IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)(c) vs. Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 6.5/10
Suzuki-Gun tried to attack Roppongi 3K before the bell but Sho ducked El Desperado's title belt shot and Yoh dropkicked Kanemaru off the apron, after which the babyfaces dove onto the heels for a perfect start to the show. This also started off what appeared to be a story about Roppongi 3K being ready for all of Suzuki-Gun's usual dirty tactics, which they were able to avoid all match... until the finish, when Suzuki-Gun came up with a new dirty trick: Kanemaru just hit Sho with the whiskey bottle and El Desperado pinned him. That was quite disappointing to me, as I am quite ready for this title reign to be over and this story would have been the perfect ending to it.
JUICE ROBINSON & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. CHAOS (Jay White & YOSHI-HASHI) - 6.25/10
Jay White jumped the bell on the opponents, and while Juice's back was turned, no less. Kevin Kelly played this up as if this was White being heelish, but this is nothing compared to what, say, Yano does, and Kevin never really even calls it like it's illegal when Suzuki-Gun jump people or use weapons, so why is he getting on Jay White's case?
Juice gave us a nice loud shout of "EAT SH*T, MOTHERF*CKER!" so already we have someone trying to steal Jericho's new gimmick. Juice also got the big pin on Jay White here, setting him up for a title shot at some point, possibly even at the Cow Palace... and I think they should give Juice the belt.
CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 5.75/10
This match had two modes: it was either Ishii and Suzuki trading strikes, or Yano was getting his arm worked over. I did enjoy Zack stopping all of Yano's usual bullsh*t as well, but the match just wasn't very interesting, particularly because we'd seen the Suzuki vs. Ishii brawl during their tag match last weekend, so this felt redundant. It wasn't helped by a post-match segment where Ishii attacked Suzuki from behind while Suzuki was peacefully making his way up the ramp, making Ishii- supposedly the babyface- into a sore loser and who takes cowardly post-match cheap-shots.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Hirooki Goto(c) vs. Michael Elgin vs. Taichi (w/Miho Abe) - 8/10
This was one of those three-ways where they put a lot of effort into making feel like an actual three-way pretty much the entire time. That doesn't mean that everyone was in at every moment, but no one was out for so long that you couldn't remember what the move that most recently felled him was. They also had a little story in here about Taichi being a scheming heel, whether it was his attempts to get the babyfaces to fight each other so he could sneak in for a roll-up in the beginning, or his big spot with the microphone stand shots towards the end that made for an excellent false finish. That spot alone- including a diabolical laugh!- should get Taichi some looks the next time a Japanese movie studio is looking for a cliché villain for a low-budget action movie. It was wonderful!
Elgin and Goto both delivered as well. Elgin even busted out a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex! They had some great sequences together that have me salivating at the fact that Elgin winning the belt by pinning Taichi here almost certainly means that we're going to get a singles match between these two for the title.
IWGP TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Sanada)(c) vs. The Young Bucks - 9.25/10
One think you have to give the Young Bucks is that they are some pretty creative guys. I often don't like a good chunk of the stuff they come up with, but this was not one of those occasions. The story of this match was the Bucks having to overcome Nick Jackson injuring his foot when he tried to kick EVIL but EVIL ducked and hit the ringpost instead. It gave the usual Young Bucks match a whole new spin, which meant new things for the Bucks to come up with, and come up with them they did. Nick's selling also phenomenal. You might not enjoy this one as much if you take Don Callis at this word that Nick broke his foot, but there is no way he could have possibly known that anyway, so I just decided to assume that it hurt a lot but not that it was broken. This match was outstanding, and you should go watch it right now.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, & REY MYSTERIO JR. vs. BULLET CLUB (Marty Scurll, Adam Page, & Cody) - 5.75/10
Rey has this special mask that is half of his own mask and half the New Japan lion. It looks creepy. Like he's the Rey Mysterio version of Two-Face. Speaking of things that are over the top to the point of being detrimental, Marty Scurll has just gone the full cartoon character in New Japan at this point, making it very hard for me to get into his matches. Cody pinned Liger for the win. He also attacked him after the match but Rey made the save.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi - 9/10
This match was a combination of crazy feats of athleticism, hard strikes to the head, and some SCARY bumps on the head. Or, in other words, exactly the sort of exciting and yet also terrifying match you'd expect from these two. They also told a great story of Hiromu always having a counter to the Storm Breaker. The only strikes against this match were the fact that they spent way too much time on the outside without being counted out in the beginning, and the fact that there was a good chunk of the middle of the match that didn't really feel to me like it was building.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Tetsuya Naito(c) vs. Chris Jericho - 8.75/10
Jericho attacked Naito before he ever got into the ring, which let them brawl on the outside for a while and even use weapons without it having to be a DQ. Included in this was Jericho giving Naito a SICK DDT on a table.
Kevin Kelly was even good enough to point out to us that this was all okay because "This match has yet to be officially brought to a beginning." I think the word you're looking for there is "start."
They did eventually make it back into the ring so that this match could officially start, and from there this became one hell of a match. One thing I have absolutely LOVED about Jericho's matches in NJPW this year is that they are so much different than the norm in New Japan. A lot of New Japan singles matches (and especially in the heavyweight division) revolve 90% around finishers and signature moves, and teases thereof, resulting in an Okada vs. Naito match feeling like someone taking the usual set of Naito spots and the usual set of Okada spots and sticking them together. This isn't a bad thing (hell, it's often pretty darn awesome), but it does make someone who comes in and forces people to do something truly different (like Jericho or Zack Sabre Jr.) feel even more different and even more special, and that feeling was definitely here. Also... TOP ROPE GANSO BOMB!
Jericho picked up the win here- and with it the IWGP Intercontinental Title, meaning that he'll be sticking around for at least one more match. This is quite exciting, as it means we'll not only get another Jericho match (though I'd guess probably more than one), but also that the IC Title will probably be kept away from the G1, so we won't have to deal with the usual guys pinning the champ in the G1 and not getting title shots from it. Whatever else Jericho does, I think it's safe to presume that he'll be having a rematch with Naito for the belt in some sort of environment without disqualifications, so the next time not only will they have a good chance at topping this, but they also won't just do crap on the outside during the match that should be a DQ but isn't.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Jericho wasn't content with his victory to he attacked Naito with the title belt, then started to whip him with his pants belt. EVIL came out and made the save, with Jericho narrowly managing to avoid getting whipped.
NO TIME LIMIT 2 OUT OF 3 FALLS MATCH FOR THE IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE:
Kazuchika Okada(c) (w/Gedo) vs. Kenny Omega (w/Kota Ibushi) - 9.75/10
There is honestly almost too much to say about this match. It was exciting and engaging, and they worked in so many little things like callbacks to their previous matches or the repeated motif of the dropkicks (can't actually call it a storyline as it was just "DROPKICKS!" but was still effective) to your usual Rainmaker vs. One-Winged Angel stuff, so rather than me telling you everything they did right, you'll just have to take my word for it. Or better yet, go watch it for yourself. If they hadn't spent forever on the outside without getting counted out and Omega hadn't hit Okada with that table right in front of the referee, I'd have given this the full ten.
POST-MATCH - Wonderful and touching. Kenny Omega is your new champion. He spoke in both Japanese and English, and shared a big hug with the Young Bucks and with Kota, and everyone managed to get along. I'd put this post-title win celebration up there with Danielson winning the title at WrestleMania XXX, and Davey Richards winning the ROH World Title in terms of pure emotion. Cody came out at one point and teased ruining things, but just went back to the back instead.
A pretty likely Show of the Year from New Japan. Dominion almost always is, of course, but I think I liked this year's a lot better than most, and one of the major reasons for that was the difference in card construction. Unlike most other New Japan shows, there was absolutely nothing on this show that felt like it was happening for no reason. There were no big undercard tags so that the likes of TAKA Michinoku, Mananbu Nakanishi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Ryusuke Taguchi could show their faces and pick up their paychecks. Even midcard guys like Makabe, BUSHI, and the Tongans were left off of this show. Hell... IBUSHI, ISHIMORI, AND KUSHIDA DIDN'T EVEN WRESTLE. And that was fine. I'm not going to say the show wouldn't have been better if you had stuck some of those guys in some sort of undercard four-way and given it thirteen minutes, but the show worked just fine without it. That's a vast change from what New Japan's usual philosophy has been recently, with the first fifty minutes of some big shows being entirely skippable due to being populated by matches that existed solely so extra people could have a match. This was a big improvement. And, of course, the wrestling was awesome, the booking was good, Kevin Kelly and (especially Don Callis) were excellent. EVERYONE SHOULD SEE THIS SHOW.