JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, HIROYOSHI TENZAN, KUSHIDA, TIGER MASK IV, & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. YUJI NAGATA, SHOTA UMINO, REN NARITA, TETSUHIRO YAGI, & TOMOYUKI OKA - 4/10
The usual stuff.
TOA HENARE, JUICE ROBINSON, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, & Toru Yano) - 4/10
Goto got to be the babyface in peril but came back and got the win. Yano did some of his usual stuff and Henare and Ishii hit each other very hard, but in reality, nothing of consequence happened here at all. This match literally happened only because the other options was just plain leaving these guys off of the card. Because G-d forbid we actually build up a challenger for Goto's NEVER Openweight Title. That's definitely not something we should be doing at all.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Roppongi 3K(c) (w/Rocky Romero) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) (w/Suzuki-Gun) - 6.75/10
LIJ worked over Sho's back. He sells it well but... you know... his back gets worked over in every match. Maybe try an arm or a leg once in a while just to change things up? Suzuki-Gun got in on the back-working, too. Roppongi 3K made a comeback, but it was all for naught as the finish was Suzuki-Gun out-cheating LIJ to get the pin on a mist-blinded Sho to steal the titles. This brings their reign to a premature end, but I honestly don't care because I'm certain they'll just win them back on the next tour. After all, that's what always happens with the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Hot Potatoes.
YOSHI-HASHI vs. SANADA - 8/10
They were on the outside forever without getting counted out. Once they got back into the ring, things got really good. Both guys focused on the head and neck and they had some wonderful battles over their respective finishing submissions. At some point New Japan is going to have to give YOSHI-HASHI his due. The man delivers every time he is given the chance to do so, and in his ten years in the business, he has not won one single title or tournament. Not even an apuestas match.
TETUSYA NAITO vs. TAICHI (w/Miho Abe & TAKA Michinoku) - 7.75/10
Kevin Kelly tried to get TAKA's attention by shouting his name. When Don Callis asked him why he was doing this, Kevin responded that it was because "I'm trying to get him to come over here and curse at us in English." Compare this to the utter dork who would scold wrestling in ROH for saying words like "ass" or "jerk" that you are allowed to say on network television during prime time, never mind overnight, when ROH often airs.
The match started off with Taichi nailing Naito in the side of the head with his microphone stand while Miho Abe & TAKA Michinoku had the referee distracted. Then Taichi dragged Naito to the outside and powerbombed him. The referee saw this, ran over to make sure Naito could continue the match, and then immediately ran back to the ring and began to count him out. Hooray for people who understand the rules!
There were some very loud "TAICHI!" chants, to which Kevin Kelly responded by immediately assuming that Taichi must have paid them to chant for him, as there is no other explanation for why anyone would cheer for a despicable human being like Taichi. Wonderful!
Both guys worked over the head and neck. The crowd was really into Naito, but there was a shocking amount of support for Taichi as well. I really liked overbooking here, as it helped to really show Taichi's bullsh*t getting to Naito, and then the effect it had it on Naito in his own lashing out. That being said, I really, really, REALLY hope that thing was gimmicked. There was no need to hit Taichi with Destino there, because I was certain he was unconscious from that shot with the microphone stand.
Naito winning certainly works with where they seem to be going with him as getting more and more frustrated with things and getting both angrier and more serious, but... during that fantastic false finish with the low blow and Gedo Clutch, I couldn't help but be a little disappointed at Gedo once again taking the safe route with his tippy-top guys. Let's be honest: this promotion has enough guys who can be top stars (Okada, Omega, Naito, Tanahashi, Ishii, Suzuki, Ibushi, ZSJ) and enough guys who can be that 1B level player who has awesome matches with the top guys (Elgin, Goto, Sanada, hopefully soon Jay White and YOSHI-HASHI) that there is no reason not to try something bold with one of them. As for what that "something bold" might look like... I should have a fantasy booking scenario up in a day or two.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - TAKA tells Naito that Zack Sabre Jr. is going to beat him in the first round of the New Japan Cup en route to winning the whole thing. Cool.
REY MYSTERIO JR. VIDEO PROMO - Hype for his match with Liger at Strong Style Evolved, with no mention of the arm injury he seems to have suffered this past weekend.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Minoru Suzuki(c) vs. Togi Makabe - 7/10
They had a great match for the first seventeen minutes or so, emphasizing Makabe's power and Suzuki's work on the knee to try to chop him down, but then the last few minutes went in this totally different direction as they did the sleeper hold/Gotch Piledriver stuff, and it all felt totally shoe-horned in for no reason other than to get it in. It felt like the tape screwed up and cut to the finish of a completely different match than the one I had started watching.
WILL OSPREAY vs. KAZUCHIKA OKADA - 9.25/10
No Gedo at ringside with Okada. He stayed on commentary instead, which gave Don Callis a wonderful opening to heel on him as only Don Callis can.
They had a fun and totally respectful, almost American indy style chain wrestling match, like what you would expect in the first ten minutes of a thirty minute match between Bryan Danielson and Mike Quackenbush... up until the moment Ospreay felt that Okada disrespected him by toying with him on a break in the ropes, and Ospreay responded by slapping Okada right in the face, and it was ON! There were no more indy standoff, no more letting up the pressure, and certainly no more friendliness. From that point on it was full-on puro, with lots of work on the head and neck from both men, wonderful counters, and a simple story of two men trying each trying to hit their finisher for the certain victory before the other could do the same. OUTSTANDING.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - a great show of sportsmanship and friendship afterwards.
A GREAT show from New Japan. The pointless undercard matches were kept to a minimum (one benefit of not having Bullet Club and a good chunk of Suzuki-Gun on the show is that you don't have to shoe-horn in matches on the undercard just to make sure everyone gets a turn in the ring), and all of the major matches delivered, culminating with a Match of the Year candidate on top of the card. The only match of importance that didn't really deliver in the ring was the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title match, and while that one didn't quite deliver in the ring, it was at least newsworthy. While not quite as crazy as last year, Okada is off to another insane start... but this year he's got Will Ospreay right up there with him.