Wrestling Night in America Reunion: PWTorch columnist Greg Parks is joined by former PWTorch columnist Pat McNeill for a full match-by-match preview of WrestleMania 36
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NEW BEGINNING IN OSAKA
FEBRUARY 9, 2020
OSAKA, JAPAN AT JO HALL
AIRED LIVE ON FITE.TV AND NEW JAPAN WORLD
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton, Gino Gambino.
(1) Toa Henare & Ryusuke Taguchi & Toki Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata & Hiroyoshi Tenzan.
This is a continuation of the Nakanishi Retirement Series. Taguchi and Nakanishi started the bout, with the bigger Nakanishi who hit strikes in the corner. Tenzan tagged in and began to work on the rear end of Taguchi. Yup, the rear end. Henare made it in, and as he has throughout the road to New Beginning shows, teased usage of the Torture Rack (Nakanishi’s finisher). At this point Nagata was isolated by team Taguchi, until Makabe led the comeback via some hellacious clotheslines and Honma was isolated by team Nakanishi, which culminated in a Kojima lariat for the pinfall. After the win, Makabe thanked the crowd and mentioned his career began 27 years ago in Osaka. Nakanishi then had the ring to himself and told the fans he would try his all in his final matches.
WINNERS: Kojima of Team Nakanishi by pinfall (**)
(Fann’s Analysis: Traditional New Japan eight-man opener, not much to write home about. Nakanishi’s crowd service and the way New Japan is handling his departure is as always classy.)
(2) Roppongi 3k (Sho & Yoh w/Rocky Romero) (c) vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru – IWGP Jr. Tag Team Title Match
Roppongi 3K jumped Suzuki-Gun before the bell, a turn of the tables straight out of the Suzuki-gun playbook. YOH took the majority of the time in ring, and after a four man sequence of moves, all four men were down in the ring. Kanemaru tried his whiskey spit spot, but SHO got to him first, resulting in a whisky mist into the air. YOH hit Strong X on Kanemaru, with SHO getting pin.
Post match, Taguchi entered the ring with a basketball, and declared that Rocky Romero’s career isn’t over yet, and that he’s not just a good manager, but a great wrestler as well. Taguchi and Romero then challenged 3K to a tag title match, which YOH accepted.
WINNERS: SHO by pinfall (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Earlier in the tour, Sho had his leg injured, so the focus of this match was could his leg hold out against the Suzuki-Gun violence to the appendage. Shorter match than normal, but the post-match wrinkle of Rocky and Taguchi going for the IWGP Jr Tag Titles is interesting..)
(3) Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens w/Jado)
Tama Tonga and Tanahashi opened the match. After a lock up, Tonga wound up in the ropes for a break, which seemed to end clean – until Tonga Loa grabbed Tanahashi by the hair! This opened the door for an eight man brawl, which then settled into Tonga Loa and Finlay as the final two in ring as legal men. G.o.D. double teamed Finlay, and got a two count after a pair of sentons. Owens tagged in – and Finlay came back against him long enough to tag in Ibushi. Ibushi did his kick combo followed by a moonsault for a two count. After some more Bullet Club shenanigans, the match broke down again and ended with Tanahashi vs. G.o.D. and Jado outside the ring. After a kendo stick shot, Tonga Loa thought the match was over and went for Apesh*t, but Tanahashi turned it into a cradle for the win. After the match, G.o.D. and Jado beat up Tana, until Ibushi returned to make the save. Jado tried a kendo stick shot on Ibushi, but Ibushi went partial Dead Eyes Ibushi and then threw Jado out. Commentary mentioned that perhaps Tana and Ibushi would challenge for the tag titles, but then FinJuice popped back into the ring to stand off with their former teammates.
WINNERS: Hiroshi Tanahashi by pinfall (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Another breezy match, whose focus more was on the post match opposed to the match itself. Tanahashi and Ibushi as tag team contenders is a nice distraction for a month or two, leading into the extended G-1. Tanahashi was a bit gimpy during this match, so a tag feud is also a great way for Tana to get right prior to the most backbreaking time in New Japan starts up. New Japan coming to the USA in August, Madison Square Garden in particular is a very interesting development, considering they’re selling it as their event, not a shared one ala the G-1 Supercard.)
Prior to the next match, an MSG announcement was made, as well as G-1 Climax info and New Japan returning to primetime on TV-Asashi.
(4) CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Will Ospreay) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr & Taichi)
Taichi and Okada kicked the match off, with Ospreay and ZSJ engaged in fisticuffs outside of the ring. Once things calmed down, ZSJ tagged in and Okada hit his flapjack to allow himself the space to tag in Ospreay.
Ospreay and ZSJ then began a series of counters which played off the finish of the match last week, which culminated in an Ospreay break of up a triangle choke with a one-armed powerbomb. Taichi and Okada joined the party and after a kick to the head of Okada followed by an axe bomber, Taichi’s pants were off! Okada escaped a Last Ride, and while Ospreay hit a Sasuke Special on Sabre outside, Okada hit the Rainmaker for the win.
WINNERS: Okada by pinfall (***)
(Fann’s Analysis: Really good tag match! The tandem of Okada & Ospreay has been really good, and as Ospreay moves up the card and into the second in command of CHAOS matches like these are great to have in the resume. ZSJ and Taichi were great foils, and while I know Taichi is an acquired taste, I thought he fit in well and contributed to the story in his own way.)
(5) Sanada (LIJ) vs. “Switchblade” Jay White (Bullet Club)
Gedo started and ended this match with interference. At the start, Gedo hopped onto the apron to distract Sanada, then followed with a trip ofthe LIJ member and choked him with a towel on the floor. From there Jay White was his Jay White-est, with stomps and his throwback heel offense. After Sanada came back a bit, the pair exchanged European uppercuts – but White hit a deadlift German and followed with a Kiwi Crusher for a two count. Sanada tried to hit a Skull End after he nailed a high angle suplex, but Gedo (again) distracted via an apron jump. White’s schoolboy as a result of this only netted a two. The finale featured Canada finally locked into the Skull End and eschewed it for a Muta Moonsault press, which missed. White and Sanada traded finisher attempts, with Sanada’s attempt at a springboard Skull End, but both men fell a bit weird and looked like they could’ve been hurt far worse. White then hit his sleeper suplex, Regal Plex, and finally the Blade Runner put down my dear son Sanada.
WINNER: Jay White by pinfall (***1/2)
(Fann’s Analysis: My dear son Sanada loses to White. Water is wet. This sets Sanada into a situation where he can pull away from the rest of LIJ if he so chooses down the line, and also gives White a chance to rehab and move his way back towards the Double Title scene.)
(6) Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Ryu Lee – IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title match
At the bell, both men went for the throat, with 30 seconds of the pair focused on murdering the other. After a short break, they switched to chops and slaps, which resulted by match end with both men’s left pec being red bloody messes. After Lee blocked a Time Bomb, he then tried the package piledriver that broke Hiromu’s neck – but Hiromu countered into a triangle, which Lee scrambled to get to the ropes to stop. After another exchange of strikes, Hiromu tossed Lee outside with a throw that had to be perfect to prevent death and somehow the pair did it. After the copyrighted NJPW 19 count, back in the ring Lee and Hiromu again went into murder death kill mode with their suplexes. Lee tried the V-trigger and Hiromu got to the ropes to break the count up. Hiromu hit a Canadian destroyer, a lawn dart and a Time Bomb, but Lee rolled through for a near fall. Hiromu then decided it was time for Lee to leave this Earth and hit two knees to the head, followed by another Canadian Destroyer and two Time Bombs for the win.
WINNER: Hiromu Takahashi by pinfall to retain IWGP Jr. Heavyweight championship (*****)
(Fann’s Analysis: Phenomenal match. The Peter Griffin vs. the Chicken element to all of the Hiromu-Lee matches never ceases to amaze. I cannot do this match justice with a simple report. Watch this match.)
(7) Jon Moxley (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki – IWGP U.S. Title match
Suzuki entered the ring, and while Moxley made his entrance, was challenged to enter the outside area and get it on. Suzuki obliged, as one would have assumed. For the record, this match has now begun with five to seven minutes (off match) of these two men wrecking each other with chairs, tables, and at some point the bell rang. Once they got into the ring, the pair traded punches and Suzuki got his big ole boot to the face of Mox. When Suzuki went for a penalty kick, Moxley blocked and bit Suzuki, who then headbutted and bit Moxley back. The pair went back outside and brawled like you wanted them to, which culminated in Moxley powerbombing Suzuki through a table, which Suzuki laughed off. This match at this point has entered the sweet spot of insanity one would assume these two would have. Back in the ring, the pair brought chairs to the chagrin of Red Shoes Umino, who tried to stop the sun from rising essentially. After a ref bump, Suzuki ate a chair to the head and a Death Rider, but the ref wasn’t there. When Umino came to, Suzuki woke up and hit some strikes and no sold Moxley’s clothesline. Mox hit the second, then another Death Rider however and that was all she wrote.
WINNER: Jon Moxley by pinfall to retain the IWGP U.S. championship (****)
-After the match, Zack Sabre Jr. jumped Moxley. He who choked him out and posed with the U.S. Title. Once he came to, Moxley sold his eye and staggered off.
(Fann’s Analysis: MOXLEY BIT SUZUKI. SUZUKI BIT MOXLEY. This match was the level of violence you want out of these two and I cannot understate how awesome Moxley’s selling of his eye was to begin and end the match, and the ZSJ potential for fighting down the road is a fun little twist as Moxley defends his title.)
(8) Tetsuya Naito (LIJ) (c) vs. Kenta (Bullet Club) – IWGP Double Title match
The battle of the troll gods. The men didn’t lock up until about three minutes of match time with delays and feints and this was to be expected with two men who really love getting folks heated in their respective matches. After Naito got a hold of Kenta, he hit a rana and stomped the Bullet Club provocateur, and then threw him outside into the barricade. Kenta came back and returned the favor, and removed the turnbuckle – which would come into play late in the match. Kenta went for a DDT, but Naito hit a neckbreaker on the apron and the pair traded moves on the outside, which led to another NJPW countout tease(™). Back in the ring, Kenta ducked an elbow and threw Red Shoes Umino into Naito’s way, which gave Kenta the opening to lock in Game Over. Naito fought out of it and got the ropes. Kenta got the penalty kick, then a busaiku knee for a 2.9 count. Kenta went for Go To Sleep, but Naito blocked and hit a tornado ddt. Naito hit another neckbreaker and then Gloria for a two count. Naito went for Destino, but Kenta shoved him into Red Shoes, and the ref died and fell out of the ring.
Enter Jay White. White slid in and hit his sleeper suplex. Bushi came in and spat mist at White, but White ducked and hit the Blade Runner. Hiromu then hit the ring, hit White with a side kick and dragged White in a headlock to the back of the arena. Naito recovered and hit his enziguiri and flying forearm combo. Kenta blocked Destino with a lariat for another near fall. Kenta went for Go To Sleep, but Naito reversed into an inverted DDT. Kenta blocked Valentia and threw Naito into the exposed buckle, which bloodied Naito and resulted in a near fall. Kenta slapped Naito into the next day, then hit a busaiku knee that seemed to end it but Naito kicked out at the last second. Another Go to Sleep attempt was countered into a poison rana and a Valentia for a 2.8 count. Naito hit Destino for the win.
WINNER: Naito by pinfall to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Title / IWGP IC Double Title (****)
-After the match, Naito told Kenta to get out of here as he lingered toward the back. After that, Hiromu came out and was challenged by Naito as the IWGP champ traditionally would face the IWGP Jr. champ at the anniversary show. Hiromu accepted, and Naito did the LIJ roll call to close the show with confetti.
(Fann’s Analysis: This match was a study in troll-game. This is probably one of Kenta’s best matches in New Japan, and while it could have been a little shorter time wise, and less interfere-y I think it fit well in the story being told. I wanted to see Naito and Kenta bring the best out of each other and this was it. Post match, the fact that only Bushi and Hiromu came to Naito’s aid bears watching.)
OVERALL THOUGHTS (9.0): A really good show top to bottom that did the job it needed to do – reset the lineup post Wrestle Kingdom and open a world of opportunity going into the New Japan Cup.
Contact Rich at PWTDive@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/rich_fann.