JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, & KUSHIDA vs. CHAOS (Rocky Romero & Roppongi 3K) - 5.75/10
Roppongi Vice are all of a sudden acting like a group of gang-stomping heels. Why we can't we just have a true babyface vs. babyface match?
BAD LUCK FALE vs. TOA HENARE - 2/10
Henare attacked Fale as he was getting through the ropes. Is there some sort of heat between these two that necessitated this, or did they just do this because they were getting so little time as to make the match pointless and they wanted to let Henare get at least something in?
To be fair, these, guys did the best they possibly could with the one-hundred and sixty-six seconds they were given, giving Henare as much as possible while still making Fale look like a monster... but do we really need a random "make Fale look like a monster" match in 2018?
Also, Fale- a shoot Tongan- was wearing an "Honorary Tongan" t-shirt. Got to sell that merch, I guess. Even if the idea of the merch kind of goes against the entire idea of the group.
MICHAEL ELGIN & AYATO YOSHIDA vs. KILLER ELITE SQUAD - 5.75/10
Shockingly, K.E.S. did not jump the bell on their opponents, even with a pre-match shoving match. I can only surmise that this means they have left Suzuki-Gun because they are not engaging in Suzuki-Gun's trademark spot.
KOTA IBUSHI & BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. CHAOS (Best Friends & Will Ospreay) - 6.25/10
It's been years. You'd think by now that anyone teaming with Best Friends would just go into the match assuming that they're not going to hug you and not get upset about it, but apparently not. Meanwhile, Bullet Club still haven't figured out that Ibushi isn't going to join in on their illegal beat-downs... which doesn't actually make sense because he has no problem running into the ring illegally to do things during his tag matches with Omega, so why is this any different?
This match was fine for what it was, but I'm sick and tired of seeing matches like this. The only difference between this supposedly big show and many "Road to..." shows that have supposedly been building up to it is that instead of some interesting tag match, the main event happens to be a title match. This was exactly the sort of thing that qualified as a "Road to..." show earlier this year during the Wrestling Dontaku tour. New Japan (or anyone else) should not be putting on supposedly major shows where every match other than the main event feels irrelevant and pointless.
As for this match itself, it pretty much proved to me that Chuck Taylor adds nothing to New Japan and I don't understand why they keep using him. They are building up to Ibushi vs. Ospreay, but the "we're building up to this match by doing a few in-ring spots and a post-match face-off" is the sort of thing that has rapidly dismissing returns because there is no story that is actually moving forward. I just saw these two in a freakin' incredible match in the main event of Road to Destruction 2018: Day 2, so seeing them just do some stuff and have a post-match face-off here does absolutely nothing for me.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT SIX-MAN TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Bullet Club Firing Squad(Taiji Ishimori & the Guerrillas of Destiny)(c) vs. Juice Robinson, David Finlay Jr., & Ryusuke Taguchi - 4/10
So Tama Tonga beat Juice Robinson in the G1... and it's Juice that winds up getting a shot at Tama's championship? How does that make any sense? Another completely random match-up brought to you by the NEVER Actually Relevant-weight Six-Man Tag Team Titles.
Taguchi is apparently just allowed to put on one of those goofy rugby hats during a match and throw headbutts. Because it's not like this is something that could easily be loaded and the referee should be stopping him from doing it or calling for a DQ or something. And, by the way, the heels were selling this thing as if it were loaded, and yet supposed refereeing legend Tiger Hattori isn't even suspicious.
So yeah. This was a stupid, pointless match for the stupid, pointless titles, with our supposedly dangerous new heel faction fighting a random assortment of mid-card goofballs and spending half of the match with Taguchi's ass in their faces. That will definitely make Tama Tonga look like a dangerous foe for his inevitable singles matches with the likes of Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes, and Kota Ibushi.
And speaking of those guys, why the hell are the Firing Squad facing off against a random group of midcarders instead of feuding with Bullet Club Proper? Yes, I know Kenny is already booked in the IWGP Heavyweight Title match and you can't use Page, the Bucks, and Scurll due to BOLA, but isn't part of the reason for doing some of these tours where you split up the big matches across several shows to allow you to still do the big match you want on this tour if someone necessary for that match is working elsewhere for one or even two of the dates? There is zero reason for these guys to drop off the tour just because their big match has finished.
CHAOS (Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, & Gedo) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Takashi Iizuka, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Taichi) - DUD!
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. Unlike every other f*cking time, this did not lead to the bell ringing. This was done specifically so that Tiachi could choke Goto with his microphone stand without it being a DQ. The problem with that is that Suzuki-Gun hit and choke their opponents with weapons in just about every match and the referee almost never DQs them for it, so why is this time different? Unless...
Yup. This went almost another eleven f*cking minutes before Suzuki-Gun got DQed. IF that's going to be your finish then just have them get DQed right away and give us a short but wild brawl and be done with it. Don't waste ten minutes of my life with the same f*cking sh*t we see in every single Suzuki-Gun match and then just do a f*cking DQ for no reason... and yes, it really is for no reason, as there is no way that this f*cking DQ helps to build to Goto vs. Taichi more than any of the other heel finishes they have done this tour, including this same DQ a few nights ago.
Iizuka is now wearing a muzzle or something so that he doesn't bite people. Why? Is it by order of New Japan? That would explain why he doesn't take it off, but it makes you wonder why New Japan has moved to stop Iizuka from biting people, but made no effort to rectify any of the other million illegal things we see Suzuki-Gun (or Yano, or the Firing Squad) do on a nightly basis. And if it's not by order of New Japan, why doesn't he just take it off? And is he really so stupid that he's still trying to bite people with the muzzle on?
Remember how they specifically deviated from their established pattern of refereeing behavior earlier just so Taichi could choke Goto with the mic stand at the beginning and it wouldn't be a DQ? Well not three minutes later we've got Suzuki-Gun guys dragging the babyfaces into the crowd and hitting them with weapons, and the referee didn't do sh*t about it. He didn't even try to count them out. This is the sort of sh*t that pisses me off the most because it shows that someone was thinking enough to realize that if they wanted to do the first spot they had to find a way to make it make sense... but then either wasn't smart enough or didn't care enough to apply that same amount of thought to anything else in the match.
Oh look. Someone finally said the secret phrase and count-outs are now activated, and just in time for the Obligatory Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys. What a fortunate coincidence that was. Weapons are also now apparently illegal again, as the referee stopped Taichi from using Goto's NEVER Openweight Title as one.
Taichi has now taken Iizuka's muzzle off. Why didn't he do this before the match? This set up the idiotic spot where Iizuka just goes around biting people for hours on end. I don't understand how anyone could possibly find this entertaining, and even if they found it entertaining once, he's been doing it for YEARS now and you'd think whatever paltry entertainment value there was would have worn off.
After constantly biting people up until the four count even after the referee has ordered him to stop, Iizuka then pulled out a piece of string and began trying to choke Gedo to death... and rather than calling for a disqualification because this guy who has spent the entire match breaking rules is now using a weapon (again!), he just keeps on counting to for like a pathetic impotent little turd.
Eventually Goto and Taichi got tagged in. Apparently Goto has been bleeding this whole time, with zero cameras on him to show this and no effort made to use this blood to get some sympathy on him in advance of his upcoming title defense because G-d forbid we do that instead of doing the exact same stupid bullsh*t heat we've seen in every single Suzuki-Gun undercard match for the past eighteen months.
Blah blah blah, GTR, Taichi kicks the referee for the DQ (because this time apparently putting your hands on the referee is a DQ, even though it wasn't one earlier when Iizuka did it). Taichi hits Goto with the microphone stand a bunch. Who could possibly care at this point? After watching any of these matches that are supposedly intended to "build" to their title match, I don't see how anyone could possibly even want to see it, or any match involving anyone in the Suzuki-Gun undercard.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 6.75/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. The match was fine. LIJ won, but Suzuki had Naito in a choke on the outside for about three straight minutes. Just when I was wondering how Naito wasn't near death from this they at least had him do a stretcher job.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, TOGI MAKABE, & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. CHAOS (Jay White, YOSHI-HASHI, & Kazuchika Okada) - 7/10
Jay White gave Okada a lot of lip early on while demanding to start things off, and Okada, realizing it wasn't worth the fight, backed down and let Jay White start.
Everyone played their part well and the match was great, but still never lost an air of "paint by numbers" until the finish, which further an apparent storyline where Tanahashi is trying to recruit YOSHI-HASHI of all people to form a new stable with him. Not Goto, not Ospreay, not Ishii. YOSHI-HASHI.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kenny Omega(c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii - 8.5/10
They were on the outside FOREVER without being counted out. Someone explain to me why they couldn't have had their chop battle and One-Winged Angel tease in the ring, wound up on the floor to do the suplex onto the floor, then proceeded like they did with Kenny getting back into the ring to do his in-to-out stuff that would have broken up the count each time he got back in? Hell, if you wanted to tease it that way so badly you could even have done the One-Winged Angel tease on the outside and still had enough time for Kenny to get back into the ring after the suplex and break up the count.
This all led to Omega hitting Ishii with a double stomp that was supposed to go through a table but didn't, just pushing them both off instead (that had to suck). While this is happening, Kevin Kelly is screaming bloody murder, which... while I feel like on the one hand I should be commending him for actually doing his job as a play-by-play man well for once, on the other hand it feels like such a ridiculous overreaction based on the other stuff I've seen him call that it just makes me laugh.
This spot, of course, set up the Obligatory Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys. And, being, Ishii, he's already reversing Omega's stuff two moves later, and about two minutes later he's already no-selling chops to the chest, rendering that big huge spot they did completely moot. The reason I call it the "Obligatory Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys" is because that's really all it is. The moves they hit to set it up are often completely irrelevant to the match. It's just another spot.
Once they stopped doing the stuff that felt forced and obligatory and got back to doing stuff that felt like "Omega vs. Ishii" rather than "generic New Japan big match spot #7," the match got quite great.
Credit where it's due: that brainbuster by Omega was the first time in five years that I expected Ishii to kick out and at one/zero/totally no-sell something and he didn't do it. Maybe he's finally learned that if you do that sh*t all the time it loses its effect (even if you are doing it at the right points during a match)? (And yes, when he did it later in the match, it did wind up taking me by surprise, simply because it created the possibility that he wouldn't do that stuff at some point in this match).
The match wound up being pretty awesome, with the last twelve minutes or so really shining. That being said, one thing that brought this down for me was that fact that the finish felt anti-climactic. Yes, they had been building up to the One-Winged Angel all match (just one of four stories they told; the other three were Omega working on Ishii's head, Ishii working on Omega's head, and Ishii going for the Sliding D), but the one that was the finish felt very sudden. I think it had to do with the timing of the thirty-minute call. It made it feel like they heard the thirty-minute call and said "whoops. We weren't supposed to go thirty. We need to take it home now or else Gedo will be angry," then Omega picked Ishii up, hit the V Trigger and the One-Winged Angel got the win.
This was a completely skippable show from New Japan, which is unacceptable for what is supposed to be a major show. Yes, you should go out of your way to see Ishii vs. Omega, but it's not really even the kind of match that you need to go drop everything and watch right now. If you did happen to miss it, I wouldn't even say that you missed something essential to New Japan Pro Wrestling in 2018. It was an awesome world title main event, but it wasn't in any way special, and it was pretty much the only thing on this show. This was basically another Road to... show. And so are the other supposedly big shows on this tour. Having seen the cards, I can tell you that unless something truly amazing happens on it, I'm certainly not going to be watching Monday's Destruction in Beppu. New Japan needs to get their sh*t together, booking-wise. Tell actual stories, and if you're going to tell stories in eighty percent of the matches, there is no point to having those matches. The booker's job is to come up with compelling stories for the characters, and for 90% of the roster, Gedo is failing miserable at doing that.