JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, SOBERANO JR., & VOLADOR JR. vs. RYSUKE TAGUCHI, CHRIS SABIN, ACH, & TOA HENARE - 2.5/10
All of the stuff with ACH's football was idiotic. It's a foreign object. Also, why is he carrying a football but wearing rugby headgear? Anyway, they did some dumb sh*t, then they did some random junior heavyweight spots.
TOGI MAKABE, TOMOAKI HONMA, & KUSHIDA vs. BULLET CLUB OG (Robbie Eagles & the Guerrillas of Destiny) (w/Jado) - 6.75/10
I'm really liking Jado in the Firing Squad. This bandana-wearing, kendo stick-carrying Jado stalking around on the outside for any chance to interfere with said weapon makes him feel dangerous, rather than the goofball we've seen for the large majority of this decade. The match was great for the time it got, with an extremely exciting finishing sequence (in which Jado played a central part), which I assume will wind up as the beginning of setting up Ishimori as KUSHIDA's challenger at the Tokyo Dome.
CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Trent Beretta) vs. BULLET CLUB OG (Bad Luck Fale & Jay White) (w/Gedo) - 3.75/10
The match was very short. For completely inexplicable reasons, Gedo decided that Trent should pin Fale here. Or maybe Trent realized Gedo would be busy restraining Okada so he went into business for himself and the roll-up was a shoot and Trent will be fired tomorrow.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Very good. Okada and Jay White had quite the pull-apart. White challenged Okada to a match. Okada suggested they have it right now, but White backed off.
GOLDEN LOVERS vs. DAVID FINLAY JR. & HIROSHI TANAHASHI - 6.75/10
I wonder if Gedo sometimes accidentally has a Freudian Slip and writes Finlay's name down as "David Pin Me" on his booking sheets, because at this point, all he is in New Japan is a designated fall guy. I mean seriously... this match could not have made him look more like a jobber. Tanahashi and Omega start off with a furious exchange of forearms. Then Ibushi and Finlay get tagged in and Ibushi just starts rocking him with forearm after forearm, knocking him down several times. Then Finlay fires up and gets back on his feet and starts throwing forearms... and Ibushi barely sells them, then knocks Finlay back down with just one shot.
This was a very good ten minute tag team match that really made me wish that New Japan could give Tanahashi someone more exciting to team with for matches against the Golden Lovers, the way they've been able to team Okada with Ishii or Ospreay, or Suzuki with Zack. KUSHIDA seems like he should be a possibility, but they have seemed very resistant to allowing him to function as a heavyweight-level star without another junior heavyweight present (especially when you compare him to Ospreay or even Scurll).
SUPER JR. TAG LEAGUE 2018 FINALS:
Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi & BUSHI) Roppongi 3K (w/Rocky Romero) - 8/10
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Taichi(c) (w/Miho Abe) vs. Hirooki Goto - 4/10
Being a member of Suzuki-Gun, Taichi attacks Goto from behind before the bell. At this point, I almost have to blame Goto, though. Why would you ever turn your back on a member of Suzuki-Gun when you know they jump people from behind at the beginning of every match?
He hit Goto with a Backdrop Driver that apparently knocked Goto out, and yet the referee wouldn't award Taichi the match. Taichi didn't help his own cause much by pulling Goto up at two 0when the referee finally let him go for the pin. Goto is pretty clearly unable to defend himself at the moment, so why doesn't the referee call for the bell for Goto's safety?
Or why doesn't he call for the bell because Taichi just threw him down. Didn't putting your hands on a referee used to be a DQ? Now Taichi has Goto on the outside and the referee isn't counting them out. He goes out to tell at Taichi so Taichi pushes him down again. There was no DQ for that, or for Tiachi hitting Goto with a chair. I didn't think it was possible, but this whole "Goto is barely conscious" thing has managed to make the usual stupid Suzuki-Gun bullsh*t match even stupider. But in their defense, how are they supposed to have a match without the same stupid set-up for the "count-out tease that no one ever buys" spot? That would mean they would have to, like, actually be creative and stuff, and that would be work, and work is hard. This way they get to waste over a quarter of their time with zero effort or excitement. And isn't that what this is about? Getting through your match while putting in as little effort as possible?
They then proceeded to have the usual match about people working each other's heads over. Goto won the belt back, so there goes any chance of an interesting story of Jr. Heavyweight Ospreay challenging a heavyweight Taichi for the belt. This is also our second straight "Goto loses the belt but then wins it right back" in the past six months.
RPW BRITISH HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Tomohiro Ishii(c) vs. Minoru Suzuki - 6.5/10
Holy crap Suzuki actually waited for the bell before attacking Ishii. This was the same damn match I've seen these guys have a million times with all of the no-selling and the letting the other guy hit you in the face and the little taunting kicks instead of actually following up when you have an advantage. It's not "professional see who is tougher," it's "professional wrestling." You are trying to win a sporting contest, not see who is tougher. Guys taking turns forearming each other in the face for minutes on end is boring, no matter how well they sell.
Yes, they told a tightly-focused story of guys working on each other's head and they didn't overdo the no-selling, but I feel like I've seen this match from these two a million times already, and that it's the same match they have with eighty percent of the other guys on the roster, too, and I'm tired of it. I mean... Suzuki used to do MMA! Surely the man knows more moves than strike to the head, kick to the back, big boot, sleeper hold, and Gotch-style Piledriver, right? USE THEM.
TETSUYA NAITO vs. ZACK SABRE JR. (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 8.75/10
This was a really awesome and exciting match that combined the best of Zack Sabre Jr. with the best of Naito's ability to use his Lucha Libre to change things up rather than the usual Destino overkill. Naito could have sold his knee better and the usual lax count-out enforcement means that if the ref had been doing his job, Zack would have won, but other than that, this match was awesome.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Chris Jericho(c) vs. EVIL - 8/10
Umm... these two keep saying they're going to MURDER each other. Am I the only one getting concerned? Jericho had two masks on. EVIL let him take the first one off, but then attacked him while he was taking the second off. Let this be a lesson for you, kids: don't wear a second mask for no reason.
Look... if you want to have a no DQs match then that's fine. But all I ask is that you TELL ME BEFOREHAND, and then that you stay consistent with it. You can't have the rules only apply when you want them to.
Other than that issue, this match was awesome. I really love the raw feel of this Jericho New Japan matches, and EVIL put on a better babyface performance than I've ever seen him put on. I think Sanada is a much better wrestler, but there is no questioning the fact that EVIL has a hell of a lot more personality, and having personality is what will set you apart (especially somewhere like New Japan, where most of the roster is really darn great).
Kevin Kelly claimed that EVIL "has had success after success here in the Edion Arena," which really isn't true. He was 8-5 in this building going into this match, but if you take out pointless undercard tags, he is at best 3-3 (3-4 if you want to count the LIJ vs. CHAOS ten-man tag from last year's Power Struggle as important), just 2-3 in singles matches, and while it is true that he did beat Okada in this building in last year's G1, since then he was on the losing side at last year's Power Struggle, failed in challenging Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title at New Beginning in Osaka 2018, won a pointless G1 undercard tag, then lost a G1 match to Okada the next night. One win in your last four- and with the win coming in by far the last important of those matches, no less- is not what I would call "success after success." Basically, what I'm saying is that if you're an announcer, don't be half-assed when you're doing your homework.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Jericho attacked EVIL after the match. Naito came out to make the save, then challenged Jericho to a match for the IC Title, which will presumably take place at the Tokyo Dom, despite Jericho's insistence that the match would not happen ever, anywhere.
This was a pretty great show from New Japan, with the good mostly outweighing the bad, and the direction for Wrestle Kingdom XIII becoming even more clear. The show had its disappointments, to be sure, but those were matches I didn't have high hopes for in the first place. It was nice to see them give EVIL a chance to main event, even if it was just a set-up for Naito to be the one to beat Jericho. Personally, I think there might have been more long term gain in actually having EVIL beat Jericho and Naito lose to Zack tonight, setting up Naito vs. Jericho II without the belt on the line and EVIL vs. ZSJ for the IC Title. This would follow up on the idea announcers had been pushing on the last few big shows that Zack has EVIL's number, which you would emphasize once again with a win in the G1 Tag League, then have Zack take the belt from EVIL at the Tokyo Dome while Naito beats Jericho. You then build to Zack vs. Naito with the idea that Zack has beaten Naito in their past three singles meetings and Zack just defeated EVIL in a match with a similar story. Naito would win the belt, then setting up Jericho getting his title rematch in a rubber match with Naito at MSG. This way, you don't blow the Zack vs. Naito story on nothing, and give both Zack and EVIL a bigger spotlight at the Dome, as well as the rub of having actually held a major New Japan title.