DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. KATSUYA KITAMURA - 3.75/10
THE YOUNG BUCKS vs. DRAGON LEE & TITAN - 6.75/10
Now THIS is the kind of match New Japan should be putting on the undercards of their big shows. This was a fun, athletic, undercard Jr. Heavyweight tag match. Dragon Lee took a scary-looking DDT right on his head on the corner of the apron, and then hit the floor pretty much straight from there, with no part of his body other than his head touching the apron at all. Then the other three dudes fell right on top of him due to a dive. We didn't see him for a while, and almost the moment he got back up and we could see him again, he was immediately kicked in the head by Matt Jackson and fell down again. He seemed to be okay by the end, so I hope he was just selling all of this.
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, HIRAI KAWATO, JUICE ROBINSON, & KUSIHDA vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, Taichi, & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 5/10
Standard stuff. KUSHIDA vs. Zack would be a really cool match to get at some point down the line.
HIROYOSHI TENZAN, SATOSHI KOJIMA, & TOGI MAKABE vs. BULLET CLUB (Cody Rhodes, Chase Owens, & Yujiro Takahashi) - 4/10
This was the opposite of the Young Bucks vs. Dragon Lee & Titan. This was nothing but a waste of time, and is exactly the type of match New Japan needs to stop putting on their undercards. Bullet Club lost when Kojima pinned Owens. Kevin Kelly cared so much about this that when Don Callis tried to analyze the match, Kevin decided to derail him by plugging Chase Owens' new YouTube series. After the match, Cody came over to the announcers' table to be a cartoon character into the headset for a few moments, complaining that, among other things, Tenzan refused to kiss his stupid ring before the match, and thus Bullet Club lost. This is exactly the sort of completely delusional/willing to make any idiotic excuse for himself heel behavior that pro wrestling needs to move away from, but instead we've got Cody and The Addiction doing their best to bring it back in ROH, because Delirious doesn't know how to book effective, strong, modern heels. The idiot with the cartoonish "I'm a crazy goofball who can't even speak coherently" gimmick doesn't know how to book a twenty-first century wrestling product. Shocking, I know.
SUPER JUNIOR TAG TEAM TOURNAMENT FINALS:
Ryusuke Taguchi & ACH vs. Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 8.75/10
Roppongi 3K tried to jump ACH & Taguchi before the bell, because now we have to have that sh*t in every single match, even when it's a match between two babyface teams with no quarrel with each other whatsoever.
Roppongi 3K work over ACH's injured ribs. That was the entire story of the match, and holy sh*t did they tell it well. Just about everything Roppongi 3K did to ACH I this match focused on his ribs, and ACH's selling was masterful. They got so much wonderful drama out of something so simple, and that's all you need if you're this good at it.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, & Gedo) - 6.75/10
THEY'RE RETURNING TO LONG BEACH IN MARCH - Cool.
BULLROPE DEATHMATCH FOR THE NEVEN OPENWEIGHT TITLE:
Minoru Suzuki(c) (w/Suzuki-Gun) vs. Toru Yano - -3/10 (yes, negative!)
If you've got the cuffs on the bullrope, why do you need to tape the cuffs around the wrestlers' wrists? And for me watching it, that should have been a sign of the trouble this match was about to have.
Yano wouldn't let them put the bullrope on his arm and instead assaulted Suzuki. You know... like a heel would. Kanemaru & Desperado then jumped in the ring to attack Yano, which I guess is legal because the match hasn't started yet. In fact, they were actually performing a public service, as this attack let Suzuki escape from Yano's cheating clutches, at which point Suzuki put Yano in an armlock which allowed the referee to finally get the cuff on Yano's arm to force the cowardly Yano to participate in the match he had previously agreed to.
They brawl on the outside for a while, and apparently it is illegal to perform small joint manipulation if you're on the ramp here in this Bullrope DEATHMATCH, because as soon as Suzuki started to do so, the referee ran over to pull him off of Yano. IT'S A F*CKING "DEATHMATCH!" But apparently there are disqualifications, or else why is the referee stopping people from doing things?
Goto came in to save Yano from a beat-down by the guys on the outside. What a moron! Doesn't he realize that if Yano gets crippled, Okada will assign him a new, better tag team partner like Beretta or YOSHI-HASHI or maybe even Ishii?
Anyway, more boredom happened, followed by more overbooking. The ref didn't call for a DQ when he saw Suzuki hit Yano in the face with the chair, but after two chairshots, he intervened to stop Suzuki from hitting him a third time. Because I guess two is okay, but a third chairshot would be a DQ so he stopped Suzuki from hitting Yano.
It was quite clear from watching this match that these guys had absolutely no idea how to work a "Bullrope Match." The rope didn't have a bell for them to hit each other with, there was a grant total of ONE spot where the bullrope was used to forcefully yank someone backwards or off of something, (Suzuki stopped Yano from pulling the turnbuckle pad off), and no one did the "bullrope through the legs for a low blow" trick. It was just Suzuki dragging Yano and/or trying to choke him to death- which these guys do in every other match with a camera cord anyway, so it's not like this is new- plus one spot where Yano tried to use the rope to aid him in as roll-up, and the referee deciding at random points to try to stop Suzuki from doing whatever he was doing to Yano at that moment. Had they never seen a Bullrope Match before? No one could get hem a subscription to the WWE Network to watch, or some Dusty Rhodes tapes, or even a copy of the match that Jay Lethal and Cody Rhodes had in ROH earlier this very year?! This f*cking SUCKED!
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. Marty Scurll - 8.75/10
These two are like Dragon and Nigel or AJ and Daniels; one of those pairs of guys who have amazing chemistry together and yet always manage to make the matches feel different unless they're specifically try to call back to something they've done in the past. Scurll's win was quite the surprise, and unfortunately seems to be hinting that my fear that we're going to get a big four-way at the Tokyo Dome rather than two featured singles matches in this division will come true.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Yup. I was right. For the record, I don't think this will be a bad match by any stretch of the imagination. I think it will be awesome. But I think two singles matches with any combination of these guys will twice as awesome, and, more than any other "minor" divisions, this one deserves that second featured Tokyo Dome match.
IWGP US HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kenny Omega(c) (w/the Young Bucks) vs. Trent Beretta - 9.5/10
Omega gave Trent a suplex onto an upside-down, still-folded, Japanese table, and his back hit right on one of the metal railings on the side of the table. Trent will be extremely lucky to not come out of this with back problems. Then they did the double-stomp through a table and into the opponent spot that Omega did at the Tokyo Dome with Omega, but they've learned their lesson from that match by having a Young Bucks distract the referee throughout all of this.
Omega continued to work the back while Trent worked on Omega's neck, with great selling from both guys. Throw in a great finishing sequence and some very well-built nearfalls, and you've got yourself the match of the night.
KENNY OMEGA PROMO - He puts Trent over as a worthy heavyweight, completing that little storyline. Then he dares anyone to come out and challenge him to a title match... and boy did he get a surprise.
CHRIS JERICHO VIDEO PROMO - This is by far the most shocking thing to happen in wrestling since at least last year's Matt Hardy video at Final Battle, and is very much a reminder that Jericho is probably the single best person in the business at detecting which way the water is running and figuring out how he can make the biggest splash in it. We're getting Jericho vs. Omega at the Tokyo Dome!
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahashi(c) vs. Kota Ibushi - 9.25/10
This was one hell of an intense wrestling match with some excellent storytelling as well. They started off with some wrestling in the beginning with Ibushi trying to go for Tanahashi's injured arm but Tanahashi kept thwarting that strategy and wound up controlling Kota by working over his knee. Kota sold his knee beautifully- even during his comeback, which far too many wrestlers forget to do- and eventually took over the match by just throwing Tanahashi into things headfirst. Then Tanahashi fired up and made his comeback and they started to trade slaps and it reached a whole other level of intensity. The only thing I didn't like was that spot where Kota wouldn't break on five in the corner, but he stopped the referee from disqualifying him by grabbing the referee's arm while continuing to stomp away at Tanahashi, as if the ref somehow can't count and call for a disqualification if you don't let him complete the accompanying hand motion. Other than that one spot, as well as my eternal nitpick in Tanahashi matches- that he always spends the whole match working the knee but always wins with the High Fly Flow rather the Cloverleaf, which targets the knee- this was an amazing match.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Good. Tanahashi cuts the usual show-ending babyface promo and poses with his belt... and then the lights dim and a video plays on the screen of the mysterious "Switchblade," who made some sounds that originally made me think he might be a Protoss, but it turns out that instead he's freakin' JAY WHITE!
Then "Switchblade" Jay White came out. He's got a cool look, but he definitely seemed a little nervous and overwhelmed at the spot he was being put in. He attacked Tanahashi and put him down with a Swinging Reverse STO. Tanahashi took a good bump for it, but it still comes off as lame to me because of how many wrestlers were using it as a finisher from about 2000-2012, and very few of them were anything more than midcarders.
This was an absolutely awesome show from New Japan, with excellent wrestling and some important and exciting surprises. If not for the negative-star match and the six-man waste of time, it would have been an easy Show of the Year candidate, even in a crazy year like this. This is a show that will definitely get people talking, and right now, New Japan deserves it.