Tuesday, June 27, 2017

NJPW Kizuna Road Review

NJPW Kizuna Road
June 27th, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,544

It’s the final Kizuna Road show, which means the G1 Climax is right around the corner. After shows headlined by the NEVER Six Man and NEVER Openweight Titles, the last one is main evented by the sixth match between KUSHIDA and BUSHI in a year and a half. Despite happening a lot, that main event helped the show draw the highest attendance for an Kizuna Road show this year.

Shota Umino vs. Tetsuhiro Yagi
Yesterday, these two also opened the show and wrestled to a fun draw. They both worked the leg here, looking to set up the crab. Lots of back and forth stuff, showing how even they are at this stage in their career. Like yesterday, Yagi slapped on the crab, which he couldn’t get Umino to tap to. They used that as the drama builder here, with Umino coming close to giving up a few times. Umino fought back and trapped Yagi in the crab, but this time the bell sounded for another draw at 10:00. Nice way to twist on yesterday’s draw, with the other guy in peril at the bell. Though I like where they’re going with it, this wasn’t quite as energetic as yesterday’s. The crowd also wasn’t as excited for it. Still solid though. [**½]

Hirai Kawato and Tiger Mask IV vs. TAKA Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
At least it’s not Taichi and Kanemaru. They’re pretty much the bane of my existence. If you know these characters and I asked you how you thought a match involving them would go, this was basically it. Kawato was his usual wild self, leading to him getting jumped. The one surprise in the match was that they didn’t use a ton of cheating. Maybe not having Taichi in the match was helpful. Like almost every match he’s in, Kawato was the star. The crowd bit on his near falls again, before he tapped TAKA’s crossface at 8:59. An average match put slightly over the hump by Kawato. [**¼]

Jushin Thunder Liger and TenKoji vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Tomoyuki Oka and Yuji Nagata
Oka and five dads. I love it. Oka started for his guys and brought the expected energy. The dads seemed less involved today. I don’t think they phoned it in, but the effort just didn’t seem to be at the level it usually is. Nakanishi looked especially slow today and had a comically bad rapid fire chop sequence at one point. However, he did have the balls to take a superplex from Liger. I feel like I don’t see that move often in NJPW. Oka came close with a crab, but ultimately fell to a vicious Kojima lariat at 8:14. Not quite what I was hoping for. I like everyone involved, but they’ve all performed much better on recent shows. [**¼]

Katsuya Kitamura and Togi Makabe vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano
My goodness, Kitamura looked extra jacked today. It’s easy to forget that Yano and Ishii held the IWGP Tag Titles this year. Kitamura and Makabe started hot, before we got a fun exchange between Kitamura and Ishii. Makabe and Yano were much less interesting. After some unenthused back and forth, Makabe saved Kitamura and got some of his stuff in. Kitamura got left alone with Ishii and avoided a Brainbuster, but like Oka in the last match, lost to a lariat at 7:32. Inoffensive. Kitamura and Ishii brought some intensity, but Yano and Makabe seemed to go through the motions. [**]

During intermission, some G1 match announcements were made.

7/17: Ibushi vs. Naito and Tanahashi vs. Sabre Jr. (both sound great)
7/20: SANADA vs. EVIL and Suzuki vs. Omega (both should be good, unless Suzuki’s streak of lackluster matches continues)
7/21: Ibushi vs. Sabre Jr. and Naito vs. YOSHI-HASHI (again, sounds good)
7/22: Omega vs. Tonga and Suzuki vs. SANADA (second one could be a sleeper)
7/23: Ibushi vs. Ishii and Makabe vs. Goto (fuck the 2nd one, Ibushi/Ishii should be match of the tourney)
7/25: Yano vs. Omega and Okada vs. SANADA (neither sounds great. Okada/SANADA was solid but unspectacular both times last year)
7/26: Makabe vs. Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Goto (neither interests me)
7/27: Suzuki vs. EVIL and Elgin vs. Omega (1st sounds dope, 2nd had regressing singles matches last year)
7/29: Tanahashi vs. YOSHI-HASHI and Ishii vs. Naito (Ishii/Naito will never be excellent)
7/30: Kojima vs. Omega and Juice vs. Okada (both sounds awesome)
8/1: Nagata vs. Ishii and Tanahashi vs. Ibushi (yes, both sound rad)
8/2: Kojima vs. Suzuki and Omega vs. EVIL (I like the sound of it)
8/4: Naito vs. Sabre Jr. and Tanahashi vs. Makabe (I’m all for the first. 2nd has never been great to me)
8/5: Kojima vs. SANADA and Okada vs. EVIL (awesome)
8/6: Makabe vs. Naito and Tanahashi vs. Ishii (both sound cool)
8/8: Omega vs. SANADA and Okada vs. Suzuki (I’m all about that 1st match. 2nd could rule if it’s like their 2014 G1 match and suck if it’s like their New Beginning match)
8/11: Ibushi vs. Goto and Tanahashi vs. Naito (1st sounds solid, 2nd will be good but I’ve seen it enough in 2017)
8/12: Yano vs. Suzuki and Okada vs. Omega (1st bad, 2nd good)

David Finlay, IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champions EVIL and SANADA, Hiromu Takahashi and Tetsuya Naito
Some fans have their own version of Daryl, Hiromu’s stuffed cat. This had some of the fun we’ve come to know and love from these tag matches. They brought some twists of the usual spots. Yesterday, it was badass Makabe getting cornered but today, it was SANADA who turned around to find several Taguchi Japan members facing him. They tried tying him into a ball but failed. Juice took the first short heat, followed by Taguchi, which led to a hot tag for Tanahashi. SANADA put Finlay in Skull End near the finish, but Tanahashi made the save. Things broke down, with everyone getting involved. Finlay managed a rollup that the fans bit on but got put back in Skull End. He tapped at 13:24. Like I’ve said before, these are always entertaining. This wasn’t quite as good as yesterday’s or some of the ones on previous shows, but still good and the best thing on the show so far. [***¼]

Davey Boy Smith Jr., El Desperado, NEVER Openweight Champion Minoru Suzuki and Taichi vs. Gedo, Hirooki Goto, IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI
CHAOS vs. Suzuki-Gun has been one of the worst feuds of the year. Not just in NJPW, but all of wrestling. Suzuki-Gun jumped CHAOS before the bell because that’s all they’re booked to do. It’s so tiring. DBS is a welcome addition, as he’s fresh and talented. His interactions were basically the high point. YOSHI played the face in peril before Okada got the hot tag and got his shit in. Suzuki cut him off, teasing their upcoming G1 match, which I’m hoping redeems their last outing. Taichi accidentally hit Desperado at one point, making me think it would lead to the finish but it didn’t. Instead, Desperado got left alone with Gedo and bested him with Angel’s Wings at 12:35. Solid match that was one of the better in this rivalry. Considering the score it gets, that should tell you about the quality they’ve produced leading up to this. Give me more DBS and Desperado. [**¾]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: KUSHIDA (c) vs. NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Champion BUSHI
It was BUSHI who dethroned KUSHIDA at Destruction last year, ending his nine-month reign long before Hiromu Takahashi came around. As noted, this is their sixth meeting since last February. KUSHIDA holds a 3-2 edge, including two straight wins. The opening exchanges were fast and KUSHIDA targeted the arm. After some time outside, BUSHI took control, grounding KUSHIDA. You could tell they’ve met a bunch, because BUSHI had a lot of KUSHIDA’s signature stuff well scouted. KUSHIDA’s comeback was slow, but earned. When he applied the Hoverboard Lock, Hiromu Takahashi strolled down for a distraction. KUSHIDA mostly ignored it until a ref bump led to Hiromu getting involved. He hit the sunset flip bomb before Ryusuke Taguchi arrived. KUSHIDA beat the countout and kicked out of a destroyer. He also survived the mist and MX, before countering a second one and winning with Back to the Future at 19:21. A very good main event that wasn’t one of their better outings. Their BOTSJ match this year ruled as a straight singles match, while this one had some shenanigans sprinkled in. KUSHIDA survived a bit too much in the end too, as it felt like overkill. Despite that, it was still the best thing on the show and the fourth best of their matches. [***½]

Post-match, El Desperado showed up and broke a guitar over KUSHIDA’s head. Looks like Desperado/KUSHIDA is the next title program. Their BOTSJ match was solid and I hope it doesn’t involve too much Suzuki-Gun nonsense.

Overall: 4.5/10. Like yesterday’s show, I felt this was a middle of the pack event. It was rather flat and only had two matches I’d consider checking out. And even so, LIDJ/Taguchi Japan and BUSHI/KUSHIDA have had several matches that were better than these, so they aren’t must see. You can skip this show as the highlight was the G1 Climax announcements.