REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO vs. YUYA UEMURA & YOTA TSUJI - 5.75/10
Solid Young Lions action with some absolutely beautiful execution on the finish.
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TOA HENARE, TOMOAKI HONMA, SATOSHI KOJIMA, & YUJI NAGATA vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & Taichi) - DUD!
Don't even bother watching the first six minutes of this match. It's the exact same sh*t you see in every Suzuki-Gun match. You might think the idea of Suzuki calling Liger out is cool, but it's actually not, because there was no difference to how Suzuki and pals wrestled Liger than what they would have done if, say, YOSHI-HASHI were in this spot. The same patterned bullsh*t with the same stupid "impotent referee lets heels get away with everything right in front of his face" spots and the same stupid count-out tease.
In fact, don't watch the rest of this match, either, as it really wasn't anything special. Taichi made Henare tap out and Suzuki attacked Liger after the match. That's all you have to know.
DRAGON LEE, TOGI MAKABE, & TORU YANO vs. BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori & Guerrillas of Destiny) (w/Jado) - 4.5/10
Bullet Club jump the bell on their opponents. This match was just there. Yano rolled Tama Tonga up for the win but then got beaten up afterwards.
CHASE OWENS vs. MIKEY NICHOLLS- 4/10
I would really like to see more random singles matches like this on undercards, just to break up the monotony of the big tag matches. I just don't want to see it with two stables' designated fall-guy facing off.
Before Nicholls got into the ring, Jado snuck up behind him and hit him in the back with his Kendo stick. Jado got ejected from ringside for this, but this started us off with the babyface at a major disadvantage and without relying to the usual "the heels jump the bell on their opponents" trope (and at this point it has, in fact, become a trope in New Japan). "What a nice and different way to start off a match," I thought to myself. Then, after Owens attempted a quick pinfall for a two count, they went right to the outside, just like every other f*cking match in this company.
We get the whips into the barricade, followed by the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™. Nicholls gets some offense in... and then we're right back to the outside. Now Owens locks in an abdominal stretch, then, being the dastardly bastard he is, grabs the ropes with his free hands to obtain the magical strength bonus for touching the ring ropes while locking in a submission. I call it that because the way he did this sure as f*ck is not how leverage works.
There was some semblance of a story here with Nicholls' back getting worked over and him having to come back from Jado's initial assault, but the match itself was nothing even close to being special or interesting in any way. That being said, the singles match aspect did serve as something of a palate-cleanser, so I guess I have to give Gedo some credit for booking it.
HIROOKI GOTO & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White & Hikuleo) (w/Gedo) - 6/10
I was enjoying this match early on, both for Rocky Romero's excellent commentary putting over Goto and for the excellent heelish teamwork on display by White and Hikuleo. Then, just when I naively thought we might be able to avoid it for just one match, cue the clichÃ© "heel drags babyface into the crowd" spot to set up the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™. The match was fine, but nothing more, which is disappointing when Jay White and Hirooki Goto are involved.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Tomohiro Ishii, & Roppongi 3K) - 7.75/10
This match, too, eventually wound up on the outside, and we apparently missed a bunch of chairshots and stuff because the director decided it was more exciting to watch Ishii and EVIL punch each other, even though we had already seen them do that a million times so far this match.
The match was great, but a little below expectations considering the sheer amount of talent involved and the time it got. Shingo and Sho brawled after the match but the camera missed it because we needed to be focused on the ring to see the start of the Ishii-EVIL confrontation. At this point I think the director is just biased against Shingo and Sho.
IWGP US TITLE MATCH:
Juice Robinson(c) vs. Bad Luck Fale - 7.25/10
Fale jumps the bell on Juice. Neither Kevin Kelly nor Rocky Romero has any problem with this. Within moments they're on the outside and people are getting whipped into the guardrail, because G-d forbid one single non-young-boy match happen in this company without someone getting whipped into the guardrails. Of course they are not being counted-out while this happens, but then once they're done with their spots the count stars to that we can tease a count-out. After Juice makes it back into the ring we do the "Fale steps on your back" spot and then we're back outside for more fun with the fluctuating count-outs rule. Juice gets bodyslammed into some chairs twice and then Fale finally decides to listen to the referee and go back to the ring. The referee follows him and decides that count-outs are a thing again so that we can do the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys." You'll never guess this, but Juice made it back in the nick of time. I'm sorry if I'm harping on this, but this match has been going on for almost five minutes now, and they've been on the outside for at least four of those five minutes.
I feel bad ragging on this match like this because even while they were doing all of this frustrating crap they were constantly building up the story of Fale working over Juice's back and they told that story very well... but at the same time, is it really that hard to just have the referee count and make sure someone rolled into the ring to break the count up every time the referee got close to twenty?
One other thing that isn't so much a complaint about this match in particular as it is a warning: If we keep doing the story of the babyface taking on Fale and wanting to slam him and the babyface does always wind up slamming him in the end then it makes the act of slamming him less impressive because everyone who tries eventually manages to do it.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kota Ibushi(c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 8.75/10
An excellent babyface vs. technical heel match with Zack working over Kota's neck while Kota did his best to come out with counters for Zack's signature stuff. Aside from being on the outside for way too long without a count-out, the only thing I didn't like about this match was the portion of the part in the middle of Kota's comeback that was way too focused on the tough-guy strike exchange. It wasn't bad at all, but it just felt completely disjointed from the rest of the match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Tetsuya Naito will be Ibushi's next challenger.
Despite a very bad start, this turned out to be a decent show from New Japan by the end. The soul-crushing sameness of the matches, both in terms of undercard matches on the same show, and in terms of the heel factions' matches from show to show, makes these shows extremely hard to sit through, to the point where a pretty good top three like this show had only makes a show "decent." It's becoming quite the problem because New Japan's business model with these shows is that they're spreading their big matches out over so many shows in order to draw you in and get you to spend time watching all of them, but if the sameness of the undercards is so soul-crushing that it drags the shows down past the point there watching the big matches feels like an adequate reward for slogging through the dreck, it's doing more harm than good. I don't think it's asking too much for the wrestlers to not be constantly doing the same exact stuff, and for the booker to book those matches to have some actual meaning.