By Big Red Machine
From July 16, 2018
THE GUERRILLAS OF DESTINY vs. TOA HENARE & SHOTA UMINO - 4/10
Having an undercard match with no one in the G1 is very odd. Obviously the reason they did it was because Hiromu is injured and thus they didn't have enough LIJ members to team with Sanada and Naito in separate matches, but I think this whole thing shows the weakness inherent in Gedo's obsessively rigid stable-based booking (and with his pattern-based booking in particular, as the reason this stands out so much is that it [and the fourth undercard match tonight which correspondingly now has two G1 competitors on one team] is the only time the pattern is broken).
CHAOS (Toru Yano & Jado) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku)- 3.75/10
DAVID FINLAY JR. & JUICE ROBINSON vs. KOTA IBUSHI & YUJIRO TAKAHASHI- 4.5/10
I popped HUGE for Ibushi going for You Can't Escape, including punching Finlay off the apron when he leapt up to the second rope for the moonsault. That was AWESOME.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Sanada) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Sho)- 4.75/10
I have decided to pick a nit: this should have gone on after the Bullet Club vs. CHAOS match. It has three G1 guys as opposed to two, and even Sho is a bigger star than Chase Owens. The match itself was fine for the time it got.
BULLET CLUB (Kenny Omega & Chase Owens) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Yoh)- 4.25/10
BLOCK A MATCH:
Michael Elgin(2) vs. Adam Page(2)- 8.75/10
These guys went out there and beat the crap out of each other. Elgin did his power stuff while Page worked the neck. They had some excellent near-falls, some good struggles over moves, and a freakin' Tiger Suplex by Elgin. Elgin got the win, but Page felt like he was truly elevated by his efforts here. We might well be looking back on this in a few years as the moment when Adam Page started to become a real star in Japan.
BLOCK A MATCH:
EVIL(0) vs. YOSHI-HASHI(0)- 6.75/10
EVIL worked the arm while YOSHI-HASHI did his YOSHI-HASHI stuff until EVIL won. They had some creative stuff in here, which makes two in a row for EVIL, which is definitely making me more interested in his matches than I would otherwise be.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Togi Makabe(2) vs. Minoru Suzuki(0) (w/El Desperado)- 5.75/10
That whole "making the referees look credible" thing was nice while it lasted, but they have apparently given up on it after just two shows. Also... look: there are only so many times I can see guys forearm each other in the face without any sort of story attached before it gets boring, and that's what most of this match was. Suzuki also hit my new pet peeve of giving up a finishing submission hold to go for a different move (the Gotch-style Piledriver) and of course he couldn't get it and Makabe hit him with all of his big stuff and beat him. Doing the flying knee to a standing Suzuki first was cool, but on the whole, this match was frustrating and relatively dull.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Bad Luck Fale(0) (w/Tanga Loa) vs. Kazuchika Okada(0) (w/Gedo)- 7.25/10
They did your standard New Japan crowd brawling bit early on before Okada did his stuff and made his comeback. Okada had done a relatively good job of dealing with Tanga Loa's interference, but interference by Tama Tonga (laying him out with the Gun Stun) lead to a Bad Luck Fall, and then Okada's downfall. Unfortunately, the cameraman was so focused on Fale smothering the referee so that he wouldn't see Tama Tonga's run-in that we almost missed the actual run-in itself (we saw him coming down on the Gun Stun, but that was it. One more second and we would have missed the entire thing), which is very frustrating because a simple cut to the hard-cam would have shown us absolutely everything we needed to see.
BLOCK A MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahashi(2) vs. Jay White(2) - 6.75/10
The referee refused to count a pin after Jay White smashed Tanahashi's knee into the ringpost. Are you kidding me? A heel can drop a guardrail on a guy and they'll count him out but if someone smashes someone's knee into the ringpost the referee won't count a pin? New Japan somehow manages to keep find ways to make their refereeing worse and worse.
Now keep that in mind when I tell you that not once but TWICE Jay White tried to hit Tanahashi with a chair right in front of the referee. Making matters worse, the second time came immediately after they did a spot where White made sure that the referee was out of position before he hit Tanahashi in the groin.
They told a story of Tanahashi working over White's knee while White first worked over Tanahashi's knees and then switched to his neck, but the whole thing got completely derailed by all of these ref bumps and attempt to use the chair and low blows (Tanahashi hit one, too) and other such stuff. It's the main event of a freakin' G1 show! He's an idea for a story and a finish: old-ass Tanahashi with the injured knee gets his injured knee worked over and loses clean to an up-and-coming superstar! White cheating to defeat the leader of his own stable felt like a huge deal. White cheating to defeat Tanahashi after a clear heel turn earlier in the month does not. And of all of the people to have Jay White cheat to beat, Tanahashi has got to be the worst choice, as this doesn't give him the real win over Tanahashi that he failed to achieve at the Tokyo Dome.
I also don't like Jay White making this low blow a regular spot. He is now the second person to steal the Nakamura-style low blow and do it all the time. In Bully Ray's case, stealing something that someone else got over is all he has left. Jay White is just beginning his ascent to worldwide superstardom in pro wrestling. He does not need to be doing this sh*t (and if New Japan wants to expand into the US, no one in the company should be copying something being done in WWE).
A very disappointing show from New Japan, with a lot of the big matches under-delivering. The booking is once again getting to be worrisome, with way too many shenanigans and ref bumps and so forth. Elgin vs. Page is worth going out of your way to see, though.