ROPPONGI 3K vs SUZUKI-GUN (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) - 5/10
Suzuki-Gun jump the bell on their opponents. Then, moments later, they got the heat a second time by faking an injury. Why did you jump the bell on the babyfaces if it wasn’t going to matter at all?
We went to the outside for the usual whipping people into the guardrails and beating them up in the crowd leading to the Count-Out Tease That No One Ever Buys™, which, as it always does, leads to the long bbayface in peril segment. This time the babyface was Sho. I am so sick of these patterned undercard matches from Suzuki-Gun… so get ready for a whole tournament full of them, starting on Wednesday, including a rematch of this match, which makes me wonder why this match was even booked. Suzuki-Gun cheated to win a relatively dull match in which you could clearly tell that they were holding back for their match in the actual tournament.
TOGI MAKABE & TORU YANO vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI & TOMOAKI HONMA (w/Wataru Inoue) - 0.5/10
Much goofery occurred… but even in the match with the goofs, we’ve still got to whip people into the guardrails, because we can’t go one single match without that happening. Even Tanahashi got in on the goofage. He and Yano gave each other inverted atomic drops that they sold as low blows even though the move is not actually a low blow. This all happened right in front of the referee, so if these actually were low blows, why was there not a disqualification?
This was a weak match often had daylight showing on their strikes. I’m not even sure why I’m being so nice as to not give this DUD.
LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) vs. SUZUKI-GUN (DOUKI & Taichi) - 3.25/10
We start off with DOUKI having good little segments with each LIJ member but then we spilled to the outside for a lot of the usual bullsh*t. The heels got the heat on Shingo. Naito gets the hot tag and has a good segment with Taichi. Then Taichi got his microphone stand and hit Shingo with it for the DQ. As opposed to earlier in the match when DOUKI was choking Shingo with a weapon and wasn’t DQed.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Meh. Naito doesn’t give a sh*t that this asshole just blindsided his partner with a weapon shot to the head. He’s just stands there and laughs while this heel attacks an innocent referee. Taichi tries to attack Naito but Naito sees it coming. Taichi hits Naito with the mic stand and beats Naito up so I guess he’s getting the next title shot (DOUKI counting the pinfall certainly seems to indicate that). Here’s an idea: if you want Taichi to have a title shot at Naito, why not having him actually BEAT Naito so that we think there is a snowball’s chance in hell that you’ll actually put the belt on him when the match comes?
JUSHIN “THUNDER” LIGER vs. MINORU SUZUKI - 0.5/10
Liger is shirtless and in his “Battle Liger” gear. They grapplef*cl for a bit, including Liger surviving move that beat him in their MMA fight seventeen years ago, which was a nice touch. Liger eventually got Suzuki in a submission hold and wouldn’t break it when Suzuki got to the ropes. The ref counted to four and Liger still wouldn’t break the hold at which point the referee disqualified Liger.
Just kidding. That’s what would have happened in this feud made any sense. Instead the referee just restarted the count from one. This time Liger decided to break. But no. We’re supposed to think that all of their other matches don’t count because this is specifically a rematch of their MMA fight and they’re doing grapplef*ck because it’s supposed to be like MMA. DO you know what happens when a fighter doesn’t obey the referee’s instructions and commits a major offense in an MMA fight? HE/SHE GETS DISQUALIFIED.
Liger knocks Suzuki to the outside, and you know what that means: It’s whip someone into the guardrails time. Liger got a chair but the referee wouldn’t let him use it. While Liger and the referee were fighting over the chair, Suzuki recovered and used this distraction to hit Liger with a big boot. The ref apparently too a bump off of this so now it’s Suzuki’s turn to whip Liger into the guardrails. Suzuki then got a chair and beat the crap out of Liger with it.
Suzuki starts going for Liger’s mask. The referee gets up and tries to pull Suzuki off while simultaneously counting. Suzuki shoves the referee down, which is also not a DQ. We got the standard BS speech from Kevin Kelly about how while this isn’t a no DQs match, the referee is going to be super-lenient because if we don’t get a satisfying conclusion, these two guys will just keep fighting. Well in that case why wasn’t this booked as a no DQs match?
After giving the referee another shove, Suzuki goes right back after Liger’s mask. WHY? The whole story of this is that Suzuki wanted to goad Liger into agreeing to the promised match, and so he spent months attacking him and trying to rip his mask off, etc. to get him to do that. Well he’s got his match now, so why is he still going after Liger’s mask?
More going after the mask happened, leading into the part of the match where Suzuki does a forearm or two to put the other guy down and the other guy crawls around and sells for a while, rinse, wash, repeat. I have no sympathy for Liger right now, as the story appears to be that Liger was coward for seventeen years, and now that they have their match, Liger was the first one to try to cheat.
Anyway, Liger makes a comeback but Suzuki reverses and attempted brainbuster into the sleeper hold. In every single Minoru Suzuki match we see, it takes F*CKING FOREVER for the opponent to go out. In fact, it takes so long that 95% of the time Suzuki just gives up on the hold and goes for the Gotch-style Piledriver instead. But not this time. This time in just a few seconds, Liger is so far out that Suzuki just drops him and starts clapping like he’s won. Then he inexplicably goes for a pin on a man he believes the referee should be declaring unconscious. If Suzuki thought Liger was unconscious, why didn’t he just have the referee check him while he was in the hold, LIKE WOULD HAPPEN IN EVERY OTHER MATCH?
This was all done so that it could be revealed that Liger was playing possum and could catch Suzuki in a submission when Suzuki went to pin him. This might sound like a brilliant spot to some, but in reality it’s completely stupid, as Liger’s plan only works because Suzuki did not one but two completely illogical things.
Liger worked over Suzuki’s arm a bit, but Suzuki got the sleeper hold again. Not having learned his lesson Suzuki once again let the sleeper hold go in order to do something else. This time it was his usual Gotch-style Piledriver, which Liger, of course, reversed.
Liger hit a brainbuster for a nearfall but Suzuki took over again. Cue fighting spirit spots. Eventually Suzuki hit the Gotch-style Piledriver for the win, finally ending this match.
This sucked. A lot. I’ve already gone into all of the things I found to be stupid and illogical, but on top of all of that, there is one more important point. We spent months building up to this match. They’re finally facing off in a singles match. Liger’s got different gear on to signify that he’s not the same Liger. Except that he pretty much was. And Suzuki was the same Suzuki. And that was the problem. Aside from Liger trying to use a chair and minute or two of grapplef*ck early on, this wasn’t really any different from what we see in every Suzuki-Gun match, which means I’ve already spent six months watching these two guys do the majority of this match. Seeing Liger pull out the brainbuster again was cool, but other than that he was the usual babyface in peril Liger on the mat selling and getting his mask ripped at that we’ve been seeing for years, and that I’ve seen do this same stuff with Suzuki in tag match after tag match for six months. The whole idea of this match was that it would be something different, but it wasn’t even close.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Moronic. Suzuki gets a chair but then decides that instead of beating Liger up, he’s going to thank him and show him respect now, because apparently this time was different than the other million times they’ve faced each other in tag matches. The idea is supposed to be that Suzuki no longer thinks Liger is a coward for not giving him the match he wanted, but it’s not like Liger has been shying away from fighting him during any of their various encounters over the seventeen years since Liger chickened out an MMA rematch, so it’s obvious that it wasn’t Liger being a coward that prevented Suzuki from getting this match for so long but rather New Japan management not booking a singles match that both men have wanted for months because… umm… I guess the office is just really lazy. Anyway, the point is that if it was the office that was impediment to the match (which is what all of the kayfabe evidence supports) then why has Suzuki’s opinion of Liger changed?
IWGP JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Will Ospreay(c) vs. El Phantasmo - 7.5/10
The story going into this match is that El Phantasmo claims to have turned over a new leaf, completely out of nowhere. He claims he only now realizes that cheating and being a dick are not the New Japan way. What kind of pro wrestler doesn’t know that cheating and other such bullsh*t are frowned upon everywhere, and have been particularly anathema to Japanese pro wrestling? If Ospreay believes him, he’s a f*cking moron.
El Phantasmo had promised “no Bullet Club at ringside” but Ishimori came out with him. He then sent Ishimori to the back. Why did Ishimori come out with him at all if El Phantasmo had said he didn’t want anyone at ringside? It’s clearly all being done for show… and yet Ospreay, like a moron, sends Robbie Eagles to the back as well. WHY? Having him there is perfectly fair so long as he doesn’t get involved in any way, and he hasn’t done so before, so why would will think Robbie would suddenly decide to taint this match? It’s not good sportsmanship; it’s walking into an obvious trap that only the dumbest human being on Earth could possibly believe.
Five minutes later, when El Phantasmo claimed to have poked Ospreay in the eye by accident and then went and raked first his eyes and then his back, Kevin Kelly said “I actually believed him!” Like I said, only the dumbest human being on Earth could have possibly believed that El Phantasmo was a changed man.
They fought on the outside forever without getting counted out. El Phantasmo hit Ospreay in the head with a chair and wasn’t DQed. They also did some stuff to further an angle in MCW for an Ospreay vs. Gino Gambino match.
They had a terrifying fight on a high-up place. They did their stuff really well and as safely as possible (though I’m not really sure how safely it’s possible to brawl on a balcony edge). It’s the sort of spot I could appreciate if this was a match where they shouldn’t have already been counted out ninety-three times over. When they got back to the ring, El Phantasmo proceeded to stand on Ospreay’s testicles right in front of the referee, who initiated a five-count instead of doing his job correctly and calling for the DQ. Fortunately for Ospreay, he seems to have balls of steel, because one El Phantaso took his foot off his testicles, he just sat up and grabbed him by the waist and gave him a spider suplex.
They did stuff and teased a CR2 on the apron, resulting in Ospreay coming off the guardrail to catch a diving El Phantasmo with a cutter in mid-air. They both crashed down to the floor… and apparently there are count-outs now, even though there weren’t before, because we’ve got to get our count-out tease in.
El Phantasmo made it back in but then ate Ospreay’s sequence of big non-Stormbreaker moves but Ishimori pulled the referee out of the ring. He went to hit Ospreay with a title belt but Robbie Eagles ran in and made the save… as opposed to every other time in this company when no one runs in to make the save because… um…
Eagles drags Ishimori to the back. Meanwhile, back in the ring, El Phantasmo punches Ospreay in the nuts and hits him with the title belt, then gets the referee and hits a big splash but Ospreay kicks out. From that point on the match was exciting and dramatic and built wonderfully. Heck, it did a lot of that before that point as well. But it’s one of those matches that you have to turn your brain off to be able to enjoy every part of because the inconsistent enforcement of the rules makes it clear that these guys were more concerned about getting pops than making sure their match made sense.
CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jay White, Yujiro Takahashi, & KENTA) (w/Gedo) - 6.75/10
Standard undercard fare.
NO DISQUALIFICATIONS MATCH FOR THE VACANT IWGP US TITLE:
Juice Robinson vs. Lance Archer - 8/10
Having a no DQs match would feel a lot more important if 85% of New Japan matches didn’t have someone do something illegal right in front of the referee and not get disqualified for it. These two had an awesome weapons match where the story was basically one of blunt force, be it hitting someone with something, running into something, or throwing someone into something. Archer won but wouldn’t relinquish the claw after the match so David Finlay Jr. made his big return to make the save.
G1 BRIEFCASE MATCH:
Kota Ibushi(c) vs. EVIL - 6.75/10
We just had something specifically called a no DQs match, but we have to have a chairshot in this one and the referee getting shoved down when he tries to stop it and there being no DQ for any of this because EVIL absolutely must get his stupid spot in.
This was one of those matches that I just couldn’t get into because it felt like their top priority was accumulating snowflakes instead of telling a story. It felt like they were doing stuff they thought would be cool and feel epic rather than telling a coherent story. It was a lot of segments where moves were quickly reversed several times followed by a double-down.
IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH:
Kazuchika Okada(c) vs. Sanada - 8.5/10
Both guys worked over the head and chased their finishers. Okada survived the Skull End for a long time, several times. Most importantly, though, Sanada proves that he is a dumbf*ck who is incapable of learning from his past mistakes, as he once again had a perfectly effective Skull End locked in on the world champion but gave it up to go for another move. He also had Okada in the Paradise Lock but chose to- in Kevin Kelly’s own words “free Okada” with a dropkick to the butt instead of stomping his helpless opponent in the head until the referee stopped the match. I know this is something I harp on, but it does truly get in my way of enjoying Sanada’s big matches and especially challenges for the world title, as he comes across like someone who easily could have become world champion if only he wasn’t as dumb as a doorknob.
POST-MATCH SEGMENT - Didn’t care for it. Sanada is crying in the ring. I assume this is supposed to remind us of Okada crying after losing to Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom IX, but unlike Okada there (and here) and I have no sympathy for Sanada because HE COULD HAVE BEEN THE CHAMPION IF HE HAD JUST LEFT HIS SUBMISSION HOLD IN.
Okada calls out Ibushi and Ibushi says he’ll win both the IC Title and Okada’s title at the Tokyo Dome. This offends Okada, because apparently Okada is overly-sensitive.
This was a rather disappointing show from New Japan. The second half was good, but there were too many bad or pointless matches dragging the show down, and some of the others could have been greatly improved with just a few fixes. It was also not a show that has really given me anything to care about or look forward to aside from Okada vs. Ibushi at the Tokyo Dome, so it’s entirely possible that I’m done with NJPW for the year.