All sorts of craziness happening in New Japan these days as Will Ospreay has vacated the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Though the real reason seems unknown (NJPW said it was due to a neck injury, but rumors on the interwebs indicate the gaijins are unhappy with the way the company has handled the COVID situation), we have a main event of Okada vs. Shingo to crown a new champion.
Away we go.
June 7th, 2021
Osaka-Jo Hall, Osaka
Announcers: Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, Rocky Romero
Hiromu Takahashi (with a jacket from the Walt “Clyde” Frazier collection) is here to host the show, noting that his injury is healing and he’ll be back soon.
Match One: Bullet Club (El Phantasmo, Ishimori, Owens, Takahashi & Evil) vs. Sho, YOSHI-HASHI, Ishii, Goto & Tanahashi)
Owens and Tanahashi start. Tana wins the headlock battle and gets a springboard crossbody. Sho enters for some double team shoulderblocks and flexing. Tags to Takahashi and YOSHI-HASHI. Low dropkick by YOSHI-HASHI and now Goto and EVIL come in for more double teaming. Jeez the tag rules here are worse than AEW, right guys?? Things break down and we get some brawling on the outside. The BC takes over and Takahashi gets a two count. A series of tags and backrakes follows as EVIL stays in for more punishment on YOSHI-HASHI. YOSHI-HASHI fires back with some kicks and tags my main man Ishii, who bulldozes through most of the BC. Heavy chops in the corner by Ishii. A distraction by Togo turns the tide, letting EVIL hit a fisherman buster for two. Ishimori in, but Ishii gets a suplex and tags Big Sho. Sho gets some kicks in as things break down once again. Sho gets an armbar which is broken up by ELP. The team members all come in one by one and each hit a move. ELP comes in and hits Thunderkiss 86 for two but Ishii breaks it up. Togo takes Ishii out again, allowing Ishimori to hit a Bloody Cross for the win at 11:50. ** Not much to this one.
Match Two: LIJ (Bushi, SANADA & Naito) vs. Suzuki-gun (Douki, Sabre Jr. & Taichi)
Naito and Taichi start. They trade strikes and Taichi gets a choke as Sabre and SANADA are in quickly for a two on two. Douki and Bushi tag in and Bushi gets a headscissor takedown. To the outside for some classic multi-man tag match brawling. Taichi in for some choking as Naito dicks around with the referee in the corner. Sabre tags in and twists the ear of Bushi, then tags back out to Douki. Bushi with an enzuigiri but can’t make the tag. DDT from Bushi however finally allows the tag to Naito as Taichi also tags in. Naito runs wild on all of Suzuki-gun. Kick to Taichi and tag to SANADA for a double team and a two count. Taichi fires out of the corner with an axe bomber (shout out to Hulk I assume) and tags Zack. SANADA takes him down but can’t get the Paradise Lock on Zack. Penalty Kick by Zack gets two as Bushi breaks up the pin. Naito jumps in to prevent a double team on SANADA and Bushi gets a tope suicida to the outside, but Douki follows with his own. SANADA locks Skull End in on Zack. Zack tries to get the Euro Clutch to counter, but SANADA counters that with an Aussie suplex for the pin at 11:31. *½ This really didn’t pick up until the last minute or two.
Match Three: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship – El Desperado © vs. Yoh
First official defense for Desperado. Collar and elbow tie up to start. Yoh breaks clean but Desperado does not. Eyepoke and headlock takeover by the champion. Yoh transitions to his own headlock and then to a wristlock. Desperado breaks loose and tries to use the ref as a distraction for a dropkick, but Yoh is too quick for that and gets a dropkick. Some pretty smooth transitions happening so far. To the outside and Yoh is run into the barricade. Desperado grabs a plastic bucket (?) and tosses it across the ring to distract the referee, then hits Yoh’s knee with a chair. Now Desperado can work on that left knee. Kneebreaker and a splash to the left knee gets two. Another kneebreaker is countered into a sunset flip for two. That doesn’t last long as the champion remains in control and works on the knee further. Yoh makes the ropes but is in bad shape now. Yoh manages to get a series of elbows to even the score. Neckbreaker gets two for Yoh. Inverted dragonscrew by Yoh and now he’s working on the right knee of Desperado. Desperado reverses and Irish whip and gets a spinebuster. He tries to get a Stretch Muffler but Yoh quickly makes the ropes. Desperado with a back suplex and vertical suplex for two. To the outside, Yoh gets a shotgun dropkick sending the champion into the barricade. Plancha followed by a tope con hilo by Yoh. Missile dropkick by Yoh and a kiwi crusher gets two. Desperado breaks out of a full nelson and gets a dragonscrew in the corner on Yoh. Both men stagger to their feet and trade forearm shots. Yoh gets a flatliner but Desperado gets an Olympic Slam and Guitarra de Angel for two. Pinche Logo attempt is blocked by Yoh and rolls up the champion for two. Stargazer leglock by Yoh but Desperado gets the ropes. Dragon suplex gets a close two count. Desperado lands a headbutt and Yoh crumbles to the mat. Pinche Loco attempt again is countered with a roll through for two. Superkick by Yoh but he runs into a stiff right hand by the champion. Pinche Loco hits this time for the win at 23:40. This was very good. **** Post match, Sho runs in to save his partner from Ishimori and ELP attack. The BC challenges Rappongi 3K for the Jr. Tag Titles, and Ishimori challenges Desperado for the Jr. Heavyweight Title.
Match Four: Kota Ibushi vs. Jeff Cobb
Dropkick by Ibushi sends Cobb down to a knee. They exchange forearm shots won by Cobb, who tackles Ibushi down. To the outside now where Cobb bullies Ibushi some more. Cobb rams Ibushi’s spine into the post and rolls back in. Kota manages a flying mid-kick but Cobb cuts off a standing moonsault attempt and drives him into the corner. He fires Ibushi into the buckle chest first and gets a two count. Rear chinlock from Cobb then moved into a waistlock. Forearm to the back gets two. Kicks to the face by Cobb gets two as the pace slows a bit. Cobb hits a brutal looking knee to the face in the corner. Headbutt and clothesline by Cobb, but a standing moonsault hits knees. Charge by Cobb is missed and Ibushi gets a kick and hits his own standing moonsault for two. Kick by Ibushi misses and Cobb follows with a back suplex and standing moonsault for two. Cobb misses a charge to the outside. Kota tries a plancha but Cobb catches him on the floor. Kota shakes loose and gets a big Asai moonsault, springing off the top rope to the floor. Both men beat the count, as Kota tries the deadlift german from the apron but can’t lift Cobb. Springboard top rope rana by Ibushi gets two. Bomaye from Ibushi gets two. Komigoye is blocked by Cobb with a belly to belly. Side suplex by Cobb gets two. Cobb gets a release F-5 for two. Tour of the Islands is countered with a standing kick, and komigoye for two only. Another attempt is rolled through and Cobb gets his own komigoye! That gets a close two. Ibushi manages to counter something in mid-air, driving his knee into Cobb as they hit the mat. Komigoye again connects for the Ibushi win. NJPW’s website says time was 14:54, but the ring announcer clearly called the 15 minute mark during the match so it was longer. Regardless I enjoyed this one. ****¼.
Main Event: IWGP World Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada vs. Shingo Takagi
Title is vacant as noted. The belt design still stinks. I just spotted what appears to be a Zima advertisement on the ring canvas, which takes me back. They do some chain wrestling early with Okada grabbing a side headlock. Shingo escapes and shoulders Okada down. They trade armdrags and have a standoff. Shingo charges but runs into a boot from Okada. Neckbreaker by Okada gets two and he applies a rear chinlock. Shingo fights out and throws Okada down, but misses a senton. Okada tries a senton but hits knees and Shingo clotheslines him outside. Shingo drives Okada into the apron back first a few times and tosses him into the barricade. Snap suplex on the outside by Shingo. Back in, Shingo drops a knee on the chest of Okada. Knee to the midsection and a full speed shoulderblock takes Okada down. Vertical suplex and body scissors by Shingo. Okada responds with a big boot but a tombstone attempt is stopped and Shingo spikes him with a powerslam for two. Bear hug by Shingo, but Okada manages to break free and knock Shingo down. Euro uppercut by Okada and a DDT gets two. Shingo blocks a neckbreaker with a double axe, but Okada sets him on the top turnbuckle and dropkicks Shingo down to the floor. Okada boots Shingo over the railing and drops him with a hanging DDT. Okada quickly hits him with Heavy Rain inside and gets the Money Clip but Shingo quickly gets to the ropes. Shingo fights back with a hard lariat. Gory bomb by Shingo and he wheelbarrows Okada back into the corner turnbuckle. Shingo with a Torture Rack and then drives Okada down with a gutbuster for two. Another huge lariat from Shingo, this time in the corner. Shingo stops to deal with the referee letting Okada hit a shotgun dropkick and pound away. They trade reversals leading to Okada hitting a tombstone and getting the Money Clip again. Shingo begins to fade but manages to finally get the ropes.
To the floor, Shingo blocks a tombstone attempt and hits Made in Japan on the floor. Ouch. Back inside, Shingo crushes Okada with a corner clothesline. He carries Okada on his shoulders to the top and hits Stay Dream but only gets two. Another brutal lariat, but Okada hits a dropkick before Shingo can get the Pumping Bomber. Okada tombstone, followed by a Rainmaker attempt but Shingo hits Okada first with a lariat! A forearm battle is next, ending in a death valley driver from Shingo. Pumping Bomber countered into a Rainmaker and another. A third is reversed by Shingo into his own Rainmaker. Big time Pumping Bomber gets only two. Last of the Dragon countered, but Shingo gets a dragon suplex and a running low forearm strike. Last of the Dragon hits and finishes! 36:06 is the time. I would have bet good money that Okada was getting the title back here. Personally I enjoyed this better than the Shingo/Ospreay match from Dontaku because here I felt Shingo at least had a chance to win, even though it was still a surprise for me. ***** Looks like the next challenger will be Ibushi.
Overall Thoughts: The first two tag matches aside, the rest of the card delivered for sure, culminating in an excellent main event with a surprise winner and new champion. Can’t complain about that.
Final Rating: 8.5 out of 10.