This is the second of the two big shows to wrap up The New Beginning tour. You can find my review of New Beginning In Osaka here.
Yohei Komatsu & Satoshi Kojima vs Manabu Nakanishi & Captain New Japan
This was your standard opening tag match. Kojima is the ideal guy for openers. He’s an established vet whose move set is designed to encourage fan participation. The story of the match has Komatsu looking to prove himself against Nakanishi. The established vet dwarfs the Young Lion though. It’s David vs Goliath. Captain New Japan does his job in the comedy role. There isn’t much to the match. The crowd chants for Kojima and laughs at CNJ. A singles match with Komatsu vs Nakanishi would have been preferable. *1/2
ReDragon vs Tiger Mash IV & Jay White
It’s a little disheartening to see ReDragon go from defending the belts to 2nd match on the card within the span of 3 days. I’ll give them credit, they do one hell of a job making Jay White look like a million dollars. It’s no easy task making a Young Lion look believable as someone who can viably beat you. Odd as it is to say, TMIV of all people brings this down a notch. His timing wasn’t on at all, messing up a couple of sequences. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed this issue. He may be losing a step in his 40’s. The other 3 put on a solid match though. It’s a shame it’ll be at least a year before we see any kind of real personality out of Jay White. He epitomizes generic white guy right now. **1/4
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks vs Mascara Dorada & Time Splitters
Shout outs to KUSHIDA for going full on Marty Mcfly in BTTF2 with the jacket and cap. Then he finds a fan in the crowd going full BTTF1 Life Jacket outfit and gives him his chain. Looks like this is a preview of the respective Junior title pictures on the next tour. Splitters & Bucks had my favourite Junior Tag match of 2014 (06/21/2014 ****1/2) so another feud will get no complaints from me. This match was so much fun. They broke out a ton of variations on old sequences and some interesting 6 man variations as well including a Bullet Club Triple Superkick. The Bucks carry the majority of the match. They’re so good at working the crowd and making their opponents look great. Dorada is fast becoming someone I look forward to watching. He curbed the Lucha aspects of his offense and you’re left with his amazing work. Something to watch is Dorada’s insane over the top Sunset Bomb on Omega from apron to floor into the railing. That looked beyond dangerous but it was executed flawlessly. I’d watch this 6 man every show if possible. ***1/2
Chase Owens vs Jushin “Thunder” Lyger (C) (NWA Junior Heavyweight Title)
This is a title rematch from the Power Struggle PPV (11/08/2014) where Lyger took the title. Their previous match was a showcase of how well Lyger could carry a guy who wasn’t in the same universe of talent. This time around the match was more even and Owens at least looked like he belonged there. It’s worked fine but lacking in drama or any sense of urgency for that matter. At 50 years old, Lyger can still put on a show but he’s reached a ceiling on quality. **1/4
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Rob Conway (C) (NWA Heavyweight Title)
Conway has been feuding with TenKoji (Tenzan and partner Kojima) for over a year. I’m not quite sure anyone cares to see it run this long but here we are. I’m not even going to get into how far the NWA Title has fallen in stature. This is a match of two halves. The first is frankly awful. It’s slow, plodding, punch kick elbow garbage work. The second half, after what everyone thought would be the finish, invigorates the crowd and both guys as well leading to an enjoyable finish. The heat spiked crowd elevates what would have otherwise been a meandering match. **1/2
Tetsuya Naito & Kota Ibushi vs Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba
I never thought I’d see the day where Toru Yano carried a match with so many great workers but here it is. I have no idea what Sak was doing booked in there. He had a couple of nice sequences with Ibushi but otherwise he didn’t bring anything to the table. Yano works his comedy style throughout and it actually works well for once. Naito and Yano work the majority of the way. They’ve got great chemistry and I wouldn’t mind seeing a singles match out of this. They teased Ibushi vs Sak as well. Well worked match the crowd was into from the get go. **1/2
Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale vs Yoshi-Hashi & Kazuchika Okada
Honest to God, unless Fale goes over Okada in the singles match, I don’t get this feud at all. It’s never ending tag and 6 man matches with Okada on a redemption quest. The issue is that none of the matches feel like they have any importance. It’s like watching the Usos vs Rhodes brother 2x a week for a month. The matches are fine but don’t do anything for anyone. The crowd is into Okada so the match comes across more important than it is. In the end though, it’s just a standard tag team match burning 10 minutes. **1/4
Hirooki Goto & Katsuhito Shibata & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Doc Gallows & Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga
Another in a string of perfectly acceptable if forgettable matches. The Bullet Club spent most of the match working over Tanahashi’s endured left eye. If you missed it, he received a nasty hardway cut at New Beginning In Osaka (02/11/2014 ****1/4) show doing a High Fly Flow to the outside. They didn’t rip the tape off his eye though and no blood so what’s the point? The match was fast in pace with the crowd into it from the get go. It felt like the kind of match you’d see as a semi main or main event of a spot show. I’m both surprised and disappointed AJ Styles wasn’t booked here. He goes over for the IWGP Title 3 days earlier and there’s no follow up. Also, looking at the line up, it makes for a very predictable finish in this kind of format. ***
Tomoaki Honma vs Tomohiro Ishii (Vacant NEVER Open Weight Title Match)
This match was supposed to be Ishii taking on Togi Makabe in a rematch from Wrestle Kingdom 9 (01/04/2015 ****). However, Makabe went down with a nasty flu. He missed the 02/11 show. When it was revealed that he was not able to defend on this show, he was stripped of the Title. I’ve got serious issues with Honma being in this match from a logical perspective. The crowd loves him but he never wins. In fact, he lost only 3 days earlier in a great singles match with Kota Ibushi. The crowd loves these two. Honma has been a crowd favourite since subbing in for Ibushi during last year’s G-1. Ishii is one of the toughest guys in the company and is respected by both peers and fans as a result.
This match was a war. Every so often a match comes along that makes you cringe over the sheer brutality of it. These two beat the holy hell out of each other. An early exchange of Knife Edge Chops that went on for seemingly 2 minutes straight, had me rubbing my own chest. You can see the sweat fly and the neck muscles recoil from all of the Forearm Shivers.
It’s a simple story and plays perfectly to both guys strenghts. Honma is a man who desperately wants to win. He NEEDS to win. He gives you everything but can’t quite get there. The crowd not only empathizes but lifts him to achieve the greatness he so desires. Ishii is the wall blocking Honma’s path to glory. He can not be broken. The brick will not crack under the storm of chops, forearms, or Honma’s trademark Headbutts. It truly is a case of The Irresistible Force against The Immovable Object.
I don’t think there’s any man tougher than Ishii in wrestling today. His ability to withstand punishment and keep pushing through it unreal. There’s a point where he takes a DDT the wrong way and I thought for sure he’d separated his shoulder. He legitimately screams in agony but continues to gut through the pain. The crowd, loving both for entirely different reasons, captures you as a viewer pulls you along in their joy of seeing both guys give it their all. There are at least five different points where I thought “this has to be the finish” only to jump out of my seat at yet another impossible near fall. I’ll admit there’s a point where they go over what I’d consider the perfect peak of the match. While the ending satisfies, it simply comes 2 minutes and one extra sequence too late. This is an absolute classic and will be in high consideration for Match Of The Year. ****3/4
Yugi Nagata vs Shinsuke Nakamura (C) (IWGP Intercontinental Title)
These two were screwed following the previous match. The crowd was simply burned out. The match was worked very stiff. Nagata’s facials were fantastic as he showed complete and utter disdain for Nakamura throughout the match. The missing crowd was a major factor but the far bigger issue was the lack of build to the finish. It felt like it was missing the pivotal third act. We got the stiff strikes in the first act. Some great moves in the second act and then you’re expecting them to pull out all the stops. The sad reality is those big spots never come. The match ends abruptly. As a viewer I felt robbed. These two had a lot left in the tank and took a pass. I don’t know if it’s because of the previous match or that’s how they plotted it but I expected far more from these two. ***1/2
Final Thoughts: You might think this is an automatic recommendation based on a true high end MOTYC. Even with that match, I don’t know if I’d say to chase this card down. Where as the 02/11 show was loaded. This felt like a card full of fun if forgettable matches and then one truly excellent match. If anything I’d say track down the match rather than watch the complete card.
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 NagataLockII@gmail.com or on Twitter @NagataLockII.