This is the first of two major shows ending New Japan’s “New Beginning” tour. The latter show takes place on 02/15. All the major titles are at stake between the two shows, though this one has the majority of them oddly enough.
Before I get started, a quick apology to those of you who were looking for my review of the 02/01 spot show. The show didn’t get archived quickly and I had to leave for my flight to Cuba on the same day. The timing just didn’t work out. If people really want it, I’ll be happy to do it up.
Yohei Komatsu vs Sho Tanaka
These are essentially the top two Young Lions out of the New Japan Dojo. They’ve had more singles matches on various shows than I can count since making their debuts in late 2012. You have to figure they’re either going to be re-packaged or sent overseas and come back with new personas pretty soon. The match itself is well worked, if very basic. These two obviously know each other very well and it shows in their timing and positioning. The match is worked very snug, much to the delight of the still being seated crowd. An enjoyable start to the card. **
Tiger Mask IV & Mascara Dorada vs Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan
This was a fun back and forth match. Nakanishi is essentially in there to provide power spots while the Juniors bounce off of, and bump for him. The crowd really likes Dorada. He gets amazing height on his jumps, great extension on his moves, and provides some creative spots. I’m happy to see he’s curbed a lot of his Lucha tendencies and is working a less contrived style in this match. He’ll make for an interesting contrast to Kenny Omega down the line. They’re on a collision course to unify the CMLL Welterweight and IWGP Junior Titles. *1/2
Jushin “Thunder” Lyger & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Rob Conway & Chase Owens
Yes… that Rob Conway. This tag match has come together due to two respective feuds. Owens debuted as the NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion at the King Of Pro Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014) and challenged Lyger after a successful defense. Lyger accepted, and subsequently defeated him at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014) for the belt. On the flip side, Tenzan is being put into a program with current NWA Heavyweight Champion Conway later this year. He’s got history with TenKoji (Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) going back to Wrestle Kingdom 8 where he lost the NWA Title to Kojima. He also lost the NWA Tag Titles (partner Jax Dane) to TenKoji at the Invasion Attack PPV (04/06/2014). Conway got the NWA Title back on 06/02/2014 and has held it since. The match is worked US style with a fast opening, Tenzan working as FiP, and a hot finish. I can’t say I’m happy to see Conway again. He’s muscled up even more, slow in the ring, and oversells everything. The match is nothing more than a story springboard to better matches down the line. *3/4
Tomoaki Honma vs Kota Ibushi
I got very excited when I saw this match was signed. Ibushi is my current favourite worker in New Japan. Honma is a perennial crowd favourite. He actually has Ibushi to thank for that in an odd way. Ibushi suffered a major concussion on his way to losing the IWGP Junior Title to KUSHIDA on 07/04/2014. He was removed from the G-1 Climax tournament and Honma was put in his place. While Honma didn’t win a single match, his performances were absolutely top flight, with multiple **** matches. The crowd got behind him for his Fighting Spirit as a result and he’s been riding the wave ever since. His sheer presence, and the crowd’s love for him, instantly elevates this match. They cheer for every Forearm Shiver, headbutt (his trademark), Slam and Suplex. Ibushi to his credit gives Honma the vast majority of the offense, thus keeping the match heated from start to finish. The match is fast paced, hard hitting, crazy heated, and will put a smile on your face. A relatively flat finish keeps it from entering legit contention for a low end MOTYC. ***3/4
The Young Bucks vs Time Splitters vs ReDragon (C) (IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles)
This follows a simple history. Time Splitters (Alex Shelly & KUSHIDA) defeated the Bucks at the Dominion PPV (06/21/2014 ****1/2). ReDragon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) defeated Time Splitters at the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014 ****1/2). So we have the last 3 Championship teams in a match. This format only allows 2 guys in the ring at once so one team has to find a way to tag in at any given time. Well… ideally it should work that way except everyone goes into Scramble mode not even 5 minutes in and then it’s on. Someone pumped rocket fuel down everyone’s throat and lit a match. It’s non stop action from the start. If you’ve watched these 3 teams against each other over the last year, this is very rewarding. They constantly play off each others previous spots. The match builds and builds until the final sequence, where you’re at the end of your seat. The crowd is oddly less heated than you’d figure, but they could have been burned out from the Honma/Ibushi match. This was great and well worth tracking down. ****
Ryusuke Taguchi vs Kenny Omega (C) (IWGP Junior Title)
This is a rematch of Omega’s title win at Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015). The match is slow to get out of the gate. It’s initially worked for comedy, which I feel has no place in a title match. It’s a sad byproduct of matches involving The Bullet Club though. After getting the junk out of the way, they settle into a finely worked match. They play off of a couple of spots from 01/04. These two are both very talented but I don’t think they’re capable of anything more than what was done here and on 01/04. I had high hopes as Dome shows are not typically conducive to strong Junior matches. With a smaller venue I had hoped for something very strong. Like 01/04, this was good. Just not great. ***1/4
Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuchika Okada vs Tama Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale
This is a continuation of the Okada vs Fale feud that was set up at New Year Dash (01/05/2015) when Fale secured a clean pinfall on Okada. I have absolutely no idea why Sakuraba is booked in this match. Okada & Yano are part of the CHAOS stable and their opponents are all part of The Bullet Club. I figured Sakuraba was a wrap after his feud with Minoru Suzuki ended at Wrestle Kingdom 9. Okada and Tonga really shine in this match. The latter is an athletic freak. At his size, I’m surprised the WWE hasn’t come knocking on his door yet. Okada takes a massive beating but keeps pushing through. The way the match is worked, it might as well have been a handicap match. Yano and Sakuraba work maybe 1 total minute. Okada is head and shoulders above everyone in here both in selling his opponents offense and in his spirited comebacks. Sadly, I’m slowly losing interest in this feud without a singles match in sight. **1/2
Yugi Nagata & Satoshi Kojima & Tetsuya Naito vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Tomohiro Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi
Well this is odd. Kojima is working the match in place of Togi Makabe. The latter is supposed to be continuing his feud with Ishii as the last stop before their NEVER Open Weight Title match on 02/15. Naito is being booed out of the building and I have no idea why. he was being cheered at the Dome show and the spot shows. Maybe it’s an Osaka crowd thing? If anyone knows, I’d greatly appreciate some insight in the comments. Ishii and Kojima work some extended sequences. I’m forced to wonder if Ishii is going over on 02/15 and will start a new program with Kojima. This was a rock solid six man tag. Nagata and Nakamura looked to have worked their chemistry issues out. There isn’t much in the way of drama. Just a well worked match. ***
Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto (C) (IWGP Tag Team Titles)
This is the 3rd match in 3 months for these teams. Shibata & Goto beat the then champions in the World Tag League Finals (12/07/2014) to earn a title shot. They then defeated the champs at Wrestle Kingdom 9. This is the match I knew these 2 teams had in them. The 1st match was outright disappointing. The 2nd match had the work but was limited by time, not even getting 10 minutes. This had the time, work, crowd, drama, and near falls these teams needed to put on a great match. Gallows & Anderson really bring their work boots in this one, working far faster than you’d figure for guys their size and bumping big for the smaller champs. I was on the edge of my seat by match’s end, wondering which way it would go. I’m glad these teams were able to live up to expectations this time around. ****
AJ Styles vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (C) (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
This is a title rematch 4 months in the making. Tanahashi took the title from Styles at the King Of Pro-Wrestling PPV (10/13/2014 ****). After working separate programs, Styles scored a pinfall on Tanahashi in the main event of the New Year Dash (01/05/2015). This was a match of layers. From the get go you can tell it’s going to go long. They start with basic mat work and as each five minute announcement comes on, the moves grow slightly bigger in scale. These two know each other very well. They counter and re-counter constantly, including an incredible Tanahashi reversal of a Styles Enzugiri into a mid air Dragon Screw Leg Whip. The match really takes a notch up after an odd occurrence. Tanahashi executes a Super High Fly Flow onto the entire Bullet Club on the outside and receives a brutal hardway cut over his left eye. The blood only serves to elevate the match. They continue to build well to the finish, and in that finish the match fails to reach its true zenith. It’s a fine finish and you could call it satisfying, playing off an underlying story going back to Styles match with Yoshi Tatsu at Power Struggle. However, the finish keeps it from becoming a true high end MOTYC. It’s an odd complaint when you’re disappointed only giving a match ****1/4. It’s just a tough pill to swallow knowing something truly fantastic was within their grasp.
Final Thoughts: New Japan continues to deliver on their big shows. I’ve got 3 **** matches and I’m sure many will argue that Ibushi/Honma is **** worthy as well. Do yourself a favour and track this show down, you won’t be disappointed.
Please feel free to leave questions/comments/constructive criticisms in the comments below. I’ll endeavour to answer everybody. I can also be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NagataLockII.