Sunday, August 13, 2017
One year ago today, Kenny Omega and Tetsuya Naito met for the first time ever, to determine the B Block winner. Omega won a classic, leaving me bitter. I’m a massive Naito fan who wasn’t sold on Omega (he’s since won me over). I was so upset that I skipped last year’s finals, except for a badass NOAH vs. NJPW tag. However, I’m here this year for the Omega/Naito rematch, this time to determine the winner of the whole thing. Both won excellent matches over the past two nights to get here. Would the trend continue?
Desperado stole KUSHIDA’s Jr. Heavyweight Title yesterday and wore it around his neck here. Taichi’s girl mounted Liger in the corner, so he spanked her while everyone brawled. Luckily, the main exchange saw Desperado and KUSHIDA go at it. I enjoyed their BOTSJ match and am looking forward to a Jr. Heavyweight Title bout. Kawato begged to get in the ring and got a big pop once he did. I love that little dude. His near falls all got great reactions. The day he gets one is gonna be nuts. Sadly, Kanemaru and Taichi put him away with Deep Impact at 6:06. Solid fun in this one. They kept the usual Suzuki-Gun BS to a minimum, the Desperado/KUSHIDA stuff delivered and Kawato is a wild man.
The brawling continued, mainly between KUSHIDA and Desperado, who took things through the crowd.
THE NEW JAPAN DADS! Nagata still had on his ripped shirt. Things spilled outside early, keeping to the G1 formula even in our tags. Once back inside, Nagata took a heat segment until applying a crossface on Loa. He’s probably still pissed at having to work Loa in the New Japan Cup. Man, that match sucked. Nakanishi got a mild tag and wasn’t moving at his best. It was a slow night for him. He and Nagata worked stereo submissions that weren’t enough to get the job done. In the end, Nakanishi got isolated and Loa beat him with a modified tombstone in 7:40. Apparently, that move is called Apeshit. Nothing special here. Just gave Nagata one last chance to bow out, while giving the Guerrillas a win.
Goto and HASHI feel like the step kids of CHAOS, don’t they? I know Goto had a NEVER Title reign this year, but he’s kind of just there at this point. Finlay and HASHI had some solid back and forth, before Goto and Makabe did their thing. Like their G1 match, it wasn’t bad, it just didn’t do much. Surprisingly, they worked a hot tag spot to Finlay, who did quite well. Could he be moving towards the heavyweight division? Even if it’s just for tags, he could be an interesting replacement for Honma if he can’t go anymore. Finlay got put in the Butterfly Lock, but Makabe made the save. Finlay got a near fall with a cradle, but HASHI bested him with Karma in 6:33. Solid, but unspectacular.
This might’ve been my favorite Mao entrance ever. Yujiro should just always have her with him. The Bullet Club did the expected pre-match attack, but had it turned around on them rather quickly. Tenzan ended up taking the heat segment. His tag to Kojima led to the rapid-fire chops and some of Kojima’s usual spots. Fale cut him off, but Kojima fought back and gave Juice a legitimate hot tag. The crowd loved everything he did to Yujiro and Owens. Things broke down as TenKoji hit their 3D on Yujiro. Owens got left alone with Juice, who blocked a gut buster and rocked him with a left hand. Pulp Friction connected for the win in 7:18. That was quite fun. Juice and TenKoji are a team I’d love to see face BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA for the NEVER Tag Titles.
Commentary fawned over the Young Bucks, calling them the best team alive (I have the Revival, South Pacific Power Trip and several other teams ahead) and going as far to say possibly the best ever. Ha. Poor Ricochet can’t find a steady partner. Matt Sydal couldn’t STAY OFF THE WEED, while his short-lived (but hella fun) team with David Finlay ended out of nowhere. This Taguchi Japan tandem has potential, though. Lots of quick work to start, playing to the strengths of the Bucks and Ricochet. Ricochet missed a kick, hitting the post and the Bucks powerbombed Taguchi on the apron to take full control. They isolated Taguchi and even when Ricochet got his hot tag, he didn’t do his usual springboard stuff. He sold the knee. When he tagged Taguchi back in, we got FOREVER ass attacks. The Bucks built to setting up the Sharpshooter and did a cool spot where Ricochet reached the ropes, only for Nick to hit a swanton on his back to break his grip. The challengers escaped stereo Sharpshooters and Ricochet got his knees up on More Bang For Your Buck (while still selling). They cut off the Meltzer Driver and Taguchi hit Dodon. Ricochet gingerly hit the SSP and we got new champs at 15:13. Better than I expected. I appreciate the Bucks’ recent efforts to change their style. This and their matches at WK & Dominion showed an ability to work more than their typical style. Good focus on a body part and selling, with some good hope spots. It’s just hard to get fully into in Jr. Tag Title matches due to the constant swapping, so there wasn’t much emotional investment.
During intermission, a commercial ran for Wrestle Kingdom 12. Then, the place erupted as Katsuyori Shibata’s music played. For the first time since his epic IWGP Heavyweight Title match with Kazuchika Okada on April 9th, “THE GOD, I MEAN THE WRESTLER” came out. He even took a back bump in the ring! He told the crowd, “I’m alive, that is all.” Very emotional stuff, fitting of Shibata’s persona. AND THAT TAKEOVER SHIRT! I absolutely love Shibata, but he’s in the Daniel Bryan boat for me. I’d rather they never wrestle again and live healthy lives (like Edge, for example) than get back in the ring and really mess themselves up.
A strange video aired before returning, showing an unidentified man with a knife. Interesting. Last year we got something similar and it led to Hiromu Takahashi. If this gives us something half as good, it’ll be awesome.
Well, this is quite the ROH match. Though Cody has only lost one match in NJPW (to Okada, no less), it felt like they didn’t have a real chance. War Machine have gained a lot of popularity since Japanese fans love their monster gaijins, while Page hasn’t been presented as anything worthwhile. The heels took control early, but War Machine’s combination of size and athleticism proved to be too much. Page impressed with two vicious German suplexes on Rowe, while Cody fought with Hanson outside. Page nearly killed himself with the apron SSP at one point. Hanson eventually nearly won with the moonsault, but Cody snuck Page’s foot on the bottom rope. It didn’t last much longer, as Fallout ended things in 16:19. This went a bit too long and with nobody buying Cody and Page as possible winners, it lacked a lot of drama. War Machine are fun enough to make up for that somewhat, though.
Post-match, the Guerrillas of Destiny showed up. Tama Tonga took FOREVER to basically say they wanted their titles back. This division has no variety. Can they just book War Machine vs. TenKoji on every show? To potentially save us, THE KILLER ELITE SQUAD returned and took out both teams, before holding up the titles. KES vs. War Machine ruled in ROH and NOAH two years ago, and should do the same again.
Suzuki-Gun has been wildly disappointing in 2017, but Minoru and Sabre are the best they have. DBS and Desperado, too. The Suzuki-Gun guys jumped the faces before the bell. How are more faces not expecting that by now? There was brawling outside, focused on Minoru using a chair on Elgin, while Tanahashi and Sabre did battle. Other than Iizuka, the in-ring competition was strong, it just didn’t happen often enough. Lots of SG BS, which was mostly absent in the fun opener. TAKA, Taichi and Kanemaru all got involved, sending this into shenanigans overdrive. There was a solid Ibushi/Suzuki interaction that was arguably the highlight. Eventually, it all led to Sabre making Tanahashi tap out for the second time on this tour at 13:42. Sabre’s attack on the arm throughout was cool, as was Ibushi/Suzuki. They did alright to set up Elgin/Suzuki down the line, too. Too much Suzuki-Gun trash ruined something that had potential. Go figure.
After the match, Elgin and Suzuki brawled, while Sabre held the IC Title. I’m guessing Sabre/Tanahashi and Suzuki/Elgin at the Destruction shows next month.
OH MY GOD! DARYL IS BACK! SHIBATA AND DARYL IN ONE NIGHT! MY EMOTIONS! Now that I’ve collected myself, onto the match. Okada wanted revenge on EVIL for beating him in the G1, so he called him out to start. It continued to be costly for Okada, who just went to war less than 24 hours ago. He still couldn’t nip up and EVIL targeted the neck. I don’t like that Okada is going to be the longest reining IWGP Champion ever, but I do like the story being told with the reign. LIJ took turns on him until he tagged in Yano. Eventually, everyone got some shine and it made for great interactions. The CHAOS/LIDJ tags in 2016 were a highlight and this was no different. We got the big move barrage late, leading to EVIL and Okada fighting outside. Hiromu locked Gedo in a triangle to make him tap in 10:32. Glad Hiromu got the win, regaining some momentum after suffering some losses since Dominion. Daryl’s back and so is he. Good fun, though not on the level of some of their stuff last year.
To add to everything, EVIL planted Okada with Darkness Falls onto a pile of chairs. IT GOT “EVIL” CHANTS! I love you LIDJ!
Their G1 match last year was the MOTY for a lot of people. I have it at a sexy ****½. Coming into this, Naito’s average rating in this tournament is 3.52 stars, while Omega is at 3.25. The crowd was pumped from the start. Naito was tranquilo to start, avoiding a grapple. Kenny returned the favor, but grew frustrated when Naito was a step ahead. Naito targeted the neck, which is something he’s done lately to set up Destino. I loved Naito faking Omega out by seemingly going for his tranquilo taunt, only to hit a suicide dive. Like he learned from last year. It led to a wild PILEDRIVER ON A TABLE spot. Usually, I’d be against something like that coming so early in a match, but with the table not breaking and Omega only hitting the edge, it made sense that he’d be able to beat the countout. Inside, Omega had Naito scouted and focused on the injured shoulder. Thankfully, he continued to sell the neck, even when on offense. Both men took an absurd amount of damage. The slow motion replays on some of the bumps were sickening. Naito took a rough bump when dropped on the turnbuckle, but kicked out of a V-Trigger. Omega delivered a DDT into the ring post that legitimately made me concerned for Naito’s health. It looked nasty. Then, Naito fucking countered a super bomb with a super rana in midair. I lost my mind. He followed with a super reverse rana for a near fall. Turning back the clock, Naito went for the Stardust Press, but missed. Naito’s kickout timing is unreal, evidenced by the Jay Driller near fall. Omega hit the best V-Trigger he ever has, but it still wasn’t enough. The first One Winged Angel attempt got countered to a reverse rana and Naito hit Destino from out of nowhere. Omega survived, tried the One Winged Angel and had that countered into an awesome Destino! Both men were down and traded exhausted slaps until Naito hit a spinning Destino. That still wasn’t enough. Another one finally kept Omega down at 36:35. Incredible. Better than the Okada/Omega series. Better than Naito/Tanahashi. They went long, but the pace was absurd and everything mattered. No fluff. There was a sense of urgency that you want from a match as important as this. The neck and shoulder work was brutal, smart and the crowd was crazy hot throughout. If I had one issue, it was how many Destinos it took to win. I’d have ended it on the spinning one. It usually takes Naito two or three though, so I guess four in a match like this wasn’t too bad. Does that mean it’s gonna take 12 to beat Okada? Either way, this is my new MOTY and I’m probably bumping Ibushi/Naito down since it wasn’t on this level.
Post-match, Naito was handed the trophy and teased throwing it outside, but decided against it. Chono handed him the G1 flag and fist bumped Naito, which got a pop out of me. The rest of LIDJ joined him in the celebration, which was a big deal to me. Usually guys celebrate alone, but Naito’s few friends are too important to him.
Fantasy booking here, but this is what I’d do if Omega stuck around. Naito dethrones Okada at WK 12, holds the title for a year and loses it to Omega at WK 13. Hold off on the Omega/Naito tiebreaker until then. It could be truly special, would allow Naito a lengthy reign and give Omega another year of quality performances under his belt.
Overall: Like a lot of NJPW shows, this had a bit too underwhelming of an undercard to be a show of the year contender. That being said, it was still a strong four hour show, which you don’t often get. They used it to setup a lot going forward. Tanahashi/Sabre, Elgin/Suzuki, Desperado/KUSHIDA and EVIL/Okada were all built towards, while we got the return of KES to help out the tag division. The emotion of Shibata’s appearance added a lot to make this show memorable. The Tag Title matches were good, but it’s too hard to fully care about those divisions. As always, though, the last G1 show is about the finals and this one delivered. I may have gone a bit high because of my love for Naito, but it was excellent. Both are in the conversation for best in the world.