New Japan had one of its traditional big events of the year today with some very interesting matches on the docket, so I decided to review it seeing as I was going to watch it anyway.
The one I’m most looking forward to is Minoru Suzuki taking on Jushin Liger, but there’s also a match scheduled between Kazuchika Okada and SANADA that should be great because the two of them tend to always have great matches together.
So without further ado, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!
The event is emanating from Sumo Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Calling the action are Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino
We open up with an announcement that Zack Sabre Jr and Jon Moxley won’t be able to make the show due to a terrible typhoon effecting travel. As a result of this, the IWGP United States Championship has been vacated due to Moxley not being here to defend it. Therefore it’ll be Lance Archer standing in for Moxley and he will face Juice Robinson for the vacant Title.
El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru Vs SHO and YOH
This is Desperado’s return from an injury lay off after a match with Jun Kasai. These two teams will also be battling in the Junior Heavyweight Tag League on the upcoming tour. Desperado and Kanemaru jump SHO and YOH to start and lay a whupping on them. Well if you will turn your back on two devious heels then you kind of get what you deserve in all honesty. SHO and YOH manage to rally however and get a shine on the Suzuki-gun squad. Apparently the weather was so bad in Japan that the New Japan Dojo was flooded. Obviously thoughts are with anyone caught in it and hopefully everyone can get things going again as soon as possible.
Suzuki-gun regains control again by taking the fight to the outside and flinging their opponents around the outside of the ring and into the crowd, which almost leads to SHO getting counted out. It’s standard heel stuff but it looks good and the crowd stick with SHO when he gets back inside and is cut off in the heel half of the ring. Kanemaru goes to a Boston Crab to try and end things whilst Desperado keeps YOH at bay, but SHO is able to pull himself to the ropes to break the hold. Eventually SHO is able to counter a suplex with one of his own and tags in YOH, who runs wild on the heels and gets a nice bridging suplex onto Kanemaru for two.
Desperado gets the tag and comes in to slug it out with YOH, going to eyes for good measure, but SHO gets a tag and comes in for stereo jumping knees to the returning star. Kanemaru pulls YOH outside of the ring before the faces can finish things, but SHO muscles Desperado up with a dead life German Suplex for two back inside. Sho is looking more and more like a hench superstar every time he gets in there, but all his muscles are no match for Kanemaru’s heel antics, as he spits whiskey in SHO’s eyes allowing Desperado to finish the babyface off with a punch followed by the Angel’s Wings for three.
WINNERS: EL DESPERADO AND YOSHINOBU KANEMARU
Standard opener there with Desperado getting the win to establish that he’s back and means business.
Suzuki-gun beat down SHO and YOH a little more after the finish, just to be jerks I guess.
Togi Makabe and Toru Yano Vs Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs Tomoaki Honma
The commentators mention that Makabe was Tanahashi’s first ever opponent way back in October 1999 and now 20 years on he’s wrestling The Ace again on his 20th anniversary of stepping in the ring. Honma normally tags with Makabe, so having him team up with Tanahashi here is a nice twist to the usual formula. Before the match starts Wataru Inoue (A wrestler who used to compete in New Japan until a neck injury caused him to retire in 2014) comes out to stand in the corner because he debuted on the same day Tana did way back in 1999. According to Charlton and Kelly Inoue now works in the New Japan office, which isn’t something I knew so it’s nice to know he’s still involved in things.
Tana has still got his technical wrestling chops, even if he physically isn’t what he used to be, and he shows that here by working well with Makabe before bringing in Honma for a segment with Yano. Yano does his usual antics of trying to undo the turnbuckle pads and grabbing the ropes to block an Irish whip. Honma suffered a really serious and gnarly injury to his cervical vertebrae back in 2017 and by rights probably shouldn’t be wrestling at all, but he managed to make it back and he goes for his traditional falling head butt move, with Tanahashi even joining in, but Makabe and Yano are able to move in a funny spot.
Honma gets worked over in the Makabe and Yano half of the ring for a bit, with Makabe clearly taking it easy on his long-time partner and friend. Honma gets sent into an unprotected turnbuckle by Yano, and Tana gets it too when he comes in to try and help his partner. Honma keeps coming and eventually manages to take Makabe down with a weak shoulder block. Tana comes in and does a nice hot tag segment, delivering Dragon Screw’s to both of his opponents and the heading up to the second rope for a somersault senton onto Makabe for two.
Makabe manages to put a stop to Tana’s momentum with a lariat and then tags in Yano, who trades inverted atomic drops with Tana. Honma saves Tana from a Yano low blow and both deliver the falling head butt for two when Makabe breaks it up. Boo, what a spoilsport! Yano actually almost beats Tanahashi with a desperation school boy roll up, but Tana replies with the Slingblade and heads up top for the High-Fly-Flow Frogsplash to give his team the victory.
WINNERS: HIROSHI TANAHASHI AND TOMOAKI HONMA
Tana looked pretty good here but I have to question how many more matches Honma has in the tank at this stage, as he really seemed to be struggling here. It’s wonderful that he was able to come back to wrestling following that horrible injury and cosmetically he’s in great shape for someone who suffered that sort of body trauma, but I do genuinely worry for his safety whenever I see him wrestle these days and it makes me uncomfortable watching his matches.
Tanahashi and Honma invite Inoue into the ring following the match and he seems quite moved by the gesture. This was a really nice feel good moment and Tana gestures to the camera after the match that he wants a belt. But which one?
Taichi and DOUKI w/ Mioh Abe Vs Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito
This was supposed to be a six man tag involving Lance Archer but the card getting switched up turned it into a tag match instead. DOUKI is a nutter who comes out with a metal pipe and actually trained over in Mexico before returning to Japan back in 2015. He is not someone I’ve seen a lot of but I like his look and he’s pretty convincing as a dangerous and unpredictable madman. Taichi actually beat Naito in a good match during the G1 Climax tournament this year, and Taichi actually holds the ropes open for his opponent before asking him where his IC Title is (Naito lost it to Jay White recently), which makes me think they might be possibly going in that direction as Naito’s next feud.
Naito wants to start with Taichi but Taichi sends GOUKI into face him instead and the two share some dirty looks with one another when Naito gets the better of GOUKI during their exchange. GOUKI looks good in a segment, sending him outside following a clothesline, which leads to both Taichi and GOUKI working over Naito and Shingo respectively outside the ring in typical Suzuki-gun style. GOUKI and Taichi work over Shingo in there half of the ring for a bit, heeling it up with chokes and targeting Shingo’s heavily taped right shoulder. Shingo sells it all well but does a good job of looking defiant in the process and eventually manages to take GOUKI down with a lariat and then tag Naito.
Naito and Taichi have their battle in the centre of the ring, with Naito running wild on his cocky foe and then showing some cockiness of his own by taunting for the crowd. This is the main problem for me when you try and put Naito in there with outright heels like Taichi. Naito’s character is just an egotistical and disrespectful jerk that I find it close to impossible to root for him, even when he’s in there with someone who is technically a “worse” human being in Taichi. For me Naito is always at his best when he’s in there with someone I actually like, because then I can dislike him to my heart’s content and it actually plays into the story of the match.
Taichi eventually manages to catch Naito with an enziguri and rips off his pleather pants to reveal his snazzy rung trucks, but Naito catches him with a Tornado DDT (On the second attempt) before bringing in Shingo. Shingo runs wild on GOUKI and gets a Gory Bomb for two when Taichi breaks it up. Taichi sends Naito into the railings on the outside however and then brings his microphone stand into the ring so that he can clock Shingo, getting his team disqualified in the process.
WINNERS BY DISQUALIFICATION: SHINGO TAKAGI AND TETSUYA NAITO
Some sloppy moments in that one and it was annoying that we didn’t get a pin of submission, especially considering what happens next.
Taichi even attacks the referee post-match for good measure, which actually amuses Naito, who tries to get Taichi to calm down. Taichi attacks however and counters the Destino (Satellite Reverse DDT) with a Saito Suplex and then hits Naito with the mic stand for good measure. A Last Ride Powerbomb follows, with GOUKI counting the pin, as I ponder why they didn’t just book that as the finish to the match, especially as Taichi has already pinned Naito in the G1 so it’d hardly hurt Naito to do get pinned again? Taichi grabs the mic following the match and says that Naito is weak and that he can’t get it done anymore. Taichi then ominously adds that if Naito can’t get it done then he will have to get it done instead. The commentators ponder that this might mean holding two major Titles at the same time, which is something Naito has gone on record as saying he wants to do.
Minoru Suzuki Vs Jushin Liger
The story here is that Liger has said he will retire at the Tokyo Dome in January, but Suzuki has been attacking him for months, which eventually led to Liger morphing into his “Kishin Liger” form on one show, which is essentially the Liger take on The Great Muta character (In that he’s a face painted nutter who spits mist at people). Liger has gone on record that he and Suzuki are going to try and kill each other in this one and seems mighty fired up. Suzuki actually beat Liger in a shoot match in Pancrase many year’s back, so the two had history even before their recent issues. I’d personally be delighted to see Liger win here, but a large part of me thinks he won’t, mainly because Keiichi Yamada in real life doesn’t really seem to care about that sort of stuff these days and would probably insist to lose even if he wasn’t scheduled to in the first place.
Liger is actually going topless for this one and has eschewed his normal mask for a less pointy one to show how serious he’s taking things. Liger spits at Suzuki in the early stages and actually drops down into the guard ala Antonio Inoki Vs Muhammed Ali. That looks to be a mistake though as Suzuki quickly catches Liger in a double wrist lock, forcing the masked legend to make it to the ropes. Suzuki drops down into the guard next and invites Liger to come and get him. Liger obliges and goes at it with him on the mat, actually catching Suzuki in a triangle choke, which ends up forcing Suzuki to make the ropes. Liger refuses to release the hold though, showing his meaner edge, and then dropkicks Suzuki out to the floor.
It’s fun to see this actually as we so rarely get “Evil” Liger anymore (For some prime Evil Liger I recommend the Michinoku Pro Super J Cup from 2000, where Liger wears a black outfit and slaps the ever loving fudge out of poor Tiger Mask IV in one of the tournaments better matches. You can find that whole show up on YouTube and it’s worth a look, even if it’s weaker than the first two J Cups overall). Liger flings Suzuki into the metal railings at ringside and tries to use a chair, but the referee stops him and that allows Suzuki to take both Liger and the ref down with a big boot. With the ref still recovering, Suzuki uses the opportunity to wear out Liger with a chair and just work him over in general.
The referee tries to get Suzuki to calm down, but Suzuki throws him down and then goes after Liger’s mask so he can unmask him like he has on a previous occasion. This fires Liger up though and he defiantly throws some chops before getting knocked down again. Suzuki continues to control things back inside, showing off some fantastic facial expressions whilst he hammers away on Liger, demanding that the referee stand Liger up so he can knock him down again. That’s just proper fighting movie villain stuff and I love it. Liger manages to get a Shotei Palm Strike, which Suzuki no sells at first but a second one takes him down to the mat.
Suzuki slips out of a brain buster and then seemingly puts Liger out with a choke, but Liger is playing possum and catches Suzuki in a modified Rings of Saturn styled submission move when Suzuki tries to pick him up. Suzuki manages to make the ropes, but Liger targets the arm with kicks and then jams the arm over his shoulder, only for Suzuki to catch him in the choke again. Liger fights the hold as best he can, but it looks like he’s fading, only for Suzuki to let go and try the Gotch Styled Piledriver (Jumping Cradle Piledriver). Liger back body drops out of that though and then gets a good old fashioned Thesz Press for two.
Brain buster comes next from Liger, but Suzuki is able to kick out in a great near fall. The storytelling and work in this match has been great, as both men trade strikes in the ring. Suzuki seems to be winning that battle, but Liger keeps getting back up to take more punishment, as it looks like he’s going to go out on his shield. Liger slaps Suzuki, but there’s not much behind the strikes after all the punishment he’s taken here and it feels like only a matter of time before Suzuki finally finishes him off. Indeed, the Gotch eventually comes and that’s enough for Suzuki to pick up the win.
WINNER: MINORU SUZUKI
Flat finish, but that was the point, because if Liger can still beat guys like Suzuki then why would he be retiring in the first place? The match itself told a great story of Liger throwing everything he could muster at Suzuki but it just not being enough in the end. Not Liger’s best match but one of his more emotional.
Suzuki teases more punishment post-match but instead bows to Liger instead for a big pop before leaving. Liger recovers and grabs the mic to thank Suzuki before leaving under his own power.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title
Champ: Will Ospreay Vs El Phantasmo
Phantasmo is repping the Bullet Club here whilst Will Ospreay is fighting for CHAOS. The story coming in is that Phantasmo has beaten Ospreay on multiple occasions so he’s highly confident that he’ll win again and claim the Title. Phantasmo has apparently turned over a new leaf after according to a statement that he put out prior to this show promising that he’ll fight this match clean despite his past heelish antics. Let’s see how long that lasts. Hey, Ospreay got his music back! (By which I mean New Japan World don’t dub it out when he comes down to the ring)
Taiji Ishimori is here to corner Phantasmo, but Phantasmo sends him to the back so Ospreay sends his second, Robbie Eagles, to the back as well. Phantasmo offers a handshake to start, as he’s trying very hard to convince everyone that he really has changed, but Ospreay seems wary. Things are as quick and athletic as you would expect in the early going, as both men are excellent at fluid fast paced counter wrestling. You know what spot I love that you rarely seen anymore? The one where both guys end up fighting with their legs wrapped together in a handstand and eventually decide to mutually break the hold because it’s ended in a stalemate. Someone bring that one back back.
Of course Phantasmo is eventually revealed to be lying about the change of character and starts cheating like a mofo when the opportunity allows because…
Anyway, Ospreay should have kind of seen that coming in all honesty, but he does manage to fight back with a dive to the outside and then throws Phantasmo onto Gambino at ringside in revenge for Gambino attacking him on a show in Australia. Ospreay gets distracted by Gambino though, which allows Phantasmo to hit him with some chairs and then take the fight into the crowd, where both men fight up onto a balcony. You know, cool as I’m sure some people will find this, they were having a perfectly good and entertaining wrestling match in the ring and they didn’t really need to add a crowd brawling section. It reminds me a bit of when Super Crazy and Tajiri would fight in the crowd in ECW when both guys were talented enough to just have an awesome match in the ring and didn’t need to go in the crowd, but they’d still throw a Super Crazy balcony moonsault just to make the brawling fans happy.
Ospreay eventually gets knocked off the balcony (Though he thankfully climbs down a bit before falling down) and Phantasmo follows with a crazy dive before putting Ospreay back inside the ring for two. Phantasmo works Ospreay over back inside, but takes too long standing on his crotch in the Tree of Woe, which allows Ospreay to bridge up with a German Suplex. Ospreay tries to put Phantasmo away with The Storm Breaker (Canadian Back Breaker into a Spinning Side Slam) but Phantasmo gets out of that and then tries to give Ospreay a rana from the top, only for Ospreay to kind of sort of land on his feet to block it. The fight spills out onto the apron, where Phantasmo tries a piledriver but Ospreay thankfully fights out of that and then gets an awesome cutter by jumping off the railing to drive Phantasmo down to the floor.
That was a really cool and inventive spot actually, and it looked way safer than it sounded. They tease doing the count out but Phantasmo makes it back inside, only to get caught with a missile dropkick and a Shooting Star Press for two. Great near fall there. Robinson Special (Spinning Wheel Kick to a downed opponent) and the Os Cutter (Springboard Diamond Cutter) follow next and that looks to be all, but Ishimori now returns to drag the referee out and attack Ospreay. Robbie Eagles returns to rescue his tag team partner and drags Ishimori back with him as well. However, the Junior Heavyweight Title belt found its way into the ring during that skirmish and Phantasmo goes to hit Ospreay with it.
Ospreay dodges the belt shot but he doesn’t dodge the follow up low blow, which allows Phantasmo to get a belt shot and a splash off the top for two in another great near fall. I’m enjoying Phantasmo trying to cheat his way to the win way more than the previous brawling segment, as this is some really enjoyable character stuff and gets across just how much of a jerk Phantasmo really is. Phantasmo gets a Torture Wrack into a slam from the top rope, but Ospreay somehow manages to kick out at two once again. Phantasmo goes for the Styles Clash next (AJ Styles used to be in Bullet Club) and gets it, but even THAT isn’t enough as Ospreay kicks out AGAIN!
Phantasmo continues the former Bullet Club alum tribute by getting a V-Trigger and going for the One Winged Angel, but Ospreay counters that into a roll up and then delivers a Spanish Fly for the double down. Ospreay gets control of things following that with some kicks and a crazy Canadian Destroyer styled DDT before heading up, but Phantasmo kicks the referee into the ropes to stop that and then goes for the piledriver off the top. Thankfully even Will Ospreay isn’t nutty enough to actually take that, so Phantasmo goes for a rana instead, only for Ospreay to turn it into a powerbomb on the way down. Ospreay KILLS Phantasmo with an elbow strike to the face and then gets The Storm Breaker, which is finally enough to take this match home.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: WILL OSPREAY
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t especially digging this one until Phantasmo’s evil plan really started going into full swing, at which point I was really into the drama of the near falls and it ended up being one heck of a hard fought win for Ospreay, which are the sort of wins Champion’s need to have now and then to really make their reigns feel special.
Both men get helped to the back following that, and I totally buy that they’d need the help.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI Vs “Switchblade” Jay White, KENTA and Yujiro Takahashi w/ Gedo and Pieter
Team Goto are turning out for CHAOS here whilst the opposing team are flying the flag for Bullet Club. I know some people were annoyed at the seeming renewed push for Goto, but I like him and I’m glad he gets the odd storyline now and then. Thankfully Gedo and Pieter have decided not to come in matching outfits, sparing us all from Gedo getting his bum out. Goto wants to be the next challenger for White’s IWGP Intercontinental Title, but White decides he’s going to make him wait and tags in the now blond KENTA, which brings in Ishimori. However, KENTA isn’t feeling so brave anymore, which brings in Yujiro, who hopefully won’t flee from YOSHI-HASHI because it will annihilate his street cred.
It’s not long before this one turns into a literal pier six brawl, with all six men brawling around ringside. Bullet Club get the better of that, which leads to them getting the heat on YOSHI-HASHI. KENTA taunts Ishii as much as he can during the heat segment, acting like an utter twerp in the process and it’s perfect as you’re just begging for Ishii to clobber him. Ishii does eventually get the hot tag and he does indeed take it to KENTA with a big shoulder block before unloading with some chops in the corner. KENTA fights back with a big slap and goes to the face wash before driving Ishii down to the mat with a DDT.
Ishii keeps coming though and eventually catches KENTA with a back suplex for the double down. Tags are made to Goto and White, which lets us get a look at them next, and it’s good stuff with Goto clotheslining White outside and they handing out a beating to him whilst out there. Saito Suplex back inside gets two for Goto, but a Gedo distraction allows White to get a DDT to put Goto’s rally to an end. Yujiro comes in and gets a Fisherman Buster on Goto for two, but YOSHI-HASHI makes the save. White comes in to take a lariat from Goto, but the distraction allows Yujiro to get a reverse DDT for two. Goto gets the Ushigoroshi (Fireman’s Carry onto the Knee) in reply however and then hits the GTR (Reverse DDT onto the Knee) which is enough for the three count.
The problem with this one was that the minute Yujiro tagged in following the Goto and White segment you knew he was eating the pin. I think they need to do a bit more to build the likes of YOSHI and Yujiro up so it doesn’t seem like such a formality when these matches happen. I didn’t for a second believe that Yujiro was going to beat Goto and it hurt the drama of the finishing sequence. Just one win here or there for someone like Yujiro over a name guy in a multi-man tag would help with that immeasurably. The stuff with KENTA/Ishii and Goto/White was good though and I’m interested in seeing those matches
KENTA and Ishii continue their spat post-match as Ishii chases KENTA to the back, whilst White taunts Goto (And Tana who is sitting on commentary) implying that no one is getting Title shots.
IWGP United States Title
Lance Archer Vs Juice Robinson
Archer winning here and setting up a feud with Moxley could be an interesting direction, although I’d also like to see Juice get a third run with the belt. The commentators hype this up as the first ever meeting between these two, so let’s see if there’s any teething issues as a result of that. Juice comes out in wacky entrance gear looking like a Russian Cruella Deville. Archer grabs the mic before the match starts and demands this match retain the No DQ stipulation it was supposed to have when Juice was going to face Moxley, and Juice agrees in Japanese to make it official. Rocky Romero joins the commentary desk for this one.
Juice immediately low blows Archer and gets an inside cradle for two (Well Archer wanted No DQ) and then takes Archer off the apron to the floor with a spear. Juice adds some shots with a chair out on the floor and then goes for the cannonball against the metal railing, but Archer recovers in time to take him down with a big boot. Archer adds a choke slam through a ringside table and then attacks a Young Lion with a chair for good measure. Well, no one ever accused Lance Archer of being a calm and measured person did they? As if to prove my point, Archer then undoes all of the turnbuckle pads in the corner, leaving the corners nothing but metal.
Archer props chairs between the top and middle ropes in the corners, which strikes me as being needlessly extravagant when you consider the fact he has Juice down and out and he’s wasting precious time to set this all up. Archer throws some tables into the ring next, as I start to wonder when we’re going to see a ladder, and then sets them up in the corners. We then get a tour of the ring, as Archer flingers Juice into the chairs for two. Juice looks to have really hurt his hand during one of those bumps, possibly breaking or dislocating a finger. Archer goes to the Hakushi rope walk, but he takes too long and Juice is able to trip him up and then set him up on the top turnbuckle.
Juice manages to superplex Archer down and makes the cover, but Archer is out at two. Juice apparently has dislocated a finger, something I can sympathise with as I broke my hand once and it’s not a pleasant experience. Juice manages to get a big left handed punch to Archer and then cannonballs him through one of the tables for two. Juice goes for Pulp Friction (Tomikaze/Unprettier) but Archer blocks it and then drives Juice through the other table with Da Pounce (Period) before heading outside for MORE weaponry, throwing in some chairs. Juice rolls out to do the same thing and suddenly there are chairs all over the ring.
Archer punches a chair right out of Juice’s hands and it almost goes flying into the crowd, but Juice slips out of a choke slam and gets the Juice Box (Fireman’s Carry into a double knees to the gut) for two. Juice makes a big pile of chairs and tries the Pulp Friction, but his feet give way on the chairs and that allows Archer to slip out and get a Full Nelson Slam onto the chairs. Archer sets Juice up on the top rope and goes for the Black Out (Reverse Splash Mountain into a flipping slam) onto the chairs. Somehow Juice is able to kick out of that, so Archer rams his head into the chairs and applies THE CLAW to pick up the win and the Title.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: LANCE ARCHER
Both guys were trying hard and took some big bumps but it didn’t particularly rock my world. I’m happy for Archer that he got the win as he worked super hard in G1 and had some really fun matches, so I’m glad it’s been rewarded with a Title win. I wonder if that means Juice is moving on to fight for other Titles now?
Archer tries to attack Juice more following the match, but David Finlay makes his return to New Japan to rescue his pal and send Archer into retreat. Looks like that is our next potential Title feud then.
Wrestle Kingdom Briefcase on the line
Holder: Kota Ibushi Vs EVIL
I’ve seen some push back from some people over New Japan having the G1 winner defend the case, but I personally really like it because it forces the G1 winner to constantly prove that they deserve the Title shot. It’s not like WWE where you can win Money in the Bank, lose for six months on the trot and then cash in to win the belt. In New Japan getting the case is just the first step and that adds an element of intrigue to what would just be regular singles matches otherwise. And hey, who knows, maybe they’ll have the case actually change hands in one of these to throw a gigantic spanner in the works and get people talking? I just love it as a storytelling device and I really think WWE should implement something similar for Money in the Bank, but I know I’m probably on an island unto myself with that belief.
We get some nice chain wrestling to start, which leads to Ibushi throwing some kicks, but EVIL manages to block one and then send Ibushi outside with a clothesline. EVIL has things in control back in the ring following that, but he misses a back senton splash and that allows Ibushi to get a running kick to the chest. An Ibushi powerslam sets up a moonsault from the second rope, but EVIL is able to kick out at two. EVIL replies by hanging Ibushi in the ropes however and then stomps him down from there. Ibushi counters a Bronco Buster by double stomping EVIL and then kicks him onto the apron for the German Suplex back in, but EVIL fights that off and then stunners Ibushi’s throat over the top rope to buy himself some time.
EVIL drags Ibushi outside and does the spot where he puts a chair over his head and then hits it with another chair, as Ibushi’s Title shot is starting to become even further in jeopardy and you can tell some of the women in the building are starting to get worried that handsome Ibushi might lose. EVIL puts Ibushi back inside and gets a big superplex, which is a move I wish they’d protect more so that someone could bring it back as a finish because it always looks cool and it’s believable that you could beat someone with it. Case in point, it looks awesome here but only gets two and no one really bought that it might be the end because no one ever wins with it.
Ibushi manages a desperation rana and then sets EVIL up on the top rope but EVIL fights off whatever move he has planned, only for Ibushi to spring back in with a rana for two. Ibushi goes for the Kamigoye (Knee strike to the face whilst holding both wrists) but EVIL fights out of that, which leads to a great sequence of both men countering the others moves which ends with EVIL no selling an Ibushi lariat before getting one of his own. EVIL gets Darkness Falls (Fireman’s Carry into sit out powerbomb) but Ibushi is able to kick out at two, so he preps for Everything is EVIL (STO). Ibushi manages to counter out of that with a roll up for two and then gets The Bastard Driver (Modified Tombstone Piledriver) although he is too hurt to make the pin.
Sit Out Last Ride Powerbomb comes next from Ibushi, but EVIL is able to kick out at two. Ibushi goes for the Bom-Ba-Ye (Kinshasha) but EVIL sees it coming and counters with a big lariat that turns Ibushi inside out. Another lariat follows, but Ibushi is able to kick out at two in a good tight near fall. Everything is EVIL looks to finish, but Ibushi fights that off and gets a straightjacket German Suplex but can’t get EVIL’s shoulders on the mat properly, which gives EVIL a chance to counter the Kamigoye into a release German Suplex. EVIL tries the lariat again, but Ibushi sees it coming this time and delivers a lariat of his own before going for Kamigoye. EVIL reverses that but Ibushi gets it on another attempt for two, which was a near fall the crowd wasn’t expecting. Ibushi doesn’t panic though and delivers another one for the hard fought victory.
WINNER AND STILL HEADING TO WRESTLE KINGDOM: KOTA IBUSHI
This was a really solid match with good selling and hard work from both men. I didn’t think it was an all-time classic or anything like that, but it was good stiff fun and gave Ibushi a big clean win over a genuine contender to help strengthen him for his main event at the Tokyo Dome. EVIL looked strong in defeat and got some good near falls before finally falling to two Kamigoye’s. Good match that achieved everything it wanted to.
Ibushi heads to the back with his briefcase, secure that he survived another challenger to his main event slot at Wrestle Kingdom.
IWGP Heavyweight Title
Champ: Kazuchika Okada Vs SANADA
SANADA defeated Okada for the first time in a singles match during the G1 Climax tournament, a win that has strengthened the rivalry between the two men. Interestingly, it has been Okada who has seemed the most interested in fostering the rivalry between the two, even though he is already the Champion. The undercurrent in this rivalry seems to be that Okada is trying to pull more out of SANADA because he sees something in him. It’s an interesting dynamic that is helped by the fact that the two men tend to turn it on and have good matches with one another. I know there are some on the Blog that don’t dig the Okada/SANADA series, but I’ve always tended to enjoy it and I actually gave their G1 match this year a ***** rating because I enjoyed it so much.
SANADA Vs Ibushi would certainly be one of the best looking Tokyo Dome main events ever, so it’d have that going for it if nothing else. Chris Charlton reels of a fantastic little fact that the last time the IWGP Title changed hands in this arena was when Tetsuya Naito defeated Okada for the Title back in 2016, and the reason Naito was able to win was because SANADA interfered. That’s actually interesting and relevant to the situation and not just a random fact for random facts sake. This commentary team really is awesome.
We start out right away with the slug fest as both men trade elbows and SANADA has to dodge a bunch of Okada dropkicks. That leads to both men countering the others’ finishing moves and then throwing a dropkick for a standoff. Things settle down into more of a patient technical battle following that blistering opening and it’s well executed, as you would expect from these two. Okada starts to get the better of things, as Rocky reveals he had his big match beef bowl earlier in the day, which is how you know he means business. The fight spills outside, where Okada tries to DDT SANADA whilst hanging him on the metal railing, but SANADA is able to block it and then delivers a one man Magic Killer using the railing for assistance.
SANADA drops Okada throat first on the railing and rolls in, but Okada is able to break the count also and the match continues. SANADA enjoys some control back in the ring now and tries to wear Okada down. Okada is able to dodge a standing moonsault from SANADA however and then delivers a running back elbow for a double down. Okada nips up and makes the comeback on SANADA, looking great in the process, and gets the DDT for two. I genuinely think you could put Okada in any company and he’d get over just because of how much of a complete worker he is. That comeback wouldn’t look out of place in WWE whatsoever.
Okada dropkicks SANADA off the apron to the floor and the heads outside to send SANADA into the railing before kicking him into the front row and following with a big running cross body onto the ringside seats. That was pretty bloody awesome! Interestingly Okada stops the referee from counting so that SANADA can get back in the ring, which is a either good sportsmanship or a ridiculous showing of hubris that might be punished with nemesis. SANADA tries fighting back but his strikes don’t have the same sting that Okada’s do, but eventually he manages to pull out a desperation dropkick to send Okada outside, where he then follows with a dive.
SANADA puts Okada in The Paradise Lock back inside the ring and then gets a nice big run up before dropkicking Okada in the bum for two. Okada manages to reply with a shotgun dropkick to send SANADA flying back first into the corner before heading up top for another dropkick, this time of the missile variety. Okada body slams SANADA down and heads up again for the flying elbow which leads to…THE RAINMAKER POSE!!! Rainmaker (Spinout Clothesline) looks to finish but SANADA ducks it and goes for Skull End (Dragon Sleeper). Okada manages to fight the hold off though and goes for a Tombstone Piledriver, but SANADA manages to fight it off and gets one of his own before following up with a TKO (Fireman’s Carry into a Diamond Cutter) for two.
SANADA locks in Skull End and scissors his legs for good measure, but Okada refuses to tap and almost squirms his way out before SANADA cinches the hold back in. Okada keeps fighting the hold but SANADA calmly manages to keep putting it back on each time. Okada eventually manages to get a desperation Rainmaker (Out of “thin air” as Kelly puts it) and then drapes an arm for two. Both men are down now following a long and draining match, but fight up to their knees and start trading forearms before upgrading to European Uppercuts, which is a battle SANADA gets the better of. Okada, despite being so deep into such a tiring match, still manages to pull off a dropkick, but SANADA goes back to Skull End and then spins Okada around whilst in the hold before locking it in again.
Okada looks to be out in the hold and Referee Uno does everything he can to check that in a great spot, but SANADA just lets go and goes for a pin for two. SANADA gets a moonsault to the back but when he goes for another one to the front Okada is able to get his knees up and both men are down again. Okada manages to counter another Skull End into a Tombstone and then goes for The Rainmaker, but SANADA blocks it with a kick before getting an O’Connor Roll for two. SANADA goes back to Skull End as you can feel the crowd buzz, but Okada Lucha arm drags his way out of it and then goes for the Tombstone again, only for SANADA to grab him around the neck to block it. Okada won’t be denied however and gets a modified Michinoku Driver before following up with The Rainmaker for the win.
WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KAZUCHIKA OKADA
I didn’t like this one quite as much as the G1 bout between the two, mainly because it didn’t have the drama of SANADA trying to put Okada away before the time limit expired and then getting the big upset win, but it was still a darn fine main event in a series of them between these two. I know some will disagree with me on that, but for whatever reason these two guys going at it is my jam and I’ve always liked it. I think they mesh well as opponents and I love the story of SANADA getting so close but not quite being able to win in a Title match with Okada. I feel in my heart that SANADA will do it one day though, and that’s why I keep looking forward to every time they face one another for the Title. He will do it one day, he just has to.
SANADA is moved to tears following the defeat and Okada offers a handshake as a show of respect for his rival. SANADA leaves defeated but with his pride and that leaves Okada to do the post-match speech. He puts SANADA over on the mic and says that one day he wants to face SANADA in the main event of the Tokyo Dome. Speaking of the Tokyo Dome, Okada calls Ibushi down to the ring to address the elephant in the room. Ibushi comes down and “formerly” challenges Okada for The Dome, stating that he wants to be Intercontinental Champion as well. Okada demands that Naito face him first however, to which Ibushi agrees and the main event for the 4th of January Tokyo Dome is set. Okada closes by thanking everyone for coming despite the typhoon and says sends thoughts to those effected and we’re out.
Definitely a news worthy event, with the Tokyo Dome main event for 04/01/2019 being set and a new United States Champion being crowned. I enjoyed the show for the most part with the Junior Heavyweight and Heavyweight IWGP matches delivering the goods and the Liger/Suzuki match being lots of fun for what it was.
An easy recommendation, with all sorts of different style matches and an excellent traditional World Title main event to close everything out. Bring on January!!