Some of the fun here is the fact that the cards are announced day of, and they’re supposed to kick off the new stories.
We will of course get some solid action, but it will be tied up in multi-man tags and story driven finishes. So many people may not care, and I can’t fault anyone for that. But for anyone interested, here’s the direction that New Japan is going in 2021.
- Yuji Nagata vs Gabriel Kidd: Nagata wins via Nagata Lock 2 @7:59 – ** ¼
- Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI vs Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura: Suzuki wins via Gotch Style Piledriver @10:45 – *** ¼
- The United Empire (Will Ospreay w/Bea Priestley, Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Yota Tsuji: Empire wins via Assisted Oscutter @9:44 – ***
- Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, ZSJ & El Deperado vs Guerrillas of Destiny, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo: ELP wins via Super Kick @11:35 – ** ½
- Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Jay White w/Gedo, Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL w/Dick Togo vs Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI: Ishii wins via Vertical Drop Brainbuster @13:47 – ** ¾
- BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi vs Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, SHO, Master Wato & Rocky Romero: BUSHI wins via MX @17:23 – *** ¼
Yuji Nagata vs Gabriel Kidd
So we’re back to the tried and true formula of Young Lion cutting his teeth against the old guard. Gabe mostly stood up with Yuji, caught him with a few Dropkicks and had moments of advantage when he locked on a Half Crab; but generally we knew the outcome before it happened.
It was decent enough, but this wasn’t one of the impressive Young Lion matches, just a mostly basic one.
Minoru Suzuki & DOUKI vs Tiger Mask IV & Yuya Uemura
Tiger Mask made his NJPW return from diverticulitis at the Ranbo, but this is his first normal match since his surgery. The feel good aspect is overshadowed by Uemura’s death wish, going after Suzuki and wanting to prove himself.
Suzuki dismissed the Young Lion early by giving him DOUKI, but the Young Lion took a few potshots, and Suzuki doesn’t appreciate that. So this really turned into Suzuki beating the hell out of Uemura, but Uemura fighting back. English commentary recounted the story of a young Minoru Suzuki being disciplined for disrespecting Antonio Inoki. So there’s an interesting thread there.
Tiger Mask had a short time in the ring and showed that he wasn’t all the way back when he flubbed the Tiger Driver. Uemura came back in, kept on Suzuki and they slugged it out. Suzuki eventually had to hit the GSP to win the match, which proves something since the last time they met Suzuki said Uemura didn’t deserve the Gotch. So Uemura might be moving up on Suzuki’s respect list and it was a fiery and fun match.
The United Empire (Will Ospreay w/Bea Priestley, Great O-Khan & Jeff Cobb) vs TenCozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Yota Tsuji
So before this match begins we all know The Empire get a win back since the veterans have a Young Lion.
Early on we get a Mongolian Chop dual between Tenzan and O-Khan. Then this turns into a Tenzan beatdown. Cobb, Ospreay and Khan take turns beating the hell out of Tenzan. Tenzan manages some space to get Kojima in the ring, and he starts off a little quick against Ospreay, but it starts to turn against the veteran squad.
So when Yota comes in, you know the match it really over. Yota does some decent work, actually beats Cobb in a few power spots, but it’s all done, except for the crying. TenCozy Cutter gets countered, Yota gets hoisted up for an Oscutter and then the real damage happens.
Khan hits the TTD (Tenzan Tombstone Driver) on Tenzan and they just beat him motionless. Kojima tries to shield his veteran partner, but the beatings continue. Ospreay then announces they are the United Empire while Tenzan is stretchered out, so he’s written out for a while.
Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, ZSJ & El Deperado vs Guerrillas of Destiny, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo
Well it looks like we have direction for the two tag team divisions. Taichi is still incensed at the usage and now location of the stolen Iron Fingers. Taichi continued usage of the throat chokes but that was out of frustration more so then a weird heel tactic trade off.
Tama took a few early bumps, but then Despy became the punching bag. This worked to set things up for the Dangerous Tekkers obviously wanting a rematch, and the ELP and Taiji feeling a little screwed out of their rightful match. Since ELP and Taiji lost the belts to Roppongi 3k at Wrestle Kingdom 14, they were never really allowed to get a rematch because of quarantine.
Also with the finish being what appears to be a Super Kick from a loaded boot, now we’ve got a big conversation revolving around ELP’s boots and his tactics.
Solid enough match to make sense of the set pieces, but nothing necessary to watch.
Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, Jay White w/Gedo, Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL w/Dick Togo vs Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
So Chase and Fale kept trying to take the KOPW trophy, that was early antics, but quickly we got to see a lot of Jay’s perspective. Chaos pulls off tandem moves, and its fine, Bullet Club tries gang tactics and Red Shoes refuses to count the pinfall.
When Jay finally got in the match, there was a light applause from the crowd, almost like they wanted to show him appreciation in case it was his last match for whatever reason. Jay never clicked into the match though. He still seemed to be in broken Jamie mode, and the Switchblade was nowhere to be seen. At the point that Chaos hit him with the locomotion tandem spots, it felt to be rubbing things in a bit.
Coming off the promo yesterday and his attitude today, it was very easy to feel for the heel. Jay really has mastered his art, and the fact that he ate the pin to Ishii, the last person to beat him before the Ibushi match, it’s almost poetic. I doubt Jay is gone, this is just well worded and acted work, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was interested/concerned for the Switchblade.
BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi vs Kota Ibushi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, SHO, Master Wato & Rocky Romero
These multi-man tags are always weird to surmise, since the moves don’t completely matter. The importance of most of these matches, this one especially, is figuring out future plans. Shingo made it his job to go after Tanahashi, and as much as Tanahashi’s matches have this weird vibe of similarity lately, Shingo is such a different animal, I’m excited for that pairing. This could also be big for Shingo if he wins the title.
Rocky made a small bid against Hiromu that he shouldn’t be taken lightly, but this was not his story. Hiromu wants to avenge his BOSJ loss against SHO, so he issued the challenge and tried to beat it home today that he wants a match. SANADA and Ibushi had a few sparks of interaction to whet the appetite but nothing crazy. Naito didn’t really have anything going on, so his involvement was equal to his stories at the moment, just there.
BUSHI got a decent enough mini angle with being the new road block/gatekeeper against Master Wato. Wato really needs to work out the big match jitters, because the Baseball Stadium and Tokyo Dome weren’t good showings from him. He’s athletic with some solid potential, but he needs to just show it off during matches that matter.
BUSHI winning was just a formality since the stories were solidified during the match. Fun Dash main event, but not necessary viewing for wrestling reasons.
Overall Score: 7/10
So for what this show always is, it did a decent enough job at setting things in motion, and the fact that Shingo is hunting for Tanahashi, that’s well worth some buzz. Also writing off Tenzan for the foreseeable future was unexpected and different.
Jamie remaining shattered also added to the weird atmosphere of the show. English commentary really overdid the Jay White angle, which I feel hurt things a little, trying to equate him to Michael Jordan, Barry Sanders, etc…people who retire while in their peak.The crowd wanted to thank him, you could tell from the pensive applause and murmuring, but this could be the Devil’s greatest trick.
Also Suzuki-Gun generally being babyface over the Bullet Club is interesting. Taichi is upset that the Tongans took the metal glove from Takashi Iizuka, ZSJ tries to help his buddy and Despy is the bump guy. I’ve always been a fan of the Holy Emperor, if not a little facetiously, but he’s finally been doing great work and now people seem to care a bit about his situation.
So 2021 has potential, let’s look at some of the things set in motion:
- G.o.D. vs Dangerous Tekkers 2
- Taiji Ishimori & ELP vs Despy & Kanemaru
- BUSHI vs Master Wato
- SHO vs Hiromu Takahashi
- Chase & Bad Luck Fale vs Toru Yano
- Tanahashi vs Shingo
- SANADA vs Ibushi
- The United Empire vs Everyone
- Jay White vs Tomohiro Ishii? (or retirement)
- Tetsuya Naito vs The Typical Naito Vibe