YOSHINOBU KANEMARU vs. MASTER WATO (w/Hiroyoshi Tenzan) - 4.5/10
Okay… that driver that Master Wato did into a roll-up might be my new favorite non-chokeslam move. Kanemaru eventually won clean with a roll-up. Poor Master Wato.
NJPW KING OF PRO WRESTLING TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Toru Yano vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Sanada vs. El Desperado - 4/10
The match was fine, other than when Yano was involved. Also, the Paradise Lock needs to go away forever. Yano hit Okada in the nuts and then rolled him up for the pin. Yes, YANO pinned OKADA.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Shingo Takagi(c) vs. Minoru Suzuki - 8/10
This started out really great until the predictable bullsh*t where they’re on the floor forever and Suzuki shoves the referee down so hard that he bumps and doesn’t get DQed. This sh*t is soooo annoying because it’s f*cking MINORU SUZUKI and he doesn’t need to be going to the outside like this. They could have done everything they did on the outside in the ring (just replace the guardrails with turnbuckles) and it would have worked jus as well, plus you wouldn’t have had the referee ignoring the rules for no reason. And, of course, once Suzuki is back in the ring, the count-out rule starts applying again the referee starts to count Shingo out, even though everyone knows we’re not going to have a count-out in a title match because New Japan makes a point of never doing that, which therefore makes the tease ineffective.
Other than that, these two had the awesome, hard-hitting match you’d expect, with lots of drama towards the end. Suzuki won the title, which I really hated. Yes, the pandemic means that some of the other divisions (and the junior heavyweights in particular) mean that you run the risk of a champion emptying out the division, but with the NEVER title, anyone can challenge for it, so this is the belt for which this is the least concern. Cutting Shingo’s reign off to give the belt to Suzuki feels like a huge mistake of a way to end Shingo’s first singles title reign in NJPW. Shingo is a future top star (hell, he could be a current one if they pushed him for the top belt) and needs to be treated as such. Losing your first title after just three defenses is not how you treat that level of star.
IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Hiromu Takahashi(c) Taiji Ishimori - 9/10
Ishimori tried to target Hiromu’s injured shoulder, and we also got both guys taking scary bumps that at least looked very close to their necks. These two things combined to allow Ishimori to take advantage of Hiromu’s existing weaknesses and win. I don’t really like this title change, either, but as I hinted at above, I’m a little more understanding of it. This had some really great nearfalls and reversals, and was just a pleasure to watch (other than the moments of terror where they both appeared to just barely miss landing on their necks).
IWGP TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi)(c) vs. Golden Ace (Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi) - 6.25/10
They’re on the outside forever with no count-out. Finally, Red Shoes decides to start doing his job and counting everyone out. The heels are in total control and Tanahashi is the legal babyface and the count is up to sixteen… and Taichi quickly rolls Tanahashi into the ring to break the count, then pulls him back out to keep working him over. WHY? We’ve seen time and again over the years that Taichi has no problem winning by count-out, so why would he break up a count-out here?
Taichi starts choking Tanahashi with a camera cable while Red Shoes stands there and does nothing. Then we again get Tanahashi about to be counted out by Taichi saves him from being counted out for absolutely no reason other than that he has suddenly decided that he doesn’t want to win by count-out after YEARS of being okay trying to do so.
We then entered into the in-ring heat. Zack grabs Tanahashi by the nose, which is illegal, and how does Red Shoes respond? He talks to Zack while point at Kota for some reason? Red Shoes’ defenders will say that they love how expressive he is, but 70% of the time this “expressive” body language doesn’t actually make any sense for the situation.
Tanahshi’s neck got worked over. The heat was pretty dull. Tanahashi eventually made the hot tag to Kota. There was some good stuff in here (especially towards the end), but I really just couldn’t get into this match. I’m just tired of this formulaic Taichi heat all the time, and I didn’t think there was any way in hell Dangerous Tekkers were losing the belts, so it was just a waiting game for the heat to be over.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE & IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
EVIL(c)(c) (w/Dick Togo) vs. Tetsuya Naito - 6/10
Togo went after Naito so Naito took him out, but that allowed EVIL to nail Naito with one of the belts before the bell. Naito rolled to the outside, EVIL followed him out, and the bell rang… and, of course, Red Shoes made no move to start counting them out. EVIL did his wacky chairshot that doesn’t actually make any sense, because G-d forbid we stop doing that idiotic spot. At least they had the sense to have Togo distract Red Shoes this time.
This wasn’t as frustrating as some of their other matches were structurally, but this still suffered from the problem that 90% of the time, EVIL couldn’t get any offense in without some manner of cheating first. He won the New Japan Cup with a bunch of cheating, won the title with a bunch of cheating, and retained it a few times with a bunch of cheating, and then tried to cheat to retain the title but the cheating wasn’t enough because some of Naito’s friends finally decided to help him out and level the playing field. I just don’t see how booking him this way helped EVIL at all. It’s the sort of “the guy turns heel and now he can’t win without cheating” thing that people (rightfully) hate on WWE for doing.
This was a good show from New Japan. The top of the card was disappointing, but there wasn’t anything really frustrating on it, and the two title matches in the midcard were more than enough to make me feel like watching it was a good use of my time. I also really liked the format of the card, with no pointless big tag matches. Hopefully that continues into the future for the big shows.