Friday, January 5, 2018
It’s NJPW’s equivalent to the Raw after WrestleMania. New Year Dash tends to kick off the year. It usually features a bunch of multi-man matches and some major angles. Two years ago, Kenny Omega and the Bullet Club turned on AJ Styles, which set Kenny on the run to the top that he’s been on ever since. Last year, Suzuki-Gun returned to the company. That went less well.
The Young Lions against the Dads. The lions jumped them before the bell, showing that they wouldn’t be intimidated. From there, things evened out, with the veterans all getting a chance to do their thing. Yagi slapped Nagata at one point, causing some BLUE JUSTICE to run wild on his ass. The lions had a few shots at winning with Boston crabs and Umino got two on a solid German on Kojima. Kojima paid him back with a huge lariat to win in 7:09. Your standard tag involving these guys. The dads get to pop the crowd and be their awesome selves, while the lions continue to learn and improve.
It’s been a year since Suzuki-Gun returned. The only ones I’m happy to have are Desperado and Minoru. Zack Sabre Jr. as well, but he came along later. Kawato is wild, and he hit the ring too soon, getting jumped by Suzuki-Gun. It’s interesting that Henare now has gear, seemingly graduating from young lion status. SG used all their usual tricks, with Henare taking the heat. Makabe got the hot tag and the faces got some stuff going from there. Kawato ended up alone in the end, and lost to Desperado’s Pinche Loco at 8:49. Not as annoying as most Suzuki-Gun matches. Most importantly, Henare looked fine and Kawato continued to impress.
Post-match, Iizuka used his iron glove to knock out Kawato, who was carried to the back.
The winner of the Young Lion Cup, Katsuya Kitamura, embarks on a series of trial matches that starts here. Kitamura was too strong for Jay to start, so he went after the knee, which was already wrapped up coming into this. Jay looked more at home with his stuff here than at WK. He was more aggressive, his offense looked better, and he hit on the little things he needed to. Kitamura got worn down for a while, before using that power in his comeback. Jay blocked a suplex and pulled Kitamura into a crossface. He added elbows, before hitting the Blade Runner to win in 7:31. Though the WK match was better, this was a better showing for White. He looked a bit more comfortable in the role. The match saw solid back and forth stuff. I hope Kitamura doesn’t get sent on excursion. I can’t imagine there’s anything he could learn from a run in ROH or CMLL right now.
Omega had his head and ribs bandaged. Matt was also worn down, so they made Nick do most of the work. We did eventually get to a Cheeseburger/Omega interaction, which got a nice little pop from the crowd. Seeing Cheeseburger do the Kojima chops to all three opponents was great. Of course, it led to him eating a trio of superkicks. Roppongi 3K hit some crisp, before the Cheeseburger train got going again. He’s a blast. Unfortunately for him, he got caught on a cross body and beaten with a popup Indytaker at 11:19. Fun little comedy match. The Bucks weren’t nearly as annoying as they usually are and Cheeseburger was a riot. I totally get them going the comedy route, especially Kenny, taking a night off after a physically demanding WK12.
Kota is an honorary Taguchi Japan member tonight. Brandi joined commentary for this and didn’t struggle as much as I expected. Juice brought fire to his early exchanges. I hope he wins some kind of title this year. Kota had some fun getting involved in the Taguchi Japan antics. It was a bit strange to see back to back matches with a comedy element. KUSHIDA got the hot tag run and had some solid interactions with everyone, even the limited Leo Tonga. Scurll had a great Indian death lock counter by grabbing KUSHIDA’s fingers to snap them. Their exchange was fun, leading to tags to Kota and Cody. After a bit of that, Finlay came in. Brandi got on the apron to distract him, allowing Cody to hook the American Nightmare and make him tap in 13:20. Some good natured fun and fine action. The stuff involving Kota, KUSHIDA, Cody, Juice and Scurll were best.
Things got interesting in the aftermath. An angry Cody attacked Kota Ibushi. Juice tried to make the save, but ate Cross Rhodes. Cody directed Bullet Club traffic and brought a chair into play. However, Kenny Omega hit the ring and took the chair from Cody. The fans erupted as he got into a shoving match with Cody to save his buddy Kota. LOUD “Kenny” chants. Cooler heads prevailed and Cody left the ring. Kenny remained in the ring and said he was sick of the infighting within the Bullet Club. He said they haven’t been united in a long time and they need to be number one. Kenny called out Jay White to offer him a spot in the Bullet Club. Jay accepted and put on the Bullet Club shirt. BUT WAIT! Jay turned on Kenny and dropped him with the Blade Runner. He said he’s taking Kenny’s title and exited the ring before the BC returned. Lots going on here. The official Kenny babyface turn will be huge, White has another high profile program, the Bullet Club issues continue and the Kenny/Kota stuff was great. I like Jay not joining the group. Everyone’s in a stable, so I like someone wanting to be on his own.
These titles changed hands on this show last year. In fact, there have been 16 reigns in the title’s two year history, and that’s with LIJ holding them for 228 days. This went the way you’d expect. Yano was Yano, getting into some wacky exchanges with Fale and Tama Tonga. Ishii, even though he looked unhappy to be there, put in the effort for his run in the match. He got to hit Fale with a German, which was the highlight. Beretta became the legal man for the finish. He went for the Dudebuster, but Tonga nailed him with the Gun Stun to give us new champions at 14:40. Too long for what it was. The action didn’t deliver the way it did in other matches. Also, while I’ve given up on concerning myself with the title changes, I do question Beretta taking the loss right after the high from last night. That’s what Yano’s for.
Minoru got a BALD HEAD. Minoru jumped Tanahashi during introductions to kick start this. I assume he’s jealous of Tanahashi’s hair. The match saw War Machine battle KES, while Sabre and Elgin got several moments together. The fans just weren’t buying into Elgin’s stuff anymore. I guess news travel over in Japan, too. Minoru focused on Tanahashi throughout. Either he went after him in the ring, or at ringside. It was like he made it his mission to destroy Tanahashi. The Killer Bomb put Hanson down for the finish at 11:36. This had some solid action, though it was nothing you need to see.
What does need to be seen a bit more, was the post-match stuff. Suzuki trapped Tanahashi in a knee bar and made his intentions for the Intercontinental Title clear. If they keep the Suzuki-Gun stuff away, this should be awesome. I have their 2012 Heavyweight Title match at *****.
Big ovation for Naito, who might be Teflon at this point. And no, just because he remains over as hell, doesn’t mean it was a good decision for him to lose at WK12. Anyway, when you get CHAOS vs. LIJ, you’re almost always guaranteed one hell of a show. They delivered again here. Naito and Okada had some good exchanges with a hot crowd, but the stuff involving everyone else was rad. YOSHI did his best to pick up an upset over the tired Naito, but he couldn’t muster it. Everyone got their stuff in and they’ve met so often that is all came off very crisp. They did a strong job teasing Goto/EVIL and Hiromu/Ospreay. In the end, Naito beat YOSHI with Destino after 13:51. He gets a win back but it doesn’t mean much considering he lost at WK. The match itself was a very good main event.
After the match, SANADA choked out Kazuchika Okada. Tetsuya Naito got the show closing promo and his buddies left him alone to bask in the crowd’s response. However, Chris Jericho ran in and attacked him. The young lions and wrestlers from the back had to break up the fight. Naito threatened to throw a chair out at Jericho, but instead just sat down and taunted him to get back in the ring. Looks like they’re next in line for one another.
Overall: For the most part, this show worked to serve exactly the purpose it needed to. Most of the matches were fine, with the main event being the highlight. However, it succeeded in setting things up going forward. Naito/Jericho, Okada/SANADA, EVIL/Goto, Hiromu/Ospreay, Tanahashi/Suzuki and Omega/White were all set up here, while they also furthered the Omega stories with Cody and Ibushi. Not as newsworthy as the past two years, but a fun show.