This is my first review for the blog, so thank you to Scott for the opportunity. Extremely quick background on myself. I’ve watched wrestling for 32 years, and NJPW specifically since 2014. I live in New York, and I’m unattractive.
Away we go.
April 4, 2021
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, Japan
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino and Chris Charlton
Hiromu Takahashi is here in his crazy suit to seemingly host the show and run down the matches. Hulk Hogan and Titus O’Neil have a lot to live up to this weekend now.
Opening Match: Suzuki-gun (Douki, Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi) vs. Bullet Club (G.O.D & Jado)
True Story, Lance Archer was the person who taught me that it’s pronounced Suzuki-GOON. I was cool, once. Brawl outside to start, as Jado and Douki battle in the ring and Douki drops him with a DDT. Jado backdrops Douki outside the ring where he gets attacked by G.O.D. Back in the ring, Jado grabs a chinlock and shoulders Douki down, then poses for Taichi. Tanga Loa tags in and hits the three amigos, holding the last suplex for a good while and getting a two count. Over to Tama Tonga, but Douki starts to turn the tide and eventually gets a tornado DDT. Finally Douki tags to Taichi who comes in with chokes for everybody. That’s cool and all but really this match needs more Miho Abe. Tama finally ends that with a Tonga Twist. Corner splash misses however, and tags are made to Sabre and Tanga Loa. Loa uses his strength to get out of Zack’s chokehold and overpowers him. Powerbomb is countered by Zack and he gets an armbar. Loa escapes that into a crossface until Douki breaks that up. Things break down as Taichi’s iron fingers come into play (that sounds weird when I read it back), and eventually Zack rolls up Tanga Loa for the pin at 10:10. This was meant to set up Taichi and Sabre vs. G.O.D for the Heavyweight Tag Titles. **¼
Chaos (Yoshi-Hashi, Ishii, Goto, Yano & Okada) vs. Bullet Club (Togo, Takahashi, Ishimori, KENTA & EVIL)
Apparently KENTA has stolen the bo staff of Yoshi-Hashi, taking a page out of the Jean-Pierre Lafitte playbook. Not surprisingly, another brawl to start that spills to the outside. Ishimori and Goto wind up in the ring to start and do a brief exchange, until KENTA and Yoshi-Hashi come in, and then things break down once again when Chaos does a “drumming session” on Togo and eventually take turns stomping him. Kelly: “They’re just kicking Dick like they don’t care!”. Ishimori and Yoshi-Hashi go at it with both men going outside the ring where Bullet Club takes over. Ishimori tags out to Togo, who hits snap mare and fist drop for 2. EVIL in next, and it seems like a long time ago that he was the double champion of this company. Turnbuckles now exposed and EVIL throws Yoshi-Hashi into them and tags KENTA. He continues to work on the back of Yoshi-Hashi with some kicks. He tries to use the bo staff, but Yoshi-Hashi cuts that off and eventually hits a lariat and both men are down. Ishii and Takahashi tag in. Things break down once again with each man coming in one at a time and eventually Takahashi hits an inverted DDT and gets a 2 count as Okada saves. Angle Slam by Yujiro and the tag is made to EVIL. Ishii turns the tide and tags in the real captain of the team, Toru Yano. Yano, a house of fire, gets a 2 count on a rollup of EVIL. Togo is tagged in as Bullet Club teams up on Yano. Chaos saves, but Yano hits some nutshots, covers Togo’s head with a hood and rolls him up for the pin at 11:37. ** The next feud for the 6-man tag titles (yep, they still exist) looks to be between these teams.
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb and X) vs. LIJ (Naito, Shingo and SANADA)
“X” turns out to be Toa Henare, now going by Aaron Henare, as the newest member of the United Empire. Guess what, it’s a brawl to start. Henare and SANADA start, and SANADA gets the better of that and tags Naito. Henare fights back and gets rid of each of the LIJ members one by one, and roughs up Naito, eventually getting a suplex for two. Tag to Cobb who continues to overpower Naito. He runs him into the buckle and tags O-Khan. He elbows Naito down for two. Mongolian chops to Naito, but Naito comes back with a dropkick to end that and tags Shingo. He manages to get by Cobb and Henare and hits a lariat on O-Khan. Cobb tags in and they slug it out until Shingo gets a back suplex and tags in SANADA. Cobb stops his assault with a powerslam and tags Henare. Henare viciously stomps and chokes SANADA and hits a blue thunder bomb for two. SANADA gets Skull End for a moment but both teams now come in and everyone gets to hit a move, before Cobb hits Tour of the Islands on SANADA and Henare nails a death valley driver for the pin at 9:51. **½ A United Empire beatdown ensues post-match as they target Naito’s knee. Well I’m glad the Empire has rebounded since their rough Wrestle Kingdom experience in January.
Hiroshi Tanahashi and Satoshi Kojima vs. Bullet Club (Jay White and Bad Luck Fale)
Tanahashi and White have a super posedown pre-match and then start proper as the bell rings. Tana hits a quick splash off the ropes and tags Kojima, who stomps away and hits a double shoulderblock with Tana. Kojima with the chops and goes up, but Gedo distracts him and White slams him down. Brawling outside as Bullet Club takes over. White returns the chops and gets a neckbreaker for two. Fale in with his generic offense (punch, stomp, bodyslam) and tags back out to White. Wouldn’t want to break a sweat there, Fale. Koji fights off White and hits a Koji Cutter and tags Tanahashi. Flying forearm puts White down and a somersault senton gets two. A series of standing switches follows, which is won by White as he gets a dragonscrew legwhip. Blade Buster gets two. He tries to get a Cloverleaf but Tana fights out and hits a dragonscrew of his own. Fale tags back in and drops an elbow for two. A lariat follows, but Kojima comes in to save. Tana hits a slingblade on White followed by Twist and Shout on Fale. Kojima hits a lariat on Fale, and Tana nails the High Fly Flow for the win at 10:05. ** Post match Tana puts the Cloverleaf on White and Jay taps. Tanahashi then accepts Jay’s challenge for the NEVER Openweight title.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (El Deperado & Kanemaru) vs. Rappongi 3K
Suzuki-gun are the defending champs. Yoh of Rappongi 3K is back after a 9 month knee injury which resulted in the team having to relinquish the titles as they were the champions at the time. Desperado and Yoh start and do some back and forth chain wrestling. Desperado grabs a headscissors and Yoh escapes and hits a flying forearm. Sho in for some double team moves and Rappongi 3K takes control. Yoh back in, but Desperado attacks the previously injured knee of Yoh and puts on a Stretch Muffler for further damage until Sho breaks that up to save his partner. Tag to Sho who takes over and hits a front kick for two. Kanemaru however pulls Sho out of the ring and runs him into the barricade. Both members of R3K are hurt now but Sho beats the count at 17. Vertical suplex from Kanemaru gets two. Desperado back in and steps on the hand of Sho just to be a jerk. Kanemaru tags in but Sho is able to fight off double team moves with a spear and tags Yoh. Yoh is able to clean house and get a neckbreaker on Kanemaru for a two count. He tweaks the knee again though and Suzuki-gun takes advantage and Kanemaru applies a figure four. Yoh gets to the ropes after a good while, but Kanemaru hits a top rope moonsault for two. Deep Impact from Kanemaru but Sho breaks it up at two. Another figure four attempt is countered into a cradle for two. Pele kick by Yoh evens things for a brief moment, and now Sho and Desperado go at it and all four men are down as the crowd is getting into this one. R3K get a double knee on Kanemaru and hit a 3K on Desperado, but he’s not legal. Kanemaru fights off Sho and tosses him, then climbs to the top for a superplex on Yoh for two. Yoh catches him with a thrust kick and Sho follows with a big lariat. They manage to hit Strong X but Desperado barely breaks the count up at two. Yoh then hits what looks to be a double underhook brainbuster for the win and the championships at 20:48. Liked it, but didn’t seem to get into the full gear sprint I was expecting. ***½. This is R3K’s fifth reign with the titles. Yoh challenges Desperado for the Jr. Heavyweight Title after the match.
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Kota Ibushi © vs. Will Ospreay
First defense of the title for Ibushi. I recently heard someone describe the new IWGP belt design as a cross between the old Divas title and Cody Rhodes’ neck tattoo, which seems pretty spot on. Ospreay won the New Japan Cup to earn this title
opportunity shot. Feeling out process at the start and they do some mat work. That results in a stalemate until Ibushi grabs the advantage with a side headlock. Ospreay gets a reversal off that but Ibushi sends him into the ropes and hits a hurricanrana, followed by a plancha to the outside. Back in they slug it out and eventually Ospreay crotches Ibushi on the top rope and back to the outside. Will tosses him into the barricade and bullies him there for a bit including a back suplex into the rail. They go right back to the outside after Ibushi beats the 20 count. Will hits a kneedrop to the back of the neck of Ibushi on the apron. Ibushi once again beats the count and gets whipped into the turnbuckle for a two count. Back elbow gets a one count. Headscissors is escaped by Ibushi, followed by a cravat as he works the neck of Ibushi. Kneedrop is missed by Will and Ibushi hits a dropkick to even things up. Flying kick by Ibushi and a standing moonsault gets two. Schoolboy rollup turns into a schoolboy type suplex for two, which is the first time I’ve seen that done. Will comes back with a back handspring kick to put Ibushi down. Will hangs him in the tree of woe and hits a hesitation dropkick. Phenomenal forearm on Ibushi gets two. Ibushi knee to the nose gets him out of a suplex and they have an exchange of strikes and both men are down. Golden Star Powerbomb from Ibushi gets a two count on Will. Komigoye is countered by Ospreay with a headbutt. They slug it out once more. Reverse Bloody Sunday by Ospreay gets two. To the top, and Will hangs him on the top rope and hits a shooting star there, and another one to the canvas but only gets two. They have a bit of an awkward reversal sequence where Ibushi tried to catch Ospreay and couldn’t hold him. Poison rana from the top is attempted by Ibushi but Ospreay lands on his feet. He does however hit a poison rana on the mat and Will drops to the outside. Super deadlift German suplex from the apron by Ibushi, but that also only gets two. Bomaye is reversed into a kind of one man spanish fly by Ospreay, and he hits an Oscutter for a close two. Forearm to the back of the head of Ibushi, but Ibushi reverses out of the Stormbreaker into a Komigoye for two. Inside cradle by Will for two. Running knee to the face of Ibushi followed by a Hidden Blade and the Stormbreaker gets the pin and the title at 30:13. ****½. Definitely did not expect Ibushi to lose the title in his first defense. Match was very good, albeit a less high flying match than I would have figured it to be. Still unsure of the booking of having Ibushi win a second straight G1 to finally take the title at Wrestle Kingdom, only to move it over to Ospreay 3 months later, but I just work here so what do I know. Cobb attacks Ibushi after the match, likely setting up a program between them. And then Shingo and Okada come down to challenge Ospreay, in that order apparently.
Overall Thoughts: The shorter NJPW shows are definitely easier to watch, although the multi-man tags can be a bit tiresome at times. That said, the last two matches were very good and the title change is certainly newsworthy.
Final Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
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