It’s the day after Wrestle Kingdom, and all through the house, everyone is stirring because New Japan had another fucking show. I didn’t go to this one because I nipped over to Osaka instead, but New Year Dash always throws a few curveballs our way and had a certain Jushin Thunder Liger’s retirement ceremony, so I was going to watch it one way or another.
I don’t think I’m ready for this. Let’s not sit around and pretend I’m a Jushin Thunder Liger expert as I was later to his career than most, but like everyone who has watched the man wrestle, I fell in love. He is wrestling, from his attitude to the way he performs, The Thunder God is the living embodiment of what makes this weird and wonderful world incredible. Every young man or woman who pulls on a pair of boots should aim to be half the person he is.
As for the ceremony itself, well, I’m not even slightly ashamed to say I started crying during the video package and never stopped. CHAOS and Hontai came out to pay tribute to a man that you know they all idolise while Liger stood in the centre of the ring managing to look embarrassed even in his full costume. You don’t have to know much about him to guess that he would rather not have been the centre of the attention for this long, and I’m amazed he didn’t manage to have someone pin him. Perhaps he could have put his wife and son over, as their arrival was the moment to break Tanahashi, the cameras catching him sobbing at ringside.
Inoki popped up on the video screen to pay his tribute before it was time for Liger to have his say. He thanked Hiromu for being the one to retire him and the fans for supporting him before giving his final thanks to his Mum who, despite failing health, was at both the Dome and Dash as it sounded like Chris Charlton was struggling to keep it together. Last but not least, he told his wife and son he was coming home, and it was time for them to put up with him.
After the ten bell salute, Liger tried to make a run for it, but Okada caught him, dragging him back to the ring to let the wrestlers hoist him into the air and Tana lead everyone in singing Liger’s theme tune once last time.
I know some people were hoping there would be an angle with Phantasmo or some prick coming out to ruin this moment, but fuck that, Liger has put over enough people in his career. We’ll miss you, Liger-san.
Karl Fredericks, Alex Coughlin and Clark Connors defeated Toa Henare, Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura
Having put together an impressive performance on January 4th, the LA and Noge Dojo got another chance to beat on each other. It’s undoubtedly a thing they enjoy doing as they’ve made a habit of laying into every strike. Fredericks seemed particularly fired up, calling Uemura a little shit as he slapped the fuck out of him. Those two were given a lot of time to dance, looking good with it before Fredericks tapped him out for the win.
New Japan has a hell of a crop of Young Lions, and the rivalry they’ve got brewing is giving them a chance to shine, but it was a bit disappointing to see Henare on the losing side. I was hopeful getting the win at Wrestle Kingdom was a sign that he’d be pushed, and while that might still happen, this wasn’t the best follow-up.
Verdict: Three And A Quarter Stars
Suzuki-gun (El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH), Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi and BUSHI) and Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori and El Phantasmo)
A frantic tag match that had far too many people in it, but was quite fun all the same. The story was that the heels were always a step ahead or two of the babyfaces which is horribly familiar since I’m pretty sure we did the same thing this time last year. On the plus side, it allowed Hiromu to take it relatively easy, as he’d more than earned a night off.
In the end, BUSHI attempted to mist Despy only to catch SHO which left him free to be rolled up by the original target, so we’re going straight into that feud again. All things said, Despy and Kanemaru might not be the most original challengers, but if Roppongi 3K beat them, I’ll be alright with it. It’s time for SHO and YOH to get a proper title reign and not lose their belts at the first opportunity.
Verdict: Three Stars
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi and FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay) defeated The Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale)
Christ, that’s a lot of talent to deal with some Bullet Club scrubs, isn’t it?
Kota appeared to reject the Club’s invitation to join their ranks at the start, causing Chase to sucker punch him. Remember the beautiful friendship those two cultivated for a bit? I liked that. It was one of the better things about the whole Bullet Club vs Elite thing. They had good chemistry in this match too, proving to be easily the best thing about it as there was a lot of BC nonsense elsewhere.
Ibushi picked up the win, putting him back on the winning road after his Wrestle Kingdom disappointment. He and Tana then seemed to indicate that they wouldn’t mind a shot at the tag team champs, which, well, fuck yes, that’s a hell of an upgrade over GOD.
Verdict: Three Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi and EVIL) defeated CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto)
Milano placing himself on the altar of darkness (or closing his eyes and clutching his plastic tat) is brilliant. I’m also a big fan of shoving all the big boys into a tag match together. Let them hit each other!
Not that New Japan could have stopped them doing so, it’s kind of their modus operandi. We also had the added benefit of three of them not being positioned highly on the Dome shows and looking like they were fired up to show how dumb that was. This started fast and somehow kept going, speeding up if anything. By the end, they were pummelling each other while there was an assisted GTR to Shingo that I’m pretty sure could convince a court to convict Goto and Ishii of murder.
Shingo would respond with his own version of the GTR, using the ropes to provide an assist, before following up with Last of the Dragons to pick up a huge win over Goto. That suggests we’ve got our next NEVER Title feud set in stone, and I am 100% down for that tasty treat. On top of that, EVIL and Ishii had a long stare down post-match, so we might get that one too! What a delight.
Verdict: Four And A Quarter Stars
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay and YOSHI-HASHI) defeated Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi and Lance Archer)
Everyone seems to think 2020 is going to be a massive year for Robbie Eagles, but Suzuki-gun seemed more intent on killing the fucker. He took a beating with MiSu and ZSJ torturing him before Archer decided to throw him about the place. The poor bastard probably wished he’d stayed in his hotel room.
Outside of that, this was a fun match that saw Taichi get in Okada’s face and eventually clock him with those Iron Fingers that he still carries around. It appears The Rainmaker’s first feud post-title loss is going to be against the singing ballbag, and that’s certainly an interesting one. We also seemed to be setting up Zack vs Will for the British Title, although that is as likely to happen in the UK as it is Japan.
Anyway, this was fun and provided the usual Suzuki-gun chaos before ending in a DQ. New Japan is doubling down on establishing a lot of very exciting feuds.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Post-match, Taichi looked to continue the beat down on Okada only for Mox’s music to hit. He chased off Taichi and then got his revenge on Suzuki, exchanging slaps before putting him down with the Death Rider. That was a great surprise, which Romero did a fantastic job of hiding earlier in the night when he mentioned Moxley hurting on his flight back home in what seemed to be a throwaway comment. Also, that one match helped set-up Taichi vs Okada, Ospreay vs ZSJ and continue Moxley vs Suzuki. How’s that for some good booking?
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) defeated The Bullet Club (KENTA and Jay White)
KENTA was booed out of the building during his entrance. In the moment, I was unsure if it was the right kind of heat, but this certainly felt like it as KENTA relished the hate raining down on him. We also had the English commentary team play up the potential for tension between him and White, as they suggested Switchblade might be pissed that KENTA had slipped ahead of him in the line to face Naito.
In the ring, those tensions didn’t come to the surface, but Naito and KENTA certainly weren’t in the best of moods with each other. To absolutely no-one’s shock, that appears to be where we are going next, and I have no doubt it will be good. The surprise was White and SANADA, who also seem to be heading into a feud with each other. They had a pretty great closing stretch, SANADA dealing with KENTA before reversing a Bladerunner into a flash pin for the win.
After the bell, White would get his revenge, low-blowing SANADA while KENTA went after Naito on the outside. Once again, LIJ proved they’re nae the best at making the save by not bothering to turn up. That left the Bullet Club duo free to have their say with KENTA, in particular, doing a great job of playing into the fan’s hatred. On top of that, for the second night in a row, Naito was denied the chance to celebrate in front of his people. What a prick KENTA is.
Verdict: Three And A Half Stars
Perhaps not a great wrestling show (outside of that tag match), but it was a hell of a night for New Japan setting up new angles. There was a lot of exciting stuff tossed around, and if half of it lives up to the expectations, we’re in for a wild time.
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/