6-Man NEVER Openweight Championships No 1 Contendership Gauntlet Match
The Elite (Yujiro Takahashi, Hangman Page, Marty Scurll) w/Pieter & Chase Owens vs Yuji Nagata, Jeff Cobb, and David Finlay vs CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & The Best Friends) vs Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki & Killer Elite Squad) vs MVP (Togi Makabe, Toru Yano, & Ryusuke Taguchi) - 6.5/10
This match got the time it needed and had the talent to make it work, but the way they set up the order of the teams and the time the pairings had hurt it a lot for me. First fall was quick with Finlay rolling Yujiro when Page pushed him after some misdirection between the Elite's members. Second fall was really long against CHAOS, they just kept breaking up pins, it was boring and once again Finlay got a roll up for the win.
Next fight was Nagata's team vs Suzuki-Gun. Suzuki-Gun was awesome, KES got the win. Finally, Makabe, Yano, and Taguchi came in, and this was fun, cool stuff between Yano and KES, Suzuki and Taguchi, and as expected, Suzuki brawling with Makabe was great. Overall a better match that most years, but still the clusterfuck that it's known for.
"Golden Star" Kota Ibushi (C) vs "Aerial Assassin" Will Ospreay - 9/10
Probably one of the best openers on record, this match was full of counters and reversals, and when moves landed, they meant something. There were some big spots like Ospreay kicking Ibushi mid-air on a Golden Triangle Moonsault. Ibushi hit his Dead-lift German from the ropes, but Ospreay landed on his feet and they did the same angle from the Road To show. There was a spot with Ibushi caught hanging by his leg on the ring post where him and Ospreay started slapping each other until Ospreay lost it and just kicked the shit out of Ibushi, busting him open.
Finish seemed abrupt, but it came at a proper time. Ibushi hit a Backfist to the back of Ibushi's head, but it looked like he connected with the elbow and knocked out Ibushi. He pretty much dead-lifted Ibushi and hit the Storm breaker for the win. Step one to Ospreay going heavyweight.
Post-match - Kota was taken out in a stretcher, hopefully it's not serious.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship 3-Way Match
Roppoongi 3K w/Rocky Romero vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) vs Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - 8/10
Match was really fast paced, it felt like a tornado match from the get go. We saw a lot of dives and double team moves, barely any cheating from Suzuki-Gun, except when Kanemaru and BUSHI went for their respective Mists, but neither landed.
Big pop when Shingo came in, especially when he faced off against SHO. Finish saw BUSHI take out YOH outside with a Tope Suicida, inside the ring, Shingo hit the Last of the Dragons on SHO for the pin.
British Undisputed Championship Match
Zack Sabre Jr. w/TAKA Michinoku vs Tomohiro Ishii (C) - 9/10
Look at that, TAKA actually dressed up for tonight's match, a big improvement from gym shorts.
Sabre got a quick near fall when he locked an armbar in the first minute of the match, from here on Sabre worked Ishii's arms. Even when he countered a Superplex, he managed to land a quick arm wrench. But as usual in Sabre's weakness, he wants to et into a striking match with Ishii and Ishii just beat the shit out of him. Finish saw Sabre manage to lock in a sleeper that he transitioned into a thousand submissions until he had a weird Muffler/Motorcycle combo and Ishii submitted verbally.
Overall a fantastic match, it kinda exposed Ishii's limited speed when trying to hang with someone like Sabre.
IWGP Tag Team Championship 3-Way Match
Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) vs The Young Bucks vs Guerrillas of Destiny (C) - 8.5/10
EVIL's entrance attire was so busy he could barely see and walk down the ramp, but it did look cool. SANADA hasn't shaved his face bush. GoD had a new entrance theme, and an AMAZING entrance attire.
Early in the match, as Nick and SANADA fought in the ring, EVIL hit Matt with a running clothesline, running the whole ramp down. This was a a really great LIJ vs GoD match with the Bucks in there doing their usual spots, nothing against them, but the stuff between LIJ and GoD was soo much better, they played with Magic Killers and all.
SANADA had a big hot tag, where he put the Paradise Lock on the Bucks and then hit about 4 Planchas to the outside.
Eventually, Fale and Jado came in, Bucks superkicked Jado, but Fale took them out, only to have EVIL take out Fale. Finish saw SANADA prep the Magic Killer, with EVIL getting rid of Tama Tonga with the STO. LIJ hit the Magic Killer and a Moonsault by SANADA on Matt Jackson to win the titles.
IWGP United States Championship Match
Cody (C) w/Brandi Rhodes vs Juice Robinson - 4/10
In the first spot, Cody was already faking leg injuries and Brandi was jumping on the apron for distractions, but Juice didn't fall for neither. A minute later, Juice had a chance to hit the Flying Elbow and Brandi covered Cody's body and provoked Juice to hit her in the face. Come on Tiger Hattori, send her to the back already. Enough distractions eventually allowed Cody to get the upper hand and push Juice shoulder first into the ring post and start his work. Hattori finally caught Brandi attacking Juice and told her to get the fuck out.
The rest of the match saw both men just trade finishers, their finishers, each other's finishers, kick out after kick out. As usual with Juice matches, he's working from below with some sort of injury and makes a comeback, except this time he actually won after he hit two Pulp Frictions. Terrible match, it completely killed the crowd. I think this match got the time cut and whoever planned it, didn't properly adjust, so I don't blame Cody for that matter. Juice deserved a lot more in his big WK win.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
"Bone Soldier" Taiji Ishimori vs KUSHIDA (C) - 6.5/10
KUSHIDA's entrance included a really weird looking big head KUSHIDA kid and Dr. Emmett Brown Taguchi. Taguchi did magic and made KUSHIDA grow into a man. It was weird, but it made KUSHIDA feel like a superstar when he came out.
From early on, the submission game started as KUSHIDA focused on the arm and Ishimori worked the head. The match itself ended in a somewhat underwhelming manner as they had barely hit second gear and not a minute later, Ishimori hit the Bloody Cross for the pin. Last match was bad, but I had zero expectations, this one was a actual disappointment.
"Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada vs "Switchblade" Jay White w/Gedo - 9.5/10
YES! REAL OKADA IS BACK! NO MORE BALLOONMAKER! The crowd went wild when Okada revealed he was back to wearing shorts.
The match was great, but it was just missing that little sparkle at the end for the 10. The story was that Okada had far more dominance over White, but White had explosiveness in his actions and when he managed to hit a move, they were lethal. Okada from the get go started hitting all the greatest hits, not missing a step, with White only have those quick out of nowhere moves that I mentioned.
Towards the end of the match, we had an awesome race to hit either the Rainmaker or the Blade Runnner. Okada managed to hit that discus Rainmaker that is not as strong, but when he went for the real one, White hit an explosive Blade Runner and got the pin. Kinda off putting that the return of Okada led to a loss, but White really needed the win and is likely to be the top contender for the title going into Spring.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship No DQs Match
Tetsuya Naito vs "The Alpha" Chris Jericho (C) - 9.75
Naito's entrance attire was of a boar for this year's Japanese year. Jericho's entrance attire was his usual NJPW look, but he stole Super Shredder's jacket.
i liked this match a whole lot more than their previous match, they started with a small brawl outside the ring, but they went inside the ring, and for the most part, stayed inside. Part of me thinks that this couldn't had easily been a normal match, but the stuff they did with the kendo stick and chairs was definitely a big part of making this match better. Every weapon used had its purpose. At the end, after Jericho and Naito had been trading finishers and kickouts, it was the IC belt that came into the match, and after a belt shot and Destino, Naito recaptured the title he so much hates.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
"Ace" Hiroshi Tanahashi vs "Best Bout Machine" Kenny Omega (C) - 10/10
Kenny's entrance was RPG inspired, he was wearing a Final Fantasy style attire, and he also came out with a new song.
I loved the story of the match, on one side, you have old man Tanahashi, fighting to defend his belief and conviction to this wrestling style, to what he believes is right. On the other, you have Omega on his prime, fighting to evolve wrestling into an Americanized style. The match saw a cocky Kenny dominate, while Tanahashi fought with all his might to keep up.
The one big spot that I loved was when Tanahashi is getting desperate to hurt Omega, and thus betrays his conviction to not need tables, and decides to hit a High Fly Flow onto Kenny on the table, only for Kenny to move and so Tanahashi went crashing down. Tanahashi betrayed his beliefs and it almost cost him the match.
Post-match - Tanahashi celebrated in the ring, cut a promo about winning tonight, and played his guitar. Good feels all around, the reign of Omega is over!
Great show by NJPW with an unofficial intermission with the US title match. The show managed to build momentum to the main event even after Juice and Cody killed it. I had a lot of hype coming in, so some matches did feel underwhelming, but nonetheless, an amazing show that you need to go out of your way to watch.