Tuesday, June 7, 2016
So we’ve reached the finals. Thirteen shows in and the tournament has mostly been a success. David Finlay and Chase Owens proved to be solid substitutes (Finlay especially) and better than I think either of the Young Bucks in singles matches would have been. The finals aren’t what I expected or hoped for, but if they can deliver, it would cap off a good tournament that has been much better than the 2015 version.
In their seemingly never-ending series, Jay White holds a huge advantage in the win/loss category. Finlay did just best Gedo for his first tournament win and is riding some momentum after performing very well. Both guys came to fight, hitting each other with some loud sounding shots. I don’t know if the arena sounded different or it was watching it with headphones, but everything sounded louder and clearer. You felt some of the desperation in Finlay as his offense couldn’t keep Jay down. Him shouting “YOU’RE NOT BETTER THAN ME” in between forearm shots was great. Then, just as Finlay seemed to have things in hand, White pulled him into a small package and continued his winning streak over his fellow Young Lion. Just a great bit of storytelling. This was probably my favorite match between the two and I’ve really become a fan of both.
Was this the theme that Owens had for the entire BOTSJ? I’m pretty sure it would go silent for his entrance and I would have remembered the theme because it was pretty good. Anyway, this was a match featuring four of the most uninteresting competitors in all of NJPW. I basically got what I expected here. Some mostly dull heel work from the lower tier Bullet Club members, Yoshitatsu doing his shitty Triple H impersonation and Captain New Japan ate the pin. Takahashi hit a low blow and Miami Shine to win. Let’s move along, this didn’t matter and was lame.
THE NEW JAPAN DADS! Here we had a continuation of the rivalry between Shibata and Nagata, which will see them in a singles match at Dominion. Surprisingly, Juice and Nakanishi have had some fun back and forth in recent tag matches like this and it happened here again. Juice tried to go toe to toe with him, but was clearly overmatched. Of course, the interaction between Shibata and Nagata was top notch and the best thing about this match. Nakanishi did help steal the show with a flying cross body. Anyway, after help from a Juice superkick, Shibata put down Nakanishi with the sleeper and Penalty Kick. Fun match here that helped get me more interested in Shibata/Nagata in a few weeks.
Tenzan and Ishii have been having some pretty hard hitting interactions in multi-man tags recently, while reDRagon and Roppongi Vice have met a ton in NJPW’s incredibly small junior tag division. Tenzan’s theme getting played instead of reDRagon’s made me sad. O’Reilly looked for some revenge for the previous night’s loss and called out Romero to start against. It was a small thing but I appreciated it. The crowd popped hard for Ishii and Tenzan going at it. Hopefully they get a singles match at Dominion or at least a match in the G1 this year. I dug that Ishii felt like the leader of the team, which is a role he doesn’t assume often. He and Fish had some backstory since Fish took the ROH Television Title from him. Kyle got some of the best revenge on Rocky as he pinned him after Chasing the Dragon. I thought this was good, as every interaction entertained me. The thought of O’Reilly bulking up for the heavyweight division sounds tremendous.
Well this should be fun. Almost everybody got a chance to work with everyone and it ruled at times. Volador and Ricochet had a fantastic exchange early on. Having just about nine minutes was a good thing. It allowed them to not overdo anything and pack a lot of action into the timeframe. It moved at a frantic pace, which played to the strengths of pretty much everyone involved. It is too hard to mention many of the spots because they just came so fast. Ricochet and Volador went back and forth in the end and Ricochet beat him after hitting the 630. Fast paced fun and definitely worth a look. I’d like to see Volador come back for more dates down the line.
After the match, all six men raised each other’s hands. When everyone left, reDRagon showed up. Bobby Fish said that they never got beaten for and they want a shot at the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. Kyle O’Reilly issued the challenge, speaking Japanese for some of it to a major pop. That sounded fine, but Roppongi Vice came out, stating they still had a rematch from losing the belts recently. Ricochet agreed to a triple threat tag at Dominion. It’s the typical NJPW multi-team clusterf*** booking of the juniors division. Sydal and Ricochet against reDRagon would have been better. Of course, there was a brawl between all six men as well. It’s pretty much formulaic at this point.
I’ve heard some people say that they don’t want Kojima, Nagata and Tenzan in the G1 Climax this year and that just makes me sad. Kojima is my dude. Most Bullet Club things have been pretty boring on recent shows, with only Omega being of slight interest. Michael Elgin has been campaigning for another shot at the Intercontinental Title and wants to take the injured Hiroshi Tanahashi’s spot in the ladder match at Dominion. So far, Omega has refused. Kojima lighting up both Fale and Omega with chops was possibly my highlight. That was until the ladder came into play. Elgin suplexed Omega off of it and broke it by powerbombing him through it. A second powerbomb gave him the win in a match that was probably the most enjoyable involving the Bullet Club of the entire BOTSJ tour. The crowd popped for everything involving the ladder as well.
Post-match, Elgin held the Intercontinental Title and laid it in the ring. Omega finally accepted the challenge and the ladder match is on.
It’s hard to find new things to say about these matches. They always deliver as the chemistry and animosity between the two teams just clicks. If you want to encapsulate what makes their stuff great, this is probably the best match to point to for that. They benefitted from the short time, like the six man tag earlier, and packed a lot of action into it. EVIL and Goto continue to go to war each time they see each other, while SANADA and YOSHI-HASHI continued their little rivalry. Okada and Naito gave us a preview of their Dominion title match, which was a blast. After that, Gedo went up against BUSHI, who he beat on night one of the tournament. He nearly got beaten the same way again, but SANADA made the save. BUSHI hit the diving Codebreaker and got the big win for his guys. These eight men had possibly the best tag involving the two factions, which is saying something.
There was a brawl after the bell, which we’ve grown accustomed to with these guys. Tomohiro Ishii showed up to help, but got misted by BUSHI. Okada laid out BUSHI with the Tombstone before staring a hole through Naito. Naito got into save him from the Rainmaker and basically told Okada “tranquillo.”
My least favorite A Block guy against my favorite B Block guy. KUSHIDA joined commentary for the match. My main gripe with Taguchi in this tournament is that his best matches are when he keeps the ass stuff to a minimum and that was the case here. He did do his trademark “on his head, ass out” taunt, which Ospreay hilariously stole after outmaneuvering him. Taguchi has used the ankle lock well in this tournament, so softening up Ospreay’s leg was a wise move. Credit to Ospreay who, like in his match against KUSHIDA, showed a great understanding of how to sell the work done to a limb. Taguchi also came off great with some of the vicious stomps and attacks on the leg. It was fantastic to see Ospreay alter his offense in an effort to sell. He springboarded off of his good leg only and it was just perfect. Taguchi threw in a tribute to Shinsuke Nakamura with Boma Ye and like Nakamura, didn’t win with it. Taguchi catching the Oscutter into an ankle lock was definitely one of the highlights of the match. Ospreay hit an imploding 450 splash for a very close near fall before winning with the Oscutter. Not quite on the MOTY level for me like some people are saying, this was still easily the best work I’ve seen of Taguchi. It lacked some drama since, though he won his block, I never believed Taguchi would win. Still, a great end to a good tournament that was better than it had any right to be.
Overall: It’s fitting that the score I gave most of the tournament, a seven out of ten, is what I went with for the finals. The main event was far better than I expected and really made the show. The Los Ingobernables/Chaos tag was the second best thing and the rest of the show featured mostly good matches. The only thing that I would consider bad was the second match. Everything else is an easy watch.