Sunday, April 17, 2016
The Bullet Club was still relatively fresh at the time of this show. Prince Devitt, the leader, had been dominating the Junior ranks (six Tag Titles, three singles Jr. Titles, two Best of the Super Juniors Tournament wins) and he was booked to face Hiroshi Tanahashi with a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight Title on the line, looking to move up in the ranks. This has potential to be huge considering research tells me that Tanahashi hadn’t been pinned in outside of tournaments or title matches in about three years. The rest of the card also has potential to be pretty damn good. This would be the 5th Dominion event.
I know they found a fair amount of success, but man, the Forever Hooligans were such an odd pairing. I guess that’s kind of why they worked. Both teams worked each other a bunch of times, so the chemistry is present, making the match move along smoothly. Alex Shelley specifically, is on point, with everything he does looking so perfect. Alex Koslov is sporting a ridiculous mustache/sideburn combination. The Hooligans do a good job of cutting the ring in half. Tag team wrestling is all about depravation, and they made sure to build to the KUSHIDA hot tag. When he came in, it was fun, nearly resulting in a win for the Time Splitters. Both teams go in their signature stuff in a fine finishing stretch, before Rocky Romero beat KUSHIDA.
Really solid work from two solid teams. They both put in the effort and it made for a good match. I saw some good tag formula before they went into the faster paced stuff that kicked it up a notch.
The second match on the card, a six man tag where Bad Luck Fale, Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga beat Captain New Japan, Tomoaki Honma and Yuji Nagata, is unavailable on New Japan World for some reason, so I had to skip it.
The Killer Elite Squad, who seem to be the reigning NWA World Tag Team Champions, start hot. They beat up everyone in sight, picking apart both teams. It’s like, they were built for Japan because neither Lance Archer nor Davey Boy Smith Jr. really impressed me much in WWE and TNA. When things spill outside, Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka tape each guy to the guardrail, incapacitating them for a bit. The pairing of Iizuka and Yano is a fun blend of comedy and insanity. They take control, using every underhanded trick possible. From chairs to illegal chokes, they beat up the champions. Once the KES got free though, Yano and Iizuka scrambled out. They just continue to kick Tenkoji’s asses until the champions rally. They hit some trademark offense, including Kojima chops to both Yano and Iizuka after dumping KES. Yano starts hitting low blows shortly before Archer and Smith get back in and hit their finish on him. Yano has already taken out the official though. A few more false finishes come, including one on the Tenkoji Cutter, before Kojima levels Archer with a lariat to retain.
Well this was better than I thought it was going to be. I don’t see many three way matches in New Japan, but when I do, they’re usually well executed like this one. Each team got to do their thing, Yano and Iizuka were underhanded, the Killer Elite Squad looked like beasts and Tenkoji got the babyface comeback. A really well worked and fun bout. My main issue was that Archer ate the pin as I think it should have been someone from the other team.
I don’t have high hopes for this one. Early on, they play up the fact that Manabu Nakanishi has a major power advantage. He knocks down Rob Conway several times, doesn’t move on an Irish whip and kicks his ass with a variety of chops and clubs. Conway outsmarts him to gain the upper hand. His offense is pretty generic and Nakanishi isn’t really the best seller or bumper here. Nakanishi then blows my mind by doing a damn plancha out onto Conway. Nakanishi scores on a lariat and applies the torture rack but Conway gets free. Conway still eats a German, but when Nakanishi goes up top, he gets distracted by Bruce Tharpe, NWA President, at ringside. This allows Conway to hit the Ego Trip and retain.
Honestly, this was about as good as possible considering the guys involved. They kept it relatively short, which helped as the crowd was mostly into it. Outside of a few short spots, nothing about this was really that good, but it was inoffensive.
While I did my reviews of the G1 24, I saw Shelton X Benjamin against both of his opponents here, but I’ve never seen Minoru Suzuki against either. Both Suzuki vs. Shinsuke Nakamura and vs. Tomohiro Ishii sound like winner. Nakamura and Suzuki start off, with neither man grabbing an advantage or doing much. Ishii gets tagged and badly wants Suzuki. Like a good heel, Suzuki tags out to Benjamin, not in a cowardly way though. More like a “you’re not going to get what you want” way. Benjamin works him over but as he sends Ishii off the ropes, Ishii just nails Suzuki and goes outside to fight him. Suzuki gets back at him with an armbar over the ropes, while Benjamin gets in cheap shots on Nakamura outside. The Suzuki-Gun duo work the heat on Ishii, using their fair share of dirty tactics. Ishii just continues to go after Suzuki at every opening, even when Shelton is legal. Nakamura eventually gets the hot tag and starts beating on Suzuki. Shelton gets the tag shortly after and leaps to the top, hitting Nakamura with a superplex of sorts. Nakamura counters Paydirt into a backbreaker though. The Boma Ye is interrupted by a Suzuki sleeper. Suzuki looks for a Gotch piledriver but Ishii runs in with a lariat. Benjamin avoids the Boma Ye, wins a battle of kicks with Nakamura and gets the three with Paydirt.
A great tag team match that more than accomplished what it set out to. It built towards the Ishii/Suzuki feud while giving Benjamin a win over Nakamura, which would come in handy when Shinsuke got back the Intercontinental Title. Suzuki was the MVP here, doing everything masterfully. He sold, he worked Ishii’s arm, and he gave instructions to Shelton like a true stable leader should. Ishii going after him at every turn really sold the feud and the finishing stretch delivered.
I recently reviewed King of Pro Wrestling 2013, from about three months later, and it also featured this battle of former partners. Tetsuya Naito’s hair looks pretty ridiculous here. Yujiro Takahashi came out with some hot nurses and cut a promo before the bell. Naito is coming off a knee injury here, which was furthered after a Yujiro attack. Yujiro goes after it here, which was smart. He tries to use a chair but the referee stops him. Takahashi starts picking up near falls on a belly to belly suplex, an Olympic slam and a German. Naito is playing the resilient babyface well. Naito also survives the figure four before going into his comeback stretch. His stuff isn’t looking as crisp as it usually does, though that may have to do with the injury and ring rust. He does pick up the victory with the Stardust Press, gaining momentum before his eventual G1 win.
It seems like this was technically a fine match, but something just never clicked. Maybe it’s because I dislike Yujiro Takahashi so much and that coupled with a Naito that wasn’t on his game just messed things up. It’s like, they did stuff, but nothing about it spoke to me.
These two have a long history of friendship and as partners. They had a match a few months earlier that ended in a double knockout. Right at the bell, Hirooki Goto charges and lays out Katsuyori Shibata with a big lariat, setting the tone. Shibata turns the tide with some of his vicious kicks. He applies a figure four that sees Goto sit up and just lay into him with slaps. Shibata seems to urge him to hit harder. Shibata continues with hard strikes until Goto lifts him for a stalling back suplex. This leads to both guys hitting those on each other, getting up nearly instantly. Goto stops that with a lariat to the back of the head but before falling, Shibata gets in a Pele like kick. When both men get up, it’s an exchange of strikes. The final blows being stereo slaps that send both men to the mat. The fans applaud the fact that they can just stand up. Shibata hits a kick and headbutt that both sound incredible painful. The headbutt brings a double KO tease that the crowd comes alive for. Goto scores a near fall on a signature move that the fans bite on. Shibata now brings the big offense with a Death Valley Driver and then uses Goto’s own neckbreaker on him. The sleeper and Penalty Kick put Goto down for the count.
This is pretty much the Shibata special. Give this man 12-15 minutes and you’re almost guaranteed a tremendous hard hitting match. These guys know each other well enough for things to move along smoothly. The fact that both men were able to walk out after is amazing considering the sheer brutality of this match. There’s something about Shibata matches that just feel more real than anything else in wrestling. Seek this match out.
Prince Devitt has the gimmicked light up jacket that he’s known for. Hiroshi Tanahashi gets in his head immediately with some light up shades. Karl Anderson and Tama Tonga try to get involved almost instantly but Tanahashi knocks them off the apron. The Bullet Club regroups outside where they decide to go with distraction instead of interference. Devitt still can’t get the upper hand so Fale pulls him outside. Devitt goads Tanahashi into a chase outside, which obviously leads to a big clothesline from Fale. In control now, Devitt hits a dropkick outside to a seated Tanahashi. Back inside, Devitt continues to be in the driver’s seat, wearing down Tanahashi. Tanahashi deals with some more BC interference before getting in some of his own stuff, including a somersault senton for two. He nails High Fly Flow onto both Devitt and Fale, but he takes so long that it just comes off as dumb to see the heels stand there and wait. Inside, they trade strikes and moves, with neither man getting the advantage. Devitt hits a sick sounding diving double stomp but Tanahashi kicks out. Bloody Sunday also gets him a near fall before he misses another double stomp. It hurts more since Tanahashi did some dragon screws earlier. Tanahashi goes into a flurry, but has High Fly Flow prevented by Fale. Devitt hits a second Bloody Sunday and gets the biggest win of his career to this point.
Yea, there was a lot of interference, but there kind of had to be. Prince Devitt wasn’t going to beat Hiroshi Tanahashi cleanly, and with this still being the early stages of the Bullet Club, it helped to have them get involved in a match that had such a big outcome. The action in the ring was great and smartly worked in front of a hot crowd.
Stan Hansen is at ringside for this, sitting with the IWGP Title. He’s in the ring beforehand and Kazuchika Okada kind of just brushes past him like a total dick. They start with a feeling out process where Togi Makabe seems to be one step ahead of the champion. Okada does get an opening for the Rainmaker, but Makabe avoids it. Makabe beats on him outside for a bit, teaching the youngster a bit of a lesson. The fans are completely behind Makabe and are still just as hot as they were hours ago. Okada hit the Randy Orton hung DDT, but on the outside off the guardrail. Okada took control for a bit, but when Makabe started to turn the tide, he found a way to hit his signature elbow. He can’t hit the Rainmaker again though and Makabe hits three big lariats to take him down. Makabe misses the King Kong Knee Drop but ends up in the Red Ink, though he escapes. The fight ends up outside, where Makabe has decided to stop giving a fuck and powerbombs Okada through a table. Inside, he hits a second but the champion survives. He hits the Spider German but again misses the knee drop. He’s able to counter the Rainmaker again and scores on a dragon suplex. The near fall that he gets absolutely brings the crowd to their feet. Okada sucks a clothesline and finally hits the Tombstone, which had been well scouted like the Rainmaker throughout the match. The Rainmaker follows to end this.
I’ve seen these two wrestle one on one twice and both times it exceeded my expectations. They seem to work very well together. I appreciated that Makabe went with some actual wrestling early on, before going to his strong suit of brawling as the match progressed. They did a good job in making you believe Makabe would win even though you really knew he wouldn’t. Great capper.
After the match, Prince Devitt comes out on Bad Luck Fale’s shoulders and issues a challenge to Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Title. Okada would only accept if Devitt gives Gedo a Jr. Heavyweight Title shot and beats him. Also, if Gedo wins, he would get the shot. Devitt accepts the terms.
Overall: A strong recommendation here. There are three matches that I have at four or more stars (IWGP Title, Nakamura tag and Goto/Shibata), while there are two others that clock in at over 3.5 stars. That is enough to be a great show but you add in a fun three way tag and two other matches that aren’t bad and you’ve got yourself one of the better shows I’ve reviewed. Check out most of this as it’s an easy watch featuring some great matches and fantastic performances from top talent.