SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NJPW on AXS TV Report
December 16, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan Part 3 & Hakata Starlanes
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch contributor
Wrap yourselves up in a blanket and cozy up. We’ve got three shows in one night, which is fine by me. Put J.R. and Barnett’s asses to work.
Match#1 – Hiroki Goto vs. EVIL
The shows kicks off right away with our first match. Ahh, the trickle down economic of wrestling. EVIL, of Los Ingobernables de Japon fame, gets a payday because he’s in the same stable as the champ. He comes out cosplaying as Maleficent. I’m not sure whether to take away or add points for the B-movie prop sickle he’s dragging along with him. Never mind, he earns all the points because of a green laser pointer that he beams to the ceiling as the lights dim. JR calls Los Ingobernables a “NWO like entity”. The hell they are. Don’t get me wrong, I think they’re great as a group, but something tells me that Naito isn’t going to hold the title hostage for years upon years while the group splits into Los Ingobernables Tokyo, Wolfpac, and every other lazy incarnation. JR asks Barnett if Goto is a part of CHAOS, and Barnett says that he thinks he is because Goto and Okada have shaken hands before. Let’s not question that logic. Goto is out next as JR says that he has been referred to as the “Bret the Hitman Hart of New Japan Pro Wrestling”. I immediately NEED to go back and watch a ton of Goto matches to confirm this.
EVIL is waiting for Goto in the aisle and the two collide with clotheslines and forearms. Goto smacks EVIL’s head against the ring post, buying him enough time to disrobe before going back on the hunt and whipping EVIL against the railing. The two exchange Irish whips into the guardrails, with the later of the exchange putting EVIL on the offensive. EVIL snags a chair and jabs it into Goto’s stomach before giving him a solid whack across the back. JR says something that has been on my mind since I started watching New Japan. JR: “These security railings which are used so frequently in these matches”. They really are! EVIL horse collars Goto with a chair – oh s-, I’ve seen this before – and grabs another to tee off, knocking Goto on his ass while the original chair flies out of camera view. Touch em’ all EVIL. By the way, JR informs us that the match is officially under way and officially out of control.
A super quick cut, which JR actually acknowledges, puts both men in the middle of the ring trading a few dozen reversals before Goto drops EVIL with a neck breaker to his knee, ala Okada. And another, this time with far more force than the first, covering for two. Goto gets a little payback for the horse collar homerun and punts EVIL in the chest, hard. EVIL surprises Goto with a “fisherman’s buster”, per Barnett, which is a pretty nasty looking fisherman’s suplex into a brainbuster. JR decides to break into a mini-rant about wrestlers naming moves and gimmicks/gimmick tables while both men recover on the mat. A charging clothesline by EVIL doesn’t move Goto. A second one leaves Goto unfazed. Goto tries for one, speckling the air with EVIL’s sweat, but no dice. Goto goes for a spinning lariat, but EVIL bulldozes him with a straight-line clothesline. Hard, hard, hard hits during this exchange. JR questions the logic of trading shots, but ultimately admires their “Spaldings”. A discus forearm drops Goto. EVIL lands a fireman’s pickup into a power bomb, which he holds for a pin, but Goto kicks out at two. EVIL’s had enough of Goto and hits a space tornado ogawa for the win. And yes, that is a Barnett call. I was trying to figure out what it was, feverishly trying to run down my mental rolodex of all 5,018,076 of Chris Kanyon’s moves to figure out the name.
Winner: EVIL in 9:53
(Andrews’ Analysis: I knew what Goto brought to the table after seeing some of his tag matches with Shibata against Anderson and Gallows, but I was completely in the dark about EVIL. EVIL is Goto. Goto is EVIL. They are clones of one another, both equally game to smack the s- out of one another and get smacked back. The flurry of reversals after the quick-cut was impressive to watch considering that both men are built like Duplos blocks. On a quick side note, EVIL did do exactly what JR was going on about. His space tornado ogawa is called EVIL. Simple yet effective. To the gimmick tables!)
Fantastic! We get a commercial for the huge announcement that AXS TV is going to be showing Wrestle Kingdom 11 beginning January 13th, one week after the actual event. I have to be on my best behavior from here on out. I already got dressed down by the BSD of TORCH Tower over my comments about Bad Luck Fale. One false step and the J. Jonah Jameson of The Tower is going to send me an inter-office memo that I have been pulled from reviewing that and instead get assigned to some dumbass WWE thing. I can’t let that happen.
Match#2 – Kazuchika Okada vs. SANADA
Time for a little payback. After SANADA stormed the ring to help Naito capture the IWGP Heavyweight championship, we get a revenge match. First, are there no rematch clauses in NJPW? And second, there is no way Okada loses this one, right? Although this match is billed as CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon, it’s really “I’m going to f- you up” vs. “please, not in the face”. SANDA is out first, dressed like a Netherworld street tough. We’re talking black skull mask, an open black jacket showing off nothing but breast meat, and black tights with Cold Skull written on the back. He looks like he should be forcing himself on Lt. Proctor at the Blue Oyster Bar. Oh, and he has a black baseball bat. That might come in handy. Here comes Okada with Gedo by his side. There’s no cash cascading through the air tonight. Without the title that disposable income has been tightened up a little.
The crowd is chanting for Okada as the two eye one another up. They start out by reversing waistlocks and wristlocks. JR: “And if you’d like a pair of Cold Skull tights with cold skull written on the ass, I’m sure we can work up something.” Okada backs SANADA into the ropes and tries to pat him on the chest, but SANADA lunges forward and begins to attack. SANADA’s offense is cut off by a snapmare by Okada and sliding dropkick to the side of SANADA’s head. Okada slams SANADA to the mat, pops outside for a second, and sentons over the top for a one-count. Okada hits the ropes, but is caught by a dropkick from SANADA, who tosses Okada to the outside. Hey, we get a twenty count from Red Shoes. Excellent, Buddy! As the ominous voice from above counts, SANADA whips Okada into the guardrail. He grabs his bat, chokes Okada for a second, then piledrives him. Back to back weeks of piledrivers? At this rate I’ll be desensitized to it by the time Wrestle Kingdom 11 rolls around. Ah, there it is. This move doesn’t mean as much in Japan. Okada is up and inside the ring at 19. I just rechecked what I typed earlier, and yes, he DID get a piledriver on the outside and got back in by 19. Ok, I’m desensitized. And in record time.
SANADA with a really nice springboard dropkick sends Okada back outside. SANADA clears the top rope and dives onto Okada, but the landing has both men worn out on the floor. SANADA is waaaay more athletic than I initially thought. SANADA rolls Okada back in and lifts the former champ skyward for a driving back suplex. The men trade reversals, in and out of holds, before Okada scoops up SANADA for a neckbreaker. “Love it,” remarks Barnett. Three forearms to SANADA’s face is greeted by two European uppercuts from SANADA. Okada slips in a DDT and kips up as the fans applaud. Okada launches three sliding dropkicks at SANADA, back laid out flat with both feet up like a pro. This is also the second week in a row of great camera angles as the first two dropkicks were from Okada’s perspective and you could see SANADA’s face contort upon impact. A scoop slam by Okada sets up SANADA for that beautiful top rope elbow. Okada signals for the Rainmaker as the hard camera pulls back to show the crowd explode. The Rainmaker is countered into a dragon sleeper, which is countered into a rainmaker, which is countered to a fireman’s carry pickup, which is countered to a rainmaker, which is countered into a dragon sleeper. God…al…mighty. SANADA has the dragon sleeper locked in with a body scissors, trapping Okada in tight. Red Shoes lifts the arm twice, but Okada fights to the ropes before the third could drop. Tiger suplex in the middle of the ring by SANADA for two. Fireman’s carry pickup and SANADA hits a TKO. But instead of going for a cover he goes up top and whiffs on a moonsault attempt. Did Jeff Fisher call that play in? Glad to see the ol’ ball coach landed on his feet so quickly. SANADA rushes Okada in the corner but eats a big boot. Tombstone piledriver is reversed into a dragon sleeper, which is reversed into a tombstone piledriver, which is reversed into two stiff forearms that back Okada into the ropes. An Irish whip by SANADA is reversed, sending SANADA into the ropes. Wow! Picture perfect standard dropkick by Okada even makes Red Shoes hop up and down. A rainmaker is reversed into a dragon sleeper, with SANADA pouncing on the mat to try and lock in the body scissors. But Okada rolls out, bringing SANADA back up with him for a tombstone! Then a Rainmaker! That’s a f***ing wrap!
Winner: Kazuchika Okada in 15:11
(Andrews’ Analysis: First of all, I don’t know why all you people were so down on SANADA. He’s pretty damn good! Seriously! When I first saw him he hit a sloppy moonsault on Okada to help Naito capture the title. You know what they say about first impressions. Well I was wrong. As were all of you coincidentally! He can wrestle his ass off and looks technically sound while doing it. The match itself was really fun to watch. Reversal, reversal, reversal. I love that style of wrestling as long as it’s not in a video game. And just when I thought they were out of reversals, they ended the match with the very same thing that made this match so much fun to watch in the first place.)
KUSHIDA vs. Liger is next! We get a present day interview with KUSHIDA about the match. KUSHIDA says that he wanted to be the sort of champion that Liger would want to challenge. He said that he was happy to see Liger challenge him. To him it felt like the time had finally come. He said that being challenged by Liger was very moving and his goal since he started wrestling was to be the type of wrestler who could fight all over the world, which Liger is the perfect example of said goal. He mentions that Liger can get a crowd excited anywhere – be it the U.S., Canada, or Europe – and that Liger doesn’t need to rely on New Japan as a brand because Jyushin Thunder Liger is himself a strong brand.
Match#3 – KUSHIDA (C) vs Jushin Thunder Liger –IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
I can’t add anything after KUSHIDA’s interview. What more do you need!? And what a treat for me after ripping Bad Luck Fale from neck to nuts last week. Liger and KUSHIDA come to the ring to a ton of fanfare. Unlike last time we saw the champ, KUSHIDA skipped the powdered vests for a more stated color befitting a championship match of this caliber. It’s the McFly, which means war. KUSHIDA polishes the belt and raises it in front of Liger. Oh this is a pleasure to watch already. JR calls Liger the best Junior Heavyweight in the history of Japan. Barnett tells us that he’s actually had the privilege to wrestle Liger. There is love all over this match. JR isn’t expecting “flipping and flopping” but submission attempts. Also, Liger’s son is in the audience and the young Liger is a big KUSHIDA fan.
The moment the bell rings the crowd gets rowdy as hell. I love when the NJPW crowd gets loud early. Tie-up to start, into a headlock by Liger that he transitions to a leg takedown, step-over, pick-up, arm drag, head scissors, kip out by KUSHIDA, roll, applause break. God damn! KUSHIDA feigns a test of strength to dash behind Liger, but is reversed into a takedown transitioned into a surfboard. After Liger puts KUSHIDA back to the mat, he continues to work in another submission, digging his knee into KUSHIDA’s back while peeling KUSHIDA’s arms back like he’s trying to snap a wishbone. KUSHIDA works his way back up to his feet, but eats a shoulder block that puts him on his back. Liger hits the ropes, but is caught by KUSHIDA for an atomic drop. KUSHIDA is on the move. A low dropkick puts Liger down, followed by a running punt that tattoos Liger’s arm. It gets an “Ooooh” from the crowd.
KUSHIDA locks in an arm bar, then transitions to a short arm scissor, before slamming Liger’s arm to the mat. Liger gets up and tries to rush KUSHIDA in the corner, but is cut short by a boot to the chin. KUSHIDA is scooped up and twirled by Liger. As KUSHIDA flips out of it, his left leg buckles. Liger is a world traveled veteran, so if you grab at a body part he will attack it. A low dropkick smacks into KUSHIDA’s knee and the champion rolls outside to get away. Liger prowls after KUSHIDA, picking him up for a shin breaker on the guardrail! Ow! The ref comes out and tells Liger to get back in. Nope. Another pickup, this time using the ringside post! Ow! Oh hell, the ref isn’t counting and Liger has opened up the swinging gate to the first railing, bringing KUSHIDA to the aisle. Liger drives KUSHIDA to the floor with a “brainbuster-like drop” onto the concrete, which drops KUSHIDA on the back of his neck. Straight from the Red Shoes school of reffing, the ref checks on KUSHIDA, walks back into the ring, and THEN begins to count. KUSHIDA struggles back to the ring as the count gets to 18. At 19 he reaches for the ropes, but can’t get ahold of it and falls. Oops! I looked away and KUSHIDA is back in before twenty. What? No favoritism here. I genuinely looked away. REGARDLESS of the validity of the count, he’s in before twenty. Apparently.
Liger charges KUSHIDA in the corner and hits a wicked palm strike that pops KUSHIDA into the air like it’s a juggle-combo starter. KUSHIDA crashes to the mat. Liger nails a Liger-bomb! Beautiful! He’s putting on a masterclass in wrestling! Liger props KUSHIDA on the top rope and hits a hurricanranna that KUSHIDA rolls into a sunset flip pin for two! KUSHIDA lays some stiff kicks into Liger’s side, booting him hard on the third strike. Irish whip by KUSHIDA is reversed by Liger, who flips KUSHIDA into the ropes for a back spring elbow. KUSHIDA pops up and scores a standing moonsault for two. KUSHIDA goes up top for a bigger moonsault, but Liger gets the knees up. Jeff Fisher is getting a lot of work tonight after getting run out of Los Angeles. Hoverboard lock by Liger! Unbelievable! KUSHIDA fights out and gets to his feet, but Liger drops down and extends KUSHIDA’s arm. KUSHIDA spins out and transitions into an armbar, punching desperately at Liger’s hand. KUSHIDA gets it, extending Liger’s arm as Liger frantically fights. It looks like KUSHIDA is fighting a fish on the other end of a line as he struggles to hold onto Liger’s arm and keep it extended. It looks great! After contemplating a tap, Liger uses KUSHIDA’s momentum during the fight to roll towards the ropes and break the hold.
As Liger works his way back to his feet, KUSHIDA dropkicks Liger’s arm. Both men have figured out the body part they want to work. KUSHIDA with a cross arm breaker. Liger lands one of his own to show KUSHIDA how it feels. KUSHIDA gets fired up about it and drills Liger in the side of the head with four forearms. Liger opts out of a Batsu and dropkicks KUSHIDA’s knee. Dragon screw leg whip into a knee bar by Liger! The transition is so smooth. KUSHIDA flips onto his stomach and lunges for the ropes, giving Liger the positioning to sink in an ankle lock! KUSHIDA tries to reach the ropes, but Liger drops down and grapevines the leg. KUSHIDA tries to slither away, getting his body twisted up more as he claws Liger’s collar and screams at him before yelping in pain. Great stuff! KUSHIDA has to drag his AND Liger’s weight along the mat to finally reach the ropes. The crowd applauds everything they have just taken in.
Shin breaker by Liger, followed by a capo kick, or in non-Barnett terms, a rolling heel kick. BIG right hand by KUSHIDA to earn some breathing room. I forgot that this is KUSHIDA we’re talking about, so there will be no breaths. He charges the ropes, boots Liger in the gut, and hits the ropes again but is Lou Thesz pressed on the rebound for two. KUSHIDA gets a running start and kicks Liger’s face, laces out. He charges Liger a second time, but is caught by a clothesline that sends him sailing through the air. The hang time probably felt good on his knee while it lasted. Liger gets a two and signals to the crowd that he’s ready to finish up. A brainbuster by Liger gets a huge reaction! 1, 2, no sir! “How the hell does a kid kick out of the brainbuster,” laments JR. Liger goes for a clothesline but a spinning forearm by KUSHIDA knocks him back. KUSHIDA jumps into Liger’s backswing and spins around to take them both to the mat for the Hoverboard Lock! The reason I love this move is because of exactly what I’m seeing right now. He’s tirelessly working to get that arm back and lock in the hold. Liger reaches for the ropes, but KUSHIDA rolls him up, contorting Liger’s hand with complete control for the tapout! Holy s-! Comments below!
Winner: KUSHIDA in 14:37 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship
After the match, both men are receiving treatment – Liger for his arm and KUSHIDA for his knee. I love NJPW for stuff like this. It’s the cherry on top of a match that is treated as a sport and not just entertainment (I’ll eventually get around to giving my thoughts on WWE). KUSHIDA gets his title, limps towards Liger and places it on the mat. He drops down to Liger-level as the two take a knee and say something to one another. Classy move as KUSHIDA shows respect to a wrestler who deserves all the respect in the world. KUSHIDA bows, both palms and forehead pressed to the mat. Liger taps him on the shoulder and shows the same respect to KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA gives Liger another, which he should. Liger and KUSHIDA shake hands and hug as KUSHIDA limps around for the mic. He tells Liger that he just stopped the time on his last chapter. He tells Liger that for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, to please keep being himself. Liger gets the mic as the crowd erupts. He tells KUSHIDA that if he, the strongest wrestler in the junior class, means what he says then he should grant him another chance. Liger tells the crowd that if he gets another chance the belt will be wrapped around his waist. KUSHIDA polishes the belt and they shake hands.
(Andrews’ Analysis: What the hell do you want me to say here? I can gush all I want, but if you haven’t seen this match then it may very well mean nothing to you. I’m a sucker for matches that involve taking a body part, dissecting that body part, and using that body part to get a submission victory. It probably comes from watching Ric Flair as a kid, but it’s always been the type of match that I like the most. The only negative I can say for this match was the “brainbuster” on the floor. Hey, I’m all for the move. It looks great! But when it happens on the outside it doesn’t look right because the guy taking the move is not going to be able to land where it looks the most effective. And anyways, that same guy would be in the concussion protocol for a year. Other than that, this exceeded my expectations and I really want to start watching as much Liger that I can find on the web or on that thing I spend $9.99/mo on that just collects dust until I want to watch Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and Kurt Angle matches.)
Back to KUSHIDA in the present day. He talks about the match being in Liger’s hometown and that the match took place not long after the earthquake that hit that area. He called the match unforgettable, including the factors other than the match itself. KUSHIDA talks about those who had the championship before him, and how they fought to break their opponent’s bones. He knew that he had to be willing to break Liger’s bones or he would lose. He mentions Naito’s championship match full of interference and how he wanted to show something that was greater than that match. He wanted to move people and he feels like he was able to accomplish that. KUSHIDA says that since Liger’s chapter was coming to an end, he knew it was a match that he couldn’t afford to lose. He’s seen better than anyone how great Liger is, and there is a part of him that is purely a fan.
Match#4 – Yoshitatsu & Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin (C) vs. Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (The Elite) – NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Championship Match
Here we go again. The rematch. As you are well aware at this point, I am not a fan of six-man tags, though I am a fan of all the participants involved. The Young Bucks are coming out with quite the uniform, which JR likens to their pajamas. They basically are, but are littered prints of the Young Bucks faces from top to bottom. The Elite have the prerequisite cleaning supplies AND a ladder. I wonder if that will come into play. Regarding The Young Bucks outfits, “Well, we know that these young men are seamstresses as well”. The champs are out next to Tanahashi’s amazing music, so all is well. Elgin’s neck is intact from his match with Omega, so all is doubly well. By the way, I’d heard tale of it, but I have actually seen it now. Yes, Yoshitatsu is doing the HHH entrance. How very Shang Tsung of him. Also, the ref looks like the late Pat Morita.
The match begins with the throwing of clothes, some well-placed bleeps, and a brawl between both teams. Elgin stacks all three members of The Elite in the corner and he and Tanahashi whip Yoshitatsu at them for a clothesline. There goes Tanahashi for a cross body. Elgin finishes up with a freight train rush that crushes the challengers. The Elite all get suplexed by the champs and they bail out of the ring. Yoshitatsu flies over the ropes and lands on Omega while Elgin press-tosses Tanahashi onto the Young Bucks. Barnett calls it the Speedball special, in reference to Colossus and Wolverine. Nice pull!
JR: “I’m not sure who’s legal, or does it matter.” Yoshitatsu hits a blue thunder bomb on Omega, followed by Elgin waist locking The Cleaner, carrying him in his arms around the ring like he’s in a papoose before hitting a German suplex. I’ll beat that dead horse for another whack and just say that Elgin is strong. Matt Jackson crotches Tanahashi on the top rope before a high fly flow can be delivered to Omega. Everyone spills back outside while Omega recovers, with the Young Bucks belting Elgin and Tanahashi with superkicks. Omega swivels his hips at the crowd before Terminator – nope. They skip the pomp and circumstance as all three guys hit suicide dives to the champions.
They roll Yoshitatsu inside the ring and work him over with general stomps. Yoshitatsu fights back with forearms while Omega is bleeped. Tag to Nick Jackson, who whips Yoshitatsu in the corner for all three men to hit kicks and bleeps. Nick Jackson with a moonsault to Elgin on the outside, leaving Omega and Yoshitatsu inside as the legal men. I guess. Omega tags to Matt, who stomps Yoshitatsu in the corner. Lots of corner work, beating up Yoshitatsu with chokes and punches. Matt tags in Nick, but before he leaves he takes a running start at Yoshitatsu that Yoshitatsu ducks as Nick sweeps his leg over the top and boots his brother’s skull. Nick hits the ropes, but Yoshitatsu lands a dropkick and tags in Elgin. A big forearm drops Nick. A suplex reversal by Nick sends Elgin into the ropes, but Elgin hangs on, boots Nick in the face, then spins around to catch Matt sneaking up and levels him with a clothesline. He gives Matt a crotch chop. Elgin catches Nick trying to creep up and dumps him next to his brother, delivering a crotch chop and a “suck it”. “Well the crowd likes the suck it,” JR sighs. As Elgin hits the ropes to fly…wait, can he fly? Anyways, Omega jumps up on the apron, halting Elgin in his tracks. Elgin uses the ropes to catapult Omega in, catching him in the air to deliver a rough powerslam.
Nick hits the top rope and tries to senton Elgin, but he’s caught. Barely caught. Elgin is grabbing all types of fabric to keep him up, which he does with full control and spikes Nick with a falcon arrow. The count is broken up by Matt. Tanahashi and Yoshitatsu finally get in the ring and they destroy Nick with the same moves that befell all three challengers to begin the match. Tanahashi and Yoshitatsu lift Nick up top to an awaiting Elgin who hits a top rope powerslam. Tag to Tanahashi as the crowd cheers. Elgin lifts Tanahashi and positions him over Nick to slingshot him down for the pin, but Omega pastes Elgin’s face with a knee. Matt snags Tanahashi from Elgin and gets him into the tombstone position. Meltzer Driver attempt is reversed by Tanahashi into a dragon screw leg whip. And one to Omega. Cloverleaf to Omega, but Nick reenters and tries to superkick him. Cloverleaf to Nick, who JR points out is wearing “the world’s toughest headband”. Omega breaks up the submission with cold spray to the face, leisurely waltzing up to Tanahashi while the ref’s back is turned. Tanahashi is whipped outside, but skins the cat as Omega sprays down his pit and crotch. He’s classy like that. Lots of cold spray fake-outs before Tanahashi ducks and the ref is down by spray. F- it. While the ref is down Omega punts Tanahashi in the dangles.
JR: “This has denigrated into hell.” The Young Bucks help the ref to his feet, only for Omega to give him a crotch uppercut. The best part of this is that while the ref is scrunched up on the mat, one of the ringside crew members bring him a drink of water. To what end? JR is perplexed as to why there has not been a DQ yet. The Young Bucks set up a table while Omega gets the ladder and gut checks Elgin. Tanahashi gets one as well. And one to Yoshitatsu just to be completist. Excellent work by Barnett, who points out that the full sized ladder is a massive upgrade to the tiny one Omega usually carries around that keeps falling apart.
Omega sets the ladder in the corner and tries to lift up Elgin for a buckle bomb, but Elgin escapes, scoots Omega away, catches Matt’s superkick and sweeps the leg around to hit Nick. Belly-to-back to Nick. Buckle bomb into the ladder to Matt. Elgin rolls outside and bangs on the table. He hits the turnbuckle and tries to suplex Matt, but inhales a plume of cold spray from Omega. Omega sunset flips over Elgin and tries to powerbomb him through the table but struggles. The Young Bucks help out, with Matt holding Elgin’s head with his feet so Nick can superkick Elgin to assist Omega in breaking that table. The Young Bucks have the ladder and try to knock out Tanahashi, but Tanahashi ducks and dropkicks the ladder. Tag to Yoshitatsu as Omega rolls back in. He hits Omega with the tried and true HHH kneebuster. High knee to Matt by Yoshitatsu. And one to Nick while he’s at it. Spinebuster to Omega. All that’s left is the Pedigree, but based on the looks of that spinebuster I’d rather not see it. He tries it anyways, and thank God, the Young Bucks superkick him. Triple superkick to Yoshitatsu by the challengers followed by a One Winged Angel for the three as the ref places a bag of ice next to Yoshitatsu’s head.
Winners: The Elite to regain the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship
After the match, the Young Bucks set up the ladder and climb both sides. Omega picks up Yoshitatsu for a mega Meltzer Driver but Tanahashi makes the save. The bell keeps ringing but no one is listening. Scoop slam to Omega on the ladder, but before Tanahashi can hit a high fly flow, Omega slides out of the ring. Tanahashi grabs the mic and challenges Omega. Omega says no, much like last week’s episode, though states that if Tanahashi wants a ladder match then the answer is yes. They shake hands on it as JR remarks that the shake is as “disingenuous as a mother-in-law’s hug”.
(Andrews Analysis: Well, it was a six-man. The usual Elite fun and games. Honestly, this wasn’t as good as the first one and I had a problem with that match as it was. I wish I could just watch Omega in singles matches and The Young Bucks in standard tag matches. I get it though. They like working together and they are inventive, but two is enough. Please, AXS, no more six-man tags.)
We go to a present day interview with Yuji Nagata. He talks about a tag match in Osaka where he and some fellow legends had a match. He wanted to show that they still had it. He says that in that match they showed that the Third Generation (Sorry. Will look into it.) can still fight and show something amazing. They cut to a clip where Shibata calls Nagata an old, immature man. Nagata says that he is not immature. He talks about the Tenzan match and that it was a huge clash of pride. He calls Shibata’s reign as Never Openweight champion a shining presence, which is nice considering the boot to the face that Shibata laid into him. Nagata talks about the kick, saying that Shibata clearly targeted him, but he was expecting it. Nagata says that he had no choice but to go right up to Shibata because it was exactly what he wished for.
Match#5 – Katsuyori Shibata (C) vs. Yuji Nagata – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Well, I know right off the bat that this one is going to be rough. Last we saw of Shibata he was feeling disrespected by the elders of NJPW, taking it out on Tenzan’s head and leaving a trail of cheap shots in his wake. This is the next chapter in the Legend Killer run of OUR NEVER Openweight champion. Nagata is out first, to a song reminiscent of Night Court. It’s weird. Also, now that I’ve gotten a real long look at Nagata, I’ve noticed that he has a touch of Shrek in his face. It’s a little distracting at first. Holy sh- it’s Shibata! He has an amazing set of music on him. It’s so serene at first, including his tron video which is draped in blue velvety crush. But once those guitar licks kick in, Shibata comes hustling out, staring at the ground as he walks and holding the title like it’s a briefcase. He enters the ring and just glares at Nagata, almost as if to say, “This won’t last long.” Nagata shakes the ref’s hand. Classy. The ref by the way looks like he’s twelve. That’s a little distracting too.
JR promises us some physicality. Really nice reversals and chain wrestling sees the challenger work for various holds before backing away as the crowd applauds the effort. Nagata backs Nagata into the ropes, and as the ref breaks them apart he smacks Nagata on the top of his head, treating the veteran like he’s not even in his league. Nagata rushes Shibata, turns him into the ropes, and eats the first forearm of the contest. And the second, third, forth, and fifth. Shibata smacks him on the top of the head again. Shibata hits the ropes, but on the rebound gets the big boot from Nagata. Nagata sends a sweeping kick aimed for Shibata’s head, but Shibata ducks out of the way. The fans applaud.
Knee to the gut by Shibata is transitioned into a Russian leg sweep which is transition into a knee bar. Slick combo. Nagata isn’t fighting this one. He rolls to the ropes and gets Shibata the hell off of him, for about two seconds. Shibata drags him back to the middle of the ring and slaps on a figure four. This is good stuff. Nagata and Shibata jaw back and forth as JR tells us that the referee’s name is Marty. That isn’t helping his cause. Nagata tries to roll Shibata over and reverse the hold. More jawing, but this time Nagata turns him over, but Shibata is right next to the ropes to break it.
Shibata whips Nagata into the corner, but Nagata darts after him and sticks a knee to Shibata’s gut. As Shibata tries to get up, Nagata lays in three loud, thudding kicks to Shibata’s chest that are so hard that they help Shibata back up to his feet. Shibata into the corner, chased by Nagata for a big boot. Big forearm by Shibata turns the tide as he tosses Nagata into the turnbuckles and lands a flying knee that catches Nagata right in the face the moment he turns into the buckles. Shibata whips Nagata into the opposite turnbuckle and beats him into a squat with a barrage of forearms. But Nagata pops up! And then he’s down. A forearm by Shibata will do that. Shibata kicks Nagata as hard as he can until the ref comes in to break it up. Marty is tossed aside and Shibata gets back to kicking. With Nagata still seated in the corner, Shibata runs to the ropes and sprints back with a sliding kick that makes Nagata scream. It looked, and sounded, very painful. Shibata hits his beautiful floating dropkick next, leaving Nagata slumped in a heap. JR mentions that Kota Ibushi is on commentary at ringside, which is a good time for me to mention that the first NJPW match I ever saw was Ibushi vs. Nakamura. Was I spoiled or was I spoiled?
Big suplex followed by a boot to Nagata’s back. He’s really laying these in. Nagata tries to surprise Shibata with a fujiwara armbar, but Shibata reverses out and locks in a sleeper. It takes Nagata a long while to fight out and reach the ropes. Once Shibata breaks the hold, he pivots and lands a hard kick to Nagata’s chest that drops him. Well, on the bright side the sleeper was broken up. BIG breeze as Nagata ducks having his head detached. Nagata pops up and lands an exploder suplex. Batsu game! Forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, another round, and another, three forearms in a row by Shibata, big boot by Nagata, big boot by Shibata, exploder by Nagata, German suplex by Shibata, osoto gari by Shibata to end the game! That, my friends, was a f***ing Batsu!
Shibata is up first, laying in kicks to Nagata’s chest. He smacks the back of Nagata’s head that really pisses Nagata up. He pops up and…flash knockdown! Shibata is dropped by a sick forearm by Nagata! This is Foreman/Moorer all over again! But Nagata isn’t going for the cover. Moron! He just mean mugs to the crowd and drops to one knee. Oh you son of a bitch! He finally gets off his ass and pulls Shibata to his knees and – ow! – hits one of the loudest kicks I’ve ever heard. And another, even louder, so scratch that last sentence. A big knee dumps Shibata in the corner. Nagata lays in knee after knee, making the padding on the corner dance with each strike. Shibata is curled in a ball, but Nagata isn’t done. He pulls Shibata back up to his feet and hits a leaping knee that strikes the point of Shibata’s chin. Nagata hits a brainbuster in the middle of the ring and covers, but Shibata kicks out as his eyes are glassed over. Nagata finally tries to finish Shibata, locking in a crossface, but Shibata shuffles back until he can hook the bottom rope with his foot. Nagata brings Shibata back to the middle of the ring, but Shibata gets in a dropkick. Shibata covers for two and transitions right into a sleeper. Shibata transitions into a perfect bridging backdrop suplex that gets a two. He sits Nagata up and hits the ropes for the PK…but it’s caught by Nagata! Shibata smacks him in the face and rushes in, but Nagata reverses into a back suplex. 1, kickout! Shibata pops back up and Nagata stays on him, kicking and yelling until Shibata smacks him across the face again. Nagata smacks him back and hits an enzuigiri! Textbook Fighter Hayabusa! PK by Nagata! You read that right. Nagata picks Shibata up and hits an awesome backdrop suplex, twisting his body around for leverage on the cover. 1, 2…3! Are you serious?? Holy sh- it’s Nagata! You’re new NEVER Openweight champion!
Winner: Yuri Nagata in 11:53 to become the new NEVER Openweight champion.
(Andrews’ Analysis: I was not expecting this. Not at all. I figured that Shibata was going to get tested to advance the story, but ultimately win for the next legend to come out. The hell with that. The veteran, the legend, the stalwart had enough of Shibata’s bullsh- and dumped him on his head to get the strap. This was a physical, physical, PHYSICAL match that consisted of two guys laying in really hard shots on one another. The sounds that were coming out of my speakers were wide-receiver-across-the-middle smack sounds. Tough, tough, bastards. In fact, if there were ever two people I’d want with me in the Roanoke House it would be these two. Well, that is until one of them inevitably has sex with the witch. It’d probably by Nagata all hopped up on Yak Loin. You know he’s coming there to hang brain all over that place. Now that I think of it, with Shibata’s temperament he’d race right out of the house for a fight at the first sight of The Butcher coming up the driveway and get overwhelmed by her goons before getting piked and burned at the stake. But I digress! Wonderful hard hitting match that you should really check out and have the volume up loud.)
We go to a present day interview with your new NEVER Openweight champion, Yuji Nagata. He says that the match was really hard, that Shibata’s attacks were tough and genuine. Nagata says that he fought back just as hard. He states that he has raised questions as to how matches are fought in New Japan. He talks about the moment the match was won and compares it to how happy he was to how his body wouldn’t move afterwards. He says that he was surprised to see how many people in the stands were happy to see him win. They show a clip of him after the match literally shaking hands and kissing babies.
We get a sit down interview with Naito, the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He repeats from last week that everyone laughed at him when he said that he was going after the belt. For him, winning the title was a dream. Naito then talks about Tomohiro Ishii and a match that they had in March, which he says was won fairly. Naito has no idea why he has to defend his title against Ishii and was perplexed that Ishii didn’t even announce it. He just came up and got the right to challenge. Naito questions how accessible the title is to challengers and questions how New Japan runs their business. Naito makes mention that New Japan favors CHAOS.
Match#6 – Tetsuya Naito (C) vs. Tomohiro Ishii
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Ishii is out first, with a video package of nothing but him delivering and receiving forearms. If there was anything that says tough, it’ll be that package. Okada and Gedo come to the ring with Ishii. And yes, Gedo still looks like Chavo Guerrero. Next out is Naito with BUSHI and EVIL. This will not be a one-on-one match. JR and Barnett talk about Naito’s lack of respect for New Japan, but how he’s selling merchandise left and right. Lots of merchandising and branding talk tonight out of these two. As Naito enters the ring, he tosses the belt like it means nothing and he’s tired of lugging it around. Lovely stuff. JR comments that he treats the belt like a prop. Red Shoes picks up the title and gives it a polish. He’s a sweet guy. More merch talk! God dammit you guys!
After a long wait, where Naito feigns locking up, the two finally make contact. JR: “Collar and elbow. Tied em’ up.” They jockey for position against the ropes, where Naito taps Ishii on the chest, but as he walks away just lobs a wad of spit at the challenger. It covered quite the distance and was accurate as hell. That did it. Ishii is on the attack, landing forearms and head-butts. He hits the ropes and shoulder blocks Naito, who tries to escape but is thrown back in. Naito keeps rolling until he slips out on the other side of the ring. Then he rolls in at the corner, but keeps rolling outside. He’s so awesome. Ishii lays in some boots when Naito finally gets back in. Four hard chops drop Naito in the corner. Ishii is game, patting Naito on the head before chopping and forearming Naito until the champ buckles.
Ishii misses a clothesline in the corner and gets tripped up by BUSHI so Naito can hit a low dropkick. Naito pulls Ishii outside and whips him into the guardrail, twice. While Naito rolls back in, BUSHI horse collars Ishii with a chair and rams him into the ring post. Barnett wonders why Okada and Gedo are just sitting around letting it happen. Maybe it’s because Ishii stole Okada’s title shot. Just spit-balling there. Back inside, Naito hits Ishii with a deluge of back elbows in the corner and mudhole stomps him. Naito drops Ishii in the middle of the ring and hits a low dropkick for two. Naito slaps on the headscissors, twisting to add torque and pain. Barnett calls it the crooked headscissors. Ishii works for the ropes to break free.
Naito stomps away at Ishii and boots him in the face. Naito begins toying with Ishii, disrespectfully brushing the back of Ishii’s head with his boot until Ishii gets pissed and returns to his feet. Powerslam by Ishii. Naito is whipped corner to corner, receiving clotheslines until Ishii drops him with a shoulder block. Ishii gets a standing vertical suplex for two. Three hard chops by Ishii as Barnett calls him the “world’s most pissed off bowling ball.” Naito reverses a charge by Ishii to get a neckbreaker against the point on his knee. Naito follows up with a low dropkick to the back of Ishii’s head. With Ishii in the corner, Naito charges in, catching Ishii’s attempt at a boot by swinging his legs outside and dropping Ishii with another neckbreaker. It was pretty. Nonchalant cover by Naito for two where he kicks at Red Shoes, just because.
Ishii catches Naito’s kick and hits a dropkick to Naito’s knee while clutching the other foot. I’ve never seen that before. Ishii gets a dragon screw leg whip, continuing to work Naito’s knee. Smart guy. Ishii stomps on Naito’s knee and splashes it. Rolling kneebar by Ishii, sunk in deep! For a guy his size, Ishii can move swiftly in short spurts. Ishii wrenches and wrenches, but Naito manages to grasp the bottom rope and break the hold. Ishii places Naito up top, but Naito fights him off and hits a missile dropkick. Ishii pops back up, but a swinging neckbreaker puts him down. Naito bowls over Red Shoes with Ishii’s body, creating a distraction to drop-toehold Ishii onto the bottom rope so EVIL can smack the EVER LOVING S- out of Ishii’s head with a chair! It was loud. It was painful. It was unprotected. 1 out of 3 of those could stay. Still nothing out of Okada and Gedo while all of this is going down.
Ishii slumps in the corner. Naito rushes in, kicks Ishii’s face as he goes outside, heel trip, back in with the swinging dropkick. Much like last week, JR touts the beauty of that sequence. Atomic drop by Naito into a Flatliner into a Koji Clutch. Another great combo! Ishii fades, but begins flopping around to find the ropes and get out as the crowd applauds. SKY HIGH German suplex by Naito, plowing Ishii’s head into the mat. The two trade reversals, ending with Ishii kicking Naito’s bad knee. He lands one of the sickest shinbreakers I’ve ever seen at an angle I never thought the move could be hit at. Gedo is finally chipping in, banging on the mat to get the crowd going. It’s not quite a chair to the face. The two trade punches and forearms, no Batsu, that leaves Ishii dazed before Naito smacks the back of Ishii’s head. Now Ishii is spitting! Right in Naito’s face! Ishii elbows Naito’s knee and hits a dropping knee driver that sends the champion hobbling away. Naito fights out of a dragon screw, but gets smacked by an enzuigiri. Last Ride powerbomb transitioned into a knee bar by Ishii! BUSHI and EVIL try to get in, but Gedo and Okada literally hold them back with smothering embraces. Naito escapes for about two seconds before Ishii locks in a “reverse toehold variant” or “knee hip compression” per Barnett. Naito nearly taps, but before his hand drops he grabs the back of Red Shoes’ head and slams that noggin right into the mat. In come BUSHI and EVIL, stomping away at Ishii. I can’t find Okada or Gedo anywhere on the screen, so God knows what BUSHI and EVIL did to get away.
Ishii fights of BUSHI, but a spinning forearm by EVIL crumples Ishii to the mat. EVIL tries to hit EVIL (the move) on Ishii, but Ishii, slicked up in sweat, spins out and pushes EVIL into a beautiful Okada dropkick. Okada kicks EVIL out of the ring and they fight all the way to the exit. JR: “As Monsoon would say, turn on the shower! They’ll be there momentarily!” Big head-butt by Ishii to Naito followed up by a sweeping lariat for two. A sliding lariat gets two. Ishii picks up Naito for a standing vertical suplex, but Naito knees out. Naito goes for a spinning DDT using the second rope, but THAT’s countered by Ishii into a vertical suplex which is countered by Naito with a spinning DDT! Naito, bad leg and all, goes up top and conks the back of Ishii’s head with a missile dropkick. Naito quickly gets Ishii propped up on the top rope and nails a Frankensteiner for a close two. The crowd is applauding loudly. Gloria (hammerlock sit-out side slam) for two! While Barnett is calling moves left and right, JR wonders what the hell Naito has gotten himself into. A Destino attempt by Naito is caught by Ishii who hits a neckbreaker, hold on, lifts Naito up, and drops him straight on his head with a modified brainbuster! Unreal! Even Tanahashi, who you can see on commentary in the background, jumps out of his chair and is screaming! Awesome, awesome, awesome, visual to go with the crowd losing their s-! 1, 2, kickout! Ishii gets Naito up for a suplex, but Naito powers Ishii up for a brainbuster of his own! Ishii is holding his head, his mouth open to reveal blood streaked across his teeth.
Ishii is up first, but gets a head-butt and a rolling kick by Naito. Dragon suplex by Naito for two. Back elbow by Naito followed up by forearms. Naito smacks Ishii across the face and lands an enzuigiri that drops Ishii face first. Big clotheslines by Ishii, who whips Naito into the ropes. Naito flies at Ishii, hitting him with a yard churning shoulder block that covers half the distance of the ring. Naito is up quick, hauling Ishii to his feet for the Destino and the three!
Winner: Tetsuya Naito in 30:33 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
(Andrews’ Analysis: We are spoiled. Anyone who gets to watch these matches is spoiled. This was an incredible match from start to finish. Even the interference played into the match and wasn’t just interference for the sake of giving everyone something to do. Ishii is so damn impressive with his move set. He’s not just a forearm machine, he can mat wrestle and deliver power moves with incredible force. Now, maybe It’s because I’ve seen Naito rise to the top and defend in back to back weeks, but this guy has jumped into my list of favorites since I started watching New Japan, carving out a nice spot right below KUSHIDA and SHIBATA and tied with Okada. He’s a hell of a wrestler with a hell of a character and I need to see more from his past. It is yet another reason that the $9.99/mo I spend should be reallocated oversees.)
After the match, both men are getting medical attention, lying side by side as ice bags are applied to their bodies. JR: “Both men went through hell to get to the…bell.” He’s exhausted too. Okada and Gedo come out to help Ishii out of the ring as Naito struggles back to his feet. Okada enters the ring, takes off his shirt, and hovers over Naito. Naito pries his eyelid apart and glares at Okada, which is enough to make Okada leave. Touché. Red Shoes presents Naito with the belt, which is tossed into the air as Red Shoes follows its flight path. Naito sucker punches Red Shoes and BUSHI sprays poor Shoes with red mist. When will he learn? JR mentions that some in the audience are enjoying it. Naito grabs the mic and calls out the president of New Japan. He asks why the president isn’t there, witnessing the atmosphere with his own eyes. Naito demands that the president show up live for his next title defense. He wants the president to see and hear the response that he gets. He thanks the president for watching and thanks the crowd. He also has some parting advice for Okada. Tranquilo. Don’t rush it. Naito hits his Los Ingobernables de Japon as the crowd say it loudly with him. The ring gets glitter-bombed as JR screams, “Go buy a shirt folks! Humor him! He’s your champ!” More god damn merchandise talk! I can’t take it anymore!
We go back to the present day interview with Naito. He says that Ishii didn’t say anything about what he wanted to do to him in the match or what his thoughts were towards the belt. Naito thought that Ishii wasn’t motivated, but Ishii showed him that he was pretty fired up. He says that he fooled everyone who thought that Ishii was close to beating him. He was in control the whole time. Naito feels that his presence has surpassed the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
As the credits roll, JR says, “Well Josh, if controversy creates cash, Naito is going to be a rich man.” Please, no more! I give up!
FINAL THOUGHTS: This was a fast three hours, if you can imagine that. I enjoyed every match but the six-man, but maybe it’s just because I’d rather see literally everyone involved do their own thing. SANADA was impressive against Okada, EVIL was far better than I imagined, KUSHIDA/Liger was a dream match that delivered, Nagata/SHIBATA both hit like a ton of bricks and had a surprising ending, and the main event told an incredible story with gasp-inducing close calls and beautiful offense. And, yeah, I know I poke fun at JR and Barnett, but they make these matches that much better. They have quickly become my favorite announce team, passing the incredible Ranallo/Bryan tandem during the CWC. And a special mention to the wonderful camera shot of Tanahashi jumping out of his seat during the brainbuster by Ishii as the crowd exploded. This show is a gem, Guys, and I’m glad I get to cover it. I won’t apologize for the length of this particular review either. You did it to yourselves.)
As always, kick a little ass this week. Go after your goals and go after them hard. Make it a big week for yourself. I know I will.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REPORT: 12/9 NJPW on AXS TV Review: Omega vs. Elgin and Okada vs. Naito in two standout matches, plus Fale vs. Tanahashi
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