KUSHIDA, TIGER MASK IV, & JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER vs. REN NARITA, SHOTA UMINO, & TETSUHIRO YAGI - 6/10
The Young Lions appear to be revolting here, getting in the veterans faces right away. Kevin Kelly was trying to tell us about Yagi's athletic background, saying that "Yagi's background is in baseball." Then Tiger Mask kicked Yagi in the face, so Kevin Kelly said that "Tiger Mask's background is in kicking Yagi in the face." This forced me to wonder how this could be Tiger Mask's "background," which led to mental images like the neonatologist trying to give Yagi the Apgar test but Tiger Mask shows up and kicks the baby Yagi in the face, or Tiger Mask showing up at Yagi's friend's seventh birthday party just to kick second-grader Yagi in the face, or Yagi graduating from high school and going up to receive his diploma, only to be foiled by a Tiger Mask run-in. They should totally use this to make Yagi the next Black Tiger.
This was a really good underdog young guys vs. veterans match, aided by the Korakuen Hall crowd which always loves the Young Lions.
HIROYOSHI TENZAN & TOMOYUKI OKA vs. BULLET CLUB (Hikuleo & Yujiro Takahashi) - 4.5/10
Oka got suckered in to Bullet Club's trap at the beginning of last night's match, but he has learned his lesson and didn't fall for it tonight. We need more little touches like these with the Young Lions. Oka and Hikuleo both looked fine, and Tenzan and Yujiro both looked quite good. Unfortunately, Oka being a Young Lion pretty much gave away the finish.
KATSUYA KUTAMURA SEVEN-MATCH TRIAL SERIES MATCH #5:
Katsuya Kitamura vs. Manabu Nakanishi - 3.75/10
Kitamura looked... well... to be frank, he looked a lot better than the old man that New Japan's system required him to have to tap out to here.
CHAOS (Rocky Romero & Roppongi 3K) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, & TAKA Michinoku) - 6/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. They fight on the outside forever without the referee even attempting to count them out. Then, finally, he randomly starts to do so. Sho's back is taped up, so that got worked over a bit while they were on the outside. Instead of working this, though, the Suzuki-Gun isolated Yoh and worked over his leg.
Romero pinned TAKA with a backslide, which I actually really liked because when you book the way that New Japan does, with guys who are essentially on the roster just to eat pins so the bigger stars don't have to, it's important to do something every once in a while to make those fall guys feel like they have some actual kayfabe value. With someone like Rocky Romero, whose role as Roppongi 3K's manager makes him feel doubly expendable, you really need to head this feeling off as much as you can. The post-match attack does a fine job of setting up Kanemaru & El Desperado as challengers to Roppongi 3K's IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and the eight-man tag in Osaka this weekend can be used to solidify that with an actual pinfall, so using this opportunity to not make Rocky feel like a glorified jobber was a good move.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - This was the aforementioned post-match attack by Suzuki-Gun. They beat up the babyfaces and disrespected their championship belts.
JUICE ROBINSON, TOA HENARE, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. CHAOS (Jay White, Tomohiro Ishii, & Toru Yano) - 5.5/10
This was a weird match. It started off with Yano and Juice doing hair-pulling spots, but then Henare and Ishii tagged in, and apparently I missed them starting a blood feud or something because they just started to beat the sh*t out of each other, but in more than just the usual stiff Ishii way. Then Finlay and White got the tags and they had your standard good action sequence with each other until White hit the Blade Runner, but rather than going for the pin he goes for the Bryan Danielson Crucifix Elbows but won't even break off when the ref calls the match.
MICHAEL ELGIN, RYUSUKI TAGUCHI, & TOGI MAKABE vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Taichi) (w/Suzuki-Gun) - 0.5/10
Suzuki-Gun's opponents jumped the bell on them before Suzuki-Gun could engage in their usual bell-jumping. I popped for that. They then spent five straight minutes brawling on the outside and using weapons with the referee not once calling for a DQ or counting anyone out. It was your standard Suzuki-gun dullness. It then transitioned into the other type of standard Suzuki-Gun dullness, by which I mean Taichi hitting people with handle the ringbell hammer. I'd swear I've seen Tiachi hit Suzuki with the ringbell hammer more times in the past year than I've seen Okada get pinned in the past six years.
In the middle of this supposedly serious heat, Iizuka starts to try to bite Taguchi's foot through his boot. Then he bit Taguchi's butt. Heat gone. This is suddenly all dumb and phony. Elgin soon got the hot tag... and now he's trying to bite Iizuka's foot through his boot. Now they're biting each other's bald heads.
Now Suzuki and Makabe get tagged in and apparently I'm supposed to take this all seriously again. They spent a good ninety seconds hitting each other in the head. There was some emotion here, but nothing close to what Ishii and Henare did in the last match. Suzuki mostly choked Makabe out, but then Taguchi ran in the ring and got locked in a kneebar and tapped out even though he clearly wasn't legal, because having someone else tap out definitely saves Makabe from looking weak even though Suzuki pretty much just choked him out and only let the hold go to fight Taguchi.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Another post-match attack by Suzuki-Gun.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, & Hiromu Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Will Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, & Gedo) - 6.25/10
A very meh match considering the talent involved, the spot on the card and the time they got. The only really good thing here was Ospreay after getting the hot tag and running wild on LIJ. The good stuff was all saved for the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Excellent! First, somewhere off-camera, Gedo ripped off BUSHI's mask and ran off with it. Then Ospreay and Hiromu had a low-key stare-down over the belt while Naito once again ignored YOSHI-HASHI. YOSHI-HASHI snapped and attacked him from behind and had to be pulled off of him... and Naito just went back into the ring, and as YOSHI-HASHI was being held back by the Young Lions on the outside, Naito did his pose and spit in YOSHI-HASHI's face. YOSHI-HASHI broke free and grabbed Naito's leg and started to pull him out of the ring... and Naito just didn't respond and let himself be dragged. The Young Lions once again pulled YOSHI-HASHI off, and Ospreay took YOSHI-HASHI to the back. On commentary, Kevin Kelly was reacting to YOSHI-HASHI almost as if he was a heel, saying that if he felt people were looking down at him then the right way to prove them wrong would be a victory in a single match against a big star like Naito. I'm very curious to see what happens both during and after their match in Osaka this weekend.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Sanada)(c) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Kazuchika Okada) - 8.75/10
An exciting and hard-hitting tag team encounter that did a wonderful job of getting me excited for Saturday's two big singles championship matches. Lots of good work on the head from everybody, and I thought Sanada ducking Okada's Rainmaker and laying Okada out with one of his own was a great note to end the build to that match on. The last few minutes were particularly great.
I'd also like to mention how happy I am that this match even took place, because matches like this are something New Japan has been missing over the past few years. It was a match that put titles that don't normally get the spotlight into the spotlight, allowed Okada to shine in a situation we rarely get to see him in (the same applies to Goto to a lesser extent, and this LIJ tag team is new enough that it feels fresh for them to, but they definitely seem like they will be a more permanent team), and giving a title shot to Okada & Goto was a much-needed break from the usual monotony of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Title scene.
This was a complete and total one match show from New Japan. That match happened to be AWESOME, but even a match of that caliber is not enough to save such a tepid show. Watch the main event and the aftermath to the semi-main, but that's all you need to see. Everything else is pretty much just a waste of your time (except maybe the opener).