JON MOXLEY vs. SHOTA UMINO - 3/10
Umino jumps the bell on Moxley with a dive. Kevin Kelly, who usually gets upset whenever Suzuki-Gun or Bullet Club jump the bell on someone, has no problem with this when Umino does it because Kevin Kelly is a hypocrite, which is one of the worst things a babyface announcer can be.
They had a very good match for the time they got (just under four minutes). Moxley won clean, then cut a promo saying that he wants to be in the G1. Well... there goes my theory that part of the reason they put the US Title on him was to avoid the champ doing a bunch of jobs in the G1.
SHINGO TAKAGI vs. SATOSHI KOJIMA - 6.75/10
Lots of work on the head and kicking out of each other's big stuff. Shingo got the win, which was the right move... but it's also a little awkward that Ospreay said he wanted to face heavyweights but now here is Shingo getting booked against (and beating) a heavyweight before Ospreay does.
JUSHIN "THUNDER" LIGER & YOSHI-HASHI vs. SUZUKI-GUN (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) - 5/10
The dumbf*ck babyfaces turn their backs on Suzuki-Gun so they get jumped from behind before the bell. I have absolutely no sympathy for them. We immediately spill to the outside for the usual Suzuki-Gun bullsh*t. More usual stuff happened to "build" to towards the Suzuki vs. Liger match that should have happened already because they're not actually telling any sort of story here with them. The whole idea of the feud is "Liger and Suzuki will fight at some point."
YOSHI-HASHI rolled Zack up for the win, so that sets up an RPW Undisputed British heavyweight Title match for YOSHI-HASHI. Zack attacked YOSHI-HASHI after the match but the babyfaces actually won the post-match fight for once, with YOSHI-HASHI laying Zack out at the end.
HIROSHI TANAHASHI, JUICE ROBINSON, & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Chase Owens, & Taiji Ishimori) - 5.5/10
Holy crap Tanahashi actually pinned someone with a Slingblade. And a standing one, too, rather than the usual running version.
NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Taichi(c) (w/Miho Abe) vs. Tomohiro Ishii - 7.5/10
Taken on its own, the in-ring work here was great puro-style action, but their attempts at telling a larger story than "we both work the head and it's a contest of wills" wound up being rather incoherent.
Taichi was uncharacteristically sporting for the beginning of this. He wouldn't even take advantage of Ishii's offer for a free shot to hit Ishii full force. Instead he threw some soft-looking strikes that encouraged Ishii to get up. Ishii then knocked Taichi down with one forearm.
Then Ishii grabbed all of Taichi's usual weapons and told him "you don't need any of this" and threw them away. The problem with this was that Taichi hadn't been cheating yet (other than one mutual eye-rake spot). As I just said, Taichi's behavior so far has been uncharacteristically sporting, and even Kevin Kelly mentioned that Taichi has used a lot less bullsh*t while feuding with Ishii than he does with everyone else. And yet here is Ishii telling Taichi "come one, buddy. You don't need to cheat" even though everything they have done so far in the match seems to establish that Taichi has no chance of overcoming Ishii without cheating.
We would then have several minutes of Taichi taking it to Ishii completely cleanly with Ishii selling for him and making him look like an actual threat. Then we got a ref bump caused by Taichi pushing the referee into Ishii... but during this ref bump Ishii thwarted Taichi's attempts at cheating, which merely consisted of two attempted low blows. They traded strikes and some moves and there were dramatic nearfalls, concluding in Ishii winning cleanly.
This was all very strange. It seems to me that either Taichi should cheat and Ishii should have to attempt to overcome an opponent who takes shortcuts, or that Taichi should have his attempts at cheating thwarted early, followed by Ishii challenging/goading him into wrestling a completely clean match, with Ishii even showing him respect after the match no matter the outcome. Instead we got this odd hodgepodge that didn't make coherent sense as a story. Everything they did was logical from the point of view of two men trying to win a wrestling match so I can't say that these spots took hurt the match by their inclusion, but I do think the match would have been better if they had picked one story and stuck with it.
Ref bump but no cheating was able to occur
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH:
Guerrillas of Destiny(c) (w/Jado) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Sanada & EVIL) - 7/10
A very solid match. I props to referee Marty Asami for selling the bump of getting pulled out of the ring in a way that I found it believable that he has out before he was able to see he pulled him out of the ring (of course he correctly assumes that it was Jado, but he didn't actually see it and thus can't act on it).
This is pretty darn stale right now, but the last few minutes of this match actually got me excited to see this feud continue. I've been rather critical of stablemates not making the save for each other in New Japan, so I popped huge when BUSHI came out to prevent Jado from using the Kendo stick. The finish built on what had come before it to work as a great "pull the rug out from under you" finish to keep the babyfaces questing, and now when they run the Guerrillas of Destiny & Jado vs. EVIL, Sanada, & BUSHI as an undercard tag match at the next big show it will feel like it means something rather than just doing a big tag match with other random stablemates for the sake of holding off on booking the title match like it usually feels.
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Dragon Lee(c) vs. Will Ospreay - 9.25/10
An OUTSTANDING athletic junior heavyweight match that did an excellent job of building things up throughout. If something didn't work the first time, the wrestler would hit come back and hit an even bigger version of the move later. Lots of excellent nearfalls and new twists and turns on spots, and we even got a Canadian Destroyer that was treated like a maneuver that this is actually dangerous rather than a flippy thing you can do that looks cool before you fighting spirit out of it and do a double-down.
They teased their big finishers, with being the man to finally manage to hit one and get the win, which is a baffling decision when you consider that just a few days ago he said he wanted to start facing heavyweights, so this way either Ospreay brought that up for no reason or we're going to have the champion tied up in programs with people who can't possibly win his belt. Dragon Lee showed Ospreay respect after the match, then Ospreay cut a promo saying he wants his first title defense to be against Robbie Eagles at Southern Showdown in Australia.
IWGP INTERCONTINENTAL TITLE MATCH:
Kota Ibushi(c) vs. Tetsuya Naito - 8.5/10
Naito German suplexed Ibushi from the apron and Ibushi hit his head on the apron when the plan was to take a face-first bump down to the floor. It was utterly terrifying. Not as quite as bad as Ospreay's last year, but it still looked like Ibushi might well have broken his neck.
After checking on Ibushi, Red Shoes began to count him out, and f*cking Kevin Kelly had the gall to say, "Red Shoes having to do his job here and get to the count." Are you f*cking kidding me? I just sat through an entire tournament of guys brawling all over the building without getting counted out, referees not restarting counts when someone got into the ring and then rolled out again, weapon shots in front of the referee with no DQ, wrestlers manhandling referees, and referees completely inconsistently deciding that the last bit of rule-breaking they didn't do anything to stop was too much or that they thought a cover was too disrespectful so they weren't going to count a pin, and f*cking Kevin Kelly- on the occasions that he even decided to acknowledge the ridiculousness of what he was seeing in front of him- kept justifying it to me by talking about the "referee's prerogative." Well where is your f*cking referee's prerogative now, Kevin?
Ibushi made it back to the ring just in the nick of time. Naito then hit him with a super-poisonrana, in which Ibushi almost died a second time. Ibushi then managed to reverse an attempted Destino into his own finisher, and he dropped Naito right on his head. This is getting scarily similar to Taker vs. Goldberg.
From that point on the match was basically all big moves and counters, and while there was a story with everything targeting the head, it was also extremely terrifying, as there were several more times where people appeared to land on their heads. There was also a spot where Naito picked Ibushi up for something and I assume it was a move because Chris Charlton shouted "Valencia" or something like that and then repeated it, but it looked a lot like Naito lost his balance and that whatever he had been trying to hit turned into a not-quite-Emerald Flowsion. Ibushi took an awesome bump for Destino on the finish. I really hope both guys are okay.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) vs. Chris Jericho - 7/10
They circle each other for a bit and then finally lock up... and we cut right to Tanahashi, sitting at the commentary table doing jack sh*t. If you have to cut to the guy, CUT TO HIM WHILE THEY ARE CIRCLING AND CUT BACK ONCE SOMETHING HAPPENS! Why does New Japan insist on doing this the other way and showing us the wrestlers doing nothing, and then cutting to the commentary table the moment the action starts?
They fought on the outside forever without being counted out. No comments from Kevin Kelly about Red Shoes needing to "do his job" this time, because Kevin Kelly is full of sh*t, which is not how your babyface announcer should come across. Jericho put his hands on Red Shoes several times and wasn't disqualified for it.
That is a minor complaint, but it was the sort of thing that was repeated throughout the match. Actually, A LOT of things were repeated throughout this match. It was like Brock vs. Roman except if instead of having only two moves each, they had seven. In hindsight it seems clear that they were trying to save stuff for a rematch, but it very much had this feeling of repetitiveness to it, and not in a good way. Credit where it's due: They told a decent story with it (Okada did his usual stuff to work over the head and set up for a Rainmaker while Jericho worked over the ribs), but it also felt like it wasn't really able to kick it into that next gear that is the minimum we've come to expect for an Okada main event. That being said, I did enjoy the flash pin finish as something very different from every other Okada match.
Also, do none of these announcers know the Walls of Jericho? Really? And can we please stop it with this talk about "Young Lions' moves." In order for the concept to make sense in kayfabe, you're basically saying that the Young Lions are limited to only a certain set of moves, which would be fine if the Young Lions only wrestled each other, but they don't. They face non-Young Lions all the time, in what talking about the concept of "Young Lions' moves" basically turns into fights with company-mandated unfairness. Can you imagine if in the US Open, players who had not yet competed in five majors weren't allowed to use backhand shots? That's basically what this is... except this is actually worse because you can seriously hurt your opponent in pro wrestling. And really... if a Young Lion decided to go into business for himself and instead of a Boston crab he locked on a cloverleaf or a sharpshooter or whatever, what's the referee going to do? Call for a DQ?
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Jericho attacked Okada after the match and hit him with a chair. He then proceeded to beat Okada all over the ringside area. Despite Okada being a leader of the top babyface stable in the company and one of the biggest babyfaces in company history (Tanahashi) sitting just on the other side of the guardrail at the Japanese commentary table, no one came out to stop Jericho from beating Okada up. Jericho took the beating to the outside and was going to powerbomb Okada through a table he had set up during the match right in front of Tanahashi, but Tanahashi finally got off his lazy ass to make the save. Okada is lucky that Jericho didn't set the table up on the other side of the ring of Jericho might still be beating on him right now.
This was a great show from new Japan, but it still feels disappointing because it completely fails to match up to the great Dominion shows of the past few years. The disappointing main event was certainly part of it, but I think another big part of it was the fact that they basically split it up into two shows by putting the Juice vs. Moxley US Title match and the White vs. Tanahashi match on the BOSJ finals. Dominion has been a perennial Show of the Year contender, and the reason for it was that the card was loaded up with big matches that were all given the time to go out there and deliver. This year we took two of those matches off this show and replaced them with pointless filler. This has me a little worried for their planned two-day Tokyo Dome show next January.