Tuesday, June 19, 2018

NJPW Kizuna Road Night One Review

NJPW Kizuna Road Night One
June 17th, 2018 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,696

Kizuna Road are basically “C” level NJPW shows. It happens between big events like Dominion and the G1 Climax and usually features some of the lower card titles at the top of the shows. For example, these shows are headlined by the NEVER and Jr. Titles. It’s also the shows where the G1 Climax gets set up. Considering how busy everything is right now with WWE shows and school, I’m not sure how detailed the reviews of these three shows will be.

Yota Tsuji v. Yuya Uemura
These two went to a time limit draw to open a “Road to Wrestling Dontaku” show and it was pretty good. They also met on a recent Lion’s Gate Project show that I missed. Like their last match, there was a lot of promise shown here. You could see that they have potential going forward, they just need more experience. I was surprised to see Tsuji going for an ankle lock, as Young Lions typically get stuck with the crab. Uemura responded by going for a cross armbreaker late. WHAT ARE THESE MOVES? Tsuji fought to reach the ropes and time expired, giving us a draw at 10:00. Not great and lacked some urgency, but there was some raw stuff in there. About as good as you might expect for two guys with so little experience. [**¾]

Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata vs. Shota Umino and Tomoyuki Oka
It’s Father’s Day and the New Japan Dads get some kids to rough up. I always forget that Nagata is an AJPW Tag Team Champion. Oka went right after Nakanishi with a lot of fire. However, it was nothing compared to the beating Nagata put on Umino. What happened to nice dad Nagata? As usual, we got a lot of energy from the Young Lions, but the dads are too experienced. Umino did bust out a missile dropkick and tried an armbreaker, but Nagata hit an exploder and put on the Nagata Lock to win in 9:04. Fine for what it was. Continued improvement by Umino and Oka. [**½]

Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Ren Narita vs. Taiji Ishimori and Yujiro Takahashi
Man, Satoshi Kojima looks different. I kind of like the Ishimori/Yujiro pairing. When it was Tenzan against Yujiro, the match suffered. Yujiro isn’t that good and Tenzan is up there in age. He can only bring it for big matches, which this is not. However, Narita and his speed looked good against Ishimori, giving us some fun moments. The Young Lions are in matches to take falls and that’s what Narita did here. He tapped to Ishimori’s crossface in 7:14. Energetic in parts, but sluggish in others. [**]

Jeff Cobb, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi, Toa Henare and Togi Makabe vs. Rocky Romero, Roppongi 3K, Toru Yano, and YOSHI-HASHI
I’m all for Jeff Cobb as a Taguchi Japan member. Give him the glasses and everything. He was last in NJPW during the World Tag League. You should be able to tell what stood out in this match. Interactions between KUSHIDA and Roppongi 3K, as well as Henare being a blast. Makabe was in “no bump” mode, which you expect on these undercard tags. Gotta rest up for the G1. It’s clear that the main point of the match is to get Cobb over. Japanese crowds LOVE monster gaijins. Hanse and Vader way back, War Machine and Elgin more recently. Cobb wowed the fans with his impressive array of offense and put down Romero with the Tour of the Islands at 11:03. A good multi-man tag that did the job it needed to with Cobb. [***]

Time for the G1 Climax participant announcements. No real surprises this year. Kenny Omega, Michael Elgin, Jay White, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Togi Makabe, Juice Robinson, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, YOSHI-HASHI, Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Hangman Page, Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., and Kota Ibushi. I wish we could replace Tonga, Elgin, and HASHI with Kojima (who is injured), Henare, and Cobb.

BUSHI, EVIL, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi, Takashi Iizuka, TAKA Michinoku, and IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This was here to build the Desperado/Hiromu main event tomorrow. Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell because, reasons. That led to brawling around the ring and through the crowd. It’s basically what you expect from Suzuki-Gun, especially without their two best members (Minoru and Sabre) around. The crowd was surprisingly subdued for an LIDJ match, though it might’ve been because the focus was more on the G1 field. The parts of the match featuring Hiromu against Desperado were great. Everything else was okay. BUSHI got the win with MX in 10:16. [**½]

David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Juice Robinson vs. IWGP United States Heavyweight Champion Jay White, Kazuchika Okada, and RevPro British Heavyweight Champion Tomohiro Ishii
Sad Kazuchika Okada coming out lost and with no title is one of my favorite things ever. I will enjoy it while it lasts. This was for a few reasons. One, continue building Juice/White. Two, continue the White/Finlay feud. Three, see how Okada responds to not be the BIG DOG anymore. However, what turned out to be the best part was Ishii against Tanahashi. Ishii laughed off chops from Tanahashi and basically insinuated that he’s shit now that he’s old. They usually deliver bangers, but with that story, a G1 meeting this year could end up being their best ever. Lots of good back and forth action from everyone until Ishii beat Finlay with the Brainbuster in 13:20. My favorite thing up to this point. I’m so ready for White/Juice and hopefully Ishii/Tanahashi. [***½]

Post-match, White attacked Juice and aggressively threw him around the ringside area. He focused on the arm and went to destroy it with a chair, but Juice got up and fought him off. Jay shouted that Juice never gets it done when it matters, which will continue in San Francisco.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Michael Elgin [c] vs. Hirooki Goto
These guys met twice in 2015. Once in the G1 (****) and once at Field of Honor (***½). At Dominion eight days ago, Elgin won the title in a three-way with Taichi. This proved to be much better than that. I can’t stand Elgin, but he can deliver some good hoss fights if given the chance. He and Goto beat the hell out of other in this one. It felt like Elgin was out to prove a point. He pinned Taichi to win the title, so he needs to show Goto that he deserves to be champion. Meanwhile, Goto is one of the more resilient guys in NJPW, so he fought through a beating and held his own. Things were going great until a ref bump. It’s become too much of a Gedo trope these days. It led to a Taichi run-in as he hit both men. That brought out Jeff Cobb to randomly chase him off. Back to the match, Elgin levels Goto with a sick forearm and lariat. Goto rallied and picked up near falls, but Elgin just kept walloping him, putting him in his place. They had some strong near falls, but then Goto kind of hits GTR from out of nowhere to win back the title in 30:57. Strange. Most of that match ruled. The interference stuff, lame finish, and egregious length kept this match from being great. Shave off a few minutes, eliminate the run-in, and give it a better ending and you’ve got a banger. Still, it was very good. [***¾]

Post-match, Jeff Cobb returned to check on Elgin. He then challenged Goto to a NEVER Title match. Okay, I’m looking forward to that one.

Overall: 5.5/10. Basically a one match show. I know the semi-main event was very good, but this was all about the NEVER Title match. It delivered a strong main event that had some serious flaws. Other than that, most of the card is kind of just there and doesn’t need to be seen. The G1 announcements were nice, though.