NJPW Road to the Tokyo Dome 2018: Day 1
By Big Red Machine
From December 14, 2018
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER, TIGER MASK IV, TOMOAKI HONMA, & KUSHIDA vs. TOA HENARE, AYATO YOSHIDA, YUYA UEMURA, & REN NATIRA - 6.75/10
The kids are damn good.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs. SHOTA UMINO - 6.75/10
The kids are damn good... and Umino is probably the best of them.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto & Rocky Romero) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka) - 5.5/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. It quickly devolves into the standard Suzuki-Gun BS. Despite that, this match wound up being shockingly good. Probably because Suzuki did about 90% of the work for his team.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Roppongi 3K) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, & Zack Sabre Jr.) (w/Miho Abe) - 6/10
Suzuki-Gun did not jump the bell on their opponents, but that didn't stop this match from quickly devolving into the usual Suzuki-Gun BS. They eventually made it back into the ring and had a decent wrestling match, though.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, BUSHI, & Sanada) vs. BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori, Bad Luck Fale, & the Guerrillas of Destiny) (w/Jado) - 6/10
KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. GEDO - 4/10
Gedo came out walking with a crutch and with his arm in a sling, claiming to be injured. No one was buying it, and Okada came out and tricked Gedo into exposing that neither of his injuries were legitimate. While normally I would prefer this to a babyface just assaulting someone who might actually be injured, I think the way they did this actually goes against what the story of this feud has been, which is that Gedo's betrayal has gotten into Okada's head. We've seen him jump Jay White from behind several times, so why shouldn't he resort to even harsher measures for the man who actually betrayed him- and especially if he thinks Gedo's injuries are fake?
Gedo sprayed both Okada and the referee in the eyes with mace before the bell rang, then pulled his brass knuckles out of his pocket. Then he through Okada around on the outside and hit him in the face with a chair, because apparently that's legal. Back in the ring for more whipping. Okada into things, then back outside for more chairshots. Now we're back in the ring again and Okada is already making his comeback.
Gedo tries to run away but Okada brings him back. Gedo tries to beg for mercy but Okada won't show any, and wasn't fooled into letting his guard down, either, catching Gedo's leg when tries to throw a kick. Jado shows up to cause a distraction, allowing Gedo to hit a low blow and then get the Gedo Clutch for a great false finish. Gedo got the brass knuckles but the referee stopped him from using them, even though he has let Gedo hit Okada with a chair several times over the course of this match.
Attempted interference, ref bumps, etc. etc., Okada eventually gets the win. There were a lot of logic issues here, but the mechanics were pretty beautiful. Jay White predictably laid Okada out at the end.
CHASE OWENS, YUJIRO TAKAHASHI, & THE GOLDEN LOVERS vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI, KUSHIDA, & CHAOS (Will Ospreay & Toru Yano) - 7/10
This just makes it to the minimum acceptable level for a main event for a show like this (actually it was a bit better than that but I took off for Yano hitting his opponent in the head with a chair completely unprovoked. How is that not a heel move?)
WILL OSPREAY PROMO - Great build for his NEVER Openweight Title match against Kota Ibushi at the Tokyo Dome.
Also, Tanahashi cut a promo in Japanese. I assume he was building up his Tokyo Dome main event match against Kenny Omega for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. The fans liked it.
This was a fine little show from New Japan. Okada getting some revenge on Gedo was something that needed to happen and all of the build for the Tokyo Dome was competent, but the thing that will stick with me about this show was inspiring hope for the future. Those dojo trainers are doing some damn fine work.