Sunday, April 10, 2016

NJPW Invasion Attack Review

NJPW Invasion Attack 2016
April 10th, 2016 | Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan

This morning, New Japan Pro Wrestling held its highly anticipated Invasion Attack show.

Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi def. Juice Robinson and Ryusuke Taguchi in 3:45
I’ve made my disdain for Takahashi and Taguchi very well known. I don’t really have any major issues with Fale or Robinson, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. Clearly, I wasn’t looking forward to this. Whoever planned it out should be proud because they kept it short. The stuff they did in their time wasn’t very good but it wasn’t offensive or anything like that either. Taguchi wasn’t given enough time to be annoying, Juice did his part and Fale got to play the monster. He ended Juice with the Bad Luck Fall. 

Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata def. Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano and YOSHI-HASHI in 7:10
Liger’s mask was looking pretty sick here. The older generation of guys have been sticking together lately so I was glad to see Liger team up with them. Everybody was given a chance to get their stuff in and there were some fun interactions throughout. Yano, as always, found ways to make me chuckle. I do feel like the finish was anti-climactic. Not that they were building to anything major, but it kind of came from out of nowhere. Nagata delivered a knee to the head and put YOSHI-HASHI down with the backdrop driver. Wise decision since I believe Nagata is next in line to challenge Shibata. **½

Hirooki Goto and ROH Television Champion Tomohiro Ishii def. BUSHI and EVIL in 10:37
Four guys that I mostly enjoy here. I’ve been really into Los Ingobernables lately and they delivered again here. I appreciated this match being intense. With Naito and Okada feuding, it makes sense for their stablemates to have issues too and they played them out very well. By the way, Goto not only got the loudest boos of the match, he might have gotten the loudest boos of the entire show. There were great close calls, hard hits and you really got the sense that these guys did not like each other. BUSHI would take the fall for his team, after Shouten Kai and a lariat from Ishii. After the bell, Goto and EVIL had to be separated. It looks like we’re heading towards a Power Struggle rematch between the two. This was a lot of fun and worth checking out. ***½

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Roppongi Vice def. Matt Sydal and Ricochet (c) in 15:51
Oh look. The Jr. Tag Titles changed hands again. How surprising. This one might be due to the rumors that Ricochet is WWE bound. These teams had one of the few standout Jr. tag matches in New Japan last year in the Finals of the Super Junior Tag Tournament at Power Struggle. While this wasn’t quite on that level, I’d still say it was good. Baretta came in with taped up ribs, though they didn’t play into the match all that much, which was disappointing. Both teams were sure to get their major spots, but that’s kind of what this felt like. Two teams getting their shit in, rather than a big title match. After a suicide dive took out Sydal, Roppongi Vice nailed Strong Zero on Ricochet and took home the straps. A fine tag match, but far from great. The title change (like a lot of Jr. Title changes) felt random since RPG Vice hasn’t done much in Japan this year. Oh well. Rocky Romero is now a six time Jr. Tag Team Champion. ***

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) def. Will Ospreay in 15:11
Honestly, this was the match I was most looking forward to on the card. KUSHIDA has easily been the MVP of the division for the past year or so, while Ospreay has quickly risen to become one of my favorite guys to watch around the world. Ospreay dedicated the match to the late Kris Travis. Although this was Ospreay’s first NJPW match, he got over quickly on pure ability in the ring, wowing the crowd. KUSHIDA wisely went after the arm, looking to set up the Hoverboard Lock later in the match. Thankfully, Ospreay actually sold it. He went for a handspring move but fell because his arm gave out. It’s so simple but so many people ignore it in order to hit their offense. Showing off his incredible athleticism, he did the move without using his arms shortly after, instead just bouncing off of the ropes. So good. In a great moment, Ospreay did the Rainmaker pose and tried the Rainmaker in honor of fellow Chaos member Okada. Somehow, KUSHIDA countered it into the Hoverboard Lock but Ospreay reached the ropes quickly. After several attempts, KUSHIDA won with the Hoverboard Lock after countering a cutter. I don’t like to be the guy that guys out a lot of super high scores, but this year has been so great and this was another phenomenal match. The intensity, the selling, the atmosphere and everything just worked. A star making performance for Ospreay and KUSHIDA continues to be excellent. ****¾

After the match, Jushin Thunder Liger got in the ring and said that he wants to be a 12 time Jr. Heavyweight Champion. KUSHIDA accepted the challenge and they shook hands.

This year’s G1 Climax will begin on July 18th and run for 19 shows, just like last year. It looks like it will end on August 14th.

NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin and Yoshi Tatsu def. The Elite (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks) (c) w/ Cody Hall in 14:49
I’m gonna say that the Bullet Club lost because they didn’t come out to Kenny Omega’s theme. Omega did speak to the camera before the match and said that people may have wasted their money on a show this past week but he’s going to show us what we should have been watching all along. I mean, Mania was only $9.99 so I didn’t waste my money, but still. If I’m right, this was Tatsu’s return after breaking his neck against AJ Styles in 2014. Right off the bat, Omega teased hitting him with the Styles Clash, which was great. This started as a brawl and even went into the tunnel, where Cody Hall was taken out. The actions stayed at the fast pace for the most part, which worked great for the guys involved. Omega brought the spray paint in and sprayed all three challengers. That led to some great close calls and another Styles Clash tease. Before he could hit it though, Tanahashi and Elgin sprayed Omega with the paint in a bit of fair play. A frantic ending saw Elgin nail Nick (I believe) with a top rope powerbomb to win. It was a fun, chaotic match and gave us the feel good moment of Elgin’s first NJPW title win, as well as completing Tatsu’s return. ***½

After the match, Kenny Omega got in Michael Elgin’s face. It looked like they’re setting up Elgin/Omega for the IC Title, most likely at Wrestling Dontaku. Then, after everything seemed to calm down, Bad Luck Fale showed up and attacked Tanahashi. I guess their rivalry is back on.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Katsuyori Shibata (c) def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan w/ Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima and Yuji Nagata in 10:49
The pre-match video package was great, reminding everyone of Tenzan’s past success as well as Shibata being a disrespectful ass early in his career. This was the stiff battle that you’d want from these two. Tenzan used his massive head to headbutt Shibata and take control in the early stages. Tenzan actually held serve for a good chunk of the match, which was surprising. I don’t often see Shibata having to battle back. He’s either in control or it’s very even. I liked that change of pace. He did fight back and laid out Tenzan with the Penalty Kick, retaining the belt. This was a really good hard hitting match. They made Tenzan into a viable contender at times, which was more than I expected. ***½

More post-match angles as Yuji Nagata entered to check on his friend only for Shibata to kick him. A pissed off Nagata took off his shirt and was ready to fight, but got held back. Nagata vs. Shibata is coming soon.

IWGP Tag Team Championship: Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa def. Great Bash Heel (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) (c) in 16:31
There was a loud woman in the crowd during the six man tag earlier. It as annoying but not distracting. She was at it again, and much worse here. She shouted “MAKABE” in the loudest, shrillest voice possible and it was almost non-stop. It made me watch this on mute. The match itself was mostly fine, but nothing stood out. Tanga Roa did alright, while Tama Tonga continued to impress me. His stuff with Honma during the match was the highlight for me. I think this ran too long for the work they did. The Bullet Club members couldn’t keep Honma down after a powerbomb/reverse DDT combo, but finally put him away after an assisted DDT. This was mostly fine though it dragged on. I’m happy to see Tonga finally getting shine and moving above Yujiro in the BC pecking order. **

IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Tetsuya Naito w/ BUSHI and EVIL def. Kazuchika Okada (c) w/ Gedo in 28:52
Again, we were treated to a really strong video package. It showed their history, from a match back in 2007 to their Wrestle Kingdom 8 IWGP Title match. Though he’s the biggest heel in the company, Naito was super popular here. This mostly followed the Okada formula that we’ve come to know over the past few years. However, this benefitted from a heavily pro-Naito crowd, giving it an awesome atmosphere. As always, Naito nailed every mannerism and little thing that makes his character work. Since its Los Ingobernables, there were ringside shenanigans. EVIL attacked Okada and Naito even brought Gedo in the ring to beat him up. Things really picked up near the end as we got a lot of false finishes. Not near falls particularly but moments where I thought it was over, especially after EVIL and BUSHI got involved. Okada withstood it, but couldn’t get past the new Los Ingobernables member that attacked him. He revealed himself to be Seiya Sanada, formerly of TNA fame and Great Muta protégé. Okada still countered Destino and nailed a German. When he tried the Rainmaker though, Naito countered back into Destino, becoming the new champion. I always knew Destino was a perfect counter for the Rainmaker. A really good match that gets a better score thanks to the crowd and the moment of the title change. Considering Naito’s very lukewarm reaction in a top spot as a babyface, this heel turn has done wonders for him. I’m so glad we’re getting something fresh in the main event. ****

Los Ingobernables continued the attack after the match, beating up Gedo and Okada. Sanada even put Okada in a dragon sleeper. Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii ran out for the save, leading to a stare down between Ishii and Naito. If I get an Ishii/Naito IWGP Title match, I’m gonna flip. After everything calmed down, Naito cut a promo before tossing the IWGP Title in the air because he literally gives no fucks. I love it.

Overall: 8.5/10. I found this show to be much better than Wrestle Kingdom. The first two matches were kind of just there but only lasted a combined 11 or so minutes. Everything after, outside of the Tag Team Title match, ranged from good to incredible. The highlight of the show was KUSHIDA/Ospreay and is an absolute must see match. Shibata/Tenzan was hard hitting fun and the six man tag was a chaotic brawl. The main event felt like a big match and the title change was done at the perfect time. For the first time in a long time, I’m excited about the direction of NJPW as we’ve got something fresh going forward.