JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, KUSHIDA, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. YOSHITATSU & THE TEMPURA BOYZ - 5.75/10
A little graphical goof accidentally labelled KUSHIDA as Jay White. This was a fun little opener. I was shocked Finlay got the fall on Tatsu because I figured Finlay was the least likely guy on his team to be given the win and Tatsu was the least likely guy on his team to eat the loss. In hindsight it's clear that Yoshitatsu has kind of faded away in New Japan over the past few months but I didn't really notice it so Finlay being given the win over him here still feels like it's a step up the ladder for young Mr. Finlay.
IWGP US HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Jay Lethal vs. Kenny Omega - 7.5/10
No one has correct J.R.'s fact from last night, as J.R. is still claiming that Lethal is a two-time ROH World Champion. He also repeated several other factual errors from last night. While we're on the subject of J.R., does anyone know why he insists on saying "the genre of pro wrestling" rather than a word that will make it sound less like an art form and more like a sport (for example, "sport" or "world").
They dove right into the deep end of the storytelling pool with that vicious shot to Lethal's injured ribs early on kept on going with their story. GREAT match, especially for the time it got.
IWGP US HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE TOURNAMENT SEMIFINAL MATCH:
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tomohiro Ishii - 7/10
I thought Zack going for all of those strikes at the beginning against a much larger match (and Ishii, no less) instead of going for his usual Zack Sabre Jr. submission stuff made Zack look like a total idiot. Being the only one to go down off of his own headbutt didn't help matters. Zack worked the arm, Ishii worked the head, and despite Zack feeling like he was close to getting the submission victory a few different times (there were some amazing struggles for the ropes in here), Ishii won.
TITAN, JAY WHITE, DRAGON LEE, JUICE ROBINSON, & VOLADOR JR. vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON - 6.5/10
During the babyfaces' entrance J.R. basically told us that this would be a spotfest. He and Barnett did not take this match particularly seriously, which really bothered me. There was some good action in here once they got past the comedic stuff and random brawling in the beginning. J.R. kept insisting on pronouncing Titan's name incorrectly, often mere moments after Barnett had said it the right way.
MICHAEL ELGIN & WAR MACHINE vs. BULLET CLUB (Adam Page & the Guerrillas of Destiny) (w/Chase Owens & Haku) - 6.25/10
This was fine. Page got the win here and grabbed War Machine's new belts, so I guess we're going back to Page & Takahashi challenging for the belts? Or maybe Page will get a new partner. Either way, it's not going to get me excited.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Young Bucks(c) vs. Roppongi Vice- a PERFECT 10/10!
Take the usual Young Bucks craziness but instead of comedy they spend time telling a story about focusing on a body part, but in a very Young Bucks way. They didn't work over Trent's back with submission holds (aside from their now apparently signature Sharpshooter); they used their big powerbomb spots and hit him in the back with various kicks and landed on his back instead of his front while doing their flips (that inverted More Bang For Your Buck spot was genius!). Throw in Roppongi Vice working over one Jackson brother's head, some really great false finishes, twists, turns, and reversals, the continued use of the powerbomb on the ring ramp spot as a major story point in each match of this feud, and following through on their promise to deliver the craziest Meltzer Driver ever, which they made sure to tease throughout the match (and subtract my usual annoyance at Rocky Romero because he didn't do any of his annoying sh*t in this match) and you've got a perfect match. This is what the Young Bucks are capable of when they actually try to tell a story, so why don't they do it very often?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Ricochet attacks the Young Bucks and makes a challenge. From a wrestling/booking standpoint, I really hated this. First he attacks the Young Bucks after a hard-fought, grueling title defense. That's a total heel move. He brags about his hot girlfriend, which is also a total heel move. He incorrectly said that they won the belts tonight when they really won them at Dominion three weeks ago. Then he interrupts his big heated moment to be a f*cking mark for The Rock and do his catchphrase. Then we find out that he is now not only part of Taguchi Japan- a stable so pointless I don't even acknowledge its existence in my reviews- but that Ryusuke Taguchi is his new tag team partner and "coach." I find it hard to believe that Taguchi would be able to teach Ricochet anything that doesn't involve the use of the anus.
Why is Ricochet back in a f*cking tag team? I've seen him doing this for what feels like forever now, first with Sydal and then with Finlay. I don't want to see him team with Taguchi to face the same field of the Young Bucks and Roppongi Vice (yeah there is now also Suzuki-Gun, but Taguchi being in the ring with those guys will inevitably derail a match by turning it into comedy). The last time Ricochet was a singles guy in New Japan the Junior Heavyweight division was guys like Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Alex Shelley, Prince Devitt, etc. Most of those guys are out of the division now, with the only ones still around and functioning as singles guys being a much more experienced KUSHIDA and BUSHI, and debatably Taguchi (he seems pretty permanently committed to the six-man tag titles now). Now we've got Ospreay, Scurll, Hiromu, Dragon Lee, Volador Jr. Let me see Ricochet against those guys! If you need a new team for the Junior Heavyweight division then temporarily make BUSHI and Hiromu a team until the Tempura Boyz return from their excursion. Mix it up a bit! And in the heavyweight tag division, too. Make Sanda & EVIL a team to get some fresh blood, and take some random schmoes like Nagata and Tiger Mask who you're not doing anything with and throw them into the six-man tag team pool.
The other bit of news here was Ricochet's rather public comments about Lucha Underground here. In fact, his very appearance shocked me due to how protective LU has been of their exclusive rights to their talents in North America for TV/PPV. LU guys being on this weekend's TNA PPV is shocking enough, but because LU is run by AAA and AAA and TNA have a deal I could see how it could be allowed to happen. New Japan, however, does not have any sort of dealings with AAA at all. They only work with AAA's main rivals: CMLL. Him showing up here, even though it isn't technically on TV or PPV in North America (it will be this week, but this can easily be edited out), is quite shocking, and might well mean he has somehow gotten out of his deal... which could mean him finally coming to ROH or starting to work a few shows for EVOLVE again. This is big news right here.
ROPPONGI VICE SEGMENT - Well... there's a bit of a shakeup. Rocky Romero announces that the team is done. He wants Trent to be a heavyweight, and he seemed like he was retiring.
THE BRISCOES, KAZUCHIKA OKADA, & WILL OSPREAY (w/Gedo) vs. BULLET CLUB (Cody Rhodes, Bad Luck Fale, Yujiro Takahashi, & Marty Scurll) - 5/10
I know it was wrong of him to do, but I cackled with glee as J.R. buried Bullet Club for ripping of the n.W.o's catchphrases and hand signals. I don't get it. Is the crowd just too stupid to realize that Bullet Club will never give them who they ask for, or do they enjoy watching nothing happen? It has now been several minutes since anything has happened other than tags and the crowd is chanting "TAG FOREVER!" so apparently they just want to see nothing. My heartfelt thanks and sympathy both go out to whoever that one person was who tried to start a "WE WANT WRESTLING!" chant. Everyone who chanted "TAG FOREVER!" should have been lined up in front of this person so he or she could hit them all in the head with a baseball bat and then help himself or herself to the contents of their wallets.
More stupid antics happen at the best of the crowd. Scurll breaks Ospreay's fingers... and then Ospreay starts doing handsprings later in the match. This finger-breaking spot needs to go. Ospreay finally gets the chance to make the hot tag but we don't get to see it because they chose an extremely stupid time to cut to a replay. The few minutes they did stuff for were mostly good, but they wasted the large majority of what could have been an awesome match by letting the crowd drag them into stupid bullsh*t.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahashi(c) vs. Billy Gunn - 6.25/10
Billy worked Tanahashi's injured arm. Tanahashi's selling was not particularly good. Certainly not what you'd expect from Tanahashi. The match had some good spots (and also, for some reason, comedy. In a f*cking title match in New Japan) but wasn't particularly exciting.
IWGP US HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega (w/the Young Bucks) - 9/10
To get this out of the way first, this match was quite awesome, both in its storytelling with both guys working over the head, and for the little bits of storytelling within some of the individual spots. They did one spot where Omega was trying to give Ishii a German Suplex off the apron through a table but Ishii was hanging onto the ropes, so Omega switched to trying to hit a Dragon Suplex- whose full nelson grip would prevent Ishii from holding onto the ropes with his arms- so Ishii leaned forward and BIT the top rope in an attempt to prevent Omega from being able to suplex him over (but Omega eventually did) which might be one of the my favorite spots I've seen in the past decade.
That being said, I think they made some mistakes here that kept this match from being what it could have been. You probably won't be surprised to learn that most of those mistakes fell into the category of "general Ishii stuff." If the story of the match is going to be the opponent working over your head then why would you include a spot at a random point in the match where you just no sell a bunch of strikes to the head? It's counter-productive. I also really didn't like the burst of fighting spirit from Ishii at the end, as it made the finish feel rather anti-climactic in my opinion.
The other thing in this match that I thought was a big mistake- although it didn't actually hurt this particular match- was Ishii hitting the One-Winged Angel and Kenny Omega kicking out of it. Someone kicking out of a move that has been protected for a year and a half at this point, including the top babyface in the company only managing to get a foot on the ropes to avoid being pinned by it- and that only happened in the biggest rematch ever- should have been saved for a bigger moment (by which I basically mean either the G1 finals or the Tokyo Dome), and certainly shouldn't have gone to the very guy who does the move. But the history books will now show that the first person to actually kick out of a One-Winged Angel is... Kenny Omega. That's a trivia question that is going to stump a lot of people over the years.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Great. We got a Bullet Club celebration, and tease of dissension between Cody and Omega, and one hell of a babyface promo from Omega.
Another awesome night of wrestling from New Japan. Between match quality and growth of business, it seems pretty hard to dispute them for Promotion of the Year.