TOGI MAKABE, SHOTA UMINO, AYATO YOSHIDA, TORU YANO, & REN NARITA vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerrillas of Destiny, Hikuleo, Chase Owens, & Bad Luck Fale) (w/Jado) - 3.75/10
Every dull New Japan undercard tag you've ever seen. Chase Owens got the pin for his team, which baffles me because you'd think they'd try to build Hikuleo now that he is back from his injury, but apparently not.
YUJI NAGATA & TOA HENARE vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii) - 7.5/10
This was a wonderfully angry wrestling match! I was really rooting for Henare to get the win but YOSHI-HASHI pinned him with a new finisher instead.
DRAGON LEE, TIGER MASK IV, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, TOMOAKI HONMA, & SATOSHI KOJIMA vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - 6.5/10
Taichi has a bag that apparently contains the Iron Fingers... because apparently Taichi didn't have enough gimmicks already. Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents.
Kevin Kelly reminded me that "things between Dragon Lee and El Desperado got so heated" during last year's BOSJ that it looked like they were going to have a mask vs. mask match. This was a very necessary reminder because rather than follow up on that in any way NJPW simply didn't book Dragon Lee for six months. But now he's back, and El Desperado is going after Tiger Mask's iconic mask... and I don't give a sh*t because, as Kevin Kelly reminded me, every time it looks like they're doing something to set up El Desperado being in some sort of mask vs. mask match, nothing ever comes of it.
That being said, the whole "trying to take off Tiger Mask's mask" spot was actually very important to the match because while this was happening and the referee was dealing with this, all of the rest of Suzuki-Gun were off committing their usual dastardly deeds on the outside. In fact, although I was dreading this match because I assumed it would be filled with the usual Suzuki-Gun dreck, they actually did an excellent job of making sure the referee was distracted while all of the cheating occurred. They also did a good job building up both the Suzuki vs. Kojima and Honma vs. Taguchi New Japan Cup opening round matches that we'll see over the next few days.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI)(c) vs. Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 6.75/10
Yoh countered a Dragon Screw by slipping free. I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone do that before. Weird.
Actually "weird" is a great way to characterize this match. I was dead sure from the segment that set this match up that Roppongi Vice were now heels, and they got what seemed like it was going to be the heat on Shingo by working over his knee... but rather than stick to a traditional structure we flipped back and forth between Shingo's knee getting worked over and LIJ being in control and mostly just doing moves. Then, to confuse me even more, BUSHI was the one who cheated so I now have no idea who I'm supposed ot be rooting for because I like Shingo and want to see him overcome the odds... but I don't want to see BUSHI emerge victorious after breaking the rules. Roppingi 3K eventually won, with me now feeling completely lukewarm about everyone and not really caring about the outcome too much.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Taiji Ishimori(c) vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger - 8/10
An wonderfully emotional match pitting the crafty veteran going for one last chance at glory against the cocky punk in his prime. Ishimori worked over Liger's head and neck while Liger went through his usual arsenal plus throwing in some roll-ups to play off of the finish of their match at New Beginning in Osaka 2019. I was hoping against hope that they would actually put the belt on Liger and give him one last little run with it, but at least he was put in the position to add one more awesome match to long and storied career.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Ishimori wants to defend the title against someone from ROH at G1 Supercard but Dragon Lee of CMLL comes out instead and it looks like our next challenger will be Dragon Lee. That should be pretty nuts.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, HIROOKI GOTO, & KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, & Sanada )- 7.25/10
While this match was great, it was disappointing considering the talent involved. I mostly blame the booking for that, as they were only given thirteen minutes. It's the Anniversary Show with six of your top stars. Why not let them go twenty minutes? Goto's awesome roll-up is back, though, so at least that was cool.
WILL OSPREAY vs. JAY WHITE (w/Gedo) - 8.75/10
Ospreay worked the head while White worked over the midsection. There was a lot of drama here, and the IWGP Heavyweight Title not being on the line actually added to the drama in this case because I created the outside chance that Ospreay could win to set him up for a title match down the road. I was also glad that White didn't win clean so that the NEVER Openweight Title and its champion were protected in defeat. There some really awesome spots here and poor Ospreay took a hell of a lot of punishment. It would have been better if the referee actually applied the count-out rules correctly, though. That first time they were on the outside they were out there for so long that it became completely ridiculous.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - AWESOME! White grabs a chair and tries to take Ospreay out but we finally got some other babyfaces coming out to help somebody! I've been screaming about this for YEARS and it finally happened. First it was just Ibushi making his big return, but he got taken out by the rest of Bullet Club, so then Ospreay's CHAOS stablemates Okada and Goto and Okada's new friend Tanahashi came out to make the save. Hooray for CHAOS actually acting like a stable! Even better, the guys who ran out to make the save all just so happen to be top names (Tanahashi, Ibushi, Goto, Okada) who are in the New Japan Cup, and we got a great shot of Jay White staring down all of these potential challengers. Excellent!
This was a pretty great show from New Japan. There were some slightly disappointing matches in the top four, but the two key matches really delivered, everything other than the opener was good or better, and they did a fine job of putting on a show that both built to the New Japan Cup while also being relevant to storylines in and of itself. This is the kind of show I'd like to see more often from New Japan when they run a tour with multiple big shows on it.