Introduction - It's time for "NWK reviews more darksided New Japan." Interesting here are the amount of mid-2000s gaiins on display, one of which is Brock Lesnar. Will I actually like it this time, or will I end up slushing through it like the world's worst storm? Let's find out.
Show opening - Absolute madness. First we get the opening package as seen from the arena, which was cool. But then we get a rundown of the card, in English? Great right? No! Because instead of actually cutting to the VTRs they're showing, the either get filmed from way too far away or entirely too close, to the point where individual pixels are zoomed in on. We get a weird zoom in on the word "chapter" in the show graphic. What hallucinogens were the producers on?
Osamu Nishimura & Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu & Tomohiro Ishii - 6.5/10
Fujinami and Choshu opening a card? Ishii so young? Two things messing with my mind right away.
We get a nice little education on who's heel, when Choshu breaks clean from a lockup in the ropes, whereas Fujinami doesn't. Then we get old school strong style, by which I mean, "I'm powering you into this move whether you like it or not" until lockups in the corner get the younger guys tagged in. Cue some of the most ridiculously stiff offense I've ever heard when Ishii tags in. Choshu gets the Sharpshooter in on Fujinami , and waits until the referee can detain Nishimura to lock it in. Fujinami just comes and starts striking Choshu, which he no-sells and just puts in the Sharpshooter anyway. Ishii and Choshu use the opportunity to tag in and get some double teams. Now Fujinami and Ishii are beating the shit out of each other. Nishimura gets tagged in, rolling elbowed by Ishii and then Lariated by Choshu. The referee takes way to long to get Choshu out of the ring and demand Ishii break a Liontamer in the ropes. Nishimura makes his own comeback, and tags in Fujinami who gets a dragon sleeper. Team Fujinami then works over Ishii's leg. Choshu stomps a figure four to get it broken up, but Nishimura just locks it back in. A rope break constitutes another figure four, which leads to a four way, and the bell ringing for the submission win on for Fujinami and Nishimura.
This was a GREAT opener, and full of that delicious combination of hard hitting offense and logic that you really only see in Inoki-era strong style.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki vs Koji Kanemoto & Wataru Inoue - 8.5/10
Takaiwa and Sasaki join us from Zero-1. I like Sasaki already, mouthing off and shoving people in the introduction.
Sasaki takes down Koji and that's what starts us off, but Koji gets on top of it and starts beating the shit out of him. Inoue gets tagged in, at which point they double team him with an interesting High-Low-esque maneuver and knock Takaiwa off he apron. Inoue whiffs a kick, so that's Sasaki's cue to go into a Strong Style strike exchange, with Sasaki reciprocates, and wins. Sasaki goes after Koji which allows Inoue to throw a German Suplex which Sasaki barely rotates in time for. Team New Japan goes for a double team but Sasaki takes them both down with an interesting double clothesline that looks more like a spear. He finally hot tags to Takaiwa. Takaiwa runs wild until Koji just gets back in and runs wild himself. Now it's time for Takaiwa to get kicked in the chest while his arms are held back in a quasi-camel clutch. Ouch. Sasaki is down because Koji kicked him in the head. Takaiwa makes his own comeback, but Koji no sells a Rick Steiner-esque powerslam and kicks him in the head, bringing it back for Team New Japan. Inoue takes a Super Powerbomb counter from a Huricanrana, which is so gnarly the ref has to check on him. Koji basically soldiers through Team Zero-1's stuff. Now Inoue and Saski have a ridiculously heated strike exchange, which includes Sasaki just throwing his weight into a clothesline which inoue no sells, and elbows the shit out of him! Inoue gets an arm hold, but no sells Takaiwa's attempts to break it up, and it breaks down into a four way. Takaiwa breaks up a dramatic ankle hold on Sasaki. Team Zero-One gets back into it, but Koji gets the cleanest roll-through on a heel hook I've ever seen. Sasaki really sells desperation well, grabbing onto the ref to prevent tapping until Takaiwa breaks it up. Sasaki and Koji do a double down on a strike exchange. Takaiwa and Inoue tag in. Takaiwa has the momentum, and blocks an Inoue attempt at a spear with a TERRIFYING Buckle Bomb where Inoue lands on the bottom turnbuckle. This, followed by a lariat only gets a two and a half count. Inoue converts his arm hold into a rolling pin for a two and a half count. Takaiwa nearly necks Inoue dropping him on the Double Powerbomb. A weird judo takedown gets the pin for Team Zero 1 because Inoue is near death.
WOW! That was NOT the war I was expecting, but it's the war I got. Inoue, Koji, and Sasaki were MVPs. Unfortunately Takaiwa was less talented than the other three, and one of the two things he could do, especially when all eyes were on him, looked horribly unsafe. Still this was a great match!
Post match - Inoue is hurt, as literally everyone at ringside is tending to him. On the other hand, the New Japan corner people and the Zero-1 corner people get into it. I'd be willing to get into more Zero-1 vs New Japan if I could find it.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Naofumi Yamamoto, Takashi Iizuka & Yutaka Yoshie vsKamikaze, Kohei Sato, Ryouji Sai & Shinjiro Otani - 4.5/10
Otani and company are also from Zero-1. Sato and Sai are the current Intercontinental Tag Team Champions but would end their nearly half year reign two days later Tenzan, , and Iizuka on one team? Those poor unfortunate Zero-1 souls. Kamaikaze is called "Mr. Moonsault" which is a contender for best nickname, and Otani, who looks like he's possessed by the same Feudal Japanese demon that would go on to possess Minoru Suzuki just has a sword with him..
This immediately breaks down into an eight way, but Yoshie and Sai start. They have a worked shoot fight, with a healthy dose of Strong Style slapping the piss out of each other. Yamamoto refuses to break on a rope break in the Zero-1 corner, which starts another 8 way. Yamamoto gets tagged in in the chaos and takes his licks in a strong style exchange with Choi. Sato gets tagged in and now it's his turn to kick some ass. Iizuka gets tagged in and the crowd pops in anticipation of the ass-whupping that's about to happen. Iizuka stops a mudhole in Sato. Tenzan tags in now, and does Tenzan things until he's taken to the Zero-1 corner. Kamikaze and Otani tag in, each allowing an illegal triple team behind the ref's back. It very nearly breaks down into an 8 way again after Otani does a dropkick in the tree of woe. Tenzan and Otani briefly throw hands, until Yamamoto gets tagged in and gets thrown into the Zero-1 corner, at which point everyone takes turns beating the shit out of him. After some mounted slaps, we get people from New Japan illegally entering the ring again. Otani facewashes Yamamoto for an eternity. and does the running boot twice. Yamamoto finally tags in to Iizuka who runs wild, but Sato brings it back. Yamaoto breaks up a Sato/Sai double team which allows Iizuka to get back into it. Yoshie finally gets tagged in, and another Sato/Sai double team invites Tenzan back into the ring. Tenzan gets tagged in and runs wild on Sai but misses a headbutt. Sai tags in Kamikaze, while Saito and Otani knock the rest of Team New Japan off the apron. Kamikaze does his moonsault and gets a two. Tenzan gets up after a foiled double team and gets a near fall after some moves on Kamikaze. Tenzan hits his tombstone variant for the three.
This was every Suzuki Gun vs CHAOS gang of young boys/undercarder match you've seen in the undercard of every New Japan show for going on three years now. The heels beat up on the Young boy but have trouble with the slightly bigger stars. What's more, this was more or less the Tenzan vs Sato/Sai hour, as they did most of the lifting. At least the Zero-1 characters were interesting to the point I wasn't completely bored out of my skull.
Post match - A big brawl happens. This wouldn't be so boring if we hadn't seen this literally a match ago.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match Lucha Libre rules
CTU (Hirooki Goto & Minoru) (c) vs Felino & Negro Casas - 6.25/10
Shout out to Cagematch for not saying this is Lucha rules, thus making me have to infer that from a language I'm not fluent in. Casas and Felino get a big mariachi style entrance. As they should as they are two thirds of the IWRG Intercontinental Trios Champions, Casas is also half way through a 2 year reign as CMILL World Middleweight Champion.
Minoru and Felino do a crazy 90's Lucha exchange to start, glad to see the art is still alive in 2005. CTU takes the head by interrupting a Casas moonsault and distracting the ref while Minoru messes up Felino on the outside. The Mexicans get submissions on both members of CTU, and at this point I realize there are two refs. The second ref just leaves after this spot though so why bother? Casas botches a running move and rolls over the turnbuckle and to the floor. The heels work over Felino, until he makes his comeback, stopping himself on the ropes mid-tope, and hitting a triangle crossbody onto CTU instead.. The luchadores ram Minoru balls first into the corner, working over Goto for a two count. Felino hits a moonsault that Goto. Casas and Felino do a double basement dropkick to both sides of a sitting Goto, which didn't look fun. Minoru takes a handspring elbow, and now that Goto is out, he's legal. Minoru takes near fall. Minoru gets saved from more pinfalls by Goto. Minoru locks in his armbar but Casas breaks it up. The Mexicans narrowly have a miscue from a baseball slide on the outside, which allows Minoru to hit a big dive to the outside. Minoru breaks up yet another Casas pinfall. The match breaks down, and Minoru subdues Felino so Goto can hit Casas with an Olympic Slam for the three count.
This was a bit strange. On one hand, the Lucha rules really allowed both teams to get over the chaos of such a match, and CTU played good wormy heels, which is rare for puro wrestlers of this era . On the other hand, they only really played into it about the last third. Still, it's not often you see such even momentum swings in a match, so there were enough things going on to make this interesting.
Charlie Haas and Mark Jindrak vs Team JAPAN (Kendo Kashin and Manabu Nakanishi) - 5.5/10
The title card graphic says "New Japan vs WWE" which is a lie, as Jindrak and Haas were both released in July. Jindrak also looks like Dave Meltzer when he's got a crew cut. Team Japan comes out to "Miserlou" of all things, and Manabu is doing a one man Gracie Train which just kind of looks...odd? Kendo has handcuffs on for some reason which Manabu must remove. Kashin also has two belts, but his Wikipedia is anemic so I can't be arsed to look it up.
Haas and Jindrak comically demonstrate shaking hands, as if Japanese people don't know how,, and attack Team Japan when they go to do it. Team Japan gets back momentum though, and does a running sweep/dragon screw double team which looked really cool. The Americans take momentum back, and Charlie hoots and hollers like a maniac, proofing that they are, in fact, American. Kashin teases leaving I think, so Manabu throws him in the ring. Kashin and Haas have a cool technical exchange which ends when Kashin escapes a camel clutch by biting the finger for a long period of time. Jindrak and Manabu tag in, and Jindrak attempts to not look like a bitch, but Manabu is too manly to allow that. Kendo gets in for a turn but the heels cheat to give Jindrak some momentum. The Americans cut off Kendo's comeback, Kendo gets tagged in and runs wild. The Americans have the heat again after a pin breakup. A goofy spot sees Manabu throw Hass into Jindrak from a Torture Rack to break up a Fall Away Slam. Manabu knocks into Kendo mid torture rack, which I thought would play into the finish, bu Manabu just pins Haas with the Torture Rack neckbreaker for the win.
This was the world's most average tag match, with a few fun flourishes that put it a notch above the rest.
Matt Morgan vs Yuji Nagata - 1/10
Yeah...this is a match that happened in real life. Also repeating the same lie with the "New Japan vs WWE" title card. Also Matt Morgan's nickname is "207 centimeters" which struck me as funny
The story of the match is that Nagata uses his martial arts and speed to fall the big guy but Morgan, complete with a lumbering 80's monster gate, out-powers him. Morgan skulks around the ring after being dropkicked off the apron like he's Stan Hansen, and tries to move the guardrails...BUT HE CAN'T! I don't know if someone said, "Oh yeah go ahead and do that it'll make you look scary" and then bolted the guardrails into the floor as a rib, or if Morgan is too weak to move them, but it looks so much like someone playing pretend it's comedic. Morgan eventually does get to prove his strength by countering an armbar being hooked into a Sidewalk Slam. Yuji fires back but Morgan hits Blue Justice with a stiff looking boot, and an elbow. Morgan nearly breaks his shoulder not knowing how to take a T-Bone as Nagata makes his comeback. Nagata finally neutralizes the arm which negates Morgan's ability to do power moves. Morgan takes half of a diving Lou Thesz press for a two. Morgan hits a super soft looking Black Hole Slam for a two. Nagata tries more shit, but a suplex gets countered into what would become the future Hellavator, which looks like it about wrecks poor Yuji. Morgan gets the three.
As a Morgan mark, even keeping in mind this isn't "2009, got a bunch of experience working with the TNA stars" Matt Morgan, I still have to say this sucked. You see little glimpses of what makes Morgan unique, such as the big boot over the ropes, bur the decision to make him the lumbering 80's Goliath while having him barely squeak one out was a bad move. The guard rail failure didn't help matters either.
Nakamura and Tanahashi in Mexico - Weird. This is footage from their brief excursion to CMLL. We see footage of them driving, training, and wrestling. They wax philosophical on the differences between puro and lucha. The narrator touches oh so briefly on Kawada and Anjo, their opponents tonight.
Lesnar/Fujita/Chono video package - Lesnar hadn't gained his personality yet, and his generic babyface verbiage makes me love and adore Paul Heyman even more. This is also Chono's G1 Title shot, poor bastard. Chono and Fujita are boring promos also.
The commentators wax philosophical about the matches we just saw hyped. They also have to throw up a rules graphiic for a three way because they're so rare in New Japan
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title / NWA World Junior Heavyweight Title Match.
Black Tiger IV (c) [NWA] (w/ The Counter Terrorism Unit) vs Tiger Mask IV (c) [IWGP] - 9/10
Tiger Mask is accompanied by children dressed as Tiger Mask. Black Tiger IV is Rocky Romero
Tiger Mask starts out like a house of fire, and BT gets the heat by blocking a Tiger Suplex and kicking Mask in the head. BT powders out and throws at fit. Meanwhile Tiger Mask is seated down, selling the blow. I like this, it goes understated in wrestling, but especially in puro, how dangerous blows to the head can be. They reset, and chain wrestle, which renders the kick to the head irrelevant despite being a cool bit of storytelling in a vacuum. Now Mask has control and works the neck, presumably for the Tiger Suplex? They trade lucha spots until BT lands on his feet from a monkey flip, and Enzuguries Mask. Mask counters the ensuing offense by Monkey Flipping BT into a Stun Gun, and hitting a Tiger Feint Kick 619 style, which pops the crowd. BT stalls on the outside, Tiger Mask goes for something on the apron, but BT combines stepping into the ring with a body blow, which gives him his momentum back. Now BT is working the neck after a club to the neck. Tiger fights back into it but is nearly unmasked by BT which gets the boos of the night. Both guys tease dives but it ends in a Tilt-a-Whirl slam on the outside. Tiger Mask reverses a tombstone on the outside for a big dive of his own. NOW we get the big crossbody to the outside. Mask teases an apron tombstone, with the referee thankfully breaks up, which allows BT to hit a top rope kick to Tiger Mask standing on the apron. BT gets the momentum with a big plancha but Tiger Mask catches BT with a dropkick as BT comes off with a top rope nothing to fight back, but BT gets a top rope suplex which nets a nearfall. BT no sells a backbreaker and barely kicks out of a powerbomb. A sunset flip off the top doesn't put away BT. BT backs into the ref during a chain sequence, and lands a low blow but that doesn't put Tiger Mask away!. Black Tiger hits a gnarly looking top rope back elbow to Mask, and then a spinning tombstone for the win! Black Tiger is a double champion!
This was GREAT! This felt like a Tiger Mask match against Dynamite Kid or Rollerball Rocco. The big dives and spots were tied to the hatred that developed in the match over time, thanks to Black Tiger's cheating and Tiger Mask's will to win. That, combined with some good ole American heel shenanigans puts this match in the upper echelon for me.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Shinsuke Nakamura vs Toshiaki Kawada & Yoji Anjo - 10/10
Tanahashi and Nakamura are the current IWGP Tag Team Champions, but this is non-title.
The first few sequences of the match get over Anjo's skillset. He's speedier than Tana, also a hard striker, and a loudmouth. Tana outsmarts Anjo on a few exchanges, which prompts a "small kid bringing in his big brother" tag to Kawada.. This of course prompts a Strong Style strike exchange that Tana loses but gets back into. Nak tags in, and he and Kawada go to a stalemate on the ground. An Owen Hart lucha exchange is for naught as Kawada just snapemares him down and kicks him. Nak is still well enough to attempt a comeback but we go back to the ground. This time Nak gets an armbar which Anjo breaks. It takes Nak and Tana illegally double teaming Kawada to get any kind of decided advantage on him. Anjo interrupts a double team which allows Kawada to take control. Anjo gets tagged in and immediately dominates, which is easy for him to do when Kawada is the tag team partner. Anjo hoots and hollers his way through a Stump Puller on Tana, while flipping off Nakamura and making cartoonish pout faces. Anjo is truly the Crabbe to Kawada's Malfoy. Anjo makes the tag and slams Tanahashi into the buckle so Kawada can stride over and hit some more gnarly chops. This only fires up Tana who fights back, but Kawada slams him and does a bunch of rope assisted jumping stomps. Kawada ax kicks Tana while transitioning into a half crab because he is an asshole. Now it's Anjo's turn to beat up Tana. Tana makes the hot tag to Nak, and Anjo heels out, asking for peace. Anjo uses this distraction o briefly gain momentum but Nak gets it back in short order. Nak locks in a Rings of Saturn/Stretch Muffler submission that reminds me of PAC's submission finisher, but Kawada breaks it up. Nak and Tana hit stereo dropkicks/planchas to the outside. Anjo/Kawada take turns getting double teamed, and we get stereo submissions. I don't know if this was intentional or not, but it appears that Tana is able to block Kawada's attempt to hip toss him out of an Octopus stretch so Kawada just hoofs him off to break up Nak's submission, it looked fantastic. Kawada eventually counters out of a Tana move by powering into a backdrop, tagging out to Anjo who does a great job of miming picking up scraps like a theif in the knight. Tana hits a slingblade while Kawada and Nak brawl on the outside, and Tanahashi kicks out of a Kawada kick/roll up at 2! Tana gets a German Suplex and a Dragon suplex for the three on Anjo!
This is one of those matches that's so masterfully performed that people who've never seen pro wrestling before could understand the story. The only other Japanese match I can think of that's even close is Savage/Tenryu. You can tell this was a match made to set up Tanahashi's push to the moon as the Ace, and a showcase to show that Nakamura can hang with Kawada on a technical level so he can look good for his eventual excursion. Also worth noting is Anjo's masterful performance as a ridiculous arrogant henchman.
Post match - Kawada and Anjo jump the champs and throw them out of the ring, which makes sense as Tana didn't beat Kawada, and sets up more for Kawada to do in the future.
They explain the rules of a 3-way again, show the championship graphic and then we cut to.
Some guy wearing a bucket on his head is in a luxury box - What the hell? The voice we get is clearly Inoki's, but I suspect this might be a Vince McMahon/Higher Power: scenario, or more accurately a Rick Rude scenario from Barely Legal 1997.. The spotlights shine off Bucket Man, the Nutcracker Suite starts playing, which transitions to Inoki's music. Bucket Man is walking down the ramp now, who steps aside to let Inoki walk past him. WTF is this?
Antonio Inoki promo - Waste of time. The only thing I could catch was that he made a joke about Giant Baba and put him over. He says some stuff that gets polite applause, demands the ring announcer help him remove his suit jacket so he can do his catchphrase, to which the crowd sings along.
IWGP Heavyweight Title Three Way Match
Brock Lesnar vs Kazuyuki Fujita (c) vs Masahiro Chono - 5/10
Brock Lesnar's name key mentions WWE, which is a more boldface lie than the other WWE castaways because, by October 2005, he was close to be away from WWE for three years. We get national anthems for everyone, because Inoki is booking.
The Japanese lads jump Lesnar, but Lesnar powers them away, sending Fujita flying and Chono gets military pressed. Lesnar and Fujita have a standoff, which makes you wonder if that's what this match was before someone remembered we had to honor Chono's G1 win. More double teams by the Japanese, and they face off now. They trade big basic moves until Lesnar shows back up and takes out Fujita focusing on Chono. The people are super into Brock. He teases an F5, bur Fujita jumps him from behind which causes Chono to be thrown out of the ring, which causes women to scream. Brock German suplexes brick shit-house Fujita like a small child for a two. Fujita finally gets a choke locked on after getting wailed on by Brock, which causes the crowd to cheer, but Brock powers out with punches that wouldn't be out of place on a gorilla. Now we get an F5 tease on Fujita, but Chono breaks it up, and now Brock dumps Fujita out of the ring, which gets more concerned screams. Brock baseball slides both guys on the outside. With the speed at which Brock was moving he could've very easily done a Tope. Brock accidentally clotheslines the corner post. Chono throws Fujita in the ring for a jank looking Shining Wizard, and does an STF that looks more like a Tazmission as they flip over. Brock gets back in and starts beating people up, no selling his arm, Lesnar runs into the turnbuckle shoulder first, gets hoofed over for a backdrop, and kicks out at 1. Both guys end up taking a Lesnar F5, but Chono takes the pin. Brock just stands up like Tony Stark demoing the Jericho missiles, not having appeared to have broken a sweat.
In this match I have learned 3 things
A. Brock Lesnar always wins.
B. Even when you win, you still lose, because Brock Lesnar.
C. The only thing that can stop Brock Lesnar is Brock Lesnar.
Bad attempts at Chuck Norris memes aside, this should've been an early indication that Brock is poison to any title picture he touches, because this match was remarkably mediocre.
Post match - After the big presentation and trophies. Brock cuts a very "Mid 2000's heel in the WWE wins the big title" promo to close us out.
This might be the best pre-Gedo New Japan show I've ever seen. The stuff with the homesteaders was on average above great, and the stuff with the Gaijins, while not amazing by any stretch, was consistently better than some of the underneath New Japan stuff I've seen recently. If you can, go out of your way to find this show.