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NJPW on AXS TV Report
December 9, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan Part 3 & Hakata Starlanes
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch contributor
Jim Ross has the keys and Josh Barnett is riding shotgun, so let’s buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Naito is interviewed in what appears to be a run of the mill, generic backstage area. Sorry, not much else can describe the drabness. Naito speaks about Okada coming back after 2012. Speaking of which, if I’m allowed to do it I really want to investigate and report back about this strange pocket of time where Okada was in TNA of all places. I’ve never seen a second on TNA, but I’ve heard stories. I feel like Okada’s story in TNA is going to be chock full of the bungling of a spectacular talent with a whisper of racial stereotyping slipped in as well. Anyway, Naito admits to being jealous of Okada’s immediate success upon his return. He says that after getting an up close and personal look at Okada, he was unimpressed and wondered where the Okada was who once pressured Naito to get back to action.
Match 1 – Kazuchika Okada (C) vs. Tetsuya Naito – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Huge match to start us out. Naito is out first looking dapper in his white suit and skull mask. He is joined by BUSHI and EVIL, stablemates in the trio Los Ingobernables de Japon, which is an offshoot of the main Los Ingobernables stable in CMLL. Next out to a huge reaction is Okada, who hits the turnbuckles to pose for the adoring fans while cash shoots towards the ceiling to make thick sheets of rain. You realize that THIS is how Caligula would have entered a room if he had the technology don’t you? Gedo, Okada’s mentor, is out with him and looking remarkably like Chavo Guerrero with his full beard and bandana combo. It’s weird seeing Gedo so soon after watching Halloween Havoc 1997 a few days ago. There he weighed as much as, and was dressed similar to, Charlie Brown from the House of Blue Leaves. Here, he’s slim and trim. Seeing the weight drop in such a short span makes it look like he was hit with the Thinner curse.
JR tells us that the “defiant younger demographic” have taken to Naito, though the entire crowd is pumped up right off the bat for both men. Collar and elbow tie-up leaves Naito’s chest wide open for a chop, but Okada gives him a soft pat and calls his ass right back to the middle of the ring. Naito gets Okada into the corner and gives him the same tap, but attacks afterwards. Okada is tossed outside as Naito fakes a dive after him and slides feet-first in the middle of the ring to pose. Okada is pissed, but Naito just rolls outside to let him stew. Naito rolls in for a second only to roll right back out as Okada draws near.
Naito finally gets in and is sent into the ropes for a back elbow, then gets his head busted up by a hard kick from a sliding Okada. Okada sinks in a straitjacket hold until Naito can wriggle to the ropes. Back elbow by Okada into a Senton for two. Okada hits the ropes, but BUSHI trips him up for Naito to hit a low dropkick to the head. Outside the ring, Naito whips Okada into the railing, then Gedo, and women scream. Naito tosses Gedo into the ring and stomps away while EVIL horse-collars Okada with a chair. He picks up another chair and delivers a homerun shot that smacks Okada and sends the initial chair yard.
Okada struggles back in and is immediately tied up in the tree of woe to eats boots. Naito gets Red Shoes’ attention so BUSHI can reach in and strangle the champ. Headscissors by Naito, which he twists to add as much torque as possible. I like that. Okada reaches the ropes to break the hold, but Naito stays on the attack with a barrage of forearms. Naito hits a shoulder breaker followed by a low dropkick to the back of Okada’s head for a two. Okada fights back, hitting forearms that he transitions into a straitjacket neckbreaker. A reversal by Naito into a tornado DDT is reversed by Okada and sets him up top for a dropkick that dumps Naito over the top rope. The fans flee as Okada whips Naito over the railing. There goes EVIL. And BUSHI. They’re all set up next to each other, slumped side by side like a couple of frat boys who have had one too many. Okada gets a running start and clears the rail with a sick crossbody that covers a ton of yardage and buckles the boys into their chairs! JR and Barnett begin to question where the twenty count is while all of this is going on. Finally inside, Naito hits an atomic drop into a neckbreaker. Great combo. Forearm by Naito is met by a loogie to the face. “Classless,” chides JR. Naito’s “counter” helps him get in a tornado DDT off the ropes. Naito bumrushes Okada, who jacks the challenger high into the air for a BIG ASS flapjack!
Okada is up first, then Naito. Batsu game! Forearm by Naito, forearm by Okada, forearm by Naito, forearm by Okada, back and forth for a six-pack of forearms before Okada slams Naito’s head with three forearms in a row that thud against Naito’s skull. DDT by Okada followed by Red Ink, which is a crazy looking modified cross-legged STF. Thanks, Josh! I had no idea what the hell that was. Gedo is having a fracas outside that gets Okada and Red Shoe’s attention. It’s a perfect distraction for Naito to low blow Okada and lock in a Koji Clutch. Okada fades, but we all know the notes to this song, a second wind and Okada gets the ropes to break the hold. Okada struggles to the turnbuckle while Naito chases him down and leaping into the air, kicks Okada in the face on his way over the top rope, then on the way down sweeps Okada’s legs so he can reenter with a rope assisted twisting dropkick. Unreal combo! JR and Barnett use “beautiful”, “slick”, and “seamless” to describe it. Naito props Okada up top and hits a HUGE Frankensteiner. Naito hits Gloria, which Barnett refers to as a hammerlock sit-out side slam. Love it! Mega spinebuster sets up Okada for the Destino, but Okada reverses it into a neckbreaker where he drops the back of Naito’s neck onto his knee! Okada dropkicks Naito in the chest, who bounces off the turnbuckle. Another low dropkick. And another. Okada is doing the style of dropkick where he lays out flat in the air and smacks Naito with both feet at the height of the jump. After a two count, Okada head to the top turnbuckle for a HUGE dropkick. Another two. It was so nice that they replayed it in slow-motion.
Scoop slam sets up Naito in the middle of the ring. Okada heads to the top turnbuckle and hits a beautiful remastering of the Macho Man elbow. Okada calls for the Rainmaker, but Naito ducks out and gets behind Red Shoes. He lobs Red Shoes at a spinning Okada, who LEVELS THE F- out of Red Shoes with a stiff forearm. Los Ingobernables are in while the ref is down. Heavy Rain to BUSHI. European Uppercut to EVIL. Naito is up, but gets whipped into the ropes for a more conventional dropkick. As Okada sets up Naito for a tombstone, a masked man dressed like he’s part of the flight crew of the Nebuchadnezzar makes his way into the ring. Okada nails the tombstone and calls for rain. The masked man turns Okada around for a leaping neck breaker while JR screams “What the hell!?” The figure unmasks to reveal…”It’s me Austin!” It’s SANADA, who upon first inspection kind of looks like the Japanese version of a slow-witted looking fella I saw delivering botched lines in a Brazzers film I had to watch while researching the adult film industry and its impact on American culture. Cough. Barnett says that SANADA was once one of Naito’s chief rivals. SANADA hits a moonsault and slips out of the ring while Gedo looks on, mouth agape. Red Shoes recovers as Naito hits an Enzuigiri. A Destino (please look this move up as I could never describe it and do it justice) is countered by Okada, who lifts Naito onto his shoulders. Naito counters, but Okada counters the damn counter and hits a German suplex, holding onto Naito’s arm for the Rainmaker! Naito ducks and whips Okada’s body into the mat with a Destino! The rotation of this move is something to behold. 1, 2…3? God damn! We’ve got a new champion!
Winner: Tetsuya Naito in 28:53 to become the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion (64th holder of the title in NJPW history)
After the match, Gedo tries to help out Okada but gets green mist to the face. Okada gets the mist, which is literally insult to injury as SANADA locks in a dragon sleeper. Ishii and Goto slide in to make the save as the new champ and crew take a breather outside. Barnett calls them scumbags. That’s not very professional. Naito and Ishii square off as Okada is carried away. As Red Shoes presents the title to Naito, Naito drops it and drops Red Shoes as well. He takes the mic and talks about how the president of New Japan spent 200 million yen to make Okada a star, but Naito doesn’t need that type of build. He tells the president of New Japan that he knows he’s busy, but thanks him for watching. A large section of the crowd cheer Naito on, and not just the “defiant youth” either. He says that Los Ingobernables thanks those who support New Japan and they want to show them some new scenery. What does he mean? The answer is “tranquilo”, which means calm. Naito’s catchphrase is “Don’t rush it,” which that same large portion of the crowd say with him. As streamers fall, the crowd chant along with Naito that EVIL, BUSHI, SANADA, and he are “Los Ingobernables de Japon!” As streamers fall, Naito grabs the belt, poses with it, then tosses it into the air and walks away. That…is…awesome. JR says that Naito doesn’t have a “damn bit of respect for the championship” and “what in the hell are we in for now? For the love of God!”
(Andrews’ Analysis: I missed the G1, so this was my first Naito match. Whelp, I’m all in on this f*****g guy. Awesome wrestler. Awesome character. Awesome on the mic. I’m so impressed. The match as a whole was spectacular. It wasn’t a fast-paced full-throttle gut check, but it didn’t need to be. This was Naito and Okada telling the story of a company, and fan base, at a crossroads. The challenger resorts to head games and interference even though he has the natural ability to win on his own, all the while thumbing his nose at the establishment. Okada is the face of the company, the star that brings good fortune to those around him and the company as a whole. The crowd was split all the way until the end, but when Naito hit his catch phrase it sure as hell sounded like everyone in the building said it with him. And that’s the bottom line.)
Interview with Naito right after the match. He says that he aimed for the IWGP belt but now the IWGP is chasing after him. He points the camera to pan right, where we see the belt that he threw in the ring. Naito says that the belt has somehow chased after him.
In a current day interview with Naito, he says that it felt great to have all eyes on him. He said that everyone laughed at him when he began going after the title. Once he got his hands on it for the first time, it didn’t have the same shine that he imagined. The title just made him want to throw it away.
Match 2 – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Bad Luck Fale – 30 minute one-fall match
As we saw/read last week, Fale attacked Tanahashi after a six-man title win and this is part of the fallout from that. The Under Boss comes out to some sh***y club music, and onto the way to the ring, shoves the ring announcer. What was that all about? Did the announcer cut Fale off in traffic earlier or something? Tanahashi is out next to his excellent Dynasty Warriors track. JR tells us that Tanahashi is dealing with a terrible shoulder injury. Tanahashi immediately tries a body slam, but the overweight under boss falls on top of Tanahashi. Fale tosses Tanahashi outside and throws him around for a minute. Tanahashi reverses an Irish whip to send Fale into the railing. Tanahashi leaps into Fale’s lunch lady arms and gets slammed to the floor. Tanahashi is in at 19. Tanahashi and Fale trade punches in the middle of the ring, but trust me, this is no Batsu game. Tanahashi finally gets his body slam.
As Fale stumbles around, Tanahashi rushes in. Fale brushes the back of Tanahashi’s head, sending him over the top rope so he can skin the cat. It’s a long wait, where I suppose Fale was supposed to be there quicker for Tanahashi to get his legs around and pull Fale outside. Tanahashi heads up top and hits a cross-body…kind of. Their bodies connect, but much like a muffed fair catch, Tanahashi bounces off Fale’s body and he hits mouth-first on the floor. This man is a face of the company! Protect his damn face! Back in the ring, Tanahashi’s attempt at a Cloverleaf gets him flipped to the mat. A whip into the ropes gets reversed, and Tanahashi goes for a sunset flip. Fale just sits on him. Fale builds up a head of steam by bouncing off the ropes and lands a splash for a two. Fale heads up top and stops in perfect superplex position, which Tanahashi obliges. Tanahashi, learning nothing from his opponent’s mistake, does the exact same thing as Fale gets in a superplex of his own. Fale spears Tanahashi when he tries to get to his feet. It gets a two. JR picks up what anyone else watching has as well, which is Tanahashi staring at Red Shoes as he counted. JR muses that Tanahashi was trying to take as much time as he could before having to kick out so he could catch his breath. Anyone buying that? No?
Fale picks up Tanahashi for a razor’s edge, but Tanahashi counters with a Hurricanrana attempt. I thought Fale was going to power him back up, but the poor bastard just needed an extra second or two to lean down and finish the roll. This is kind of sad to watch. Fale can’t even get his legs up high enough for Tanahashi to grab them to lock in the pin. Oh well, it’s a two anyways. Fale splashes Tanahashi in the corner, then on the rebound picks up Tanahashi like he’s going for a chokeslam, only to swat him in the chest on the way down, a.k.a. The Grenade. Another razor’s edge attempt is awkwardly reversed into a dropping sling blade “variation” per Barnett. Tanahashi bounces off the ropes and jukes behind Fale for a belly-to-back that looked really nice considering the wide load he had to lift. A couple more sling blades by Tanahashi gets Fale into position for the High Fly Flow and that’s a wrap. Thank God.
(Andrews’ Analysis: I’m sorry for being so negative, but this was brutal to sit through. It was a gazelle vs. a Gonk Droid and it just didn’t work for me. Boring, boring, boring. The crowd was bored as well. I saw a woman deep in the background breast feeding her child while a guy kept rolling and unrolling his program to mild delight. For the sake of the good name of Tanahashi, don’t watch this match and let’s form a prayer circle in the hopes that this feud is over. I REALLY hope that the guys in the next match have their s- together or the suits at TORCH Tower are going to pull this review series right out of the weekly rotation.)
Interview with Omega. He says that he knows everything about Elgin, including that he was trying to be the premier power fighter in New Japan. He said that in the next match he wants it to be power vs. power. Muscle vs. fat.
Match 3 – Kenny Omega (C) vs. Michael Elgin – IWGP Intercontinental Title Match
Forget power vs. power. This is power offense vs. analog stick offense. Elgin is out to some Road House rock. The look on his face is in complete contrast to The Cleaner, who comes out hamming it up with his appropriate Carrot Top props (broom, trashcan, and a half-pint ladder). Barnett calls him the “apparent ECW mark”. JR says that hardcore fans consider Kenny Omega their guy. Can I throw my hat in that ring although I’m new to NJPW? Barnett is hopeful that we’re going to get a straight match with no Bullet Club members around. I like the Bullet Club, but I’m with Barnett on this one. JR says that this is the first Canadian vs. Canadian matchup in New Japan history. Well that’s…something. I like my setup better.
Tie-up sees Omega tossed effortlessly into the corner. Elgin is strong. A second tie-up gets Omega driven into the corner, but he reverses out by grabbing Elgin’s beard. Elgin counters a few of Omega’s punches with a high impact forearm. He grabs Omega and tosses him back where they started. As Elgin comes closer, Omega pokes him in the eye. That, my friends, is one of my favorite moves in wrestling. Omega goes for a suplex, but Elgin just lifts him up for a suplex of his own. Omega reverses out and eats a back elbow. Power slam by Elgin. Stalling suplex that Omega tries to fight out of, only to get stalled even longer. Did I mention that Elgin is strong? It gets a comparison to Davey Boy Smith by JR. Omega takes the plunge and gets the hell out of there for a breather.
Outside the ring, Elgin is in pursuit of Omega who is crawling to his cleaning supplies. He javelins the broom at Elgin, which actually manages to come close enough to his groin that he had to block it away. Nice aim. Omega lobs the trashcan at Elgin, who just brushes it aside. Omega, in a last ditch effort to surprise Elgin, pulls out the cold spray and starts deploying rounds. He’s not even close and gets booted for even trying it. JR tells Omega to “get his ass in the ring where it’s safer”. Elgin’s still a little pissed, so he pulls Omega up to his feet and flips Omega over the rail. Elgin chops Omega into a second railing, which is enough for Omega to hop the first rail to escape. By the way, where the hell is the twenty count? Red Shoes is just in the corner slapping his tackle around while all of this is going on. Omega sticks Elgin with a back elbow, then moonsaults off the rail. Elgin catches him, but Omega shakes free and superkicks Elgin in the stomach. Omega’s got the ladder and thrusts it into Elgin’s gut, but Elgin catches it and goes coast to coast to drive Omega into the opposite rail. Omega gets up and dropkicks the ladder into Elgin, then sets up the trashcan. Piledriver onto the trashcan by Omega! Seeing a piledriver in this day and age is so jarring to see. Elgin is dazed on the floor while Red Shoes asks Omega to get in the ring. NOW HE STARTS COUNTING!? Are you Sh***ing me, Red Shoes? Elgin recovers to get in at nineteen.
Fireman’s carry by Omega. He slams Elgin onto the mat and hops to the second turnbuckle for a moonsault. JR calls Omega “the boil on the ass of life.” The guys exchange punches and chops, no Batsu, which ends with Omega getting in a low dropkick to Elgin’s knee. As Elgin gets up, Omega hits the ropes and hits his beautiful, And 1 mixtape-esque, leapfrog over the back into a one-handed bulldog. It’s awesome. Elgin rolls out of the ring and…oh s-. Terminator 2 pounds off the mat. Omega goes up and over the top rope, and of course bangs his calf off the rail. The railings are putting in work tonight. About five bleeps go by as Omega writhes on the floor. Omega recovers and reaches under the ring for a table. Elgin stops a backdrop attempt onto the table as Barnett gripes that the count has stopped again. Omega’s back in, but Elgin hangs on the apron to take a couple forearms and a big boot over the table. Omega hits the ropes, but on the way back Elgin hits that wonderful, over-the-top spinning back elbow of his. Running clotheslines by the “big thoroughbred”. Clothesline to the back of Omega’s neck. More bleeps. He ties up Omega for a belly to back, but Omega gets out and unleashes two nipple-shattering chops. Elgin whips Omega into the ropes, lifts him up high for a press slam, but drops him down a level into a power slam for two.
Elgin charges Omega, but eats a boot. Omega hops onto the second rope, but Elgin hits a rope-assisted Enzuigiri and dumps Omega to the outside apron. Second rope suplex attempt is blocked by Omega and he sweeps Elgin’s legs out from under him. Omega wants that table broken, but struggles to lift Elgin out with him. JR: “Omega bustin’ a gut to get Elgin over the top rope!” The hell with it. Omega runs to nearest top turnbuckle for a flying cross body. Elgin catches Omega and twirls his body around like a baton for a gorgeous side slam. Now Elgin wants the table broken! This has become a full-on side quest at this point. A running razor’s edge is reversed by Omega, who superkicks Elgin. Jumping Enzuigiri by Elgin! Well done, Sir. After a chop and kick mini-game, Omega wins with a jumping knee that smacks against Elgin’s face. Elgin bounces off the ropes, but Omega reverses his charge and hits a snapdragon suplex. Snappy! Omega picks up Elgin for a gut wrench, holds that dead weight for a moment, and then powers him up all the way up for a Doctor Bomb! Unreal strength! Even Barnett almost yelps out holy s-.
Omega hits the ropes and clotheslines Elgin. Elgin wants him to do it again, so Omega obliges and gets stuffed with a spinning forearm. Belly-to-back by Elgin is flipped out of. A superkick by Omega is caught and Elgin’s lariat turns Omega inside out. Omega rolls outside, but Elgin grabs him at the turnbuckles and liiifts him up and over for his unbelievable second-rope avalanche falcon arrow. Two count! Elgin rushes Omega in the corner, but Omega front flips and rolls out of the way. Another Hurricanrana attempt is blocked. Elgin powers Omega up, heads towards the ropes, and powerbombs him through the table! “There’s your table!” screams JR. Great camera angle as Omega just disappears at the moment of impact. He’s buried so deep into the table that it almost looks like he’s lying in a hammock.
Elgin stops Red Shoes’ count and tells him that the match is going to end inside the ring. Omega has enough left to kick out at two. Elgin heads up top, but misses a corkscrew side-flip. ANOTHER Hurricanrana attempt by Omega gets him buckle-bombed! Elgin picks up Omega for another, but Omega twists out and hits a twisting backwards Hurricanrana that spikes the side of Elgin’s neck! Jesus Christ, Man! Omega lifts Elgin onto his shoulders for a One Wined Angel, but Elgin slips off and forearms Omega to the back of the neck. High knee by Omega in retaliation. And then ANOTHER backwards Hurricanrana drills the top of Elgin’s head into the mat! How is his neck not silly string at this point? These are so nasty that BOTH JR and Barnett say that Elgin needs to be more careful before he gets really hurt. Omega charges Elgin, but a BIG ASS clothesline flips Omega inside out. Elgin powerbombs Omega, quickly packaging him up for a pin. Red Shoes rolls into camera view – 1, 2, kickout – then rolls right back out. What a pro! Buckle bomb to Omega is immediately countered with a jumping knee that was so loud that it smacked me in the face. Bomaye to the side of Elgin’s head as he tries to get up! Kick out by Elgin! Elgin crawls to the ropes, but is mowed down by another Bomaye to the back of the head! Omega pulls Elgin to the middle and hits the One Winged Angel for the win!
Winner: Kenny Omega in 22:56 to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship
After the match, Tanahashi comes out and says that he is next to challenge for the title. The Cleaner says he’ll think about it before ball-tapping Tanahashi with the tip of his boot. While Tanahashi is down, Omega gets his ladder and holds the former champ down with it (the latches on the ladder don’t cooperate well). For some reason the timekeeper continuously rings the bell as if that is going to do anything. Omega laughs maniacally. He aims the finger-gun at the hard camera as the ring is showered in streamers. As they roll Tanahashi out of the ring it kind of looks like they are tee-peeing him on the way out. Not a good look for the ace of New Japan.
(Andrews’ Analysis: Christ! That’s enough neck trauma for one night! The match itself was hard fought and REALLY hard hitting. The second half of the match was at a ramped up pace that was breathtaking. Elgin can go. He can absolutely go. You would think that they would have to meet somewhere in the middle stylistically, but nope. Elgin stayed step for step with Omega and didn’t fall behind against Omega’s up-down-up-down-up-down frenetic style. Fast forward to right after the table is set up and you’ve got yourself a classic.)
We get another present day interview with Omega. He says that the Canadian boys made it a Canadian style match. He calls traditional Japanese wrestling “bullsh*t”. He calls Tanahashi a “selfish mother***er”. He says that Tanahashi expects to get every opportunity in the company. Omega says that that someone had to put their “mother****ing foot down”. His overall plan is to get a few more belts, win G1, and then get his shot at the heavyweight title.
Let’s take out Tanahashi vs. Fale and this was must watch television, wrestling fan or not. Both title matches were captivating and told incredible stories with incredible action. Now add in the rotten insides to this complement sandwich and you’ve got a terrific start with a loooong breather and a satisfying end leaving me replaying some of those big moves over again in my head.
Thanks for reading and kick a little ass this week. Oh, and for those of you who have made it into the playoffs of your fantasy league, I hope your teams get routed you rotten bastards. What? I’m not bitter. I’m not! BUT, in an attempt to ingratiate myself with the higher-ups in the tower, let me just say you’ve earned it. Best of luck.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: 12/2 NJPW on AXS TV Review: Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA, Omega & Young Bucks vs. Yoshitatsu & Tanahashi & Elgin, more