Wrestling isn’t like any other industry. In the world of wrestling the business is ever active, ever progressing & ever changing as each day goes by, which other form of sport or entertainment provides its fans with that similar of an experience?
With an industry as active as this one however, we constantly lose track of what’s happened within the span of even a week, sometimes a matter of 3 to 4 days could contain far too much news for one head to handle. A week in professional wrestling consists more than just matches, at times we get title changes, returns, injuries, call-ups, formation of new rivalries & countless other issues which are too long to list.
This revelation has brought me to starting this column, the ‘Rules of Wrestling’.
Using the ‘Rules of Wrestling’ we’re going to have a look over the week in wrestling, or at least the most prominent points in wrestling during a given week. Whether that be a pay-per-view event, Network special or even work from other organisations that aren’t WWE-related. These rules won’t just be ones that those of you who read this can follow but will solidify the most important elements of each week in wrestling.
Without wasting more time, let’s get right to it!
Rule #1: Like it or not, ‘The Dream’ is the future
NXT was always known as the brand that will pave the way for the future of the WWE, it’s the pet-project of Triple H itself and ever since the first TakeOver special back in 2015 it’s been clear the brand wouldn’t make it easy for their main roster counterparts to combat them from a quality standpoint. For a lot of us, NXT hasn’t just given the main roster a run for their money but on most occasions have obliterated the efforts put forward by the more mainstream product.
It is stars like Velveteen Dream that are a prime example of how special the NXT product has become and what makes it stand out compared to the WWE’s bigger, more extravagant events. Velveteen Dream is a reminder that storytelling in wrestling comes before the action in the ring, that without someone willing to pour their heart and soul into their craft, the passion from the audience won’t always be the same. His match against the ‘One & Only’ Ricochet was extraordinary, delivering on every aspect but most importantly boasted a story that was embedded in the ring, a rare tactic that we don’t see near enough of.
Both men throughout the match constantly tried to outdo one and other, trading signature moves and at points inflicting pain that seemed far too abnormal for the average human body to receive. But what beyond that made Velveteen Dream look like a Wrestlemania-sized star? The fact that even in defeat, ‘The Dream’ had won. He might have lost the battle against another new NXT upstart, but he continued to win over insane amounts of respect from the rabid NXT fanbase, receiving an ovation on par if not greater than the one received against current NXT Champion Alesteir Black.
The bottom line is we can focus on what the main roster has now, the likes of Roman Reigns & Braun Strowman are certainly the key focus for the company’s next ‘John Cena’ but it’s only a matter of time before Velveteen Dream shows up. A star at the level of performance that Velveteen Dreams is at is incredibly rare, his in-ring style might not be as ‘flamboyant’ in terms of skill but it’s the simplicity behind it combined with the mans unbelievable storytelling prowess that, if booked correctly, could make him one of the best of the modern-era.
You can run, you can hide, but the Dream is coming.
Rule #2: Emergency Course Correction, Initiated
I’m not going to beat the dead horse over how actively terrible the majority of the Bobby Lashley vs Sami Zayn feud was, especially since it seems like WWE is doing the wise move and moving on from the feud as quickly as possible, with little call back for any fan to remember it by.
The evening after Sunday night on Monday Night RAW, we got the course correction the character of Bobby Lashley mercifully needed to save himself from the mess he was tossed into. It’s not as if anyone at home or in the audience was let down by the decision, since it’s clear the direction the company was taking this once beast of a character was ill-fated and completely misguided.
His swift defeated of Sami Zayn at Money in the Bank at least felt like it made sense, once again establishing Lashley as a legitimate threat and putting on the dominant performance we’d been waiting to see since the night after Wrestlemania (granted the match wasn’t anything special due to the awful writing). The evening after Money in the Bank, Lashley was sent directly into the Universal Championship scene, potentially on a collision course with Brock Lesnar, a match we’ve all been hearing has been discussed prior to Lashley’s WWE return.
It seems like WWE have finally crawled themselves & Lashley out of the hole they dug a few weeks ago and seem to have a direction, at least one with more clarity and potential behind it than hiring men to dress up as Lashley’s ‘sisters’ or basing entire segments around Instagram quotes.
The real question here, is can WWE continue to build on the slight confidence they’ve instilled in fans with in the Lashley character as of this past Monday night?
Only time, or perhaps 7 days to next week’s edition of RAW will tell.
Rule #3: The Summer of Ronda Rousey Is Upon Us
No matter who you are on the WWE roster, male or female, on SmackDown or RAW, you must succumb to one undeniable fact, that Ronda Rousey was the star of the week for the WWE.
If Rousey’s impressive debut against Triple H & Stephanie McMahon at Wrestlemania 33 wasn’t enough of a message to silence her already vocal critics, then Money in the Bank was the show & match that would have finally put a stop to those select critics. Rousey not only held her own against the gigantic Nia Jax but displayed that the level of effort & dedication she put into this sport was paying off in the best way possible. Managing to toss the massive body of Nia Jax over her own alone gave fans the confidence to say the Women’s Championship was in good hands with the former UFC headliner.
Even in loss, Rousey looked like a warrior, one out for the blood of Alexa Bliss & out for the RAW Women’s Championship. This carried over to Monday Night and gave us arguably the best women’s segment the company has showcased in a very, very long time. More than just being a warrior in the ring, Monday night showed Rousey as something more, a malicious athlete who will not be walked over no matter who is in her way. Ringside Security? Took them out. GM Kurt Angle? Tossed him to the floor and pounded on him. RAW Women’s Champion? Put through a table. Rousey gives off the aura that Brock Lesnar once did, that feeling of anxiety and unhinged nature approaching the ring and it’s something I hope can be maintained.
Many people, myself included, feel a champion such as Brock Lesnar needs more TV presence to truly make his current reign & character more of a threat instead of a nuisance but with Ronda Rousey the limiting of her television exposure is actually a benefit. Instead of the traditional overexposure that comes with transitioning onto the main roster, every appearance she makes feels important, unpredictable & something pivotal that every fan wants to tune in and see first-hand. Am I and other fans admitting to a double standard? Sure, but at least we get more than an 8-minute repetition of the same championship match on every show.
To those of you who were worried about the use of Ronda Rousey in the WWE, I advise you to be scared of other things, like the state Alex Bliss will be in when she meets face-to-face with this beast of a competitor sometime in the very near future.
Rule #4: Have no fear, Rusev Day is finally here!
Comparing the current product that SmackDown puts out on a weekly basis as opposed to what was happening roughly a year ago is quite shocking when put into perspective. SmackDown today feels like a show layered with countless great characters, fantastic in-ring action & everything a wrestling fan could want out of a solid product. Last year the product was dwindling, and nobody received quite the beating from a credibility standpoint more than Rusev.
A year removed from one bad booking decision to the next, Rusev hasn’t just surpassed any expectations fans had set for his time on the blue brand but has shattered them and is now next in line to challenge the WWE Champion AJ Styles in roughly 4 weeks. 365 days ago, Rusev could hardly last a full minute against the likes of Randy Orton and has since become not just one of the most popular acts on SmackDown, but the entire WWE in general.
Rusev has never looked more alive as an act. Every minute the man comes out to the ring, he seems more confident than ever before, more focussed and readier than ever to seize his moment in the spotlight. We can also attribute a relative level of his success to the presence of the insanely entertaining Aiden English, because if it wasn’t for his musical talents, could never have gravitated the ‘Rusev Day’ chants towards the audience in the way they’re latched onto today.
With Summerslam just around the corner and only one more stop on the road to the ‘Biggest Party of the Summer’, it remains to be seen how legitimate of a contender the ‘Bulgarian Brute’ is. Could he be no more than a placeholder challenger? One just put into this role to buy time for the champions true challenger a few weeks later? Or is this a genuine attempt by the creative team to bring Rusev back into the main event scene with the biggest swing possible?
In either scenario, WWE have a tremendous opportunity to not just deliver a phenomenal wrestling match over the company’s most prestigious championship, there is a chance to make Rusev the star he deserves to be. We only have to wait 4 weeks, and I cannot wait.
Rule #5: The Times Are Changing & You Better Be Excited
Over a year ago the initial rumours began to spread of the WWE expanding its programming overseas into foreign markets due to the expansion & popularity of their WWE Network. This international growth would begin with the WWE’s 2nd most prominent market outside the United States, the United Kingdom and the emphasis on the United Kingdom Championship.
To introduce the world to their fresh new product, the company crowned its first-ever United Kingdom Champion Tyler Bate, who was later dethroned by Pete Dunne during the NXT TakeOver: Chicago special last year in my personal favourite match of 2017. The match between the two set the tone for how good the division could truly be if the time & effort shown then and there would remain a constant throughout their exposure, which thus far it absolutely has. Other stars such as Trent Seven, Wolfgang, Jordan Devlin, Mark Andrews & Danny Burch have also received exposure across the WWE’s programming, both in appearances on NXT but also the company’s 205 Live brand on multiple occasions.
The showcasing of this talent is essential due to the company being an international presence that is currently trying to tie a stronger knot with international territories and at the same time recruit talent from these regions to enhance and make their own down the line. But if you aren’t from the UK, then why should you care? Is this even relevant.
Yes. It is more important than you will possibly ever understand.
International success within one region ultimately provides a domino effect for the industry which in turn opens new windows of opportunity for brands such as NXT & 205 Live, but also allows for the expansion for programming beyond the existing ones. While the UK is the central focus as of this post, who’s to say a show or roster cannot be former out of Asian talents? Arab Talents? The WWE’s overall stance on foreign brands for potential crossovers doesn’t even seem entirely out of the question at this stage, could there be discussions with the likes of NJPW?
Who knows, but I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised should a move like that be put forward.
Obviously, the United States is the centre for the WWE and much of professional wrestling as a matter of fact, as wrestling fans however it should be our duty to encourage reaching out to every community to give fans the same experience we feel we receive on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Times like these are to be excited over, excited for the possibilities, excited for the numbers of new talents coming into the world of WWE & excited for the quality of wrestling we are about to witness in the coming weeks & months.
NXT’s expansion in the UK comes ever closer by the day, with their 2-day event airing on the WWE Network very soon (Spoilers are online, best find a way to avoid those) and is an opportunity for everyone to catch a glimpse of what is to come when the official UK show gets its official air date. Wrestling right now is as exciting as its ever been, and it’s time for everyone to get as excited those rabid fans in the UK are going to be over the course of the TV tapings.
Chris’s Extreme Rules Grades And Analysis
Chris weighs in on WWE Extreme Rules!
Chris weighs in on WWE Extreme Rules!
With so many questions, where to begin? Will Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch shut up Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans once and for all? Is The Beast in the Bank going to attempt a cash-in? Let’s find out!
- Drew Gulak (c) vs. Tony Nese: Cruiserweight Championship–B
- Finn Balor(c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura–B+
- The Undertaker/Roman Reigns vs. Shane McMahon/Drew McIntyre: No Holds Barred Match–A
- The Revival (c) vs. The Usos: Raw Tag Team Championships–B
- Aleister Black vs. Cesaro–A+
- Bayley (c) vs. Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross 2-On-1 Handicap Match: SmackDown Women’s Championship–C
- Braun Strowman vs. Bobby Lashley: Last Man Standing Match–A++
- Daniel Bryan and Rowan (c) vs. New Day (Xavier Woods and Big E) vs. Heavy Machinery (Otis and Tucker) Triple-Threat-Match: SmackDown Tag Team Championships–B+
- Ricochet (c) vs. AJ Styles: United States Championship–A-
- Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler–C
- Kofi Kingston (c) vs. Samoa Joe: WWE Championship–B
- Seth Rollins/Becky Lynch (c) vs. Baron Corbin/Lacey Evans Winners-Take-All Mixed Tag Team Match: Universal and Raw Women’s Championship–A+
We kick off the pay-per-view with Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Finn Balor for the Intercontinental Championship.
This was a good match, with both competitors able to capitalize on opportunities. It started off slow but, when the action picked up they gelled perfectly. Nakamura allowed his dangerous side on display as he landed a sliding snap German suplex to Balor from the ropes. The finish came after a Coup de Grace landed but nobody was home. Two Kinshasa’s later and we have a new Intercontinental Champion.
I was shocked by the title change after no build-up for their clash, but I’ve been saying for months; that Balor needs to drop the Intercontinental Championship so he can move back up to the main event title scene, where he’s truly belonged in since returning from injury in 2017.
Will the ruthless and more dangerous Drew Gulak retain his Cruiserweight Championship or will The Premier Athlete Tony Nese regain the title he didn’t “technically” lose? Gulak blasts Nese right after the bell. Lots of great back and forth action here. Gulak lands a ferocious lariat off the ring apron! Nese catches him and hits a German suplex into the turnbuckle.
Nese lands a jaw-dropping Moonsault on Gulak hanging off the ropes. Nese back in hits a beautiful 450 splash…long two-count. A Sunset Flip pinning combination, Nese wants the Sunset Flip Driver…nope… Gulak gets a Powerbomb for another long two-count. Gulak hits the Cyclone Crash for the 1-2-3 still Cruiserweight Champion Drew Gulak. Wow…What a match…Nese and Gulak had impeccable chemistry, and I can’t wait to see more clashes! Gulak truly has evolved into this vicious and dangerous character.
Here we go folks, we’re going live! No Holds Barred opens the show. Taker/Reigns vs. Shane-O Mac/McIntrye
This match definitely delivered, I feel the number one question going into this was what shape is The Deadman in following the disastrous Goldberg vs. Taker match at Super ShowDown? The young studs Reigns and McIntrye carried the contest very well. Of course, Elias would come out here and stack the deck against Taker. Unfortunately for Shane-O Mac and gang, the numbers weren’t enough to prevail. Two Chokeslams and a perfectly-timed Spear followed by a Devastating Tombstone Piledriver the win was academic.
Raw Tag Team Championships are the line. Will the Top Guys and The Usos take the tag team division to a whole new level? The action starts off red-hot as Jey and Dawson start things off. Dawson slows the pace down and terrific old-school wrestling by Dawson and Wilder. A fantastic sequence happened as Jey finally made the tag to Jimmy but the official’s back was turned. So Dawson and Wilder pound away at him in the corner, while Dawson plays dead with a hilarious facial expression. Jimmy lands a stunning corkscrew splash on both Dawson and Wilder. The Revival retain the titles after a magnificent Shatter Machine!
Hell Yes, It’s time for Aleister Black’s first singles match against Cesaro! Will he make The Swiss Cyborg Fade to Black? Black Mass right out of the gate, Cesaro blocks as both competitors traded kicks and punches. Cesaro plays mind games using Black’s own cross-legged pose. The Swiss Cyborg lands a jaw-dropping slingshot uppercut off the ropes for a long two-count.
Black attempts the Double-Stomp from the top-rope but, gets caught and Cesaro lifts him up and hits an uppercut in mid-air. Black locks Cesaro’s injured leg into submission, and the crafty Swiss Cyborg turns it into a Sharpshooter. The finish comes after a back-and-forth sequence of uppercuts and stiff kicks…Black Mass for the win and a hell of a match! I would not mind seeing a best of 7 series between them.
2-on-1 Handicap Match is up next. Will the odds be too much for Bayley to retain her SmackDown Women’s Championship? Will we see the long-awaited return of The Boss Sasha Banks? Nikki Cross and Bayley start the match. Bayley is holding her own against both opponents. Bliss gets the blind tag and Bayley fights Cross outside. After she gets on the apron, Bliss drives her headfirst into the steel steps.
Cross and Bliss are exhibiting stellar teamwork with quick tags and keeping the champ down. Bayley locks in a knee lock and a headlock submission on both of her challengers. The finish came when Twisted Bliss was blocked by knees, Cross gets the tag and a hard knee… Bayley’s Flying Elbow Drop 1-2-3. I’m a bit surprised that Bliss and Cross worked so well together, that said the resilience of Bayley was on point!
Last Man Standing Match…How the hell are The Monster Among Men and The Almighty Bobby Lashley going to top what they did three weeks ago? This is going to be a horror-flick themed wake of destruction. Lashley tries to hit Strowman on the ropes but gets chunked outside. Bell rings as Strowman hits back-to-back shoulder tackles in the corner. The Monster is running and bulldozes through Lashley…Second time…nope SPEAR!
Holy Shit! This match had everything that you could have wanted from two behemoths. The action went everywhere from inside the main lobby of the Wells Fargo arena, back to ringside as Strowman bulldozes through his foe like a bull. Lashley picks him up and slams The Monster through the barricade. The Monster Among Men Powerslammed Lashley through an open area down below, through some tables. While the official made it to the eight-count Strowman punched through the surrounding and was declared the Last Man Standing! A very fitting brawl for the old ECW arena! Please let these two beasts tear each other apart again!
Up next is the SmackDown Live Tag Team Championship Triple-Threat-Match. Can The Planet’s Champions overcome the odds and keep their titles? Or will Woods and E become Six-time Champs? Or will the hungry newcomers Heavy Machinery Compactor their way to the titles? Woods and Bryan start things off. After a headlock both Bryan and Woods, they use their speed and agility to dodge and leap over each other, Woods drills Bryan with a hard right. Tucker is in now and he flips over Woods! Rowan gets the tag and just plows through him to send him outside.
Woods is in, Rowan is throwing him around like a sack of laundry. Otis tags in and plows through Bryan in the corner and it’s Caterpillar time! Otis lifts E up for an impressive hanging Suplex and Tucker hits a cross-body splash at the same time! Tucker hits a massive cross-body splash on top of competitors outside! Trash Compactor to both Woods and E back-to-back…two-counts.
Bryan sneaks a tag while several competitors execute a Superplex into Powerbomb in the corner. E hits the Superplex on Rowan and, Bryan lands the diving headbutt. He locks in the Lebell Lock on E; while he’s trying for a rope break Bryan magnificently holds his leg and an arm to prevent it. Bryan gets caught mid-air after his signature moonsault flip in the corner… Midnight Hour for the 1-2-3.
I thought to myself, I feel bad for whatever match follows the last man standing. I was wrong this was an incredible match. Heavy Machinery went toe-to-toe with the powerhouses, Bryan uses the masterfully clever tactics to put on a hell of a performance. I was surprised by the title change here, but I think E and Woods vs. Heavy Machinery for the titles at SummerSlam would be a terrific match!
While New Day is in a backstage interview holding all the gold, Paul Heyman grabs a mic. He enters HIS ARENA as Mr. Extreme. Once again he gives an Oscar-worthy promo hyping Brock Lesnar cashing-in tonight. Is he telling the truth or is he Paul Heyman?
United States Championship is on now. Before the bell rings Gallows and Anderson attack Ricochet. Ricochet lands a beautiful running shooting star press on Styles off the apron. The Phenomenal One is putting on a clinic here as his brothers cheer him on. Every time Ricochet starts to mount a comeback Styles just knocks him right back down.
Here we go now as The One and Only runs up Styles and hits a step-up enzuigiri. Ricochet flies and takes out Gallows and Anderson. From a northern lights maneuver, Ricochet deadlifts Styles into a Suplex for a two-count. Ricochet attempts a slingshot DDT but gets suplexed into the turnbuckle. The One and Only countered a Styles Clash into a hurricanrana pin and almost got the victory. Anderson breaks up a pinfall after Ricochet hits another stunning shooting star press. Gallows and Anderson distract the champ and Styles hits the Super-Styles-Clash for the 1-2-3 and the new United States Champion!
What a Phenomenal match (Pun Intended) Styles and Ricochet put on an amazing match. Tons and tons of reversals and counters, they showed off what has been held back on the past week’s Raw. I can’t Freaking wait to see Styles/Ricochet II at SummerSlam hopefully.
Up next is a match that wasn’t even on the card when I made my predictions Kevin Owens vs. Dolph Ziggler. Following Owens’s pipebomb promo this past Tuesday and, a parking lot brawl. The bell rings and Ziggler slaps him in the face, Owens hits a Stunner…1-2-3. Round 2 of the KO Pipebomb; as he grabs the mic and stands by his comments from Tuesday and once again proclaims how disgusting it is for Shane McMahon to call himself The Best in the World! Owens as the antihero to the authority is AMAZING!
WWE Championship time now…Will Kofi survive Joe and remain WWE Champion, or will Joe put his ass to sleep? Was Heyman telling the truth earlier, when he said his client would cash-in tonight? Joe and Kofi are trash-talking each other in the intro, this is going to be the biggest test for Kofi to date. Joe eats a dropkick in the corner, he drills Kofi with a lariat! The Destroyer is dominating the champion, taking his ass to school.
Kofi mounts a comeback with some dropkicks but, Joe just cuts it off. Joe grabs Kofi’s fingers and smashed them on the steel steps, for retribution for flipping him off a few weeks ago. Here we go… Flying cross-body and a splash off the top rope. Joe hits a monstrous powerslam and Powerbomb into the STF. The champion barely makes it to the rope. Kofi hits an SOS out of nowhere for a long two-count. Coquina Clutch is locked in, Kofi tries to leap through via the ropes, Joe just drops him and hits a senton splash. A Trouble in Paradise and the 1-2-3 Kofi survives! No Lesnar yet!
I have to admit, while Joe appeared completely ruthless this match didn’t seem to kick into second gear. Kofi and Joe had good chemistry, but the contest ended before they had the opportunity to steal the show. I would love to see a round two with a better build-up.
It’s Winners-Take-All Mixed Tag Team Time! I’m pleasantly surprised that the WWE and the Universal Championship match was booked back-to-back! Can The New Power Couple keep the top Gold intact, or will we see new Champions crowned?
The Man and The Sassy Southern Belle are starting off. Lynch just tosses Evans outside, followed by a throw into the ring. Corbin and Rollins get the tag. Rollins drills Philadelphia’s Favorite Son and Corbin grabs a kendo stick. Dual kendo shots on the heels. Amazing in-ring chemistry between the lovebirds. This is the second “We Want Lesnar” chant from both the WWE and this contest. Corbin drops Rollins with a DDT on the steel chair for a long two-count.
Here comes The Man who grabs a steel chair and heads towards Evans, Bexploder onto the steel chairs! Lynch goes up top but Corbin moves Evans out of the way, Rollins hits the flying knee. He throws Corbin a chair and Lynch hits a Van Maninator paying homage to RVD! Rollins gets the tag but, Corbin is laid out on the outside. The Architect has a plan. Rollins and Lynch…Get the Tables! Corbin and Evans take control and, our having kendo stick practice on Rollins. They hit dueling chokeslams for both getting almost a victory.
Lynch and Rollins go up top, The Man lands a leg drop through Evans and the table…Rollins hits a jaw-dropping frog splash crashing into the table. Corbin hits an End of Days on Becky Lynch! Rollins lost his freaking mind and unloads on Corbin…followed by three CURB STOMPS 1-2-3 Rollins and Lynch retain…But wait here comes The Beast in the Bank! Rollins is traveling to Suplex City as Mike Rome announces the cash-in. The bell rings and The F5 and a New Universal Champion!
What’s mind-boggling here is why was the WWE Universe clamoring for Lesnar to win the championship, after complaining and bitching about him hogging the spotlight not even three months ago? Yes there was shock value, let’s hope and pray that this is only for a short period of time… perhaps until SummerSlam?
Chris’s Pay-Per-View Grade–A
The Intercontinental Championship, Cruiserweight Championship, and the No Holds Barred Match started the night off red-hot! In my opinion; the Last Man Standing, the United States Championship and both the WWE Championship/Winners-Take-All Match were the best matches on the card!
Andrew’s G1 Climax 29 Ratings & Analysis: Night 4 B Block
Second night for the B Block! Jay White and Tetsuya Naito need to get on the scoreboard. Did it happen?
Second night for the B Block! Jay White and Tetsuya Naito need to get on the scoreboard. Did it happen?
Sapporo is a fun city for the main event, with a lot of general history.
Will Ospreay having a neck injury means he’s not working the undercard tonight.
Those are probably the two points that matter the most. So I guess let’s get to the show!
- Jyushin Thunder Liger & Kota Ibushi vs Yota Tsuji & Shota Umino: Ibushi wins via Half Boston Crab @8:20 – **
- Toa Henare, Ren Narita & Tomoaki Honma vs EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA: BUSHI wins via MX @7:20 – ** 1/2
- Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Zack Sabre Jr & Lance Archer vs KENTA, Clark Connors, Karl Fredricks & Hiroshi Tanahashi: Kanemaru wins via Deep Impact @11:30 – ***
- Chase Owens & Bad Luck Fale vs Kazuchika Okada & YOSHI-HASHI: Okada wins via Rainmaker @8:45 – ** 1/4
- Block B: Shingo Takagi vs Toru Yano: Shingo wins via Pumping Bomber @6:15 – ** 3/4
- Block B: Juice Robinson vs Hirooki Goto: Juice wins via Pulp Friction @12:20 – *** 1/2
- Block B: Jon Moxley vs Jeff Cobb: Moxley wins via Draping Deathrider @8:55 – *** 1/4
- Block B: Tomohiro Ishii vs Jay White: Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @19:15 – **** 1/2
- Block B: Taichi vs Tetsuya Naito: Taichi wins via Last Ride @21:00 – *** 3/4
Liger and Ibushi take on Young Lions because Will Ospreay is nursing an injury. So this was unexpected, but who’s gonna argue with some Liger? Bare bones basic Young Lion match, but Liger and Ibushi kept the interest high.
EVIL and SANADA are facing one another on Thursday, but they were on the same team tonight. Part of this story was BUSHI remaining to look strong since the end of the BOSJ, while EVIL and SANADA had the tension building up. Instead of the LIJ fist bump after the win, EVIL tries to cheap shot SANADA, SANADA counters and then they have a stand off.
This Suzuki-Gun match was beautiful. It was just a gang fight, with each member of Suzuki-Gun taking someone off and Lance Archer even joined commentary at some point. House show quality match was a good way to describe this, but it was still fun and got across the point for future matches and just great character work.
It might be a little mean to say, but YOSHI-HASHI is in this match, so who cares? Chase Owens does prove why he’s the glue that holds Bullet Club together. He’s a great tag team player and this year he’s looked a lot better than he has in the past. So we’ve got an alright match, Okada wasn’t gonna eat a pin, but I guess they wanted to protect YOSHI a little, so Chase ate the Rainmaker.
Shingo proved he watched the Naito match by trying to get Yano to take off his shirt. Anyone who saw Shingo in Dragon Gate knows he’s got some comedy chops being a former…wait…the current, Open the Owarai Gate champion (Owarai means comedy). Shirt, wrist tape and turnbuckle shenanigans ensue, but the right person won. Shingo gets on the board and doesn’t suffer the shame of getting bamboozled.
This tends to be an issue with Goto and Juice a lot of the time. By this, I mean boredom. Goto and Juice have bumped heads a few times and they both try very hard, but they aren’t exciting together. Juice being a quirky but not overly animated just means you get a snarky line and one move that may be entertaining (usually Left Hand of God) and then the action stalls. So both did good work, it was a tough match, but it wasn’t really anything crazy. Solid enough match though.
Moxley focused on Cobb’s left shoulder, so the story was to take out Cobb’s power and try to figure out how to end the match. We saw another solid match, and Moxley gets across more of his character. He does borderline heel tactics and then apologizes to the referee. So this brawling, unstable babyface is an old school gimmick in Japan, but not often seen in New Japan. It’s nice to watch, and Moxley taking advantage of Cobb’s positioning to hit the Draping Dirty Deathriding Paradigm DDT.
Jay White starts off against two of the heavier hitters from Chaos, his former stable. After taking Goto lightly, Ishii comes into this match after a big win over Jeff Cobb. White came into the match less relaxed, but still playing up his smarmy character. Ishii laid into Jay the whole match, where Jay tried to outsmart the Stone Pitbull, but Jay isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. A great match with well placed false finishes and a lot of tension. Fantastic back and forth, plus Ishii picking up the win is something special.
There were so many story threads going on here. Sapporo is the place of their Intercontinental Championship match earlier in the year where Taichi had Takashi Iizuka interfere. Iizuka left the Iron Fingers for Taichi, but he hasn’t used them in the 6 months he’s had them. This was a great struggle of wrestlers who were once rivals, but Naito has since eclipsed Taichi. Hell, Taichi even hit a Ganso Bomb, shades of his mentor Toshiaki Kawada. References, call backs and a solid match from a story telling perspective. Work rate might not have been fantastic, but that’s the beauty of professional wrestling being more than the moves in the ring. Plus part of the fun of Taichi matches is watch Miho Abe react, since she’s such a lovely devoted valet.
Overall Score: 6.75/10
A lot of this show was driven by the stories and the historical threads between participants, opposed to the in-ring action. I appreciate the mixture of angles that New Japan shows attack with. Many newer fans just know NJPW for great hard hitting work rate, but the beauty of puroresu in general is how deep the stories go.
Sometimes the wrestlers reference things from their mentors/trainers, sometimes it’s just a story line from the isolationist politics that each puro company has dabbled with or sometimes it goes all the way back to when someone was a Young Boy in a dojo. The layers are there for those who wish to know, so part of the fun in nights like this, are what personally floats your boat.
The show was the weakest so far, but there were plenty of satisfying moments outside of ring work.
B Block Standings:
- Tomohiro Ishii – 2-0 (4 Points)
- Jon Moxley – 2-0 (4 Points)
- Juice Robinson – 2-0 (4 Points)
- Toru Yano – 1-1 (2 Points)
- Hirooki Goto – 1-1 (2 Points)
- Shingo Takagi – 1-1 (2 Points)
- Taichi – 1-1 (2 Points)
- Jay White – 0-2 (0 Points)
- Jeff Cobb – 0-2 (0 Points)
- Tetsuya Naito – 0-2 (0 Points)
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