JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER & TIGER MASK IV vs. DAVID FINLAY JR. & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI- 4.25/10
Taguchi and Finlay jump Liger Mask to start things off. It’s looking a lot like Finlay and Taguchi might wind up as a tag team before Finlay is sent off on excursion.
YOSHITATSU & CAPTAIN NEW JAPAN vs. WORLD CLASS TAG TEAM (Jado & Gedo)- 3.75/10
Why did this match even happen? Why not just stick Jado and the Captain in the opener and stick Yoshitatsu and Gedo in the match after this one?
TOGI MAKABE & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI)- 6/10
A fine match with a baffling finish. Ishii pinned the IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the G1. Honma pinned the NEVER Openweight Champion and even did an angle afterwards, so they should both be headed for title shots. Honma’s win was actually coming off of a failed title shot against that same champion and it actually happened on just the second day of the tournament, which feels like forever ago at this point, so he really should have gotten the win here (plus it would be a win for his and Makabe’s regular tag team which you can use to build them up to a title shot), but if you’re not going to give Honma pin on YOSHI-HASHI, you should have Ishii pin Makabe to build him up more for his title match. Instead, they had YOSHI-HASHI pin Honma, which is the most counterproductive finish they could have possibly done.
GO SHIOZAKI, MASA KITAMIYA, KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA, & MAYBACH TANIGUCHI vs. MANABU NAKANISHI, HIROYOSHI TENZAN, YUJI NAGATA, & KATSUYORI SHIBATA- 6.25/10
Shibata busted himself open headbutting Nakajima very hard. It was just a trickle, but it was a trickle that trickled the whole way down his face. I can’t remember the last time I saw any sort of blood in New Japan. Nakajima eventually pinned Nakanishi, and Shibata went after Nakajima after the match, resulting in a big pull-apart. This was a good angle, but I’d be more interested in the match if we hadn’t seen Shibata beat Nakajima cleanly in the G1. If Nakajima had won at least you would have the NEVER Openweight Title on the line, but as things stand now, it’s just a rematch of a match that we saw with a clean finish in the past three weeks.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH: The Briscoe Brothers(c) vs. Bullet Club (Adam Page & Yujiro Takahashi)- 7.25/10
I’m not sure if the Page & Yujiro team is supposed to be named “the Tokyo Pimps” or it’s just Yujiro. They entered separately and the accompanying females as well as the “Tokyo Pimps” graphic was only there for Yujiro’s entrance, but it is always spoken and written in the plural. Either way, Yujiro going back to his “ladies’ man” roots will only make him scuzzier, which is exactly what a heel Yujiro needs to be.
The Briscoes win, fighting through an early belt shot by the heels. The Briscoes are definitely growing on the crowd.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH: Jay Lethal(c) vs. Satoshi Kojima (w/Hiroyoshi Tenzan)- 6.75/10
Lethal working as a heel here- and especially cheating at the finish- was very odd for me to watch, seeing as how he has just turned babyface in ROH. Lethal worked over the head while Kojima at one point decided that his moves weren’t working so he decided to do Tenzan’s stuff instead. That was odd. They had some good stuff towards the end, but the match felt like one that could have been better with a cleaner finish (because we all know this won’t lead to anything) and a story that didn’t take an odd detour into Tenzan-land.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI, MICHAEL ELGIN, JUICE ROBINSON, & KUSHIDA- 7/10
Very fun match. Afterwards, Naito was a huge dick to Elgin, kicking first him and then both of his title belts out of the ring and onto the floor.
BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & the Guerrillas of Destiny) vs. TORU YANO, NAOMICHI MARUFUJI, & KAZUCHIKA OKADA (w/Gedo)- 6.25/10
Bad Luck Fale clearly watched this week’s Smackdown because he did the taunting “sit down on your chest” pin that Nattie did to Carmella.
A lot of the story of this match was Fale dominating Okada to build to the IWGP Heavyweight Title match they will have at some point this year because Fale pinned Okada in their G1 match on Monday. Because of that, I was quite shocked that Okada got the pin here. I can understand not wanting to pin Okada again, but I think having him (or even his team) get the win here takes away from that. The existence of the Page/Yujiro team and his exclusion from the G1 strongly indicates that New Japan is all but ready to dump Tanga Loa (he got pinned here, too), so why not get a bit more use out of him before dumping him by having Tama Tonga pin Yano here to set up the Guerrillas of Destiny getting a shot at Marufuji & Yano’s GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles in NOAH (where Tanga Loa can eat the pin) to at least get one more theoretically big match out of him?
G1 CLIMAX 26 FINALS: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega- 9.5/10
They told a fantastic story with both guys working over the head, but also making sure that the damage to Omega’s knee from last night’s match came into play. Part of this story involved a few spots that looked utterly terrifying, particularly Omega’s counter to the sleeper hold, and that Super Ushigoroshi. They also had some callbacks to various things, notably Goto hitting the Shouten Kai- the same move that won him his only G1 victory back into 2008, for a nearfall.
The real story here, though, is one that didn’t exactly click for me until about a minute after the end of the match. At one point Omega hit his former tag team partner Kota Ibushi’s finish, a sit-out version of Undertaker’s Last Ride. Goto kicked out. Omega then went for the move Ibushi would go for when that got kicked out of: the Phoenix Splash. Goto rolled out of the way. Later on in the match, Omega hit Prince Devitt’s old Bloody Sunday, then followed it up with the Styles Clash, the way Omega’s former Bullet Club boss AJ Styles would often do that brought AJ so many victories in New Japan. Goto kicked out. Then- and only then- did Omega hit his own finisher, the One-Winged Angel, for the victory. Kenny Omega isn’t Kota Ibushi’s side-kick anymore, and he’s not a lackey in AJ Styles’ stable. KENNY OMEGA is the man. KENNY OMEGA is the leader of the Bullet Club. KENNY OMEGA is the first Gaijin to win the G1. KENNY OMEGA is now a top star in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
A solid show from New Japan with the expected fantastic main event. With any luck, Omega’s victory will be looked at as a major moment in New Japan history ten years from now.