NJPW 40th Anniversary Show (3/4/2012)- Tokyo, Japan
Welcome to this month’s installment of BRM’s Monthly “This Day In Wrestling History” Review Series. It’s our anniversary month and I do love a theme, so I was definitely going to do an anniversary show of some sort, and I enjoyed last month’s New Japan show so much that I figured why not just keep going with 2012 New Japan and watch the NJPW 40th Anniversary Show?
HIROMU TAKAHASHI, TAKAAKI WATANABE, & TAMA TONGA vs. KUSHIDA & APOLLO 55 (Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi)- 5/10
Young-boy Hiromu is completely unrecognizable. Hell, Tama Tonga is barely recognizable. EVIL I immediately recognized, but that might be down to having seen a lot of him in ROH on his excursion. Everyone was solid.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. CAPTAIN NEW JAPAN & TOMOAKI HONMA- 5/10
Did you really need a low blow to beat Captain New Japan?
JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER & TIGER MASK IV vs. JADO & GEDO- 6.75/10
This was one of those matches that makes me sad that we didn’t get to see Liger Mask mixing it up with Apollo 55 or the NRC very much.
SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi) vs. TOGI MAKABE, & SEIGIGUN (Yuji Nagata & Wataru Inoue)- 7/10
Even in 2012, a Suzuki-Gun match is a Suzuki-Gun match. Quickly go to the outside for brawling and weapons while the referee lets them get away with everything, then back in the ring for heat, including lots of Taichi choking people. The only differences were that they didn’t jump the bell on the babyfaces and that the 40% of the heat that wasn’t Taichi choking wasn’t spent taunting the babyface with little strikes to set up a forearm battle to initiate the comeback.
Once the comeback started, this started to get great, as instead of the tired Suzuki-Gun bullsh*t that their matches feel like now, these guys were actually working their butts off, and pains were taken to allow Makabe and Nagata to look like guys who could stand up to Suzuki-Gun and their bullsh*t tactics, creating heroes for us to believe in, even if the referees suck at their jobs and make it harder for the babyfaces by letting Suzuki-Gun get away with everything.
CHAOS (Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano) vs. HIROYOSHI TENZAN & SATOSHI KOJIMA- 6.75/10
CHAOS jumped the bell on the babyfaces. I didn’t like the referee calling for the bell when Tenzan was still wearing his title belt (a foreign object), but I will give him credit for scrambling to pull it off of Tenzan when he had the chance. Then I will take that credit away for leaving that damn chair in the corner of the ring for so long.
They did their stuff and it was okay. I was so excited when the babyface didn’t follow Iizuka to the outside, but that just made me more annoyed when this turned into your typical New Japan bullsh*t undercard match, with the ref getting bumped because a heel shoves him down and it doesn’t result in a DQ, and the heels beating the babyfaces up with weapons and choking on the outside for a long time.
Kojima’s back got worked over. We got a good hot tag to Tenzan. He got cut off for a shorter, second heat, then Kojima came in and ran wild until Yano won with a low blow. The same exact thing he does today, except for some unexplained reason, we’re supposed to like it now.
HIROOKI GOTO, HIROSHI TANAHASHI, & KARL ANDERSON vs. CHAOS (Masato Tanaka, Shinsuke Nakamura, & Yujiro Takahashi)- 7.75/10
This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but Tanahashi and Nakamura were great together. The heels got the heat with a Singapore cane shot to Tanahashi that I have no idea who Red Shoes didn’t see. Yeah, Nakamura could have been distracting him, but he was over there checking on Tanahashi so quickly that it seems almost impossible that he wasn’t looking right at Tanahashi when he got hit.
Those of you who have read my reviews know I despise Red Shoes’ tendency to refuse to count a pin because he doesn’t like something the heel did right before the pin (like pulling hair) or because he thinks the pin is disrespectful (like a foot on the chest), even though he’s perfectly fine letting the heel hit the babyface with a weapon and not calling for a DQ (in other words, he’ll penalize the heel for minor things, some of which aren’t even illegal, but will let big things like weapon shots go). In this match Nakamura put his foot on Tanahashi’s chest for a clearly disrespectful pin, and Red Shoes counted it… which means that his bullsh*t is a modern affectation, and thus something Gedo was completely negligent in not quashing, as it damages the sports-like atmosphere that New Japan strives for by having a referee randomly make up his own rules as he goes along, including penalizing people for doing legal things.
Other than the one weapon shot possibly in front of the referee, this was just good, solid, simple tag team psychology with a babyface in peril, followed by a hot tag and then some great action and false finishes leading to the finish. This formula has worked forever and it will work forever.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT- good
Yujiro got in Goto’s face after the match and they had to be pulled apart.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH: Kazuchika Okada(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Tetsuya Naito- 9.25/10
I was shocked at the split crowd here. Okada has really made an impression in his short time back from excursion. Naito started by working the knee. Okada managed to cut him off with a Tombstone Piledriver then went to work on Naito’s neck with the guardrail on the outside while Red Shoes failed to count them out. It’s always nice when they set the story of the match up nice and early, and all three of those things would be things they went back to at later points (yes, including Red Shoes not doing his job properly).
This was one of those matches where the majority of the match is really great, but nothing particularly outstanding, and then you get to the final ten minutes and they take it up about three gears and it’s absolutely tremendous. Hindsight makes this a little hard to see because we know the journeys both men have been on for the past nine years, but I think the booking actually made a title change feel possible at the time, as they had clearly been building Naito up for big things and Okada’s win over Tanahashi was something of a surprise, so I can definitely see people thinking that Naito would win here because they thought the real plan was Naito vs. Tanahashi and Okada winning the belt was a way to get it off of Tanahashi without giving away Tanahashi vs. Naito, and with the added benefit of making Okada feel like a real threat to win the title at some point in the future. We know that that’s not what happened, but I can definitely see that being a fan’s thought process at the time.
This was an okay show from New Japan. The undercard was pretty much the reason I’ve stopped watching everything but the most major of New Japan shows, while the top two matches (and especially the main event) are the reason that I do stick around for the big shows. That said, I think I’ve done enough New Japan in this series for a while… but I think I’ll stick with 2012 for another month.
NJPW, PROGRESS, RevPro, CMLL, etc
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