NJPW on AXS TV Report
December 2, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan, Parts 1 & 2
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch contributor
As always we are joined by Jim Ross and Josh Barnett in the booth. They are very good together and make watching NJPW such an engrossing experience.
Match 1 – Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe (C) vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa (Guerillas of Destiny) – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
Brawling on the outside to start with Honma getting whipped into the rail. “Red Shoes,” as Jim Ross likes to refer to the senior referee, gets close to twenty on the count. The teams reset back inside with Roa taking on Makabe. The Guerillas of Destiny tag in and out, repeatedly elbowing and kicking Makabe. “Good job Red Shoes,” says JR as the ref admonishes Tonga for a little rule breaking. Red Shoes received a bleeped exchange for his troubles.
Honma is still on the outside as Makabe and Tonga trade shots to the face. The exchange ends with Makabe hitting a big clothesline as Honma shows up for the hot tag. Splash in the corner to a bulldog sets up Honma’s attempt at a dropping head-butt that misses. Misdirection on the ropes by Tonga confuses Honma and he eats a spear. Tag to Roa for some boots on Honma and a suplex attempt that gets reversed. Honma whips Roa into the corner and hip-tosses him on the rebound so he could hit the dropping head-butt and tag Makabe. Makabe gets in a Northern Lights suplex for a two count. After a clothesline to Roa, Tonga slithers in and goes for an RKO that gets reversed into a belly to back. Roa lands a German Suplex while JR wonders on commentary why THAT suplex is called a German in Japan. Barnett straightens him out as Makabe misses a top rope knee drop and gets power slammed by Roa. Tags to Honma and Tanga for some more rope running confusion that scores Tonga a dropkick and a flapjack. Well done.
Following a big lariat, Makabe slaps Honma in the face to “wake him up.” I suppose that’s one way to do it. Makabe hits a Samoan Drop on Tonga followed by Honma scoring a dropping head-butt. Tanga kicks out and the champions go for the Doomsday Device. Roa rips Honma off the top rope for the save, but Honma recovers and throws Roa into the corner for his version of a stinger splash and spine buster. Makabe gets in a double-clothesline on the challengers and all four men are down. Honma, who I am told on commentary is known as the Vampire Chicken, trades forearms with Tonga. Belly-to-back by Tonga, but Honma pops back up and hits a diving head-butt off the ropes. Honma gets in a second-rope head-butt and goes up top for another. Tonga moves out of the way. Honma and Tonga trade forearms in the middle of the ring. Jumping head-butt by Tonga is met with a bigger one by Honma. Honma goes for a power slam that Roa breaks up. Makabe enters to even the odds, but is met with a Samoan Drop pickup by the challengers into a jumping neck breaker. Tandem power bomb pickup and reverse DDT on Honma is met with a two. Roa and Tonga lift Honma up high for Tonga to grab Honma’s head and they slam him down hard for the three.
WINNERS: Guerillas of Destiny in 16:54 to become the new IWGP Tag Team Champions
(Andrews’ Analysis: It wasn’t great. I’m not a huge fan of every wrestler going outside and doing spots, which doesn’t bode well for the next match. Roa did most of the work in this grinder of a match, with Tonga looking the best out of the four. I don’t know enough about Honma/Makabe, but I’m almost willing to bet that they don’t regain the titles. P.S. I don’t look ahead and watch these as they come.)
Match 2 – Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (Bullet Club/Elite) vs. Yoshitatsu & Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin – Never Openweight Six-Man Tag Title Match
JR tells us that it has been 499 days since Yoshitatsu broke his neck on a Styles Clash. Great music during the entrances. The music in NJPW reminds me of Dynasty Warriors, which is a good thing. The Elite of the Bullet Club come out with Cody Hall and some cleaning supplies. The Bullet Club/Elite spray “cold spray” and do general Bullet Club/Elite posing. Nick Jackson calls out New Day, but JR is skeptical that the match will happen anytime soon.
Omega immediately tries to hit Yoshitatsu with a Styles Clash, but Tanahashi and Elgin break it up. Elgin guerilla presses Nick Jackson and throws him outside to Cody Hall. JR: “There you go Cody Hall, there’s something for you to do. Catch your buddy!” The challengers suplex everyone in sight and The Elite scurry outside to make their way for an exit door. JR apologizes to Josh Barnett for possibly offending him with something that he said because he knows for a fact that Barnett could “whip my ass in about ten seconds.”
Cody Hall joins everyone at the exit way, but where is Nick Jackson? Oh wait, everyone is clumped together in a six-man tag. Nick Jackson appears at the top of the exit and swantons the whole lot of them. Hall stays down as Omega Too-Sweets some fans in the rafters. JR comments that The Elite will tell you that they are villains, but at the same time don’t mind ingratiating themselves to the fans. He muses that it is a plot to “sell some more damn shirts!” The Jacksons work over Yoshitatsu as Omega wheels out a luggage cart and a trashcan. He sits Elgin on top of the cart, places the trashcan over Elgin’s upper torso, and rolls the big man down the aisle for stereo superkicks by the Young Bucks.
Back in the ring, Omega signals for The Clash on Yoshitatsu, but Tanahashi makes the save. Tanahashi cleans house with dragon screw leg whips, but eats a nasty sounding running knee from Omega. Running kick to Yoshitatsu as he tries to get back into the ring. Terminator 2 beating on the mat before all three of The Elite dive onto the challengers. They push Tanahashi back in, but only get a two. JR calls Tanahashi Yoshitatsu, and blames the mistake on the “damn Young Bucks” who “got me running all over the screen here trying to find them!” Tanahashi takes a backbreaker, then a Blockbuster/backbreaker combo, but kicks out. Tanahashi gets worked over in the corner to lots of back rakes, which is a move that I actually love. J.R., not so much.
Tanahashi elbows Matt Jackson in the corner and goes for the tag, but Omega and Nick pull Elgin and Yoshitatsu away so that Tanahashi can get another back rake. Yoshitatsu gets in and starts clearing house. Yoshitatsu hits a springboard dropkick on Matt Jackson, evades a superkick by Nick, and Elgin picks up the Young Bucks and dumps Nick out and slams Matt to the mat. Yoshitatsu gets in a “leglock variant”, but The Cleaner rolls in with his cold spray and unleashes it. Nick Jackson hits a face buster on Yoshitatsu and back flips onto Elgin outside for a spinning DDT. All three of the Elite boot Yoshitatsu in the face and prop him up on the ropes. Swanton by Nick Jackson as Barnett confuses Omega pointing at Yoshitatsu’s stomach for…well…don’t worry about it. They hit a triple superkick and Omega goes for the Clash again, but he gets sprayed. As do the Young Bucks.
Rollup by Yoshitatsu gets a two and a running knee to the face by a recovered Omega. Elgin, for a man his size, hops the top rope for a spinning elbow on Omega and belly-to-backs Nick. Elgin then belly-to-backs Matt, who in turn belly-to-backs his brother as he holds on for dear life. JR proclaims Elgin is “restaurant quality strong”. Nick eats numerous clotheslines from the challengers, but gets his knees up as Elgin tries to teeter-totter Tanahashi onto him. Superkicks to Elgin. Meltzer Driver attempt on Yoshitatsu is intercepted by Elgin, who tosses Nick onto Omega who was recovering outside. Yoshitatsu hits a GTS on Matt while Nick hops onto the apron. Elgin grabs him from the inside and powers him up and over for a biiig suplex. Assisted by Tanahashi and Yoshitatsu, Nick is ushered towards an awaiting Elgin on the turnbuckles who powerbombs him to the mat for the three.
WINNERS: Yoshitatsu, Tanahashi, and Michael Elgin to become the new Never Openweight Six-Man Tag Title Champions. Tanahashi and Elgin carry Yoshitatsu on their shoulders for the fans. Omega gets in, talks a lot of bleeped words to Elgin, and they lay down their titles in a prelude to a match in the future. As Elgin and Yoshitatsu leave, Bad Luck Fale beats up Tanahashi. He leaves before the guys can get to him, lobs an F-bomb towards the ring, and walks away. Classy.
(Andrews’ Analysis: It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. They got the typical six-man brawl outside of the way quickly and got back to the ring in a reasonable amount of time. The Young Bucks took their medicine, as they always seem to do, and the other participants got in a little offense. This was more comedy than a wrestling match.)
Backstage Yoshitatsu invites Tanahashi and Elgin to join him in some sort of Bullet Club Ghostbusters faction, but they want to think about. As they walk away, Captain New japan comes out and wants to join Yoshitatsu. He’s a superhero after all. Yoshitatsu wants to think about it.
In a present day interview with Yoshitatsu, he explains that he wasn’t 100% for that match, but the comeback match wasn’t bad. He thanked Elgin and Tanahashi for helping him win the titles and took some time out of his schedule to call Captain New Japan “a cosplaying fan” and that he wants nothing to do with him. So, uhh, awkward for anyone joining the captain in his quarters this night.
Match 3: Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Holy s–, it’s Shibata! I love Shibata! Every Shibata match is surrounded by drama. He’s always in a dogfight. By the way, Tenzan is wearing a striking black mullet with gold trim, so game on. Grappling to start that quickly devolves into forearms by Shibata. He hits the ropes and gets shoulder blocked down. Tenzan misses a falling head-butt and narrowly misses having his mullet all sorts of disheveled by a Shibata kick to the head. J.R. talks about how Shibata thinks that the veterans disrespect him. There we go, just like that J.R. sets the dinner plate. I’m invested
Shibata gets in an early figure four, but Tenzan gets the ropes. In the corner, Shibata laces Tenzan, then forearms him, then kicks him HARD. Shibata dropkicks Tenzan in the corner and follows up with a second floating dropkick. Thick head-butt to Shibata lets Tenzan get a mount and hit Mongolian chops. Clotheslines in the corner by Tenzan followed by a suplex for a two. Tenzan goes right into an anaconda vise, but Shibata powers out and trips him to the mat. Shibata catches a strike and puts Tenzan in an arm bar. Tenzan gets the ropes and is kicked repeatedly by Shibata. Tenzan responds with a clothesline and Cobra Clutch drop for two. Tenzan, possibly looking for a moonsault, goes up top to allow Shibata to sneak into position and power bomb him straight down. The two get up and Tenzan IMPLODES Shibata’s skull with a head-butt. Tenzan locks in a modified Cobra Clutch, but Shibata refuses to tap and gets the ropes. Tenzan boots Shibata in the head but ends up getting a modified Michinoku Driver for a two. Sleeper by Shibata gets broken up, but he gets another one in and drops Tenzan. Shibata lets Tenzan loose so he can hit the ropes and PK Tenzan in the chest. It was loud and good for the win.
WINNER: Shibata at 10:47 to retain his NEVER Openweight Championship.
(Andrews’ Analysis: This was pretty damn good. In all fairness, I wasn’t anticipating a title change here, but Tenzan was game to deal out punishment to this reincarnation of The Legend Killer angle. Stiff back and forth action.)
Aftermath: As Tenzan recovers, Tenzan’s corner men come in to help him out. One of them is Yuji Nagata (Sorry, not much backstory. Added to the list of guys I need to see in their heyday). Shibata bows to Tenzan and kicks Nagata in the head. Nagata strips down and two guys – one of which had an expression on his face like someone blasted an airhorn in his ear – hold him back.
In what might possibly be the waiting room for a sauna, KUSHIDA is interviewed! Okay, quick thing here. KUSHIDA is my favorite wrestler. Period. I told you it was quick. KUSHIDA talks about how his match with Will Ospreay came about. It was that damn Rainmaker’s doing! It makes KUSHIDA angry and he tells a story about how the previous year he was invited to wrestle at Rev Pro and the fans told him that Ospreay was THE GUY. KUSHIDA says that Ospreay shined from the rest and there is something dazzling and fearless about the 22 year old. KUSHIDA mentioned that Ospreay had never had a match in New Japan, so he finds it irregular that Ospreay would just challenge for the belt. KUSHIDA said to forget what people say about having to take steps. That’s boring and KUSHIDA isn’t a boring guy.
Match 4: KUSHIDA (C) vs. Will Ospreay – IWGP JR. Championship Match
Ospreay comes to the ring flipping over the ropes before the best entrance video/music in wrestling hits to bring out the champion wearing a purple McFly vest straight off the rack of your local Uniqlo. We’re talking powder purple here, Folks. KUSHIDA checks his wrist and it’s time to fight. After a few seconds feeling each other out, they exchange wristlocks. Ospreay does a lot of half-kip-ups as KUSHIDA politely waits for him to finish. Barnett mentions Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo while JR sprinkles garnish on the remark with “walk on through, electric boogaloo”. He was so close. Reversals into a headlock for KUSHIDA. Running the ropes for a cartwheel by KUHIDA who front flips over a drop-down, and his ranna is cartwheeled out of by Ospreay. Then a ranna by Ospreay is cartwheeled out of by KUSHIDA. The fans, and me, applaud in appreciation. Inverted atomic drop to a low dropkick by KUSHIDA, but Ospreay recovers and dropkicks him back.
Ospreay is thrown to the ropes and tries to deflect with a front flip attempt, but KUSHIDA laces him in the chest and he is forced to roll outside. KUSHIDA wastes little time going up top, hitting a wild looking Senton. KUSHIDA rolls Ospreay back in and starts working the arm as JR references a Nick Lachey song. KUSHIDA settles in and isolates the arm with multiple arm bars. Ospreay head scissors KUSHIDA, but is thrown down and put into a figure-four arm lock. Amazing. Ospreay reaches the ropes to break it. Ospreay tries to run away, but the damage to the arm stops him from spring-boarding off the ropes for a counter. KUSHIDA goes for an arm wringer that gets a mule kick pop-up to put the champ down.
Ospreay is holding his arm, which signals KUSHIDA to kick it. Ospreay sends KUSHIDA to the ropes. KUSHIDA taps hands to the mat and bounces back, only to send Ospreay into the ropes who front flips against the ropes and hits a flipping forearm. Jesus! Ospreay missile dropkicks KUSHIDA outside and hits a running, over the top ropes, twisting backflip with a tuck! Back in the ring, Ospreay hits what I will dub a solarplexes check, which is a reverse lumbar check/lung blower. Standing corkscrew gets Ospreay a two as the fans delight. Ospreay, who is CHOAS buds with the great Okada, winks to the hard camera and goes for the Rainmaker, but KUSHIDA turns it into a Hoverboard lock. Ospreay immediately slides to the ropes.
KUSHIDA boots Ospreay in the ribs. And again. The third gets reversed into a knee to KUSHIDA’s face followed by a running moonsault into a leap to the buckles for a twisting cannonball half-gainer. Seriously!? Ospreay goes up top, only to have KUSHIDA kick him in the face and make him take a breather on the turnbuckles. There will be no breather as KUSHIDA races up the turnbuckles, grabs Ospreay’s arm, and backflips with a twist into a cross arm breaker! Ospreay wriggles to the ropes for a break. KUSHIDA comes back with a dropkick to the arm as JR comments on how much he loves KUSHIDA’s strategy.
KUSHIDA goes for the arm again, but gets flashkicked (Standing too. Not even holding down for two seconds). He follows with European uppercuts to KUSHIDA only to get discus forearmed to send the challenger bouncing against the ropes. Batsu game! Forearm by Ospreay, open-palm slap by KUSHIDA, eight kicks to the head by KUSHIDA, forearms and punches to the gut by both men, front kick to the face by Ospreay, then a clenched right hand by KUSHIDA finally drops Ospreay. KUSHIDA runs the ropes for a clothesline, but Ospreay reverses with KUSHIDA’s momentum to backflip him into a two count.
Ospreay scrambles for the top rope, but gets forearmed by KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA tries for a ten-punch to find Ospreay sliding out from under him to deliver a nasty superkick to the face. Ospreay heads back up top to hit a twisting shooting star press to a gutful of KUSHIDA’s knees. Inside cradle gets KUSHIDA a two. KUSHIDA laces Ospreay’s arm with a kick and hits the ropes to get reversed into a pop-up flapjack followed by a double-twist leg drop to the back of his head!
Ospreay jumps onto the second buckle as KUSHIDA recovers and meets him up top. KUSHIDA snatches Ospreay’s arm and they fall together, but this time KUSHIDA gets a cross arm breaker that he transitions into a triangle choke. Ospreay powers up with his bad arm and pops KUSHIDA onto his shoulders. KUSHIDA reverses and pulls Ospreay down for the Hoverboard lock! Ospreay goes for the ropes, but is rolled back into the middle of the ring for the tap out. Jesus F******* Christ! I’m done.
WINNER: KUSHIDA in 15:07 to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship
(Andrews’ Analysis: This was every superlative rolled into one. It was fast-paced, but methodical. It was physically grueling, yet breathtaking at the same time. The aerial moves, the hard-hitting nature, the fluid transitions from one move to the next. I loved this match. LOVED this match! This was nonstop action from start to finish and I would love to see these guys do it again. Hmm, I wonder.)
J.R. talks about how KUSHIDA is this generation’s Jushin Thunder Liger. Low and behold Liger steps into the ring and grabs the mic. He challenges KUSHIDA for his title and the challenge is accepted with a handshake. JR tells Barnett that if they’re lucky they’ll get to call it.
Back to the sauna, KUSHIDA talks about the strength of Ospreay’s back. He mentions that even though people think that Ospreay just jumps and flies around, his power to pull people in is amazing. He says that Ospreay is like Richochet in that respect, but greater. KUSHIDA talks about a magazine that he read where Ospreay said that he wanted to fight him in the main event at the Tokyo Dome. KUSHIDA says that he wants his belt to topple the Heavyweight Title and be the main belt. God willing.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Overall a tale of two episodes. The first episode featured a sloooow match and a comedy six-man. The second episode featured a hard hitting affair and a match that everyone needs to see. I suppose you could say that the shows split the difference and is overall average, but Jim Ross and Josh Barnett were on the call so who can complain? I certainly won’t. Thanks for reading and kick a little ass this week.