New Japan finally gets their “other” stadium shows in for the summer, as Wrestle Grand Slam in MetLife Dome gave us Kota Ibushi’s return match, with him challenging for Hiroshi Tanahashi’s IWGP US title.
Saya Kamitani & Momo Watanabe pinned Lady C & Maika in 12:02 (***¼)
Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask submitted BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi in 11:39 (***¼)
SHO defeated YOH via referee stoppage at 24:44 (***¼)
I Quit: Toru Yano defeated Chase Owens to win the Provisional KOPW 2021 in 28:03 (¼*)
Jeff Cobb pinned Kazuchika Okada in 27:40 (***¼)
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Kota Ibushi in 17:47 to retain the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship (***¾)
We’re at the MetLife Dome in Saitama… and there’s live English coverage here too as Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton are in the studios (and hotel room) to give us the call.
Queen’s Quest (Saya Kamitani & Momo Watanabe) vs. Maika & Lady C
This is the first time that the STARDOM feature match has been broadcast on NJPW World…
Watanabe and Maika start us off, but their early exchanges lead to nought as tags bring us to Kamitani and Lady C, with the latter charging down with a shoulder tackle. Watanabe’s in to trip up Lady C for a dropkick though, allowing Kamitani to follow up with a slam for just a one-count. A kick to the back of Lady C, then a slam before a double clothesline brought in Maika to try and pick up the pace. Maika’s suplex takes down both Kamitani and Watanabe for a two-count, but Maika misses a charge into the corner as Watanabe clattered her with a dropkick.
A second dropkick follows ahead of a uranage for a near-fall before a chicken wing ended with Maika grabbing the ropes. Watanabe’s flurry of kicks has Maika back down, as did a PK, before Kamitani returned for a running knee and a dropkick as Maika was taking a beating. Maika ducks a spinning heel kick, but is quickly back on the defensive, with her suplex getting countered into a guillotine. She manages to suplex free, then make the tag out to Lady C… who quickly fell to a cartwheel dropkick. Lady C’s shoulder tackle has Kamitani down, as did a running boot in the ropes, before another kick nearly put Kamitani away.
Watanabe’s in to run at Lady C with a dropkick in the ropes, while Kamitani’s backflip kneedrop nearly ends it… Lady C’s back with a head chop, but her chokeslam’s blocked as Kamitani returned with another spinning heel kick. Maika runs in with a superplex on Kamitani, then handed her off for Lady C to hit her chokeslam, dumping Kamitani for a near-fall. Watanabe blasts Lady C with a kick as Queen’s Quest tried to turn it around, but another front kick from Lady C drops Kamitani ahead of a flying Khali chop that nearly ended it. Lady C went for a chokeslam off the top, but Kamitani counters with a ‘rana, then hit a Star Crusher – a delayed Fisherman’s Falcon arrow of sorts – for a near-fall.
A big ol’ Parade of Moves breaks out, ending with a picturesque Phoenix Splash from Kamitani for the win as the Queens Quest duo leave with the win. This was a good showcase for STARDOM, with it being on NJPW World likely exposing them to new eyeballs – hopefully this is the start of regular appearances? ***¼
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI) vs. Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask
We’ve Eagles vs. Hiromu tomorrow, so this is our warm up…
Eagles and Hiromu start us off, with Hiromu blocking a springboard armdrag before clotheslining Eagles in the corner. BUSHI’s in to help double-team Eagles, but Eagles manages to fight them both off before tagging in Tiger Mask to land a crossbody and a dropkick on Hiromu. BUSHI’s legal though, so he’s pulled down to the mat for kicks from Eagles and Tiger Mask, before a tiltawhirl backbreaker from Tiger Mask drew a two-count on BUSHI. Hiromu’s back to help out, taking down Tiger Mask before going after Eagles, throwing him into the barriers while BUSHI choked out Tiger Mask with a t-shirt.
Hiromu tags back in to help choke Tiger Mask in the corner, as the LIJ pair began to work over the veteran’s legs. A low dropkick from Hiromu leads to Hiromu’s attempt at a Ron Miller Special, but that ends in the ropes as Tiger Mask manages to kick away to buy himself some time. Eagles tags in to hit a springboard double dropkick, before kicks took Hiromu down into the corner, for a 619 to the knees. Running double knees follow for a two-count, before Eagles misses a 450 to the leg, before recovering as my feed dropped out. Eagles teases a Ron Miller Special, but Hiromu kicked his way free before a pop-up powerbomb left the junior champion laying.
BUSHI gets the tag in, knocking Tiger Mask off the apron before going up top for a missile dropkick to Eagles. A DDT’s next for a two-count, before BUSHI dove out with a tope to Tiger Mask… Hiromu’s in to trade shots with Eagles, before BUSHI returned and missed an enziguiri, only to get tied up in the Ron Miller Special. Tiger Mask takes out Hiromu, who’d broken up the hold… and that leaves Eagles free for his finishing stretch. A springboard dropkick to BUSHI’s knee, then a Turbo Backpack, before the Ron Miller Special forces the stoppage to end a tag match that did just about enough to keep you hyped for the title match tomorrow. ***¼
SHO vs. YOH
This was the first time these two had been around together since SHO walked out… and he’s got a new theme and entrance video based around his turn.
YOH jumps SHO before the bell as the fists fly to get us underway. SHO’s raking the eyes early on, but gets tripped for a basement dropkick as YOH returned those fists. SHO baseball slides to the outside for a Benny Hill Chase… he ends up chucking YOH into one of the Young Lions, then the barriers, before he wrapped YOH’s arm around the turnbuckle. Someone’s seen THAT Revival injury…
They take things towards the guard rails where SHO kicked the arm in time to the ref’s count, before he chucks YOH back into the rails. YOH beats the count as SHO apparently wanted to win this like the Berzerker, before he went back to raking the eyes. A Kitchen sink knee spins YOH down, as kicks followed for a two-count, with SHO staying on the arm with a Corning hold. Some mudhole stomping and choking take YOH into the corner, as this was looking awfully one-sided. Was SHO right all along, commentary mused? Finally YOH hits back with a dropkick off the ropes, before some kicks had SHO on the outside as he took the barriers too.
YOH followed that with a tope con giro into SHO, but YOH takes things back inside for a Falcon arrow that got a two-count. A superplex from YOH’s pushed away, as SHO came back with the Power Breaker before some rolling German suplexes ended with YOH grabbing the ropes. SHO goes back to the arm, jarring it over his shoulder before the pair traded leaping knees. A snap German suplex from YOH earns him a clothesline, before SHO measured up for a Shock Arrow… only for YOH to roll out and tie up SHO with the Star Gazer. An eye rake tries to break it up, but the ref stopped that, before the pair managed to roll into the ropes.
YOH dropkicks the back of SHO’s knee, then flung him into the corner with a short Dragon suplex. The pair resume with elbow strikes, but it’s SHO who inches ahead, only to get left in a heap by some rapid-fire YOH elbows. SHO tries his luck with some lariats, but one from YOH left him down again before a Dragon suplex bridged for a near-fall.
From there, YOH pulls up SHO for the Direct Drive, but SHO pushes away to squash the ref in the corner, then hit a spear. Cue shenanigans as SHO rolled outside for a chair, but ends up getting superkicked as YOH ducked the chairshot. Instead, YOH grabs the chair and teases hitting SHO with it… only to land a thrust kick before the Direct Drive was countered with a low blow.
SHO regains the chair and BUSTS out the seat over YOH’s head before he pulled up YOH at two, before trapping YOH in an omoplata for the ref stoppage. Despite the weird pacing, and the usual “this didn’t need to go this long” moan, this got nice and heated (once you could hear the crowd in the audio mix), as SHO’s calculated approach to things saw him draw first blood in this new rivalry. ***¼
Post-match, EVIL came out with Dick Togo and Yujiro Takahashi. There’s a “House of Torture” Bullet Club shirt for SHO, which explains why he came out in what looked like one of EVIL’s old ring jackets!
A little too on-the-nose with that sub-faction name, fellas…
I Quit Match for Provisional KOPW 2021: Toru Yano vs. Chase Owens (h)
Toru Yano’s found the hair dye of old, going back to his “Most Violent Player” days…
Yano has a bag full of handcuffs, and jumps Owens in the aisle, throwing him into the guard rails… but Chase brought a bag of powder. No, not that. He throws it in Yano’s face, before throwing Yano into the gate and finally, into the ring. Owens trips Yano and begins to choke on him, before we go back outside for stomps. Yano reverses an Irish whip to take Chase into the barriers, then grabbed a bin from under the ring and smacked it over Chase’s head. A baking tray’s next to go over Chase’s head, before Yano took the wireless mic and tried to get the “I Quit” out of Owens.
When that failed, Chase is made to wear a bin as Yano whacks his umbrella over it. Chase gets stretched in the ropes next, then thrown into Yano’s chair in the corner, before Yano looked to suplex him onto the bin… only to get suplexed himself. Owens takes things into the corner for a ringpost Figure Four, but relinquishes the hold so he could smash a bin over Yano’s knees instead. Yano gets Tango’d with some bin lids (look it up), before Owens grabbed his strap so he could have his fun. He ties up both of Yano’s wrists with the strap, then wrapped it around the ring post – kind of like how Shane McMahon was tied up by Kane back in the day. Rather than having his balls tazed though, Yano’s attacked with Kendo sticks, before Chase got a ladder out from under the ring.
Owens gets popped up onto the side of the ladder for a makeshift Manhattan drop, as Yano proceeds to turf the ladder outside. Yano tries to throw Chase back into the rails, but it’s reversed as Owens then stretches the ladder between the ring and railings. This can’t end well. Chase looks for a suplex off the apron through the ladder, but Yano fought free, then raked Owens eyes in the ropes as he sought those two words. A drop toe hold from Owens has Yano in the ropes, with a knee to the back next, before Chase went for a Package Piledriver… but Yano lifts him onto the apron, then hung him up in the ropes before grabbing another ladder to knock Chase off the apron and through that ladder bridge.
While the ref checked on Owens, Yano’s pulled out a couple of tables… but by the time he set them up, Chase grabbed a baking tray and bounced it off of Yano’s head. Yano teases a superplex to the floor, but it’s broken up by a headbutt. Chase attaches some handcuffs to the guard rails, before he took a back body drop on the floor as he looked for a package piledriver. From there, Yano tries to handcuff Owens, who rolled into the ring and begged for a time-out. Chase recovers with a Jewel Heist lariat, before he took Yano onto the two tables on the outside, looking for (and getting) the Package Piledriver. The tables didn’t break as James Hetfield rang around my head.
Yano can’t respond to the “I Quit” check, so gets handcuffed to the guard rails as Chase then retrieved his strap. Water “revives” Yano, as Owens tried to get Yano to quit. Yano doesn’t, so he’s whipped until he remembered… he’d hidden the key to the cuffs in his wrist tape! In the meantime, Chase has a baseball bat, but Yano punts him in the balls to avoid the shot, before he returned the favour, this time throwing the key away as Owens gets whipped. Yano brings a table into the ring and powerbombs Owens through it. Another set of handcuffs sees Yano tie up Owens even more, before he pulled out some scissors and threatened to cut Owens… who spat at him. Instead, Yano went from cutting the hair to jabbing the scissors in Owens’ eyes, and at the 28 minute mark, mercifully, this ends.
If there was a match that absolutely did not need the “pad for time” MO of modern-day New Japan, it was this one… but we got it. The finish was suitably violent, but I had low expectations and by God, they sailed under them. This wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was just way, way too long. ¼*
Post-match Owens said “this ain’t over.” My blood ran cold.
WrestleKingdom announcement time… January 4 and January 5 again at the Tokyo Dome… then January 8 in Yokohama Arena. Yep, three nights of WrestleKingdom to start New Japan’s 50th anniversary.
Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
Cobb’s looking to get that singles win over Okada, and has been on a good run in those Road to shows…
…and I start with buffering at the bell! When my feed picked up, about a minute in, Okada’s trying to bait Cobb to the outside with him, before he shoved Cobb into Great-O-Khan at ringside ahead of a whip into the rails. Okada stands on Cobb’s back next, before they returned to the ring with Cobb hitting an overhead belly-to-belly with ease. Cobb charges Okada into the buckles, but ends up running into a flapjack, then a back elbow before he caught a leaping elbow in the corner and turned it into a spin-out suplex a la John Cena. After some time outside, Okada’s thrown back into the corner as Cobb began to build some steam… only to get caught with a neckbreaker. A DDT followed, then another, and another, but Cobb’s up at two before he squirmed to the ropes to break a Money Clip.
Okada lifts Cobb up top and dropkicks him to the floor, where trips to the guard rails followed as Okada proceeded to boot Cobb closer to the crowd… where a crossbody over the rails was caught and turned into a suplex. Okada nearly loses via count-out, but made it back inside in time… only to get caught with an Oklahoma Stampede and a standing moonsault for a pair of near-falls. Okada tries to fire back with elbows, but Cobb clubbed back before he was sent sailing to the outside, with a plancha from Okada following. Cobb catches, but can’t counter as he’s nailed with a DDT, before Okada took him back inside for some dropkicks. A tombstone spiked Cobb, as the Money Clip followed, with Okada pulling Cobb away from the ropes to reapply the hold, only for Cobb to get his foot back to the rope.
Cobb tries to fight back from his knees, then looked to flash back with an Exploder before he nailed a gutwrench piledriver on Okada. The pair trade strikes again, before Cobb pulled Okada out of the corner and into a Spin Cycle. Okada dropkicks away a Tour of the Islands, then went for a discus Rainmaker as Cobb instead returned with a dropkick of his own. A tombstone from Cobb’s next, before he called for his “Aloha-maker” (O-Khan, your towel’s upside down mate)…
Okada escapes the ripcord Tour of the Islands, before he backslide Cobb into a Rainmaker. A dropkick’s next, before Okada scooped up Cobb for another tombstone as they keep… on… going. Okada takes Cobb to the top rope as he looked for an avalanche tombstone, only for Cobb to slip down onto the apron as he instead looked to return fire, eventually hitting an avalanche Tour of the Islands., From there, a regular Tour of the Islands followed, and a shattered Jeff Cobb finally gets his singles win over Okada! It’s probably the hangover from that KOPW match, in addition to the weird audio mix on the English feed, but this felt like it took an age to get going – but did get real hot by the closing stretch. ***¼
IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Kota Ibushi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (c)
This was Ibushi’s first match in over two months, and he started by trying to take Tanahashi to the mat. Tanahashi obliges with a side headlock, but Ibushi’s headscissors counter out of the hold, before he managed to spin around and grab a headlock of his own. We quickly reset though, with Tanahashi audibly being annoyed so early on, as he came back with a wristlock that Ibushi countered out of with an armdrag.
Tanahashi gets free and hits a low dropkick to take Ibushi down, following up with kicks and a toe hold on the mat. A knee spreader works over Ibushi, who eventually fires back with some strikes… only for Tanahashi to kick out the knee again. Ibushi’s dropkick closes the distance a little, as did a diving kick, before a ‘rana took Tanahashi to the outside. Ibushi took a risk with a Golden Triangle moonsault that landed flush at the ten-minute mark, before a springboard dropkick back inside had Tanahashi on jelly legs. Tanahashi returns fire with a Dragon screw though, before the pair trade simultaneous elbow strikes… Tanahashi’s down as he’s taking repeated elbows to the back of the head that almost caused the referee to wave it off.
A Twist and Shout out of nowhere gets Tanahashi back in it though, before Ibushi popped up from a Slingblade. Tanahashi eventually lands a second one, before a High Fly Flow landed in Ibushi’s knees… Kota keeps hold of the wrist and charges in with a Kamigoye… but couldn’t follow up with a cover. The crowd’s heating up as Ibushi followed up with a Bomaye knee, before he grabbed the wrists for one more Kamigoye, hitting a bicycle knee first, only for Tanahashi to hit another Slingblade, this time getting a one-count. Ibushi’s bounced with a Dragon suplex for a near-fall, before Tanahashi went up top for the Ace’s High froggy cross body, then a High Fly Flow, and that’s your lot. This one at points threatened to be an utter blowout for Ibushi, but Tanahashi held firm and managed to successfully record the first defence of the title in a match that I actually could have had longer with – but after the earlier abomination, let’s not complain. Had the whole card been this sort of length, I’d not be as sour! ***¾
Post-match, Ibushi and Tanahashi looked to be in tears – Ibushi perhaps not 100% after his recent time off, but with the G1 starting in two weeks, both men will need that recuperation time if they’re to hit the ground running.
We’re back early tomorrow – 6.30am in the UK, 1.30am ET for the STARDOM pre-show – for the second half of Wrestle Grand Slam, with EVIL challenging Shingo Takagi for the IWGP title in the main event of the last show before the G1… and you’d hope that there’s at least wrestler announcements for that one, right?
Take away that half hour of horror that was the KOPW match, and this was solid New Japan show. Not a “major, Dome-level show”, mind you. Problem is, it feels like more and more of their current instincts are way off base – almost like the promotion is going through an “Okada-with balloons” phase, to borrow an analogy. Sure, there’s a LOT of external issues that are outside of control, but there’s times they really don’t help themselves.