KATSUYA KITAMURA SEVEN MATCH TRIAL SERIES MATCH #3:
Katsuya Kitamura vs. Juice Robinson - 4.75/10
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, SHOTA UMINO, & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. SUZUKI-GUN (El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Taichi) (w/Miho Abe) - 3.25/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents, but this time it was actually justified because they all started attacking Taguchi because he was in the middle of sexually assaulting Miho Abe. Suzuki-Gun won a boring match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - They ripped Tiger Mask IV's mask off... but the f*cking camera completely missed it because they were paying attention to Taguchi making a dumb face while selling on the floor. The cameraman and/or the director should have been immediately fired for incompetence.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. BULLET CLUB (Leo Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi) - 3.25/10
A boring match in which our babyfaces cheated to get the win.
HIROSHI TENZAN, TOGI MAKABE, MANABU NAKANISHI, & TOMOYUKI OKA vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, & the Guerrillas of Destiny) - 3.25/10
MICHAEL ELGIN & TOA HENARE vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Takahashi Iizuka) (w/Suzuki-Gun) - 0.25/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped their opponents before the match. Try not to be too surprised. Fighting in the crowd. Weapons shots right in front of the referee with no DQ. Outside interference. Same old sh*t. The only thing that saves me from giving this a dud was the brief flash of entertainment that was Elgin vs. Suzuki, and even that saved it only barely because when Suzuki made Henare tap out my first thought was one of relief that this meant that they probably weren't just going back to Suzuki vs. Elgin again.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Elgin and Iizuka brawled off into the crowd while the rest of Suzuki-Gun beat down Henare until Makabe came out swinging his big chain to make the save.
KOTA IBUSHI, KUSHIDA, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page, Marty Scurll, & Cody Rhodes) - 7.25/10
Another fun tag match. Paige pinning KUSHIDA was quite the surprise. This Bullet Club trio picks up another win. Wow. A trio is actually picking up steam and winning a bunch of matches in a row. Maybe this will lead to them getting a title shot. Wait. Never mind. They can't get one because the champions are in their faction. At this rate I'm certain that Okada and Goto are going to win the tag titles just to make it so that Yano and Ishii's wins go nowhere. After the match, Cody and Scurll went over to the announcers' table to be buffoons.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Will Ospreay, & Gedo) - 7.5/10
Naito shoves the referee hard when the referee tries to get him to break in the corner. This was not a DQ. YOSHI-HASHI went after Naito even when YOSHI-HASHI was legal and Naito wasn't. Other than those two things, this was your generic big uppercard ten-man tag. Sanada made Gedo tap so he and Okada have traded submission wins on the other guy's junior heavyweight friend.
POST MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. YOSHI-HASHI charges back to the ring to attack Naito. The CHAOS guys pulled him off. He got loose and they pulled him off again. I was shocked that LIJ just didn't start brawling with them while this was happening. CHAOS headed to the back while LIJ celebrated. Sanada then grabbed a mic and cut a promo saying (assuming Kevin Kelly can be trusted to translate accurately) that he would "do all of [his] talking in Osaka" when they have their title match. Okada took offense at this statement for some reason.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
The Young Bucks(c) vs. Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 9.25/10
They were on the outside forever and the ref didn't even try to count them out. Included in this was the Bucks giving up an advantage on their opponents so that they could go chase Rocky Romero backstage because they apparently want to powerbomb him on the ramp more than they want to win this match. Roppongi 3K saved Rocky, and this was all done to set up another f*cking dive when a dive was the whole reason they wound up on the outside in the first place.
Matt Jackson hurt himself on that dive so now his back is injured, just like Yoh's is from the Bucks working it over. From there they just focused on telling this one simple story for the next twenty minutes, and they told it wonderfully. I can see some finding the finish very abrupt but it worked for me, even though I can't really put my finger on why. Major props are due to Yoh and especially to Matt for their selling. Everyone go watch this match!
IWGP UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Kenny Omega(c) (w/Nick Jackson) vs. Jay White - 8.25/10
The story here was simply Omega working over the head with his usual stuff and trying for the One-Winged Angel while White just kept dumping Kenny on his head and neck with various types of snap suplexes and the Blade Runner. There was a nice subtext of veteran vs. up-and-comer, too, and White was clearly motivated a desire to not repeat his failure against Tanahashi from the Tokyo Dome. The match was awesome, but it would have been even better if they could learn to apply count-outs consistently. Jay White got the win, which felt very necessary for White to be taken seriously in the future, and yet still managed to feel surprising due to how heavily New Japan protects their top guys. Okada being on commentary was a nice touch, as he should obviously be scouting Omega, but it also set up for a perfect shot of him looking for surprised and a little like he was thinking "okay. I really have to take Jay White's comments seriously now because this young upstart who said he wants to come after my title just took Kenny Omega's title from him."
Then the big thing happened, so you if don't know what's coming, you're going to want to see this for yourself before reading my thoughts on the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - "Hangman" Adam Page came out and snatched the belt from the still groggy Jay White, but Omega snatched it away from Page and gave it back to Jay. Page was unhappy about this and Nick Jackson had to step in to make peace between them. Then Cody came out and got in Omega's face, claiming that this was "Hangman's moment" and that Kenny shouldn't "take his moment" from him. Also, apparently Cody and Page are best friends now. That's what Cody said.
More shoving started so Marty Scurll came out to try to make peace. It didn't quite work. Cody shouted at Kenny for "not acting like a leader." Matt Jackson came up from behind Omega and grabbed him so Omega, not knowing who it was and figuring he was being attacked, shoved him down hard. Nick asked Kenny why he shoved Matt, but it seems pretty obvious to me what happened and I'm dumbfounded that the Bucks don't understand it. Kenny tried to apologize but Matt wouldn't have it.
Nick took Matt to the back, saying, as he had been this whole time, that they weren't going to do this (have this argument about leadership) right now. Scrull told Kenny that he and Cody should sort this out between themselves right now and he left. Page seemingly made up with Kenny, then he left, too. Where are the rest of Bullet Club? Shouldn't the Tongans, Yujiro, and Chase Owens care about what's happening right now?
Cody and Kenny then made up and said they were good but Cody grabbed Kenny from behind and hit him with Cross Rhdoes. Scurll and Page came back, with Scurll yelling at Cody. Cody ran over to the announcers' table... and Kevin Kelly just gave him his freakin' chair. Is Kevin Kelly turning heel and siding with Cody or something? Like Don Callis, the moment I saw this I screamed "WHY WOULD YOU GIVE HIM THE CHAIR?!"
Page is holding Kenny up so that Cody can hit him with the chair while Scurll is just standing there and yelling but not actually doing anything to stop this. Kota Ibushi came out to return the favor to Omega for saving him from Cody at New Year Dash... and Cody and pals just ran away even though there were more of them and they had a chair, and the fact that Cody has been trying to get his hands on Kota for the past two days.
Ibushi offered Omega a handshake that Omega agonized over for a long time before shaking his head. Kota looked annoyed, but then grabbed Kenny and they hugged instead. While this was well-done, it would have been a lot less obvious what was about to happen if we didn't see guys doing the "reject the handshake but then hug instead" bit as a pointless comedy spot swerve with such regularity on the indies. Moments like this are exactly the reason you shouldn't be doing sh*t like that for no f*cking reason.
Someone backstage decided to drop confetti for this hug. They dropped confetti for this hug but not for either of the title changes? Come on! If I'm Roppongi 3K or Jay White, I'm going to be giving someone in the office an earful over this. And outside of kayfabe, this is exactly the sort of thing that makes this all feel scripted and fake. This was almost WWE-esque.
This was meh at best. Everything that happened here did theoretically make sense as presented (although the Bucks not understanding why Kenny pushed Matt strains credulity a bit), but this segment was also a big reminder of Gedo's weaknesses as a booker. First is the fact that if someone isn't at ringside, it seems like we're just supposed to forget that they exist at the moment. That's why you never see CHAOS guys running out to make the save for other CHAOS guys when they're getting beaten down by the heels even though there are, like fifteen guys in that stable. This showed itself here with half of Bullet Club not coming out even though there is an argument going on over who should be the leader if their group. That seems like something they would want to weigh in on, especially Tama Tonga, who gave Omega a very public lecture about such things in the middle of their match during last year's G1.
Then there is the clumsiness of the storytelling. Last June, Omega and Cody each tried to undermine the other's IWGP Heavyweight Title shot by trying to throw the towel in for the other. Then everything was all honky-dory and everyone worked fine together for the next six months (the only aberration was Tama Tonga yelling at Omega for promoting The Elite over Bullet Club, and based on comments that Tama Tonga made, that might not even have been something Gedo booked so much as he and Omega just going into business for themselves).
Then, after six months of everything being fine, Omega decides that he doesn't want them to beat up his former tag team partner who he hadn't said a word to on screen in YEARS, so he stops Cody from taking him out with a chair. You'd think that if Omega likes the guy so much he'd at least try to recruit him to join Bullet Club so that he has some sort of explanation other than "I don't want you to beat up my friend." He knew that saving Kota would cause problems within Bullet Club. He even said as much in the promo he cut right after saving him. The logical thing to do would be to at least give the rest of Bullet Club a reasonable justification of how not beating up Kota would benefit the group, but instead he suggests that the cure to all for their problems would be to recruit a totally different guy.
Now we are a few weeks later and apparently these two incidents six months apart, but plus a very minor one tonight when Kenny made Adam Page give Jay White his title back are enough that Cody thinks he can get away with turning on Kenny and everyone will side with him? It's like Delirious' booking where you can tell what the story is supposed to be by watching only the specific shows where a major development happens in the angle, but he has no idea how to book all of the other shows in a way that complements that story, so instead he just ignores the story altogether until it's time for it to flare up again, which it does at full bore. This angle started at 50% at Dominion, then went up to 75% a few weeks later for G1 Special in USA: Day 1 then plummeted down to zero where it stayed for six straight months until it went right up to 75% at New Year Dash and has now hit 100 at the beginning of the next tour. That's not telling a six-month long story. That's telling a four day story that you forgot about for six months in the middle of telling it. And everyone is going to give them a pass on this because New Japan Okada Omega Ishii LIJ Tanahashi Suzuki Bullet Club KUSHIDA Ibushi Tokyo Dome ********3/4 OMFG MOTY.
A pretty great show from New Japan, with both some great matches and important storyline occurrences. I'd have praised it even more if the undercard weren't so completely miserable and dreadful. When you watch this one, just skip to the good stuff.