a lovely moment and Tiger even managed to get on the mic and say thank you in impeccable English. It will be weird living in a world where he isn’t reffing.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii) and Amazing Red defeated The Bullet Club (Jay White, Chase Owens and Gedo)
Early on, Ishii ended up taking on Bullet Club single-handedly. While I’m a fan of Ishii being a badass, it doesn’t say much for Red and Goto’s abilities as tag-team partners. Did they not think he might want a hand?
When Ishii finally got away from Jay White’s band of pricks, we got an Amazing Red hot tag which was a shitload of fun. His appearance on these shows is only slightly less random than the Rock ‘n’ Roll Express and, honestly, if New Japan wants to give him a contract just to do cool hot tags, I’d be fine with it. The guy looks great.
Outside of that, this match was about building Goto vs White, with Jay doing everything in his power to piss off Old Hirooki. Despite that, Goto got the last laugh, hitting a Ushigoroshi on White before no-selling a Gedo fist to the face and seeing him off with a GTR. This was good, but nothing truly remarkable.
Verdict: Two And Three Quarter Stars
KENTA defeated YOSHI-HASHI to retain the NEVER Title
Twenty-five minutes and four seconds, TWENTY-FIVE MINUTES AND FOUR SECONDS! Who in the name of fuck decided that a YOSHI-HASHI semi-main event should go twenty-five minutes and four seconds?
Right, let’s start with the positives. KENTA managed to draw boos from a crowd that wanted to cheer him. He was brilliant as the prick heel, mocking the man he sees as beneath him while setting him up for his comeback. For all this match’s faults, I’m not sure how many can be laid at his door.
We also got a fun cameo from Tiger Hattori, who after KENTA had set-up a ref bump and called out GOD to provide the assist, came to YOSHI’s rescue and threw out the Bullet Club wankers. I’m not sure what’s worse, KENTA deciding he needed GOD’s help to beat YOSHI, or YOSHI being saved by a retiring ref. Neither looks good (although KENTA at least went on to win clean).
The problem is that YOSHI-HASHI has all the charisma of a tin of dog food, and a large number of the fans were struggling to find a solitary shit to give about him. He blusters around the ring, trying his best, but ultimately failing. There’s nothing there, and nothing KENTA did could make up for that. Although I will always pop for him slapping the shit out of people.
It added up to a match that wasn’t awful but was fucking boring and, honestly, I’d have preferred it to be awful. Most matches turn me into an active watcher, living and dying on every move and swing of momentum, but for this, I was very much passive. As I write, it literally just happened, so you’d think I’d remember most of it wouldn’t you? Nope, it’s drifting away already, never to be thought of again.
Verdict: Two And A Quarter Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL and SANADA) defeated Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi
We finish things up with an all-star tag match as the potential Wrestle Kingdom main event faced off with the men who are looking to replace them.
It can’t be overestimated how popular these four were. Okada, in particular, was a God to the American fans, as you’ve got to assume that he’s key to getting a lot of them into New Japan. Not that SANADA was that far behind him, it’s funny how the Twitter slating of him is yet to pass over into the real world.
The match itself was what you’d expect, a fun tag that previewed those two matches without anyone going all out. We got some lovely smooth wrestling from SANADA and Okada before EVIL and Kota stiffed it out, giving us a nice idea of how those future encounters will vary. We then finished up with a frantic few minutes that had parts of the crowd on their feet.
What was intriguing, was seeing who was going to take the fall. It had to be one of Okada or Kota (you don’t want to pin the challengers on the way in), but which one? Well, with the benefit of hindsight, the answer was obvious. The champ ain’t taking a fall in Hammerstein, and EVIL hit EVIL on Kota (who took it on his head because Ibushi) to pin him clean in the centre of the ring and give the momentum to LIJ as they head to King Of Pro Wrestling.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
That was a perfectly fine Korakuen-style New Japan show. Anyone expecting more than that will be disappointed, and the title match sucked, but it was a small building, and they got a crowd that they could have easily lost with the delay back onside. It was alright, but if you’re short for time on a week where wrestling is a bit busy, you can happily give it a miss.
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