REN NARITA, SHOTA UMINO, & TOMOAKI HONA vs. YOTA TSUJI, YUYA UEMURA, & TOA HENARE - 6/10
YOSHI-HASHI, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, TIGER MASK IV, & JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, & TAKA Michinoku) - 5.5/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. The usual Suzuki-Gun crap happened, as well as the usual Taguchi crap. Suzuki-Gun get the win, Suzuki beats Liger up after the match.
TOGI MAKABE & CHAOS (Toru Yano & Will Ospreay) vs. BULLET CLUB (Hikuleo & Guerrillas of Destiny) (w/Jado) - 3.75/10
Bullet Club jumped the bell on their opponents. Yano tries to cheat but the heels- well... the other heels, because Yano really is a heel, too- manage to thwart him, then get the heat on him. Yano has to cheat via pulling Tama Tonga down by the hair in order to make the hot tag to Makabe. This prompted Kevin Kelly to say "this is one of my most favorite match-ups, when Makabe and Tanga Loa collide." This statement just proves the theory that no matter how ridiculous an opinion is, you can always find at least one person who holds it.
Eventually Ospreay got tagged in. Jado hit him in the leg with the Kendo stick but Ospreay overcame it and got the pin on Hikuleo, the world's largest jobber. Why not put Juice in this match and have Ospreay team with Goto and Nicholls in a full CHAOS team. Juice's issues with Fale and Owens should be over now that he has beaten both of them, and doing this would let Ospreay be in a match where his talents won't feel so damn wasted.
KOTA IBUSHI & ROPPONGI 3K vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, & BUSHI) - 7/10
Great six-man tag team action.
JUICE ROBINSON & CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Mikey Nicholls) vs. BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, & Jay White) (w/Gedo) - 6/10
The babyfaces being the first runs to run into the ring, knock the other guys off the apron and double-team the legal wrestler is such ass-backwards psychology it's astounding. Now we're on the outside for the traditional "heels whip the babyfaces into guardrails while the referee makes no effort to count anyone out" in order to set up the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys(TM).
This match was perfectly fine in a vacuum, but it served no real purpose other than to cram more guys onto the card. Why not throw RevPro a bone by sending these guys over there for the weekend (you can even throw Hikuleo and Honma in there, too, do the tag title match tonight instead of earlier in the week so the actual Dontaku show feels bigger and so the titles aren't buried as much because they're playing third fiddle to two other titles matches rather than playing second fiddle to a singles match with no titles involved and not even some sort of dream match, either, so you can save time on tomorrow's show for the bigger matches, then, too. Yes, there was the June 5th "Times Up" video which apparently is aimed at Juice Robinson, but you could have done that any other night of this tour.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Sanada & EVIL) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) - 8.5/10
The expected awesomeness, although it did fail as a match designed to get me excited for tomorrow's singles encounters. They have still not done anything to give me a reason to think Sanada has a snowball's chance of beating Okada for the title, and I have now seen EVIL get a fall on Ishii twice over the past week, so who the better fighter is really doesn't feel like an open question that needs to be answered anymore. The fact that this one was a referee stoppage is irrelevant because it's not like tomorrow night's match is an I Quit Match or some other gimmick where referee stoppages won't be a factor.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Jeff Cobb(c) vs. Taichi (w/Miho Abe & Suzuki-Gun) - 4.75/10
We start off with a bunch of stalling by Taichi. This was done to set up Miho Abe creating a distraction so Taichi could attack Cobb from behind... and Cobb just no-sold it. We eventually got yet another distraction to set up Kanemaru attacking Cobb from behind which barely had any more effect on Cobb than the first one did. Taichi finally got some offense in when he used the distraction of Cobb beating up Kanemaru to hit Cobb with the microphone stand and then choked him with it.
Taichi beats Cobb up on the outside and chokes him with a microphone cord. We saw the referee just walking around. He wasn't distracted by anyone or anything, but he also wasn't counting them out because... umm...
The story of the match was that Cobb was too big and strong for Taichi so Taichi had to cheat to get the advantage every time. Then all of a sudden they totally dropped that and Miho, TAKA, and Kanemaru were nowhere to be found while Taichi suddenly became the babyface working over the big monster's head with kicks and submissions. Then we got one more cheating spot for a Taichi nearfall, and then all of a sudden he was the babyface again, finally lifting the big monster up after failing at several previous attempts, hitting a big power move and winning the title. This match was completely schizophrenic, and also often boring because... well... it's a Taichi match, and exciting matches really haven't been his thing since Suzuki-Gun left NOAH in mid-2016. This also felt like yet another title-devaluing switch for this title, as now only two of the previous seven champions have managed even one successful title defense.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Dragon Lee(c) vs. Taiji Ishimori - 8.25/10
Kevin Kelly told us that "the winner of this match will not only be the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion but will head into Best of the Super Juniors in what has to be a top-seed position." Top-seed position? It's a round-robin tournament, Kevin. There is no seeding! Things like this really drive me nuts because there is absolutely no reason to even venture into the mental space that leads to saying things like this. It's a f*cking IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match! You don't need to try to add things on to it to make sound important because it already is important.
Dragon Lee did his big spot where he runs, jumps over the ropes, grabbing the guy on the apron and giving him a huricanrana down to the floor... and the referee responded to this just shrugging. GO CHECK ON THEM YOU F*CKING IDIOT! I don't care if you know for a fact that they're okay, GO SELL THE F*CKING MOVE! Continuing to do his job poorly, the referee eventually went to check on them, but did not start to count them out, even when they were up and brawling on the floor. This was made worse by the fact that after a previous Dragon Lee dive, he had started counting immediately. Apparently this was because this was the point in the match where they were supposed to do their next spot, which consisted of Ishimori somehow managing to arm drag Dragon Lee so that his knee hit the barricade (don't ask me how they made it work, but they did). Once this big spot happened, then the referee started counting. All I ask is consistency with how the rules are applied. Is that really too much to ask?
This led to a double-Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™ spot, in order to set up them trading forearms from their knees in the middle of the ring. Dragon Lee eventually won the spot, with Ishimori sliding down to the ring while Dragon Lee was able to stand up. Then Dragon Lee pulled Ishimori back to his feet... and they went right back to trading forearms, so what the hell was the point of Ishimori falling down dead in the first place?
They then started to do big, fast-paced moves, and pretty much no-sell them. This included Dragon Lee no-selling a Canadian Destroyer. Then they started to do big, fast-paced moves and actually sell them and the match got exciting again. The last few minutes were AWESOME, but the big chunk before that brought it down.
Dragon Lee eventually got the win, and while I like the idea of him saying he is holding onto the title to make sure Hiromu gets a title shot when he returns, it kind of feels like it has stalled the division at the exact worst time of the year for that to happen. I think it would have been a better idea to leave the belt on Ishimori at G1 Supercard and have Dragon Lee chasing him with that as the story. You could set Ospreay up as the challenger for this tour (that match hasn't been done since the opening night of last year's BOSJ, so there is some cool mirroring there, too), allowing you to do more to play off of this being the anniversary of Ishimori's return to NJPW (and Ospreay was the first man he beat after his return) while you rebuild Dragon Lee a bit on this tour. This would build up to tomorrow night's Ospreay & Dragon Lee vs. Ishimori & mystery partner match where you could have Dragon Lee get a visual pinfall, but then eventually get pinned by the mystery partner doing something dastardly. Then you have Dragon Lee beat the mystery partner on the final night of block competition to make it to the BOSJ finals, have him beat Ospreay in the finals (a match that would be happening for the first time in two years) in the finals, then finally win the title from Ishimori at Dominion.
This was a decent show from New Japan. I know that sounds a little harsh for a show with two matches at 8.25+, but so much of the rest of this felt like pointless matches I had already seen a million times all tour that this just felt like another "Road to..." show. Maybe if Cobb vs. Taichi had delivered more then I would feel different, but that's not what happened. Hopefully tomorrow night's show delivers to the level that a big event should deliver to.