IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Suzuki-Gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado)(c) vs. Jushin "Thunder" Liger & Tiger Mask IV - 4.25/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the babyfaces during their entrance. The usual Suzuki-Gun crap ensued. They tried to rip the babyfaces masks off. They took the fight into the crowd and hit the babyfaces with weapons without getting DQed. They shoved the referee around without getting DQed. The babyfaces make a comeback but then the shenanigans start, ref bumps, weapons, visual pinfalls, blah blah blah heels win. I don't give a sh*t about these belts anymore. Everyone in Suzuki-Gun who isn't ZSJ or K.E.S. has become a complete and total drag on New Japan card... and, yes I am aware that I'm even including Suzuki in that.
TOGI MAKABE & TOMOAKI HONMA vs. JUICE ROBINSON & TOA HENARE - 5/10
Honma & Makabe win again. I assume they're winning the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles at Wrestle Kingdom, but in the interim it'd be nice to see them being involved in some sort of real feud rather than just having random matches against undercard non-teams.
BULLET CLUB (Adam Page, Chase Owens, & the Young Bucks) vs. BULLET CLUB FIRING SQUAD - 6.25/10
Matt's back got worked over. The heels won clean, pinning Owens, who did a t least get to look quite valiant at the end fighting in in his two-on-one situation.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, & Will Ospreay) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, & Taichi) (w/Miho Abe) - 6/10
Suzuki-Gun jumped the bell on their opponents. Chairhsots in front of the referee, etc. 80% if the match was Suzuki and Ishii having a singles match, making everyone else look like they were just in the match to potentially take the fall. Ospreay pinned Taichi, which should hopefully lead to the NEVER Openweight Title FINALLY being treated like an actual openweight title and us getting some good singles matches that weight classes would otherwise not prevent us from seeing.
THE NEW MEMBER OF LIJ IS... SHINGO TAKAGI - Shingo is definitely the best non-PAC choice available at the moment, but I actually don't like the idea of adding a new member. The one thing that I think LIJ had on all of the other stables was the ability to fit their entire stable onto one team for a big match. This always made LIJ's ten-man tags feel a bit bigger than just pitting any five members of Suzuki-Gun against any five members of CHAOS or Bullet Club, because LIJ was able to have the entire team fight together. You can't do that with six guys.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, & Roppongi 3K) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetusya Naito, BUSHI, Sanada, & Shingo Takagi) - 6/10
Stuff happened. Shingo won with the Last Falconry. But don't get too excited or anything. He didn't pin Okada. He's just there to be another guy.
EVIL vs. ZACK SABRE JR. (w/TAKA Michinoku) - no rating, okay segment
The match never took place because Chris Jericho attacked EVIL during his entrance. He was wearing this big disguise... and yet he totally defeated the purpose of wearing the disguise by also wearing his IWGP Intercontinental Championship belt. That was kind of stupid of him. Anyway, Jericho destroys EVIL and then leaves. If only EVIL were part of some sort of faction and thus had friends who could come out and help him. Oh well.
Zack still wants the match but the refs won't let him have it because EVIL is too hurt, so Zack assaults referee Marty Asami, a heinous crime that I'm sure will result in zero punishment because Zack is not a Tongan. Naito eventually came out to make the save. This was the first time that a Jericho appearance felt rather dull and almost inconsequential.
MATCH TO CROWN A NEW IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TTILE:
Marty Scurll vs. KUSHIDA - 8/10
Kevin Kelly reminded us that in order to get to this match, KUSHIDA "survived a near-blinding" by BUSHI. Yes, BUSHI cheated by TRYING TO BLIND A MAN just to win a wrestling match, and somehow he's still a babyface. The babyface/heel dynamics in this company suck so much. Is it really that hard for Gedo to tell these people "IF YOU ARE A BABYFACE THEN DO NOT CHEAT!?"
They did their usual stuff and had an awesome match. KUSHIDA won.
G1 BRIEFCASE MATCH:
Hiroshi Tanahahsi(c) vs. Jay White (w/Gedo) - 8.5/10
White worked over Tanahashi's knee. They played off of their recent matches very well and for once I thought the ref bumps and shenanigans really helped things. The roll-up finish was an inspired choice because not only does it protect White a little bit but also was really the only finish that could set things up for the...
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - White attacks Tanahashi and the young-boys who come out to help him. Then KAZUCHIKA OKADA MADE THE SAVE FOR HIROSHI TANAHASHI. White feigned leaving but attacked Okada from behind. Okada fought him off, but then got nailed form behind by Gedo. Okada basically no-sold it and landed some punches on Gedo. Jado came out (wearing the new Okada t-shirt) to try to make peace. If they had ended it here, it would have been great, but instead we got the following:
The Bullet Club Firing Squad showed up and grabbed Jado and Gedo. They told Okada to make a choice and attack one of them. Okada hit the ropes to do so but got caught in the predictable Gun Stun, and then beaten down by everyone, including both Jado and Gedo. They then invited Jay White to come back and hit Okada with Blade Runner and he did.
This is basically the New Japan equivalent of the Corporate Ministry. They joined two heel groups together, thus diluting the personalities and goals of both of them and turning them into yet another big stable. This segment killed any intrigue that some in CHAOS might want to go along with White and Gedo, killed the interesting idea of White trying to survive as an individual in the stable-heavy landscape of New Japan, and dilutes the "B.C.O.G.s and people they hand-pick for the group" feeling that the Firing Squad had.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kenny Omega(c) vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Cody Rhodes - 9.5/10
This was a fantastic and extremely creative wrestling match in which everyone played their parts well. Even though the outcome never felt in doubt, the match was still very exciting, and the limited storytelling they did was done very well.
That being said, it did have some big flaws that very much bothered me. Firstly, both Kenny and Cody moved like and came off like complete and total cartoon characters. Another thing that really bugged me was that idiotic spot where Omega was able to stop the count by preventing the ref's arm from hitting the ground. The ref's arm hitting the mat is for cadence; it helps measure the passage of time in a way that is easy to follow for the fans and is audible to the competitors. There is zero reason, however, that if a referee can clearly see that someone's shoulders are down for a three-count that he can't just count out loud even if his arm doesn't hit the ground. Even worse, Kenny appeared to not understand why Ibushi was so angry when Kenny did that. Did Kenny expect Kota to not be angry after Kenny screwed him out of the world title via the bullsh*t means of obstructing the referee (because Kenny clearly couldn't have broken up the pin in time)?
I also greatly dislike the stuff at the end with the chair. Or, rather, I hated that it got zero follow-up of any sort. If Cody's plan of using the chair was so heinous then the Bucks should have stopped him, and Kenny certainly should have treated him like a good buddy in his post-match speech. If hitting someone with a chair is going to be so devastating that Kenny feels the need to shield Kota's body with his own then they should kick Cody out of their group for attempting to do it. It's yet another instance of these guys doing a spot purely to ramp up drama without giving any thought to the logical follow-up that such actions require. It's a drama designed to get a cheap pop in that one moment and then be forgotten about without having any consequences come of it: in other words, it's cheap drama.
POST-MATCH SPEECH - Kenny Omega has the three of them stand together and they put their hands down each other's pants and happily engage in a circle-jerk even though Kenny screwed Kota out of the world title in the most bullsh*t manner possible and Cody tried to maim both of them with a chair and cheat to win the title from them (and don't tell me "there are no DQs in a three-way because the referee pulled Kota off of Kenny for using a f*cking closed fist).
This was yet another New Japan show with some excellent in-ring action (especially from the top matches) but where the booking and stories once again failed to deliver in a positive manner. Gedo reverts back to the same general idea time after time, and the pace of storytelling in the company is likely about to grind to a halt, as Omega told us that the dome main event is pretty much set, and there really isn't anywhere else for many of the other stories (the precious few that there are, anyway) to go between now and the Dome because either the match-ups are already clear and New Japan's booking rarely sets up for gimmick matches well, or because there aren't any stories being told in most of these situations, even in cases like Bullet Club vs. Firing Squad where there is a feud, so whatever angles there are to set up Wrestle Kingdom will almost all take place at Power Struggle next month and then just stall for a month because of the tag league. This is a show you should watch if you're a New Japan fan, but if you're disappointed with the company creatively, this won't do anything to restore your faith (and might even do the opposite).