REN NARITA & SHOTA UMINO vs. YOTA TSUJI & YUYA UEMURA - 5.5/10
JEFF COBB, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, TIGER MASK IV, TOA HENARE, & YOSHI-HASHI vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, TAKA Michinoku, & Taichi) - 0.5/10
Holy crap Suzuki-Gun finally didn't jump the bell on their opponents. This appears to have been done solely for the purpose of getting me to think they might have a match tonight that is actually different from their usual sh*t, only to cruelly yank the rug out from under me. Taichi pinned Henare clean, just to rub it in the face of all of Henare's fans that Taichi somehow has a belt but Henare doesn't.
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TOGI MAKABE, & TORU YANO vs. BULLET CLUB (Guerrillas of Destiny & Gedo) (w/Jado) - 1/10
After spending the whole tour building up Liger vs. Suzuki, Liger has now randomly been moved into a match against Bullet Club. I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that the booker is the one in the ring with him now. Liger, like an idiot, lets his guard down with Gedo, so Tanga Loa is able to attack him from behind. He had absolutely nothing to gain from letting Gedo raise his hand, so why did he fall for this obvious ploy?
Stuff happened. It was mostly dull. Yano got to pin Gedo, because we're celebrating Liger, but we can't even let him pin Gedo because the goofball cheater needs the win for some reason.
JUICE ROBINSON, TOMOAKI HONMA, & CHAOS (Mikey Nicholls & Hirooki Goto) vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, & Hikuleo) - 6/10
Bullet Club put together this brilliant plan to create a distraction so Chase Owens could sneak in and attack Goto from behind before the bell, and just as Chase slips into the ring and charges towards Goto's turned back, Goto begins to turn around and raise his fist... the dumbf*ck director decides to cut to a close-up of the referee and Jay White, so we miss the actual attack and are left wondering whether it was successful or whether Goto was able to thwart it. There is no excuse for NJPW's director not having been removed from his/her position by now. I understand that loyalty is very important to Japanese wrestling promotions (and especially larger, more storied ones like New Japan) so I understand if they don't want to fire this person, but for G-d's sake at least reassign him/her to some other position that he/she might actually be competent at! Someone has to pop the popcorn or clean up the padded walls of Yano's whenever he decides to rub his poop on them.
WILL OSPREAY & DRAGON LEE vs. BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) - 5.5/10
Will Ospreay was "shocked" when El Phantasmo was revealed as the newest member of Bullet Club, which makes Ospreay the only person who follows New Japan that didn't know Ishimori's mystery partner was. Ospreay offers a handshake but El Phantasmo two-sweets him in the forehead. Hopefully Ospreay will get the message that they're not friends anymore and we can avoid any overdramatic bullsh*t from him.
Of course El Phantasmo has to do his stupid rope-walk spot while Ospreay has to pretend that having a nice good grip on one of his hands leaves him completely incapacitated but also somehow able to walk as El Phantasmo pulls him along an entire side of the ring. This is the single dumbest spot in pro wrestling right now (and I am including Joey Ryan's dick stuff, because at least that is intended to be comedy). Speaking of El Phantasmo and stupid spots, apparently stomping on your opponent's nuts when he's in the tree of woe is not a DQ because... umm... if you multiply two negative numbers together you get a positive number?
The story of this match was that El Phantasmo has spots he likes to do. The other three were good, though. El Phantasmo pinned Ospreay because we need to get the new guy over, but we don't want him to actually pin the champion so, this was the only logical outcome.
KOTA IBUSHI & ROPPONGI 3K vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Shingo Takagi, Tetsuya Naito, & BUSHI) - 8.5/10
I'm sorry, but did I miss something? Why are the commentators talking about Naito vs. Ibushi like it's the be-all end-all feud in New Japan? I'd put both Okada vs. Tanahashi and Okada vs. Naito ahead of it by several miles, probably Naito vs. Tanahashi, too. Even Okada vs. Jay White feels much more personal and heated, and Ospreay vs. Scurll and Goto vs. Suzuki both have longer, more epic histories behind them (and is, of course, leaving out Hiromu vs. Dragon Lee, as well as anything involving Omega). Naito and Ibushi are just really great wrestlers who are currently having an issue.
This match was all action, and it rocked. Naito vs. Ibushi and Shingo vs. Sho were both fantastic, but Shingo in particular was awesome no matter who he was in there with. If you want me to not complain that you're watering down supposedly big shows by putting these "Road to..." matches in big spots, then you need to have more of those matches be as awesome as this one was.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Like everyone already figured out, Naito vs. Ibushi for the Intercontinental Title is happening at Dominion.
After the challenge was made and accepted, Kevin Kelly told us "There was a reason why Kota Ibushi wanted to be opposite Tetsuya Naito in matches the remainder of this tour: Because he wanted the answer to the question. When would the match happen?" Why did they have to be in the same match all the time for him to get an answer? It's not like the wrestlers are forbidden from talking to each other outside of matches.
And if Naito wanted an answer to this question so badly that he asked to be in every one of Naito's matches for the rest of the tour then why did this segment consist of Ibushi walking away from the ring and Naito saying "hey! Come back here!" and then asking Ibushi if they can have their match at Dominion. Shouldn't it have been the other way around?
This whole thing makes no sense at all! The challenge to the match was made two weeks ago and they haven't come up with a date yet? Shouldn't the office have taken care of this? What do President Harold and his buddies do all day? They don't fine people for abusing young-boys or referees, they don't book matches with stipulations to prevent heels (Yano included) from cheating in the same way the next time, they don't even book the big matches, as the those all seem to be made by the wrestlers coming out and challenging each other... so what the f*ck do they do?
And now here is Kevin Kelly saying that he thinks they both had Dominion in mind for the date of the title match. WELL THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY JUST SAY SO FROM THE START?! The rest of us all figured it out well beforehand but neither of them suggested a date to the other at any point until now?!
I know this sounds like it's not a big deal- and I'm not even saying that it is one- but it's another example of a complete and total lack of attention to any sort of detail. If this happened in any other promotion, people would be sh*tting all over it, but they're not going to because it's New Japan. And what's even worse is that this whole thing didn't need to happen at all. If they had laid the date out when the initial challenge was made and then you just switched Ibushi into all of Naito's matches because they want to get a feel for each other or something like that (or, even better, don't put them in each other's matches for this tour because you have all of BOSJ to stick them against each other in tag matches) then you'd be at the same place you are now, except sh*t would make sense!
TANAHASHI ANNOUNCEMENT - He's coming back at the BOSJ finals and wants to be IWGP Heavyweight Champion again. Jay White and Gedo came out and said that Tanahashi should be in the back of the line. Gedo distracted Tanahashi so Jay White could attack his injured elbow. The young-boys at ringside all apparently have a flare for the dramatic, as they let White stomp on Tanahashi's elbow for a bit and then set up a chair under the elbow so he could squish it between two chairs and only when White reared back to swing the chair did they all run in to make the save. That was dumb. Jay White then waited for Tanahashi to be pulled to the floor before he started beating up the young-boys. Then he just decided not to go after Tanahashi again because... um...
There was a good idea here, but the execution was ridiculous. It was one of those segments where it was painfully clear that this is a show designed to be dramatic, rather than a sporting event that inherently is dramatic due to the twists and turns taking place. All they had to do to make this better was have other wrestlers come out to save Tanahashi. He's NJPW's ultimate babyface, but he doesn't have any f*cking friends? Didn't he and CHAOS make a deal to fight Bullet Club together? Well here is Bullet Club trying to maim Tanahashi, so where the hell is CHAOS? Even if we give Roppongi 3K a pass for having just wrestled and say that Ishii and Okada are both preparing for their matches later and not paying attention to what is going on in the ring, why aren't Goto (who Jay White is currently feuding with!) and Ospreay and Mikey Nicholls and Yano (all of whom are currently feuding with one member of Bullet Club or another) coming out here to help Tanahashi? Or how about Rocky Romero, sitting there on commentary saying "someone has to do something about this?" You were just telling us about how you are going to be competing in Best of the Super Juniors so why don't you get off your ass and do something about it, Rocky?
TOMOHIRO ISHII vs. EVIL - 7.75/10
These two started off by charging right at each other the moment the bell rang, which was the only way this match should have started. EVIL wound up working over Ishii's leg and they did a wonderful job of mixing that in to the expected story of them hitting each other really hard, which made this match different from all of their tag team encounters this tour and I was really enjoying the match... and then they had to go to the outside.
First we got them fighting on the outside forever without being counted out. Then EVIL got some chairs and tried to use them on Ishii but the referee came over to stop him. EVIL shoved the referee down but was no disqualified. Then he did the exact thing the referee had ordered him not to do and hit Ishii with the foreign object. This was still somehow not a DQ.
This was the beginning of the downslide for this match, but it really started to lose me once EVIL was able to survive the Scorpion Deathlock by getting the ropes. After that point they mostly gave up on everything they had set up previously (both guys work on the other's knee, EVIL's work on Ishii's back, the general idea of EVIL as a dirty heel) and it turned into every other Ishii match, where 95% of the moves are either forearms, lariats, or finisher attempts, and suplexes only exist to be no-sold. It had its exciting moments and I'm not saying it was bad or anything (I gave it a relatively high rating, after all- well past my threshold for an acceptable main event), but it very much ceased to actually be interesting or feel in any way like something I hadn't seen a million times before. Ishii got the win here because EVIL has beaten him a bunch of other times this tour, so hooray for parity booking.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) vs. Sanada- 8.5/10
Sanada has dyed his entire head blond now. It looks very stupid. Speaking of stupid, if you have the world champion tied up in the Paradise Lock, why would you give him a running dropkick to the butt (which you know always seems to dislodge him) rather than going around and repeatedly stomping on his defenseless head until the referee awards you the title by either referee stoppage or knockout? He also at one point had Okada completely dead in the Skull End but let it go to go for a moonsault. Then, after hitting one moonsault, he went for a second one which got reversed, so he's even more of a dumbf*ck. Sanada has no one to blame but himself if he loses this match.
That stuff and being on the outside forever without being counted out aside, I thought this was an excellent match. I'm sure some people will feel like they went long just for the sake of going long, but I'm perfectly fine with that in a big world title match as long as you keep it feeling like things are moving forward, and Okada and Sanada certainly did that here. They did the usual "Okada tries to hit the Rainmaker" stuff while also telling a story about them having counters for everything the other did. The length of the match also kind of played into this, and the announcers pushed that each of their now six matches has gone progressively longer and that Sanada is thus getting closer to figuring out how to survive Okada. My advice to him would be to NOT LET UP ON A PERFECTLY FINE SUBMISSION HOLD, DUMBASS!
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Okada started to cut a promo but was interrupted by a video of... CHRIS JERICHO, who will challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at Dominion. I'm not really sure why he is being given this title shot, considering that the last time we saw him, he lost, but I guess we're supposed to overlook that because of how awesome the match will be. Jericho is apparently just a crazy-man now. Okada mocked his shout of "I'M GONNA WIN!"
This was a very good show from New Japan, but despite the awesome matches at the top of the card I can't bring myself to call this a "great" show due to just how bad the undercard was... which is also how I feel about this tour as a whole. I really dislike the format they've been doing for this tour the past two years and hope they never go back to it, but I'm not holding my breath.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. Rocky Romero- "Enzugiri to the chin!"
Considering that Enzugiri literally means "kick to the back of the head," this is physically impossible.
2. Kevin Kelly- "Jericho has held every title, it seems, around the world except one: The IWGP Heavyweight Title."
Except, you know, 99% of the titles in New Japan's partner promotions, or any titles in any other active company in Japan or Mexico, or any active non-WWE company in the USA.