If you put Shingo vs Ishii on top of a card, I will come. I’m pretty sure that’s written in scripture somewhere. What religion? I don’t know, one of the good ones? Are there any good ones? Christ, that’s a conversation for a different day. Onto the wrestling!
Yota Tsuji defeated Gabriel Kidd
Kidd is bigger than I realised, as he’s the only Young Lion who looks capable of matching Tsuji for beefiness. He also proved that the ELP match shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat him, as these two had a fun face-off.
As you’d expect, they kept it simple, but every strike had a bit of sting to it, as that rivalry between the Noge Dojo and the LA Dojo continues to simmer away. They also did an impressive job of working Tsuji’s strapped shoulder into the action as it took away a bit of his power, giving Kidd the edge in the strike exchanges.
Finally, Kidd was given a chance to show some heart in defeat. Tsuji got the Crab on, leaning back to amp up the pressure, but Gabriel hung on stubbornly, nearly making the crawl to the ropes only to be dragged back. While he eventually tapped, his efforts got Korakuen on his side, and that’s always a good sign.
Verdict: That Kidd’s Got Something
Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) defeated CHAOS (Will Ospreay, Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI) and Yuya Uemura
Yuya Uemura charged the ring and went straight after Suzuki, which might be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, it’s fucking lunacy, and he paid for it, but for a second he was putting a beating on MiSu while Korakuen roared him on.
It was also a perfect example of why the Young Lion system works so well. These kids are placed into a box where they are told to wrestle and behave in a certain way. At that moment, Uemura broke out of the box, doing something he’s not supposed to do by attacking the grizzliest dog in the yard. It was a moment of reckless abandon from someone who doesn’t get the chance to do that, and he kept it up all match, zoning in on MiSu in an attempt to prove himself. He broke our expectations, which brought with it the thrill of something new.
Honestly, I couldn’t give a shit about the rest of the match. There were moments where stuff was happening in the ring, but all I cared about was the shots we got of Uemura and MiSu battling in the crowd. The snappy wee dog biting at the ankles of the man who strikes fear into hard men’s hearts. Next to that, YOSHI-HASHI vs Taichi struggled to excite.
Post-match, Suzuki made a statement, smacking Uemura around before hoisting him up for the Gotch. Rather than hitting it, though, he tossed the cub dismissively to one side, making it clear he wasn’t worth even that. Now it’s up to Uemura to prove him wrong.
Verdict: ‘Mon Yersel, Yuya!
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano) and Cold Cabana defeated GBH (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma and Toa Henare)
Okada being dropped into a team with Colt and Yano is the kind of thing that I will always get a kick out of. Captain Kazu’s secret is that he’s a massive dork, and you could tell he enjoyed teaming up with those two goofballs.
Outside of that, this was very much just a match, hitting all the beats you’d expect it to hit from Honma’s Kokeshis to Colt and Yano’s nonsense. If you’re in the mood for that stuff, you can tune in, but it’s an easy skip otherwise.
Verdict: It Happened
Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata, Tencozy (Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan) and Tiger Mask defeated Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, EVIL and BUSHI)
Manabu Nakanishi was stepping into a wrestling ring for (according to Cagematch, so the actual number will be higher) the 2,734th time. After this match, he would only do it twice more. I would have been fascinated to talk to him at that moment, to ask him about how that feels. He has devoted most of his life to wrestling, and the end was near. Was he nervous? Excited? Scared? It’s no secret that he’s beat-up, but there must have been a big part of him that clung to every second he had left and was dreading that final bell. Looking into his eyes as he makes his entrance, I’d love to have known what was going through his head.
Not that LIJ gave a shit. Naito draped the two belts in front of the big man, teasing him with them before they all rolled out of the ring when Nakanishi wanted to start. It’s been a while since the Ingobernables have embraced their heel nature, but they were happy to do so across from a team of legends, paying Nakanishi respect by being dicks.
And I know people tend not to like these Dad matches, but it’s a dynamic that I love. These ageing men are pushing themselves to compete with the best of today. Naito, SANADA, EVIL, Hiromu and BUSHI are stepping into the roles they once held, and they realistically know that they can’t do that any more, but for one night, for one last night, they can wind back the years and teach these pups a lesson.
Usually, it’s a story that ends in defeat. The Dads failing to match the kid and falling short. Not on this night, though. On this night, Satoshi Kojima who twenty-nine-years ago to the day had joined the New Japan Dojo, took EVIL out with one of those massive Lariats. Proving that old-school can still remove your head if it wants to. If that doesn’t make you smile, what does?
Verdict: The Dads Aren’t Dead Yet
The Bullet Club (Jay White, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale) defeated FinJuice (Juice Robinson and David Finlay), Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kota Ibushi
Can Tanahashi and Ibushi make GOD interesting? No, probably not, but at least they’re trying.
Honestly, the second Bullet Club come out for a multi-man match my brain switches off. There are elements of that unit which I like, but when you put them together, they are insufferable. Not in a ‘they’re good heels’ way, either. It’s very much in an ‘I can’t be arsed’ watching this shit way. They hit the same beats every time, and they’re never very good.
They won after a belt shot from Tama to Finlay and then followed up with one to each of Tana and Kota. I won’t spoil the show from the next day, but fingers crossed they got their comeuppance.
Verdict: I Don’t Care
Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) defeated The Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi) to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles
It’s fitting that this match should come after my rambles about the New Japan Dads because it followed a very similar narrative. Rocky and Taguchi were at least partly responsible for moulding SHO and YOH into the wrestlers they are today. In many ways, they were shaping the young stars to take their jobs as they prepared to move into the role of elder statesmen of the Junior Division. Now, though, they wanted to test themselves. They wanted to see if what they’d built was more powerful than they were.
And for long sections of this match, the Mega Coaches seemed to catch SHO and YOH off-guard. Rocky and Taguchi were a step ahead of Roppongi 3K, never letting them settle into a rhythm. Those grizzled old vets were pulling out all the tricks they’d never passed onto their proteges, with Taguchi drawing on moves from his team with Devitt. We know that both men can still bring it on their day, and as the match went on, there was a sneaking suspicion that this might be their day.
Unfortunately, all the experience in the world can sometimes be outdone by something as simple as pure power. SHO caught a flying Taguchi, tossing him away with a German before following up with a Pumping Bomber to Rocky. Romero would kick out of the Shock Arrow that followed, but the Strong X, a move they inherited from Romero, was enough, sometimes the pupils are just better than the masters.
Verdict: A Whole Load Of Fun
Shingo Takagi defeated Tomohiro Ishii to retain the NEVER Openweight Title
Right, let’s start with the obvious. I enjoyed the hell out of this match. Ishii and Shingo doing Ishii and Shingo things to each other will never fail to entertain me. Wrestling cards thrive on variety, but I’m pretty sure a couple of hours of Ishii and Shingo having a match, wandering backstage and coming out to have another match would be my show of the year. I’m a simple man, and I like people hitting each other.
You can probably sense the but coming, and there is one. The truth is, I’m not sure if this was better than any other Ishii vs Shingo or Shingo vs Goto or whoever vs whoever match and a big part of that is down to the fact that the damn thing went nearly half an hour, and I don’t understand why.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do understand why. New Japan has got itself into a rut where they think main events = long matches and when you have these beefy bastards hitting each other, you realise how flawed an idea that is. Around the five-minute mark, they were exchanging elbows while Kevin Kelly tried to get over the idea that there could be a knockout at any second. Except, I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe him because there was never going to be a knockout after five-minutes. That’s just not what New Japan does.
However, imagine it was what New Japan did. Imagine if now and then, New Japan let these hard cunts go out and work a wild sprint in the vein of Shibata vs Ishii. Or even, if they did have one of them knock the other out after seven or eight minutes. Sure, it might initially get a few boos, but people would get used to it pretty quickly, and are you telling me Ishii and Shingo couldn’t have an incredible seven-minute fight? Of course, they could. It would add a whole new element to this style of action. Suddenly, every elbow and every headbutt would have an inherent threat behind it.
I feel like I need to reiterate that I did love this. From start to finish, these two men threw themselves at each other, working their arses off and going to war in a way that only they could, and I don’t want to take away from that. There is just this niggling sensation in the back of my mind that it could be even better. If they’d squashed it down into half the time, we could be looking at an all-timer rather than just another great match to add to these two men’s long list of great matches.
Verdict: Brilliant, But Could It Be Better?
I can’t believe I finished this review by throwing shade at Shingo and Ishii. It’s made me feel dirty and like I’ve betrayed both myself and them by suggesting they are anything other than perfect wrestlers. Still, this was a really enjoyable show. I got a lot out of the undercard, as I loved Uemura going after Suzuki and got wrapped up in the Dads bringing the fight to LIJ. Then, even with my complaints, they delivered two strong main events, one of which provided me with my favourite style of wrestling. I have no right to complain, but if we can’t rip apart the things we love, what can we rip apart?
Watch New Japan: https://njpwworld.com/