DRAGON LEE, SHOTA UMINO, & TITAN vs. JONATHAN GRESHAM, REN NARITA, & BANDIDO - 5.75/10
ROPPONGI 3K & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. BULLET CLUB (Robbie Eagles, El Phantasmo, & Taiji Ishimori) - 2/10
Bullet Club jumped the bell on their opponents, but they apparently didn't let Robbie Eagles in on the plan. This seems to be an attempt to play off of the issues between Eagles and El Phantasmo, but the problem is that it seems to be a total crap-shoot as to whether said issues (or Eagles turning babyface or whatever) are going to be a thing or not on any given show, and the logic of the situation doesn't follow from one show to the next. The heat between Eagles and El Phantasmo stems from Eagles not wanting El Phantasmo to interfere in his match against his friend Will Ospreay but El Phantasmo did it anyway. Eagles' friendship with Ospreay clearly is not a factor in this match so there was no reason for El Phantasmo to think that Eagles would object to jumping their opponents in this match, and actually was some evidence that he would be in favor of doing so, as he has gone along with his Bullet Club comrades' various forms of cheating on both tag matches he has had since the Ospreay match, including jumping his opponents before the bell on just two shows ago. And if the idea is that Eagles has no problem with Bullet Club cheating and is just annoyed at El Phantasmo then I'm not sure what Eagles is upset about at the moment.
They did a bunch of dumb, goofy sh*t, including a spot where I think we were supposed to think that El Pahntasmo stuck his thumb up Taguchi's butt (through his tights, mind you) and it got stuck. Then El Phantasmo made Eagles smell it and he fainted, then he tried to do the same to Ishimori (his own partner!) and the referee but both ran away. It was extremely dumb.
Then he finally got the idea to use it as a weapon and made Taguchi smell his own butt-smell and Taguchi fainted, but kicked out at two when El Phantasmo went for a pin.
Of course, once their spot was done, they forgot about the smelly thumb of death, and it was near Taguchi's face again moments later and he didn't react to it at all.
El Phantasmo did his dumb rope-walk spot. They keep coming up with new elements for this that make the balance he displays more impressive, but do nothing to alter the sheer ridiculousness of the idea that grabbing the opponent's hand incapacitates to the point where he can't push Ell Phantasmo off the ropes (say, with his free other arm) or yank him down or whatever while El Phantasmo walks the majority of the way around the ring on the ropes... and yet also the opponent somehow isn't incapacitated enough to not be able to walk step for step with El Phantasmo while he walks around the ropes. An no, that one soft-looking tap on the head with a foot that El Phantasmo tries to pass off as a kick does not explain this. There is a reason that when people like El Generico do this sort of move that requires grabbing the opponent's arm and standing on the ropes, they are up there for about two seconds at the absolute most.
Once the dumb sh*t was over, we got about two minutes of good wrestling. The finish saw El Phantasmo steal Eagles' pin on Sho (although he hit his own finisher first, to be able to make a claim that it was his finisher, not Eagles', that did the winning damage). This got Eagles understandably upset. Then El Phantasmo grabbed Roppongi 3K's tag titles to celebrate with but gave the other belt to Ishimori instead of Eagles. This was supposed to be seen as some sort of big slight, but I don't really think that's a reasonable interpretation of events. As even Kevin Kelly reminded us right before the finish, the established team from last year's Super Junior Tag Team Tournament is Ishimori & Eagles, so whoever El Phantasmo gave the other belt to, he was going to be breaking up the team. But El Phantasmo actually does have a big tag team victory with Ishimori during his short NJPW tenure, back at Wrestling Dontaku 2019: Day 2, so it makes more sense for him to give the other belt to Ishimori than to Eagles. One little change they could have made that I think would have helped this a lot would have been if, while he had both belts and was skipping around, El Phantasmo had passed right by Eagles before continuing on to give one of the tag belts to Ishimori, rather than the way it happened here where Ishimori was the first guy he saw. Something to make it look like there was a clearly intended slight to Eagles.
Eagles stormed off without the other two, and El Phantasmo whispered something in Ishimori's ear. Eagles joining CHAOS seems like a likely outcome from this, especially if the "Ospreay going heavyweight" rumors are true, though if that's the case I'd like them to hold off on Ospreay going heavyweight and tell an actual story with Eagles trying to join CHAOS and thus having to earn Ospreay's trust before Ospreay will vouch for him, which could culminate in them teaming together in the tag tournament before having Ospreay's first match at heavyweight occur at the Tokyo Dome.
TIGER MASK IV, JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, & CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, & Toru Yano) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi, & DOUKI) - 5.5/10
Putting the referee in a headlock apparently isn't a DQ. The important bit during the match here was Taichi kicking Ishii in the nuts. The important bit after the match was a confrontation between Suzuki and Liger that I don't understand how I'm supposed to care about because I've seen them in tag matches for months now and it hasn't led to a singles match yet, and they're not going to have one at Dominion, either.
TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA, KOTA IBUSHI, & TOA HENARE vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, EVIL, & BUSHI) - 6/10
LIJ won when EVIL pinned Henare. Naito attacked Ibushi after the match.
VILLAIN ENTERPRISES (Marty Scurll & Brody King) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Rocky Romero) - 6.75/10
They did their stuff. Okada vs. Brody King seems like it could be really awesome, but I doubt we'll ever get to see it.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - A Jericho promo aired, then Okada cut a promo in response. Neither were particularly notable. I really liked Okada turning around to check behind him for Jericho the moment the video ended, though.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI vs. JAY WHITE (w/Gedo) - 7.75/10
Jay White jumps the bell on Tanahashi and we immediately spill to the outside. Gedo puts his hands on Tanahashi right in front of the referee but there is no DQ, or even an ejection from ringside. On the bright side, they didn't stay on the outside forever, but it still would have been nice to hear the referee actually counting them out while they were out there like he's supposed to.
White dumped Tanahashi to the outside a second time and then went to work on his surgically-repaired elbow. White actually rolled into the ring to break the count up and then rolled back out, but the referee didn't restart his count. New Japan referees apparently just don't know the rules of pro wrestling, and the company is embarrassing itself by putting these incompetent nitwits in charge of their matches.
White didn't want a double count-out so he yanked the referee out of the ring, putting the referee down, and wasn't disqualified. The ref didn't even take a bump for this, and when White went over to him and said "okay, let's get back in the ring now and you can start counting, the referee did so... but the referee started counting from one again! An umpire who doesn't know the rules of baseball wouldn't be allowed to ump little league!
Once that crap was over with, the match got pretty great, with White working the arm and Tanahashi working the knee and some really great reversal spots. It still fit into the usual Tanahashi pattern, but we haven't seen Tananashi in a while so that didn't bother me here. Tanahashi losing via a roll-up that also traps the injured arm (very much like the finish to last night's 205 Live main event) was a perfect finish here, but I thought they kind of wasted Tanahashi getting his low-blow revenge on White by doing it in a match Tanahashi lost.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Jay White went over to Liger and made some rude comments to him, so maybe we're getting that match soon. Or maybe it's just Jay White doing stuff just to do stuff because New Japan seems to have very little control when it comes to that.
IWGP UNITED STATES TITLE MATCH:
Juice Robinson(c) vs. Jon Moxley - 8.5/10
Juice has cut his hair to show that he isn't the same guy he used to be. Fine. Now how about getting rid of that eye-sore you call wrestling gear and wearing something that looks more like fighting attire and less like clown pajamas?
This had lots of weapon use and intensity and fantastic paving and Juice did a big dive off the entrance set. Basically, this would have been an AWESOME no DQs match... except that it wasn't actually a no DQs match. That's a big part of what bugs me about this sh*t in New Japan. It would be so easy to avoid this problem by just booking it as a no DQs match from the get-go! I mean... Moxley appears to have been threatening to STAB Juice in those videos. If that doesn't call for a no DQs match then what does?
And by not having this be a no DQs match we get ridiculous sh*t like Red Shoes letting people get away with chairshots, but running in and ordering Moxley to break up a figure four around the ringpost, or guys fighting on the outside for nearly five straight minutes in the beginning and going back outside for extended periods of time at least four or five times over the course of the match, but the only time Red Shoes applies the twenty-count is the one time they want to do a count-out tease spot. It makes everything look fake, which is clearly not the vibe the wrestlers were going for when they put a brawl like this together.
Juice worked over Moxley's midsection a bit while Moxley focused on Juice's knee. Even when Juice took that table bump it looked like it was Juice's leg that really caused the break in the table and Juice sold it like the pain was shooting up his knee (it's kind of funny, too, as such a thing wouldn't be possible without the oddly strong Japanese tables). Juice kicked out of Dirty Deeds but then Moxley hit an awesome-looking high-angle version for the win. This was an awesome, brutal, knock-down, drag-out brawl... but it would have been a lot easier for me to enjoy if they had set themselves up with the stipulations that allowed them to do all of those things first.
BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS FINALS:
Shingo Takagi vs. Will Ospreay - a PERFECT 10/10!
This was a FANTASTIC clash of wills, with the unstoppable force against the man determined to stop it. Both guys worked the head and there was a hell of a lot of drama and some rather creative sequences that were really awesome. Also, I think Ospreay might have been going for a bit of a Liger theme with some of the moves he hit (Running Liger Bomb, Shooting Star Press, attempted top-rope rana), but that might just be stuff he peppers throughout most of his matches. Eventually Ospreay busted out his own seemingly unstoppable force, the Stormbreaker, and got the win.
I will admit that I am being a little liberal here by giving them a pass on possibly being outside for too long without a count-out, but my rational for doing so is that on the only sequences where it felt like this was the case, one could make the argument that they did each clearly have some part of their body such as a stray arm or elbow or whatever break the plane of the ropes and then get pulled back out, which should have reset the count had one been going on. When you consider that having any small part of your body breaking the plane of the ropes is enough to render a pinfall or submission invalid because you are technically "out of bounds" then I think it makes perfect sense that such a small portion of your body can break the plane in the opposite direction as well.
Now... as much as I liked this match from a performance aspect, I thought the booking was a mistake. If you've got a guy who is undefeated so far, beating him in the BOSJ finals feels like a waste to me. The guy winning BOSJ doesn't need any additional boost. He's winning freakin' BOSJ. I think Shingo either should have lost to one person during block competition, won the tournament and the title, and now you've got a challenger set up with the building being "he's the only man to ever beat Shingo in NJPW), or he should have gone undefeated, won the whole tournament and won the title from the champion, coming out of all of this looking as unstoppable as ever. And in either scenario, with the particular case of Ospreay being his opponent in the finals, I think there was a missed opportunity to use the Stormbreaker to tell an even better version of the Triple H/Batista story where the in the first match the guy with the move that no one kicks out of never gets the chance to hit his move so that you can quickly rebuild Ospreay for a rematch against new champion Shingo with the story being that yes Shingo won their first bout, but Ospreay didn't get the chance to hit his super finisher, and if he does he'll surely win (and if you want Ospreay to beat Shingo you can do it then, which sets up for a third match during which you can put the belt back on Shingo and move Ospreay up to heavyweight if you want).
WILL OSPREAY PROMO - PROMO OF THE YEAR CONTENDER. He cut a fantastic promo tying Tanahashi's time as a junior heavyweight into the current generation and announcing that he is moving to Japan. Also, he wants to face heavyweights as well as junior heavyweights.
A pretty great show from New Japan. A perfect main event helps with that, obviously, but the semi-main was awesome and other matches certainly delivered as well, and the undercard was short (mostly) decent, and the angle in the Bullet Club match actually felt important for once. Dominion is a perennial Show of the Year candidate, so Sunday should be a lot of fun.
STUPID ANNOUNCER QUOTES
1. During the main event, when they did their big double-down on the outside after the Os-Cutter on the apron, Red Shoes went to the outside to and quickly talked to both wrestlers. Any normal, intelligent person would have easily deduced that Red Shoes was checking on the wrestlers to make sure they could still continue. But f*cking Kevin Kelly clearly doesn't fall into that category. Instead of telling us this (which would have the added benefit off putting over the damage done to both wrestlers and how much winning this match would mean to Ospreay by telling us what he was willing to risk doing to himself to win it), Kevin Kelly tried to tell us that Red Shoes was "informing them that he was about to start the count." Why would Red Shoes need to tell the wrestlers he is about to start counting them out? They know the rules and they know they're on the outside!