After my last week was dominated by WWE and EVOLVE-esque shows, it’s about time we switched up the diet. New Japan’s Invasion Attack show earlier today came at the right time. As I missed this live, it was the turn of On-Demand viewing for this… and with the counter showing that this show weighed in at just under five hours, the obvious WrestleMania comparisons came into play. Would Invasion Attack be too long at four hours, and would they do anything that would make this show memorable?
The card going in had a few notable highlights – Tetsuya Naito challenging for Kazuchika Okada’s IWGP heavyweight title… the debut of British star Will Ospreay as he went after KUSHIDA’s IWGP junior heavyweight strap… oh, and the return of Yoshitatsu for his first match in almost eighteen months after having his neck broken by AJ Styles in late 2014… and if you picked the right feed, you got Kevin Kelly and Steve Corino on commentary. Alright!
Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale vs. Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi
Thank you Yujiro! He stomped away at Taguchi as he did the Nakamura Yea-Oh tribute for his intro. Seriously, drop it! This was really short and pretty non-descript, with the usual Bullet Club tropes, and could have been over had Taguchi not come in to break up a pin after Fale hit the Grenade on Robinson, but a massive spear from Fale followed up by the Bad Luck Fall was enough to finish off Juice.
Toru Yano, Kazushi Sakuraba & YOSHI HASHI vs. Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Jushin “Thunder” Liger
Corino points out at the bell that Kojima/Nagata/Liger have over eighty-years of combined ring experience, and Liger immediately goes after Yano despite his Father Jack Hackett act. Liger got whipped into an exposed turnbuckle early on after Yano ripped off the padding, and Liger took a lot of punishment in the initial stages, before making the tag to Sakuraba, who immediately fell to a DDT from Kojima. Things picked up when Nagata tagged in, lighting up YOSHI HASHI with stiff kicks, but YOSHI HASHI almost stole it with a small package countering a back suplex, but Nagata’s second try at the move was successful, and resulted in the win for the veteran’s team.
EVIL & BUSHI vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto
BUSHI felt like the odd one out here, as EVIL, Ishii and Goto laid into each other during the match – with your usual Los Ingobernables de Japon rulebreaking during the early going. Ishii eventually made the tag to Goto, and that prompted him to repeatedly lay into EVIL with elbows – getting some boos from the crowd in Tokyo. EVIL caught a kick from Goto and responded with a Fisherman’s buster, but Goto ended up winning a battle of lariats moments later. BUSHI grabbed a near fall with a Codebreaker on Ishii, but the finish came when Goto drilled BUSHI with a Ushigoroshi (Attitude Adjustment onto the knee), before Ishii followed up with a diving lariat for the pin. Fun match, and it looks like they’re setting up an EVIL vs. Goto feud down the Load, which should be a nice diversion for Goto after missing out in the New Japan Cup final.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Beretta) vs. Matt Sydal & Ricochet (c)
Going into this, there was a fair bit of gossip surrounding Ricochet’s future, as he’d supposedly been written out of Lucha Underground, and New Japan looking for a new tag team partner for Matt Sydal. Beretta came out taped up, looking like he’d had an organ stolen illegally…
This was a really good match, with Ricochet setting the crowd on fire as he faked out a dive onto Beretta… Sydal went to go for a dive, but instead went for a baseball slide and got slapped by Romero out on the floor. There was the usual innovative offence, including a reverse DDT/jawbreaker combo on Roppongi Vice by Sydal, before bringing in Ricochet who caught Romero in mid-air, turning a dive into a tiltawhirl slam. Ricochet followed that up with a pair of dives on the challengers, but Roppongi Vice were similarly impressive, with Romero going corner-to-corner several times with clotheslines.
After Ricochet dropkicked Romero out of the ropes and to the ground, Beretta caught Sydal in a Dudebuster (Omori Driver) for a near fall. Romero and Ricochet exchanged some more strikes, before Romero turned Ricochet inside out with a clothesline. Romero almost went into the crowd with a dive on Sydal, and that led to the finish with the Strong Zero (an Dudebuster by Beretta, with an added springboard dropkick) as the challengers won the titles.
And I guess that adds some more fuel to the “Ricochet to WWE” rumours, eh?
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Will Ospreay vs. KUSHIDA (c)
Or the debuting “Will Osplay”, if you’re the New Japan captioner. Still, it’s better than TNA trying to call him “Will O’Spreay” on their Xplosion shows. At least his entrance video got it right, but no matter what you called him, he quickly won over the crowd inside Sumo Hall.
Ospreay wore pink tights in tribute to Kris Travis – something that was called out on commentary – and got the Tokyo crowd on his side inside the opening minute with the seesaw kip-ups as he got out of a hammerlock. Another sequence ended with the pair pulling off cartwheels back to a neutral position, before they went to the floor, with a senton bomb seeing KUSHIDA take out Ospreay.
KUSHIDA focussed most of his offence on Ospreay’s arm, which saw him fail out as he tried to go for a handspring in the ropes. Fortunately, he’s not Sin Cara, so the match didn’t get called off here… and Ospreay managed to pull off a hands-free handspring into the ropes, taking down KUSHIDA with a corkscrew kick, following up with a sky twister plancha and a standing corkscrew press for a near-fall.
KUSHIDA blocked a Rainmaker and switched it into the Hoverboard lock, only for Ospreay to make the ropes. There was no such luck when KUSHIDA went flying off the top rope with Ospreay for a super cross armbreaker, again forcing a rope break, before some Kawada-style kicks fires up Ospreay with some words that would never be PG! A Spanish Fly got Ospreay a near-fall, but a corkscrew shooting star press got nothing but knees as KUSHIDA hit a small package for a near fall. An attempt at a springboard cutter from Ospreay saw him fall into an armbar, but despite powering out, KUSHIDA switched it into the Hoverboard lock and rolled him into the ring for the tap-out.
An outstanding match – Ospreay becoming a star in defeat, and if he wasn’t already, his reputation on the worldwide stage, if not already, has now been solidified! Post-match, they bring out Jushin Liger to challenge KUSHIDA for a future title shot. Well, the veterans vs. youngster feud has worked well for Katsuyori Shibata, so I don’t see anything wrong with this as a storyline.
New Japan announced this year’s G1 Climax tournament, which’ll run between July 18 and August 14. This will be one to watch; or if you’re strapped for time, listen to John Pollock’s likely daily updates over on Live Audio Wrestling. By the way, the video package for that probably wouldn’t fly in the US – particularly since it included Chris Benoit (as Wild Pegasus)…
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles: Yoshitatsu, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (c)
The returning Yoshitatsu got a good response for his return from injury, and somehow Michael Elgin snuck out whilst Hiroshi Tanahashi was making his entrance. Cody Hall came out with a mop for “The Elite’s” entrance… so I guess that won’t be his nickname, since we already have a Cleaner?
The usual Bullet Club jumpstart at the bell, and Omega immediately teases doing the Styles Clash on Tatsu. After being flatted by suplexes, the Elite looked to leave, only for it to be a set-up for a balcony dive from Nick Jackson onto the pile, which sadly included Cody Hall who took a scary bump during this all. Think “Edge on Jorge Estrada in his debut”-bad bump. Hall got stretchered out but thankfully was okay afterwards.
The match descended into a brawl as Kenny Omega dumped Michael Elgin on a flatbed trolley, then put a trash can on his head before wheeling him into a superkick… all whilst Cody Hall was laid flat out right next to it all. Triple dives from all of the Elite took out their challengers, with Omega nearly going into the crowd. They went from flashy to heel-ish with a bunch of handspring… back rakes.
Yoshitatsu got a good response when he was tagged into the match taking down all three members of the Elite, waffling Matt Jackson with kicks, and scoring a near fall from a springboard dropkick. Elgin took out both Bucks with the fallway slam/Samoan drop combination, but Tatsu’s Indian deathlock on Matt was brought to an end when Omega sprayed Tatsu (then Elgin and Tanahashi) in the eyes. Tatsu was twice blasted with triple-superkicks, before Omega went for another Styles Clash, only for Tanahashi and Elgin to make the save with the spray again.
Michael Elgin fired up with double German suplexes on the Bucks, who retaliated with double superkicks. Elgin then prevented a Meltzer Driver on Tatsu by catching Matt Jackson and powerbombing him onto Omega outside, before a Super Falcon Arrow had to be broken up by Omega at the count of two. That didn’t matter much, as Tatsu and Tanahashi hoisted Nick up again, and a super powerbomb was enough to unseat the Elite and crown new 6-man champions! A good match, but the effects of the early balcony dive soured the match a little for me.
They then set up Elgin vs. Omega for the Intercontinental title… and as they were leaving, Bad Luck Fale came out and flattened Hiroshi Tanahashi, so there’s another new storyline set up for you.
NEVER Openweight Title: Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c)
The pre-match video package was a little jarring, as they included clips of a match with Tenzan from New Japan’s January 4th show in 2000… against Chris Benoit. Tenzan was accompanied by Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi and Satoshi Kojima to keep the old vs. young feud going here.
Shibata shoved away the referee early on when he was repeatedly kicking Tenzan in the corner – which didn’t lead to a DQ, thankfully. Tenzan locked in the Anaconda Vice early on, bt Shibata powered up to his feet and tripped Tenzan to relinquish the hold, as the veteran resorted to headbutts whenever he looked to swing the momentum in his favour. A Tenzan Tombstone Driver got Shibata a near fall, as he then went for a sleeper to bring Tenzan to his knees, before a running PK was enough to retain the title.
A good match, if a little short for my liking, and after picking off Kojima and Tenzan… and after bowing at Tenzan, Shibata gave Yuji Nagata a big boot to the head, and there’s your next NEVER Openweight title feud!
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (c)
For once, no jump starts here, but there was a lot of double-teaming from the Bullet Club’s secondary tag team, with the Guerillas working over Makabe in the early going. Makabe eventually got Tonga down with a clothesline and made the hot tag to Honma, but his Kokeshi-based offence was (as ever) hit and miss. Makabe came in to back-suplex his way out of a Tonga Gun Stun, following up with a near-fall off a German suplex on Loa.
Makabe misses with a kneedrop off the top rope, but that didn’t keep him down for long, as Makabe takes down Tonga with a death valley driver, setting up a Kokeshi for a near fall from Honma. Tonga rolls the dice on Makabe after Loa knocked Honma off the top, but that led to nought for the challengers, as they found themselves on the back foot with Honma’s diving, then flying Kokeshi sending Tonga to the mat. Tonga rolled out of the way of a swandive Kokeshi, but that didn’t stop Honma from using his head again and again.
The finish almost came when Makabe was wiped out with a Samoan Drop/neckbreaker combo, before Honma took a powerbomb/neckbreaker combo for a near fall. Straight afterwards, Tonga and Loa picked up Honma for an elevated spinning neckbreaker that ensured that the tag titles made their way back to the Bullet Club. Granted, the result was met with silence, but in one match, Tanga Loa did more than he did in his entire WWE and TNA runs – now to see whether he fits in in the long run.
IWGP Heavyweight Title: Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
Well, Naito seems to be the heavy crowd favourite here, and of course, he’s accompanied by BUSHI and EVIL. The image of Milano Collection AT on Japanese commentary with two of Okada’s notes casually tucked in his pocket was pretty great… and then the bell went.
The crowd booed early on when Okada broke clean, and of course, they cheered when Naito faked out a dive, handspringing his way into his pose in the middle of the ring. BUSHI contributed to the first interference of the match, tripping Okada as they went outside, leading to Naito whipping him and Gedo into the security barriers. Gedo was dragged into the ring and stomped by Naito, which acted as the perfect distraction for EVIL to put a chair onto Okada’s head and then strike it off with another folded chair. More distraction saw BUSHI choke Okada in the tree of woe, as Naito slowed it down with a more traditional hold: the headscissors.
Okada fires back, and turns Naito inside out with a big boot after a couple of back elbows, before going back on the floor where Okada sends Naito into the crowd. EVIL charges at Okada, and he ended up in row three… as did BUSHI (thankfully the crowd had long since scattered), before Okada ran the length of the ring and hit a cross body over the barrier and into the Los Ingobernables trio in the seats.
Okada retained the advantage with some elbow strikes, before locking in the Red Ink (cross-legged STF) which forced Naito to drag his body towards the ropes. EVIL jumped onto the apron, which forced Okada to release the hold, whilst Gedo neutralised BUSHI. Naito kicked Okada low then locked in the Koji Clutch, teasing a stoppage,but Okada just about made the ropes as the referee went to stop the match.
Naito scored a near-fall from a Gloria (hammerlock cradle into a side slam), before Okada elbowed out of a Destino attempt. Another Destino attempt was blocked following a jumping spinebuster, with Okada drilling Naito with the Heavy Rain (fireman’s carry neckbreaker) – and the crowd are going wild for Naito here, especially once Okada’s running dropkick sent him into the bottom turnbuckle.
Okada ducked a Rainmaker, and dragged the referee into its path instead… so you know what’s next. Interference! BUSHI and EVIL quickly jumped in to lay out Okada, but Okada pushed out of an STO and dropped him with a Death Valley Driver, before BUSHI missed with the mist. Okada dropkick put him on top, but here comes a masked guy in a leather jacket!
Okada dropped Naito with a tombstone piledriver, but turned into the path of a TKO as the newest member of Los Ingobernables de Japon was seemingly revealed as… Seiya Sanada! The former TNA X-Division champion caught Okada with a moonsault and dropped to the floor, as both Okada and Naito remained on the mat.
It wasn’t straightforward after that for Naito, as his attempt at a Destino was blocked and turned into a German suplex by Okada, but his effort at following up with a Rainmaker was blocked, and Naito finally connected with the Destino and became the new IWGP Heavyweight champion!
A great match with a good story behind it – even if interference isn’t the status quo in Japan. The rest of Los Ingobernables wiped out Gedo and the referee after the match, bringing out Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooko Goto to make a belated save, and apparently a future feud with Ishii vs. Naito… for the belt that Naito immediately threw down, so he could shove down the referee and dropkick him out of the ring.
Overall, Invasion Attack was a fantastic show; top to bottom, a better in-ring show than Wrestlemania, and where WWE went wrong creatively last weekend, New Japan didn’t put a foot wrong. They advanced storylines, ended them and set up a new direction for the company. Yes, you can argue that they’re repeating the same storyline with KUSHIDA and Katsuyori Shibata, but it’s still a lot better than having current guys beaten for the sake of it by guys returning for one night only. One great match, four good matches – this is well worth the four hours of your time!