HIROYOSHI TENZAN & YOTA TSUJI vs. SHOTA UMINO & AYATO YOSHIDA - 5.25/10
YOSHI-HASHI vs. REN NARITA - 4.5/10
Narita jumped the bell on YOSHI-HASHI. That seems like the sort of thing that will get a Young Lion in deep trouble back at the dojo. YOSHI-HASHI got the advantage and worked over Narita's head and neck. Narita put up a good babyface struggle in the Butterfly Lock but eventually had to tap out.
TOMOAKI HONMA & TOA HENARE vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) - 5.75/10
Henare had good fire and the heels were good cheating heels, but nothing felt in any way out of the ordinary.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Sanada, EVIL, & BUSHI) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - 5.75/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. Don Callis correctly pointed out that any team that isn't ready for this at this point is stupid. Don is an excellent broadcast so he didn't use those exact words, but I am under no obligation to New Japan, so I have no problem in doing so. Similarly, I will point out that this makes LIJ even dumber than the average team because LIJ actually was prepared for it earlier on this very same tour but I guess they forgot their plan, even though it worked perfectly when they tried it.
El Desperado went for BUSHI's mask early on, and Kevin Kelly told us that he believes that the two of them won't be satisfied until one of them winds up unmasked. If even the announcer is saying it then there had damn well better be plans to actually have such an apuesta match.
The babyfaces got shined up a bit, then they got cut off via Suzuki hanging armbar on BUSHI. This was a cool idea that was, unfortunately, mostly wasted by the fact that instead of leading to directly to a heat where the heels worked over BUSHI's arm and shoulder, it led to the Standard Suzuki-Gun Bullsh*t. Insert angry rant from my review of every single Suzuki-Gun match over the past three years here.
As it usually does, this led the heels getting back in the ring, which magically triggers the count-out rule going back into effect for the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Bites On spot. Tonight this managed to be even worse than usual because instead of focusing on BUSHI, who was the legal man for his team, some moron decided that we should be focusing on EVIL instead, so we didn't even get to see the theoretical drama of the babyface's grand dash back to the ring where he makes it just in the nick of time. As always happens at this point, the babyface collapses in exhaustion and we go back the standard in-ring heat. Why we didn't just stay with that in the first place I have no idea, but it seems to me like it would lead to a match that both has more drama and also doesn't feel so paint-by-numbers.
Now Kanemaru and El Desperado distracted the referee so that Suzuki could apply his hanging armbar to poor BUSHI with impunity. So you need to distract the referee so he doesn't see a non-legal competitor applying a hold in the ropes... but you didn't need to distract him when you were hitting people with weapons? How does that make any sense?
The heels made frequent tags and worked over BUSHI's arm. Meanwhile, in the background, there are EVIL and Sanada just strolling around on the outside. Dude: GET ON THE APRON! YOUR PARTNER NEEDS YOU TO BE IN POSITION IN CASE HE GETS THE CHANCE TO MAKE A TAG!
BUSHI eventually made the hot tag to Sanada, who had a good segment wrestling Suzuki. More stuff happened, then EVIL and Sanada hit the Magic Killer on Kanemaru for the finish. After the match, Suzuki got angry and assaulted the young-boys at ringside as our babyfaces just stood there and watched. Some heroes they are.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (TAKA Michinoku & Taichi) - 5.75/10
Many parts of Naito's body are taped up after his encounter with Taichi in Sapporo. Shockingly, Suzuki-Gun did not jump the bell on their opponents here. Wrestling happened and it was good. They then actually made sure to have the referee distracted or bumped while the cheating was happening! And then the referee got back up and Taichi just kept choking Naito with a chair while the referee was yelling at him. They also did this right next to YOSHI-HASHI, who was providing commentary for the Japanese feed. Not only did he make no effort to help Naito, but Taichi kicked him in the arm for absolutely no reason and YOSHI-HASHI did not react at all. And no this is not him being "professional." Being professional would be showing us that you are angry but not doing anything to retaliate because you know it would be unprofessional. Not reacting at all is being a robot.
They told a decent story with Taichi keeping Naito from being able to help Shingo. This resulted in Shingo and TAKA working most of the match, which made for some fresh stuff, which was nice. Shingo pinned to TAKA to get the win, and Naito and Taichi had a minor confrontation after the match.
While waiting around between matches and explaining the rules to the main event (for those who don't know, in NJPW, you can be eliminated form an elimination tag by being thrown over the top rope and to the floor), the announcers made fun of Disco Inferno and Kevin Kelly did a Borat impression. Yes, really.
TEN MAN ELIMINATION TAG TEAM MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Togi Makabe & CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny, Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, & Taiji Ishimori) (w/Jado & Gedo) - 7.75/10
So the story with the whole "Tama Tonga suddenly doesn't like cheating" thing is that he has been trying to "change his image." Earlier in this tour Tama took it so far to the point where he cost his team a match. In this match he went so far as to have him not even want to hurt his opponents and apologizing in an over the top way after each time he does so. All of this has been building up to the following "big" moment:
Jado cheated to help the heels eliminate Togi Makabe and Tama got upset. The referee got distracted again, at which point Jado passed his Kendo stick to Tanga Loa. Rather than just hit Yano with it himself, Tanga Loa insisted that Tama be the one to do it. WHY?! If the guy doesn't want to cheat then don't make him cheat and just don't team with him! I don't care if he's an important member of Bullet Club. You assholes kicked out AJ Styles, Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll, and the Young Bucks (and while Kenny was IWGP Heavyweight Champion and Scurll & the Bucks were NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Champions, no less!). if you're willing to do that then surely you'd be willing to just tell Tama you don't want to team with him anymore, right?!
(Yes, one could argue that they need to get Tama to start being violent or at least being okay with cheating now to ensure that he's in a useful mental state for the big Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Yano & Makabe match in two days, but if you're going to go down that path then you have to ask why NJPW is even allowing him to compete at all in this clearly ineffective and compromised mental state.)
Much time is wasted as the Guerrillas of Destiny argue with each other before Tama defiantly tosses the Kendo stick out of the ring. This wasted time has allowed Yano to recover, and he shoves Tanga Loa into Tama Tonga, causing them to bonk heads and become stunned, which Yano takes advantage of by rolling Tanga Loa up for a three-count to eliminate him.
Tanga Loa gets upset and starts to beat the crap out of Yano. He then starts to tell at Tama again, and the stupid heels once again give Tama Tonga the Kendo stick and order him to hit Yano with it, even though he adamantly refused to do so a mere minute ago.
Apparently something was different this time, though, because he went nuts on all of the babyfaces and even some of the young-boys with the Kendo stick and got himself DQed. He then stormed to the back, which we were apparently supposed to take as evidence that he was going crazy because Kevin Kelly told us that when you get eliminated from a match like this in NJPW, you're supposed to stay at ringside to support your team. I don't ever remember hearing that before and haven't noticed if it usually happens, but if so, that's an extremely stupid idea for a promotion to have. With so many moving parts, these matches are hard enough to referee as it is. Why would you encourage wrestlers to stay at ringside afterwards where they can easily interfere?
But back to the Tama Tonga thing... so the whole point of this story was that Tama Tonga has now "snapped." Obviously how Tama acts in Monday's big match and beyond will be important to determining where this goes (if it goes any farther than this), but whatever comes next, Gedo needed some reason for Tama Tonga to "snap" on this show. There were A LOT of different ways Gedo could have gotten Tama Tonga to this point, and holy crap did he sure pick one that was COMPLETELY F*CKING STUPID!
If you want the guy to snap, have him lose a bunch of matches in a row! THIS IS PRO WRESTLING! But instead, Gedo decided that the best way to do this would be to take a dangerous heel and have him, with no explanation, decide that he wants to "change his image" and not just stop cheating himself but also stop his teammates from cheating. Then have him be so over the top with it that (especially when combined with how suddenly it came about and how out of character it is), no one will ever actually believe that he wants to change his ways, which had the effect of simultaneously neutering his effectiveness as a heel while also turning him into a comedy geek. Then have him take it so far that he is actually costing his team matches. Then take it even farther by having him not even want to hurt his opponents and apologize after it. And then you finally have him "snap" a mere MINUTE after refusing to cheat in the most emphatic way yet... because his refusal to cheat caused his brother to get rolled up in a meaningless ten-man tag? How does that make any f*cking sense? If costing his team a victory didn't make him snap then why the hell would causing just one member of his team to be eliminated (something that is clearly lesser than losing a whole match) make him snap?!
Can someone please sit Gedo down and make him watch Game of Thrones or Deep Space 9 or everything but the final season of Ron Moore's Battlestar Galactica or some other quality episodic TV drama? This is just like last year's Bullet Club Civil War crap (more specifically the February-May part), which was full of HEIGHTENED TENSIONS and DRAMATIC MOMENTS... and yes the capitals were necessary because all those moments were was just drama for drama's own sake and if you actually took the two seconds to think about what you were watching you'd realize that while each of those moments seemed really cool and compelling in the isolated vacuum of the moment in which you saw it, if you actually looked at those moments in sequence- you know... like you're supposed to do with a STORY- almost nothing that anyone said or did in that story made a G-d damn lick of sense.
And just like that period of the Bullet Club Civil War story (i.e. the part during which anything other than the idea of Kenny vs. Cody was pushed) ended when they had a random ten-man tag against each other at Wrestling Dontaku 2018: Day 2 in which the teams had little discernible connection to any comments or actions preceding them, after which everyone but Kenny and Cody all posed together and they were declared a unit again, Tama Tonga's reluctance to cheat leading to his brother being eliminated from tonight's match was the thing that caused Tama Tonga to snap not because of any logical progression of events leading up to that moment but rather simply because Gedo the script g-d decreed that this would be the moment when the period of "will he?/won't he?" all-caps DRAMA would end and Tama Tonga would finally "snap" so that he could move on to the next phase of this story. Gedo has an eye for talent and knows how to protect his wrestlers and protect finishers, but he has no f*cking clue how to competently tell anything other than the most basic of stories, and the fact that he was won WON's Best Booker award more than people like Gabe Sapolsky, Paul Heyman, Jim Cornette, and Christian Mikael Jakobi, who actually try to tell quality stories REALLY bugs me.
Oh, right. The match is still going on.
Jay White picked up what remained of Toru Yano and hit him with a Blade Runner for the pin. Then Tanahashi jumped into the ring and those two got to go at it. Tanahashi eventually missed a senton and heels went to work on his knee. He eventually got the hot tag to Okada, who had a decent segment with Fale. Said segment ended with an excellent double-elimination. The execution of it was great (and I loved the little detail that technically it wasn't a double elimination because Okada managed to hang on to the ropes but Fale, being a cheating heel, grabbed his foot and yanked him own), but the thing I loved the most about it was how they used the story of Okada constantly reversing the Grenade to set it up. I thought that was an extremely clever little misdirection.
In an update from earlier, Kevin Kelly appears to have been completely talking out of his ass when he said you're supposed to stay around and support your teammates if you get eliminated, because not one single wrestler eliminated so far as done so.
This was followed up by a Taguchi vs. Ishimori segment that ended in a double-elimination that was pretty much the opposite of Okada and Fale's, with Taguchi coming off looking pretty f*cking stupid. Why would you ever go for a flying hip attack on the apron in a match like this? You've got nowhere to land!
This left us with once again back down to Jay White vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, one on one. Except it actually wasn't one on one, as Gedo's interference would make clear. They did some stuff after the "Gedo helps White cheat" portion of the match was over and wound upon the apron. Tanahashi went for a Sling Blade on the apron, which also seems like a move you really shouldn't try in this sort of match, but it got him the win. I really don't understand why Gedo felt it was necessary for Tanahashi to get the win here. Some sort of finish where Tanahashi's winds up hanging from his knee on the ropes and White goes to town on the knee before dumping him over or a finish where Gedo's interference is shown to be a factor seem to me like they'd do a much better job of building up to the big match. Instead we got TanahashiWinsLOL.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. White gets heat by attacking Tanahashi after a match and working over his knee. Again. Some variety please, Mr. Gedo?
White goes to lock in the TTO but the young-boys run in to pull him off. White then cuts a good promo on Tananashi and Tanahashi has to be held back by the young-boys to prevent him from going after White in his injured state (although he really didn't seem that injured during White's assault and White never even got the TTO fully locked in).
This was a completely nothing-happening show from New Japan until the Tama Tonga segment in the main event, and that was... well... I already ranted on it. The booking was completely paint-by-numbers and the matches were all a tick or two below the level you'd expect if I told you who was in them and how much time they got. You should watch the main event if you've got a spare half hour, but otherwise, I'd stay far away from this show if I were you.