The Road To WrestleMania is about to reach its final destination. The Showcase of The Immortals is upon us, and with the biggest night of the year only days away, its time for me to pull on my prediction pants and try to decipher what is going to happen on this most spectacular of nights. We’ve got arguably the most impressive ‘Mania card of all time, with intriguing situations, dream matches, heavily invested storylines and multi man madness aplenty. So, have WWE run out of gas? Or is there still plenty of life under the hood?
The engines are revving. The drivers are ready. Let’s get this show on the road…
Andre The Giant Battle Royal
How We Got Here: As is the norm now, every superstar who the creative team have given up on gets shoved into a mini Royal Rumble to – A) Makes them feel important. B) Save creative doing their jobs properly, and C) Fill some time. Expect jobbers aplenty and some guys you forgot were even still on the books.
What Should Happen: As much as I don’t want to see him wasted on something meaningless like this, Samoa Joe should come back here. He should dominate the match, eliminating jobbers left right and centre in an effort to remind WWE why he is one of the best heels (and superstars in general) on the roster. What should also happen is these matches should start to mean more. Why not give the winner a future mid card title shot? Or put them into a number 1 contenders match?
What Will Happen: No-one will care from the start. Someone like Apollo Crews or Kassius Ohno will win. People will care even less.
Women’s Battle Royal
How We Got Here: WWE have continued to come good on their promise to back the Women’s revolution. This match is the latest in a long line of ‘first evers’ for the ladies… shame it was named after a woman who treated other women like garbage through sex trafficking eh? WWE made a quick fire change and remove The Fabulous Moolah’s name from the match, but you can fully expect the fans to still shit all over this one.
What Should Happen: Becky Lynch should win this one. Her treatment over the last year has been astounding, one of the best women on either roster continues to be buried. An iron woman performance and hard fought win should be followed by a shot at the belt on the blue brand, especially considering how weak the SDLive division has become.
What Will Happen: 20-30 women we give absolutely no shits about will slog through a botch fest. Fully expect someone undeserving such as Liv Morgan to win this. But it’s okay because she’s pretty… right?
Roman Reigns v Brock Lesnar
How We Got Here: It’s a classic love story. Deluded, out of touch billionaire falls in love with masculine, stereotypical, handsome, long haired, averagely talented man because family ties dictate. Think of it like an arranged marriage. Billionaire has his head turned by strong, intimidating, elusive man who shows up to whisk him off his feet roughly 10 times every year. Billionaire is torn between his two sweethearts. True love finds a way against all odds and the old lovesick fool chooses the best of a bad bunch to be his bae, and in the process bleeds them of all their money. The End.
What Should Happen: Loads of things should have happened. Seth Rollins should’ve been involved. Finn Balor should’ve been invested in more. The Miz should’ve been repaid for his amazing 2017. Samoa Joe should’ve been used better. Braun Strowman should’ve been a key factor. What should happen is the fans should be listened to and someone deserving should be champion. Simple.
What Will Happen: Roman Reigns. Because Roman Reigns. Then Roman Reigns will Roman Reigns all over WWE and Roman Reigns for the foreseeable future. Did I mention Roman Reigns? Sorry I must have forgotten. Roman Reigns. R O M A N R E I G N S. Glad we cleared that up. P.S … Roman Reigns.
The Miz v Finn Balor v Seth Rollins
How We Got Here: Potential match of the night, though ill be saying that a lot throughout these predictions. The Miz was rightfully named superstar of the year at the end of 2017, and he has continued that same form a good 4 months into 2018. Seth Rollins was unfortunate to find himself forced into a forgettable tag team with Jason Jordan following Dean Ambrose’s untimely injury and is now looking to make himself relevant again. Finn Balor needs the belt more than anyone involved, and arguably anyone on the entire roster. After a phenomenal start to his main roster career, injury setbacks and uninspiring rivalries have seen him fall out of favour despite still being wildly popular with the WWE Universe. Growing animosity between Seth and Finn, with Miz pulling the strings in the background, have made this match far more interesting than your standard triple threat. All 3 will bring the best out of eachother.
What Should Happen: As a huge Miz fan I find it hard to want anything other than him retaining. He has done wonders for the belt and fully deserves to become the longest reigning IC champ in history. At the same time though, it may be time to freshen things up a little and either of the other men involved would be fantastic advocates for the IC title.
What Will Happen: Seth will win. Not many guys in the entire company have been as impressive as The Architect this year, proven by his gauntlet match performance on RAW before Elimination Chamber and his subsequent showing at the PPV. A worthy winner. Here’s hoping we see Heel Rollins as a result of this too.
Randy Orton v Rusev v Bobby Roode v Jinder Mahal
How We Got Here: Match of the night contender number two! This match went up sharply in a lot of people’s estimations from the second Rusev was entered. There is nothing more beautiful in wrestling than seeing someone SO deserving of an opportunity finally earning it by getting themselves over naturally. Randy Orton didn’t need the title in the first place, he has been irrelevant for the last 12 months despite being WWE Champion for part of it and needs to drop the belt to better, younger and more talented guys. Bobby Roode has flattered to deceive on the main roster after an outstanding NXT career and title run. We desperately need to see him turn heel again, and this could be balanced out beautifully be Rusev’s sudden face turn. Jinder Mahal is… well he’s in the match I guess. The less said about that the better.
What Should Happen: There really is only one option. Rusev should turn WrestleMania into RusevMania and become the new U.S Champion. The fans love him, he deserves it after being shat all over for nearly two years and the merchandise sales alone would make this a financial goldmine for WWE.
What Will Happen: My heart says WWE will see sense and let it be Rusev’s time. My head says WWE are complete morons and will keep the belt on Orton. Because he’s one of Vince’s golden boys, and we all know Vince loves nothing more than to be showered in gold by muscly men… *ahem*
AJ Styles v Shinsuke Nakamura
How We Got Here: Match of the night contender number three and potentially the match of the year. The hype surrounding this one has been abnormally huge ever since Money In The Bank, and these two will no doubt pull off an absolute classic… if WWE allow them to. Unfortunately, the build up to the match has been piss poor, with very little in the way of promo to build actual interest. Roman Reigns v Brock Lesnar is the last thing any of us want to see, but I’ll take my hat off to WWE because they’ve actually managed to make it interesting to a degree. It’s almost as though WWE don’t trust AJ and Nakamura to come through despite being two of the very best in the entire world. Nakamura has been frankly horrendous to watch on the main roster, and my chief concern is that this match is only being hyped up because of the two men putting on a clinic when they met back in Japan. What people need to wake up and realise is that this is not Japan. This is WWE. The place where great wrestling comes to die.
What Should Happen: Styles should keep the belt. He is simply the best in the world right now and has been for many years. He has elevated the title, had fantastic rivalries and is fan favourite on an almost Daniel Bryan level. Speaking of the bearded one, he should be the one to face Styles after retaining the belt at Mania.
What Will Happen: Nakamura will win. WWE simply have to make it up to him after such poor treatment. Don’t agree with me that he has been treated poorly? Why? Because he won the Royal Rumble? Okay sure… but he also lost repeatedly to Jinder Mahal and has played second fiddle on SDLive to a storyline involving Shane McMahon. That’s not great treatment…
Charlotte v Asuka
How We Got Here: I have tried. LORD KNOWS I have tried. But for the life of me I just can not care about Asuka in the slightest. Okay, she was great in Japan. Big whoop. Okay, she was great in NXT. Well done to her. Main roster Asuka is a whole other story. Uninspiring feuds, plenty of botches for someone so ‘amazing’ and still absolute garbage promo skills have left her being nothing more than a flashy entrance. She predictably won the Rumble and chose Charlotte as her ‘Mania opponent. I live and breathe Alexa Bliss, but I’m glad Asuka chose Charlotte. The two should bring the best out of eachother and, god willing, I’’ be made to eat my words. The interesting part will come post ‘Mania where, if Asuka dethrones Charlotte, she will have absolutely nothing to do on SDLive. The rest of the blue brand’s women are absolute garbage and, barring an Ember Moon call up, Charlotte is the only one to pose a legitimate threat.
What Should Happen: Charlotte should retain, ending Asuka’s unbeaten streak. The Queen is the best female wrestler of the last decade and has suffered on SDLive due to the lack of competition. Move Sasha Banks over during the next Superstar Shake-up and make this a three way tussle. Add Moon for even more fun.
What Will Happen: Asuka will win. We will be told for the next 17 years how much history she has made. WWE will try and convince us to care going forward despite no contingency plan.
Alexa Bliss v Nia Jax
How We Got Here: Great storytelling that’s how. The cracks in the friendship started to show months ago and WWE kept teasing us with the potential split. It worked. It was interesting. We actually have Enzo Amore to thank for this. If he could have kept it in his pants outside of WWE, Nia would’ve still been embroiled in an embarrassing and barely believable romantic storyline with him. Thanks Enzo! Outstanding character work on both sides centred around a controversial bullying storyline have worked wonders for this feud, with the eventual pay-off set to be a huge feel good moment.
What Should Happen: Nia wins, overcoming the big (tiny actually), bad bully. The whole crowd do a small fist pump and say YOU GO GIRL!
What Will Happen: Exactly that. WWE would look foolish to allow the bully to come out victorious when they run a real life anti bullying campaign. Then again. This is WWE…
Ronda Rousey & Kurt Angle v Stephanie McMahon & HHH
How We Got Here: Ronda Rousey pointed at a big sign 4 times within 3 very uncomfortable minutes and overshadowed a historic night for the women of WWE. We all knew she was en route to WWE, and while this rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way WWE have actually handled the situation quite well since her initial appearance. An instant title shot would’ve pissed off a lot of people, superstars included, and drawn comparison to part timers like Brock Lesnar. Placing her into a match with 3 other competitors will help cover any flaws she might have in ring, and teaming up with fan favourite Kurt Angle will guarantee a positive reaction when she inevitably makes Stephanie tap out. Post ‘mania, she needs a manager desperately. The fans have take to her fairly well, even chanting her name this week on RAW, but her limited in ring and promo skills will soon start to grate. Paul Heyman has already hinted to the fact he will manage a female superstar after Lesnar leaves (again), so placing these two together could do wonders for Rousey’s WWE career and certainly get the fans onside.
What Should Happen: Feel good factor. Employees topple tyrannical bosses. Rousey will make Stephanie tap out from an arm bar after a match heavily dominated by the two men.
What Will Happen: Exactly that. People will cheer and boo (Choo? Beer? Beer please!) and generally not know what to do. Rousey will go on to have a disappointing WWE career and appear sporadically despite the promise of a ‘full time schedule’.
Cedric Alexander v Mustafa Ali
How We Got Here: Enzo Amore did a very bad thing and single handedly managed to screw up all of the good work Neville had put in throughout 2017. WWE made the right call in having HHH take over proceedings, and with the addition of Drake Maverick as GM, 205 Live has been incredibly entertaining again. Cameo appearances from some of the best talent in the world gave the Cruiserweight Tournament real prestige, and showed that great wrestling will always get people watching more than a loudmouth piece of trash spouting bullshit on the mic every week will do.
What Should Happen: Well for starters the match should be on the main card. It won’t be though, it’ll be pre show. Neville v Austin Aries wasn’t deemed big enough last year so I highly doubt this one will be either. Cedric Alexander should be the winner here. It feels like they’ve been holding the belt aside for him ever since Enzo was fired, and the tournament was simply set up for him to be the eventual winner without simply being handed the belt.
What Will Happen: Exactly that. Alexander will win and the match will be incredible, but wont be seen by as many people as these two insanely talented young guys deserve.
Braun Strowman & ??? v The Bar
How We Got Here: Coming in just behind The Miz, Strowman was one of the superstars of the year in 2017. How he hasn’t held a belt yet is beyond me. After weeks of teasing, we still don’t know who will be joining the monster among men at ‘Mania, which is something I’m all for. WWE so rarely keep surprises anymore, and while the internet has been abuzz with rumours, we are no closer to finding out. The most obvious choices at this moment in time are Elias and Rey Mysterio, but for me it has to be a returning Samoa Joe. Even better yet we could see a reincarnated version of Bray Wyatt, for the first time since losing the Ultimate Deletion match to Matt Hardy, return to partner his former Wyatt Family cohort. They could win the belts, appear on RAW the next night claiming no one can take them out and then all of a sudden they’re ambushed by Authors of Pain. That right there is money. Book it WWE. Thank me later. A large part of me doesn’t want to see Strowman win the belts, regardless of him being alone or with a partner. The Bar have been the standout team on RAW in 2017, their odd couple partnership works perfectly and it would be awful to see them ripped apart so easily. It would undo all of their hard work and leave RAW with an even more irrelevant tag team division.
What Should Happen: The Bar should retain. RAW need them and they deserve the success they’ve worked so hard for. If they split up it’ll be devastating for both of their careers. The only way I would accept them dropping the belts would be if they then move over to SDLive for a fresh challenge.
What Will Happen: Braun Strowman and his mystery partner will win. They’ll embarrass The Bar because at the end of the day Strowman is every bit as over as anyone, if not everyone, on either roster. His momentum needs to continue. It’s a really tough one this as I love all the guys involved. None of the competitors deserve to have their momentum come to a grinding halt, but WWE have backed themselves into a corner once again.
The Uso’s v The New Day v Blugeon Brothers
How We Got Here: My pick for match of the night. Hands down. I’ve said that a few times but this… this one is almost nailed on. After a couple of months squashing no name local talents and main roster jobbers, Blugeon Brothers have come into their own as the most dominant team on either brand. The Uso’s and The New Day had by far the rivalry of 2017 with 5 star matches almost every week, and their outstanding chemistry together will help to balance out the more dominating and clunky style of Harper & Rowan. Expect this match to be full of spots, nasty bumps and innovation. It really is a testament to The Uso’s and New Day that after virtually two years of feuding, they can still keep their rivalry feeling fresh every time they compete.
What Should Happen: Blugeon Brothers should win and dominate the division for a few months until either SAnitY or AOP step up to challenge them.
What Will Happen: I think that’s exactly what will happen. The Uso’s don’t deserve to lose, but if they retain, what can they really do next? They can’t realistically retain in future matches against the dominating BB. They would be much better off getting drafted over to RAW to shake up their stale as all hell division.
Daniel Bryan & Shane McMahon v Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
How We Got Here: WWE finally swallowed their pride, admitted they were wrong and chose to listen to the dozens of doctors who Daniel Bryan had spoken to all over the world. They gave us what we wanted so badly. But more importantly they gave a man his life back. The in ring return of Bryan is hands down the most incredible, shocking and genuinely moving comeback of all time. My only issue here is that Shane McMahon is involved and will 1000000% take away the shine of this amazing moment. Fully expect some sort of turn, leading to a horrendous feud over the next few months in an attempt to recapture the ‘against all odds’ struggle vs authority. Owens & Zayn will undoubtedly bring out the best in Bryan and the battle will be great to watch, but it just begs the question of why he wasn’t given a bigger and better match for his big return. Either way, at the end of the day we should just be thankful that we get to see Bryan return to in ring action.. a true once in a lifetime moment we thought would never happen.
What Should Happen: Bryan should be allowed to wrestle as much as he possibly can in this match. There were no signs of ring rust as he battled back against the heels on the night of his return announcement, so if he feels capable he should be given the chance to go all out. He will obviously pick up the win here, likely pinning Owens in a result which will see the heels moving to RAW as part of the terms and conditions of the match.
What Will Happen: WWE will restrict how much involvement Bryan has in the match, giving him a couple of short runs and the moment of glory at the end. He deserves much more but this is WWE. They will never fully admit that they were in the wrong. Shane will do most of the wrestling here, maybe centred around a beatdown on bryan which keeps him out of the match for a short while.
John Cena v The Undertaker
How We Got Here: WWE ran out of things for Cena to do but needed to sell more tickets for ‘Mania, so the result was to give us a match they think we want to see, when in reality absolutely nobody does. Quite frankly if you want to see this match, you don’t deserve to watch WrestleMania or call yourself a wrestling fan. The Undertaker has given nearly 30 years of his life to WWE. He is arguably the greatest of all time. Why should this living legend be forced to slog through yet another painful, debilitating, embarrassing mismatch when he is waaaaay past his prime. The match isn’t even confirmed yet due to Taker’s refusal to accept the challenge, but if it does go ahead you can expect this to be the worst match of the night.
What Should Happen: It shouldn’t happen at all. But it’s going to because WWE don’t give a shit about their employees. Only lining their own pockets. Taker will appear on the night as Cena calls him out one last time. The match should be short, no longer than 15 minutes, with Taker looking dominant. In an ideal world I would have Cena call out Taker one last time and receive no response. Cena goes to leave the ring. Lights go out. ‘Dead Man Walking…’ is heard from the titantron… Taker returns as the American Badass. An all out war begins, spreading out across the arena with Taker dominating. It’s the only conceivable way to keep him looking strong while maintaining a decent length match.
What Will Happen: God knows. I literally have no idea. Neither man needs the win. It benefits nobody. Neither man suffers from a loss. I would hope that Taker wins and ACTUALLY finally retires. This gives Cena the chance to leave for a longer period of time than he usually does while he fulfils other commitments.
Stone Cold Fever: Is Kevin Owens the Next Big Thing in WWE?
Is this rendition of KO Mania real?
Kevin Owens is quickly becoming the hottest Superstar in WWE. The former Universal champion is embarking on a war with Shane McMahon and while that war is only just beginning, KO is already reaping the benefits.
Owens is getting over and there’s no denying that. Many fans believe that this is just the beginning of something epic for KO and it’s hard to argue that point. But as with everything in WWE, Owens’ future depends on his booking and how much the company truly wants to invest in him. So will Kevin Owens be the next big thing in WWE?
It’s as if WWE suddenly flipped a switch and activated this new KO. The man that so many felt was on his way to superstardom in the company has always been just on the verge of greatness, but he always seemed to fall just short. It’s been through no fault of his own however as Owens has consistently always delivered, both in the ring and on the mic.
But despite how much he’s accomplished, there always seems to be an asterisk by his name. The same is true of other potential main event stars as well, like Finn Bálor and Braun Strowman. All three men have excelled on the worldwide stage but for whatever reason, none of the three have truly achieved legendary status in WWE.
While the men involved may not be too concerned with such positioning, the fans have been all too consumed with it. In their minds, the time for these talents and many more, is now. Why wait, when the business is experiencing such a resurgence in popularity? The time to strike seems to be now, so why not move ahead and make a massive impact with guys that can handle the pressure?
Perhaps that is exactly what the WWE faithful are seeing right now with Kevin Owens. Owens is capable of rising to the occasion and he’s done it many times before. Maybe there’s no better time for him to prove what he can do and maybe the company finally recognizes that.
But nearly every time fans depend on “maybe,” they wind up disappointed. WWE has not always been the most reliable company when it comes to doing right by hardworking talents, especially those who deserve a shot at the next level. Owens has been counted among those talents for far too long and now he’s getting a chance to finally step up.
The good news is that so far, it’s working. The live crowds are loving what he’s doing and no one can do it quite like he can. The comparisons to Stone Cold Steve Austin are coming like never before and KO, as well as WWE, obviously see that. The fact that Owens uses the Stunner as much as he does is proof that the entire angle is a tip of the cap to The Texas Rattlesnake.
It’s not that Owens needs to use anyone else’s finisher, just as he doesn’t need to mimic anyone else’s gimmick. KO can succeed based on his own merit and everyone knows that. But he’s saluting Austin and in doing so, reminding a legion of fans why they fell in love with WWE in the first place. There is no way to really revive The Attitude Era, but that’s not the point.
Kevin Owens is bringing back a taste of the past and making it relevant to his cause, as well as to the company’s current climate. The Stunner is as much of an anti-authority move as the middle finger, both of which keep Stone Cold on the minds of fans who love him for what he did in the business.
So is WWE truly headed for a new era of relevancy in the industry? Vince McMahon’s company has always been at the forefront of the business and for many fans, they’ve been the only game in town for a very long time. But with the rise of New Japan, Ring of Honor, as well as various promotions around the world, the wrestling world is becoming a much bigger place.
Of course much of the focus on the business right now is due to the birth and evolution of AEW. Cody Rhodes’ fledgling company is making waves and turning heads, just as everyone knew it would. But AEW has also captured WWE’s attention, despite any belief to the contrary. If Owens’ new run is a result of WWE going against the grain and trying something familiar, yet new, then that’s definitely a good thing.
But the bad news is that this is still WWE, which can change plans at a moment’s notice. Things can fluctuate at any time and when they do, an entire storyline can either twist in a different direction, or end altogether. Could this happen with KO versus Shane McMahon?
Much of what happens from here depends on just how long WWE can keep the fans invested in this angle. The live crowds are connected and the same is true of the audience at home. Everyone seems truly intent on following this story and they’re all rooting for Kevin Owens to keep rising higher on the card. If KO continues to get hot and if the company really gets behind him, then the entire landscape of WWE could change.
Kevin Owens is not the next Stone Cold Steve Austin and he surely does not want to be. KO has fought his entire career to be the best he can be and this new storyline is just the latest avenue for him to rise up. Maybe it will only go up from here and maybe Kevin Owens will finally realize his potential in the company that desperately needs the next big thing.
Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 7 A Block
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
KENTA and Okada may start pulling away in A Block! Who falls first? The Rainmaker or The NOAH Outsider?
Aside from the big names being stuck in the middle of the pack, we’ve got poor little Zack Sabre at zero points. Can he twist Fale into a pretzel and figure it out?
Then we have Okada facing a banged up Ospreay, while KENTA takes on a rising EVIL.
Do we still have any undefeated participants in A Block after today?
- Yota Tsuji & Juice Robinson vs Jon Moxley & Shota Umino: Shooter wins via Boston Crab @3:55 – ** 1/4
- Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto & Yuya Uemura: Kanemaru wins via Deep Impact @8:50 – ***
- Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Jay White vs Jeff Cobb, Tomoaki Honma & Toa Henare: Chase wins via Package Piledriver @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Shingo Takagi, BUSHI & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI, Ren Narita & Tomohiro Ishii: BUSHI wins via MX @7:35 – **
- A Block: Zack Sabre Jr vs Bad Luck Fale: Sabre wins via Countout @6:30 – ** 1/4
- A Block: Lance Archer vs Hiroshi Tanahashi: Tanahashi wins via Victory Roll @12:00 – ** 1/2
- A Block: KENTA vs EVIL: KENTA wins via Go 2 Sleep @15:05 – *** 1/2
- A Block: Kota Ibushi vs SANADA: Ibushi wins via Kamigoye @19:15 – *** 3/4
- A Block: Will Ospreay vs Kazuchika Okada: Okada wins via Rainmaker @21:55 – **** 1/2
Still a lot of heat from their NXT past and Moxley’s debut match in NJPW. Juice and Mox don’t face each other until the end of their block schedule, but if this needed more heat…well this was gasoline. Juice and Mox stay on each other, brawl to the back while the Young Lions fight, but Mox apparently gets the best of the brawl. He returns to the ring to help Shooter, hit their Hart Attack tandem move and Shooter sinks in the Boston Crab.
There’s history between Taichi and Goto centering around the NEVER Openweight Title, Yano and Suzuki have fun history and it looks like Uemura is stepping up to Suzuki. So there’s a lot of fun moments, Uemura has a death wish trying to fight Suzuki, but it’s still fun. A lot of moving pieces in this one that kept it very entertaining.
Honma got put through the paces, Jay White got tossed around a little bit by Jeff Cobb, but the Bullet Club tag partners proved to be more useful than Cobb’s. Chase has picked up a few wins in the tag matches, so he might get some kind of push coming soon.
BUSHI continues to pick up pinfalls in these tag matches, and this sort of builds for Ishii and Naito, but not a ton happens. YOSHI-HASHI is there, Shingo looks like a million bucks and BUSHI wins the match, LOL. This was very paint by numbers.
Sabre jumps all over Fale at the start and tries a plethora of submissions to no avail. A kendo stick shot from Jado pushes the action to the outside. Fale and Bullet Club look to have an advantage, but Sabre dodges some double team tactics, grounds Fale with a Triangle Arm Bar, and then races to the ring to beat the 20 count. Fale couldn’t make it back fast enough, so Sabre gets the first Countout win of this year’s tournament.
Tanahashi is really showing the age and injuries this year, so all of these flukey wins just come off as forced. The match was slow, had moments of being interesting, but Tanahashi not even being 50% of what he used to be makes these hard to watch at times. Archer is getting over well, but Tanahashi winning at this point does hurt the credibility a little. I get the story they’re telling, but unlike last year where Tanahashi could push through injuries, this year, they are much more obvious, and he’s much more hampered.
EVIL took the fight to KENTA and then they went to the outside. Through the back and then into the crowd area next to the ramp. EVIL went for Darkness Falls on a bunch of a chairs, but KENTA stopped him and suplexed him onto said chairs. When it got back in the ring, EVIL tried to weaken the legs and KENTA went after EVIL’s upper body to mitigate the power advantage. Heavily booed, KENTA played up heel nicely (I guess WWE did help for something), and eventually he gets the best of EVIL and lets him take a nap. KENTA moves to 4-0.
We get a solid match between two guys who are right on the precipice of the Main Event scene. Kota outsmarts SANADA early by not going for the stupid dueling Dropkick spot, and from then on it was an interesting struggle. Between fan support and the general “anything you can do, I can do better” pacing, this was entertaining, yet slow and felt too long in some spots. Both looked pretty good, but this could’ve been told faster and SANADA’s perpetual struggles are a little frustrating for anyone who is a fan of his.
Okada and Ospreay were expected to blow the roof off, and well I’d say this was a damn good shot. Ospreay is obviously dinged up, but he fought through the pain and pulled off numerous flipping counters and found a few different ways to hit the Os-Cutter. They both let their personalities fly and this was a lot of fun to watch. Okada always has this older brother aura since he’s the one that brought Ospreay to New Japan and Chaos, so whenever they get together, it’s very much like two siblings trying to outdo the other. Ospreay had a great flurry at the end, flipping through a Rainmaker attempt, to try his Stormbreaker, but Okada flipped through that and hit a short arm lariat. Rolling Rainmaker and a normal Rainmaker later, Okada edges out the little brother. Great match.
Overall Score: 7/10
Well this night struggled cause the first two Block matches were really weak. The next two amped-up the intensity a little, but fell short of a memorable match. The main event was fantastic, but generally speaking this felt like it was slow, plateau’d for a while and only picked up at the end. Nothing out right awful, but a lot of matches that could’ve been a little better.
Still a solid enough night if you’re following it all, but only the main event is worthy of seeking out individually. It is nice to see that everyone is on the board with some points. So if Okada and KENTA stumble a little, the rest of the block could plausibly catch up.
Block A Standings:
- Kazuchika Okada: 4-0 (8 Points)
- KENTA: 4-0 (8 Points)
- Lance Archer: 2-2 (4 Points)
- EVIL: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Kota Ibushi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- Hiroshi Tanahashi: 2-2 (4 Points)
- SANADA: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Will Ospreay: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Bad Luck Fale: 1-3 (2 Points)
- Zack Sabre Jr: 1-3 (2 Points)