Barnett - Martial arts, hard-hitting, never say die attitude.
SOCAL UNCENSORED vs. ROPPONGI 3K - 6/10
Kazarian seemed to have hurt his leg early on but turned out fine. This was a fine opener, although it almost hit the point where it started to drag. Roppongi 3K picked up the win over the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions, which has me hoping that it will lead to them coming into ROH for a title shot (Supercard of Honor, maybe?)
After this match ended they pitched it to a commercial but rather than a commercial they went right back not the ring where Roppongi 3K were finally finished celebration. J.R. and Barnett were apparently unaware that they were on the air still, as we heard Barnett say "you're right J.R. They need to get out of the f*cking ring." Whoops. Then, instead of a commercial, we just started watching the hard-cam, which was pointed at the ramp with nothing happening, and never actually went to a commercial.
DAVID FINLAY JR. & JUICE ROBINSON vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Gedo) - 5.75/10
Goto got busted open early on by a back elbow from Juice, and he was leaking blood from his mouth pretty steadily for a while. It wasn't much blood, but it was enough to really add an air of "this just became a fight" to the match (like an Alexa Bliss! match when her nose starts to bleed). This seems like it should have made Goto into a babyface (not that he normally isn't, but in terms of his structural role within this match), but it the match then took a very odd turn with Gedo going total heel on Juice, who became the babyface in peril. Juice eventually made the tag to Finlay and it was Finlay who pinned Gedo for the win rather than Juice even though Juice is the guy heading into the title shot.
KILLER ELITE SQUAD vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Chuck Taylor) - 4.75/10
K.E.S. jumped the bell on their opponents. The announcers totally ignored this. Instead they talked about Davey Boy Smith Jr.'s size and skills. J.R. noted that "it's surprising to see a man that sized called 'junior' anything." Doesn't J.R. call college football games for the University of Oklahoma? I can't imagine that he doesn't see large men whose names end in "Jr." all the time. As for Barnett, he randomly started talking about someone who he had trained named "Harry." Who is this "Harry?" All I see is a dude named David "Davey Boy" Smith Jr. Is it really that hard to not use people's shoot names on the air? I mean really! Edge & Christian knew each other long before they were Edge (or Sexton) & Christian, and worked together forever. Did they ever once screw up and call each other Adam or Jay or the air?
After a spot where DBSJ punched Chuck in the face a bunch of times, J.R. decided to tell everyone that back when he sued to referee matches, if he saw someone get punched in the face that many times in a row, he would seriously consider calling for a stoppage. Because of J.R.'s usual attitude towards modern wrestling, this came off to me a lot less like trying to get the match over and a lot more as a coded criticism that these guys were doing too much.
Chuck's back was worked over but he eventually made a tag to Yano, who engaged in comedy with Lance Archer. It wasn't completely wretched, which is an improvement on the usual where Yano is concerned.
Chuck Taylor, whose back had been worked over for a while had no problem getting LANCE ARCHER up for a Piledriver. Hopefully Suzuki doesn't decide to do his usual spot where it takes him forever to get the guy up even though his back hasn't been worked over or else Suzuki would look rather silly. Even more hopefully, Suzuki wasn't even planning on doing that spot tonight, because if he was he might well hunt Chuck down and feed him is own intestines between the end of this match and the beginning of his.
Chuck eventually fell prey to a Killer Bomb, but even more importantly, Lance Archer hit Chuck with first a POUNCE and then a chokeslam, reminding me why I love him so much. This reminder was quite necessary after his exchanges with Yano tonight, and it wasn't just the comedy, either. Their strike exchanges were really ugly. A lot of Archer's just plain missed while a lot of Yano's looked pathetically weak.
BULLET CLUB SEGMENT - Very good. Cody Rhodes and Marty Scurll wasted time dicking around with the crowd before the Guerillas of Destiny came out. Then, after the Guerrillas of Destiny came out, they wasted even more time doing so. The people like Marty and don't like Cody. We get it. We got that from the shtick you did two minutes ago. Just cut your f*cking promo over the booing, Cody! You have the microphone and they don't. Giving the mic to Marty is only going to encourage them to boo more when they give it back to you.
Cody says that the scheduled match won't be happening because not only Bullet Club fine, but they're also friends. What isn't fine, Cody says, is the booking of this match... and Cody's got a point here. For YEARS New Japan never booked guys in the same stable against each other unless such a match was a necessity of one of their round robin tournaments. And now, suddenly, that rule has ceased applying to Bullet Club and only to Bullet Club?
Kenny and Cody being booked against each other makes sense. Kenny being booked against the Bucks was done in a way that it makes sense. Kenny being booked against Adam Page would make sense. Because there is tension there. But why the hell are Cody & Marty being booked to face the Guerrillas of Destiny? Or Kota teaming with non-Omega Bullet Club members? You can't just have the usual rules suddenly stop applying only in the specific instances that your storyline needs them to not apply in.
Anyway, Cody talks out the Guerrillas, especially Tama Tonga as a "Bullet Club O.G." He then transitioned that wonderfully into taking credit Bullet Club's current popularity (and referring to Tama Tonga as a "wrestler" while referring to himself as a "superstar" was a little touch that did an even better job of getting over Cody's ego). Throughout the whole thing, Tama Tonga was staring a whole through Cody, with Cody basically not noticing. He handed Tama Toga the mic, assuming Tama would back him up... but Tanga Loa grabbed the mic instead and said that Cody would not deny Bullet Club's fans the chance to see this match. He also told him that "if there is a team we're on, it's definitely not Team Cody." Cody attacked him while Tama Tonga was looking the other direction, brooding, but he figured out what hapepend and unloaded on Cody, getting a big pop and giving us a hot start to...
THE GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY vs. MARTY SCURLL & CODY RHODES (w/Brandi Rhodes) - 5/10
Remember that hot start I just mentioned? Well they totally killed it by having Marty immediately do dumb comedy where he got carried away and thought he was a member of the other team and was yelling at Cody and Brandi, then turned around and tried to make nice with them only to get knocked on his ass and down to the outside where he immediately jumped into Cody's arms. This is the sort of stupid sh*t that NEEDS to stop. They 1) killed their hot start, 2) made Marty, who I'm supposed to take seriously as a wrestler, look like a total f*cking idiot who can't even remember what team he's on, and 3) made a joke out of the idea of someone in Bullet Club choosing what side he is in during intra-Bullet Club match in a storyline where the whole idea that Bullet Club is fracturing and people are picking sides! And all for a cheap one-time laugh.
Cody tagged himself in when Marty was about to do the chicken wing to try to hit Cross Rhodes and steal the win. I'm not saying this isn't in character, but I also think it's in character for Marty to get upset about this, and such behavior from Cody absolutely needs to be addressed between them simply because the entire storyline has been based around the idea that Cody being egotistical glory hog is ripping Bullet Club apart, so to not address it would be completely ridiculous... and yet, I have no faith whatsoever that they will do so because- like most things that Cody does (and most of the Bullet Club guys, really) it feels like they just do it because they know it will get a reaction from the crowd in that moment, and don't even consider what it means for the storyline. This instance of Cody being a glory hog felt less like it was intended to be part of the overall story of Cody being a glory hog and more like it was just another spot that Marty and Cody came up with to get the fans to boo Cody in relation to Marty like in all of their pre-match shenanigans.
The match was meh, but my major disappointment with it was that even after having the middle rope kicked into his nuts by Cody, Tama Tonga did absolutely nothing after this match. How is it that the same guy who lectured Kenny Omega in the G1 for just wearing an Elite t-shirt and promoting The Elite more than he was promoting Bullet Club as a whole, has managed to say silent throughout all of Cody's egotistical pre-match ramblings and going out of his way to do things whose only purpose was to tweak Kenny Omega's nose? That pre-match segment almost seemed designed specifically for Tama Tonga to make some sort of statement tonight, and yet he remains silent.
In case you thought I was reading too hard into J.R.'s comments earlier, during this match he told us all that "you can make a bodyslam very special if one chooses to. That may sound ridiculous, but think about it." J.R. is not wrong with what he is saying here... but he sure as hell is wrong to say this now when he's supposed to be an announcer calling a kayfabe wrestling match on national television!
DRAGON LEE, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, HIROSHI TANAHASHI, & KUSHIDA vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Tanahashi, Sanada, & BUSHI) - 6/10
J.R. tried to explain LIJ being cheered is as a result of them "evolving" from "villains" "into more of an anti-establishment, defiant faction." How, exactly, have they evolved? They do the same stuff they've always done. Actually, I'd say they have been even more establishment than usual recently. I don't see Sanada & EVIL throwing their tag belts into the air and letting them drop to the ground like they give a sh*t if they get damaged, and that was Naito's trademark anti-establishment. He also said that people were blaming Naito for Tanahashi's knee injury. I'm dead sure that the entire angle has been that it was Suzuki who did it in their IC Title match.
The match was lots of the usual stuff and some cutesy spots... except when Hiromu was in there with Dragon Lee because those two will never not try to kill each other. With a rivalry like that, some promotion always inevitably tries to book an angle where they wind up working together for some reason or another. I hope that NEVER happens with these two. I want them to hate each other forever.
REY MYSTERIO JR. PROMO - Good. He came out here and apologized to the fans for being too injured to wrestle tonight. He didn't have to do that, so this was very nice of him. It also established even more sincerity (not that he needed it. Rey always comes off as very real in his promos) for his vow to wrestle in a New Japan ring once again.
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER vs. WILL OSPREAY - 4.5/10
Ross once again decided to criticize the wrestler's decisions during this match... but I'll admit that this time I would have had a hard time keeping my mouth shut as well because it's totally true that "there is no reason for the match to continue if you've just been dropped on your head on concrete." That being said, adding that part about "I know you might not want to hear that at home but think about it biologically" was a little too much. You made your point, dude. Now drop it.
Anyway, they didn't do a count-out finish just a few minutes in, in case you were wondering. Ospreay made it back to the ring. Then he kicked out of a Liger Bomb. Then he managed to counter an attempted Frankensteiner by landing on his feet... and hurt his knee in the process. He proceeded to do a flipping handspring anyway, and came away limping even worse. If this is legit then there is a large amount of irony here. If he's just selling then...
Yeah, okay. He's just selling. He did a f*cking Sasuke Special. I'm sorry, but this is ridiculous. If you've got this match planned out where the big story is going to be you selling your leg then WHY THE F*CK WOULD YOU START IT OUT WITH YOU TAKNIG A BRAINBUSTER ONTO CONCRETE!
Liger hit a brainbuster and went for the cover... and THEY CUT AWAY FROM THE RING! I don't give a f*ck about Rey Mysterio Jr. I WANT TO SEE IF OSPREAY CAN GET A SHOULDER UP OR NOT! Ross was clearly getting annoyed that Ospreay kept kicking out of brainbusters.
I'm sure some people will love this match, but I will never understand why. This felt like two completely different matches spliced together. In one of them Liger was working over Ospreay's head, and whenever this was the focus, Ospreay didn't sell his knee at all, and in the other one, Ospreay had an injured leg and was trying his best to fight though the pain to hit his usual offense, with no indication that he had been continuously dropped on his head. What possessed them to put this match together like this?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - AWESOME! Ospreay thanked Liger for everything he has done, and the fans all chanted for Liger. Then he said that he was "no one's replacement" and he wanted to create his own legacy and thus he had to go through legends (I'm sure you can see where this is going). He said he has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for the past few years, and he has no problem proving that again by putting his belt on the line against Rey Mysterio Jr.!
The fans all want to see it, but the one guy in the building who doesn't is Marty Scurrl, who comes out and nails Ospreay from behind with his umbrella. Rey tried to make the save but Marty pulled his mask off! Marty then put the mask on top of his head and posed and flipped the fans off. A Young Lion from ringside attended to Rey while Liger chased Marty off. We then got a handshake between Rey and Liger, and then one between Rey and Ospreay, too. This was a very exciting segment that also set up quite a few matches for down the road. The only negative was J.R. inexplicably and repeatedly mispronouncing Marty Scurll's totally phonetic surname as "schurl."
SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada) - 8/10
Suzuki hit Ishii with a chair right I front of his opponent but there was no DQ. J.R. didn't find a way to criticize this, which was disappointing considering his behavior so far tonight. That chairshot was apparently okay, but they had to make sure that the referee was distracted when Suzuki-Gun put Ishii in a double submission. Yeah. That makes sense.
Other than that, this was an awesome tag match between major stars, but it was definitely the two "lesser" men within their factions who stole the show. Zack was freakin' submission machine, bending Okada in whichever way he pleased and wrestling him at every turn. Ishii was his usual tough self and a total glutton for punishment. He and Suzuki had AWESOME exchange of strikes that was made in large part due to Ishii's selling. Zack won via submission over Ishii and attacked Okada afterwards. Then he and Suzuki assaulted the referee because they could (which I'm sure they won't be punished for). Then Zack posed with Okada's IWGP Heavyweight Title... and then he tossed it on the ground.
IWGP UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Jay White(c) vs. Adam Page - 8.5/10
The story of this match was Adam Page working over Jay White's neck while Jay White literally semed to be attempting to murder Adam Page by suplexing him onto his head. They did a German Suplex from the apron to the floor in which Adam Page seemed like he came closer to dying than anything I've seen since BJ Whitmer slipped off the top rope while trying to Superbomb Jimmy Jacobs at ROH Dragon Gate Challenge twelve years ago (almost to the day). J.R. criticized them doing that spot as well.
The match was quite awesome. Aside from the vicious suplexes it was quite hard-hitting and built extremely well. New Japan showed a lot of faith by putting these two young guys who weren't even bit players in the promotion a mere five months ago and putting them in a big spot here, and these guys showed everyone that that faith was not misplaced.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - David Finlay Jr. came out and speared the winner, then challenged him to a title match at Korakuen Hall on April 24th. Why not at Sakura Genesis this weekend? White doesn't have any challenger for that show yet.
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs. THE GOLDEN LOVERS - 9.75/10
Major props are due to whoever came up with that opening spot. Matt and Ibushi were going to start it off but Mat demanded Kenny instead. Kenny obliged and they started arguing... and then Matt knocked Kota off the apron with a cheap-shot and tagged out. I think this did an excellent job of putting the "dream match" aspect of this match on the backburner and replacing it with the real tension they wanted. This then worked with the dual tensions created by the storyline (the inter-Elite problems and the pride of wanting to prove that you are the best tag team in the world) to make anything that Kenny and the Bucks did to each other or that the Bucks did to Kota which wasn't completely clean feel ten times more important than it would have in any other match. It felt like there was the real possibility of personal pride exacerbating issues in a friendship that was already going through a rocky period to the point where it might be severely- or even irreparably- damaged. Hell... even some totally clean moves like Kenny hitting Matt with a back-breaker had that feeling.
Another idea whose creator deserves a lot of credit for the success of this match is whoever came up with the idea for Matt to wear that weight belt with his name on it. This served to emphasize that Matt had an injured back coming into this match, but even more importantly, it allowed people to tell the Bucks apart and thus more easily keep track of which one of the most-identical brothers was the one with the injured back.
The Golden Lovers hit You Can't Escape, which it only now occurs to me is a variation of More Bang for Your Buck, but I think no one really noticed that at the time because they had some timing issues and people were more concerned about the fact that Kenny landed with his head seeming to smack on the seated Kota's shoulders and smacked Matt in the face with his knees.
The thing I popped the biggest for might well have been the headlock takeover on the outside by Ibushi. If your original move didn't work but you know Matt's back is hurt then it makes sense to go after this back, and a headlock takeover on the floor sure does that... and that combined with the fluidity of the move made a headlock takeover on the outside of all things just seem totally natural.
The storytelling in this match was off one of the best I've ever seen. The idea was essentially that things kept getting more and more heated until we hit the point where basically the Bucks didn't care about their friendship with Kenny anymore but Kenny didn't want the friendship to end. Matt's injured back played into that by both firing Nick up and by having Matt's valiant battle through it require Kenny to take more and more harsh measures to try to defeat him, which put more of a strain on the friendship. They did an excellent job of finding so many different ways to get that idea over. Throw in the awesome action throughout, and you've got a nearly perfect match.
What keeps it from hitting that perfect 10/10? The table spot. Or, more accurately, the fact that there was no DQ for it because quite frankly, if they had ended the match right there, I would have given this a 10/10. What better way to show that this friendship is now irreparably broken than to have Matt Jackson pass up the chance to hit his finisher and prove that they are the best tag team in the world and instead choose to put his best friend Kenny Omega through a table with a diving elbow drop even though doing so would get his team disqualified?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Cody came out and tried to convince the Bucks that he was right about Kenny, but they wouldn't have it and circumstances lead to a callback to Kenny unknowingly shoving a Young Buck down when the Buck tried to grab him from behind, but this time with Cody doing the shoving and Nick being the shoved Buck. Kenny & Ibushi came back so Cody bailed. Kenny offered the Bucks a handshake and while Nick accepted it, Matt didn't. I liked the Cody stuff here, but would have been happier if neither Buck had accepted Kenny's handshake.
This was a typical New Japan show: a dry, mostly dull undercard that you have to slog through to get to the excellence on top. In this case (as is usually the case) the main events made the other stuff worth sitting through. Also... I got to hear JIM ROSS say "Golden Shower" on a national television broadcast.