NEW JAPAN RUMBLE- 5/10
Kevin Kelly referred to Tiger Mask IV as "one of the all-time greats." Look... I like Tiger Mask IV a lot more than most people, and even I will have no reservations about telling you that Kevin Kelly's statement is ridiculous. He's not even the greatest wrestler to bear the Tiger Mask name. Hell... he's not even in the top three! That's it. Between stuff like this and the horrible bullsh*t Steve Corino has been spouting all match, I'm switching to the Japanese commentary once the main show starts. The most enjoyable the English commentary has been so far were the three seconds of audio that Billy Gunn provided on his way to the back.
You know... I'll say it: I marked out for Scott Norton in 2017, and I'm not afraid to admit it! The match was fun for what it was, and Michael Elgin was definitely the right guy to win.
TIGER MASK W vs. TIGER THE DARK- 5/10
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Young Bucks(c) vs. Roppongi Vice- 6.75/10
They did this spot early on where the Bucks decided to walk out on the match and headed up the ramp and you knew that once Roppongi Vice went to get them and got near them the Bucks were just going to superkick them... and of course that's what happened and it made Rocky and Trent look like such morons that it took a lot of work to get me caring about them again. The Bucks, for their part, had some spots that went uncharacteristically non-smoothly, but it's not impossible that some of that was the camera angle, as they showed a replay of one of them from a different angle that made it look a lot better. They did eventually manage to get me back into it, but in all honestly, the presence of Rocky Romero made that a lot harder. I'm just sick and tired of babyface tag team guy Rocky Romero and all of his silly spots. I'd really like to see him used to inject some new blood in the Jr. Heavyweight singles division.
GAUNTLET MATCH FOR THE NEVER OPEN-WEIGHT SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLES:
Satoshi Kojima, Ricochet, & David Finlay Jr.(c) vs. CHAOS (Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, & JADO) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Sanada, & EVIL) vs. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Hangman Page, & Bad Luck Fale)- 5.5/10
This match had two major failings. The first and most frustrating of which was that due to the extremely long ramp and the very quick second match, it in no way felt like a gauntlet match. It felt like one decent match, and then another short and unconnected match that just happened to be using one of the same teams, and then another decent but unconnected match. If you're not going to use the gimmick to at all, why even have it?
Well... we all know that the answer to that question is "so everyone can be on the show," to which I say so stick two of the teams in the New Japan Rumble. If you want to put the belts on LIJ then spend time turning them into deserving challengers and then have them beat the champs straight-up while the CHAOS and Bullet Club guys work the Rumble with the rest of the under card (or in the case of Page and Ospreay, don't even spend the money to fly them in!) No one will ever care about these titles if you just keep throwing random challengers at the champions, and yet New Japan has insisted on doing that. These belts have now been around for a year and still no one cares about them.
The other major failing of this match was the booking. It does make some sense for the champs to enter last, but they're also the babyfaces, so why give them an advantage? Also, why have the heel Bullet Club beat babyface CHAOS clean, then have heel LIJ cheat to beat Bullet Club? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to have CHAOS beat BC clean and then have LIJ cheat to beat them quickly to at least negate the advantage the champs might have had by entering last?
There was some decent action in here at times and some cool spots, but these two failings really killed them match for me. It was not worth the twenty-something minutes of time it was given.
JUICE ROBINSON vs. CODY RHODES- 6.25/10
This was a good match, but there was no reason for it to be so competitive. Juice Robinson isn't even a mid-carder, and Cody decided to debut by giving him half of the match and even letting him make it to the ropes to break his submission finisher.
ROH WORLD TITLE MATCH:
Kyle O'Reilly(c) vs. Adam Cole- 6.25/10
Cole hit Kyle in the arm with a chair shot right in front of the referee but there was no DQ. I know this is a New Japan show, but it's an ROH Title match and thus should be contested under ROH rules. We've even got an ROH referee for G-d's sake! This was made to look even more ridiculous when said referee would later physically intervene to stop Cole from stomping away at Kyle while Kyle was in the ropes, even though he wasn't willing to do so when Cole was going to hit Kyle with a chair. The other frustrating part about this was that Cole working over Kyle's arm was a very minor part of the match, so even though Kyle was selling it the whole time, the chair shot never felt like it mattered much.
Cole won the belt back, which just makes me wonder why they even put the belt on Kyle in the first place. IMO having a short reign with zero title defenses- especially when you lose the belt right back to the guy you won it from in an under card match on someone else's show- is worse more damaging than if Kyle had never won the belt in the first place. If Kyle loses at Final Battle then there is still a title chase to be had. Losing it back this unceremoniously kills any future chase because we already saw the big win and saw that it didn't lead to anything. A HUGE misstep by ROH management, IMO. Kyle is already signed for future shows this year, so let him work on a per-appearance basis and set him up to lose it at the next PPV or something. If you don't want your world title on a guy without a contract then don't give the belt to someone who isn't signed for foreseeable future in the first place.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Guerrillas of Destiny(c) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii)- 6.75/10
I'm going to be honest with you: My attitude going into this was basically "well, at they've stuck there of the four people I dislike the most, plus one team I don't hate but also have no interest in seeing all in one match, so I'll watch this match first to just get it over with and hope Shibata doesn't ruin his match with Goto and I can be excited for everything else."
Then the match started and a miracle happened! Ishii and Honma completely refrained from doing all of the stuff that makes me hate them and Yano's involvement was kept to an absolute minimum (except, unfortunately, for the finish), and the Guerrillas were fine, and a good chunk of the match seemed to be built around making Makabe look awesome, and the match was a really fun, exciting three-way and I really enjoyed it aside from the aforementioned finish. It's a Tokyo Dome miracle!
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
KUSHIDA(c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi- 7.5/10
The story here was KUSHIDA trying to win with the Kimura in the face of massive head trauma.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
Katsuyori Shibata(c) vs. Hirooki Goto- 7.5/10
Lots of stiff strikes and work on the head, as you'd imagine, but Shibata kept the no-selling to a minimum, so the match was great.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Tetsuya Naito(c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi- 8.75/10
An outstanding match, with great selling of the knees by both men, and a few crazy spots. That being said... Tanahashi needs to stop doing that spot where he hits the High Fly Flow but then goes for it again and it gets countered. It's gotten well past the point where anyone believes he will actually hit it the second time, and if the High Fly Flow is such a super-move, then why doesn't he just go for the pin after he hits it the first time? It's like Ric Flair going to the top rope, but at least it makes sense that Flair would think he has a chance of hitting a move from up top.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Kenny Omega (w/the Young Bucks)- 9.75/10
There are some matches where they are twenty minutes in and still in second gear and you just kind of get that feeling that the match isn't going to deliver. Then there are matches like this where they are twenty minutes in and still in second gear and you know that it's because they are building to something wonderful.
Both guys spent a good chunk of the match working over each other's heads, including several EXTREMELY scary bumps. As I alluded to above, these two did a truly outstanding job of steadily ramping up the action and the tension. It is a testament to how well the Rainmaker has been protected for so long that even here in the main event of the January 4th Tokyo Dome show, after the move has already been kicked of a handful of times, I still wasn't sure if Omega was going to kick out of it. Both men took an outstanding amount of punishment, to the point where Omega almost felt like he was becoming a babyface at times, but he would always do some perfectly-time heelish thing like raking the eyes or mocking Okada's pose that made you hate him again. The only reason this wasn't a 10/10 was that spot with the table early on where the referee didn't DQ Omega for throwing the table into Okada and then for double-stomping it with Okada trapped underneath it. A very worthy main event for the Tokyo Dome.
An awesome show from New Japan. The under-card was a little underwhelming, but the top four matches all delivered, and especially the top two.