NJPW on AXS TV Report
December 23, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan Part 3 & Hakata Starlanes
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch contributor
A.J. Styles and Shinsuke Nakamura’s Last Nights in NJPW w/ The IWGP Intercontinental Aftermath
A replay of a replay after only three weeks of reviews? Why the hell not. But first, let’s backtrack on the reason for reviewing this replay of a replay. For those of you who have followed this series since its inception – all three weeks’ worth – you’ve probably noticed bits and pieces of my return to wrestling sprinkled within the lines. Well, let me expound on that story for a moment.
After years of being out of the game because of this/that/the other/and just a general distaste for WWE, I had a reawakening one night while flipping channels. What I stumbled across was AXS TV, and more importantly, pro wrestling. God, it must have been over a decade besides one failed attempt in 2014 to try RAW and immediately vow to never watch it again. But what came on that screen set the hook deep. The event took place in Japan, the wrestlers completely alien to me at the time. It was a replay of a replay of a show called Wrestle Kingdom 9, and everything changed after one match. I turned the channel to the very moment two men, Kota Ibushi and Shinsuke Nakamura, made their entrances amongst a sea of fans in the Tokyo Dome.
As I’m sure you know, one look at Nakamura sashaying to the ring and one second of watching Ibushi wrestle is enough to make anyone take notice. The match was captivating, the display of wrestling imprinting an instant level of excellence. And after it was done, I found myself wanting more.
The match gave me a glimmer of hope that wrestling was still great. And so I tried watching again, dipping my toe in and out of the NJPW water here and there until news broke that Shinsuke Nakamura was headed to WWE. This was my chance. Low price per month plus a library of everything I enjoyed PLUS Shinsuke Nakamura? I decided to dive in, ponying up the $9.99 for Takeover: Dallas and my march back into wrestling fandom full time. Nakamura’s match with Sami Zayn was proof that I had made a wise investment, so I kept going, watching old shows from my fandom and everything NXT that I could. But a funny thing happened along the way.
Although Nakamura, Samoa Joe, The Revival, Asuka, DIY, and Tye Dillinger gained a fan for life, the intrigue fizzled away as I branched out to the main roster to watch AJ Styles. What lied beneath the surface of his greatness left that old feeling of dislike and boredom still injected into my core. Some of you probably know what I’m talking about when it comes to WWE’s main roster shows. So I left again, though not because of any of the aforementioned names above.
BUT, I still had the itch. It wasn’t pro wrestling that was the problem, it was the promotion that I was watching and their presentation of the art form within the ropes. I had to come crawling back to the show that piqued my interest in the first place, hat in hand in the hopes that the few matches I had seen was just the tip of the iceberg. For those of you who have been following along as I soak my feet in the choppy waters of pro wrestling, I appreciate the help along the way.
Heroes like Nick Jones, who caught me up on what exactly the hell happened when Okada went to TNA. Much appreciated! And even my guy, an astute gentleman who proclaimed that I didn’t know anything about New Japan, because you know, that’s the whole god damn point of this review series. Here’s the thing. Any dumb f- can prop up a picket sign, but at least understand the issue before chanting the words. Come on guys, you know the deal if you’ve actually read any of these reviews. If you’re looking for the oracle on all things Japanese wrestling then start a review series of your own. Hell, I’ll even hold your hand at let you Xerox the style until you find your own voice.
These reviews are about a guy white-knuckling it through a breakneck pace of professional wrestling while frantically weaving in and out of immature penis jokes to find clarity in my resolve to give wrestling another chance. But hey, you’re all welcome on this journey, positive and negative alike. I rely on YOU – those with a wealth spring of knowledge, those who are new to NJPW like me, and even my guy – to help steer this ship. And hopefully not into an iceberg.
So, with all that being said, why review a replay of a replay? Because of Shinsuke Nakamura – one of the two guys who brought me back home. One of the matches in the AXS block has his last match in NJPW. Yup, his last match in NJPW…in a f***ing six-man tag. You did it again, AXS! But you know what? For Shinsuke Nakamura I think we can endure another one. Right?
Match#1 – Shinsuke Nakamura & Yoshi-Hashi vs. A.J. Styles & Kenny Omega
Yoshi-Hashi come on down! I love when fresh names and faces get added to my que of wrestlers to watch. JR and Josh talk about Korakuen Hall, feathering in a few brush strokes about its history. Styles and Omega too-sweet each other and we start off with Styles and Nakamura in the ring. By the way, Nakamura has the Intercontinental title on him. The crowd break into an “AJ Styles” chant before the two lock up. While trading reversals, JR mentions that both men are WWE bound. I know it’s best for their wallets, and so far they are going above and beyond, but what if they stayed? The lightning round of reversals and mat wrestling ends with a break and a round of applause. It’s very interesting to hear this match. The venue is intimate so you can hear everything down to a cough and sniffle.
A wristlock is cartwheel-reversed by Nakamura, which puts him in position to deliver a knee to the gut. Because of Nakamura’s rep his knee shots carry much more weight than any other wrestler. Styles leapfrogs Nakamura, but Nakamura catches himself on the ropes and nearly rearranges Styles’ neck dogleg right. Styles arm drags Nakamura into a headscissors that Nakamura wriggles out of for a break and a round of applause. We get a quick-cut, marking two weeks in a row, with Barnett acknowledging it this time. The quick-cut transplants us right in the middle of a deluge of stiff kicks by Nakamura to Styles’ ribcage. An enzuigiri by Nakamura sends Styles to the corner. Good vibrations, followed by a running knee strike, but Styles moves out of the way. Styles eats one anyways, foolishly rushing back towards Nakamura to pay dearly.
Styles fires back with a combo of forearm, slap to the face, low kick, and a spinning backhand before Nakamura cuts him off with a right forearm. He pulls back for another, leaving himself wide open and vulnerable for a leaping enzuigiri by Styles that leaves a smack sound that reverberates off the building’s walls. Tag to Omega, who chops Nakamura HARD across the chest. He’s off to the races, hitting the ropes for a wonderful forward-forward-dash slide that helps him redirect and sprint back to Nakamura, but ultimately takes a knee to the gut. Nakamura missed a spinning kick, but keeps the rotation to spin back around and boot Omega in the face. I did my best, but I’m sure you guys know that move well. Nakamura’s exploder suplex is fought out of, but while Omega wrestles with Nakamura, Yoshi-Hashi shoots into camera view and hits a rolling neck breaker on Omega. Nakamura hounds after Omega, sliding in with a big knee to the face. Styles leaps into camera view to break up a pinfall attempt. Nakamura signals for the Bomaye, but Omega catches him, lifting Nakamura over his shoulders to hit a rolling backdrop and hop up top for a moonsault. Nakamura gets his knees up and Omega rolls around holding his stomach.
Omega is up first, charging Nakamura with a big clothesline. A stalling gut wrench pickup into a doctor bomb is broken up by Yoshi-Hashi, who is in and out in a matter of a blink. Well, so far I can say that he’s fast. That’s about it. Omega hoists Nakamura up on his shoulders, but the one-winged angel is blocked. Yoshi-Hashi is back in, missing Omega with a clothesline and colliding into Nakamura. Styles is in, hitting a Bloody Sunday DDT on Yoshi-Hashi and he’s right back out of camera view. Omega DETONATES Nakamura’s skull with a high knee. With Nakamura dazed, Omega hits the ropes and lands another running knee to the back of Nakamura’s head. It sounded nasty. He only gets a one on the cover. A one!? Nakamura gets to his feet and punches Omega right in the eye socket, nearly plucking a page right out of Pai Mei’s playbook. A wicked reverse powerslam sets Omega up in the 619 position. Nakamura dashes forward for the Bomaye, but Styles springboards into the ring and hits the phenomenal jab to the face. Nakamura eats a Pele kick, shuffling back into Omega who scales his back and stuffs Nakamura’s neck with a reverse Frankensteiner. Nakamura’s limbs are splayed all over the place. JR calls it a “dangerous application of offense”. Omega gets Nakamura up and lands the one-winged angel for the three. The expression of Omega’s face is priceless, eyes bulged and wild with an ear-to-ear smile at the fact that he just pinned Nakamura. JR: “The Kenny Omega era is about to begin in New Japan Pro Wrestling!” They even say that Kenny Omega has defeated Shinsuke Nakamura, as opposed to Omega and Styles have defeated Nakamura and Yoshi-Hashi. Where the hell was Yoshi-Hashi anyways?
Winners: Kenny Omega & AJ Styles in 12:01
(Andrews’ Analysis: Jesus. I nearly forgot that Nakamura and Styles were leaving so it was time to elevate Omega’s stature within the company, hence Nakamura getting beat up for twelve minutes. Scoring the pin on Nakamura sure helped Omega’s cause, which by the look of things was the catalyst that set off a spectacular 2016 for him. Again, it’s just weird seeing Nakamura get beat up for twelve minutes. Hell, Yoshi-Hashi was there just to dive into camera view once or twice and that was it. I know as much about the guy as I did going in, nothing. It’s like the Men in Black flashy-thinged me because I think Yoshi-Hashi was there, but maybe he wasn’t and Nakamura had to do it all on his own. The lack of Yoshi-Hashi was kind of a bummer because besides Omega, Yoshi-Hashi is a guy I’ll likely be seeing in the future. Is he a good wrestler or not? Hell if I know based on this match.)
After the match, with Styles celebrating on the top turnbuckle, Omega scoops him up and drops him with the one-winged angel. It IS the Kenny Omega Show! Omega looks completely insane, stomping away at Styles and smashing his skull against the mat to christen the change in leadership of the Bullet Club. Anderson & Gallows, The Young Bucks, and Cody Hall come out and stand over Styles. Anderson & Gallows pick Styles up, incidentally putting him in perfect position for The Elite to triple superkick him. Anderson & Gallows wonder what the hell is going on. Omega holds up the familiar hand sign and asks them if they’re with him. They raise their demon dogs, going muzzle to muzzle with the rest of the faction. Everyone beats up Styles, officially snatching his stripes away. JR: “All Styles did was lead them to stardom and prominence and what does he get for it? An ass whippin’! It’s a damn mugging!”
Omega grabs the mic and laughs sadistically. He tells the fans that they` couldn’t have been surprised because AJ had it coming. Omega tells Styles that while “they” made him a star, he was starving and wasting away as a junior. He tells Styles that he’s been fired and the beating was his severance package. Omega says that he will not challenge KUSHIDA (huge bummer there) and says that he’s coming for Nakamura and his title. He says that the Bullet Club is for life, except for AJ Styles. Styles reaches for help, but the guys just look at him on their way out of the ring. JR says that Styles is leaving the country in an embarrassing way, but I’d say that everything worked out just fine for all parties not named Anderson and Gallows. Oh hell they’re not done.
Omega boots two “younger wrestlers” out of the ring and picks Styles up for a Styles Clash. Matt Jackson superkicks Styles while he’s dangled between Omega’s legs before Omega completes the move. “Insult and injury,” Barnett states as they push Styles aside and leave. Styles eventually makes his way back to his feet to “AJ Styles” chants. He bows to the crowd as they applaud his service. In a backstage interview he says that he respects NJPW and everything that was offered to him. He respects what has happened to him in the ring. What a nice freaking guy. Damn it, there is a small part of me saying that I should give Smackdown another chance just to watch Styles. S-! And if Nakamura gets called up? Damn you WWE and your deep pockets lined with a worldwide audience!
(2) Shinsuke Nakamura & Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto
All-Star Six-Man Tag
Okada, Tanahashi, Goto, Ishii, and – holy s- it’s Shibata – are already in the ring. Nakamura comes out to a seismic ovation from the crowd as Okada and Ishii hold the ropes for him to enter. Two things. One, Nakamura’s NXT music is damn near iconic at this point to me, but son of a bitch if his NJPW theme isn’t just as good, if not better! And two, after last week’s Naito match, Ishii is more than welcome to show up on AXS whenever he damn well pleases. He made a fan for life that episode. If I make the switch to New Japan World I might very well start with his catalog of matches, though the choices are really stacking up at this point.
Goto points to Okada before the bell rings and gets the matchup that he wants. JR tells us that at one time Tanahashi, Nakamura, and Shibata were referred to as the new three musketeers when they started in New Japan. That’s interesting to me. I wouldn’t have thought that Shibata was as old as the other two. Apparently they unseated the old musketeers of Keiji Mutoh, Masahiro Chono (friend of the Batsu game), and Shinya Hashimoto. The fans chant for Okada as he and Goto lock up. Goto boots Okada in the stomach as JR adds a little more clarity to his line last week about comparing Goto to Bret Hart. See, this was reason enough to go back and watch a replay of a replay. It wasn’t an isolated incident. JR’s further detail is that Goto is a great wrestler. Wait, that’s the backbone of your point? Maybe I’ve overestimated to heft of JR’s words.
A shoulder block by Goto makes Okada roll outside to collect himself, but the cat and mouse chase that follows sets Goto up for a dropkick. Ishii gets tagged in, as does Shibata, and all is right in the world. “Not just another pretty face,” JR quips of Ishii. Shibata wrestles Ishii to the ropes which ends in a clean break. Yeah, I wouldn’t think he would whitewash the back of Ishii’s head like he did to Nagata. Ishii does the same to Shibata, but the hell with sportsmanship, Ishii chops Shibata’s chest! It sounded like an M-80 went off next to the mics. Shibata looks down at the red imprint on his chest and brushes it off, but five more stiff chops smear the red around.
Shibata fights back with a forearm and here we go. Batsu game! Forearm by Shibata, forearm by Ishii, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Ishii, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Ishii…the crowd erupts at the tenth rapid-fire forearm exchange…forearm by Shibata, forearm by Ishii…three more exchanges before Shibata rocks Ishii, big boot by Shibata misses, forearm by Ishii, big boot by Shibata, scream from Ishii before hitting the ropes into a big boot by Shibata to end the Batsu. Good Lord! The thuds coming off of both men’s jawbones was insane! JR echoes my thoughts on Shibata: “He looks like a champion.”
Shibata slaps on a figure four in the middle of the ring. I’m not sure what Ishii yelled to him, but it got a rise out of the crowd and made Shibata add more pressure to the hold. Ishii reverses, rolling into an Indian Deathlock, which Shibata rolls out of to break at the ropes. Tanahashi slaps Shibata on the back to get in, and while the crowd goes ballistic for the ace, JR says that because of PC the deathlock should be dubbed the Native American deathlock. He goes on, saying, “all due respect to my Cherokee Nation brethren”, as Barnett chimes in that he has family who are of Cherokee descent in Oklahoma. Ishii tags in Nakamura, whipping the crowd into a frenzy over the anticipation of the matchup while JR and Barnett surmise that they might be cousins.
Anyways, Nakamura and Tanahashi tie up and fight for position on the ropes. Nakamura pops right back up from a Tanahashi arm drag and bolts after him. Tanahashi tags in Shibata so they can hit a double-team shoulder block. Tanahashi steps outside, leaving solely Shibata and Nakamura, and my interest is piqued. Shibata and Nakamura lock up, with Shibata backing Nakamura into the ropes, resting his head on Nakamura’s chest, and copies his signature rope taunt. That was pretty cool to see out of someone as serious as Shibata. They slap the s- out of each other, dead center of the cheek! Numerous reversals by both men, spinning in and out for control of a headlock. Shibata flips Nakamura onto the mat and crinkles the skin on his back with a line drive kick. He begins shoving the back of Nakamura’s head with his boot, showing zero interest in treating Nakamura well on his last night. Nakamura’s chest gets pasted by two hard kicks, the latter of the two lifting Nakamura back to his feet. Nakamura sends a high kick at Shibata, which is ducked, but the other one got him as that move tends to do.
Okada and Ishii bolt into the ring, assaulting Goto and Tanahashi to the floor. In the ring, Nakamura whips Shibata into the corner, the force dropping Shibata in a heap. Good vibrations. A jumping knee by Nakamura gets a two and he tags in Ishii. Both Ishii and Okada enter as Nakamura sends Shibata into the ropes. He and Okada pick up Ishii and use him as a dropkick battering ram, followed by planting Ishii ass-first onto a prone Shibata for two. Ishii head-butts Shibata and begins brushing the back of HIS head with a boot. Four stiff chops lift Shibata back to his feet. I love that the impact of these hard shots can actually pop a guy back up to a full stand. Shibata answers back with three forearms that pound against Ishii’s skull, followed by a snapmare and a hard boot bankshot between Ishii’s shoulder blades. Whatever he screamed is probably translated to “Ahh, f-!” Shibata hits the ropes, bypassing a slumped over Ishii to hit Nakamura with a sliding dropkick as he tries to enter back in. Ishii rolls back to his feet and catches Shibata with the same move.
Okada hits a senton from the outside onto Shibata for two. He wasn’t legal, so he tags Nakamura, which is also not legal. Either way, it’s not the best strategy considering Nakamura’s condition at the moment. The hell with it. It’s Nakamura’s last match so they’re going to squeeze as much life out of him as they can. Nakamura is in and out, tagging Okada in so Okada can eat a boot from Shibata. Okada runs the ropes to gain some momentum, but is kicked flush in the chest. Shibata rolls to his corner and tags in Goto. Goto kicks, kicks, and kicks Okada before landing a backdrop suplex. He’s got Okada in the corner, firing off forearms, but misses a running clothesline when he gives Okada too much space. Okada hits a DDT, kips up, and hits a spinning elbow to Goto for two. Okada dishes out his own helping of forearms and scores with a flapjack. Tag to Nakamura. This guy can’t catch a breather, and these are a set of lungs that have traveled their fair share of Marlboro miles.
Nakamura hits an enzuigiri on Goto, but Goto recovers quickly and decks Nakamura with a clothesline. Tanahashi is in, squaring up with Nakamura and smacking him across the face. Oh s-. Batsu game! Forearm by Tanahashi, forearm by a very game Nakamura, forearm by Tanahashi, forearm by Nakamura…yet again the crowd erupts after the tenth exchange…four more forearm exchanges pass before Nakamura fouls out by missing a big forearm and getting rocked by a flying forearm. A scoop slam by Tanahashi sets up Nakamura for a top rope front flip splash. Nakamura tries to sneak in a kick, but he’s stuffed at the goal line and dragon screw leg whipped. Exploder by Nakamura out of nowhere! Yeaaoh! He darts after Tanahashi for the Bomaye, but Shibata intercepts with a dropkick. Goto jumps in and slams Nakamura to the mat, setting up Tanahashi for the high fly flow. Nakamura gets his knees up, but in the scramble to get back up he’s met by a sling blade.
Ishii gets tagged, as does Shibata, and they square up. Shibata runs Ishii corner to corner, catching him with leaping high kicks. Shibata hits the floating dropkick, gobbling up Ishii moments later for a half hatch suplex (good man, Josh) that gets him a two count. Ishii isn’t done, hitting a brainbuster on Shibata that sends him to crawling to the corner. A big clothesline by Ishii gets a two. Ishii tries to piledrive Shibata, but Goto flies in and clotheslines Ishii for the save. Goto doesn’t break his stride, decking Okada off the apron. He bounces off the ropes to clothesline Ishii, but it’s ducked and mows down Shibata. Okada is back in, hitting a running forearm on Goto while Ishii tries to backslide Shibata.
In ring chaos erupts as everyone enters and hits forearms, dropkicks, knees, and general punishment until everyone is down on the mat. Somehow only the legal men remain. HUGE lariat by Ishii gets a two. Ishii picks up Shibata, but a lightning quick spinning back fist drops him. Awesome counter. Shibata traps Ishii in a Triangle which is broken up by Nakamura. Tanahashi sends Nakamura outside, leaving the legal men in the ring once more. Shibata gets a rear naked choke as bangs and clangs permeate from somewhere off camera. Ishii just manages to get to the ropes. Shibata boots Ishii in the chest in disgust and hits the ropes for the PK, which is narrowly broken up by an Okada dropkick. Nakamura gets back in and blasts Shibata with the Bomaye. Ishii scoops up what remains of Shibata and finishes him off with a brainbuster.
Winner: Nakamura, Okada & Ishii in 21:48
After the match, Omega comes out and congratulates Nakamura on his last match. He says that it’s not goodbye, but it’s Nakamura’s graduation. He says that he wants nothing more than for Nakamura to tell the people that he’s scared of him. That does it. Tanahashi steps in front of the man he was just beating the hell out of for 20+ minutes and grabs a mic. He screams for Omega to shut up, which is a lovely oxymoron. He says that it’s sad that Nakamura has had his last match, telling Omega that it’s only him that he has to beat for the Intercontinental championship. He‘s the ace. Nakamura touches Tanahashi and women squeal. Omega drops his mic and leaves, pointing at Tanahashi on the backpedal. Okada comes in and shakes hands with Nakamura. As does Ishii. Gedo hops on the apron for a hug.
Nakamura has the mic, taking a bow to all four sides of the ring before speaking. He asks the crowd if he should say something. He tells NJPW and the wrestlers that he’s fought that he’s grateful. Really grateful. He tells the fans that he was born there, grew up there, and is going to show the world what Shinsuke Nakamura is all about. He assures the crowd that his story will continue. He’s not going to say goodbye. He just wants to say thank you. The crowd gets hyped up as Nakamura works them into a frenzy. Yeaaoh!!!! Nakamura takes another bow as JR thinks that Nakamura is going to be the next big thing in WWE. Nakamura takes a victory lap as CHAOS members flood the ring for hugs, every one of them wearing Nakamura shirts. Okada is crying as the men pose and take a picture together. Nakamura starts crying, grabbing the mic once more to scream “pro wrestling is the greatest”! Okada carries Nakamura on his shoulders for a victory lap while Nakamura shakes hands with the crowd, soaking in the adulation with tears in his eyes.
In a backstage interview, a misty-eyed Nakamura asks how long it’s been since CHAOS was formed. He considers them his family. He says that he’s experiencing nothing but joy, vowing that Okada will protect the place in his absence. He says that it might be irresponsible, but he’s leaving the place to Okada. When asked if he will ever wrestle in NJPW again, Nakamura says that life is a journey and it wouldn’t be fun to comment on it. He thanks everyone for everything and takes a bow.
(Andrews’ Analysis: So the match was complete chaos, but somehow the legal men were accounted for. It was a nice touch. The individual matchups were spectacular to see, making me want to watch each and every one in a longer form. Much like the Styles match, this match left me wondering “what have I missed”? It’s one of those cool feelings where you know that there is this whole back catalog of feuds and matches that have preceded all this amazing stuff I get to watch on AXS TV. I honestly don’t know which one I would want to watch more. If I had to make a rush judgement, I think I’d like to see Nakamura vs. Shibata followed by Nakamura vs. Ishii. I’ve seen Nakamura vs. Tanahashi once, which was a spectacular match. Although I’m new to NJPW, it was an all-star match in my mind and Nakamura was front row and center for most of it. Seeing Okada cry after the match definitely carried the air to it that those two are legit friends and Nakamura taking off was a blow to him. This is my selfish side talking, but I’m really hoping that Okada is either signed to an uber long-term deal or his memories of TNA will keep him from joining his friend after seeing the absolute success that Nakamura is in NXT/WWE. Of course, my unselfish side says “get paid, Man”. Okada is a star and if he can get a much larger paycheck in WWE and will get treated with the respect that he deserves then I wouldn’t blame him. Or any of the guys I get to watch. There’s a reason Nakamura and Styles jumped, and I’m sure the financial security was a big help in making their decisions. Nakamura was a class act after the match and his words to the fans meant something to them. That should tell you how much he means to his fans, there and here. He’s one of a kind and I’m so happy to have come across this man and watch him wrestle. He’s a treasure that we all get to bask in the spoils with. That’s a good thing for wrestling.)
We get a backstage interview with Kenny Omega. He proudly reflects on overthrowing AJ Styles as leader of the Bullet Club. He says that there needed to be a shift. He calls AJ a heel leader trying to be a good guy “like a bitch”. The Bullet Club needs to be treated like the number one heel unit in pro wrestling and he was the only one who can do it. He talks about his match with Tanahashi. He says that he should have been facing Nakamura, but Nakamura bailed out to leave as a champion. He says that Tanahashi thinks that he’s the ace, that he’s number one. “Since f***ing when!?” Omega asks. He says that when it was announced that the match was sold out he saw Tanahashi crying in the back. Omega says that he didn’t care about all that. He just wanted the belt. “I’m trying to make this s- worldwide. Tanahashi isn’t going to do it being a little company bitch.” This guy. How great is this guy?
(3) Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kenny Omega
IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match
Whelp, no need to set this one up. Omega said everything that needed to be said in his interview. Omega is out first, sans props. JR tells us that Omega swears that the Bullet Club will not interfere, though Omega is being flanked by Yujiro Takahashi and Cody Hall on his way to the ring. Hey, Barnett mentions Captain New Japan! I honestly didn’t think I’d here that name again. Here comes Tanahashi to a great reaction. I really need to listen to his theme song when I go for my run. Red Shoes is reffing this one, leaving Marty and the Morita doppelganger out in the cold for this big event. Omega points the finger-gun at Tanahashi and we’re off.
Tanahashi chants break out straight away, which I’ve come to love. A tie-up leads to reversals on waistlocks at the ropes to a clean break as the crowd applauds. A headlock by Tanahashi takes Omega to a knee. Tanahashi gets shoved into the ropes but races back and shoulder-blocks Omega to the mat. Takashi and Hall grab Tanahashi and hold him for Omega. Omega tells them to back off. “This is some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen,” sighs Barnett. Omega tells them that the “smart marks” are going to hate him if he cheats during the match and sends the guys to the back. Omega claps to garner some fan support, and to my complete surprise, they actually clap. Again, this freaking guy.
The two trade wristlocks before Omega eye-rakes Tanahashi and spoon-feeds him a big boot. Tanahashi goes up top early, getting snatched up by Omega for a one-winged angel. Tanahashi scoots out, but is whipped into the ropes. Omega drops low for a back drop, but is punted in the chest by Tanahashi who gives him the Nakamura “Come on!” pose. Omega is sent to the turnbuckle, bouncing off and into a big back body drop. What a maneuver. Tanahashi does good vibrations in the corner, which is enough Nakamura mimicry for me please. Just be yourself Tanahashi. You’re awesome! Nope. He posts Omega across the top turnbuckle and rolls back to charge for the knee. Omega moves out of the way and drops Tanahashi’s right arm across the top rope to work on his shoulder. Omega punches and drops elbows on Tanahashi’s shoulder. Tanahashi is whipped into the ropes and skins the cat into Omega’s awaiting arms for a shoulder breaker. Tanahashi immediately rolls outside to regroup.
Omega stays on the offensive, rolling outside to drape Tanahashi’s arm around the guardrail and pulls on it before chopping Tanahashi’s chest. An Irish whip sends Tanahashi into the guardrail and he begins choking him with a camera cord. There’s no 20 count from Red Shoes as Omega eats a boot. Now we get the count as Omega hops over the guardrail to suplex Tanahashi onto a row of empty chairs vacated by fleeing fans. The twenty count has stopped, Red Shoes completely distracted from his task as he goes outside to try to corral the guys back in the ring. Omega finds a Naito mask from somewhere in the rubble, puts it on, and begins spoofing Tanahashi. JR: “I think he’s just trying to be a wise ass, imitating the air guitar of Tanahashi.” Omega, still masked, leaps onto the guardrail to hit a beautiful moonsault that puts Tanahashi down. He flings the mask aside and rolls back in the ring, leaving Tanahashi writhing on the floor. Red Shoes is back on the twenty count, naturally. Tanahashi crawls into the ring as Omega sips on a drink of water, pinky out.
Omega is on Tanahashi immediately, ripping away at the bandage around his shoulder. Omega is after the other arm, locking in a modified armbar, pretzeling up Tanahashi’s limb. Barnett likens it to the Rings of Saturn as far as execution goes. Omega drops more elbows to Tanahashi’s shoulder before strapping in a variant of a short-arm scissors. You know who said that one. Tanahashi finally gets to his feet, fights out for about two seconds before getting his head shrink-wrapped in a sleeper hold that is transitioned into a chicken wing. Tanahashi’s only way out is to fall backwards, slamming Omega onto the mat to free himself. Omega rushes back to his feet and charges Tanahashi, but is chopped down and gets belted by a flying forearm. A snapmare by Tanahashi before heading up top. Omega grabs Tanahashi off the ropes, but the veteran slips away and hits a dragon screw leg whip.
Tanahashi is in control, going for a cloverleaf that Omega breaks up at the ropes before he can ever lock it on. Omega with a big chop to Tanahashi’s chest, followed by that beautiful leapfrog bulldog beamed down from outer space. Omega gets Tanahashi in a fireman’s carry pickup, dumps him on the mat, but can’t bounce to his feet for the moonsault as his leg buckles. He has to gingerly step onto the second rope to hit a one-legged moonsault. Gut wrench pickup by Omega, but his leg buckles again and they’re both down. Omega struggles to his feet first, lunging after Tanahashi but is dumped outside. Tanahashi leaps to the top rope, scoring a high fly flow onto Omega outside. It was nice to see him not land mouth first, no thanks to Bad Luck Fale. Tanahashi clutches his arm as he rolls back in.
Tanahashi grabs Omega’s leg as he tries to get in and twirls into a vicious dragon screw leg whip. Omega goes for an enzuigiri, but is caught and gets another dragon screw. And another. Cloverleaf by Tanahashi right in the middle of the ring. Omega crawls for the ropes but is pulled right back to where they started as Tanahashi sits down to apply more pressure. Cody Hall is out, getting Red Shoes’ attention. It’s a trap! The Young Bucks sneak out from under the ring and double superkick Tanahashi. Nick heads up top as Matt lifts Tanahashi for a spiked tombstone. JR: “Omega said he was going to do it all on his own. We should have known he was lyin’ ‘cause his lips were moving.” Styles Clash by Omega! 1, 2, no! Really close count. The Young Bucks apply cold spray to Omega’s knee before he sprints ahead for a running knee. It’s countered into a sick dragon suplex that sends Omega bouncing clear across the ring! “Man, it is nut cutting time,” proclaims JR.
Omega and Tanahashi hobble to the middle of the ring. Punches by Omega, European Uppercut by Tanahashi, but Omega spins Tanahashi around for a backwards Frankensteiner! That move has yet to get old. It looks amazing depending on who is on the receiving end. Omega hoists Tanahashi up for the one-wined angel, but HE eats a backwards Frankensteiner! Jesus f***ing Christ! Straight Jacket German Suplex by Tanahashi for two! He hops over the top rope for the High Fly Flow but Nick Jackson breaks it up. Matt passes Omega the trash can and he lobs it at Tanahashi. But Tanahashi ducks! Red Shoes gets smacked in the back, dropping him to the mat! The Jacksons are in and put the trashcan over Tanahashi’s arm. Here comes Elgin! He picks up both Young Bucks and hits a double fallaway slam. Omega is still up top and gets slammed onto the trash can. As Omega chops the s- out of Tanahashi’s chest, Elgin grabs both Young Bucks and carries them to the back. Omega tries for a brainbuster, but Tanahashi reverses and hits a twisting neckbreaker. Slingblade by Tanahashi, but he only gets a two by a slow-handed, cobwebbed Red Shoes. Tanahashi goes up top and hits the High Fly Flow on a standing Omega. He’s up top again and leaps for a second High Fly Flow, but Omega rolls out of the way!
Tanahashi tries to pull himself up as Omega runs at him. Bomaye to the back of the head! Loud, nasty smack! Everyone is stealing Nakamura’s moves, picking the carcass clean! Tanahashi tries to get up again, but Omega mows him down with a sick sounding knee to the face. Omega tries to roll up Tanahashi, but rolls him too far and Tanahashi slips out before the three. As does Red Shoes, who ducks out of the ring to raise two fingers in the air. “Omega screwed himself!” shouts JR. Omega chases down Tanahashi and devours the side of his head with a running knee! One-winged angel for the win!
Winner: Kenny Omega in 29:10 to capture the IWGP Intercontinental Champion
After the match, ice bags are applied immediately to Tanahashi’s shoulder as Omega celebrates, snatching the title out of Red Shoes’ hands. Omega tells the camera that he’s changing the universe. He’s all smiles as Red Shoes snaps the belt around his waist. Omega gets the mic, which is perfect for any occasion, and tells the crowd that they wished in their dreams that Tanahashi could be their Valentine. Not today! He tells them that their new Valentine, and hero, is him. He can do it all. He can wrestle. He can talk. He can sing. He doesn’t care if they like whether he is champion or if they speak English. Then he politely thanks them for coming to the match in Japanese which draws some laughter. Streamers litter the ring, which causes Omega to grab his broom and sweep the ring before playing air guitar with it. This…freaking…guy.
Backstage, Tanahashi is still getting iced down. He apologizes to Nakamura. He’s gone, Man! Let it go! Meanwhile, Omega is surrounded by The Bullet Club. He announces that there are no limits. He remarks that Tanahashi with one good shoulder kicked the s- out of him, but the bigger he gets the harder it’ll be to beat him, in reference to putting on size and becoming a true heavyweight.
(Andrews’ Analysis: This was a lot of fun. From start to finish both guys put on an entertaining match that really heated up towards the end. But it wasn’t just the fast pace of the end that was fun to watch. I loved, loved, LOVED that Omega continually attacked Tanahashi’s shoulder. It got only better when Tanahashi managed to injure Omega’s leg on the dragon screw, sending the signal to keep working it over as Omega limped around and tried to work through the injury. It was all good stuff. What was also good stuff was the decision to put the title on Kenny Omega. I’m not saying this because I’ve become a big fan of his either. I’m saying it because with Nakamura and Styles leaving, the company needed a fresh face at the tip-top, and who is fresher than Kenny Omega. He works differently than the other guys in the company, plays a great villain (sorry, I don’t like saying face and heel), he can talk copious amounts of s- to his opponents and the crowd, but can still get the crowd to chuckle at his antics. I don’t know if he’ll ever fill the void of two world class athletes, which is a tall order, but his emergence in the main event picture can sure help you forget who was there as you focus on who IS there putting on fantastic matches. And Tanahashi was Tanahashi, which is not a knock. I have only seen one bad Tanahashi match and I’m not pointing the finger at him for that. He’s another back catalog guy whose matches will take months to get through, though I’m willing to bet I will enjoy almost every second of them. This isn’t a must-watch match for a veteran, but if you’re playing catchup like me then it wouldn’t hurt to see where The Omega Era in the main title picture began.)
Present day (sort of) interview with Omega. He says that with the fans cheering Tanahashi it annoyed him because he was busting his ass to make the match look good. He says that the Young Bucks saved the day. He goes on to thank Tanahashi for the match before saying that he won. His plan for the future is to “reshape this shitty company from what it currently is”. He says that the company doesn’t give a f- about him or the Bullet Club, that all they care about is Los Ingobernables. Well Omega thinks that no one cares about Los Ingobernables outside of Tokyo. He tells New Japan to push them all they want because everyone is going to see that they suck. He makes mention of the G1 and how the winner can challenge for whatever belt they want, which is his ticket to a Heavyweight title shot at the Tokyo Dome. And if you haven’t seen the commercial for Wrestle Kingdom 11 yet, well, he might have made it. Or not! Watch the commercial.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Styles’ last match was so-so. He was nearly given the night off to pave the way for Omega and was tossed aside for the next incarnation of the Bullet Club. Fair enough. I’m sure he had to carry enough shows in his New Japan tenure. Nakamura’s last match was far flashier with the all-star six-man making it a pretty exciting watch. Nakamura worked his ass off match and gave the fans in the crowd and those watching a hell of a farewell. I for one do not plan on just letting this man’s history go to waste. Whether by internet of New Japan World, seeing Nakamura’s time come to an end makes me want to backfill the void with countless hours of matches.
I know it’s been said here and everywhere else, but Shinsuke Nakamura is a treasure. His style, his charisma, and his work in the ring are unlike anything you will ever see in pro wrestling. Before he left, Nakamura screamed out that pro wrestling is the greatest. Well, Sir, you’re one of the reasons it can be so great. The Omega/Tanahashi match was very smart in the way that they attacked injuries while not having to stray too far from what makes their offense so great. Omega pulled off copious amounts of his And-1 Mixtape offense even with an injured leg while Tanahashi fought to overcome his shoulder injury and fly around like only he can. The entire block of matches was a lot of fun and I still think that we are all lucky to be able to watch them with the soundtrack of JR and Barnett.)
Well you know what’s coming next, but before I ask you to kick some ass, let me tell you a personal story. This isn’t a story to just wash my own balls, it’s something that I want to say in order to segue into the point. This past week I took a huge exam. I’m talking career-altering exam. Here’s the thing about how I got there. I did it on my own dime, spending thousands of dollars out of my own pocket and sitting in class after class for a few years just to get to that exam. I don’t know whether I passed or failed, I’ll find that out in the very near future, but in a way it doesn’t matter because I’ve already won. I won because I made the commitment to gamble on myself to take it to the house. And that’s the point. Gamble on yourselves, Guys.
It’s been said that the older we get, the more our window of opportunity closes. The hell it does. Your window can’t close if you keep busting that mother***er out. So please, gamble on yourselves. Whatever your goal, whatever your dream that seems so far from reach, gamble on yourself to take that s- to the house. Make that commitment to your future. Our time in this world may be finite, but what you can accomplish in it is infinite. So with that being said, kick a little ass this week and take a moment to make that commitment to bust that window right the f- out.
Oh, and if your goal/dream revolves around a relationship, PLEASE leave the windows alone. Be a f***ing gentleman for God’s sake.
NOW CHECK OUT LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: 12/16 NJPW on AXS TV Review: Okada vs. Sanada, Omega & Young Bucks vs. Yoshitatsu & Elgin & Takahashi, Ishii vs. Naito