The new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship’s on the line for the first time as New Japan returned to Ryogoku for Sakura Genesis.
Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI pinned Tanga Loa, Tama Tonga & Jado in 10:11 (**½)
Toru Yano, Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Tomohiro Ishii pinned Dick Togo, EVIL, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi & Taiji Ishimori in 11:37 (**)
Aaron Henare, Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan pinned SANADA, Tetsuya Naito & Shingo Takagi in 9:52 (***¼)
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Satoshi Kojima pinned Bad Luck Fale & Jay White in 10:04 (***)
YOH & SHO pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado in 20:48 to win the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship (***¾)
Will Ospreay pinned Kota Ibushi in 30:12 to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (****)
We’re at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo , and we’ve remote English commentary… WAIT. They’ve got Hiromu out with thunder sticks before anyone could do their introductions. He’s here to do commentary and shoot down the non-rumour that he was going to be X… and force Chris Charlton into some early translation work. Hyping the show up at the start of it, to a paying crowd, is certainly what the kids call… A Choice.
Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino are on the call as KEvin’s found out how to do a background on his webcam.
Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & DOUKI) vs. Bullet Club (Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) & Jado)
Having been gone since the Castle Attack tour, the Guerrillas of Destiny returning here perhaps tips off something for the upcoming Wrestling Dontaku tour.
We’ve a jump start as the match spilled outside to start, with Jado and DOUKI staying in the ring. DOUKI nails a DDT early on before he got taken outside and into the rails. Sabre tries to go after Tanga Loa, but that’s quickly broken up as DOUKI went back in for Jado to wear down. Punches and a chinlock keep DOUKI down, before Jado did the old Shawn Michaels pose for… reasons. In comes Tanga Loa, who elbows DOUKI down, before some Three Amigo suplexes ended with a stalling suplex. Tama’s back in, only to almost lose to a quick DOUKI roll-up as DOUKI quickly snapped back with a tornado DDT to buy him time.
A tag brings in Taichi, who goes all chokey on DOUKI as my feed dropped out… it’s back with Tama hitting a reverse DDT, before Tama misses a splash in the corner. Taichi’s gamengiri resets things as Sabre and Tanga Loa tags in… with Tanga just bulldozing through Sabre to start with. Zack counters a suplex into a guillotine that’s quickly broken up, before uppercuts take us to a cross armbar from Sabre. It’s escaped as Tanga Loa switches into the OJK crossface, which DOUKI tries to stomp apart. When he did, Tanga Loa monsters up before Tama Tonga came in with the Iron Fingers to swat away DOUKI.
Taichi ducks a second Iron Finger shot and reclaims them, before taking out Jado… Tama grabs the fingers again, but Sabre kicks them away and snatches a win with a Euro clutch on Tanga Loa. Commentary seemed to have no clue on the Iron Fingers coming into play… and after the match Naoki Sugabayashi was handed the Iron Fingers. Great. As if there weren’t enough crazy decisions coming from here to begin with… **½
Bullet Club (EVIL, KENTA, Yujiro Takahashi, Taiji Ishimori & Dick Togo) vs. Kazuchika Okada, Toru Yano, Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
KENTA’s still got YOSHI-HASHI’s bo staff, as they’re doing a feud over a stick. Or a curtain rod. Take your pick.
We’ve a jump start as the Bullet Club took the match outside as Goto and Ishimori get us going. YOSHI-HASHI gets in a blind tag and superkicks Ishimori before a brief Parade of Moves led to an Okada DDT and some war drums on Togo’s back. Some Dick kicks later, and we settle down with Ishimori charging YOSHI-HASHI to the outside ahead of more shenanigans on the floor.
Back in the ring, Togo puts the boots to YOSHI-HASHI before sneaking in a punch and a fist drop. YOSHI-HASHI elbows away at EVIL, but just gets thrown into the exposed corner as KENTA then came in to throw YOSHI-HASHI back into that same corner. YOSHI-HASHI tries to fight back with elbows, but he’s dumped with a kitchen sink knee to the gut. KENTA tries to use the bo staff, but YOSHI-HASHI retrieves it before he had to escape a Go 2 Sleep… backhanded chops follow, as did a Western Lariat before tags bring us to Ishii and Yujiro. A shoulder tackle has Yujiro down, but EVIL runs in ti interfere as we get another Parade of Moves, leading to Togo taking a flapjack before Ishii and Yujiro swung at each other. That leads to a reverse DDT from Yujiro, before a Fisherman buster drops Ishii for a near-fall.
Okada comes back in as the ring fills and empties again, leaving the table clear for Ishii to go for a clothesline, but he’s pulled into an Incolle slam from Yujiro. EVIL tags back in… but he’s quickly faced with Yano, who removed a turnbuckle pad, then sidestepped as EVIL charges into the corner and almost lost to a roll-up. Dick Togo punches Yano in the ropes as he tried his shenanigans… before EVIL hit a ref-assisted thrust kick. Togo’s back in as Yano’s facing a 5-on-1 assault, ending with a Fisherman buster as CHAOS floods the ring to break it up. From there, Yano mule kicks Togo and EVIL, before he pulls out a hood and covered Togo’s head… and wins with an inside cradle. This felt a little long, and part of me is dreading that they’re teasing a blindfold match down the line… at least those matches are kept short, I guess. **
Post-match, KENTA steals YOSHI-HASHI’s bo staff again.
United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Aaron Henare) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA & Shingo Takagi)
We’re getting the debut of a new member of the United Empire – the dreaded X…
X is… a rebadged AARON HENARE! Looking a LOT like nWo 2000-era Masahiro Chono to boot. We’re 3-for-3 in jump starts, as Henare went for SANADA at the bell, but SANADA responds with dropkicks that looked to tweak the knee early. Naito’s in to help throw Henare to the corner, but Henare replies with a hotshot into the corner, before a back elbow took Shingo down. A hair pull and a snapmare takes Naito down for a kick to the back, before a deadlift suplex gets a two-count. Jeff Cobb tags in to keep on Naito, charging him into the corner ahead of some backbreakers. O-Khan’s in next with a face claw and a patronising slap as he held Naito for a Final Cut that gets a near-fall.
Mongolian chops to Naito are replied to with a single-leg dropkick, before Shingot tagged in and tried to charge through Cobb and Henare. He eventually outwits them before Henare was hauled up for a suplex… but an armdrag from O-Khan has Shingo back down as Cobb returned to trade strikes, only for Shingo to hit a rebound back suplex off the ropes. SANADA’s back in to catch Cobb with an elbow and some headscissors… but those get blocked as Cobb ends up popping up SANADA into a slam. Henare’s in to punt SANADA in the ribs, before some choking in the ropes and body blows wore out SANADA ahead of a Blue Thunder Bomb.
Henare gets a two-count from that as the Empire hit the ring and throw SANADA into a frog kick for a near-fall. A Parade of Moves breaks out as Naito looked to get a swinging DDT, before Cobb surprised Shingo with a Spin Cycle… before a Tour of the Islands on SANADA lets Henare finish off with a Death Valley Driver for the win. Perhaps some butterflies here from Henare on his redebut, but this was a fantastic repackaging for a man who’s seemingly forever been the Nearly Man in New Japan. It’s a new Day One for Henare, and I hope this leads to great things for him. ***¼
After the match, the Empire stretch out Naito as O-Khan grabbed a chair and wore it out on Naito’s knee.
Bullet Club (Jay White & Bad Luck Fale) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Satoshi Kojima
Tanahashi refused Jay White’s demand for a title shot, so we’ve got this tag match to prolong things…
After our usual mini pose-off, we start with White and Tanahashi locking up, with a side headlock from Tanahashi being held onto. White pulls the hair to get free, but Tanahashi returns the favour only to get taken into the corner. Kicks knock Tanahashi down, but he’s back with an elbow and a crossbody out of the corner before the made the tag out to Kojima. A double shoulder tackle and some pec flexing sets up Kojima for the Machine Gun chops in the corner, before he took White into the corner… only for Gedo to interfere as White’s able to get up and throw Kojima down. White tries his own Machine Gun chops, stopping only to rake the eyes before a neckbreaker dropped Kojima for a two-count as Fale tagged in.
Fale knocks Tanahashi off the apron then slammed Kojima by the ropes ahead of the Tongan Massage Parlour spot. Kojima manages to fight back with a DDT, but White delays a tag out as he ends up taking a Koji Cutter before Tanahashi came back into play. A leaping forearm knocks down White, before a flip senton out of the corner looked to lead to a Slingblade… but standing switches lead to White taking down Tanahashi for a grounded Dragon screw.
White pushes back with a Blade Buster for a two-count, before he kicked away on Tanahashi’s legs some more. A Cloverleaf looks to follow, but Tanahashi resists and punches his way free before hitting a Dragon screw of his own. Fale’s back in with an elbow drop for Tanahashi as he looked to finish things off quickly, but Tanahashi escapes a Grenade only to get clotheslined. Kojima runs in to stop a Bad Luck Fall and start a Parade of Moves, with White taking a Slingblade before a Twist and Shout countered the Grenade. Another Cozy lariat drops Fale, before Tanahashi went up top for a High Fly Flow, and that’s enough for the win. A decent and brief match, with Tanahashi going for White afterwards… ***
Post-match, Tanahashi accepted White’s challenge because “you tapped out” to the Texas Cloverhold… or as Tanahashi put it, the JTO.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c)
This was YOH’s first match back since tearing his ACL last June in his New Japan Cup match vs. BUSHI… and Roppongi 3K has a new theme as they’ve finally binned off Rocky Romero’s stuff for some plinky piano muzak.
YOH and Desperado start us off, with YOH’s tentativeness getting him put in a wristlock early on, before he got tripped to the mat. A side headlock’s escaped as YOH applies one of his own, dragging Desperado down to the mat, only for some headscissors to provide an escape… but YOH just floats free. SHO’s in after YOH nailed a spinning elbow, with the challengers taking down Desperado and Kanemaru. Boots knock Desperado down in the corner, but Despy tries to come back with a slam on SHO, only for it to be blocked as he’s thrown down for just a one-count.
YOH’s back, but Desperado goes to the repaired leg with a kick and a Dragon screw in the corner, before a Numero Dos was eventually broken up by SHO. A tag brings SHO back in as he kicks away at Desperado, only to see one of them get caught… but a whip in the ropes led to Kanemaru pulling SHO to the outside as the challengers ended up becoming familiar with the guard rails. SHO rolls in to beat the count-out, but he’s tossed with a back body drop from Kanemaru, who then went after YOH on the floor again. A suplex drops SHO for a two-count, while Desperado just stands on SHO’s hand. SHO returns with a kitchen sink knee to the gut, but he’s stopped from making a tag out as Kanemaru runs in to knock YOH off the apron as SHO ends up being caught on the wrong end of a 2-on-1… until he ran back with a spear.
YOH tags in and tries to make a comeback, following up with a double dropkick before he elbowed Kanemaru in the corner. A neckbreaker’s next for a two-count, before YOH landed awkwardly on his leg after he slipped out of a suplex. Kanemaru targets that knee with a low dropkick, before a knee breaker and another dropkick to the knee leads to Kanemaru tying up YOH in a Figure Four. SHO tries to make the save, but Desperado pulls him back to the floor as YOH’s attempt to get fired up almost caused him to be seen to submit… but YOH gets to the ropes after what felt like an age. A moonsault off the top gets Kanemaru a two-count, before Kanemaru went up top looking for Deep Impact… spiking YOH on the landing as SHO came in to break up the pin.
Desperado pulls SHO outside and into the rails from that, as Kanemaru stays on YOH’s knee before an inside cradle nearly nicked a win. Kanemaru goes back to the knee, but an overhead kick buys YOH time… it sparks a Parade of Moves as SHO and Desperado hit the ring, but the champions looked to stay on top. Kanemaru kicks away on YOH again, but SHO’s waiting to return as a pair of jumping knees lead to a back cracker from SHO and a single-leg dropkick from YOH. YOH then tees up, but Desperado stops the 3K from happening, only to get pulled into it himself. The challengers look to take care of Kanemaru from there, with a step-up elbow into Kanemaru in the corner leading to the Strong X… but Kanemaru pulls SHO into the corner to crotch YOH.
From there, a superplex nearly gets Kanemaru the win, before a second crack at Deep Impact was stopped with a superkick. SHO’s back to spin Kanemaru with a clothesline, before YOH hobbled up top for his part in the Strong X, as the spike Shock Arrow gets a near-fall as Desperado breaks up the cover. YOH then looks to underline the win with a spin-out butterfly suplex – JD Drake’s Drill Bit – and that’s enough for Roppongi 3K to get the win. YOH spent most of the match selling the knee, and especially given it was his comeback, you’d think that’d lead to defeat, but instead Roppongi 3K time travel back to the same spot they were in a year ago. ***¾
After the match, YOH gets the mic to thank the fans for their support, before challenging Desperado for the IWGP Junior title. I mean, there is a Best of the Super Junior coming up…
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay vs. Kota Ibushi (c)
Why do I have a nagging feeling they’re going to do The Thing?
Neither man moved as the bell rang, as we had a tentative start to proceedings. They go to ground early, with Ibushi slipping out as the ropes stopped things from going any further. We see Henare, Cobb and O-Khan at ringside in Ospreay’s corner, as Ibushi again takes Ospreay down to flip him over for a pin, but it doesn’t even get a one-count before Ospreay tried to muscle Ibushi down. The champion takes a front facelock, but Ospreay escapes with a hammerlock, only for Ibushi to grab a side headlock and clamp it in. Ospreay’s shot into the ropes, but he bounces up from a shoulder tackle before some headscissors take Ospreay to the outside ahead of a plancha.
Back inside, the pair start to trade elbows but Ospreay clings to the ropes to avoid an Irish whip, before he crotches Ibushi in the ropes ahead of a running front kick that nearly sent both men sailing to the outside. Ibushi’s thrown chest-first into the railings before he’s stretched backwards, only to get free and take Ospreay into the rails. A back suplex sees Ospreay drop Ibushi onto the rails as he rolled in looking to take a count-out win. Ibushi beats the count, but gets taken outside and onto the apron for a kneedrop to the floor. Returning to the ring, Ospreay throws Ibushi into the corner for a two-count, before a back elbow off the ropes garnered a one-count.
Some headscissors on the mat lead to Ibushi making it to the ropes for a break. A cravat keeps the pressure on, as did a bodyslam, before Ospreay misses a knee drop. Kicks from Ospreay lead to a dropkick from Ibushi, then a flying mid-kick as the champion looked to force his way in. A roll-up sees Ibushi take Ospreay through into a German suplex for a two-count, before a handspring enziguiri sees Ospreay rein in that advantage. Ospreay’s uppercut in the corner leads to him kicking Ibushi into a Tree of Woe ahead of a hanging dropkick. A springboard forearm from Ospreay lands for a two-count, before Ibushi fought out of a reverse Bloody Sunday, kneeing his way free as he went for Ospreay’s nose. THAT SMIRK. Ospreay’s punch to the gut stopped Ibushi briefly, but a clothesline takes both men down before a Last Ride from Ibushi gets a near-fall.
Ibushi looks for a Kamigoye, but Ospreay’s rising headbutt cuts it off as the pair fought from their knees, trading elbows as they went. Ospreay edges ahead with a front kick, then some Kawada-ish kicks, but Ibushi shrugged them off and unleashed with a flurry of strikes, only to get caught with a discus elbow. The reverse Bloody Sunday lands for a near-fall, before Ibushi looked to catch Ospreay up top… slipping as he went before he recovered to… get thrown into the ropes as Ospreay flips Ibushi back in with a shooting star press. Ospreay heads back up for a second shooting star press, but Ibushi kicks out just before three… so Ospreay takes off the elbow bad for the Chelsea Grin… but Ibushi avoids it and caught a handspring enziguiri, only to crumple to the mat as he looked for whatever it was.
Resetting, Ibushi lifts Ospreay up top as he looked for an avalanche poison rana, but Ospreay lands on his feet… and that’s maybe where for me it felt like Ospreay feels like he’s truly ahead. Ibushi nails a regular reverse ‘rana, planting Ospreay and sending him to the outside as Ospreay was suddenly needing to beat the count to keep the match alive. Getting onto the apron, Ospreay’s met with a kick as Ibushi looks for a deadlift German suplex, dropping Ospreay high on his neck and shoulders on the landing for a near-fall. Ibushi looks for a Busaiku knee, but gets folded in with a Spanish fly, before an OsCutter off the ropes left Ibushi down for another near-fall. Ospreay calls for a Chelsea Grin from there, and lands it this time before a Storm Breaker was escaped, with Ibushi pulling Ospreay into a pair of Kamigoye for the nearest of near-falls!
Ospreay comes close with an inside cradle, before he ducked a Kamigoye… a hook kick rocks Ibushi ahead of a BIG BICYCLE KNEE. A Hidden Blade is next, before Ospreay hauls up Ibushi for the Storm Breaker… and they did The Thing. Will Ospreay unseats Kota Ibushi less than three months after he won the double gold, following a match that didn’t quite click for me until that moment where Ibushi crumpled trying to out-do Ospreay for flashiness. The epitome of the New Japan four-star main? ****
Post-match, Cobb lays out Ibushi with a Tour of the Islands, as Ospreay celebrated with his two belts and one cup, declaring (on Easter Sunday of all days) that “God is dead.” Yep. Ospreay then calls out Okada for revenge for what happened at WrestleKingdom – and eventually, out comes Okada to pound away on the microphone… except Shingo Takagi’s out and has had enough of Okada’s stalling.
Shingo notes that Okada lost to him in the first round of the New Japan Cup – and despite Shingo losing in the finals (to Ospreay) he reckons that puts him above Okada in the queue. Shingo puts in the formal challenge, then told Okada he’d get the first shot afterwards as he then dropped the mic. Eventually Okada grabs the mic and passes it to Ospreay, who accepted Shingo’s challenge while keeping an eye on Okada for the future. An interesting first two defences for the new champion then, as the night ended with a brief staredown and a proclaimation from Great-O-Khan…
New Japan’s schedule picks up again on Saturday as the Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2021 starts in Kanagawa – and it’ll be a lengthy tour as we go back to the “major house show” stops, with two nights of Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni at the end of the month, before the two-nighter Wrestling Dontaku at the start of May. This was pretty much a two-match show going in – well, three, if you count the unveiling of X – and while the main event may not have been an unbridled success. It’s certainly a divisive choice to be the first Briton to hold the big belt in New Japan, especially given the events of the past year… but it’s a choice that New Japan has made, results be damned. It’s a new age in New Japan, with a new guy and a new unit on top… and where we go from here is uncharted territory.