New Japan is trying out the new 'audience' app for this show, it's really just a soundboard app where you can cheer or boo with the press of a button. The noise sounds fake, let's not kid ourselves, but ...BUT, there are two things that make a big difference. (1) It's HUMANS behind the controls and deciding what noise to trigger, this isn't a produced deciding for you what to cheer, and WHEN to cheer, if there's nothing happening in the match, the crowd goes quiet, so no fake 'This is awesome' chants. (2) It's just background noise, it's not meant to be the main reaction for a match, you still have people clapping with real human reactions over the noise, and they end up complementing each other nicely in a non-distracting way.
Yota Tsuji, Yuji Nagata & Yuya Uemura vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) - 6.5/10
I find it kinda funny that they're trying to build up YH a bit more with this trios title win, but he's still the babyface in peril in these matches, and granted, Goto or Ishii as BIP don't really work out that much, but still. This was good, I love seeing me some Uemura and Tsuji go strong style with veterans. YH submitted Uemura with the Butterfly Lock.
Golden Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi), Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Master Wato vs. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 7/10
Good match, but nothing special, it was a lot of what we've seen for the last month between the Aces and the Tekkers, between Wato and DOUKI and Kanemaru. My one takeaway is that Ibushi and Tanahashi got freaking ripped for the upcoming big show.
Post-match - Tanahashi spoke English to Sabre and that's the only reason I'm writing this, it was Tanahashi speaking English.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Title Tournament First Round: No Finishers Match
Satoshi Kojima vs. El Desperado - 8.5/10
I FUCKING LOVED THIS! The precise stipulation was that Desperado couldn't use "Pinche Loco", whereas Kojima couldn't use the Lariat. There is a HUGE difference there. For one, Despy is one of those guys that have about 10 different finishers, he couldn't use Pinche Loco, but he still had La Guitarra del Angel, Guitarra de la Muerte, Numero Dos, Angel de Rojo, and more. Second, Pinche Loco is a really particular move to hit, it takes a lot and it is its own thing, it's not a transitional move or anything, you can legit have a full match and not even think about it; however, think about when was the last time you saw a match without a Lariat or Clothesline? Kojima even uses Lariats to counter strikes, it's almost like banning Irish whips.
So the story was that Desperado first tried to win legit with some of his other finishers, but couldn't. Around this point, we started to see that Kojima kept getting more in the zone and would forget that he couldn't use the Lariat, and so he had to stop himself from using it. Since Despy couldn't keep Kojima down, he started to try and trick him to getting DQd by using the Lariat, so Despy started using it himself, pushing Kojima to the limit where he was like 'Fuck this kid, LARIATTOOOOOO' and thus got DQd. He didn't show any remorse at the end.
Both men looked fantastic here, it wasn't like they made Despy look weak in his reliance of cheats. The one and only thing that I would have added to this match was for Kojima to tease a Pinche Loco, it would had been a good pop even if he didn't land it.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Title Tournament First Round: 2-Count Pinfall Match
Toru Yano vs. BUSHI - 6.5/10
I kinda feel that at one point, BUSHI is just gonna come out with a huge mascot mask to fit in all the little designs he wants for his entrance masks.
This was the match of a thousand near falls, mainly because near falls here were any kick-out at 1. This was mostly a sprint to see who could get the fastest roll up and quick win, but after Yano couldn't get the win, he went for medical tape, that got used on himself instead, but when it all looked lost for Yano, he managed to reverse a Casita into a roll up of his own and win. This was fun, I want more stipulations like this in my life, reminded me of how much I used to love Big E's 5-count handicap. This was short and didn't have much to it, so I can't really rate it higher, but what they did, they did perfectly.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Title Tournament First Round: Submission Match
SANADA vs. SHO - 7.5/10
This was all grapplefuck, not at the level of Sabre Jr, but pretty good. SHO focused on the arms, SANADA went for the leg for a while. Around the middle of the match, they started doing more of a normal match with Germans and moonsaults, but they kept locking in a submission here and there. Finish saw SANADA go for a Moonsault, lock a Figure-4, and kinda put in a similar pressure as the Figure-8 to make SHO submit. Good match, great wrestling, but it was coming off two crazy sprints and that made it feel slow.
NJPW King Of Pro-Wrestling Title Tournament First Round: 3-On-1 Handicap Match
Kazuchika Okada vs. BULLET CLUB (Gedo, Jado & Yujiro Takahashi) - 4/10
When they had their Dominion match, I thought that Jado and Gedo would had made the match a bit more balanced and would had made me think that maybe Yujiro had a chance. So here we are, legit 3-on-1, but it's too late, with a Trophy stipulation in the future, that small advantage is gone because once again, we know Okada ain't losing this one. Up until the ring bell I kept hoping for an angle and to have Jado and Gedo replace themselves with Togo and EVIL, or Ishimori and Togo, or someone coming back, any combination that would had made things made me wonder again and even tease something down the line between Okada and EVIL.
Anyway, on to the match, it sucked, Kojima vs Despy should had main evented. Just kidding, but not really, I've talked about how broken Jado is, he can't be doing main events against Okada. So this was a lot of Okada selling, and then he powered up and won. Even with the excuse that Jado can't move and Gedo is somewhat limited, they could had at least made this a tornado tag match so that it was Okada vs all three at the same time, at all times. I'm just asking to make the selling believable. There was a highlight of Okada doing a Tope con Giro, which is really out of the norm for him. It was terrible btw. Okada won with the Cobra Clutch.
The one good thing about this match was seeing Jay White's new tee, it's pretty nice.
Post-match - Okada cut a nice promo, sounded really heartfelt. He said that he will bring his Kazuchika Okada Pro-Wrestling to become the King of Pro-Wrestling, he kinda shot a bit saying that it's up to the wrestlers to make something out of this trophy (being they set up the stipulations), but he asked the fans to keep believing and cheering for them.
Great show, with a terrible main event. This was a really easy show to watch, but it did become a struggle at the very end. Summer Struggle became skippable to me as soon as Tanahashi and Ibushi made up, but this was the one show that I had been waiting for and I don't feel cheated.