NJPW’s second biggest show of the year! A few former WWE names and five championship matches should bring some excitement! Let’s see how the show played out.
People that follow New Japan know this is one of the bigger shows of the year. We also know that the build hasn’t exactly set the world on fire.
A few rematches, the big question of what kind of match Jericho will put on and mixed reactions to the two earliest matches on the card really set an odd tone.
Will the show overcome a lackluster buzz?
- Jon Moxley vs Shota Umino: Moxley wins via Double Arm DDT @4:10 – * 1/2
- Shingo Takagi vs Satoshi Kojima: Takagi wins via Last of the Dragon @11:15 – ***
- YOSHI-HASHI & Jyushin Thunder Liger vs Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr: YOSHI wins via Roll-Up @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Chase Owens, Jay White & Taiji Ishimori vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi: Tanahashi wins via Dragon Swing @10:00 – ** 1/2
- NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii vs Taichi (c): Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @16:15 – **** – TITLE CHANGE!!
- IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs EVIL & SANADA: G.o.D. retain via Roll-Up with Tights @16:45 – *** 1/2
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs Dragon Lee (c): Ospreay wins via Stormbreaker @20:05 – **** 1/4 – TITLE CHANGE!!!
- IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi (c) vs Tetsuya Naito: Naito wins via Destino @22:10 – **** 1/2 – TITLE CHANGE!!!
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Chris Jericho vs Kazuchika Okada (c): Okada retains via Double Leg Cradle @23:50 – *** 3/4
Shota had a quick flurry, starting off before the bell. But Moxley was just too much, Shota got in an occasional shot, but this match was just to make Mox look really good. He then declares his desire to be in the G1. Then to continue his bouncing between good/bad guy, he helps the decimated Shota Umino back to the locker room.
This was a good measuring stick for Shingo. He attacked Kojima the same way he would go after a Junior, and Kojima stood his ground on numerous occasions. Kojima even rocked Shingo to the point of being a bit rubber legged. Our favorite Dragon overcame the leader of Bread Club though after a Last Falconry and then a Last of the Dragon. Very solid match and now Shingo announces he wants in the G1.
The most intriguing part about this match is the Liger and Suzuki feud that’s been bubbling up over the last few months. YOSHI-HASHI has gotten the best of Sabre before and has a challenge to for Undisputed British Championship. YOSHI was getting handled for most of this match; so much so, that Liger came in and kicked YOSHI as a way to try and motivate him to stop sucking. YOSHI really didn’t have much offense and it was just hard to care about him being involved, plus the Roll-Up he won with just looked like a messy La Magistral. So not really anything to care about, but a decent enough match for what it was.
Well this 6 man was odd. Tanahashi really looks to be struggling in the ring, and it’s causing the matches just to look bad. Could this be part of his storytelling? Sure, it could. But between Juice coming off a bad loss, Taguchi missing nearly every hip attack and Tanahashi looking embarrassingly mortal, the match was honestly a little sad. Not a bad match, the story being told is interesting leading into G1, but even Tanahashi pulling out a Dragon Swing, which I haven’t seen in a while, still just looked messy and weak. But the good guys got the win, even though they did not look good during the match.
Ahh the Holy Emperor’s entrance and singing voice are always a highlight of the show. Taichi really does tend to fight Ishii well. Ishii throws away Taichi’s weapons, and challenges him as a man. This was a great hard hitting match. The chops of Ishii versus the kicks of Taichi. All in all, this was just one of those great strong style NEVER matches that we grew to love and expect when Ishii and Makabe were trading the belt back and forth.
In what felt like a place holder match for the tag titles, we got a solid match that wasn’t overly surprising. All four put in good work, Jado gets involved, but BUSHI makes the save for the LIJ team. The momentum seems to be with SANADA and EVIL, they go for Magic Killer, but Tama kicks SANADA away and rolls up EVIL with some leverage. Not bad, not amazing.
Katsuyori Shibata’s music hits and he walks out, with a friend. Slowly following Shibata out is KENTA (Hideo Itami), who declares his intent for the G1 Tournament.
Well this match was more of a typical Junior style match. Numerous huge excessive moves, flipping out of maneuvers, not a ton of selling. It was fun, there was high work rate, but not much anything else. People will love this match, some may hate it, but it was entertaining for the style of match it was. Ospreay challenged Robbie Eagles to be the first one to step up during the Southern Showdown tour in Australia.
This started off as a normal hard hitting affair between the two. Business didn’t pick up until a dangerous Release German Suplex from the apron, where Ibushi’s head clipped the apron on the way to the floor. These matches are beautifully reckless, frenetic and just something to watch. They definitely need space away from each other as to reignite interest in future matches, but this was great. Naito gets the best of the current rivalry, Naito reclaims the belt that speaks to him, yet he tends to shun all at the time. Moving into the G1, we’ll see what lies in store for both men for the rest of the year.
Given that this was a normal match with no gimmick, there were a lot of questions to how things would go. Jericho did his classic spots in Japan of taking a camera to flip off the crowd, a DDT on the table, and some good heel tactics. As for the match, it was surprisingly good. Jericho countered Okada a few times with a Codebreaker, hell they even tried to do each other’s moves and Okada hit a Codebreaker. A solid match, it just never felt like it got out of first gear. Okada went for his neckbreaker,Jericho tried to get a roll-up but Okada sat down into a Double Leg Cradle for the pinfall. Jericho beats the hell out of Okada afterwards with a chair and lands his Judas Effect elbow before spilling outside. Jericho is about to put Okada through a table, but Tanahashi jumps the barricade from commentary and makes the save.
Not sure if this is hinting to more Jericho in Japan, just keeping the door open like when he attacked Naito, or maybe even hinting towards an AEW partnership. Either way, it was a very WWE end to the show, even with Jericho punctuating his promo by saying “Happy Championship, Bitch”.
Overall Score: 8/10
Damn good show even if the build up seemed a little muted between a great BOSJ and seemingly easy way out booking with rematches. KENTA’s appearance was a fun surprise that doesn’t indicate anything serious, but it will be a good way to get him into a large spotlight to see how he reacts to being freed from WWE.
Also to clarify, I say KENTA declaring for the G1 isn’t necessarily serious because it’s not unprecedented to have Free Agents or outside wrestlers join the tournament. This could be just the beginning, maybe it’s kind of a try out to test his durability, who knows. Either way, good show that ended in a sports entertainment way instead of an expected New Japan way.
The G1 will do a lot in setting up the title matches moving throughout 2019.