NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam In MetLife Dome, Day 1
September 4th, 2021
MetLife Dome, Saitama, Japan
Queen's Quest (Momo Watanabe & Saya Kamitani) vs. Lady C & Maika - 7/10
This was the first of two STARDOM showcase matches in these Grand Slam shows. They're running their own show tonight, so I don't blame them for booking Lady C here, at the end of the day, their own show is the priority. Having said that, Lady C looked really good in this match, she had a long run with Kamitani, and C ended up getting a lot of offense there. Maika was the one that I thought didn't look as strong, Momo worked over her a lot and then they transitioned into C and Kamitani, and Maika didn't really come back to show off.
Kamitani won with the Phoenix Splash over C. I knew they were going to win, but winning with the Phoenix Splash tells me that they're likely losing against Alto Livello on the next Grand Slam show. Not like I have any doubt that Giulia and Syuri are winning tomorrow.
Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) - 6.5/10
Match was ok, it's building tomorrow's Eagles vs Hiromu match, so for that matter, it served its purpose, but that's it. I'm really not into Eagles, especially teaming with Tiger Mask of all people, so I can't say that I was excited at any point of this match. The Hiromu vs Eagles stuff looked good and Eagles ended up winning by submission over BUSHI.
YOH vs. SHO - 7.5/10
The match was well wrestled and all, and it may just be me, but I didn't really feel the chemistry of these two as opponents, but, it really could come down to what a bad idea for SHO to be a generic heel is. SHO did the whole Bullet Club schtick even before they came out to welcome him to the group, he took out the referee, used a chair, low blows, asked for forgiveness, the whole thing.
The actual wrestling part of this was good, SHO worked over the arm, and YOH went after SHO's leg in addition to using the whole Tatsumi Fujinami repertoire. The layout was a basic Bullet Club match, with the babyface getting cut off, worked on, then they make a comeback and push the heel into using weapons and the referee bump, and at the end, the heel wins after the babyface fought tooth and nail.
In my opinion, SHO had to win the first match, but I don't think he should already be resorting to cheap tricks and old schticks, this comes off as usual WWE crap that as soon as you turn heel, you just immediately do all the heel tropes and you have no relation with babyfaces and you wear your hair differently, it's just shit.
Post-match - EVIL, Yujiro, and Togo came out and gave SHO a BC shirt, which he quickly accepted and wore, they all posed together. I don't like this, SHO should had gone to either UE or Suzuki-Gun, preferably the latter. The hair and gear kinda telegraphed the jump, but I feel that Bullet Club is all over the place, while stables like Suzuki-Gun keep getting looked over. Maybe this could be a Jay White/CHAOS swerve, but I doubt it, I think Gedo is trying to add some power to Bullet Club with so many guys staying in the US now a days.
Aside from building the Japanese splinter group of BC, I wonder if NJPW now considers Suzuki-Gun babyface and UE as the gaikakujin group of the promotion.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Trophy I Quit Match
Chase Owens (c) vs. Toru Yano - 7.5/10
Oh snap! We got G.B.H. blonde thug Yano Toru! Not the happy-go-lucky gimmicked Yano.
For a Yano and Owens match, this was quite violent. This was a zero shenanigans match, they had a straight up I Quit match with some brutal spots, on different occasions, they had spots were Owens tied up Yano and attacked him with a kendo stick and a leather strap respectively. They did a Package Piledriver on tables, they had Owens go through a ladder bridge. The before the finish, we saw Owens threatening to attack Yano with a bat before Yano locked in some cuffs on him attacked Owens with the leather strap over and over. Actual finish came when Yano straight up stabbed Owens with scissors.
My biggest problem with this match was that they came up with some really good spots for an I Quit match, but even if they were working to an extent, they would move away from them to continue the match, the most specific case was when Owens had Yano strapped and tied on the post and Yano was pretty much down, and instead of Owens pushing on that position, he just released Yano and proceeded onto the next spot. Also, there were a lot of spots that you could clearly see that no contact is being made between the wrestlers and the weapons, not that I blame them for not wanting to actually land balls first into a ladder, but if the spot doesn't look good, don't do it.
This may have been one of the most violent matches I've seen in NJPW in a long time.
Wrestle Kingdom 16 Announcement - They announced the Tokyo Dome dates for 1.4 and 1.5 as usual. I take it Tokyo Dome won't be going into reconstruction as it was expected. They also announced a third Wrestle Kingdom night for 1.8, but in Yokohama Budokan. People are complaining that it's 3 nights of Wrestle Kingdom, but it's really just another big show a couple of days later, for another city, you can literally build that card out of 1.4 and 1.5.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Jeff Cobb - 8/10
Good match, but I won't lie, it took me a while to get invested. Cobb getting heat on Okada lasted way too long, I would have rather made that shorter and do more back and forth at the end, or a longer start. The match had a lot of great looking spots of Cobb catching and carrying Okada around, but there is a point that they do start to feel repetitive.
When comparing it to their first match some weeks ago, I thought it lost the allure of seeing Okada and Cobb countering each other, but this match allowed us to get into the drama that now Cobb had bigger chances at winning, and so I paid more attention to the actual repercussions to each move and how they built to the finish.
I take it that Shingo retains against EVIL (SHO better not cost Shingo the title), and we can get Cobb challenging Shingo for the title after this win.
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - 9/10
Great back and forth match between two babyfaces. Tanahashi worked the leg and neck, while Ibushi worked the neck only. They had some cool spots, I really liked the whole struggle of Ibushi trying to hit Kamigoye and Tanahashi blocking it strength alone, but as he starts to lose to Ibushi's strength, he quickly reacts and jumps in for the Slingblade. That sequence eventually led to the finish with Tana landing a couple of HFF for the win. This was the right and predictable result to this match, everything with Ibushi since losing the title does necessitate some rebuilding, and surely enough, no need to beat Tanahashi on his first defense.
I thought they did a good job telling the story that Ibushi is stronger than Ibushi, but Ibushi is coming back from being out for some time and Tanahashi was just ready for him.
Post-match - Tanahashi cut his winner's promo and put over Ibushi. He finished with some air guitar.
Overall a good show. The stuff that tends to bring down New Japan shows wasn't that bad tonight, the heel shenanigans were mostly kept to the SHO match only, there wasn't a lot of comedy, and Cobb vs Okada aside, the matches felt like they went the time they needed to. These cards are still lacking the built and momentum that NJPW used to be so good at building up, and at least for these two shows, the lack of depth in the roster is starting to show, you have stables where half of their members, including their 'leaders' are not around and it shows.
NJPW, RevPro, CMLL, DDT, etc
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