I’ve got a day off from work today and this was on, so I decided to watch it as I rarely get a chance to watch New Japan as it actually happens anymore and I was interested to see how the main event would turn out.
This is the Anniversary of New Japan’s first ever show on the 6th of March 1972, which saw Antonio Inoki take on Karl Gotch.
Wow, 47 years of New Japan, it’s done well to last so long, especially as thinks looked a bit dicey in the early to mid 00’s when Inoki was pushing anyone with shoot fight experience to the main event. Thankfully Inoki was eventually booted out and the company decided to put the world title on Hiroshi Tanahashi, and the rest is history.
The event is emanating from the Ota City General Gymnasium, in Tokyo, Japan
Calling the action for us English language folk are Kevin Kelly and Colt Cabana
Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Ayato Yoshida, Toru Yano and Togi Makabe Vs HIKULEO, Chase Owens, Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga and Bad Luck Fale w/ Jado
The Young Lions run wild on Owens to start, which brings in the Samoan contingent for a beat down and the cut off. Narita gets worked over in the Bullet Club corner, as the crowd and his team mates try to get him back in the match. This is my first proper look at HIKULEO, and he’s serviceable but needs work. Narita manages a desperation roll up on Owens, but gets clobbered before he can make the tag.
Narita finally manages to hit a dropkick on Loa and tags in Makabe. Makabe tees off on G.O.D with clotheslines before going to the ten punch on Loa. Neither man sells a double clothesline and Loa hits Makabe with a powerslam before bringing Owens in. Makabe clotheslines him however and brings in Yoshida, who gets a nice heart attack styled clothesline.
The Young Lions team up on Owens again, but he fights them off and holds them in the corner so that Fale can squish them. Yoshida counters a package piledriver attempt with a school boy for two, but Owens gets it on the second attempt and that’s enough for the win.
WINNERS: HIKULEO, CHASE OWENS, TANGA LOA, TAMA TONGA AND BAD LUCK FALE
Just a basic opening 10 men tag to put the Bullet Club over. The Young Lions looked solid enough.
Chase Owens tries to cut a post-match promo on Juice Robinson with Kelly, as he will be meeting him in the New Japan Cup, but New Japan plays music over it.
Toa Henare and Yuji Nagata Vs YOSHI-HASHI and Tomohiro Ishii
So according to the commentary, Nagata and Ishii have been having issues recently and want to beat seven bells out of each other as consequence. Works for me!
Nagata and Ishii start out, with Nagata getting the better of things and bringing in Henare, which causes Ishii to tag in YOSHI as he has interest in fighting Nagata only. Henare and YOSHI trade strikes, with Henare starting to look like quite a beast now. They just need to start having him win matches and they might have something.
YOSHI uses his veteran wiliness to drag Henare outside however and sends him into the railings out there for the cut off. Henare tries to fight back against Ishii, but that goes about as well as you’d imagine and he gets chopped down pretty quickly. Henare gets worked over for a bit, but manages to catch YOSHI with a spear and make the tag to Nagata.
Nagata and Ishii have a great angry old man exchange, which ends with Nagata booting Ishii down. Ishii fights back however and the two men trade forearms. Nagata wobbles Ishii and goes for the Dis-Arm-Her, but YOSHI breaks that up and gets a slap for his troubles.
The distraction is enough for Ishii to hit Nagata with a suplex however and he brings YOSHI back in for some chops on Nagata. Nagata knocks him down however and brings in Henare so he can run wild/do the job. Henare gets a Samoan Drop on YOSHI for two and we have another trade off, which Henare wins.
YOSHI replies with an enziguri, but gets head butted Gabriel Ortega style by Henare when he goes to pick him up. Henare hits a big vertical suplex and makes the cover, but Ishii makes the save at two. Henare is overwhelmed by Ishii, so Nagata comes in to drive him away and allow Henare to hit a spear on YOSHI for two.
YOSHI isn’t done yet however and fights off a Uranage attempt before turning Henare inside out with a lariat for two. YOSHI hits Henare with a modified version of a Northern Lights Bomber to pick up the win.
WINNERS: YOSHI-HASHI AND TOMOHIRO ISHII
I kind of wish they’d just had Henare win there as you sensed the crowd were ready for it and he needs to win a big match soon to get out of the Young Lion lower card rut he’s currently in. Nagata Vs Ishii should be a cracking match in the New Japan Cup
Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask IV, Tomoaki Honma and Satoshi Kojima Vs TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Taichi and Minoru Suzuki
Don Callis joins the commentary desk. I’m actually enjoying some toast whilst watching the leader of #BreadClub himself Satoshi Kojima here. Seriously, if you don’t follow Kojima on Twitter then you need to. Taguchi is still doing the rugby gimmick here as Japan is hosting the Rugby World Cup this year. Last time I watched Japan play rugby they beat South Africa and England promptly poached their coach, so I have no idea what chance they have later in the year, if any.
We see that Taichi has inherited Iizuka’s iron fist now that the latter has retired. Dragon Lee runs wild on Desperado to start, looking like an absolute superstar in the process, before bringing in Tiger Mask for a tilt a whirl back breaker. Kanemaru cheap shots Tiger however, which allows Desperado to cut him off and go for his mask. You can’t take away Tiger Mask’s mask, then he’d just be No Tiger Mask, and that wouldn’t do at all!
Tiger gets worked over in the heel corner, whilst Suzuki goes after Kojima with a chair outside the ring. TAKA’s hair style makes me think he watched “There’s Something About Mary” last night and got some inspiration. Tiger manages to catch Kanemaru with a Tiger Driver and tags in Honma, who goes after Taichi. Honma really looks like he’s struggling here, it’s quite sad actually.
Honma misses the falling head butt on the mat and takes a big kick in the face from Taichi for two. Honma gets it on a second attempt however and brings in Kojima for a segment with Suzuki. Kojima unloads on Suzuki with chops, which Suzuki actually ENJOYS and demands more! Kojima heads up for an elbow drop, but Suzuki knocks him down and then hits a big Yakuza Kick in the corner before following with a PK.
Kojima no sells the PK and goes after Suzuki with forearm strikes. Suzuki has an almost puzzled look on his face that Kojima isn’t dead yet, and locks in a choke, but Kojima slips out of it and gets a Koji Cutter before tagging in Taguchi. Taguchi delivers some hip attacks to Suzuki, but he misses the last big one which allows Suzuki to get him in a choke and drag him into the heel corner for a 5 on 1 beat down.
TAKA and Taguchi go at it in the ring, with Taguchi countering the Just Facelock into the ankle lock, but the rest of Suzuki-gun makes the save. Everyone hits moves on everyone else now, as the match really breaks down. Taguchi drills TAKA with a double chicken wing face buster to pick up the win, whilst Suzuki is still viciously going after Kojima outside the ring.
WINNERS: DRAGON LEE, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, TIGER MASK IV, TOMOAKI HONMA AND SATOSHI KOJIMA
Hot tag match that did a good job of setting up the first round matches of the New Japan Cup
Kojima and Suziki have to be dragged apart at the bouts conclusion.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champions: Shingo and BUSHI Vs SHO and YOH w/ Rocky Romero
The video package really makes this look like SHO and YO’s last big chance at the belts here, as there’s a very serious tone to everything. Callis calls Romero “The Kim Chee” of managers. Oi, you leave Steve Lombardi alone you monster, he’s suffered enough!
SHO and Shingo go at it to start, and it’s a stalemate between the two powerhouses. SHO and YO clear the ring with some double teaming and then hit stero dives onto the champs, although it looks like SHO banged his feet on the guardrail on the way down. He seems okay though and the match continues, with the challengers working over Shingo.
BUSHI helps out his partner by attacking YO, which allows Shingo to take SHO outside and fling him into the guardrails. Shingo really is an absolute unit and they will probably be able to move him to heavyweight at some stage and he’ll do just fine, ditto for SHO actually. Right now though, SHO is getting worked over in the champion’s corner, including a t-shirt choke from BUSHI.
SHO won’t give up however and keeps trying to fight back, but Shingo takes him down with some stiff shots. SHO manages to hit a desperation spear however, which allows him to tag in YO, who runs wild on the champs, looking great in the process. Outside of BUSHI, who’s a big load of meh, everyone in this match has looked good actually.
YO counters a Shingo Dragon Screw attempt and gets one of his own before going to a figure four. BUSHI comes in to break that up, so SHO stops him and puts him in an arm bar as well. Shingo eventually manages to roll to the ropes to break the hold, but his knee has had a torrid time of it tonight and it might prove decisive.
Shingo powers out of a Dragon Suplex attempt and manages to get a pop up DVD, but he has to tag out due to his knee issues, which sees BUSHI come in with a missile dropkick. YO and BUSHI trade enziguri’s but YO is able to get a back breaker and tags in SHO. SHO gets a nice vertical suplex for two, before following up with a leapfrog and a dropkick.
BUSHI gets a Codebreaker to the arm of SHO, which brings in Shingo for some double teaming, which ends with an elevated Back Cracker for two. The champs go for their tag finisher, but YO makes the save. Shingo eats stereo jumping knees (Triple H approves I’m sure) but BUSHI is able to counter their tag finish and hit them both with a double rana.
BUSHI dives out onto YO, which leaves SHO and Shingo inside, where SHO goes for multiple German Suplexes. BUSHI comes in with the dreaded black mist to stop that however and the champs hit their tag finish called “Rebellion” (Shingo holds the opponent up for a Codebreaker from BUSHI) but YO makes the save at two. A still blinded SHO manages to lift BUSHI into a flapjack position, which allows YO add a Complete Shot and complete their “3K” tag finisher to give them the belts.
WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: SHO AND YO
Cracking bout there, with some spicy near falls and some good tag work from both teams. SHO and YO sell the win big and look like big stars in the process. I’m sure we’ll see a re-match down the line somewhere.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champion: Taiji Ishimori Vs Jyushin “Thunder” Liger
I can’t see them putting Liger over here, but part of me thinks that isn’t the point. It’s all about the veteran Liger showing he can still go at the top level, with a good performance being all important and a victory less so. It still amuses me that they took the Bone Soldier gimmick, one of the hall time most hated characters in New Japan history due to the wrestler who played him being absolute mince, and then gave the character to an elite worker like Ishimori almost out of spite. That’s both awesome and kind of mean.
One of the very best matches I’ve ever seen live was Ishimori and KENTA against Bryan Danielson and Eddie Edwards back in 2008 at the Coventry Sky Dome, and I’ve rated Ishimori very highly ever since. Liger actually goes to a kimura early on, which causes Ishimori to have to crawl to the ropes to break. Liger goes to a surfboard next, as he’s bringing of the classic submission hold goodness. Ishimori manages to scrape his way out of that, but things aren’t going his way in the early stages.
Ishimori decides to forgo the wrestling section of the match and flings Liger outside, where he sends him into the guardrail. I really think New Japan need to ration that spot as we’ve seen it in every match tonight. If everyone does it then it makes every cut off feel the same, which isn’t what you want. Ishimori works over Liger back inside, heeling it up like a jerk and going to a chin lock.
Liger replies with a dive to the outside and takes the fight into the entrance way, where he hits a brain buster on the floor. Hey, if you want to get ugly Ishimori then you can the consequences for it! Ishimori just about makes it into the ring at the count of 19, where he finds a Shotei waiting for him. Liger follows up with a rana from the top for two. Liger goes for the Liger Bomb, but Ishimori is able to counter it into a DDT for the double down. Ishimori uses his speed to evade Liger and hits him with a seated senton to send him outside before following with a moonsault out there, not unlike one from Kota Ibushi who is doing commentary with the Japanese announcers.
Ishimori gets a double knees back inside, which seems to knock Liger out, but Ishimori isn’t accepting that and delivers a modified gut buster for two. Liger replies with a suplex however and turns Ishimori inside out with The Shotei before getting a big Liger Bomb for two. Ishimori counters a brain buster and goes for the Bloody Sunday DDT, but Liger back body drops out of that and goes for the rolling Kopo Kick, but Ishimori blocks that and transitions to the LeBell Lock. Liger teases tapping but then manages to drag himself to the ropes to break the hold for a good reaction from the crowd.
Ishimori flattens Liger with a big clothesline for two and goes for another, but Liger turns that into a flash cradle for a great near fall. Thesz Press gets another two for Liger, but Ishimori is able to counter the Shotei into the LeBell Lock again for the clean submission win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: TAIJI ISHIMORI
Wow! Liger can still go when he’s given the opportunity, and he had both the crowd and me believing at times that he’d do it there. I personally would have loved to see someone win with a Thesz Press in 2019, but it sadly wasn’t to be
Ishimori cuts a promo post-match and demands his next challenger come down, which brings Dragon Lee down to answer and lay down a challenge for Madison Square Garden, which Ishimori appears to accept. That’ll be one heck of a match I think.
Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs SANADA, EVIL and Tetsuya Naito
It’s still so weird for me to see Okada and Tanahashi tagging with each other and acting like pals after their years of feuding. I like how they sell little light up halberds for all the kids. Just funny to me that a man called “The King of Darkness” has merch that kids can buy. Okada requests to start for his team, whilst Naito opts to start for his. After a nice chain wrestling sequence, Naito decides to go Tranquillo to a pop from the crowd.
Okada replies with a snap mare and a dropkick before bringing in Goto, whilst Naito tags out to SANADA. SANADA goes right for the Paradise Lock, but Goto fights it off and floors his opponent with a clothesline. In come Tanahashi and Okada for some triple teaming, but Tanahashi can’t tempt them into a triple pose in a funny moment. Naito comes in with a seated dropkick to Tanahashi’s eternally injured right knee for the cut off.
LIJ work over Tanahashi’s bad wheel for a while, but he’s able to counter EVIL’s shenanigans with a Dragon Screw and bring in Okada. Okada runs wild with DDT’s on LIJ and delivers a flapjack to EVIL for two. Okada heads up top, but EVIL dodges whatever he was doing for and gets a suplex for two. EVIL and Okada trade finisher attempts, which ends with EVIL flooring Okada with a clothesline and bringing in SANADA.
Okada gets a neck breaker on SANADA and tags in Goto, but he quickly gets triple teamed by LIJ as they swarm him like an angry trio of wasps at a picnic. Tanahashi saves Goto from Skull End, but takes a German suplex from EVIL as consequence. Everyone hits their moves as the match starts to break down, which ends up with SANADA and Goto going at it again, with SANADA locking in the Skull End, only for Goto to counter it into a really nifty looking pinning hold, which keeps SANADA down for the pin.
WINNERS: HIROOKI GOTO, KAZUCHIKA OKADA AND HIROSHI TANAHASHI
Never really kicked into a high gear, but the work was solid and I liked the finish as you need the odd flash pin fall now and again so that fans are trained to expect finishes to come at any time.
All three of the winners grab the mic post-match and declare that they are going to win the New Japan Cup, but it seems good humoured enough. Meanwhile, Naito and Ibushi jaw with each other at ringside as well.
Jay White w/ Gedo Vs Will Ospreay
I’ve got to say that Jay White really grew on me following his match with Juice Robinson last year and his great performance in G1. People complain about him winning the belt so soon, but this is something that Gedo has done to great effect many times during his booking reign. You take the hot new act (Okada, heel Naito, AJ Styles, White) and you give them a quickie reign with the IWGP Heavyweight Title to establish them as a guy who is capable of winning it, at which point you put it on a more established guy and build back to them winning it again. This is a tried and tested formula that has bore fruit on more than one occasion, and it’s not like White isn’t good enough in the ring to justify the push either.
White comes down with a serious case of the Zbyzko’s in the early stages by stalling outside the ring. Once he comes back in we have a big lock up tussle between the two, which Ospreay wins by bulling White into the ropes. White cockily shoulder barges Ospreay down and slaps him for good measure, just to be a jerk, but Ospreay floors him with one of his own before sending him outside with a dropkick. Ospreay follows with a dive to the outside and sends White into the guardrails. Gedo provides a distraction however, which allows White to jump Ospreay and hit a Saito Suplex on the floor. White then ups the ante by suplexing Ospreay ribs first into the ring post. That’s not something you see every day that’s for sure!
White goes after Ospreay’s ribs back inside, with Ospreay trying to fight back to no avail. Outside we go, where Ospreay gets flung between the ring and the guardrails, in possibly one of the most simple yet awesome heel heat spots in wrestling today. White just gets so much out of such a simple spot, it really is fantastic. Back inside, Ospreay tries to get something going, but his ribs are too hurt and White remains in control. Ospreay tries to springboard in, but White trips him up and he falls ribs first onto the top rope. Ospreay finally manages to get back into things by sending White outside, but stupidly follows with a Space Flying Tiger Drop, which only worsens his already injured ribs.
Ospreay gets a springboard forearm back inside and follows up with a handspring enziguri and a twisting senton splash for two. White is able to slip out of the Storm Breaker and tries to suplex Ospreay out of the ring, but Ospreay fights him off and then clotheslines him out. When he tries a suicide dive however, White sees him coming and guides him into the railing. That was some Grade A resourcefulness there. Ospreay teases getting counted out, but manages to make it back in at 19, where White drills him with a modified version of the F-U for two. Ospreay won’t die however and kicks White in the face before hanging him in the tree of woe and slapping away at him.
Gedo causes another distraction, which allows White to pull himself out of the tree of woe, but Ospreay cuts him off before he can do anything. Both men trade finisher attempts, which ends with White hitting a German suplex but then running into a C4 for a double down. Both men trade strikes, which Ospreay is getting the better of so White just goes straight for the ribs like a good heel should. Ospreay gets White in an Electric Chair position and then climbs up to the second ropes before delivering some kind of powerbomb for two. That was both terrifying and awesome in equal measure, as White almost didn’t get all the way over.
Ospreay tries for the Storm Breaker, but his ribs won’t allow him to lift White, so he kicks him in the face instead and follows up with the Robinson Special. Oz Cutter looks to be the end, but White counters it in mid-air into a crucifix and then unloads with Danielson like elbows. Blade Runner is countered to a reverse rana and Ospreay follows up with a big back elbow strike for another double down. Ospreay recovers first and removes his elbow pad in preperaton for another elbow, which brings in Gedo for a distraction. This allows White to hit a low blow and then suplex Ospreay right onto his head before following up with a version of the Bloody Sunday DDT for two.
Ospreay is all glassy eyed and Blade Runner looks to end things, but Ospreay amazingly counters it into a big sit out powerbomb for a great near fall. That was one hell of a sequence right there! Ospreay heads up and hits a backwards 450 splash, which hurts his already injured ribs, and goes for the cover. White is able to get a hand on the ropes to just stop the count at the last moment. Both men trade finisher attempts again in a brilliant series, which Ospreay tries to end with the Oz Cutter, but White turns it into a Blade Runner in mid-air and then adds another for good measure to pick up the win.
WINNER: JAY WHITE
Fans were hoping for an Ospreay upset, but Jay White is the champ and he wins clean as consequence. WWE, this is how you make stars, you might want to take notes.
Gedo hands White a chair post-match, but Ibushi runs in to put a stop to that, only to get jumped by The Bullet Club. However, Tanahashi, Okada and Goto show some unity by running down and rescuing the two men from a Bullet Club beat down. White tells all the men in the ring that it doesn’t matter who wins the New Japan Cup, because none of them are beating him at Madison Square Garden. Seriously, how can anyone not think that this guy is a great heel champion?
Ibushi, Ospreay, Goto, Okada and Tanahashi all stand together in the ring and debate over who will win the Cup, but again it seems reasonably gentlemanly, for now at least.
This was a solid 3 hour show, with two excellent matches and an inoffensive mid card that did a good job advancing the storylines ahead of the New Japan Cup
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Thanks for reading and I’ll hopefully see you later today for some ECW Hardcore TV from 1999