NJPW Showdown in San Jose (9/11/19) Review

A rare non-flip. Credit: NJPW

For the first time since announcing New Japan of America, NJPW has made the trip over the pond, rocking up in San Jose for some fun. It was a show packed with star power that featured a lot of tags backed-up by a couple of interesting title shots. How would it go? Well, now is the time to find out.

Ren Narita defeated Alex Coughlin

Away with you. Credit: NJPW

Tiger Hattori was on commentary with Kevin Kelly which was a lovely touch. He speaks incredibly good English, but he’s quite softly spoken which made it hard to hear him at times. Still, you’d have to be a right dick to have a go at the Japanese man for not being perfect on English commentary.

In the ring, this was a battle between LA Dojo students as Narita is there on his excursion. He’s still dressed in Young Lion black (unlike Umino who showed off his new gear over the weekend) and wrestled the Young Lion style with an emphasis on heavy chops. Both men’s chests were lit up by the end before Narita connected with his Bridging Belly to Belly for the three.

As you’d expect from these two youngsters, that was a good match. As long as nothing goes wrong, they’re both going to be stars.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

Colt Cabana and Toru Yano defeated Jushin Thunder Liger and Aaron Solow

Two very popular men. Credit: NJPW

It doesn’t matter where New Japan go in the world, Toru Yano is one of the most over men in the building. I’m delighted to have him and Colt back together for Tag League because it guarantees I’ll at least get some laughs during that slog of a tournament.

The only man more over than him was Jushin Thunder Liger who was wrestling his final match in America. I’m not quite sure what Aaron Solow did to earn the honour of being his partner, but he should be slapping that on his wrestling CV in bold, with an underline and a few exclamation marks too.

And there is something beautiful about Jushin Liger spending part of his final match in America, pissing around with Colt and Yano. While the Jim Cornette’s of this world insist that comedy and silliness have no place in wrestling, here is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, a man who has drawn more money than any of those cunts, embracing it and loving it. Not to get too emotional, but Liger is professional wrestling, and it will be a lesser place without him.

I haven’t talked about the match much, but it was fine. Liger was the most important thing about it, and nothing they could do was going to outshine that.

Verdict: Three Stars

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki and El Desperado) defeated Karl Fredericks and Clark Connors

MiSu teaching lessons. Credit: NJPW

What did Connors and Fredericks do to piss Gedo off? Sending them out to be tortured by Despy and Suzuki feels incredibly harsh.

Not only that, but Fredericks was dumb enough to knock Suzuki off the apron early on with a forearm. There was an audible groan around the arena when he did it too, as everyone realised that Karl’s career had grown short. I’m sure there will be a GoFund me to help cover his funeral costs.

Amazingly, that won’t be necessary as the rookies did survive, but I’m not sure you could say it was in one piece. The King enjoyed playing with the kids, laughing at Fredericks’ attempts to hit him before knocking him into next week with some brutal elbows. They tried their best, but they were out there to take their licks and not complain, so that’s what happened. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson and TJP defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI)

At least they could have a chat. Credit: NJPW

The first half of this match felt very house show. Ishii and EVIL stayed on the apron while everyone else had some fun with Paradise Locks and silliness. It was enjoyable enough, but nothing you needed to see.

Then, EVIL and Ishii tagged in, and things took off. Those two got straight down to hitting each other in the face like only they know-how. That seemed to kick everyone else up a gear, and we got a fun closing stretch that ended with Juice hitting Pulp Friction on BUSHI for the three.

Again, I don’t think you need to see this, but it’s an easy watch that you don’t need to give your full attention.

Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOH and Rocky Romero) defeated The Bullet Club (KENTA, Taiji Ishimori and Jado)

POW! Credit: NJPW

Jado has had twenty-five matches in 2019 (which is an improvement on last year’s two), and it’s easy to see why. He moved around the ring like someone in pain and wrestled this match like he was a manager, lurking on the outside with his kendo stick.

We were building to two Wrestle Kingdom (well, one confirmed and one presumed) matches. The current rumours suggest Goto will face KENTA with Shibata in Old Hirooki’s corner (although I still have hope) while YOH and Ishimori will be part of the Junior Tag Title match. If you’re looking for progression of those stories, you won’t find it here, though. Goto and KENTA had some hard-hitting exchanges, but on the whole, it was business as usual.

Jado didn’t even take a finisher, YOH Superkicking him into a Rocky roll-up for the three. Much like every other match on this card so far, this was fine without being special. Unlike the others, it had some added Bullet Club bullshit which brought it down a notch or two.

Verdict: Three Stars

El Phantasmo defeated SHO to retain the British Cruiserweight Title

SHO wants those Germans. Credit: NJPW

Hot take time, but this match was better than anything that Phantasmo and Will Ospreay have done this year. Something about SHO cut through the worst of ELP (although I still had a couple of problems), and led to a fucking excellent performance.

A big part of which is down to the fact that SHO is an incredible Junior Powerhouse. The way he was Suplexing ELP across the ring and hoisting him up for Powerbreakers never got old, and he did it all while doing a fantastic job of selling his back. You believed in that injury, and it made perfect sense that it would ultimately be one of the deciding factors in this match as it prevented him from getting Phantasmo up for Shock Arrow.

As I mentioned above, there was a smattering of ELP bullshit. He’s still doing his Bullet Club leader move theft (which I don’t understand) while a ref bump towards the end led to some unneeded nonsense (although YOH coming down to even the score against ELP and Ishimori did get a big pop). However, it was never enough to kill the action and a delayed pin fall when SHO managed to hit the Shock Arrow on his second attempt got a massive reaction from the crowd.

A low blow would be the deciding moment when ELP back flipped out of an Avalanche German, which was a slightly flat finish. However, this was still a great match, and there aren’t many Juniors in the world who have had a better year than SHO.

Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars

Lance Archer defeated David Finlay to retain the IWGP US Title

Everybody dies. Credit: NJPW

David Finlay has returned from injury looking lean and ready to go. That made this a huge match for him. Lance Archer has had a breakout year, and Finlay must be craving similar success in 2020. A big performance against Lance would be the perfect springboard from which to set that up.

Unfortunately, that’s not what we got. Instead, Lance Archer kind of ate him up. Finlay got a few plucky underdog spots, with Lance lifting his shoulder after a Blackout to set up a final run of defiance, but for the majority of the match, Archer beat the shit out of him. Finlay was selling that recently healed shoulder throughout and seemed more focused on that than showing the fire that I wanted.

He wasn’t aided by the post-match where Juice and Archer stood over him, staring each other down. At that moment, it became pretty obvious that Finlay was merely a speed bump in the wider story of this feud, and I’d struggle to say that he gained anything from it.

Verdict: Three Stars

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and Shingo Takagi) defeated The Bullet Club (Jay White and Chase Owens)

Naito powering up. Credit: NJPW

Our Wrestle Kingdom hype continued with Naito and White sharing the ring although this one was a bit more illuminating as to what we can expect going forward.

For post-Taichi brawl, Naito isn’t looking so Tranquilo. Everyone’s favourite Ingobernable was downright vicious at times, thrusting his shoulder repeatedly into White and spitting in his face. It looks like the build-up to Wrestle Kingdom will feature Naito developing an edge to deal with Switchblade’s antics.

Next to that, Chase and Shingo were rather irrelevant. Takagi was, of course, brilliant, absolutely decapitating Jay with a Pumping Bomber towards the end, but this wasn’t about him. It was about Naito starting his march towards picking himself up all kinds of bling.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Will Ospreay) defeated Kota Ibushi and Amazing Red

Okada can fly too. Credit: NJPW

How many wrestlers have been inspired by watching clips of Kota Ibushi and Amazing Red doing incredible things? Have two wrestlers done more to convince people to flip off high stuff in the internet age? And New Japan put them together! Genius.

While Shingo and Chase took a step aside to let Naito and White shine, Will and Red weren’t going to be as accommodating. You could argue that they became the focus of this match, showing off their flippy talents. Not that I’m complaining, they are very good at them, and those in attendance certainly enjoyed it.

Sadly, I was left wanting more Ibushi vs Okada as we only got snippets. That’s our Wrestle Kingdom match, and while I have little to no worries about whether it will deliver, the build-up has been uninspiring so far. It feels like they need something to get their teeth into, and Red vs Ospreay ain’t helping them there.

On the whole, the match followed the pattern of the show by being fun while also being entirely unessential. If you watch it, I’ll doubt you’ll feel like you wasted your time, but you also won’t come away feeling fulfilled. It was fine.

Verdict: Three And A Half Stars

Overall Show

And we can keep using the word fine because that’s what this show was. I’d recommend picking and choosing what to watch, as the only thing worth seeking out is SHO vs ELP. I’d maybe check out the Naito tag, just to see Tetsuya get pissy, but that’s it really, as everything else felt a bit like a house show.

Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/

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