AYATO YOSHIDA, SHOTA UMINO, TOA HENARE, & TOGI MAKABE vs. MANABU NAKANISHI, YUJ NAGATA, HIROYOSHI TENZAN, & SAOTSHI KOJIMA - 4.75/10
It was nice to see the young-boys not backing down form the grumpy veterans during the pre-match confrontation. This was about what you'd expect for an eight-man opener with these guys in it and going eight minutes.
MICHAEL ELGIN, JEFF COBB, & BEST FRIENDS vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, & the Killer Elite Squad) - 4.25/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. The standard Suzuki-Gun brawling outside the ring and using weapons with no consequences happened, then Smith and Elgin got into the ring and started wrestling. We then got what was essentially four mini singles matches (Elgin vs. Smith, Cobb vs. Archer, Taylor vs. Suzuki, and Iizuka vs. Trent). It was fine to good except for when Iizuka was in there, at which point it stunk. One odd thing that made this feel more like a series of little singles matches was that the non-legal wrestlers were waiting in their corners on the floor instead of on the apron, ready to receive a tag.
Eventually Iizuka tried to hit Trent with the Iron Fingers so Chuck got a chair and hit Iizuka with it for the DQ. Chuck was going pretty crazy and Trent had to physically restrain him (and did not have an easy time of doing so).
CHAOS (Roppongi 3K & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, & Zack Sabre Jr.) (w/TAKA Michinoku) - 6.75/10
Shockingly, Suzuki-Gun did not jump the bell on their opponents. This didn't stop us from getting the usual "early brawling in the crowd leading to a count-out tease" spot, but at least in this match the heels didn't use weapons right on front of the referee and they were on the outside forever, either. Then again, when the referee did start the count-out for the tease, he went way faster than I've ever seen any New Japan referee count, so maybe I accidentally watched it on fast forward.
Zack and Ishii did an excellent job of getting me excited for their Tokyo Dome match, but the junior heavyweights' stuff was very paint by numbers. Ishii in particular really shined here, as coming out of this match not only did I want to see him face Zack, but I was totally down for Ishii vs. Kanemaru as well.
ADAM PAGE, CHASE OWENS, & YUJIRO TAKAHASHI vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, & BUSHI) - 7/10
This was a REALLY exciting match for the time it got. I was expecting a nothing match here considering it's not building anything up for the Dome and one team consists of two undercard guys and a third guy on his way out the door, but this match was great, and everyone (aside from BUSHI) looked excellent. I don't care what the plans for them at New Year Dash are, but if the plan is not a singles match between Page and Shingo, the plans need to change.
KUSHIDA & CHAOS (Toru Yano & Kazuchika Okada) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Bad Luck Fale, & Taiji Ishimori) (w/Jado & Gedo) - 6/10
This was fine for what it was, other than the finish, which looked bad. It's been YEARS now and the Grenade looks bad almost every time but Fale still insists on doing the damn thing.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. Okada tried to keep the fight going, attacking White and Fale. He went for a Rainmaker but White reversed it with the snap Cobra Suplex. Ishimori then hit KUSHIDA with a crutch and laid him out with the Bloody Cross.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUICE ROBINSON, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI, & DAVID FINLAY JR. vs. THE ELITE (Kenny Omega, Marty Scurll, & the Young Bucks) - 6.5/10
This was pretty good, but was brought down by a few points where they just got too cutesy or too cartoonish.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE #1 CONTENDERSHIP MATCH:
Taichi vs. Will Ospreay - 8.5/10
Taichi attacked Ospreay with his microphone stand right before the bell, going after his already-injured ribs. That set the story for this match, with Taichi being a cocky heel and working the ribs while Ospreay was a fantastic babyface and sold very well. When Ospreay got offense in he focused it on the head so they had a bit of a story there as well, and Ospreay eventually overcame both the injury and Taichi to pick up the win. Ospreay got an absolutely AWESOME match out of Taichi here, which is a feat few have been able to achieve over the past few years.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Hirooki Goto(c) vs. Kota Ibushi (w/Kenny Omega) - 7.75/10
The story of the match was Goto working over Ibushi's neck. While the match was great, it really felt like it struggled to hit the level you'd expect from these two guys in a title match in the semi-main event of a New Japan show in 2018. Ibushi got the win and was immediately confronted by Will Ospreay, who just won a shot at this title at the Tokyo Dome.
WORLD TAG TEAM LEAGUE FINALS:
Guerrillas of Destiny (w/Jado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & Sanada) - 6.75/10
So LIJ turned their backs on their opponents like idiots, at which point Jado ran over and hit EVIL in the back with a Kendo stick. The Guerillas then attacked LIJ, at which point the bell sounded to start the match. After ordering for the opening bell to be sounded, the referee proceeded to stand in the ring with his thumb up his ass while the wrestlers brawled all around the building. I was shocked beyond belief when he only stood around doing nothing for an entire minute before starting to count them out instead of doing the usual "let them fight on the outside and hit each other with weapons for several minutes, then only start to count once the heels have returned to the ring while the babyfaces are still down selling six rows deep into the crowd." Thank goodness for small mercies.
Both members of LIJ got their back worked over. This dragged on a VERY long time before finally picking up a bit towards the end. All in all, though, this was absolutely not what you want your World Tag League Finals to be.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Fine. EVIL & Sanada say they want to challenge The Guerillas of Destiny for the IWGP Tag Team Titles at the Tokyo Dome. The Young Bucks came out and noted that they never got a rematch after the last time they lost the belts, so they want in on the match, too.
This was a pretty meh show from New Japan. The Tokyo Dome build was all fine, but of the three matches here that were supposed to mean something, the tag league finals and the NEVER Openweight Title match didn't deliver to the level most people were expecting, and the pleasant surprise that was Ospreay vs. Taichi was not enough to overcome that.