KELLER & POWELL FLAGSHIP (12/5)
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NJPW on AXS TV
Dominion ’16 Edition
Osaka, Japan at Jo Hall
By R.W. Andrews, PWTorch Specialist
(1) Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa (Guerillas of Destiny) (c) vs. Jay & Mark Briscoe – IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
The set-up for Osaka-Jo Hall is NJPW’s fap-fest to crossbeams – this time with curved hooks swimming over a screen styled to resemble a mountain peak. An elevated rampway stretches towards the ring, putting the men who traverse it on a pedestal for the crowd to ogle. Spotlights litter the sides of the ramp, their heads swiveling left to right to shine a blinding florescence into the eyes of anyone seated in the upper deck.
This was my first go-round with the Briscoes before catching them at Honor Rising, and they…look…terrifying. Mark Briscoe looks oddly similar to Animal from the famed Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem band, complete with a light dusting of Muppet meth-mouth between the gums. Can you picture that? When Jay Briscoe stares into the camera, he does so with a testosterone engorged hysteria in his eyes – a glare that would probably prelude the smell of stale beer wafting into ones nostrils before the deathblow of a tire iron to the face is delivered. The Guerillas of Destiny come out dressed in battle finery of red and white camo pants, their upper torsos strapped up by black flak jackets. Their faces keep with the color scheme – Roa’s in all red besides shards of white branching out from his left eye while Tonga’s is an interesting goat skull conception of white covering most of his face with red horns jutting up his forehead from blacked-out eye sockets. I gotta say, this kind of detail takes away from the warmonger motif they’re trying to create. I just can’t shake the image of these two men sitting under the golden glow of vanity mirror bulbs while meticulously applying paint around their facial hair. Their family tree is more than enough to terrify any opponent. Skip the paint and just come out with their Ancestory.com profiles split-screened on the tron to showcase who their father is. Trust me, that’ll clue the opposition into what type of night they’re in store for.
Before the bell rings, JR mentions that we are getting a rare occurrence of having two legitimate blood brother teams facing off, with Barnett adding, “Both have an affinity for camouflage.” He makes a quip about each team’s individual choice of camo, which of course prompts JR to hit the notes. “It’s all about marketing, Josh. You know that.” So, in order to get to me for my comments, the Briscoes will have to get through JR and Barnett first. Collectively, they have to know enough tricky s- to stall those guys long enough for me to win a footrace to freedom. As long as I don’t drop my wallet on the way out. Once they have my address, no manner of panic room will provide safe haven.
Mark and Tama start out with dueling rolls before Tonga decides to do a little shimmy in the corner. Mark lunges at Tonga, who breaks up the opening salvo with a knee to the gut. Tonga clubs Mark into the corner before booting him in the ass and whipping him into the corner. He slides under a counter leg lift, but runs right into three chops that puts him on the defensive – his steps bringing him right into the Briscoe corner of the ring where Jay gets the tag.
Jay launches into a boot-to-the-gut strategy, working Tonga to his rear so he can step on his throat until Marty asks him to break – done via a shout from clear across the ring. Jay pops Tonga under the chin with a European uppercut and hits a back elbow off the ropes. He reaches back to tag Mark, who enters with a punch to Tonga’s ribcage and a crane-basement-dropkick to the side of the head. Very cool. While this is going on, JR informs us that the Briscoes are Delaware chicken farmers, a comment that prompts Barnett to give a rollcall of the chickens he has in his own coop.
Tonga reverses and Irish Whip, running misdirection for Roa to run in and clothesline Mark to the mat. As Roa drives Mark into the turnbuckle pad, Barnett questions whether a legal tag has been made. Marty seems fine with it, so either all is copasetic or he’s playing fast and loose with the rules out of self-preservation. Roa tags Tonga back in, who enters with clubs to the back before whipping Mark into the ropes. Mark ducks out of the way of a clothesline as Jay’s hand smacks him on the arm. Mark counters another clothesline attempt with a chinbreaker and whips Tonga into a charging Jay, who lariats the piss out of him. Jay covers, but only gets a one.
Jay chucks Tonga outside, chasing him down with a head-first dive that pastes him into the guardrail. Roa starts walking their way, with eagle-eyed Mark booking it across the ring to intercept him with a dropkick through the ropes. Jay rolls Tonga back in and hoists him atop his shoulders as Mark heads up top for the Doomsday Device. Roa leaps up and pulls the rug out from under Mark, tripping him stomach-first onto the top turnbuckle as Tonga slips off of Jay’s shoulder and hits an inverted twisting neckbreaker. Roa gets the tag and pulls Mark off of the top rope into a fireman’s carry pickup as Tonga races forward to hit a neckbreaker as Roa hits a Samoan Drop. Roa covers, netting a two from Marty who holds up two very timid digits quivering dangerously close to his face.
Roa gets Mark in a powerbomb pickup as Tonga flies off the top rope – combining to hit a powerbomb/blockbuster combo. Beautiful! Roa covers, and as Marty’s hand is inches from the third slap, Jay pushes him off to break up the pin. Jay pitches Tonga outside, then Roa lobs Jay outside. Mark gives a rebel yell before connecting with a dropkick that pushes Roa into the corner, following it up with a picture perfect Fisherman’s Buster. JR: “Mark Briscoe is being challenged here. Much like he does when he flosses.” Jesus, Jim. He had a hitter’s count and dribbled that s- right back to the mound.
Jay gets the tag and hits a leaping double-underhook piledriver on Roa! Holy s-, Man! He covers, with Roa beating the count by decimal points! Jay lifts Roa onto his shoulders for another Doomsday Device attempt, but Tonga races around the apron to hop onto the second rope and knock Mark off. He is met by a few hundred hammerfists to the top of his skull before a forearm clears him out of camera view. Mark adjusts his position and leaps off to complete the Doomsday Device as Jay covers for the win.
WINNERS: Jay & Mark Briscoe in 14:02 to win the IWGP Tag Team Championships
After the match, Marty presents the belts to the Briscoes so they can climb opposite turnbuckles and hoist them into the air. Meanwhile, Tonga is checking to see if his brother’s neck has been reduced to a crinkle cut stem as two figures dart down the ramp. As they approach, the figures come into focus to reveal Hangman Page and Yujiro Takahashi – who rip the new champions off the turnbuckles and rain down right hands. As they switch to a stampede of stomps, Marty is seen on the floor waving his arms about in an attempt to get them to stop. It doesn’t work. Page lobs Jay outside before he and Takahashi hang Mark over the top rope. JR: “How distasteful can it be? Good grief. Get rid of the damn rope!” As Page runs outside to take his rope back from around Mark’s neck, JR yells, “Can’t leave without your gimmick for God’s sake!”
(Andrews’ Analysis: Well, it wasn’t the best tag match in the world, but it was a nice introduction to the Briscoes for me. Their offense is steeped in power moves and rough as hell strikes, both equally agile given their large frames. Jay in particular is mean as f-, with a look that would fit seamlessly in an octagon. The Guerillas of Destiny didn’t really do all that much in the match, with most of their contribution coming in the way of defending against the Briscoes’ onslaught.)
(2) Katsuyori Shibata vs. Yuji Nagata (c) – NEVER Openweight Championship Match
Ho…ly…s-. It’s Shibata. AXS dropped the ball on the intro, beginning knee deep into the riff of his anthem. Although I didn’t get the full effect of the entrance, I’m right there in the moment – leaning forward on my couch and riddled with excitement as if this presentation were live. Shibata vs. Nagata – a dream match that I never would have thought plausible three months ago when I dove back into wrestling head-first. This is a big one on a personal level. Shibata has always had my full support, but Nagata has been such a pleasant surprise. I was prepared to think of him as just NEVER Openweight cannon fodder, but his first match against Shibata really opened my eyes to how good he really is. Given his age – forty-eight at the time of this match – I am awestruck at the athleticism that Yuji Nagata possesses.
When Shibata emerges from a short climb to reach the rampway, his gait is steady as his eyes tilt downward to focus on each step towards the ring. The camera refocuses on the entrance as Nagata appears with Tenzan, Kojima, and Nakanishi riding shotgun. Nagata’s eyes are transfixed on his challenger as he moves swiftly down the ramp, the jewel of the NEVER Openweight division inset between the untied robe draped over his shoulders. Red Shoes is the ref for this match, stepping into the corner after signaling for the bell. The bell’s echo is muted instantly as the crowd erupts in dueling chants for both champion and challenger.
Nagata and Shibata feel each other out, both of their hands raised in a Muay Thai guard as they send out kicks seeking out to the other’s leg. They finally tie up in the middle of the ring, with Nagata stuffing Shibata’s attempt to get his back. They break for only a breath before locking up again – this time Nagata trying to trip his foe, only to see him scoot back and tag his inner right thigh with a swift kick. A third tie-up puts Nagata in control for a fleeting moment before Shibata backpedals to place himself in the ropes to set himself free. As Nagata begins to back off, Shibata finally breaks the ice with three consecutive forearms and a European Uppercut to the champion’s chin.
Nagata strikes back with a kick to Shibata’s hamstring, followed by a kick to the chest that connects with the acoustic clarity of a gunshot, sending Shibata to the mat. Shibata hurries back to his feet and boots Nagata on the cheek, swiftly evading a grapple to put distance between them. The crowd breaks into a round of applause as Shibata wipes his chest clean of the remnant pain from Nagata’s kick.
Shibata knees Nagata in the gut, snapmaring him to the mat before trying to sink in a cross-arm breaker while Nagata keeps his arm curled to block it. During the scrum, JR points out that Nagata’s NEVER Openweight title win was his first reign in eight years. Shibata manages to transition to a triangle choke before rolling into an armbar that puts Nagata right into the ropes to auto-break the submission. On the way to even footing, Shibata kicks Nagata in the chest, the impact dumping him into the corner. He drags Nagata back to the center of the ring, twisting his arm from a hammerlock into a reverse armbar as the crowd audibly marvels at the smoothness of the transition. While Barnett mentions that it was “right out of Nagata’s playbook”, Shibata lets him loose to stomp his arm.
As Nagata gets to one knee, Shibata engages – hitting a disrespectful boot swipe to the face followed by a forearm that jolts Nagata’s neck to the right. Nagata snaps his head right back, exchanging words with Shibata that gets him forearmed across the jaw. Nagata drops to the mat as Shibata stares daggers at him. As Nagata once again reaches one knee, Shibata sticks him in the chest with two kicks. He heads to the ropes, coming back to a knee to the gut that flips him to the mat. With Shibata on both knees, Nagata takes a hop-step forward and drives his shin directly into Shibata’s chest. Shibata’s body curls from the strike before he falls face-first to the canvas.
Red Shoes’ mouth gapes open as Nagata lays in two very, VERY stiff kicks that sound like a whip crackling. Shibata motions for Nagata to bring him more, an invitation the champion is more than happy to RSVP. Nagata tags Shibata in the chest, with the cameraman catching the view from Shibata’s back as it ripples from the impact. Shibata defiantly shakes his head, which causes Nagata to stomp his foot out of frustration before sending a shockwave through Shibata’s body with another hard kick laid in with crippling intentions. Shibata looks at him furiously as he rises to his feet. Nagata sets his feet and screams, unleashing another kick straight at Shibata’s chest that drops him once more.
Nagata lifts Shibata to his feet, ushering him to the corner with a forearm that sprays a misty sheen of sweat between their bodies. He sends Shibata into the opposite corner, connecting with a big boot to the face. He whips another forearm at Shibata’s face, causing Shibata to lean against him for stability. Shibata reverses an Irish Whip, putting Nagata on a path to the corner, and plants his boot into his chin. He follows up with another boot to the face before rattling his temporal lobe with VATS-locked forearms. The shots drop Nagata momentarily until he roars and pops to his feet, the sound snuffed out by another shot that sends him sinking down with his hands trembling in front of his face. Shibata hits the floating dropkick before flipping Nagata to the mat with a half-hatch suplex for two. Thus far, the poetic meter of combat has played out beautifully in its own barbaric way.
Shibata punts Nagata in the back as he rises, then steps to the center of the ring to call for a Batsu. For the love of the game, Nagata is more than happy to answer that call. Forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata – the camera cuts to a strained expression on Kojima’s face as the sound of bloodlust’s lullaby pounds throughout the arena – forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, forearm by Nagata, forearm by Shibata, followed by two more that wobble Nagata’s jaw with a sickening thud, big boot by Nagata, big boot by Shibata, exploder by Nagata, release German Suplex by Shibata, release German Suplex by Nagata, back heel trip takedown (JR) by Shibata and the game is called as both men crash to the mat! For all you Batsu junkies out there, that one was well played!
Shibata is up first, racing towards Nagata to clip his left wing with a kick, followed by two hard kicks to the chest at the turnbuckles. Shibata stays on the attack, his boot targeting Nagata’s left arm repeatedly as Red Shoes tries to pull him away. In a rage, Shibata shoves Red Shoes away and continues the assault. He heads to the corner, zipping back with a sliding kick that strikes Nagata’s left arm. Ignoring Red Shoes’ reprimand about the shove, Shibata pulls Nagata off the mat and twists him into an Octopus Hold. Nagata screams in agony as he slowly makes his way to the ropes, with Shibata fighting to pull his right arm away from relief. Shibata uses his left hand to dunk Nagata’s head lower so he can stretch his left leg over it a push down, still pulling on Nagata’s right arm to keep it from the promise land. Nagata finally begins to teeter, his path finding salvation with a death grip around the middle rope.
Shibata breaks for the length of a blink, transitioning into a Gable Grip-Style Sleeper (Barnett) that drops Nagata to his knees. The camera zooms in on Nagata’s face, his breaths heavy as his eyes begin to roll back into his head. He grimaces, then begins to ascend to his feet as the crowd stirs at the show of resilience. Nagata manages to lean against the top rope, breaking the hold but leaving himself wide open for a kick to the chest that sends him backpedaling to the middle of the ring. Shibata slides behind him, lifting him off his feet for a bridging back suplex for two.
Shibata quickly pops off the mat and sits Nagata up for the PK. Nagata reclines back as the kick whiffs over his face. He pops to his feet, but steps into a Shibata forearm. Shibata spins Nagata around to take his back, his arms wrapping around Nagata’s neck and forehead for the sleeper. Nagata reaches up and snags Shibata’s arm, his body twisting back around to drag Shibata to the mat for a reverse armbar. So slick! The crowd erupts as Nagata pulls Shibata’s arm towards his body, his mouth now caked in blood. His eyes begin to roll back, a meditative expression searching for an inner reserve as his sclera vibrate. The crowd cheers wildly at the sight, but Shibata manages to rotate their bodies around so his long limbs can find the ropes and free him from having to submit.
Forced to let go, Nagata pivots into striking position to lace his boot into Shibata’s arm. Shibata clutches it and rolls to his side as Nagata circles around his body to drive a knee into his chest. With Shibata absorbing each shot in the corner, Red Shoes once again tries to intervene, and is once again shoved aside. Nagata continues to bang away at Shibata – hitting him so hard you could see the light of his aura flicker – until Red Shoes leaps between them to break it up. Shibata rises to his feet as Nagata brushes past Red Shoes – that old chassis hitting three on the tree to dash forward and stiffen the challenger’s body with a running knee to the face. With Shibata’s legs wobbling, Nagata snatches him up to hit a backdrop suplex, covering for the win as Red Shoes drops to the canvas. 1, 2, Shibata kicks out at two and a half!
Nagata lifts Shibata back to his feet and hooks his head to lift him into the air and come down with a brainbuster. He can sense it, catching a second wind that pops him to his feet so he can sit Shibata up. He races to the ropes and sprints back with a PK that absolutely levels Shibata! Nagata grabs Shibata by the hair, his foe’s eyes dancing for signs of life as his body dangles in Nagata’s grip. Nagata slowly gets Shibata to his feet and locks his arms around his waist. He lifts Shibata up for another backdrop suplex, but Shibata counters with a knee to the face, ultimately unable to find room to work as Nagata boots him in the face. Nagata hits a speedy combination of kicks, knees and slaps to the face before Shibata catches an errant kick and smacks him right back. The impact causes Nagata to stumble, finally providing Shibata with enough space to circle around and lock the sleeper hold back in. Nagata tries to flip him over his shoulder, but Shibata holds on while shifting his body to a better vantage point to keep the hold locked in.
Nagata begins to rise to one knee, his head hotboxed by Shibata’s heavy breaths as he tries to squeeze the champion into submission. Nagata gets to his feet, grabbing Shibata’s right arm to bend it over his shoulder. The crowd applauds loudly as Shibata’s arm begins to bend unnaturally, but it’s short lived as he flexes his arm back and cinches the sleeper in deeper. Nagata’s clamp on Shibata’s arm loosens before dwindling down to a seated position on the mat. Shibata finally releases the hold, his body on auto-pilot as he races to the ropes to zip back and drive a PK dead center of Nagata’s chest. He falls lifelessly atop Nagata’s body as Red Shoes flops down to count the pin. 1, 2…3!
WINNERS: Katsuyori Shibata in 14:53 to win the NEVER Openweight Championship
After the match, with the belt back in his possession, Shibata walks to the center of the ring as Tenzan, Kojima, and Nakanishi watch from the apron. Shibata lowers his upper body, respectfully bowing to a true master of the craft. Nagata steps closer and embraces Shibata, patting him on the back as the two exchange words. Tenzan, Kojima, and Nakanishi enter the ring as Nagata raises Shibata’s hand in the air. They clap for him, putting the past aside to revel in the present. Nagata embraces Shibata a second time and pats him on the back as the crowd continues to shower the ring with applause.
(Andrews’ Analysis: What a perfect way to end this feud, with both men showing respect to one another in the middle of the ring. This match was full throttle forearm fanaticism from start to finish. Again, Nagata was forty-eight at the time of this match. Forty-eight! He took full force shots to the face and chest and kept on plugging away as if he was fresh out of the package. Always valiant, the man had two very close pinfall attempts that would not have been surprising to see him net the victory. He was, for lack of a better word, spectacular. He moves with such deliberate movement, only letting his foot off the accelerator to charge up a surge of adrenaline to send out knockout blows that would obliterate most normal men. Jokes aside about his skirt chasing, he is the embodiment of a warrior in the twilight of his career. He can still go at a very high level and looks damn good in the ring doing so.
Shibata was brilliant in victory. I am absolutely smitten with this guy. Yes, he brings nickel-plated strikes that leave hollow-point casings in the ring, but his mat wrestling and submission prowess are what is catching him up quicker than I ever imagined to KUSHIDA as far as my personal favorite wrestlers on the planet. If he’s in the doghouse for whatever reason, I hope his sentence is short so he can freely roam the battlefield and get a shot at the top of the card. Maybe he has to ride the pine for at least another year, but if a spot were to ever open up, Shibata should get first dibs on proving his worth amongst those in the elite air of New Japan’s ecosystem. He has the look, the body of work, and the versatility to shine with Okada, Suzuki, and Naito. I used to think that he was kind of pigeon-holed as a striker in the NEVER Openweight realm, but match after match he shows off such versatility that his skills simply can’t be ignored. I don’t know what 2017 is going to bring for Katsuyori Shibata, but I have to believe that he’ll come out the other end with his star brightening with each flip of the calendar.)
We get a present day interview with KUSHIDA, seated in front of an off-white wall with a brown sliding door to his right. Where exactly in the hell is he? I always assume given his laid back nature during these present-day interviews, that he’s either about to, or has just come from, taking a steam. The setting for this interview has heightened my suspicion that this is the case.
When asked about his first match against Ospreay, KUSHIDA replies that he thinks that Ospreay is an amazing wrestler. He has three amazing attributes – height, accuracy, and power – all of which KUSHIDA feels that he has adapted well to. Asked about sitting on commentary for the finals of the Super Juniors tournament, KUSHIDA takes BUSHI’s word choice and says that he was vexed that he couldn’t be in the ring for it. He was proud of both Ospreay and Taguchi, but a myriad of emotions built up inside of him about it. He mentions that he called Ospreay a champion because the Best of The Super Juniors title is something of great value to him. He sees Ospreay as reborn out of his growth of having to go through the tournament, knowing that he had to erase any impression that he had of the man from their first bout.
(3) KUSHIDA (c) vs. Will Ospreay – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
As Ospreay’s beat kicks in, he appears at the ramp wrapped in a Union Jack sleeveless robe, his boots and trunks decked out in kind. In his clutch is the hard earned Super Junior’s trophy. As the lighting flickers between an array of blue and purple, smoke fills the rampway, leaving a porthole to the face of a young KUSHIDA on the mountain-tron showing the early stages of a skillset we would all come to know. He appears through the plume – championship McFly’s set aside for Color Rush KUSHIDA to come out in his powder purple Uniqlo. For this occasion it is appropriate, as it proved a source of good fortune in his first meeting with Ospreay.
As he flips into the ring, the referee for the contest is revealed. It’s Marty – a fitting choice considering the champion’s theme. The two meet in the middle of the ring, with KUSHIDA raising the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title while Ospreay raises the Super Junior’s trophy. KUSHIDA looks focused as the two lock eyes, while Ospreay smirks and points to his trophy. In a way those demeanors match their in-ring style – KUSHIDA’s no nonsense approach versus Ospreay’s cube gleaming aerials. As the bell tolls, Ospreay’s smirk shrinks to a straight line as KUSHIDA loosens up in his corner.
The crowd is restless as they wait for the men to lock up – half of them clapping while the other half chants. Once finally locked up, Ospreay pushes KUSHIDA to the corner. He feigns a club to the face, then pats him politely on the chest before backing away. Ospreay shifts away from a second tie-up, snatching KUSHIDA’s arm in the process to bring him to the mat with a wristlock. KUSHIDA finds a way out, rising to his feet and twisting under Ospreay’s arm to get a wristlock of his own. As they travel closer to the side of the ring, Ospreay grabs hold of the top rope and front flips out of a wristlock, maintaining control upon landing to drag KUSHIDA to the mat. KUSHIDA kips out, banishing Ospreay to the corner as the crowd applauds. During the break in action, we get a shot of Taguchi on commentary rocking that dream-weaved t-shirt from his Super Juniors present-day interview.
KUSHIDA single-legs Ospreay to the mat, hanging onto his boot and twisting it outward. Ospreay rolls to his stomach, his arms locked as he raises his other leg and drops it across his caged appendage to free himself and transition into a side headlock. It’s such a fluid escape oozing with stylistic flair unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Ospreay flips KUSHIDA to the mat, rolls him into a one-count, and travels back to his feet. KUSHIDA drops low, his head sneaking out of the headlock as he pulls Ospreay’s leg to bring him to the mat. He rolls over Ospreay’s prone back and latches onto his arms. As Ospreay rolls sharply to his left, KUSHIDA floats over to keep position. Ospreay tries again, with KUSHIDA tracing the movement to maintain control. He hops over Ospreay’s body, then reverses course and spins across his back to stall him so he can grab his legs and intertwine them together. The crowd applauds the elegance of their movements as KUSHIDA waits for the applause break before switching to Ospreay’s side and grabbing hold of his chin to lean back and apply a surfboard. All of that movement – none of it wasted – to find the right position to put that submission in. Absolutely gorgeous!
Ospreay is released and gets to his feet, snapping KUSHIDA to the mat but winding up in a headscissors. Ospreay kips out and heads to the ropes as KUSHIDA drops down. Ospreay does a front flip over him, but runs into an inverted atomic drop, pausing him long enough for KUSHIDA to hit a basement dropkick to the knee. KUSHIDA runs to the ropes as Ospreay does a front roll to his feet. KUSHIDA cartwheels alongside his path, swipes away Ospreay’s dropkick attempt, and cartwheels into position to hit another basement dropkick to the back of the head. This is mind blowing stuff.
KUSHIDA picks Ospreay up and extends his arm out to slam it across his shoulder, but Ospreay pushes him away, rolls under a clothesline, rolls back as KUSHIDA scoops him onto his shoulder, twists off his shoulder and armdrags him to the mat. Are you f****ng kidding me!? This is such gorgeous movement in the ring. KUSHIDA pops back up and tries for another clothesline, but Ospreay high-jumps his arm to hit a hurricanranna. “Perpetual motion by both men,” JR decrees. As KUSHIDA gets off the mat, Ospreay rolls back – his boots sandwiching KUSHIDA’s head – but KUSHIDA props him into a handstand and sidesteps way to smack his left arm with a sweeping kick. Ospreay, clutching his wrist, rolls outside.
KUSHIDA rolls outside to corral Ospreay back into the ring, twists his arm as he wraps his legs around his torso, and gets the double wristlock. Ospreay bows low, pulls his arm free to place it around the back of KUSHIDA’s neck, and hoists him into position for a vertical suplex. KUSHIDA knees him on the side of the head to escape, twisting Ospreay’s arm and bulldogging it! What a nice touch. He bends Ospreay’s arm in a short-arm scissor on the mat as JR gushes over the choices of KUSHIDA’s playlist. Ospreay swings his legs into the ropes, but arises to a punishing kick straight to the wrist. He yelps when the strike hits, his body dancing forward like KUSHIDA tried to sear it with a branding iron.
KUSHIDA sends another one his way, but Ospreay catches it and twirls under. He flips into the ropes – his hands never touching the mat, mind you – and springboards back with a flipping kick to KUSHIDA’s jaw! As Ospreay begins to get back to a solid base, Marty’s hand reaches into camera view to give his wrist a squeeze. Ospreay’s body convulses as he smacks his hand away. What in the hell did Marty expect to happen there?
Ospreay boots a charging KUSHIDA in the face, hops outside to the apron, and slams KUSHIDA’s head into the turnbuckle before combo-ing off the rebound with a kick to the face. He leaps onto the rope, hollering “Pip, pip, cheerio!” as he takes flight and slams his forearm into KUSHIDA’s skull. KUSHIDA is sent clear across the ring and out to the floor, struggling to clear his head as Ospreay cartwheels into a twisting backflip over the top rope that connects! Ospreay rolls KUSHIDA back in and hits a twisting corkscrew moonsault for two. Ospreay hits a diving forearm to KUSHIDA in the corner, and sets him on the second rope where he tucks KUSHIDA’s head against the turnbuckle pad and eyes up a superkick. As he lunges forward, KUSHIDA thrusts his boots into his face and laces him across the left wrist. KUSHIDA races into a back elbow counter, but roundhouses Ospreay’s arm to regain control. They have an exchange of words before launching into a mini-Batsu of forearms that is ended swiftly by a European Uppercut by Ospreay. Ospreay runs to the ropes, but KUSHIDA is only a step behind, hitting a forward rolling kick that sends Ospreay outside.
There are no breathers in a KUSHIDA match. He dashes to the top turnbuckle and flings his body forth with a Swanton that nearly lobotomizes Ospreay when his head gets crunched against the floor! Marty counts reasonably on time, with KUSHIDA rolling back in but sliding under the adjacent bottom rope to the apron. Ospreay dives in at nineteen, straight into a springboard dropkick that connects the second he picks his head up to search for KUSHIDA. JR: “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t in that situation.”
KUSHIDA climbs to the top rope and flips back for a moonsault, his abdomen landing right on top of a pair of knees awaiting his arrival. As Ospreay tries to get to his feet, Marty once again goes in to squeeze his wrist. And yet again, Ospreay is forced to take a swipe at him. Let it go, Marty! Ospreay hits KUSHIDA under the chin with a European Uppercut. KUSHIDA fires back with a kick to Ospreay’s left arm, but gets dropped by a stiff forearm that hunches him over. Ospreay drives the tip of his boot repeatedly into KUSHIDA’s face. He whips KUSHIDA into the ropes, who counters with a handspring into a back elbow, but Ospreay drops low to seat KUSHIDA on top of his shoulders. KUSHIDA spins his crotch into Ospreay’s face and leans back for a Frankensteiner, but Ospreay pumps the brakes and hoists KUSHIDA back up. KUSHIDA follows the feel of the momentum for a sunset flip that nets him a two.
KUSHIDA hits the ropes, twists around Ospreay’s body for the Hoverboard Lock, but is popped into the air – his body twirling a full rotation before splatting against the mat. Ospreay follows up with a standing shooting star press to KUSHIDA’s back, rolling and hopping onto the second rope to hit a corkscrew half-gainer front-flip splash! He covers, but KUSHIDA shoves him off right before Marty’s third slap can hit. JR: “What a flurry of offense by Ospreay!”
Ospreay lifts KUSHIDA onto the second rope and tucks his head, this time driving a superkick right to his throat. He hits a 720 Shining Wizard and springboards off the ropes for a back elbow, but KUSHIDA ducks under it. KUSHIDA spins to generate a jaw-breaking right hook, but Ospreay flashkicks it! Incredible! He smacks KUSHIDA on the back of the head with his boot, bringing it back around to bash his heel into his face. He hits the ropes, racing back to a counter discus-elbow. KUSHIDA spins for another one, but Ospreay kicks him on the back of the head. KUSHIDA reaches deep within his wind-up to launch a straight right at Ospreay, who dives his head down to let the punch hover over his view. Ospreay headbutts KUSHIDA in the jaw and whips him into the ropes for a Spanish Fly. KUSHIDA counters! His knees hit the mat to block it and transitions straight into a cross-arm breaker! Ospreay tries to lock his fingers together, but KUSHIDA tirelessly hammerfists it free before leaning back and extending Ospreay’s arm! Ospreay manages to roll to his knees, with KUSHIDA transitioning to a triangle choke. As he extends Ospreay’s arm, Ospreay grabs KUSHIDA’s wrists and hoists him off the mat with the champion hanging on for dear life. He powers KUSHIDA all the way up into a fireman’s carry pickup, with KUSHIDA trying to twist around his body for the Hoverboard Lock. Ospreay drops him into a tombstone position before flipping back into the air to hit an inverted lungblower!
Ospreay rolls outside and heads up top, slowly climbing to the top rope. He steadies himself and hits a twisting corkscrew indo for Christ’s sake! He covers. 1, 2, KUSHIDA survives! As KUSHIDA rises to his feet, Ospreay springboards off the ropes for the OsCutter. KUSHIDA takes a step back and catches Ospreay’s left arm, driving him to the mat and into the Hoverboard lock! He screams as Ospreay tries to fight for the ropes. With Ospreay’s fingertips fluttering inches from the ropes, KUSHIDA pivots his body to roll Ospreay back to the center of the ring! He traps Ospreay’s body on the mat by switching his left leg over Ospreay’s head, his hands forcing his wrist into a ligament-popping angle! Ospreay tries to hold out, but is forced to tap as KUSHIDA unleashed a victorious roar through the air!
WINNER: KUSHIDA in 14:36 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
As KUSHIDA exhaustedly rolls onto his side, Barnett says, “That double wristlock is a bread and butter hold of catch as catch can wrestling and there’s a great reason why it works, JR. It just works.” As Ospreay tries to leave, KUSHIDA calls him back to the ring. Ospreay rolls in gingerly, greeted by a handshake from KUSHIDA. JR: “If Ospreay can stay healthy, you’re seeing the early stages of a hall of fame-like career.”
At the interview lounge, Ospreay says that it’s tough to make a British boy cry. He says that he really wanted the Junior Heavyweight title, mentioning coming back to Britain as a hero to so many people and making a lot of promises to them. He can’t believe that he tapped out.
KUSHIDA is interviewed, the title draped over his shoulder. He says that he was aware of Ospreay’s momentum and youth, but his prior title defenses allowed him to dig deep and hold on. Whether its joint attacks or aerial attacks, he’s at a much higher level. The IWGP title is one of the world’s best in his estimation. Agreed.
(Andrews’ Analysis: This match was every bit as good as their first encounter, but ramped up to make it that much better. These two guys work so well with one another – with styles that meld together to form an artistic endeavor painted before our eyes. The opening mat wrestling segment was so pretty, garnering high praise from the crowd right off the bat. As the match delved deeper into the story, both men were locked into a game of counter-chicken, daring the other to come up with the next jaw-dropping escape before the final bell was struck. Ospreay continues to bust out the type of offense pulled straight out of the panels of Stan Lee’s imagination. I’ve never seen anything like it before, especially the stylish ways that he evades strikes and twirls out of his opponent’s offense.
KUSHIDA continues to cement his position high atop my list of best wrestlers in the world. The guy is relentless, pulling out all the stops to wear down his opponent with a focus on setting them up for the Hoverboard Lock. As I’ve mentioned before, my favorite style of wrestling is picking apart a body part for the sole purpose of exploiting the damage for a submission. And in my mind, no one is better at it than KUSHIDA.
Actually, hang on. I’m still getting acclimated to Minoru Suzuki, so I’ll get back to you in a couple of months. But for now, KUSHIDA gets the nod.)
We go back to the present day interview with KUSHIDA, who begins by saying that Ospreay is very studious and has seen many of his matches. He had the option of outwitting Ospreay’s plans, but there wasn’t room to think of that. He was desperate to keep up with Ospreay’s moves, noting that he could not afford to lose because it would ruin everything he had said about taking the junior class to a higher level. He was afraid of that happening. On what took him to victory, KUSHIDA explains that it wasn’t all on him. It was the fans who put a lot of expectations on him. Because of the fans, instead of giving 100 percent he was able to give 150-180 percent off of their support. He felt as if he disappointed them by not winning the Super Juniors Tournament and thought that his match with Ospreay made him feel that there was still so much that he could do and that he had to keep working towards them.
AXS showed a “blink and you’ll miss it” highlight reel of Elgin vs. Omega in New Japan’s first ever ladder match. I really wanted to see it in full with JR and Barnett waxing poetic over it, but alas they weren’t feeling up to it. I gotta say, the snippets of action looked tremendous, chock full of explosive power moves onto and through ladders, and an Elgin powerbomb to Omega from high atop a ladder onto two tables that bent but didn’t break, sending Omega skidding on a slick of sweat to the floor. Elgin won, which all of you probably knew already.
We get a present-day interview with Kazuchika Okada, seated on a steel chair in a nondescript training ring. When asked about the match where Naito took the title from him, Okada says that he could really feel his challenger’s momentum in that match. He mentions that Naito had a lot of support, even when breaking the rules. It was in that match that Okada knew how much crowd support Naito really had. He finds it weird that a rule breaker would have that much fan support when he tries to fight a straight match and gets booed for it. “What’s that all about?” he ponders aloud. Okada was less than pleased with the way Naito handled the title, but since he wasn’t the champion there was nothing he could do about it. He says that people can’t really tell the champion what to do, noting that the only way to stop it would be to win the title back.
(3) Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada – IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Admittedly, I was extremely spoiled by having my first taste of Tetsuya Naito coming via a championship win against Okada. That, my friends, IS the definition of spoiled. Now, only a few months later, I get to see it again but with the roles swapped.
Okada steps out to an outpour of support, his body engulfed in a long red robe with black feathery frill diving down from the back of his neck to the hem. As cash begins to drizzle along the rampway, Okada poses with his head tilted towards the ceiling and arms lifted at his sides like gull wing doors. Once in the ring, Okada hikes the far corner and once again poses oh so familiar with the adulation gushing his way. His head slowly pans from left to right, nodding approvingly to the crowd’s welcoming response.
The lights dim once more, but only for a breath. A purple hue ramps up as water ripple effects spread from the ceiling. JR mentions that when taking a forensic look at Naito’s resume, you can find a little Stone Cold Steve Austin there in regards to his anti-establishment rhetoric. The camera charts a course from the west wing of the arena, traveling on a tilt to zoom in on the mountain-tron where Naito’s eyes glance out at the crowd. His video package includes footage of him taking the IWGP title and tossing it into the air, almost as if the man himself got into the editing bay to piece it together. As his retro side-scrolling soundtrack worms through the arena speakers, green lasers fan throughout Osaka-Jo Hall. In true fashion to his laid back approach, minutes bleed together until the champion finally decides that it is time to make his way to the ring. Amidst the backdrop of a stylized font reading “LOS INGOBERNABLES de Japon”, the champion finally emerges – his face concealed by a black and white skull matching the white three-piece suit and black undershirt so expertly picked out by its wearer. He is flanked by SANADA, BUSHI, and EVIL – all dressed in black.
Naito moves slowly down the ramp, quenching his appetite for apathy as the title swings left to right in his staggered stride. As his name is announced to the crowd, Naito slowly peels off his mask – his mouth chomping away at a piece of gum as he begins sweeping his path clear of the debris left by Okada’s entrance. Naito stops and stares at the bespectacled owner of New Japan Pro Wrestling – Takaaki Kidani. He extends his hand towards him, one that is hesitantly accepted with the definition of a flaccid handshake. Naito holds that dead fish in his grip for a moment, releasing it only after he has made Kidani truly uncomfortable by his presence. Jesus, if that handshake doesn’t tell you about the global positioning of the two largest promotions in the world. Vince would eat this guy alive in the boardroom.
Naito slowly builds up to entering the ring, shoving a cameraman deemed too close for his liking. His movements remain labored, almost as if being tasked with the chore of having to wrestle has already left him exhausted. When he finally enters, the belt is flippantly tossed to the mat as the crowd boos loudly. Red Shoes is quick to snatch it up and cradle it in his arms, no doubt netting brownie points with the boss at ringside. When Okada is announced, a smattering of boos gets swallowed whole by a wave of applause. When Naito is announced, the crowd boos in unison as he motions with his fingers for them to turn up the volume. “A lot of boos,” Barnett begins, “but you know that merchandise is all throughout the audience tonight.” The comment elicits a chuckle from JR, as well as me upon realizing the real Ironman streak they have going for bringing up merch each week.
After Red Shoes pats Okada for illegal objects, Naito makes him wait an eternity as he strips down. Allowing Red Shoes to finally frisk him, his eyes focus on Okada who is requesting the match to be one-on-one. JR: “Okada is somewhat challenging the manhood of Naito.” Naito accepts the request, sending the rest of LIJ to the back. Knowing Naito, even in such a short span of time, I feel as if the ace up his sleeve is still close by – Red Shoes. Barnett quips that if LIJ decides to come back it won’t be with EVIL in tow because it’s too much work for him to lug his sickle all the way back to the ring again.
The crowd chants overwhelmingly for Okada when the bell rings – both men allowing the calls to cascade towards the ring before tying up. When they lock together, Okada backs Naito into the ropes, with Naito reversing position to break clean with two pats to the chest. His gaze remains on the crowd chanting for the challenger, with a swagger in his step as he nods at the noise. Barnett breaks into a pretty impressive stream of announcing as Okada and Naito haggle for position: “Side wristlock…going for the hammerlock here is Naito, low on the back though. He’s not putting enough pressure on it…Half-nelson standing…reversal…trying to get the hammerlock is Okada.” I loved it. Okada switches position, forcing Naito to the ropes where he feigns a pat on the chest before whipping him into the ropes. Naito dives over Okada’s drop-down, swinging him around in an armdrag before succumbing to one from Okada. He suckers Okada into a headscissors, which Okada kips out of while Naito relaxes on the mat.
As Okada approaches, Naito rolls safely outside – taking a breather before winking into the camera and telling the viewers at home, “Tranquilo”. He rolls back in before rolling right back out, which prompts Red Shoes to begin his count. Naito drinks up nearly every drop of the count, finally rolling in at eighteen to club Okada to the mat. Okada retaliates with a snapmare before hitting the ropes to zip back with a low dropkick that smacks the side of Naito’s head. He tries to whip Naito into the corner, but is reversed and sent in himself. Okada counters Naito’s rush by picking him up and placing him on the top turnbuckle, delivering a dropkick that double-dots his forehead like an umlaut and dumps him to the floor.
Okada is cautious with his movements, selecting a section of the ring far from a Naito ambush to slowly roll outside. Naito is up and on the move, heading up the ramp with an eye on a mammoth screen high atop the entranceway. When Okada tries to grab ahold of his trunks, Naito spins and forearms Okada in the face before raking his eyes and slamming him on the ramp. Naito continues up the ramp, his arm wafting the concert of boos in his direction. He backs up to the entrance, charging at full speed to leap into the air and dropkick Okada right as he begins to rise. Naito rolls back in, relaxing on the mat as Okada struggles to reenter at sixteen.
Naito scoops Okada up and pitches him right back out, sending him on a back-first course into the guardrail. He stays on the attack, eyeing up Kidani as he whips Okada right into the guardrail protecting him. JR: “These guardrails should get a payday. They’re in more matches than about anyone on the roster.” Tired of Red Shoes’ incessant counting, Naito pitches Okada back inside, staring at Red Shoes’ with his hands raised as if to say, “There. He’s in.”
Naito gets a cravat on Okada, wrenching him down to one knee before Okada can get to the ropes. Naito pops Okada in the jaw repeatedly with back elbows as Red Shoes tries to get him away. He steps back briefly, only to come back and snapmare Okada into a rear chinlock on the mat. Okada fights his way out, but is cut off by another back elbow that is followed by a hip toss and a basement dropkick to the back of the head. Naito scoops up Okada, flipping him into a standing bridge and dropping his neck across his kneepad before shuffling back to score another low dropkick to the back of the head. He covers leisurely, garnering only a two count.
Okada stiffs Naito with four forearms to the face, dodges a rushing attack, and hits a straitjacket neckbreaker (Barnett, but I should know it by now). Okada sprints into a Naito boot, but repays him with a big boot that flips Naito into the air and forces him to roll outside. Okada gives chase, met by a flurry of punches on the ramp that drops him to a knee. Pleased with the damage inflicted, Naito walks back up the ramp, spitting at the crowd as he saunters in front of them. His eyes never cast upon the screen that had his back earlier, though the camera picks up Okada sprinting after him and dropkicking him in the back of the head. Red Shoes leaves the sanctuary of the squared circle to come after them, waving his hands about to herd the action back where he has authority. Okada abides, clubbing Naito in the back of the head to force him into the ring as the crowd applauds.
Naito kicks Okada out of a Red Ink attempt and follows up with a swinging neckbreaker. He rushes Okada in the corner, catches the boots raised in defense, and swings them outside to hit a hangman neckbreaker. Well played, Sir! Naito rolls to the apron, spitting towards…oh s-…Makabe, who is seated at ringside commentary. Pay homage. Makabe doesn’t looked pleased, but Naito is well out of range after leaping onto the top rope and hitting a springboard dropkick that pastes Okada to the mat. He covers with a little more zest than before, but again Okada kicks out at two. Okada reverses a whip into the ropes and hits a flapjack that sends Naito rolling to his side.
AXS cuts to a quick commercial break promoting the David Lynch Festival of Disruption. I’m going to give you guys a quick peek behind the curtain here. I f****ng love David Lynch! The man is so brilliant. Hell, you astute sleuths out there might have even picked up on that based on my liberal use of blue velvet when describing Shibata’s entrance. Am I comparing his rage to that of Frank Booth? Let’s just say the man probably prefers the harsh bite of a Pabst Blue Ribbon over a Heineken.
Now that I’m done washing Lynch’s balls, AXS cuts back to Naito getting to his feet as Okada attacks with a running back elbow comboed into a DDT. He kips up, then swipes a sliding European Uppercut under Naito’s chin before covering for two. He once again goes for Red Ink, this time locking it in with Naito just out of arm’s reach of the ropes. Okada pulls Naito’s head back, applying as much pressure as possible while Naito circles around to finally get to the ropes and break the hold.
Okada scoop-slams Naito and heads up top, taking flight to hit a very pretty tribute to Macho Man’s flying elbow straight down on Naito’s chest. He calls for rain! Naito boots him out of the unwind, quickly closing the gap to hit an Ura nage. As Okada rises in the corner, he is chased down by a dropkick to the apron/heel trip/dropkick back inside combo. Nope, still hasn’t grown old. The combo is just so damn pleasing to the eye. The crowd unleashes another solid round of boos, with a small section privy to a wad of spit sent their way. Naito hits an inverted atomic drop into a Flatliner before wrapping his legs around Okada’s head in a modified Koji Clutch headscissors (Barnett). Okada rolls Naito onto his shoulders, getting a two. Naito armdrags Okada into another modified Koji Clutch headscissors, squeezing as Okada fights to break it at the ropes after spending minutes in the hold.
Naito perches Okada on the top turnbuckle and hops after him to hit a Frankensteiner while the crowd boos unmercifully. Naito slowly lifts Okada to his feet by the back of his trunks, with Okada punching his way out of a Gloria attempt. Naito spins around and sends a gob of spit towards Okada. Okada smacks him for it, dropping Naito to a knee as he takes off for the ropes. Okada dives at Naito, which is countered into a wicked looking spinebuster! Naito quickly gathers up Okada and tries for Destino, but Okada reverses for the neckbreaker, which is reversed again by Naito who kicks off the ropes for a tornado DDT. Okada counters the counter! He once again hoists Naito onto his shoulder, packaging up the back of his neck before dropping it across his knee. As Naito cradles the back of his head, Okada lays in a heap, exhaustedly heaving in oxygen. Red Shoes checks on both men before calling for the ten count. Both men roll to their sides and take a knee at eight, forcing Red Shoes to back up and let the war continue.
They trade shots from their knees, with both men delivering labored forearms to the other that land completely undefended. Red Shoes steps in and out of camera view with each hit scored, watching as both men sway upon impact. Okada grabs the back of Naito’s head, forcing in a forearm. Naito cackles as he teeters back, blurring the thin line between continuing the fight and ending up flat on his back. As both men rise, Okada lumbers back with a smile before lunging forth with a forearm that whips Naito’s head sharply to the right. Naito stumbles back, chuckling in between deep gasps for air. He bounces towards Okada, drunk-dialing a slurred shot that connects to send Okada shuffling to the corner. Okada answers with a forearm of his own. They toast to another round, with Naito serving up the final shot that drops Okada to the mat.
Naito wobbles left to right as Okada uses the corner to rise. He rushes in, leaping for a forearm that catches the air as he’s caught and lifted atop the challenger’s shoulders. Naito crawls over Okada’s back and into a sunset flip, but Okada rolls to his feet and hits a basement dropkick that breaks through his swatting hands to tag him in the face. Okada quickly sits Naito up and heads to the ropes, bringing another basement dropkick to the face on his way back. He sits Naito up again, and again breaks through the champion’s defense to hit another low dropkick for two. Barnett: “Like a bag of bad plums!” After a moment of dead air, JR quips, “A bag of bad plums? That’s how I’ve been described in my swimsuit.” Focus, Gentlemen.
Okada lifts Naito onto his shoulder in a fireman’s carry pickup, but Naito squirms free to cleanse Okada’s palate with a loud smack to the face. Naito tags the back of Okada’s head with an enzuigiri, reversing a counter whip into the ropes with a flying forearm. Naito tries for Destino, but gets hung up on Okada’s shoulder – his legs flailing wildly for stability. Okada stumbles towards the ropes as Naito tries to kick free, dropping his legs across the ropes to counter into a waistlock to drag him off. Naito elbows out of his grasp and hits a rolling kick before hitting the ropes and coming back straight into Okada’s dropkick. Both men are down!
The crowd roars as Okada gets to his feet, his arms diving down to lift Naito off the mat. He nearly gets a tombstone, but Naito wriggles back to the mat with his body trapped in a gut-wrench position. Okada tries again for the tombstone, but Naito deadweights him, forcing the challenger to push him away only to uncork a European Uppercut seconds later. With Naito shuffling towards the ropes, Okada closes the gap and grabs him around the waist to power him up for the tombstone. Naito again wriggles free, repositioning his body to hit a reverse DDT! Naito pulls Okada off the mat and gets a half-rotation on a Destino attempt, with Okada countering with a tombstone that spikes the top of Naito’s skull to the canvas! He pulls Naito to his feet by the back of his trunks, his hand snatching his wrist on the way up. Rainmaker! Okada drills Naito in the chest, sending his body smacking against the mat and completely folded in half! Okada covers, with Naito kicking out with fractions of a second to go!
Okada drags Naito to his feet and hits a German suplex. He rolls through, his hand still latched tightly to Naito’s wrist. He spins him out, but Naito counters, whipping his body onto Okada’s shoulder for Destino, but Okada blocks his motion halfway through. Okada dumps Naito off his shoulder, with the champion setting his feet and flipping inverse to roll Okada up for the pin. 1, 2, Okada escapes with his hand latched around Naito’s wrist! A second Rainmaker! Holy s-…a third Rainmaker! Okada peels Naito off the mat with a hand still clamped around his wrist, the champion’s glazed-over gaze catching the glimpse of an arm rushing towards him. Son of a damn bitch! A fourth Rainmaker, the impact flipping Naito’s body to the mat! Okada covers…1, 2, 3!!!
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada in 28:58 to regain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship
As Okada collapses on the canvas, a ringside crew member runs in to ice him down. Okada lifts three fingers, begging for reassurance that the he indeed got the win. He nods exhaustedly at the realization before rolling to his side while Naito gets iced down in the foreground, his eyes still glazed over as he stares at the lights strobing overhead. Okada rises long enough to have his hand raised before dropping back to the mat while Naito gets carried out of the ring. As JR mentions that the rivalry between these two men is far from over, Red Shoes hands the title to Okada as the closing score of a Disney movie trumpets throughout the arena.
Okada gets a mic, telling the crowd that he has three things to say. He glares at Naito and says, “Mr. Naito, you made me rush things,” as the crowd laughs at the comment. Okada tells the crowd that they all witnessed what fighting for an IWGP title is all about in New Japan Pro Wrestling. His second point, next up for him is the G1 Climax and he wants to win it while being the champion. He promises to win it because he’s on a completely different level. I, uhhh, don’t think that promise was kept. His last point…he says he doesn’t have anything. He just wants to make New Japan Pro Wrestling global. He asks the crowd if they want to see exciting things, tagging it by stating that he will take them there and “make it rain money in New Japan Pro Wrestling!” Gold confetti shimmies down from the ceiling as Okada poses atop the turnbuckles. As far as Okada’s newest reign, JR says that the cupboard is not bare for the amazing challenges, and challengers, for his gold.
(Andrews Analysis: That was another thrilling chapter in the amazing rivalry of Kazuchika Okada and Tetsuya Naito. The pace was slow in comparison to Shibata/Nagata and KUSHIDA/Ospreay, which fit this match perfectly. This was a story of the two top men in the company trying to wear down the other’s Herculean feats of strength and pain tolerance. It needed to be a grind in order for the story to be told effectively, and f- me if the result wasn’t expertly accomplished. The standout moment, for me, came when both men were stumbling around with barely enough energy to strike a match, only to light that whole f****ng arena on fire with a thrilling final five minutes. This was such a remarkable sequel to their earlier match that saw Naito capture the title. Although New Japan is brimming at the top with talent, I can only hope that chapter three will be written by the time we get to Wrestle Kingdom 12. Of course, there are a few guys who might have something to say about that, so even if we have to wait until next year you can bet that they’ll find a way to top what took place in Osaka-Jo Hall.)
In the interview area, Okada wheezes through his thoughts on the match, stating that Naito is strong and that the match served as a reminder of such. Even without his cornermen, Okada feels as if Naito did well. As the camera zooms in on the belt, Okada folds it up for the tight shot while stating, “I knew I had to take back this belt as soon as I could.”
Naito is interviewed backstage, his body hunched over his knees as he struggles to catch his breath. He acknowledges that Okada, Mr. Kidani, and all the fans of New Japan must be happy. He asks them to thank him because “it’s all in the palm of my hands, you fools.” He stumbles left to right before limping out of camera view.
We get one last present-day, with Okada saying that he thought Naito had become stronger after winning the belt. He mentions Naito urging the crowd to boo him during the match, musing that in the end the booing didn’t matter because those that wanted to cheer him did while those who wanted to boo him did so as well. He feels as if CHAOS had finally stopped LIJ’s momentum.
Overall Thoughts: The Guerillas of Destiny/Briscoes match was ok. It wasn’t above average by any means, but getting to see the Briscoes prior to Honor Rising was a treat. I’ve seen enough Guerillas of Destiny matches to know what to expect, and damn if the Briscoes didn’t stay step for step with them.
For me, this was about Shibata/Nagata, KUSHIDA/Ospreay, and Naito/Okada – six men who I have grown so fond of in such a short span of time. All three of those matches were superb, besting their prior entries in the respective feuds. I was on the edge of my seat for Shibata/Nagata, scooching just a hair further when KUSHIDA/Ospreay began, and damn near jumped to my feet for the ending of Naito/Okada. This was one of the better blocks on AXS for all-around quality of matches. Give us something fun to start, then ramp it up with a hard-hitting match, followed by four world class artists painting pictures that told such brilliant stories after the last stroke was applied. If you ever wanted to sell someone on this company – putting on display a wide variety of styles in the most time-efficient way possible – then this is the block you would feature on the showroom floor.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE: NJPW ON AXS TV: Best of the Super Juniors XXIII (parts 1 and 2): Ospreay vs. Volador Jr., GEDO vs. Taguchi, Elgin, Omega, more