New Japan returned for their King of Pro Wrestling event – and moving away from the spread-out shows we saw last month for Destruction, here we have a triple main event.
Those three big matches: Kenny Omega vs. Hirooki Goto for the Wrestle Kingdom title shot… Katsuyori Shibata vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NEVER Openweight title… and Kazuchika Okada vs. Naomichi Marufuji for the IWGP title, but first, the show started with a real life comic, with New Japan promoting the latest Tiger Mask cartoon – Tiger Mask W.
Tiger Mask W vs. Red Death Mask
Red Death Mask kinda resembles BUSHI, in that he had the red lipstick. Red Death Mask was representing the “Global Wrestling Monopoly” – the evil promotion from the Tiger Mask W show – and listening to Steve Corino and Kevin Kelly trying to explain this on the English feed was gloriously awkward.
Holy hell, the Tiger Mask W mask looks uncomfortable. It’s way more detailed than the Tiger Mask hood we’re used to seeing. This is a pre-show match and was New Japan’s equivalent of the WWE kick-offs… with 100% less threat of Baron Corbin. Death Mask shoulder tackles Tiger Mask in the early going, before Tiger replies with a flying forearm.
Death Mask gets sent to the outside, where Tiger Mask W tries to follow-up with a dive, only for Red to grab his foot to prevent the dive. Red drops him on the crowd barrier, before going back to the ring where Tiger kicked away from an arm stretch. Red Death Mask gets sent to the outside, and he’s met with… Kota Ibushi’s Golden Triangle moonsault. Cue the speculation!
That inside-out Asai moonsault gets Tiger Mask W a near-fall, before he unloaded on Red Death Mask with a flurry of kicks and strikes, and then a standing moonsault for a near-fall. They teased a Tiger Driver, but Death Mask uses an Alabama Slam to get free, before punching away at Tiger Mask’s tiger mask.
Red hits a sit-out chokebomb for a near-fall, before he misses a top rope legdrop. Tiger Mask replied with a Tiger suplex for a near-fall, before a Tiger Driver (which looked like that sit-out Last Ride powerbomb Kota Ibushi uses) got the win. Take away the cartoon shenanigans, this was a decent match that did what it needed to do. Nothing spectacular, Tiger Mask’s mask aside! **½
Adam Cole, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI & Will Ospreay
Will Ospreay’s name got wrecked by translation yet again (hi Mr. Osplay!) and we had our standard Bullet Club jump start. Pretty straightforward early on as YOSHI-HASHI worked with Fale and used his speed to overcome the monster, before Fale hit a trio of shoulder tackles as the CHAOS team ended up getting squashed in the corner.
Takahashi scored a near-fall on YOSHI-HASHI, who found himself in the Bullet Club corner for a lengthy period. After a Bunker Buster, YOSHI-HASHI tagged out to Will Ospreay who took down Cole with a springboard forearm and a corkscrew rolling senton (that’s my best guess!) for a near-fall.
Adam Cole hits back with a superkick to counter the OsCutter, which made Steve Corino’s mic sound like a machine gun as he dragged out an “oh!”. Ishii tags in and wipes out Takahashi with a release German suplex, but the Bullet Club came back to overwhelm Ishii with three corner moves.
Takahashi gets a near-fall with the Stroke on Ishii, before Ospreay’s corkscrew kick on Takahashi and a lariat from YOSHI-HASHI puts paid to things. A springboard plancha from Ospreay knocks down Fale and Cole, leaving Takahashi all alone in the ring… he got flattened by an Ishii lariat, before a brainbuster earned the win for CHAOS. Fun opener, but largely your standard New Japan undercard fare. ***
Toru Yano, Jado, Rocky Romero & Beretta vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Bobby Fish & Ryusuke Taguchi
So we’ve got one half of the GHC heavyweight and junior heavyweight tag champions on the CHAOS team, whilst Roppongi Vice still teased dissension.
Taguchi hip attacks Jado early, before getting a foot up to block an aerial attack from Jado… which led to a massively delayed Flair flop from Jado, and a confused “What?” from Corino. Toru Yano tags in, but we avoid a battle of the ridiculousness between Yano and Taguchi… instead, Makabe just lays into Yano in the ropes.
Roppongi Vice double-team Makabe, and we end up with everyone on the outside as the match breaks down. Yano undoes the turnbuckle, because of course he does. Beretta gets a near-fall on Makabe with a kneedrop, before Bobby Fish tags in and puts paid to the CHAOS team with a variety of kicks.
Beretta takes an Exploder suplex from Fish for a near-fall, before Fish misses a corner charge and falls into a tornado DDT. More tags lead to Honma and Romero, with the latter getting chopped into the corner big-time. Honma misses a falling Kokeshi, which leads to CHAOS quadruple-teaming him for a near-fall. Romero batters Honma with his “Forever” lariats, until a leaping Kokeshi knocks him down.
Roppongi Vice combine to nail Makabe with a pair of leaping knees, but a double lariat knocks them down as Honma hits a top rope Kokeshi on Romero for the win. Standard undercard stuff – perfectly fine, but nothing to write home about. **¾
The post-match saw Makabe and Yano fight through the crowd, with Honma getting his two cents in. A future GHC title match in NOAH, perhaps?
Go Shiozaki, Maybach Taniguchi, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Yuji Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi
Or as it’s affectionately known, Pro Wrestling NOAH vs. the Dads of New Japan!
They start with everyone pairing off and trading forearms, then spilling to the outside. Back inside, Tenzan and Taniguchi went to work, with a suplex getting Tenzan a near-fall. Kojima gets the rapid chops, but he’s cut-off from the top rope elbow as Taniguchi presses him to the mat a la Ric Flair, as the NOAH guys give him a 4-on-1 mugging. Nakajima lays into Kojima with kicks in the corner, before taking a massive kick to the back.
After tagging in Masa Kitamiya, things went south for the NOAH team as Koji cutters take out Masa and Katsuhiko, before Nagata tags in. Nagata and Shiozaki go toe-to-toe for a spell, as Nagata then turns his attentions to Nakajima, who gets kicked into the corner. The eye-rolling Fujiwara armbar from Nagata traps Nakajima, only for Kitamiya to make the save.
Nagata resists a brainbuster, before a rolling heel kick takes down Nakajima, and we end up with Nakanishi and Shiozaki trading chops in the middle of the ring. A shoulder tackle from Nakanishi sends Shiozaki flying, as he then takes four corner charges from the New Japan team, and finally a lariat from Nakanishi for a near-fall.
Nakanishi gets the Argentine backbreaker on Shiozaki, before he tosses Go onto Taniguchi, as he tried to break it up. Nakajima’s missile dropkick was effective though, as Kitamiya’s double shoulder-tackle took down Ten-Cozy. The “alternative” 3D from Shiozaki and Taniguchi got a near-fall on Nakanishi, who then ate a suplex from Go for a two-count. Despite the New Japan Dad’s efforts, Shiozaki dropped Nakanishi with a lariat off the ropes, and that was enough for the win. Fun match by the end, and the post-match brawling all but guarantees this feud must continue! ***½
Remember the “machine gun” effect that Steve Corino got for the “oh!” earlier in the show? Well, it’s affecting both Corino and Kelly now, and at random intervals. Great!
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Ricochet & David Finlay vs. Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (c)
The Young Bucks came out with four belts – their IWGP junior tag titles and their recently-won ROH tag titles.
Matt Jackson started by baiting Finlay into action by saying “your dad sucks at wrestling too”, before a snapmare almost sent Finlay head-first into the bottom rope. Good stuff with Ricochet and Nick, even if there were too many flips for the sake of it, before dropkicks from the challengers sent the Young Bucks scurrying.
Ricochet lands on his feet from a Sasuke special, as we saw a flurry of aborted dives and dropkicks on the outside, before a double superkick took down Finlay as he was about to go flying. The Bucks trapped Ricochet in a headscissors, before a dropkick sent him flying to the floor, as they looked to isolate the inexperienced Finlay.
A cannonball and low dropkick on Finlay in the corner got the Bucks a near-fall, as Nick then trapped Finlay on the mat with a front facelock. Finlay takes out Nick with a back body drop, before the Bucks combine to prevent a tag as Matt powerbombed Ricochet on the apron. Finlay finally makes the tag after flipping out of a double atomic drop, with Ricochet’s comeback featuring a neckbreaker that led the Young Bucks to accidentally land a DDT on their own.
A Fosbury flop followed from Ricochet, as the replays of that dive saw us miss a near-fall on Nick Jackson, before a Regalplex gets Ricochet another two-count. Finlay returns with some corner-to-corner back elbows, but the Bucks take him down with a standing Shiranui and a superkick for a near-fall.
Superkicks to Finlay and Ricochet get another two-count, before Ricochet blocked a Meltzer Driver on Finlay, cutting off Nick Jackson with a Benadryller instead. The challengers hit back with a double-team death valley driver into a lungblower for a near-fall, before a Finlay roll/shooting star press combo attempt only saw Ricochet land on the knees of Nick Jackson.
Finlay fought off a two-on-one attack, but took a superkick into the Indytaker… but Ricochet blocked that double-team move as Finlay scored a near-fall from a schoolboy. Nick tornado DDT’d Ricochet off the apron, and that led Finlay all alone for a Finlay roll and a 450 Splash, then a moonsault as More Bang For Your Buck ensured the champions retained. Hey, that’s their second successful decence of those titles… the most in 2016 for those straps! Good match, but nowhere near the heights the Bucks are accustomed to. ***½
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships: Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Briscoe Brothers (Mark Briscoe & Jay Briscoe) (c)
Huh, they snuck the “heavyweight” back into the tag titles… have they given up on merging the tag divisions?
Tama Tonga went to the weird-rope running early on, but it was of little use as a crane pose and a dropkick sent Tonga into the corner. The Briscoes combined to take down Tonga with a double-team clothesline for a near-fall, before more wacky rope running acted as a distraction for Tanga Loa to come in and drop Jay Briscoe with a lariat.
Jay fights back and makes the tag to Mark, who laid into both of the Guerillas with chops, before a dropkick sent Tonga into the corner. A quebrada out of the corner saw Loa catch Mark and slam him to the mat, before a powerbomb gets a near-fall. Loa takes down Mark with a grounded sleeperhold, and fought off some attempts from Mark to make a tag, before a leaping overhead kick gave him a chance.
Both men make a tag, and Jay clears house on the Guerrilas, before a tope sends Tonga into the guard railings. A blockbuster off the apron takes down Loa, as the Briscoes then peppers him with shots before an Exploder suplex gets a near-fall from Jay. The Briscoes hit a crucifix powerbomb/neckbreaker for a near-fall, before they go for the Doomsday Device, but Tanga Loa spears Jay before clotheslining Mark as he was in mid-air.
From there, the Guerillas took the upper hand, with a powerbomb/neckbreaker of their own for a two-count. Jay Briscoe saves Mark from a double superplex, before they turn that into a Doomsday Device, but Loa saves Tonga in mid-air. Tonga backflips Mark into a powerbomb by Loa, as the Guerillas hit an assisted Gun Stun and then the Guerilla Warfare (elevated DDT) as the Guerillas won back the IWGP tag titles. Towards the end this got good, but their overall presence shouldn’t be attracting utter silence… ***½
After the match, the Young Bucks came out and attacked the beaten-down Briscoes, before Tomohiro Ishii made the save… until Tonga landed the Gun Stun and the Guerilla Warfare. So it looks like Ishii and someone else is next for the heavyweight tag titles.
Michael Elgin, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA & Jay Lethal vs. Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA
Los Ingobernables borrowed from the Bullet Club with a jump start to this eight-man tag, but Jay Lethal started out brightly, taking down EVIL with the Lethal Combination as the production crew insisted on us seeing this as if it were Fire Pro Wrestling.
Tanahashi came in and got held over the top turnbuckle for some reason as EVIL sold at the other side of the ring. A back senton from EVIL finally kept Tanahashi down, except Lethal dove in with a dropkick to break the count. Tanahashi and SANADA traded Skull Ends, until a spinning neckbreaker from Tanahashi took down “Cold Skull”.
KUSHIDA and BUSHI worked for a while, building up their inevitable rematch, before Tetsuya Naito’s attempt to trip the former junior heavyweight champion proved ineffective. KUSHIDA probably wished it was effective, as his somersault plancha seconds later saw him wipe out into the crowd barriers. It got worse as KUSHIDA landed awkwardly as a handspring was turned into a lungblower by BUSHI, forcing the referee to intervene as KUSHIDA grabbed his wrist.
Naito shoved down the referee, which prompted Michael Elgin to boot Naito down and drag KUSHIDA into the corner for a tag, as Lethal and Tanahashi tended to him. All alone, Elgin laid out Naito with two avalanche lariats.Elgin bench pressed SANADA, before BUSHI was used to wipe out Naito en route to the fallaway slam/Samoan drop combo.
A tornado DDT from Naito takes down Elgin, but a receipt was quickly given by way of a low dropkick from Naito – a dropkick that seemed to fracture Elgin’s eye socket. Still, he overcame Naito with a lariat, before being sent to the outside by a missile dropkick from SANADA. A parade of moves followed, before the Lethal Injection, a buckle bomb and a spinning sitout powerbomb saw Naito chalk up a defeat. I’m feeling like a broken record, but another fun undercard match, but injuries to Elgin and KUSHIDA really seemed to derail this. ***½
After the match, EVIL dragged KUSHIDA around the ring, before he wore a chair and had it smashed off of his head with another chair… all whilst Lethal and Elgin stood feet away in the ring, oblivious to it. KUSHIDA took a chair-assisted Codebreaker in the ring, and I guess that’s their way of adding a storyline injury to KUSHIDA?
NEVER Openweight Championship: Kyle O’Reilly vs. Katsuyori Shibata (c)
In his first match after almost a month’s enforced absence, Shibata went over 18 minutes in his latest NEVER title defence. He came into this with a taped up shoulder and knee, something which is almost a part of his regular ring attire now.
They started out tentatively, with Shibata aiming for the left arm of O’Reilly in the early going. From there, O’Reilly chopped away on the champion with some kicks, before going for an armbar and some submission attempts. Shibata makes the ropes after Kyle finally got the armbar on, and rolled to the outside for a quick breather.
After returning, Shibata found himself on the wrong side of things as O’Reilly took him down with a back suplex then went into a kneebar, before inviting a series of kicks and knees to the chest. O’Reilly’s kicks rocked Shibata, but a stiff forearm knocked Kyle to the mat, before they traded leaping boots and knees in the corners.
A butterfly suplex gets Shibata a two-count, before going from an abdominal stretch, into an Octopus hold and then a Cobra twist as O’Reilly rolled into the ropes to break it. Shibata misses a PK before the pair went toe-to-toe to trade big boots. A caught kick leads to a capture suplex by O’Reilly for a near-fall, before he followed it up with a front facehold and a sheer-drop brainbuster for a near-fall. Kyle switches it into a triangle armbar after the kick-out, but Shibata’s fightback sees him caught in another armbar before rolling into the ropes.
Out of nowhere, Shibata catches O’Reilly with a rear naked choke, before they decide that popping back up from a load of neck-dropping suplexes was a good idea. Saitos, Germans, you name it… they popped back up. A rolling elbow and a PK saw both men collapse to the mat.
They traded forearms as they went back to their feet, before dualling bicycle kicks knocked the pair to the mat once more. A lariat gets Kyle a one count, before scoring a near-fall from a PK. More kicks from Kyle rocked Shibata, who retaliated with a backfist, a rear-naked choke and then the PK before reverting back to a rear-naked choke as the referee was forced to wave the match off. Absolutely phenomenal, especially when you consider the state Shibata was in going into this match, the fact that he was able to perform at anything close to this level was a miracle. But still, a growing part of me is getting increasingly nervous for his long-term health ****
After the match, Shibata shook hands with Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, before the reDRagon pair left the ring. Go Shiozaki appeared at ringside, and entered the ring to challenge Shibata… but after sending Go to the back, Shibata turned around into EVIL, who laid him out with the STO. An STO that knocked Shibata’s mouthguard flying, and it looks like that G1 tournament win that EVIL holds over Shibata is being used for the next title match.
G1 Climax IWGP Championship Shot-On-The-Line: Hirooki Goto vs. Kenny Omega
It looks like this’ll be the last time that IWGP title shot briefcase is being defended, since on commentary they mentioned that the winners of the next two matches would be the main event for WrestleKingdom 11 in the Tokyo Dome.
Goto attacks Omega with the briefcase before the bell – to some boos – waffling Omega with it before DDTing the G1 winner onto the case. We then start with Goto taking Omega outside the ring and whipping him into the guard railings. A brainbuster on the outside keeps up Goto’s hot start, but Omega quickly responds with a leg lariat to the back of the head, before dropkicking Goto into the guard rails.
The Young Bucks superkicked Goto on the floor, before he took a bodyslam into the ring apron. Omega stomps off the apron onto the back of a folded table on Goto, before a missile dropkick to Goto’s back gets a near-fall.
The tempo slowed drastically as Omega worked over Goto with a rear chinlock, then threw in some chops as the pair went back and forth for a while. Omega tries for a gutwrench, before instead opting for a dive, as a somersault plancha took down Goto. With Goto down, the Young Bucks took the battered table from earlier and placed Goto onto it, but YOSHI-HASHI got involved just as the table gave way and fight out one of the Bucks.
Undeterred, Nick Jackson set the table up once more as the Bucks and YOSHI-HASHI were ejected, but that left a precarious table around ringside. The early teases for the table were shot down as Goto instead hit a Code Red off the top rope for a near-fall. Omega fought back with a pumphandle backbreaker, before teasing a powerbomb to the table… but Goto fought free, before punching Omega as he tried a springboard, sending the G1 winner plunging back first into the table.
Rather than take the count-out, Goto went out to roll Omega back in. An ushigoroshi was blocked, but Goto landed a lariat, then an ushogoroshi at the second attempt for a near-fall. Goto picked up Omega for a Blue Thunder Bomb, then turned it into an ushigoroshi-like landing, before going for the GTR, only for Omega to slip out and try a Shiranui.
Goto avoided it and came back with a Shoutenkai for a near-fall, before a kick to the chest… but another GTR attempt was rolled through into a near-fall. Omega gets a knee strike and a Dragon suplex, but couldn’t capitalise, and the pair segue into fighting from their knees and back to their feet. Another knee strike sends Goto to the mat… but Goto fires back with a headbutt, only to take yet another knee.
The cross-legged brainbuster gets Omega a near-fall, before another knee-strike in the ropes and eventually the One Winged Angel gets Omega the win. Thrilling stuff, and a match that continues to cement Kenny Omega’s place in the upper echelons in New Japan. You know, at this rate, I don’t think too many would be that surprised if he actually wins the IWGP title in January. ****½
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
The rest of the NOAH crew accompanied Marufuji, who was getting a title shot by virtue of beating Okada way back on the first day of this year’s G1 Climax… and they went almost half an hour for this main event.
They started off somewhat technically, trading holds as they each looked to work the arm, before Okada took Marufuji to the ropes for his usual mocking break. A big boot from Okada and a big back body drop sent Marufuji down.
After a low dropkick sent Marufuji onto the apron, the pair ended up outside, where Marufuji hung Okada on the crowd railings before posting him. Back inside, Marufuji chopped away at Okada, actually drawing blood, before slowing things down with some grounded headscissors.
Okada fires back by dropkicking Marufuji off the top rope and to the floor, where the action continued as a Shiranui off the rails failed, with Okada instead running the length of the ring to launch himself over the railing, landing into Marufuji and some chairs with a crossbody. Back in the ring, Marufuji lights up Okada with a flurry of kicks, before a cartwheel into a dropkick knocks Okada to the apron, where he eventually followed up with a piledriver to the champion on the apron.
Okada just about beat the count-out, but rolled into a top rope legdrop as Marufuji almost took the win. A flapjack from Okada got him some breathing space, but more chops from Marufuji sent the champion back into the corner, but he quickly retaliated with a reverse neckbreaker. A bodyslam leads to a top rope elbow drop, only for Okada to get trapped in a Triangle choke/cobra clutch combination, which was turned into a lungblower after Okada had fought back.
A diving dropkick sends Marufuji into the corner, but the pair ended up trading more forearms and chops, before Okada’s tombstone attempt is avoided and met with a kick. Marufuji’s Shiranui is blocked, but Okada’s attempt at a Rainmaker is countered with a knee strike. Another knee strike follows after Okada misses a charge into the corner, as Marufuji connects with a Shiranui… but Okada kicks out!
Marufuji goes for a Fisherman’s suplex, but it’s blocked… so Marufuji drops him with another kick. A second Shiranui is attempted, but Okada counters with a Rainmaker, before a second Raimaker is countered with a small package. Another Rainmaker’s countered with a thrust kick, then a knee strike, before Okada lands a tombstone!
A second tombstone was turned into an Emerald Flowsion – one of the signature moves of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s founder, the late Mitsuharu Misawa – to a smattering of boos from the NOAH fans in attendance, before another Rainmaker gets the win. That was beautiful. After this match in the G1, I said I’d willingly see a rematch, and they didn’t disappoint… please sirs, can we have some more?! ****½
As a standalone show, this easily usurped the Destruction trilogy last month – proving what we already knew, that a single big show trumps a hattrick of watered down “pay per views”. That being said, whilst there were no bad matches on this show, were it not for the final three, this would have been an utterly forgettable show. I’m not about to say that New Japan’s in a rut, but with WrestleKingdom barely three months away, they need to get back into the groove of having great cards from top to bottom, rather than average-to-good undercards with little meaning.
When we’re complaining that undercards are only “good”, the promotion isn’t doing too mych wrong!