Wednesday, March 8, 2017
I made sure to note how much I like when New Japan runs shows away from Korakuen Hall. Of course, that’s where they were again on this night.
Nakanishi wearing shades to the ring will forever be cool. Kawato attacked Liger during introductions, not even allowing new Tag Team Champions TenKoji to get announced. He beat up Liger for a bit until getting hit with shotei. The veterans and Oka took turns teaching Kawato a lesson. That included Kojima chops in the corner. Finlay got tired of Kawato getting his ass kicked, so he dragged him to their corner to make him tag out. Taguchi did ass attacks and we got more Nakanishi/Oka like yesterday. Things broke down before Nakanishi made Oka submit to the torture rack. Nakanishi looked slower than usual here. I did enjoy Kawato being a dick, which gave it a slightly different feel to most NJPW openers.
After the match, Kawato went face to face with Liger again.
Fale paired off with Elgin, while Takahashi did so with Juice to preview their New Japan Cup matches. After everyone brawled, Juice took the heat. The crowd was firmly behind Juice as he fired up. Elgin got the tag and went at it with Fale. Their New Japan Cup match last year was solid. After they gave us a preview, Nagata and Loa came in. Nagata did his thing, which the fans ate up. Kevin Kelly noted that Nagata will replace Tomoaki Honma in the NJ Cup, facing Loa, so this was another preview. Nagata put him down with a flurry of offense that ended with the backdrop driver. This worked as a good preview to the New Japan Cup. Some good energy from everyone.
Sabre looked awesome with three titles around his waist. He started against Goto before Beretta attempted to gain some revenge after losing their titles. There was the typical brawling around the ring we’ve come to expect from Suzuki-Gun matches. Gedo got worked over for a while. Once that was over, we got more Goto vs. Sabre. It was easily the highlight as they went back and forth, with Sabre countering USHIGOROSHI into a Kimura. Goto fought that before Sabre countered GTR and pinned him with a prawn hold. Big way for Sabre to start his NJPW run. He looks like a star with three titles, a pin over Shibata and now a pin over the NEVER Champion. Sabre/Goto could be a fun title match if it happens. Not much outside of those two but they made up for the rest.
Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell because that’s what they do. After a short stint in the ring, things spilled outside. Suzuki took Shibata into the crowd and strangled him with a steel chair. He also got hit in the back with it, taking Shibata out of the mix for a while. That allowed Suzuki-Gun to work over Tiger Mask and even Togi Makabe. Shibata returned and got his hands on Suzuki. This section of the match ruled. Shibata beat the shit out of Suzuki and it was great. It led to them trading strikes, which I could watch forever. Minoru avoided the PK and Shibata countered the sleeper. The crowd loved all of it. When they were done, Smith took down Makabe but made the mistake of tagging in TAKA. Suzuki-Gun tried tandem offense but their opponents evened the odds. TAKA was left alone to fall to the King Kong Knee Drop. This was the quality jump the show needed. I’m not usually into TAKA, Togi or Tiger Mask but everyone brought fire to this and the interactions between Shibata and Suzuki ruled. It was violent and felt special.
This was a preview of two first round matches in the New Japan Cup. Yano/Tonga and Ishii/Omega. The latter sounds awesome and is only behind Shibata/Suzuki in terms of excitement. They had a great back and forth exchange to open this match, with Omega standing up to Ishii and using his brains to combat Ishii’s toughness. Yano and Tonga got tagged and Yano, as always, was scared of him. He ran away but got caught in between Omega and Tonga. They put a bucket on his head and Omega drummed on top of it. After a bit of Yano on the defensive, we were treated to more Omega/Ishii. Omega showed off his combination of power and athleticism but it wasn’t enough. It came down to Yano and Tonga. Yano did several low blows and ducked Omega to send him outside. Tonga hit him low and won with the Gun Stun. Better than I thought it would be. Yano and Tonga were wacky fun together, while Omega and Ishii gave us a sneak preview of what should be an excellent match in the tournament. Different from the rest of the show and I dig that.
During the press conference for the New Japan Cup, EVIL attacked Tanahashi. Here, Tanahashi surprisingly jumped EVIL before the bell in a measure of revenge. They brawled outside for a while and all of it was intense. Things moved inside, but only for a short while. Tanahashi was thrown over the guardrail, leaving KUSHIDA at the mercy of LIDJ. At one point, KUSHIDA found an opening but ran to an empty corner. Shortly after, Tanahashi was there and got the hot tag. He hit dragon screws galore on EVIL to wear him down. KUSHIDA and Takahashi then had some incredibly fast back and forth, reminding me of how great their Wrestle Kingdom match was. EVIL took out Tanahashi with the STO. KUSHIDA got left alone with Takahashi, who won via rollup. This set the stage for Tanahashi/EVIL and the eventual KUSHIDA/Takahashi rematch. KUSHIDA became the first guy to pin Hiromu since his return and it came at the end of a great match. Tanahashi’s exchanges with EVIL were intense, while the Jr.’s killed it.
Another NJPW show, another night where Naito gets a better reaction than Okada. For the first time since Okada took the Heavyweight Title from Naito at Dominion last year (still a bad decision in my eyes), they went at it to open this match. The crowd loved it. After their interaction, YOSHI and SANADA went at it. I can’t wait for their singles match. Naito and SANADA beat up Gedo, which I’ll never tire of. Rocky took the heat for a bit before tagging to Okada, who turned the tide. He went at it with Naito again, before they both tagged out. We got more SANADA/YOSHI stuff. Rocky ran wild but BUSHI cut him off. Things broke down and everyone went at it until Rocky was left with SANADA. Rocky got saved from Skull End once, countered it the second time and then had sliced bread reversed into a TKO for two. Skull End got applied again and this time, Rocky had to submit. Another great match to end the show. While we got a great battle between the promotion’s top two champions, the focus was more on YOSHI/SANADA, which is where it needed to be. Great action from bell to bell.
Overall: Unlike the previous day, this wasn’t meant to be a big show. It played like a “Road to New Japan Cup” event and in that way, it worked brilliantly. There was plenty to like, with the last four tag matches all being good to great and the three before it being solid at best. Most importantly, it added to my interest in tournament matches like Suzuki/Shibata, Omega/Ishii, SANADA/YOSHI, EVIL/Tanahashi and others.