TenKoji vs. The United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay) - 6.5/10
Fun match overall. Story of the match was that Cobb and Ospreay teased and bullied Tenzan with the Mongolian Chop that he has banned, until the point that Tenzan couldn't take it anymore and broke his own stipulation, and started using them on them. Eventually, Tenzan set up Cobb for Kojima to come in and actually win with his Lariat, packed with dreams and hopes. Big win for Kojima, and quite interesting, I have to imagen that this will only lead to Cobb getting his win back in the New Japan Cup (haven't seen the brackets or participants as of this writing), but it's just nice that Kojima has been getting some spotlight lately.
Post-match - Backstage, Tenzan accepted that he used the Mongolian Chop because the UE mocked him and he had enough. He pretended that this Mongolian Chop wasn't the same and it was now the True Mongolian Chop and said that if anyone has a problem with that, to come after him. I'm still going to hope that he gets reprimanded, but I'm sure they're just going to ignore the stipulation. I guess either of the UE guys could 'have a problem' with it, and make it a bigger stipulation. At the end of the day, it's Tenzan we're talking about, he's not gonna keep me awake at night.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, EVIL & Jay White) (w/Dick Togo & Gedo) - 6/10
Good stuff depending on who was in the ring. They continued some of last night's feud in this match, at this point, these rivalries are heading into the New Japan Cup, so no big storylines going on between anyone in particular. See saw Ishii become the babyface in peril against a White and EVIL combination. At the end, after everyone came in to get their spots on, Okada submitted Owens with the Money Clip.
IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
Guerrillas Of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (w/Jado) (c) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI) - 7.5/10
This has a really weird start, teasing that YH has legit injured or something, he took a powerbomb from Loa and wasn't moving, the referee checked on him, and he wasn't moving, GoD even slowed down their attacks, but it was all a work; and then out of nowhere YH woke up and attacked back, only to get properly cut off. It's an ok thing to do to start the heat part of the match, but it was just a weird execution.
I don't usually say this, but I think Loa was my MVP of the match, there are many aspects of him that have improved a lot, I especially liked his striking against YH a lot. As mentioned, YH was the babyface in peril, then Goto came in for the hot tag. They did a bunch of near falls towards the end, at one point, YH kicked out of a Gun Stun, and a Magic Killer, and managed to block the Super Powerbomb. Tama and Goto had a nice little finishing sequence with counters, ending with a snap kendo stick shot from Jado for the assist, into a Gun Stun for the GoD win. I actually liked how they did that last kendo stick shot, it wasn't overplayed or a contrived set up, it was just a quick snap shot during the fast pace sequence.
NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. Great-O-Khan - 7.5/10
This was by all means, a good match, 100% a Tanahashi match, with the slow pace, heavily focused on limb work and selling. I liked O-Khan's performance, but he was definitely carried in this match because of the nature of working a Tanahashi match. The one thing that I liked a lot here was that Tanahashi's style made GOK, in contrast, look like a young Makabe-type brawler. The finish to the match saw Tanahashi counter O-Khan into a crucifix pin for the win, arguably a desperate roll up from Tanahashi, but I think this is mostly over between the two.
A story coming in to this match was that GOK has been trying to recruit Tsuji and have him betray Tanahashi. GOK tried to get Tsuji to attack Tanahashi in this match on a couple of occasions, but at the end, the love of teacher and pupil prevailed and Tsuji ended up aiding Tanahashi.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship 3-Way Match
El Phantasmo vs. BUSHI vs. El Desperado - 8.5/10
This match was an interesting dynamic. To the untrained eye, this is just a match between (arguably) 3 heels, but these three have had an interesting road to this match. ELP was the rightful challenger, a man that was allegedly cheated his way to the top of the Jr. division in the last couple of months, the newest of the three, trying to capture his first singles title early in his New Japan career. BUSHI was hand selected by Hiromu Takahashi, the former champion, who had to vacate the title after suffering a torn peck; BUSHI was once a champion, back in 2016, which only lasted about 45 days and he never really came close to it again, so he is out here, not only trying to keep the title in LIJ, but to once again get some shine on him. And then we have Desperado, who has been in New Japan for quite a while now, who has never held the Jr. Heavyweight title, who is an underrated and underused dark horse of the division.
The story of the match portrayed ELP as the strongest of the three, be it because of a loaded boot or not, ELP would have won this match if it had been a singles competition. Most of ELP's near falls came from the third person breaking up the pinfall, not necessarily kickouts, where as ELP did kickout of most of the bigger attacks from the other too. So, because of this dominance, story was that ELP took out Desperado early on with a piledriver on the apron, and then went to wrestle BUSHI and come close to finishing him off, if not for Desperado who came back to the match. Desperado, working through the pain, had to be saved by BUSHI on a couple of occasions, but at the end of the day, for one reason or another, ELP just couldn't get the job done, and as the frustration grew, Despy recovered enough to take out ELP's leg and drop him with two Pinche Locos for the win.
The action, considering the players, was actually somewhat slower than usual. It was an ELP match in the sense that he is slow paced when working over someone. I'm really happy that at the end, even with BUSHI there, it was ELP that took Desperado's pin.
Coming out of this, ELP can claim that he would had won if this was a singles match. Both BUSHI and ELP can claimed that Desperado didn't even belong in the match to begin with. And for sure, months from now, Hiromu will be able to claim the title he never lost.
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Kota Ibushi (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito - 9/10
Story behind this match was that Naito wants to take away the IC title from Ibushi, because he wants to kill all argument about title unification, he wants to protect the name "IWGP Heavyweight Championship" from being changed, he was the man that started the whole double champion, and wants to be the man to end it. Ibushi has been talking a lot about unifying both titles, and at this point, if he wins, he is most likely getting his wish. This, in a way, it's a match for the survival of the lineage of the top IWGP titles.
Match wasn't as great at the Tokyo Dome match, but better than a lot of their previous matches between these two. It definitely was a safer match that many of those historic matches. They worked each other's heads as usual, went back and forward, the usual slow pace escalation as both men start to chase their finishers. At the end of the match, Naito seemed stronger, landing a Destino and going for a second, but Ibushi woke up and started spamming Kamigoyes to the front and back until he won, with a pin that was more deadweight, than control.
Post-match - After Naito was helped to the back, El Desperado came down to the ring to confront Ibushi, it's Anniversary season and Despy knows it. Desperado said he finally won the Jr title and remembered that the first time he challenged for it was many years ago (2014) against one Kota Ibushi IN Osaka. He brought up this new Anniversary tradition of Heavyweight vs Jr. Heavyweight champions. Desperado said that he didn't just want a match, he wanted a shot at both titles. Talk about reviving a rivalry from 7 years ago.
Ibushi said he remembered the match and remembered how bad Desperado sucked back then, so he accepted the match and hope Despy would prove to him that he had improved. Ibushi vs Desperado in 4 days!
Backstage, Desperado accepted that he didn't get many shots at the heavyweight title and he agreed that he sucked back in 2014, but he was going to show Ibushi, that he wasn't the same guy anymore.
Really good show, fun through and through. This show definitely felt like a much bigger deal than last night, not only because of the titles being on the line, but the matches themselves felt like a bigger deal, while a lot of last night felt like exhibition matches.