SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
NJPW THE NEW BEGINNING REPORT
December 10, 2023
EDION ARENA OSAKA
AIRED LIVE ON NJPW WORLD
Announcers: Walker Stewart and Chris Charlton
(1) BOLTIN OLEG & RYUSUKE TAGUCHI vs. YOH & TORU YANO
Boltin Oleg has been picking up some surprising wins recently against veterans, leading to this match.
Oleg ran straight through both Yoh and Yano early on, and hit a running splash for a two-count. Yano cut off his momentum with an inverted atomic drop, then removed the corner pad and whipped Oleg into it twice. Yoh tagged in and found himself whipped into that same exposed corner, allowing Oleg to tag Taguchi.
Taguchi hit a butt-butt for a two-count. He went for the Bummer Ye but Yoh countered with a schoolboy for a two-count. Yano and Oleg came in, and Oleg told Taguchi to try the gutwrench medley he’s been doing recently. Oleg executed it with ease, but Taguchi could not manage a second rep. Yoh rolled him up for the win.
WINNERS: Yoh & Yano via pinfall in 5:00. (*1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Harmless fun, but nothing more.)
(2) GREAT-O-KHAN & CALLUM NEWMAN vs. BISHAMON (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi)
Well I guess with these two in this match, Jeff Cobb has recovered enough to be in the main event cage match. Charlton points out that this was the first match for Bishamon as a team since New Year Dash, and that they are on a rebuilding mission.
Newman showed his speed early, ducking a series of clothesline attempts and hitting a big boot on Goto. Bishamon took control and hit a double-team move on both opponents. Goto hip-tossed Yoshi-Hashi onto Newman.
Newman tried to fight back but got leveled with a single chop. He fired up and got knocked down with another chop. He tried one more time, got chopped again, but came back with an enzuigiri. O-Khan tagged in and cleaned house. He connected with a claw takedown on Yoshi-Hashi for a two-count, and a hip toss for another two-count for another two.
TMDK joined the commentary team. Hilarity ensued.
Newman tagged in and hit a pair of kicks for a near fall that was broken up by Goto. O-Khan and Newman took turns hitting corner attacks on Yoshi-Hashi, who avoided a charge. Superkick to O-Khan! Newman hit another kick and went for a spinning kick, but ate another Yoshi-Hashi superkick. O-Khan was tossed to the floor. Bisahmaon hit their tandem ushigoroshi/superkick combo on Newman. Shoto…connected! 1…2…3!
WINNERS: Bishamon via pinfall in 8:00. (**1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: It was pretty short, but action-packed and entertaining. Newman is so fast, but unlike a lot of young and quick wrestlers he’s very smooth with his actions. He’s going to be very, very good.)
(3) SHOTA UMINO & EL DESPERADO & TOMOAKI HONMA & TIGER MASK vs. HOUSE OF TORTURE (Evil & Sho & Ren Narita & Yujiro Takahashi)
I’m sure this will shock you to your core, but this match started with an all-out brawl on the outside.He beat down on Sho in the corner, trash-talking the whole time. There might be some animosity there. Honma tagged in and tried to calm Desperado down. He hit a bulldog but missed Kokeshi, letting Sho get the upper hand.
The other six men brawled on the outside while Sho stomped Honma. Yujiro tagged in and hit a basement dropkick for a two-count. Evil tagged in and choked down Honma with a shirt. He hit a big clothesline but Honma shook it off and suplexed Evil. Honma tagged in Umino, who took out House of Torture one by one. He played to the crowd and connected with a tornado DDT on Evil for a two-count.
At the five-minute mark, Evil took advantage of a ref distraction to kick Umino in the groin and tag in Sho. Umino was able to tag in Tiger Mask and hit a double underhook suplex for a two-count. He locked in a kimmura, but the hold was broken up by an intervening Narita. Desperado hit a spinebuster on Sho, allowing Honma to connect with Kokeshi! That got a near fall.
Sho and Tiger Mask were left alone in the ring. Tiger Mask hit the Tiger Driver for a near fall. Dick Togo got on the apron, allowing Sho to hit a low blow and Narita to waffle Tiger Mask with his push-up bar. One Shock Arrow later and House of Torture had their win.
WINNERS: House of Torture via pinfall in 9:00. (**)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Typical preview tag, nothing special to see here.)
– There was a post-match brawl, during which Desperado took down Sho and retrieved his stolen mask. Sho fled and in the process stole Desperado’s belt. He demanded that their Feb. 23 match should now be for the title, since Sho was the champion now. Desperado refused, calling Sho a worthless opponent, and saying that if Sho wouldn’t give back the belt Desperado would take it by force.
(4) JUST FIVE GUYS (Sanada & Taichi & Douki & Yuuya Uemura & Taka Michinoku) vs. LOS INGOBERNABLES DE JAPON (Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi & Hiromu Takahashi & Bushi & Yota Tsuji)
It’s installment 177 in this feud, 163 of which have been ten-man tags. As expected, the feuding pairs jumped each other at the bell. Taichi and Shingo squared off in the ring, with Taichi in control early after a succession of Kawada kicks. They ran into each other several times, then Taichi hit a high boot. Taka and Bushi both tagged in.
Taka tried for Just Facelock, but Bushi squirmed free. He sent Taka to the floor and followed him with a tope through the ropes. All of LIJ put the boots to Taka, and Bushi followed up with a neckbreaker for a two-count. Tsuji tagged in and ate a kick from Taka, allowing the tag to Uemura.
Uemura hit a series of arm drags and a running chop in the corner. A back suplex got a two-count. Uemura hit a nasty-looking headscissors that dropped Tsuji on his head, but Tsuji came back with a clothesline. Uemura snapped Tsuji’s arm, then hit a pair or armbar DDTs. Hiromu and Douki tagged in, and the pace picked up considerably.
Douki took Hiromu down with a rebound flying back elbow, then double stomped Hiromu for a two-count. Douki spun through the ropes to avoid an attack, ending up on the apron. Hiromu tried the sunset bomb to the floor, but Douki blocked and stomped on Hiromus’s face. Hiromu countered an attack and was able to tag in Naito while Douki tagged Sanada.
Sanada quickly tied up Naito in the Paradise Lock, then kicked him free. Naito rolled to the floor. Back inside Naito sidestepped an attack and hit the Combinación Cabrón. Bushi came in and they hit a tandem move on Sanada. Just Five Guys all came into the ring and leveled Bushi with the Just Five Boots. Chaos ensued as everyone came into the ring. When the dust cleared, Sanada locked in Skull End for the submission victory.
WINNERS: Just Five Guys via submission in 13:00. (**1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: We’ve seen it all before at this point, although we had not seen Sanada get the tapout yet. Nonetheless, while I get the reason for these preview tags, this one felt like one too many. Or several too many. I will say that I am actually enjoying the Tsuji-Uemura feud more than I did the Umino-Narita feud, especially in-ring.)
– The two units lined up and faced off in the ring after the match. No physicality, just staring.
(5) KAZUCHIKA OKADA vs. HIROSHI TANAHASHI
This was billed as the final match between the two long-time rivals turned tag partners. Unless Okada has decided on WWE that does not have to be the case, but we will see. During Tanahashi’s entrance there was an indication on the screen that his music was being altered. I am curious what theme he used that needed to be dubbed over. Okada came out already in tears, and to a loud “Okada” chant. I can’t imagine this match has been in the middle of too many cards. Commentary told us there had been 15 previous matches between them.
After the early exchanges, Tanahashi took control with a crossbody and dropkick. Okada avoided a charge, sat Tanahashi on the top rope, and dropkicked him off and to the floor. Okada followed him outside. He kicked Tanahashi into the barricade, rolled him inside and hit a basement dropkick. Okada played to the crowd, who were now booing, and took Tanahashi down with a dragon screw.
Okada followed up a charging back elbow with a DDT for a two-count at the five-minute mark. He invited Tanahashi to take a shot, and of course the Ace obliged with forearms and a flying elbow to take control. Ah, hubris. A scoop slam and a middle-rope senton got a two-count for Tanahashi.
Tanahashi called to the crowd and hit his own dragon screw. Okada rolled to the apron, and Tanahashi hit another dragon screw but this time in the ropes. Okada went to the floor, and Tanahashi went to the top rope…Aces High to the floor! Wow, considering how little Tanahashi has been going to the air recently, that was some impressive distance and height.
Okada rolled back into the ring, and caught a charging Tanahashi with a flapjack. Both men were down. An air raid crash got a two-count. Heavy Rain got another two at the ten-minute mark. Okada slammed Tanahashi and went to the top for his usual elbow drop…connected! Rainmaker pose! Okada went for Rainmaker, but Tanahashi countered with Slingblade. Both men were down again.
They exchanged forearms in the middle of the ring. Okada staggered first but was able to recover and try a tombstone. Tanahashi escaped and hit Twist and Shout. Okada tried two Rainmakers but Tanahashi countered each one and hit a dragon suplex. He went for another Slingblade, Okada blocked it and Tanahashi tried to apply a sleeper. Okada pushed him off and connected with Slingblade. Tanahashi to the top…High Fly KNEES! Okada got his knees up!
Again, both men were down. Okada came up first with a shotgun dropkick, and hit a clothesline. He kept hold of the wrist of Tanahashi as we passed 15 minutes, but Tanahashi fired in some shots. Dropkick by Okada! Tombstone! Rainmak…small package by Tanahashi! 1…2…no!
Each man went for a tombstone at the same time, leading to a standoff. Tanahashi lifted Okada, but Okada escaped out the back and hit a Death Valley driver. Rainmaker…connected! 1…2…3!
WINNER: Kazuchika Okada via pinfall in 17:00. (***1/2)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: About half the length of most of their matches, but still very good. It felt like a greatest hits collection more than anything else, but that’s just what was needed between these two men at this spot on the card.)
– The two rivals embraced in the middle of the ring, and Tanahashi left the ring leaving Okada to absorb the adulation of the crowd. Okada broke down into tears as he bowed to the NJPW logo and the crowd. I won’t lie, he was not the only one getting emotional. What can I say, I am a sucker for strong emotion.
(6) GUERILLAS OF DESTINY (El Desperado & Hikuleo) (c) vs. CHASE OWENS & KENTA – IWGP Tag Team Championship match
These two teams faced off a few weeks ago for the NJPW Strong tag titles, with GoD retaining. We’ve also seen countless six-man tags in between that match and this one, so we’re very familiar with the matchup.
Bullet Club took control when Chase Owens attacked ELP from behind. That brought in Hikuleo who took down both men with a double clothesline. He took down Kenta with a DDT and then splashed Owens in the corner. ELP followed up with his own corner attack and a Bret Hart-style elbow. ELP hit a gorgeous moonsault to the floor onto both opponents, then rolled Kenta in for a cover and a near-fall.
Kenta lured ELP in and tripped him into a turnbuckle. He threw ELP to the floor and continued the assault on the outside, running ELP into the barricade at the five-minute mark. Back inside, Chase Owens tagged in and hit a boot to the gut and a backbreaker for a two-count. Kenta tagged back in, but ELP avoided the tandem move and threw Kenta to the floor. He hit a headscissors on Owens but Kenta yanked Hikuleo off the apron to prevent the tag.
ELP again avoided a tandem move and hit an enzuigiri. He made the tag to Hikuleo who came in hot. He dropped Owens with a Snake Eyes and a big boot. Owens avoided a corner splash and hit a series of strikes, but Hikuleo reversed a suplex attempt for a near fall. He tagged in ELP and hit a running powerslam, and ELP hit a springboard senton into a Lionsault for a near fall.
ELP went for the UFO but Owens escaped it. Kenta low-bridged Hikuleo, sending him to the floor. Owens got a schoolboy rollup for a two-count, then tagged in Kenta who hit a basement dropkick. Top rope double stomp by Kenta! Owens came in and hit a gutbuster for a near fall at the ten-minute mark.
ELP escaped a tandem move and made a blind tag. Owens and Kenta maintained their assault on ELP but Hikuleo came in and wiped them both out. Kenta held on to the ref to block a chokeslam, then dropped Hikuleo with a chop block. He hit a series of kicks to the head but Hikuleo powered up and tagged in ELP.
Hikuleo hit the chokeslam on Owens! Super Thunderkiss ‘86! 1…2…no! Owens pulled the referee out of the ring! Jado took exception to that and ate a knee lift for his troubles. On the inside, Kenta got a low blow on Hikuleo! Taiji Ishimori is in the ring! Belt shot to Hikuleo! 1…2…3!
WINNERS: Chase Owens and Kenta via pinfall in 14:00 to win the IWGP tag team championship. (**1/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: Well that was a shock. I absolutely did not see that coming, and I am confused why it did. Owens and Kenta are not really going anywhere in terms of momentum, they’re a thrown-together team who don’t really fit. I wonder if there is more to this result than meets the eye. The match itself was not even that good. Baffling result.)
(7) ZACK SABRE JR vs. BRYAN DANIELSON
This should help rinse the taste of the last match out of our mouths. There was a 60-minute time limit for this match, despite the lack of title on the line. Translation: settle in folks, this will be a ride.
Danielson went for a knee bar early, but ZSJ escaped it easily. Both men went for arm wringers, which ended up looking like an intricate ballroom dance sequence. They rolled into a leg lock with each man jockeying for control. ZSJ transitioned into an armbar attempt, Danielson escaped, and both men got to their feet.
They locked up again and jockeyed for position within the lockup, both dropping to the mat simultaneously. We went past five minutes with not a single strike or throw, just technical exchanges. ZSJ got the upper hand by attacking the fingers, but Danielson got a wristlock and a pair of armdrags. He went for a whip to the corner but ZSJ came out with a guillotine, which he then transitioned to an armlock.
Danielson escaped the armlock and applied a leg hold. ZSJ was able to maneuver into a choke, and Danielson escaped again. They locked up again and ZSJ applied a cross-arm surfboard. Danielson reversed into one of his own, but ZSJ escaped and shoved Danielson away.
ZSJ rolled through a hold and seemed to tweak his ankle. He limped around the ring trying to shake it off, and they locked up again. Danielson kicked out the knee as we went past ten minutes, and went to work on the freshly-injured leg. Danielson started a surfboard lock and taunted ZSJ telling him to grab the ropes. Zack said he didn’t need the ropes so Danielson stomped both his knees.
Danielson laid in some kicks to the spine, then locked in an ankle lock. ZSJ got to the ropes, but Danielson jumped on the knee while the leg was on the bottom rope. ZSJ was hopping around the ring. Danielson got a dragon screw, ZSJ tried to block a second but Danielson countered with an ankle lock. ZSJ reversed it into his own ankle lock, but Danielson re-established his own hold. Danielson hit a leg-trap suplex and maintained his hold on ZSJ.
Danielson again started to apply the surfboard, this time raking the face. He has til five, ref! He applied the surfboard this time, but ZSJ countered into a dragon sleeper! Danielson escaped with a snap mare and went for his own dragon sleeper, which again was countered with a snap mare by ZSJ. Neck snap by ZSJ! Danielson went after the leg but ZSJ hit a dropkick to take control.
ZSJ applied a cravate but Danielson backed him into a corner and slapped him several times. He draped ZSJ’s leg over the rope and dropkicked it. Running knee strike in the corner by Danielson! He tried another, but ZSJ came out of the corner with a cobra twist hold! He transitioned into an octopus hold, which Danielson turned into a stretch muffler.
Both men applied achilles holds in the middle of the ring, and slapped the taste out of each other’s mouths. Danielson spat on ZSJ twice, then they started kicking each other in the face with their free legs. Both men went down, but maintained the leg holds as we hit 20 minutes. They rolled to the apron, still maintaining the holds, and Danielson kicked away at the face of ZSJ. They finally broke the holds as ZSJ rolled to the floor.
Danielson leapt off the apron with a flying knee strike. He rolled ZSJ into the ring and went for a flying heabutt…ZSJ caught him! He went from a triangle choke to a Rings of Saturn, then into a leglock. Danielson made the ropes. ZSJ went for a dragon suplex but Danielson kicked his knee to escape. ZSJ came back with a stiff European uppercut, and Danielson returned the favour.
Both men exchanged European uppercuts.. Danielson blocked a clothesline, jolting ZSJ’s arm. A stiff right hand and big kick sent ZSJ to the mat. Danielson went back to work on the leg, then went to the top rope. ZSJ went up to meet him. Danielson headbutted him down but ZSJ went back up again. The exchanged strikes, ZSJ got the upper hand but Danielson slipped underneath and crotched ZSJ. Back suplex from the top rope! 1…2…no!
Danielson laid in a series of 12-6 elbows, and went for cattle mutilation. ZSJ escaped and after a series of counters hit a German suplex and a Zack Driver for a very near fall. He hit a pair of kicks to the chest of Danielson, who blocked a third attempt, but ZSJ locked in a triangle choke. Danielson broke the hold with some heavy forearms, then stomped ZSJ’s head in.
Danielson applied a Rings of Saturn but ZSJ escaped. Danielson tried a very high-angle single-leg crab, almost a Liontamer, but ZSJ made the ropes. The Japanese crowd chanted “fight forever” which I have never heard before. Danielson laid in a series of kicks, ZSJ fired up and they exchanged an intricate and fast series of pinfall reversals. ZSJ waffled Danielson with a stiff kick and both men were down.
After a short pause they resumed their striking exchange. ZSJ favoured his leg and Danielson took advantage to hit the busaiku knee! Even more reversals, and I completely lost track of what happened. It was fast, it was intricate, and it was beautiful. ZSJ got the final reversal into a tight crucifix for the surprise win.
WINNER: Zack Sabre Jr. via pinfall in 34:00. (****3/4)
(Lansdell’s Analysis: This match will not be to everyone’s tastes, but it was phenomenal in my mind. After Danielson questioned his fighting spirit at New Year Dash, ZSJ showed it in spades here fighting through the knee injury. They went several minutes without a single strike, but they would come later in the match. There was of course an incredible display of technical mastery, but there was plenty of more impactful stuff too. This was as close to a five-star match as you can get. I only kept it short of that because some of the exchanges felt a little repetitive…but I am nitpicking on that. It was phenomenal.)
– The two men shook hands after the match. ZSJ signaled that he was looking for a title and said he was coming for Kazuchika Okada.
– They announced NJPW Resurgence in Ontario, Calif. On May 11.
(8) UNITED EMPIRE (Will Ospreay & Jeff Cobb & Henare & Francisco Akira & TJP) vs. BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (David Finlay & Gabe Kidd & Alex Coughlin & Clark Connors & Drilla Moloney) – Cage Match
For the first cage match in 20 years in New Japan, and the first one ever in front of fans, the cage was erected around the ring with a fair amount of space between the ring and the cage itself. It was more like a higher barricade than anything, making the ring look like a pen. The cage looks very sturdy, moreso than US cages.
The match was under War Games rules, with War Dogs having the advantage. Pinfalls and submissions don’t count until everyone is in the ring. David Finlay was out first for his team, so naturally Ospreay was the entrant for United Empire. The sold-out arena was as loud for Ospreay as for Okada, perhaps louder.
Ospreay got on the mic, and demanded ten minutes before the next entrant, instead of two. Finlay countered with an offer of five minutes, which was accepted. They started with a slugfest at the bell, and Ospreay quickly hit a headscissors sending Finlay to the outside. Ospreay followed with a slingshot crossbody, and they brawled on the outside. Notably, the cage door was open and would stay that way until everyone had entered.
Finlay got control on the outside with a whip into the cage. He retrieved a chair and swung at the head of Ospreay, who ducked it. Ospreay slingshotted Finlay into the cage, and rolled Finlay back inside. Ospreay stayed on the offensive with a stiff chop, but Finlay regained the upper hand.
Finlay pounded away, slowing the pace and beating down Ospreay. As the countdown started, Ospreay hit a stun gun and a big boot. Drilla Moloney was the next man out for War Dogs, who emerged dragging Callum Newman by his neck. Ospreay was distracted by this and Finlay waffled him with a chair to the back. Moloney handcuffed Newman to the cage and ground his face into it while Finlay made Ospreay watch.
Ospreay was again whipped into the cage as Moloney and Finlay played to the crowd. He blocked a second whip and sidestepped a charging Finlay, sending him into the cage. Moloney charged and Ospreay tried a tornado DDT off the cage. Moloney blocked and suplexed Ospreay into the cage as the countdown started again.
Henare came out for United Empire, and quickly cleaned house. They hit tandem kicks to Finlay, and Henare connected with a berserker bomb. Ospreay hit the ten-spot punches in the corner on Finlay, then Henare did the same to Moloney. Ospreay smacked Finlay in the back with a chair as Clark Connors made his entrance. Connors had barbed wire wrapped around his hand. He hit spears to Ospreay and Henare, then ground the barbed wire on his fist into the forehead of Ospreay. Connors pulled a table from under the ring as War Dogs posed in the ring.
Finlay pressed Henare’s face into the cage. Connors and Moloney set up the table in a corner. A bleeding Ospreay got back in the ring and was beaten down as TJP came to the ring with his own barbed wire in hand. He took out War Dogs, hitting a springboard forearm on Finlay. He wrapped the barbed wire around his boot and face-washed a squealing Connors with it. Yikes.
Ospreay whipped Connors shoulder-first into the cage. TJP dug a chair into the gut of Finlay. We caught a glimpse of Newman still on the floor attached to the cage but seemingly recovering. Coughlin was the next man in, and he came out with his arms through about a dozen chairs. He threw Henare, then Ospreay, then back suplexed both at the same time. Wow.
On the outside, Coughlin lawn-darted TJP into the cage. He and Connors buried TJP under all the chairs Coughlin brought with him. Henare tried to intervene but Coughlin slammed him on top of the chairs. Akira was next man out and came sprinting through the crowd! He scaled the cage and took out War Dogs with a crossbody!
Akira grabbed a kendo stick and went to town. He got in the ring and tried to nail Finlay with the kendo, but Finlay blocked it. Akira hoofed him directly in the groinal region, and just wailed on him with fists. He retrieved the kendo stick and wore Finlay out with it, then threw a chair into his face. GOOD GRIEF Akira turned around and got speared THROUGH the table that was set up earlier in the corner. That was brutal.
Gabe Kidd was the anchor for War Dogs, and brought a cart of plunder with him. Newman watched from the floor. Kidd threw a selection of toys into the ring and then just launched chairs at Ospreay and Akira. Oh boy they found a ladder. This will not end well. Connors set up a table on the floor while Kidd and Finlay stomped Ospreay in the ring. All five War Dogs posed with a foot on Ospreay as the countdown started for the last time.
Jeff Cobb came out with his leg strapped and threw Kidd overhead with a belly to belly on the floor. He caught Connors mid-crossbody and dropped him on the apron. In the ring, Cobb and Couglin exchanged strikes. Cobb hit a big dropkick and a release German sending Coughlin to the floor. Cobb absorbed a kendo stick shot from Finlay and hit a release F5. Ospreay joined him in the ring with a running boot, and Cobb hit Spin Cycle for a two-count. A standing moonsault got two more.
Chris Charlton mentioned that Henare had a very bad gash and was being tended to by the trainers. Ospreay set up a table in the ring and tried to powerslam Finlay into it, but Coughlin saved him. We got a shot of the ref chaining the door shut. Back in the ring, Cobb sidestepped a spear from Connors and sent him into the table. T-bone suplex from Cobb to Coughlin, followed by a spiral press from Ospreay for a near fall.
Gabe Kidd, blood streaming from his head, came in with a ladder and did the old whirly bird trick to take everyone out. Akira took a nasty one to the face it seemed. Finlay came in and they tried to take out Ospreay with the ladder, he used an athletic counter and handspring kicked the ladder back into Finlay and Kidd. Ospreay propped the ladder between the ring and the cage, but Finlay gouged his eyes and tried to powerbomb Ospreay through the ladder. Ospreay escaped but ate a springboard forearm.
Finlay came back with the Irish Curse, but ate a headscissors from Akira. Connors and Moloney waylaid Akira, setting up a chair and sending him face-first into it with a drop toehold. They then slammed him onto the chair for a two-count. Henare was undergoing a ringside concussion test and the commentators thought he was done for the night.
TJP emerged from under the ring in his Aswang garb, taking out all of War Dogs and saving Akira. Alley-Oop connected! Double Helluva Kick in the corner to Moloney! Double stomp! 1…2…no!
Mayhem broke loose as everyone, including Henare, came into the ring and hit a move before taking one from someone else. TJP came off the top with a splash and made the cover, but Moloney broke it up bit hitting the Drilla Killa on I think Akira. Henare had bandages all over his head in a haphazard fashion, clearly done in an emergency. All ten men squared off and went at each other. Eight of them went to the outside, leaving Ospreay and Finlay alone to slug it out.
Ospreay went to the apron and hit a stiff forearm, then set for a slingshot move. Finlay took him out with a spear to the floor through a table! Henare staggered into the ring with a trash can, put it on Finlay’s head, and kicked him into next month. Kidd came in and he and Henare resumed their slugfest. They each got a chair, Henare punched through Kidd’s chair and demolished him with a chair shot. Kidd toughed it out but got leveled with a clothesline.
Coughlin stood in the ring and dared TJP and Akira to hit him with kendo sticks. They did so, repeatedly. Coughlin gritted his teeth through the beating but then got taken down with an enzuigiri and a double superkick.
Everyone was on the floor. Akira set up a table and placed Coughlin on it, and Henare went to the top of the cage. The fool. Senton off the top through the table on Coughlin! Clark Connors emptied a bag of thumbtacks onto a tray in the ring, and tried to hit No Chaser on TJP onto the tacks. TJP blocked it and dropped Connors face first onto the tacks. He dropkicked Connors into the tacks, and Cobb hit Tour of the Islands! 1…2…Finlay broke it up with a kendo stick! He threw chair after chair into the face of Cobb, and called for the shillelagh! He nailed Cobb with it, then set Cobb up for the con-chair-to! He hit it! They rolled Cobb to the floor and handcuffed him to the cage.
Ospreay came back in and hit a Spanish fly on Finlay for a near fall. Os-cutter…countered into a stunner! Ospreay hit Hidden Blade! 1…2…no! I think I saw Henare getting handcuffed by Coughlin on the outside. Into Oblivion by Finlay! A second one! 1…2…still no! We heard the 45-minute call as Finlay called for a table. Sorry, not a table. THE table. Gedo went backstage and emerged with a barbed wire-wrapped table.
Great-O-Khan came to ringside to stop Gedo, but Gedo jabbed him with the cage key. While Finlay erected the barbed-wire table, O-Khan took out Gedo and got the handcuff key. He freed Newman but ate a low blow in the process.
Ospreay and Finlay teased going through the table. Ospreay went to powerbomb Finlay through it but Kidd saved him. Kidd tried to smash Finlay’s head off the table but Ospreay blocked and returned the favour. Ospreay set for Stormbreaker but Gedo raked his eyes. Callum Newman superkicked Gedo! Stereo Os-cutters by Ospreay and Newman to Finlay and Gedo! Blood spray to the face of Finlay! Powerbomb through the table…connects! 1…2…no!!!!!
Moloney and Kidd interrupted the proceedings. Moloney stabbed him with the fork and Kidd piledrove him through the ladder! Akira to the rescue! Oh dear, he saw the fork. Moloney stabbed him with it and Akira came up bleeding…and went nuts! He stole the fork and peppered Moloney with it! Connors came in with the dog collar and chain, Akira avoided it and he got a good forking too!
Akira attached the chain to the neck of Connors and hanged him over the top. Sweet revenge! Running knee to the back of the head of Moloney! Kidd broke up the cover, but TJP jumped on his back. Finlay took out TJP, and they stacked up some chairs. Spike piledriver to TJP onto the chairs! Good grief. They didn’t go for the cover, instead…opting to tear apart the ring and remove the canvas? The commentators said this was too much, as if we hadn’t just watched a man be hanged and two others get repeatedly stabbed with a fork. But no, exposing wood is too much.
Either way, this plan completely killed the crowd. Nobody came here to watch people peel canvas away. Henare and Cobb were both still handcuffed to the cage. Henare got free! He took out one War Dog, then suplexed Kidd almost through the boards of the ring. He locked in Ultima on Finlay, but was waffled from behind with a kendo stick by Coughlin. Coughlin handcuffed Henare to the cage again and smacked him repeatedly in the ribs with the kendo stick. Connors tattooed Cobb with the kendo stick.
In the ring Akira fired up and attacked Finlay. He hit a superkick and countered Into Oblivion with a DDT. That got a two-count before Coughlin broke the cover. Akira hit several superkicks to Coughlin in the corner but almost fell through the ring in the process as a board came loose. Akira perched Coughlin on the top and went for a Frankentsteiner, but Coughlin blocked it! Oh…oh no. Super powerbomb maybe? No, Coughlin handed Akira off to Kidd and they hit a spike tombstone for a very near fall. Ospreay broke the cover and dragged Akira to a corner.
Finlay, Kidd and Coughlin got to their feet, quickly joined by Connors and Moloney. Ospreay got to his feet slowly, alone in the face of five men. The crowd rallied behind him. Finlay told his team to back up and screamed at Ospreay to hit him. Ospreay tried, but had nothing left. Hit and Run by Connors and Moloney! Finlay wrapped his leg in barbed wire and hit Overkill! 1…2…3!
WINNERS: Bullet Club War Dogs via pinfall in 64:00. (****)
(Lansdell’s analysis: This was headed for five stars without question. Then they wasted all that time and effort peeling back the canvas. It completely killed the match and any sort of momentum, it looked bad and it made things needlessly dangerous. Akira almost tore his ankle out at one point, and far worse could have happened. Everything else that happened made sense, told great stories, and was brutal in a way that matched the intensity of the feud. I am not a deathmatch guy but sometimes this level of violence is what is needed. It’s just a shame the otherwise emotional finish was hampered by the pause.)
– After the match, United Empire helped Ospreay to his feet. Except Henare, who was taken to the back for medical treatment. The crowd chanted “Thank you Ospreay.” He thanked the crowd and promised to come back one day. He asked the fans not to forget him, and said he was ready to show the world what New Japan had produced. His music hit as confetti fell from the roof, and United Empire embraced in the middle of the ring. His girlfriend joined them, and it was Ospreay’s turn to cry in the ring.
Final thoughts: Well, that was an emotional night. Possibly the most vocal Japanese crowd I can remember, with more shouts during matches than you typically get in Japan. The goodbyes for Ospreay and Okada (though the latter still has two matches left) were raucous. I could have done without the preview tags, and the tag title change was a complete shock that I still don’t understand. The top two matches though will be spoken about for a long time. Just a crazy card overall.
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