JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. SHOTA UMINO, YUYA UEMURA, & REN NARITA - 4/10
THE YOUNG-BOYS JUMPED THE BELL ON LIGER (and pals, but I'm the only person in the world who cares about Tiger Mask and no one cares about Taguchi). Don't they teach you to respect legends at the New Japan dojo? And I think one of them might have stiffed Tiger Mask with that dropkick because he is just KICKING THE LIVING SH*T OUT OF THIS KID! The veterans continued to beat up the young-boys. Liger even did so after Taguchi had already gotten their team the win.
YUJI NAGATA & TOMOYUKI OKA vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) - 4/10
In what has to be by far the funniest thing he has ever said in his entire life, Kevin Kelly claimed that the reason Yujiro's... um... let's say "employee" was dancing the way she was dancing was because she was "spelling out Yujiro" with her "interpretive dance" (read as: erotic gyrating).
CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Takashi Iizuka, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi) - 2.5/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. This was the same sh*t we've gotten a million times between these teams on this tour, but at least this time there was less of it.
TOGI MAKABE & TOA HENARE vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) - 3.5/10
MICHAEL ELGIN, JUICE ROBINSON, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, & Jay White) - 7/10
This one definitely over-delivered. Jay White continues to refuse to participate in his fellow CHAOS members' occasional forays into goofiness.
LOS INGOBRENABLES DE JAPON vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, the Killer Elite Squad, El Desperado, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - 6.75/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. Archer chokeslamming Hiromu over the top rope and down onto LIJ looked AWESOME. Other than that the match wasn't anything new or interesting, but it was relatively exciting.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. After the rest of LIJ left, Naito made his way up the aisle but was attacked by a masked fan. The fan beat him up for a while as a legion of young-boys just stood there and watched. The fan took off his mask and it turned out to be Chris Jericho (wearing dark lipstick for some reason). Naito got a lot of color here. Props to New Japan for using blood so rarely that it really stands out when they do.
KOTA IBUSHI & BULLET CLUB (Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale, & the Guerrillas of Destiny) vs. BULLET CLUB (Cody Rhodes, Adam Page, Marty Scurll, the Young Bucks) - 5.75/10
Kevin Kelly tried to frame this as "Team Kenny vs. Team Cody" but that makes absolutely no sense based on what we've seen as no one but Page has any reason to team with Cody, and between Being The Elite and last Saturday's ROH show, both Marty and the Bucks have been established as not being on "Team Cody" at all. In fact, less than a month ago we got the big first-ever singles encounter between Omega and Cody which they had been building up to for almost ten months, and the climax of that match was the Young Bucks very clearly and purposefully attempting to superkick Cody! WHY ARE THEY ON HIS TEAM?
The side with Cody on them came out to Cody's music, which is exactly the sort of thing that it doesn't make sense for them to be doing. Omega and Ibushi were wearing their Golden Lovers t-shirts for the entrance and came out to something that was certainly not the Bullet Club theme. Remember during last year's G1 when Tama Tonga interrupted their match to lecture Omega about how being a good leader means that you push the team's brand, not one of your own side projects? Well Omega is still doing it almost a year later, and Tonga is just standing there doing nothing.
If this was being booked logically, the teams would be as follows: Cody, Page Fale, the Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Kenny, Ibushi, Scurll, Chase Owens, & Yujiro. Page and Ibushi are obvious. The Tongas shouldn't like Cody, but they should be even more anti-Omega because he is selfish by promoting his own sub-brands while Cody at least wants to be the leader of "Bullet Club," even if it is for his own selfish, egotistical reasons. Marty's biggest and most recent problems have been with Cody, while Chase has been the Bullet Club member who has been most receptive of Ibushi... and Yujiro is just a guy that seems to hang out with Chase a lot, now, I guess.
You'll notice that the Young Bucks are missing from this, and that is because they shouldn't be on any side right now. At Supercard of Honor XII they emphatically showed that they are on Kenny's side, but Kenny rejected their apology on Being The Elite so there should be some combination of they don't want to team with Kenny because of that or he still doesn't want to team with them.
Unfortunately Gedo books for drama rather than booking storylines that both make sense and are dramatic, and thus his mindset is that because the Bucks' straining relationship with Kenny has been a source of drama in this Bullet Club civil war, we need to have them on the opposite side of Kenny in this important "civil war" match. The problem with that is that it fails to recognize that there are actually multiple stories being told here. Kenny vs. Cody and Kenny & Kota vs. the Young Bucks are both sub-storylines within this Bullet Club civil war story. This is a Kenny vs. Cody match, and thus not only does it not need Kenny vs. the Bucks, but adding Kenny vs. the Bucks to this match hurts the new Bucks vs. Cody storyline that we saw kick into gear at Strong Style Evolved and Supercard of Honor XII.
This match was pretty disappointing. The action was disappointing for a ten-man tag that goes nine minutes (especially one with Omega, Page, Scurll, and the Young Bucks), and their attempts at trying to do storyline stuff made no sense.
The Jackson's didn't want to help beat Ibushi up? Why? The only explanation we got was Don Callis saying they are fine with fighting Kenny & Ibushi, but didn't want to participate in Cody's dirt tactics against them... but said "dirty tactics" were nothing more than a double-team in the corner, which the Bucks themselves do in basically every match. The Bucks being reluctant to fight Kenny would make sense if they hadn't agreed to be on Cody's team, which they clearly did or else why are they there? It seems that New Japan doesn't book intra-faction matches without the consent of those involved, so why did they say yes to facing off against Kenny if they didn't want to?
If that wasn't bad enough, someone apparently decided that this big serious "Bullet Club civil war" match needed comedy. Just over a month ago Marty Scurll was challenging for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Now he has turned into comedy dork Crash Holly. The finish was him trying to bodyslam Fale (which they spent the early part of the match building up to) but he couldn't get him over so Fale fell on top of Marty and Marty was pinned, making one of the company's top Jr. Heavyweights look like a complete and total moron just two weeks before he enters in their prestigious Best of the Super Juniors tournament.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn't like it. Kenny chased Cody to the back immediately after the bell rang to end the match. Then Chase Owens & Yujiro cme out and the non-ROH contracted Bullet Club members offered the ROH-contracted ones a Too Sweet, and the ROH guys accepted (one of the Bucks cut a short promo afterwards telling us that he and his brother don't care about getting sued by WWE because this one moment was worth it and "Bullet Club is fine," which I mostly believed this time).
Kevin Kelly told us that Bullet Club now appears to all being coming together again (and the actual Bullet Club theme played), which I find very frustrating for two reasons. The first is that this entire thing will wind up feeling like a completely criminal waste of storytelling potential. The second is that while I don't think Bullet Club has run its course, I think New Japan would be better served right now by having it split into two smaller stables rather than being one big one. Right now they have three big stables (CHAOS has fourteen members, Suzuki-Gun has nine, and Bullet Club has eleven members- though possibly twelve when Bone Soldier returns) and one small one (LIJ has five), and then there is Taguchi Japan which isn't so much a stable as it is an amorphous blob that is applied to most of the other babyfaces on the roster with the exception of the grumpy old men, and I think sometimes Henare. If they are going to stick to their rigid rules about stables then I think it allows them more flexibility if they split Bullet Club into two smaller stables. Whether that results in a Bullet Club led by Kota and then an "Elite" stable with Kenny, the Bucks, Ibushi, and Scurll (and maybe Flip Gordon), or whether Cody runs his course and leaves and we get an Omega-led Bullet Club and a Tama Tonga-led Tongans & Pals group of the Tongans, Chase, & Yujiro or something even wilder happens like both Cody and Kenny wind up splitting off (Cody taking Page with him) the Tongans & Yujiro split off and Jay White winds up as the new leader of Bullet Club because he's sick and tired of not being given a shot at Okada, or some other possibility that could manifest itself as I don't know, but I think all of those outcomes would be better for the company than one gigantic Bullet Club.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. KUSHIDA - a PERFECT 10/10!
OUTSTANDING! Ospreay worked over KUSHIDA's head while KUSHIDA worked over not just Ospreay's arm but also his injured neck. Both of these men took what an INSANE amount of punishment, including some stuff that it seems impossible that they could have worked... and if they could have, I don't want to know. They did an outstanding job of both ramping up their intensity and building to their big spots, and every single false finish they did was completely believable. Ospreay's selling in particular was amazing, and that, combined with the general story of the match and the legitimate injuries it played off of made many moments in this match almost feel like they were life and death moments for Ospreay. This guy is having an INSANE year... and it's entirely possible it doesn't happen if he doesn't nearly kill himself doing a Spanish Fly off the apron at Sakura: Genesis.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - GREAT! Tama Tonga comes out and distracts Ospreay so that the new Bone Solider can sneak up behind him and take him out. This new Bone Soldier is the total opposite of the previous one: he's a Jr. Heavyweight, he's ripped as hell, and his mask looks f*cking awesome. He reveals himself to be Taiji Ishimori, and he is almost certainly going to win Best of the Super Juniors.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - 9/10
These two were put into a situation where only an epic match would be acceptable, and these two had exactly that. And I don't mean epic in the slang clichéd sense but rather epic in the more literal sense of a long and ultimately climactic battle. This match went almost thirty-five minutes and it felt like it going any shorter just wouldn't have been appropriate... but the epic feel of tonight's match does not inherently make it better than their previous encounters.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - YAY! Omega is finally getting his rematch!
A GREAT show from New Japan, but the way they split things up on this tour meant that only the top half of the card was in any way relevant or worth seeing (and, to be honest, for the Bullet Club match and the LIVJ vs. Suzuki-Gun match it was really the post-match segment that mattered more than the matches themselves). Even so, the excellence of the top two matches more than made up for the shortcomings of the rest of the show.