- Main card: A.J. Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Hvt. Title with a three-month build, and five more big title matches. [ Full Line-up HERE via PuroresuSpirit.com ]
1 -- IWGP Jr. Hvt. tag champions YOUNG BUCKS (NICK & MATT JACKSON w/Cody Hall) vs. RPG VICE (ROCKY ROMERO & BARRETA) vs. REDRAGON (KYLE O'REILLY & BOBBY FISH) -- three-way match for IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Titles
Young Bucks represented the Bullet Club and ReDragon represented Ring of Honor in this match. RPG Vice was also technically representing ROH. The match started off as "everyone dislikes the Young Bucks," who tried to avoid a four-on-two situation with cunning tactics. They almost got a count-out win, but ReDragon chucked Romero into the ring to stop a 20 count. After fun & games in the first few minutes of the match, they went rapid-fire offense and high-flying, reflective of the Jr. Hvt. tag division style. Some close nearfalls for all three teams, then Young Bucks took out ReDragon with a self-inflicted spike Tombstone and hit More Bang For Your Buck on fan favorite Rocky Romero for the pin and the win.
WINNERS: Young Bucks at 14:30 to retain the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Tag Titles. So much action and so many interesting sequences that differentiate the division from everything else in New Japan. Well done to start the PPV. (***1/2)
2 -- BULLET CLUB (YUJIRO TAKAHASHI & BAD LUCK FALE) vs. NAITO & HONMA
Bullet Club came out first, then Honma for the non-Bullet Club duo, but Naito just kind of slowly strolled down to the ring, allowing Bullet Club to ambush Honma. The bell sounded before Honma even removed his ring jacket. Meanwhile, Naito just hung out on the ring apron selling indifference towards life. Honma wanted a tag, but Naito ignored him, drawing boos for disrespecting a great man like Honma. Naito started to walk away from the ring, but decided to walk back to his position on the ring apron.
Honma broke free of Bullet Club and tried to tag in Naito, but Naito bailed again. "Honma, Honma" chants from the crowd. Honma finally got Bad Luck off his feet with clotheslines and tagged in an indifferent Naito. Big boos for Naito. Disrespect to Honma = biggest heel in Japan. Naito casually climbed the turnbuckles and splashed Bullet Club on the floor, then casually rolled back into the ring and posed, soaking in boos. Honma eventually tagged himself back in when Naito just stared at him in their corner. They built to the conclusion of Naito holding off Bad Luck Fale while Honma hit his top-rope Kokeshi diving headbutt on Takahashi. Honma covered, Naito just kind of stood there, and it was good for the win. Naito reluctantly celebrated with Honma, then left the ring by himself.
WINNERS: Honma & Naito at 8:50. Great booking pairing up Honma and Naito to contrast Honma's rising babyface stardom with Naito's indifference two years removed from winning the G1 Climax.
3 -- SHIBATA vs. SAKURABA
This should be a physical, hard-hitting MMA-style match. They felt each other out with holds and strikes, Shibata mixed in a slap to the face to the veteran MMA fighter, and they came to a stand-off. Sakuraba eventually rolled to the outside looking for a breather. Shibata gave chase, then Sakuraba heelishly rolled back into the ring. Both fighters have acted like heels thus far. Sakuraba caught Shibata coming back into the ring, which only angered Shibata, who went off on Sakuraba with repeated strikes.
But, Sakuraba made a comeback and removed his footwear, which he chucked at Shibata. Sakuraba kicked the crap out of Shibata, who called for harder strikes to the chest. Bring it. More. Shibata slumped down to the mat, but continued the match. Then, Sakuraba surprised the crowd with a big splash to the outside that took out Shibata. Shibata made it back into the ring at 17, then exploded on Sakuraba with a kick strike. But, they came to their feet and Sakuraba put Shibata in the most painful-looking standing submission ever. Shibata had to break the hold by biting the middle rope with his teeth.
Sakuraba then tried to choke the life out of Shibata with a vice grip using his feet, but Shibata made the ropes again. The crowd tried to rally behind Shibata taking an inordinate amount of punishment, and he eventually caught Sakuraba in the ropes to deliver a release German suplex. They returned to their feet for an exchange of sleepers and submissions. Shibata eventually drove Sakuraba to a seated position with the sleeper, suddenly released it, and charged the ropes to nail the Penalty Kick on a stunned Sakuraba. Shibata covered for the win. Such a smart ending.
WINNER: Shibata at 11:48. That was a great simulated MMA fight. The crowd is hot for Shibata right now and this was a big win as he advances toward bigger things as a singles wrestler independent of Goto. (***1/2)
Video Package: Little boy KUSHIDA cut promos and powerslammed pillows as a kid. Now he's Best of the Super Jrs., perfecting the moves he worked on in his family's house. His journey leads to Bullet Club's evil cleaner, Kenny Omega.
4 -- IWGP Jr. Hvt. champion KENNY OMEGA (w/Young Bucks) vs. 2015 BOSJ Winner KUSHIDA -- IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title match
Before the bell, KUSHDIA pointed to his imaginary Timesplitter watch, Omega spit at KUSHIDA, and Omega too-sweeted the Young Bucks. KUSHIDA then charged the ring with a corner dropkick and the bell sounded to officially begin the match. The action quickly moved to the floor, where KUSHIDA dropkicked the trashcan that Bullet Club brought to the ring into Omega, sending the champ reeling over the barricade into the front row.
The match continued ringside, where Omega grabbed KUSHIDA and suplexed him hard across the ring apron, drawing a reprimand from the ref. Omega then removed KUSHIDA's kneebrace, ripped off athletic tape, and hammered away at KUSHIDA's injured right knee. Omega followed by slamming KUSHIDA over the barricade knee-first into a TV monitor at the timekeeper's table. Back in the ring, Omega pounded away at KUSHIDA's knee. Just worked him over with a variety of holds and attacks. KUSHIDA suddenly got a burst with a handspring leg attack to Omega near the ropes, sending the champ to the floor. KUSHIDA then flew off the top turnbuckle with a splash onto Omega and the Bucks.
Back in the ring, Omega and KUSHIDA wrestled for control of the match. KUSHIDA targeted Omega's left arm/shoulder with a corner kick, then surprised the champ with the Hoverboard Lock, but Omega reached the ropes for a break. And, Omega went right back to the injured knee with a kick strike. Omega then took KUSHIDA to the top turnbuckle for a knee-clutch fisherman suplex, but KUSHDA escaped a pin attempt. Omega decided to try a powerbomb using one good arm, but KUSHIDA kicked out again. Omega then smashed KUSHIDA with a running knee strike to the face. Omega tried to follow with his electric chair finisher, causing the crowd to go into a panic, but KUSHIDA managed to slip out at the last second and flow into the Hoverboard Lock. KUSHIDA locked it in tight and Omega tapped, giving KUSHIDA the win. Big career moment right here.
WINNER: KUSHIDA at 20:46 to capture the IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title. This felt like Finn Balor/Prince Devitt's NXT Title victory over Kevin Owens the previous night in WWE - the culmination of a journey and well-told story. Very nice match focusing on KUSHIDA's knee and telling the story of KUSHIDA overcoming the odds to capture his second Jr. Hvt. Title, almost exactly one year after he won his first Jr. Hvt. Title. Now, KUSHIDA comes to the U.S. for Ring of Honor in August with the Jr. Hvt. Title. (***1/2)
5 -- NEVER Openweight champion TOGI MAKABE vs. TOMOHIRO ISHII -- NEVER Openweight Title match
This should be a very hard-hitting, physical match between two big bulls in the ring. In the opening minute, Ishii slammed Makabe to the mat and Makabe sold a shoulder injury. Makabe slowly rolled to the outside as referee Tiger Hattori checked on Makabe. Ishii then decided to try a top-rope somersault splash and just grazed Makabe on the way down. Ishii stuck the landing to cover for the high-flying attempt, then kind of smirked toward the crowd. Back in the ring, the typical Ishii vs. Makabe match broke out with standing forearms and strikes, no-selling, and trash-talk. They took it to the next level with about 60 straight seconds of standing blows until Makabe nailed a big lariat into a powerbomb for a two count.
They returned to their feet for another classic Makabe-Ishii standing exchange. Makabe showed a bit of tiredness, so Ishii capitalized with a running lariat for a two count. Ishii followed with a top-rope brainbuster for a two count. And both men sold the effects of the battle on the mat, including Ishii now selling a shoulder injury to match Makabe. The ringside doctor even came over to check on Ishii, but the match continued. Makabe wanted a top-rope move, but Ishii punched him in the gut and nailed a release German into the corner turnbuckle.
Reset at 13:00 with another standing exchange. They eventually just knocked each other down simultaneously, but Ishii got to his feet first and nailed a running lariat on a seated Makabe for a two count. Ishii followed with another lariat to a standing Makabe, but it was again only good for two. Ishii tried to a brainbuster, but Makabe blocked and nailed a Tiger Suplex targeting the shoulder. Makabe then took Ishii to the corner and smashed the shoulder with repeated punches. Ishii slumped down to the mat, prompting the ringside doctor to check on Ishii again. Makabe then put Ishii on the top turnbuckle and clutched him for a release German off the top. Makabe followed with a diving boot to the head for the pin and the win, ending Ishii's night.
WINNER: Makabe at 17:50 to retain the NEVER Openweight Title. Jim Ross should do a voice-over call of this match. It was the kind of hard-hitting, physical action that brings out the best in Ross. Makabe is just a tough, mean wrestler who punished equally tough Ishii and . (***1/2)
- G1 Climax hype video: New Japan showed a map of Japan where the annual tournament will take place. Speaking of Makabe, he headlines the A Block. Shibata is also in there with Tanahashi and A.J. Styles. Good night, what a Block. Goto headlines the B Block. Honma and Michael Elgin are in there with Karl Anderson and Ishii. Oh, and Shinsuke Nakamura and Okada. This is loaded. Styles vs. Shibata was announced as a headline match for July 20. Wow. Okada vs. Elgin on July 23. Nakamura vs. Anderson also on July 23. Moving on to July 24 for Tanahashi vs. Tenzan and Shibata vs. Naito. How about July 25? Yuji Nagata vs. Nakamura and Honma vs. Okada headline. July 26 - Styles vs. Ibushi. Wow. And Tanahashi vs. Naito.
Skipping the birthday to July 28 - Goto vs. Honma and Kojima vs. Okada. Moving on to July 29 - Styles vs. Naito and Shibata vs. Ibushi. Advancing to August 1 for Goto vs. Okada and Nakamura vs. Ishii, which really popped the crowd. August 2 has Tenzan vs. Ibushi and Tanahashi vs. Yano, which is coming up tonight. August 4 has Nagata vs. Ishii in an old-school fight and Goto vs. Nakamura, which is also coming up tonight.
Moving on to Aug. 5 - Makabe vs. Styles, which I was just thinking about, and Naito vs. Ibushi. August 6 has Nakamura vs. Takahashi and Okada vs. Ishii. And Aug. 8 has Tanahashi vs. Shibata. Moving on to Aug. 9 for Goto vs. Ishii and Honma vs. Nakamura, which might break the world. How about Aug. 11? Styles vs. Bad Luck Fale in a Bullet Club match and Tanahashi vs. Makabe. Aug. 12 has Nagata vs. Okada and Honma vs. Ishii. Moving to Aug. 14 for Ibushi vs. Makabe and the big one of Tanahashi vs. Styles. Aug. 15 has Nagata vs. Goto and Nakamura vs. Okada in another big one. And, finally, Aug. 16 - A Block Winner vs. B Block Winner. This is just nuts.
6 -- IWGP World Hvt. tag champions THE KINGDOM (MIKE BENNETT & MATT TAVEN w/Maria Kanellis) vs. BULLET CLUB (KARL ANDERSON & DOC GALLOWS w/Amber Gallows) -- IWGP World Hvt. Tag Title match
The story early on was Anderson doing everything he could to impress Maria, who wanted nothing to do with Karl. Bullet Club continued to work on Bennett, including Amber slapping Bennett from the outside. Gallows talked some major smack to Bennett, who fought back out of the heel corner to tag in Taven. Chaos broke out in the ring, then Anderson called for the end on Taven with a spinning neckbreaker, but Taven kicked out of a pin. Maria sensed her team was in trouble, so she tried to lure in Anderson, but Doc wised him up to Maria's plot. Amber eventually knocked down Maria and threw her into the ring, but Maria ducked a punch from Gallows, who took out Anderson. Maria then kicked Doc in the groin, drawing in Amber to fight Maria.
Eventually, a tag match resumed with Kingdom hitting a combination jawbreaker on Anderson for a two count. More chaos and it appeared Maria was KO'ed off-camera. Bennett angrily went after Doc, but he took a Gun Stun from Anderson for his trouble. Taven was left alone with Anderson & Doc, who threw down Taven with a 3D, then hit the Magic Killer on Taven for the pin and the win. Bullet Club gets the belts back.
WINNERS: Anderson & Doc at 10:08 to capture the IWGP World Tag Titles. Too much "U.S. TV wrestling" in this one, but they continued to play up the story of Anderson's infatuation with Maria, which back-fired for Kingdom in this match. Now it's time to establish some tag teams to go after Anderson & Gallows.
7 -- TANAHASHI vs. TORU YANO
Fun-loving, yet mischievous Yano wanted to play games early on, so Tanahashi caught him in the ropes and stretched his plump mid-section. But, Yano nearly surprised Tanahashi with a quick pin, which is how this feud started months ago. Yano then removed the ringpost cover, so Tanahashi thought about it, too, but Yano beat Tanahashi to the punch smacking him with the pad. Yano suckered in Tanahashi to eat an exposed turnbuckle, then he whipped him to the mat.
On the floor, Yano again suckered in Tanahashi, this time ducking a splash, which sent Tanahashi flying over the guardrail into the front row. Yano then put Tanahashi inside a pile of ringside chairs and nearly scored a count-out win, but Tanahashi crawled back into the ring at 19. Yano whipped Tanahashi into the exposed steel again, then tried to re-arrange his teeth and nose. Yano then did his trademark RVD-like pose, but that left him exposed for Tanahashi to grab him from behind for a bridging German Suplex for a two count. Tanahashi wanted a top-rope move, but Yano shoved the ref into the ropes, crotching Tanahashi. Yano followed with a powerbomb for a two count.
Reset, then Yano again suckered in Tanahashi, who splashed the ref in the corner. Yano brought in his trademark folding chair to inflict damage to Tanahashi, but Tanahashi ducked a chair shot and hit the Slingblade. Tanahashi then climbed to the top for the High Fly Flow, but Yano used the chair to the mid-section to block. The ref eventually returned to the ring to count a nearfall for Yano. Yano almost got another three count with a quick roll-up, but Tanahashi kicked out just before three, causing a near-panic in the crowd. Tanahashi returned the favor and appeared to get a three, but the ref stopped his count. There was silence, then a rallying cry for Tanahashi. Slingblade, then Tanahashi tried to win back the crowd with High Fly Flow. He connected and covered Yano for the win.
WINNER: Tanahashi at 12:33. A change-of-pace for top star Tanahashi getting his win back against Yano in a light feud not having to have an epic match before going to the G1 Climax tournament. It was fine for what it was bridging to the two main events featuring the other members of the Big Three, Shinsuke Nakamura and Okada.
8 -- IWGP IC champion HIROOKI GOTO vs. SHINSUKE NAKAMURA -- IWGP Intercontinental Title
Nakamura came to the ring as a red ninja, wowing the crowd with his latest costume selection. Goto used his size advantage early on to control the match, but Nakamura gained control on the outside by driving Goto over the guardrail into the front row. Back in the ring, Nakamura worked over Goto. But, he got too cocky and Goto responded with forearms into a big lariat. Goto then nailed a running bulldog out of the corner for a two count. Nakamura responded with a Codebreaker, then an overhead suplex. He then measured Goto for a big corner attack, but Goto exploded on him with a lariat.
Both men sold on the mat, then Goto took Nakamura to the top turnbuckle, where he pulled him out to deliver a hangman's neckbreaker. It looked like Goto wanted the Shouten, but Nakamura blocked. Nakamura followed with a powerbomb, then he nailed a jumping Boma Ye knee from the second rope, popping the crowd. But, Nakamura was too worn out to make the cover. Both men sold on the mat before returning to their feet for a standing exchange. Nakamura won the exchange, then measured Goto for a running Shining Wizard, but Goto kicked out just before three. Nakamura could not believe it.
Nakamura reset by looking for the Boma Ye knee again, but Goto grabbed his leg and lifted him into the air for a big suplex. But, Nakamura kicked out just before three. They had the crowd going nuts anticipating the finish and Nakamura tried to recover one more time, but Goto caught him and nailed Shouten. Goto stacked up Nakamura for the pin and the win. After the match, Nakamura was helped out of the ring, then Goto took the house mic and addressed the crowd in celebratory fashion.
WINNER: Goto at 22:11 to retain the IWGP IC Title. That finish was amazing. Slow build to a strong middle and epic conclusion, typical for Nakamura's best matches. Meanwhile, Goto should be able to find some good opponents in the G1 Climax tournament for title matches post-tournament. (****)
Video Package: A.J. Styles vs. Okada main event for the IWGP World Title. Included in the hype video was footage of Styles and Okada mixing it up in Ring of Honor. The video focused on Okada, both in Japan and in the U.S., and included comments from Syles on Okada being a future icon, but when he's done wrestling.
Back in the arena, New Japan flashed through a roll-call of past IWGP World Hvt. champions. Brock Lesnar was included. The video stopped on Okada and Styles. Cue up The Rainmaker. Okada went heavy on the blonde hair dye for this big match. After Okada entered the ring with Gedo, the Bullet Club theme played to bring out A.J. Styles by himself. Nice back-and-forth camera shots of Okada in the ring and Styles on the stage. What looked like the entire Bullet Club then joined Styles on the slow walk down to the ring.
Once Styles entered the ring, Okada stepped right up to Styles, showing no fear of the champ. Styles handed over the belt to Ref Red Shoes, who displayed the belt leading into formal ring introductions. Styles too-sweeted his teammates, then the bell sounded.
9 -- IWGP World Hvt. champion A.J. STYLES Iw/Bullet Club) vs. "RAINMAKER" KAZUCHIKA OKADA (w/Gedo) -- IWGP World Hvt. Title match
Okada displayed strong confidence early on, playing the role of self-assured challenger who has been waiting a while for the title shot. Almost like Stephen Curry in the NBA Finals. Okada cleared Styles to the outside early on, prompting Styles to stand at attention and glare back into the ring feeling shown up by the challenger. Styles returned to the ring and continued to take punishment from Okada. So, virtually the entire Bullet Club hopped on the ring apron trying to intimidate and distract Okada. This allowed Amber Gallows to sneakily trip up Okada from behind, allowing Styles to attack Okada and take control of the match.
Styles knocked Okada to the outside, where Bullet Club put the boots to Okada to loud boos while Styles pulled the ref aside for a chat. The ref ended up reprimanding Gedo for voicing his displeasure, then Styles went back on the attack in the ring. Meanwhile, the crowd chanted for Bullet Club to leave the match. Suddenly, Styles snapped off a textbook dropkick. That sent Okada to the outside, where Bullet Club again put the boots to Styles. Karl Anderson tried to call off the troops when Red Shoes turned around, but the ref sent Bullet Club packing to the back. But not before dropping a "Suck It" toward Bullet Club and Styles back in the ring, popping the crowd. Red Shoes eventually returned to the ring to resume officiating the match.
Gedo remained ringside cheerleading Okada, who fought back against Styles with a lariat. He then caught Styles off the ropes with a flapjack for a one count. "Okada" chants from the crowd as the challenger regrouped. But, Styles nailed his trademark backflip reverse DDT, which got a replay on the broadcast. Styles tried to follow with a springboard move, but Okada crotched him, then nailed his own textbook dropkick that sent Styles crashing to the floor. But, on the floor, Styles back dropped Okada over the barricade into the front row. Styles then jumped onto the barricade and nailed a flying forearm smash that sent Okada into the laps of fans.
Back in the ring at 16:00, Styles nailed a wheelbarrow facebuster for a two count. But, he missed a corner attack. Okada also missed a corner attack, then Styles went for a springboard dive, but Okada intercepted with a mid-air dropkick. Great counter. Okada then climbed to the top for a diving elbow drop. Rainmaker Pose with the big zoom-out. But, Styles suplexed Okada into the corner turnbuckle. He then nailed his springboard flying forearm on the second try. Styles teased the Clash, but Okada blocked and dropped Styles neck-first across his knee. Both men down on the mat.
Both men to their feet for a standing exchange. Forearms. Strikes. Okada then walked right up to Styles and dropped three forearms. Styles followed with six or seven elbows into multiple stomps. Okada sold being KO'ed, but he came to attention when he saw an opening to catch Styles with a textbook dropkick. Okada teased a Tombstone, but Styles blocked. Counter. Reverse. Tombstone by Styles. Styles then nailed a springboard 450 splash, but Okada kicked out. Ringside, Gedo freaked out at the sight of Okada continuing to fight.
Reset at 22:22. Styles dragged Okada to the corner, then stalked him for a Super Styles Clash. But, Okada blocked. And then kind of dropped Styles hard across the ring apron. A replay showed both men falling down as a hush fell over the arena. Okada regrouped and climbed to the top turnbuckle for a big pump kick as the champ returned to the ring. The crowd could sense Okada on the verge of winning, then Okada scooped up Styles for a Tombstone. Rainmaker Pose. Okada scooped up Styles, spun him around, and Styles ducked the Rainmaker Lariat into a Pele Kick. What a sequence. Both men sold on the mat again.
Styles scooped up Okada for the Clash, but Okada spun out, then he scooped up Okada again for the Clash, but Okada escaped again. Another escape. Okada then dropped Styles on his neck, hit the Rainmaker, tried a second one, but Styles ducked, and Okada nailed a German Suplex. Another lariat attempt, and this time Okada spun Styles inside-out with the Rainmaker. Okada covered and it was good for the pin and the win. New IWGP World champion.
WINNER: Okada at 26:18 to capture the IWGP World Hvt. Title. Wow. One of those matches that you just didn't want to see end. The finishing sequence was just magical after a very strong middle of the match post-Bullet Club interference. Styles and Okada have such great chemistry in the ring. And, what a great journey for Okada, who fell short against Tanahashi at the Tokyo Dome in January, but got the IWGP Title seven months later from Styles. This is a must-watch match. (*****)
Post-match, Styles was helped out of the ring as the fallen champion. Meanwhile, Okada posed with the IWGP World Title belt as the crowd continued to roar. Gedo took the mic and talked about Okada's journey to get back to the top two years after he last won the title. Okada then took the mic and talked about the G1 Climax. He excitedly finished off his promo before the money dropped for a Rainmaker pose complete with confetti. Okada marched out of the ring with the title around his waist before posing atop the stage with Gedo.
And, the G1 Climax just went to a new level with the title change setting up a world of potential title match situations heading into the 2016 Tokyo Dome.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: Must-watch show. Okada vs. Styles was amazing, Nakamura vs. Goto in the semi-main event was excellent, and there were some very good undercard matches. New Japan's product is ridiculously good right now.
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