NJPW Sakura: Genesis 2018





NJPW Sakura: Genesis 2018

By Big Red Machine
From April 01, 2018

NJPW Sakura: Genesis 2018

BULLET CLUB (the Young Bucks) vs. BULLET CLUB (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens) - 6.25/10


Why are these guys even wrestling each other? They're all in Bullet Club, and at no point have we really seen any of them angry at each other. Kevin Kelly tried to spin it that Chase Owens has had "a historical connection" to Omega and the Bucks going back to when he joined Bullet Club but he has been hanging out with the Tongans as of late, but that doesn't quite mesh up with what we've seen, as he has been the non-Omega member of Bullet Club who has teamed with Ibushi the most (and even when Kenny wasn't in the match), so that seems to put him firmly on Team Kenny. What Chase really seems like is the one guy who truly does want Bullet Club to be fine and naively thinks that if he just keeps spreading good vibes around to everyone then things actually will revert to being fine.

So have a big respectful handshake to start things off... and then, the moment the Bucks turn their backs, Owens & Yujiro, who have not had any problems with the Bucks at all, ATTACK THEM FROM BEHIND. This is like what the Generation Next break-up would have looked like if Generation Next had fifteen members and Gabe decided halfway through booking it that he really didn't give a sh*t anymore.

Despite being jumped from behind, the Bucks were back in control in about fifteen seconds, which means that the only thing that the attack accomplished was to have Yujiro & Owens do something dastardly to the Bucks, which only magnifies the focus on that spot, and thus demands follow-up that I'm certain at this point will not come in a timely manner (if it ever even does come).

Matt Jackson's injured back was once again a key point in the match, but I liked the fact that they changed it up by having Nick be the babyface in peril this time and have most of the story with Matt's back revolve around it preventing him from hitting his offensive maneuvers as effectively as he would like. The injured back also helped make some of Chase & Yujiro's nearfalls a lot more believable than they otherwise would have been.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Kevin Kelly tried to explain away Chase & Yujiro jumping the Bucks from behind as follows: Chase & Yujiro wanted to Too Sweet the Bucks but the Bucks didn't want to get sued so instead they just did some handshakes and fist-bumps and stuff... and apparently this refusal to do their stupid club handshake in favor of a more generic one made Chase & Yujiro so angry that they felt compelled to attack their stablemates from behind. This not only makes Chase & Yujiro look completely ridiculous, but also makes them look like idiots since everyone in the world knows that the Bucks can't Too Sweet anymore because they got a cease & desist letter from WWE (they even made it into a freakin' t-shirt) so how the hell do Chase & Yujiro not know this?

After the match the Bucks offered Chase & Yujiro a handshake. Yes, really. I'm supposed to believe that even after a month and a half the Bucks were so angry at Kenny Omega that they were unwilling to forgive him for shoving Matt down in a situation where it is clear that if Kenny had realized it was Matt grabbing him, he wouldn't have shoved him... but these guys ASSAULT THEM FROM BEHIND, on purpose, knowing full well who they are attacking and that Matt has an injured back, and the Bucks are ready to forgive them after less than ten minutes, during which they spent the entire time fighting these guys? F*CK OFF.

Chase & Yujiro accept the Bucks' offer of a handshake and everyone is friends again, because in this story friendship extends only as far as the booker needs it to at this particular moment in time, with no real sense of logic or consistency.

CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Takashi Iizuka & Taichi) - DUD!


Suzuki-Gun jump their opponents before the bell. Upon seeing this, the referee calls for the bell to ring to start off the match even though Taichi is currently hitting Ishii with a foreign object. The bell rings, so you'd think Taichi would put the foreign object down so he doesn't get disqualified, but instead he starts to choke Ishii it with it, right in front of the referee. You'd think the referee would now call for the bell again to disqualify Suzuki-Gun for this clearly illegal action, but instead he does nothing because New Japan referees are the worst in all of wrestling.

Taichi and Ishii started to do some decent stuff, but that, of course, had to get interrupted for the usual atrocious, pointless, New Japan crowd-brawling. There was more weapon-use right in front of the referee without a DQ being called for. This stuff was made almost more frustration by the fact that there were other times when they took great pains to hide the illegal actions from the referee. How do you put a match together like this without realizing that the ridiculous contradiction here? And G-d bless Kevin Kelly's little heart for somehow being able to let us know that "the referee never saw it" whenever they hide something from the ref, but when they do something right in front of the referee is he is able to just completely ignore the fact that this should be a disqualification.

Ishii was the babyface in peril, so I didn't even get the chance to see Yano get the sh*t beaten out of him. Biting happened. Yano got tagged in and the match devolved into Stupid Yano Tricks. When Iizuka came in it further devolved into the single worst subset of Stupid Yano Tricks, which is, of course, the Yano vs. Iizuka stuff. Included in this is one of the dumbest, most frustrating spots ever, wherein Yano grabs Iizuka's beard. The referee then begins to count to five because hair-pulling is illegal, but of course Yano doesn't break, so rather than disqualifying him, the referee takes it upon himself to try to break up the illegal action, which he does by jumping up and performing a double axe-handle on Yano's arm, which succeeds in breaking the hold, but in the process causes Iizuka's beard to be pulled even more violently. You could get away with this ONCE (assuming it's a No DQs match, of course). Maybe even once per referee, if we're being generous. But these guys do this spot in every single match they're in together, and these idiot referees always fall for it! At least when Ric Flair goes to the top rope or someone tries to powerbomb Billy Kidman they're thinking "maybe I'll hit the move this time." With these referees... what the hell are they thinking? That maybe the laws of physics will work differently this time and the downward force won't transfer from Yano's arm to Iizuka's beard? I am shocked that these New Japan referees are even capable of counting to three, never mind to twenty.

More of the usual crap happened (most of which should have been a DQ but wasn't) before Yano got the win in an awkward-looking roll-up/lariat combo with Ishii. This was eight minutes of stupidity all just so Yano could do the same boring sh*t he usually does, and they even gave freakin' Yano the win. He must have pictures of Gedo playing with an underage farm animal.

NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & the Guerrillas of Destiny)(c) vs. Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Michael Elgin - 4.25/10


There were a few entertaining spots here, but in reality this match existed only because these title belts exist, and these title belts exist for no reason other than to have more title belts, which is never a good reason for anything.

Don Callis said (and Kevin Kelly agreed) that "Taguchi has been off his game" since the Tokyo Dome. What are they talking about? He has just continued to do his same old butt spots. It's not even like he's been losing more matches than usual.

HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUICE ROBINSON, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Jay White, & YOSHI-HASHI) - 6.5/10


This was the standard undercard six-man stalling because they don't want to do a title match Goto and Juice yet or White and Finlay yet. That being said, this one doesn't frustrate me anywhere near as much as the next match does because at least these matches were set up less than a week before this show. Then again, with the way New Japan announces their cards (i.e. they wait until the most recent big show is complete to announce anything) there really isn't any reason they couldn't have announced title matches for this show other than that they simply didn't want to. I much prefer their to be a better reason, such as there is another challenger who has earned a title shot... which they had the entire New Japan Cup and Anniversary Show tours to set up but didn't.

LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, & EVIL vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & the Killer Elite Squad) - 7/10


Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. Some interesting stuff happened between Suzuki and Naito, but then the match devolved into crowd brawling. Lance Archer decided to stop paying attention to the match so that he could torment a small child at ringside. How about maybe we focus on trying to win instead, okay?

Eventually they got back to the ring and Suzuki locked Naito in some sort of crazy kneebar roll-up that I was sure Naito was down for three on during my first viewing, but when I went back it turns out you could see that he gets his shoulder up just in the nick of time. He continued on with the hold, bending Naito into an obscene Zack Sabre Jr.-style pretzel but Naito somehow got to the ropes.

This turned into a pretty great match by the end, but it was frustrating that it was happening at all. K.E.S. have been dominating their division for what feels like months now and it felt like the only reason they hadn't gotten a title shot yet was that EVIL was injured, and now that EVIL is finally healthy... they have a six-man tag? On one of the biggest shows of the year? Really?

And Naito and Suzuki are two of your top singles stars. You've already got Tanahashi not wrestling a big match because he's being rebuilt, but that doesn't mean you should just not do anything with these two! Why the hell didn't Ishii pin Suzuki at Strong Style Evolved to set him up for an IC Title shot tonight, do Naito vs. Elgin and just leave the losers like Yano, Taichi, and Iizuka off the damn show? If f*cknig KUSHIDA, who never has a bad match, can be left off of a show, why can't losers whose mere presence drags a show down be left off of a show?

POST-MATCH STUFF - Naito cup a promo on Suzuki so Suzuki posed with his IWGP intercontinental Championship over Naito, who was doing his pose own and appearing not to care. This really didn't make me want to see them wrestle each other for the title.

IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)(c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 7/10


Someone jumped someone else before the bell/. Shockingly, it was Roppongi 3K (who are supposed to be the babyfaces), jumping LIJ. Suzuki-Gun was still making their way down to the ring at the time. Rocky Romero was also acting like a heel on the outside. The real key point here, though, was LIJ once again getting screwed out of the titles by Suzuki-Gun. There was also a point where Rocky got pulled into the ring and got a mud hole stomped into him, but he totally deserved it at that point so I really didn't care that Roppongi 3K's manager was being assaulted.

IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. Marty Scurll - a PERFECT 10/10!


They followed up on last weekend's match at Strong Style Evolved in which Ospreay took WAY too many brainbusters (including one on the concrete floor) with Scurll firmly targeting Ospreay's neck, looking to capitalize on the damage that Liger had done. Scurll did just about everything you could think off to Ospreay's neck... and even got a little unintentional help from Ospreay when Ospreay hit a Solo Spanish Fly off the apron and wound up smashing his head on the apron (hard enough to cut him deeply) and it looked like his neck folded over. It was one of the closest things I've ever seen to Benoit and Sabu.

The other dynamic they had going for them in this match is the fact that in every big situation, Marty Scurll has always gotten the best of Will Ospreay. He beat him for this very title at last year's Power Struggle. He beat him before that on the opening night of last year's Best of the Super Juniors. He beat swooped in and stole the WCPW World Heavyweight Title from him last October, and two months before that he beat him in the main event of their Stacked PPV. He beat him for the ROH TV Title and in the finals of PWG's Battle of Los Angeles tournament. It doesn't matter where you look: New Japan, ROH, PWG, PROGRESS, RevPro, wXw, WCPW, even a dinky little promotion like Discovery Wrestling: with the exception of one win in WCPW in 2016 (with nothing on the line), Scurll ALWAYS get the better of Ospreay. This dynamic helped give you the feeling that absolutely anything Scurll did to him could be the finish, but also made Ospreay's determination not to lose feel even more personal.

And if you read that paragraph and said "yeah, but I've seen Scurll vs. Ospreay a million times before," then you will enjoy this match even more, as their tight focus on the story of Scurll working over Ospreay's neck made this match a major departure from their usual mutual flips, kicks, and head-drops style. This is one you need to go out of your way to see. It might well replace Jericho vs. Omega as my current leader for Match of the Year.

POST-MATCH SEGMENT - The winner challenges KUSHIDA, who accepts the challenge.

GOLDEN LOVERS vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page & Cody Rhodes) - 8.25/10


We get the usual time-wasting pre-match gaga from Cody. Then the bell rings and he locks up with Kenny... and one quick failed attempt at a cheap-shot on Ibushi later and Cody is rolls to the floor, climbs into the crowd, and starts stalling. No attempt to count him out, either, of course, because that would mean a New Japan referee is actually doing his job correctly.

The announcers were playing up the idea that Cody has done all of this because he is jealous of Omega's relationship (that seems like a perfectly ambiguous word to use for the moment) with Ibushi. Where the hell did that come from?

They were on the outside forever without being counted out. A large of this was so that they could do a bunch of stuff with a table, which the referee never tried to stop them from doing. At one point Cody had Omega set up on a table on the outside and climbed up to the top turnbuckle but the Young Bucks came out and told him not to, even though they put Omega through a table in a similar situation just last week. Nick Jackson says "look what this has come to." Cody offers them a handshake but they walk away.

The match built very well and everything felt important. Cody got busted open right by the eye on a dropkick, which made him look absolutely deranged for the remainder of the match. Cody pinned Ibushi by pulling the tights, which was a good finish for this match. Page and Cody beat Ibushi down after the match but Omega was able to make the save before they could use a chair on him.

IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 8.75/10


The major story here was Zack working on Okada's arm and having lots of counters for the Rainmaker, but they also had an interesting component where each guy at times got goaded into trying to wrestle the other guy's style of match, and both held their own surprisingly well. The match was AWESOME, but still felt held back by the fact that I don't think anyone really ever thought there was a chance that Zack would win.

Final Thoughts
This was a pretty darn great show from New Japan, and yet it was also kind of a let-down. The top matches were all awesome, but it didn't really feel like the usual big April show that this show has traditionally been. It felt a lot more like a New Japan B show where the undercard is meh with a lot of matches that are just eating up time in their feuds for a later title match, with the whole thing being propped up by the big matches on top. This was one of their biggest shows of the year and yet half of the belts weren't even on the line. In the ring, this show was a success, but I continue to be disappointed in the slow-roll booking. The announcers are talking about how Okada is tying Tanahashi's record for twelve defenses in one title reign... and that doesn't seem impressive at all when you compare it to, say, the most of the big or even medium-sized ROH World Championship reigns or Joey Ryan's PWG World Title reign, where there were a lot more defenses in a much shorter amount of time, and those companies were running a lot less often in that time period than New Japan is now. Okada has been champion for 651 days now... and I highly doubt he's even going to have to defend the belt again before he hits 700. That's not impressive in my book. Anyway, this was an awesome show, but it's not really worth your time to watch anything that wasn't one of the top four matches.

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