Announcements - It is announced that due to the typhoon, Zack Sabre Jr and Jon Moxley were unable to make it to Japan and thus out of tonight's show. Jon Moxley has vacated the championship and tonight, Juice Robinson and Lancer Archer fight for the vacant title. Truth is, Moxley has a match on Wednesday in the US and it may had just been irresponsible to risk not making it back due to the typhoon. This was bound to happen sooner or later due to AEW being weekly taped.
Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs Roppongi 3K w/Rocky Romero - 7/10
Desperado got a nice return reaction from the crowd. He's wearing the blood stained shirt he was using in deathmatches before his injury. This is mostly to build some momentum towards the Jr. Tag League.
This was a formulaic tag match, with the heels using Despy's injury to distract the babyfaces and ref in order to gain control, work over SHO, hot tag to YOH, some tag moves, R3K got close to finishing off Despy, but Kanemaru saved him, Whisky Mist, allowing Despy to hit Guitarra del Angel on SHO for the win. Good opener.
Hiroshi Tanahashi 20th Anniversary Match
Togi Makabe & Toru Yano vs Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tomoaki Honma w/Wataru Inoue - 5.5/10
Tanahashi in the second match of the night, times are a-changing. This is celebrating Tanahashi's 20th Annviersary as a wrestler, he debuted October 10th, 1999. Wataru Inoue came out with Tanahashi and Honma, was introduced, but then I completely lost him from ringside until the end.
This was all showcase, Makabe and Yano got heat on Honma until Tanahashi got the hot tag. After some Kokeshis, Tanahashi won with the High Fly Flow. Honma was extra slow tonight, there were several spots throughout the match were you could tell people had to held a position for longer than they would naturally do, best example being when Yano went for the Low Blow and held the arm extended, waiting for Honma to block him.
Post-match - Tana, Inoue, and Honma celebrated in the ring.
Suzuki-Gun (Taichi & Douki) w/Miho Abe vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi) - 5.5/10
I REALLY hope this doesn't mean another Naito vs Taichi feud, I've liked their matches, but I've seen too many this year.
Another formulaic match with SZKG working over Shingo, Naito getting the hot tag and doing his thing with Taichi, then they tagged their partners and started brawling, but except of getting Shingo pinning Douki, Taichi went for the mic stand and attacked Shingo, causing the DQ.
Post-match - Taichi attacked the ref with the mic stand, Naito liked it. Taichi attacked Naito, dodged a Destino and took him out with the mic stand and a Last Ride. Douki counted the pin. Taichi then cut a promo on Naito telling him he is done. Naito is titleless, and now feuding with Taichi. Is he missing the IC/HW title race for Wrestle Kingdom?
Tanahashi has joined commentary.
Jyushin "Thunder" Liger vs Minoru Suzuki - 8.5/10
Liger came out with a hornless/hairless/eyeless mask, no body suit, pretty much the one he uses for interviews and commentary. This is as close as we'll get of Yamada and the best way for people to know that Kishin Liger is not coming out tonight.
I liked this a lot, it felt intense, it was heated, and while it's not this clinic or anything, the mere significance and heat made it special. Liger was hostile from the start, challenging Suzuki to mat wrestle, not letting go of holds, even going after a chair, which would work against him when the ref told him "This isn't you Liger!" and allowed Suzuki to attack them and turn the match around. The rest was mostly Suzuki working on Liger until he chased the GSP and Liger came back, but in the end, it was Suzuki that would prevail with the GSP.
I can't say I saw that finish coming, but in the long lasting tradition that wrestlers retire on the backs, Liger out over Suzuki in their final match. From here on, I take it Liger builds his final story, heading into Wrestle Kingdom. I don't know what the status
Post-match - Suzuki went for a chair to attack Liger, but he let the chair go and thanked Liger instead. I'm fucking crying right now. Suzuki left and a minute later Liger finally stood up. Liger thanked the crowd and left too.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match
"The Aerial Assassin" Will Ospreay (C) vs El Phantasmo - 9.25/10
Yesterday, ELP made a long post on twitter saying that being in the New Japan DOJO during the typhoon had made him realize that he wasted his big Super J Cup win with shenanigans instead of taking things seriously. He said that tonight, there wouldn't be any bullshit, just to god damn good wrestlers going at it. He didn't even throw that young man's cap to the crowd. He also told Ishimori to go to the back, so Ospreay kinda had to follow with that too.
As a side note, New Japan has regained the rights to use Ospreay's theme song!
Story here is that as much as ELP tried to keep it a gentlemen's bout, Ospreay was being a bit of a dick, and it pushed the heel out of ELP, and from there on, ELP did everything possible to piss off Ospreay. Having said that, Ospreay actually had the most offense throughout the match, he kept cutting off ELP, but arguably, ELP had the stronger offense.
There was a spot where Ospreay tossed ELP into Gino Gambino, but ELP landed on top of the crowd. This ended with Ospreay taking a chair to the face for being a dick. After that spot, they brawled up to the balcony, where they teased tossing each other off. ELP managed to drop Ospreay and follow with a HUGE plancha. This spot was awesome.
Towards the end, Ospreay just completely dominated ELP, the word 'Squash' started going through my head, but when Ospreay was about to finish ELP, Ishimori took out the ref, attacked Ospreay, until Robbie Eagles came out for the save and to take Ishimori away.
ELP called upon the power of the past Bullet Club leaders hitting a Styles Clash, a V-Trigger, and almost a One Winged Angel, but Ospreay managed to escape and hit a desperation Spanish Fly. A couple of minutes later, Ospreay would retain using the Hidden Blade and Storm Breaker. Awesome match, it got so much better towards the end when it stopped feeling one-sided.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, & Tomohiro Ishii) vs Bullet Club (Jay White, KENTA, & Yujiro Takahashi) w/Gedo & Pieter - 7/10
This match is building to Goto vs White and Ishii vs KENTA likely at Power Struggle, but I don't really know why Goto didn't pin White instead of Yujiro. I guess they'll milk this 'Goto doesn't get a shot just for showing up' story until the end when Goto finally pins White in a tag match.
Match was good, but nothing special, Goto and White paired up, as did Ishii and KENTA, and YOSHI-HASHI was a geek.
Post-match - White antagonized Tanahashi outside, which if I heard correctly, White told Tana that this was just one of the two champions he'll win, and I swear I heard Tana say 'Not Me' . On the other side, Ishii and KENTA brawled near the entrance.
IWGP US Championship No DQ Match
"The American Psycho" Lancer Archer vs "The Flamboyant" Juice Robinson - 8/10
Before the match started, Archer said these people paid to see a No DQ match, to which Juice agreed; beforehand, it was just a one-on-one for the vacant title.
First third of the match was just Archer creating chaos all over the place. He put Robinson through a commentary table, and started setting up the ring for war, replacing the corner pads with chairs, setting up tables, and knocking out Young Lions here and there. They put each other through tables, hit each other with chairs, Archer hit Blackout on a pile a chairs for a near fall, but then pinned Juice with the EBD Claw.
The match was short and probably planned with short notice, but I think it was what it needed to be, considering that Archer took the title, which makes me wonder what were the plans before Moxley vacated the title. I can't say that i'm not happy for Archer getting the title instead to be honest.
Post-match - Archer kept attacking Juice Robinson until Dave Finlay came out for the save. Finlay hit Stunner and a Cutter and sent Archer packing. Finlay has dropped some weight, he looks better.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Jan. 4th Title Shot Contract On the Line
"The Golden Star" Kota Ibushi (C) vs "King of Darkness" EVIL - 9/10
Awesome match, just two dudes straight up fighting to main event the biggest event of the year. Both of them worked each other's heads with a lot of lariats and kicks and suplexes. The match saw them trade momentum on several occassions, but it was for the most part just back and forward action. Last minutes, they both started chasing their finishers, but they kept countering each other until Ibushi landed his first Kamigoye, followed by a second for the win.
SANADA vs Okada Video Package - Awesome, it was all build around SANADA's career and rivalry with Okada up to this point.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
"Rainmaker" Kazuchika Okada (C) vs "Cold Skull" SANADA - 9.5/10
I'm not gonna pretend like I'm ok with this finish, Okada won about the 31 minute mark with a Rainmaker, and by doing so, puts SANADA back to where he was almost half a year ago with just being that guy that gives Okada good matches, but he just can't beat him. What's the point in having SANADA finally beat him in the G1 if it's been erased now? I'm not saying that SANADA should defeat Okada right before Wrestle Kingdom, but at least make it a time limit draw or push Okada's win far beyond the 30 minute mark.
The match build around some of the stuff we've been seeing for a while with SANADA being quick enough to dodge the dropkick and how he's been able to counter Okada more and more. We also saw a lot of the SANADA/Okada chant feud that always breaks down. Like I mentioned, I was expecting a longer match, so when Okada landed the first Rainmaker at the 20 minute mark, I knew we were lost. They started trading finishers and counters, even doing the G1 finish, but now Okada managed to counter. Finish saw Okada win with a Tombstone that looked more like a Driver, and a Rainmaker.
Post-match - SANADA is crying in the ring. Okada tries to be a good sportsman, but we all know he's a dick deep inside. Okada then called out Ibushi, who pretty much made the Jan 4th challenge official, telling him he plans to win both Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles, which Okada takes as an insult with Ibushi's confidence of simply winning both.
SANADA crying makes me feel more like when Okada cried after losing to Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom, that would actually become the story of Okada recovering and finally winning the title the next year. While i'm still disappointed, this gives me hopes that SANADA will bounce back stronger.
Ibushi left and then Okada just thanked the crowd for coming out and hoped good for all those affected by the typhoon.
It was a great show in the overall scheme of things, but as a New Japan show, this was ok, just running through the motions really. We knew neither Ibushi or Okada would lose their matches, but I did hope for something more productive. The real incognito is about who will fight for the IC title since I think we can assume that the main event of night two is whoever wins Jan 4th main event against whoever is IC champion by then. Archer winning the title is a nice surprise, a bit of change to that division, and the Liger vs Suzuki match was awesome.<