Friday, February 2, 2018
NJPW’s set of shows running alongside Royal Rumble weekend continues. NXT handily won night one, but NJPW has two high profile matches here, instead of just one like yesterday. The Jr. Tag Titles (okay, maybe not so high profile) and US Titles are on the line.
Young Lion Cup Winner Kitamura is 0-2 on this series so far (I expect an 0-7 or 1-6 finish), losing to Jay White and Michael Elgin. Last night was a power based battle, but Kitamura had the clear advantage in that category here. Juice had to use his quickness, explosiveness, and strikes to combat it all. Kitamura came close once or twice, while showing the ability to survive some of Juice’s best shots. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t kick out of Pulp Friction, losing in 9:16. About as good as the Elgin outing. Kitamura continues to look a bit more competitive each time, while Juice gains some momentum before the New Japan Cup.
Juice helped Kitamura up after the match in a show of respect.
Taguchi hugged on Taichi’s woman, which triggered the traditional Suzuki-Gun jumping to start a match. Liger went a bit Shotei crazy after, making up for the lame start. Suzuki-Gun still used their usual underhanded tactics. They spent their time trying to unmask their opponents and cheating. Liger was game and Umino brought a fair amount of energy to this. He nearly beat Taichi with La Magistral. That would’ve been cool, but we know how the Young Lion life is. Taichi bested him with a superkick in 8:32. Better than your usual SG tag. There was more energy than usual.
Post-match, Suzuki-Gun unmasked Tiger Mask IV. Taguchi got the mic stand shoved up his ass, then he told commentary he broke his ass.
HIKULEO is the former Leo Tonga, going back to the name his father gave him. This went the way you’d expect. Yano provided us with his usual antics, while continuing to be scared of Haku’s kids. Ishii was the highlight anytime he was in the ring. Duh. HIKULEO ran into one of Yano’s exposed turnbuckle, got hit with a low blow and an Ishii lariat, allowing Yano to roll him up to win in 6:16. Your standard tag involving these guys. It was short and to the point, getting Yano and Ishii another win.
Nakanishi is replacing the injured Kojima, while Oka is replacing Henare, who moved up in the card due to Tanahashi’s injury. The faces got worked over for the most part, including Owens beating up Oka in the crowd. Loa now wears normal trunks, so he doesn’t match with his brother. Old man Nakanishi took the heat and Makabe got the hot tag. He and Fale threw it back to their Tokyo Dome match a few years ago. The next tag went to Oka, who threw Owens around with ease. Owens turned things around and won with a Package Piledriver in 9:04. About what I expected. Everyone did just as well as I thought. Decent action, nothing more.
Commentary noted how Henare apparently looked up to Minoru. Now, he gets to be beat up by him. How fun. Iizuka took care of Elgin on the outside, leaving Henare to get abused by Minoru and the rest of Suzuki-Gun. Elgin eventually came in and did some hot tag stuff, though none of it really clicked. Suzuki-Gun kept Elgin away, so Suzuki could beat Henare with a knee bar in 8:18. I wasn’t a fan of this. I understood the Suzuki-Gun interference and Henare sold it well, but Elgin was kind of just there and Iizuka adds nothing to a match. Minoru murdering Henare for ten or so minutes would’ve been much better.
Post-match, Suzuki-Gun went to jump Henare, but Togi Makabe made the save. Minoru backed away, but it seems like that’s a match we’ll get soon.
Look familiar? We had the same match yesterday, but Juice Robinson was swapped for KUSHIDA. The juniors opened against one another, providing us with some good exchanges. Their matches last year were very good. Following a Hangman apron SSP, Finlay became the face in peril. Considering his partners, that was expected. The Bullet Club guys worked like a well-oiled machine. It’s clear they’re comfortable with one another. Ibushi’s hot tag saw him be his amazing self. He ended up facing all three guys and nearly got hit with the apron Cross Rhodes again. KUSHIDA saved him and put Page in the Hoverboard Lock. Cody interrupted and hit Cross Rhodes. Page got another win with the Rite of Passage in 10:30. This was good. Everyone worked well together and the closing stretch was strong. It was a bit too much of the same from the night before, though.
This is all to build to singles matches. SANADA/Okada, Naito/HASHI, Goto/EVIL, BUSHI/Gedo, and Hiromu/Ospreay are all on tap next month. CHAOS did the pre-match attack, turning the tables. Almost every interaction in this match was fun. YOSHI-HASHI took the heat for a bit, before tagging in Ospreay. He came out firing on Hiromu. Their speed battle led to a hard hitting back and forth between the NEVER Title participants. Eventually, we got SANADA against Okada. Again, Okada seemed to toy with SANADA, out to trigger something in the future star. We got the offensive barrage from everyone down the stretch, which is always fun. SANADA made Gedo tap to the Skull End at 12:19. Very good sprint. It was better than everything on night one outside of the main event. The chemistry between these units never fails to impress. The singles matches on 2/10 should all be good.
After the match, HASHI went after Naito but was held back. SANADA said he’ll say all he has to say on 2/10, which angered Okada.
The Bucks took the titles from RPG 3K at Wrestle Kingdom in a good match. The challengers basically got squashed with ease in the six man tag yesterday. The Bucks were in control early, and chased Rocky Romero to the back, looking to powerbomb him on the aisle like at WK. Roppongi 3K interrupted and it set up a Matt somersault off the apron onto everyone. That move hurt Matt, who had his back give out a bit later. He and YOH, who got powerbombed on the apron) both sold their backs well. As the match progressed, you got the sense that Roppongi 3K were putting it all together. They hit their finish on Nick on the apron and looked more aggressive than ever. Matt survived a lot with the bad back, including the old Young Lion Crab. He fired up at times, but was left as the mercy of his opponents. It positioned the Bucks as the underdog babyfaces, which was weird. He survived enough for Nick to get the hot tag. The Bucks came close to retaining on several occasions following that. Matt using a Sharpshooter while selling his back made for some quality drama that’s usually missing from Jr. tag matches. His back gave out, but he went for it again. YOH was ready and rolled him up to regain the titles in 22:34. That was the best Jr. Tag Title match since the reDRagon/Time Splitter days. The Bucks have moved away from their overly spotty style recently and it has made for better performances. The stories of Roppongi 3K getting more aggressive to regain the titles and of Matt’s back injury were very well told. This played off the WK12 match and the finish provided shades of the WK11 finish.
The booking of the division continues to be a joke. The Bucks have seven reigns and just 9 defenses, while never making the titles mean anything. This is something to build upon, but if history is an indication, Gedo won’t capitalize.
Another high profile title match for “Switchblade.” These two actually met in a very good match back when White was a young boy. White showed no fear, slapping Kenny in retaliation for a playful one he got moments prior. Omega proceeded to batter White with tons of offense. He hit a bunch of V-Triggers, the Kotaro Krusher, Aoi Shoudou, and a powerbomb onto a chair. And yet, White seemed to be enjoying the punishment he took. White literally just stopped and laughed as Kenny unloaded V-Triggers at one point. It was easily the best bit of character work for Jay since coming back. He’s gaining more confidence in the gimmick. White gave back his fair share of offense too, including a bunch of big suplexes, highlighted by one on the exposed floor outside. From almost out of nowhere, White hit the Blade Runner for a near fall. They went back and forth again, with Kenny countering one. He had the One Winged Angel countered into another Blade Runner, giving White the victory in 29:54. A much better outing for White than at WK. He’s growing in the role and played things very well here. He knew he would take a beating, enjoyed it, gave it right back, and pulled off the unthinkable. It did go long and the fans still aren’t fully into Jay, though this is a great step in the right direction.
After the match, Hangman Page came out to challenge Jay White. Kenny Omega stepped in and snatched the US Title. He handed it over to White, who left with it. Cody Rhodes came out, as he and Page got in Kenny’s face. Cody said he lost and should be done, with it being Page’s turn. The Bucks and Marty joined in to calm things down. Out of frustration, Kenny shoved Matt Jackson, causing the Bucks to leave. Things seemed fine, but then Cody planted Kenny with the Cross Rhodes. Page returned, seemingly ready to help Cody, while Marty didn’t want to do it. Before Cody could use a chair, Kota Ibushi ran in to make the save. The Bullet Club scrambled, leaving Kenny and Kota to huge it out and reunite with confetti falling around them.
Overall: I gave this the same score as night one. While yesterday’s show only had one standout match and this one has two or three, the undercard really lacks here. Nothing before the Ibushi tag is really worth checking out. Everything from there forward is strong, putting on the above average/pretty good scale. They built to the next New Beginning shows well, advanced the Omega/Ibushi stuff very far, and put a big title on Jay White. Good forward movement and they’ve set things up nicely for the next set of shows.