Sunday, March 26, 2017

NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis Review

NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis
March 26th, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,743

I wish NJPW would keep the Korakuen Hall shows to the bigger “Road to” events. This one doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

Bad Luck Fale def. Tomoyuki Oka in 1:14
Though he’s a young lion, Oka’s probably already better than Fale. Fale threw him around but Oka had a hope spot or two. Fale wasn’t trying to work a lengthy match though and finished quickly with the Grenade. I like Oka, but this was fine and different. NR

Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka) def. Hirai Kawato, Jushin Thunder Liger and Tiger Mask IV in 10:38
Young lions run to the ring, and the second Kawato slid in, Suzuki-Gun jumped him. Surprisingly, it didn’t lead to the typical Suzuki-Gun ringside brawl. Maybe they’re saving it for later. Kawato got his ass handed to him here. At one point, Liger saved him and slapped him around, basically telling him to wake the hell up. Tiger Mask eventually got the hot tag, which is less fun than Liger getting it. Thankfully, Liger came in shortly after and worked his magic. The finishing stretch was rather hot, with Iizuka bringing a chair into play and Kawato picking up a few near falls. Kawato is a young lion though, so he eventually fell to El Desperado’s finisher. Better than I expected. Suzuki-Gun have been a big group of suck since their return but Kawato being a wild man and Liger playing angry dad made this fun. **¾

IWGP Tag Team Champions TenKoji and Togi Makabe def. David Finlay and War Machine in 9:10
This was here to build towards TenKoji vs. War Machine at Sakura Genesis. That’s far and away the most interesting IWGP Tag Team Title match in years. Finlay and War Machine did their best Suzuki-Gun, attacking before the bell. You know Makabe on these “Road to” shows. Minimal effort and bumping. He might as well not have been there. Tenzan took the heat, with War Machine doing several heel things. They didn’t get booed much though since they’re popular and they’re teaming with a babyface. We got highlights of the tandem offense that makes War Machine so good. Hanson mistakenly took out Rowe with a dive, leaving Finlay to take the Koji Cutter and lariat. I enjoy everyone in the match except Makabe and this was good. It protected both tag teams and made me want to see their singles match more. **¾

Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki and IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) def. CHAOS (Gedo, NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto and Jado) in 11:56
While the IWGP Tag Title match at Sakura Genesis sounds fun, the Jr. Tag Title match sounds dreadful. Guess how this starts? With the sneak attack and ringside brawl. You’d think they’d get tired of working the same match so often. Suzuki beat up Goto in the crowd. I suspect that Goto beats Zack Sabre Jr. at Sakura Genesis and then gets Suzuki for the title. The only joy I found in this match was watching Suzuki abuse Jado and some of the Suzuki/Goto interactions. In the end, the Jr. Tag Champions used Taichi’s microphone stand and a title belt before Kanemaru hit the diving DDT to win. Typical stuff from these guys. That upcoming Tag Title match is gonna suck. *¾ 

CHAOS (Beretta, Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano) def. The Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Kenny Omega and Yujiro Takahashi) in 12:46
Seeing this made me realize how little the Bullet Club is doing at Sakura Genesis. Not that I mind, since the group is BEYOND stale and the only one I care to see anymore is Omega. Since this wasn’t building to anything specific, it truly felt like filler. Chase Owens did look motivated though, probably happy to be back in NJPW for the first time in 2017. Omega was in his “I don’t care” gear, so we got the expected effort from him. Beretta took the heat and sold rather well. Ishii got the hot tag and was his usual awesome self. We got some fun interactions between Yano and Omega, leading to Yano getting beaten up. In the end, Yano was Yano and used a low blow and rollup to beat Owens. About what you’d expect here. Only Owens and Ishii seemed interesting in working and while it wasn’t bad, it was kind of just there. **½

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA, Manabu Nakanishi and Ryusuke Taguchi def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito) in 12:16
Tanahashi and lads against LIDJ are fun matches but we can only see them so many times. The legitimate matches the feud spawns are great (Tanahashi/Naito, Naito/Elgin, SANADA/Tana, EVIL/Tana, Taguchi/Hiromu, Hiromu/KUSHIDA, etc.) but it means we get the same tag combinations. I’d have loved if we got Naito/Juice at Sakura Genesis. LIDJ attacked before the bell because it must happen at least twice a show in Gedo’s world. They did a lot of the stuff we’ve become accustomed to here. Taguchi ass offense, Takahashi and KUSHIDA giving us a preview of Sakura Genesis, Naito and Juice being fun, etc. After most guys got involved in a barrage of offense, it came down SANADA and Juice, which is a match I’d be interested in. Juice escaped Skull End and won with Pulp Friction. On the lesser end of the spectrum of their matches. We’ve seen it a ton and replacing Elgin with Nakanishi at this point doesn’t help. **¾

LIDJ jumped the faces after the match.

Katsuyori Shibata and Yuji Nagata def. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI in 17:39
I love Shibata and Nagata and I like YOSHI-HASHI. This served as a preview for Okada/Shibata at Sakura Genesis. They kicked things off but kept it light, leading to YOSHI against Nagata. Their G1 match last year was good. It was fine this time around too but clearly everyone wanted Shibata and Okada. Their next interaction was a bit more heated but still didn’t give too much away, which is the right way to go. I dug how it progressed, with Shibata coming in and just booting Okada off the apron. Annoyed, Okada slid in and they exchanged blows. Of course, Okada can’t hit nearly as hard and got put in the sleeper. YOSHI broke it up but ended up in one himself. The PK finished him off, giving Shibata more momentum. A good main event. It was nothing great but accomplished the goal of hyping Shibata/Okada. ***

After the match, Okada and Shibata had a stare down.

Overall: 4.5/10. Not one of the better “Road to” shows. Only the Jado & Gedo tag was something I’d consider reasonably bad but the rest of the show is either bland or stuff we’ve seen before for the most part. The only thing of real interest was TenKoji against War Machine and the Shibata/Okada interactions. Only one match clocked in at three stars.

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