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Cook’s Tale of the Tape: EVOLVE 131 vs AEW Fight for the Fallen

We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.

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We’ve got two pretty big shows coming up on Saturday night, which has slid under the radar and become the best night for pro wrestling again lately.

People my age & over know all about World Championship Wrestling, Saturday Night’s Main Event & WCW Saturday Night back in the day, but the sport of kings has been taking that night back recently. It started with the NXT TakeOvers, then AEW & New Japan joined in the fun here recently. And you old school ROH fans know that the Saturday shows were always the A shows of a weekend.

This Saturday’s going to be pretty big. AEW is presenting their Fight for the Fallen event in Jacksonville with some pretty interesting matchups. Meanwhile, WWE has decided to let their Double A affiliate, EVOLVE, have their 10th anniversary show air live on the WWE Network. Correctly, they figured that a semi-indy fed booked by Gabe Sapolsky would have a better chance of making a dent in AEW’s streaming numbers than anything else they could throw out there.

Which card should you spend your Saturday night watching? That’s why I’m here with the Tale of the Tape!

Women’s Singles Match

EVOLVE: Brandi Lauren vs. Shotzi Blackheart

F for the F: Brandi Rhodes vs. Allie

I’m a big Shotzi Blackheart fan. She works hard and has green hair & a punk style and I’m a fan of it. She’s howling like a wolf and I dig it. I looked up Brandi Lauren and she was in TNA at some point and I have no memory of it. Larry Csonka’s reviews of her recent EVOLVE efforts don’t give me much hope.

Allie is pretty great. She managed to get herself over in Impact Wrestling during a time when nobody was getting over. Because she was a great worker. She delivered when it mattered. Whether you want to call her Allie or Cherry Bomb or whatever, she’s been one of the best workers on the distaff side of things since she broke in. Brandi Rhodes isn’t as much of a natural. She’s had to work at it, and she probably started too late to be one of the best female workers of all time. The lady works hard though. She’ll likely come up short here because Allie needs to be the person AEW’s women’s division is built around, but Brandi will bring the fight.

Advantage: F for the F

Top Featured Tag Team Match

EVOLVE: Eddie Kingston & Joe Gacy vs. AR Fox & Leon Ruff

F for the F: Cody & Dustin Rhodes vs. The Young Bucks

I love me some Eddie Kingston. He’s one of the best talkers this business has seen over the past two decades. Unfortunately for him but fortunately for us, most of his career has been unproduced. I also love me some AR Fox. That guy can do some incredible things. His Lucha Underground stint showcased it for those that didn’t know, and when I watched some of his CZW stuff years afterward I wondered how he didn’t get signed by somebody.

I’m not as big on Young Bucks matches as some are, but they’re an incredible team. I am huge on Cody & Dustin. The Rhodes Family isn’t as big as some wrestling families, but if you want to talk about quality over quantity, they’ve got it over most. Anything they’re involved in, I’m all about. Cody is awesome, & Dustin is still incredible after however many years. They both got the gene for story-telling from their old man & use it in different ways. Cody has probably thought about this match since the moment he met Nick & Matt Jackson, and I expect them to have the best match on Fight for the Fallen. Cody’s streak of having the best match of a show he’s on will continue.

Advantage: F for the F

Match Featuring A Man Named Adam

EVOLVE: ADAM COLE BAY BAY vs. Akira Tozawa

F for the F: HANGMAN ADAM PAGE vs. Kip Sabian

We’re talking about two Adams that I’m buying all the stock of. Page looks to be the future top guy in AEW and I’m all about it. He’s got the look, the understated charisma, and he can deliver in the ring. He carries himself like he’s a Rhodes or a Windham, so I’m all about building a promotion around him.

But I would also build a promotion around Adam Cole. The guy’s had it ever since he stepped into a ring. Wherever he goes, he becomes a top guy because he is the top guy. He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to Shawn Michaels since Shawn Michaels. If I was booking NXT, I would keep the NXT Championship on Adam Cole until the second he gets called up.

Basically, the choice here comes down to opponents. Tozawa is awesome & I’ve never seen Kip Sabian wrestle.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Match Featuring Two Guys Smarks Like

EVOLVE: Drew Gulak vs. Matt Riddle

F for the F: Kenny Omega vs. Cima

Omega vs. Cima seems like a Japanese dream match. A guy that made it to the top of New Japan and reinvented their main event style taking on the guy that trained most of the people in the secondary promotions. I have no doubt it will be pretty great.

I’ve already seen Gulak & Riddle go at it on a random NXT episode. It was absolutely amazing. Two guys that knew how to technically wrestle putting on a freaking clinic. It was GRAPPLEFUCK at its best. I know Riddle is the favored son in some circles, but from where I sit, Drew Gulak just might be the best wrestler in the world today. Add in Riddle with his oddness, and it can’t possibly suck.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Best Match I Can’t Find A Parallel For

EVOLVE: JD Drake vs. Austin Theory

F for the F: Frankie Kazarian & Scorpio Sky vs. Pentagon Jr. & Rey Fenix

I saw a lot of Austin Theory on The Wrestlers, and he seems like a good kid with a world of potential. I’ve never heard of his opponent. On the other side, you have the two most exciting Mexican wrestlers against two American veterans that will know how to put them over while being fun at the same time. This isn’t really a fair comparison.

Advantage: F for the F

Venue

EVOLVE: 2300 Arena, Philadelphia

F for the F: Daily’s Place Ampitheater, Jacksonville

Advantage: Everybody marks out for the ECW Arena. The bingo hall at Swanson & Rittner. That place has seen so much wrestling that the history is ridiculous. I’ve watched so many shows from that venue that I couldn’t even begin to tell you the best or worst matches. I can understand why Gabe would mark out for running a show there.

I get more enjoyment from shows in different places. My favorite ROH venue ever is a tent they held a show in when they got kicked out of a venue while still having KENTA booked. KENTA in a Tent-a was pretty awesome. This AEW venue is something connected to the Jaguars stadium and also shares space with a practice facility. If I’m going to see pictures of crowds, I’d like to see them in unique places.

Advantage: F for the F

Probable Announcers

EVOLVE: Lenny Leonard

F for the F: Excalibur, Jim Ross, Alex Marvez or maybe GoldenBoy?

I’m higher on the AEW announce team than most. Exaclibur does a good job of carrying things no matter who he’s with. JR seems more emotionally invested with AEW than he has with anything else he’s called in ages. Marvez wasn’t great in the first thing he called ever, but I’m sure GoldenBoy is on AEW’s speed dial.

EVOLVE has Lenny Leonard. Apparently Ron Niemi joins him on occasion, but it’s mostly Lenny. I always liked Lenny on ROH shows before he got replaced during the HDNet era. Simple commentary is the best for me, and Lenny brings that.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Level of Importance

EVOLVE: It’s their 10th anniversary celebration, available to more people than ever. Sapolsky calls this their Barely Legal, which sounds ridiculous to me. But I’m older & more bitter than the people on his roster. They may buy in. Either way, it’s the biggest show in the company’s history. They need to deliver.

F for the F: The proceeds are going to victims of gun violence. That’s a bigger deal than anything else I typically mention in my columns, and if this “feud” took away from those proceeds I would feel guilty. I doubt it will, as it’s the gate in Jacksonville going to the cause, and not anything from streaming. If you live in Jacksonville, go to the show.

These AEW shows leading up to the TNT debut are tests. Which are important in their own right, but not the most important show in the history of a company that started in 2010. If EVOLVE delivers here, they could get some more WWE Network & developmental love. If they tank, Gabe might not even get a job for himself. AEW is in the trial & error phase here, EVOLVE can’t afford any errors.

Advantage: EVOLVE

Sticking It To The Man

EVOLVE: Gabe might try to tell you otherwise, but he’s totally co-opted now. So is my good friend TJ Hawke. He’ll tell you otherwise as well, but they’re all serving at the behest of the man.

F for the F: They’re bringing money to victims of gun violence. People that give money to WWE are giving money to gun violence.

Advantage: F for the F

Final Score: F for the F 5, EVOLVE 4

It’s a close call, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, AEW’s Fight for the Fallen gets the edge over EVOLVE’s 10th anniversary celebration. People will try to argue otherwise, but the numbers never lie.


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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Chris’s Extreme Rules Grades And Analysis

Chris weighs in on WWE Extreme Rules!

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Brock Lesnar 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!

Chris’s Grades

  • 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+

Analysis

Kick-off Show:

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.

Main-Card:

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!


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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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?

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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!

Ratings:

  • 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

 

Analysis:

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)


Let us know what you think on social media @theCHAIRSHOTcom and always remember to use the hashtag #UseYourHead!
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