Shingo Takagi defends his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship against EVIL as Wrestle Grand Slam came to a close.
Syuri & Giulia submitted Saya Kamitani & Momo Watanabe in 11:30 (***¼)
Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb pinned Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada in 11:45 (***)
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru pinned El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori in 20:28 to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***¼)
Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr. pinned YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito in 26:43 to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (***¾)
Robbie Eagles submitted Hiromu Takahashi in 24:07 to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (***¾)
Shingo Takagi pinned EVIL in 30:19 to retain the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship (***½)
We’re back at Saitama’s MetLife Dome for the second part of this double-header, brought to you by thin skin, false equivalency and a whole lot of tongue biting. English commentary remotely comes from the mouths of Kevin Kelly and Chris Charlton…
Queen’s Quest (Momo Watanabe & Saya Kamitani) vs. Donna Del Mondo (Syuri & Guilia)
Watanabe and Kamitani are back for their second pre-show match…
Giulia and Watanabe start us off, swapping wristlocks before tags quickly got us to Syuri and Kamitani. They swap waistlocks before Syuri charged through Kamitani, who found herself sandwiched between Syuri and Giulia’s boots. A slam from Giulia’s good for a two-count, before a STF’s broken up by Watanabe. Momo tags in, but she’s quickly swarmed…. Watanabe overcomes with a dropkick to Giulia, then a PK to the back of Syuri, before Giulia and Watanabe trade elbows. It’s quickly stopped as Giulia looks for a piledriver, only for Watanabe to escape for a kick.
There’s a turnaround with Giulia’s missile dropkick for a near-fall, before a shotgun dropkick from Syuri leads to a floatover suplex for another two-count. A uranage from Watanabe lands for two, before Syuri and Kamitani trade kicks in the ropes, with Kamitani’s pump kicks landing to nearly end the match. Double-teaming with Giulia leads to a double-team gourdbuster and a running knee that Watanabe had to break up the pin on. Headscissors from Kamitai has Syuri to the outside ahead of a springboard bodypress to the floor, before they returned for a pair of leaping knees out of the corner, and a Northern Lights that almost got Kamitani the win. Saya followed with a Star Crusher, then went back up top for a Phoenix Splash… but Giulia stops her as Syuri brought her down with a Kimura.
A Stretch Muffler’s broken up by Watanabe as all four women stayed in the ring, leading to a Northern Lights Bomb by Giulia on Watanabe. Kamitani’s reverse ‘rana cuts off Syuri, who replied with a roundhouse, before a double-team press slam took us back to the tied-arm Stretch Muffler for the submission. I liked how they kept up the story from the main STARDOM shows with Kamitani not being able to get the Phoenix Splash against Syuri – a nugget that could easily have been thrown aside. ***¼
Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii vs. United Empire (Jeff Cobb & Great-O-Khan)
Cobb got the win in yesterday, and that’s enough to make Okada come out first for a change.
Ishii and O-Khan start us off, as they quickly back into the ropes looking for a tie-up. Ishii avoids a Mongolian chop, then caught O-Khan in a leg lock that ended with O-Khan rolling away. Okada tags in, but charged straight for Cobb, knocking him off the apron as we have shenanigans on the floor. Okada – and his neck that’s taped up like paper mache – looks to take Cobb into the rails, but just eats a belly-to-belly overhead suplex on the floor, before he’s thrown into the side of the ring. Back inside, Cobb teases a Tour of the Islands as he then had to fight a Money Clip, before falling to the neckbreaker slam.
Ishii tags back in and quickly has to deal with a double-team, before he struggled over a suplex with Cobb. Ishii wins out, but Cobb has a quick reply, allowing O-Khan back in to take Ishii into the corner for Mongolian chops… setting up for a baseball slide. A gutwrench suplex chucks Ishii across the ring for a two-count, as Cobb returned for double-teaming… but Okada makes the save with a flapjack on Cobb. O-Khan and Ishii trade elbows before Cobb came in with a splash into the corner. There’s a kick-assisted suplex from Cobb that gets a two-count, with Okada breaking up the cover. Okada tries for a dropkick, but Cobb catches him like a baby… Okada gets free and hits his dropkicks anyway, before the Sheep Killer – O-Khan’s standing head-and-arm choke – leads to an Eliminator attempt.
It’s escaped by Ishii, who headbutts O-Khan ahead of a face claw… and finally an Eliminator gets the win as Okada’s run against the United Empire remained fallow. ***
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori) (c)
The first of four title matches here, Desperado and Kanemaru won their latest title shot by winning last month’s Super Junior Tag League.
We’ve a jump start as all four men trade blows to start the match, with things quickly spilling outside as ELP headed up top for a spot of rope walking. He stops himself, so Kanemaru slides into the ring, only to take a springboard crossbody and a Quebrada for a two-count. Kanemaru faceplants Phantasmo with a low dropkick, with the Canadian getting kept down with a knee spreader that Desperado held onto after the rope break. ELP’s hobbling as he’s thrown into the corner pad, before a half crab from Kanemaru forced Phantasmo into the ropes. Desperado returns as the challengers again focus on the legs of ELP, who grabbed the rope again to break up a pin. After taking Desperado across the ring, Phantasmo finally tagged out to Ishimori, who pulled down Desperado and whipped the arm into the mat.
Targeting the shoulder, Ishimori charges Desperado into the corner, before ELP tagged in to start the rakes. Back, then eyes, then… neck? That builds up to the Tree of Woe and the Gas Pedal on Desperado, which Kanemaru finally breaks up… only to get added to the Tree of Woe as he got his groin stomped on. An attempted turnaround ends with Ishimori pulling Kanemaru off the apron before hitting the ring for a baseball slide German suplex on Desperado for a near-fall. A handspring from Ishimori’s caught as Desperado manages to land a back suplex, as Kanemaru finally gets a tag in… and gets kicked in the ropes.
Phantasmo intervenes, but has his back raked by Kanemaru, before Ishimori gets caught with a satellite DDT. Ishimori looks to reply with a Cipher UTAKI, but Kanemaru adjusts his weight and nearly wins with a roll-up before the Bullet Club pair went kinda-CCK on us with an elevated Codebreaker and a moonsault. A Figure Four from Kanemaru looked to provide an opening for him to remove ELP’s boot, as a knee breaker and a diving chop block from Despy drew a two-count. The Numero Dos is next as Ishimori’s held by Kanemaru, but ELP got to the ropes as he resumed with elbows on Desperado.
Phantasmo nicks Desperado’s Pinche Loco – more like an Angel’s Wings – for a near-fall, before Ishimori’s Cipher UTAKI and Phantasmo’s Thunderkiss 86 splash led to another two-count. Ishimori takes care of Kanemaru on the floor with an Orihara moonsault, while Desperado looked to be easy pickings for ELP, who loosened his boot and went to swing for Desperado with it. ELP misses, but Ishimori knocks Despy into the ref as they were about to reveal the contents of the boot. A tug of war breaks out over it, as Kanemaru nails Ishimori with a whisky bottle, before Desperado punched out ELP with his own boot, which looked to hurt both men equally. We pass the 20 minute mark there, as ELP’s met with a Pinche Loco, and that’s enough to unseat the Bullet Club’s latest reign as champions… yet we’re still wondering what was in the boot. The White Hummer driver of New Japan. ***¼
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & SANADA) vs. Suzuki-gun (Zack Sabre Jr. & Taichi) (c)
From one set of tag titles to another, and we’ve a triple-threat for the belts…
An argument over “who starts” ends with Naito and SANADA getting thrown outside, as YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, ZSJ and Taichi tried to get us going. Naito and SANADA are quickly back though as they cleared the ring to go after Taichi, before we got some of the war drum action. Taichi slows down the pace with a kick to Goto’s back before he began throttling him. YOSHI-HASHI comes in to help choke Taichi, as do SANADA and Naito, but any alliance is quickly broken apart. The focus stays on Taichi, who’s stomped into the CHAOS corner, before Tetsuya Naito came in for a low dropkick on Taichi.
An eye rake on the mat from Naito leads to the headscissors submission, before SANADA came in to tie up Taichi in a Paradise Lock. Taichi’s luck doesn’t change much as Goto’s chinlock keeps him on the deck, before Taichi got free… only to find Zack Sabre Jr. was in no position to make a tag. Taichi manages a hook kick to drop Goto, and now Sabre’s free to tag in… and he nearly wins it instantly with a Euro clutch. After kicking out, a discus clothesline from Goto has Sabre down, but Zack’s back with a STF, eventually drawing in Naito and SANADA to separate things. Goto’s left in there to take uppercuts and kicks as Taichi proceeded to rip off his trousers!
YOSHI-HASHI’s in to stop a Holy Zack Driver (the kick-assisted one), before Sabre escaped a GYR… only to get charged into the corner as Tetsuya Naito tagged himself in. Naito tagged Goto out, so he could stay on a vulnerable Sabre with Combinacion Cabron, before SANADA came in to help with a jack-knife cover that almost led to the title change. A top rope ‘rana from Naito drops Sabre, before Taichi’s big boot took Naito down. YOSHI-HASHI is in to try and drag Naito for a tag, but that just sparks a Parade of Moves. When we settle down, YOSHI-HASHI tags in and hits a neckbreaker on Naito for a two-count, before Naito ‘rana’d out of a powerbomb. A rear spin kick from YOSHI-HASHI gets us back to the Ligerbomb attempt, but YOSHI-HASHI can’t make the cover as Goto came in to help keep the ring clear, leading to a GYW attempt on Naito. Sabre breaks up the pin, as another flurry of strikes leads to everyone being laid out again.
A ‘rana from SANADA takes YOSHI-HASHI outside for a plancha, but he couldn’t follow up as YOSHI-HASHI took over in the ring, landing a thrust kick and some double knees for a near-fall. Karma from YOSHI-HASHI is escaped, but the Western Lariat was not as Naito came in with an enziguiri ahead of a TKO from SANADA for a near-fall. Sabre’s in, but takes a swinging DDT from Naito as the ring briefly filled and empties – but we’re still with SANADA and YOSHI-HASHI as the legal men. A Skull End’s countered with an inside cradle for a near-fall, before SANADA rolled back for Skull End, which YOSHI-HASHI again rolled up from for a near-fall. Third time’s the charm though, but YOSHI-HASHI slips out of the ever-loose Skull End, only to get pulled back in… SANADA lets go and goes for the moonsault, but Taichi blind tags in and hits an assisted chokeslam on Taichi as we have another Parade of Moves to stop YOSHI-HASHI from getting pinned.
In the end though, Sabre ties up Naito on the mat as YOSHI-HASHI gets met with a thrust kick, then a Black Mephisto as the tag champions successfully retain. This was a refreshing change of pace. We didn’t have the endless series of “let’s chaotically break up the match” throughout as you could get in three ways, nor did this descend too deep into tropey bollocks. ***¾
Time for the G1 Climax announcements!
A Block: Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, Shingo Takagi, Zack Sabre Jr., Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii, Yujiro Takahashi, KENTA, Tanga Loa, Great-O-Khan.
B Block: SANADA, Taichi, YOSHI-HASHI, Hirooki Goto, Jeff Cobb, EVIL, Tama Tonga, Chase Owens, Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi.
That’s G1 debuts for Owens, O-Khan and Tanga Loa, as New Japan resist the temptation to bring in outsiders or mix it up with junior heavyweights. Schedules will likely be announced in the next week, you’d imagine…
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Robbie Eagles (c)
After being forced to drop the title back in February, Hiromu’s got an opportunity to regain the title he never lost.
They shoot out of the blocks as Hiromu lands an early shoulder block, before leg sweeps for pinning attempts drew nada. Chops from Hiromu take Eagles into the ropes, but Robbie returns with a ‘rana, before the pair headed into the corner, with Eagles leaping in as we had a lot of move attempts and aversions. Both men head outside as Eagles kicked Hiromu by the rails, before we returned to the ring as Eagles looked to wear down his challenger. Hiromu tries some chops as he was on the mat, then found form with some headscissors, before a clothesline in the corner and a low dropkick sent Eagles outside.
Hiromu joins Eagles on the outside for a shotgun dropkick off the apron, before a Falcon arrow back inside lands for a two-count. Double knees in the corner from Eagles eventually miss as Hiromu then had to push away a Turbo Backpack, dropkicking Eagles back into the corner before catching the Aussie with a belly-to-belly overhead suplex into the buckles. Eagles recovered with a 619 to Hiromu’s knees, then a springboard dropkick as a set-up for the Ron Miller Special, but that eventually ended in the ropes. Eagles keeps going with an Asai DDT, which gets a two-count, before Hiromu escapes a Turbo Backpack, only to take a trio of kicks in return.
Hiromu blocks a Shiranui and instead drove Eagles into the corner with a running death valley driver. A sunset bomb’s set up for – and lands – moments later, prompting a count-out tease that Eagles narrowly beats. He can’t avoid a dropkick in the ropes, nor a German suplex as Hiromu’s clothesline folded him for a two-count, before a pair of superkicks has Eagles down again. Victory Royale plants Eagles on his face for a two-count, with a Dynamite Plunger after some resistance getting a similar result. A lifting reverse DDT looks to be the precursor to Time Bomb 2, but Eagles scrambles to the top rope to escape, blocking a wheelbarrow driver in the process as Eagles proceeds to get free and dropkick Hiromu back into the buckles.
Eagles goes back up top for an avalanche Turbo Backpack, before a 450 splash aimed at the leg landed flush. We’re back to the Ron Miller Special, forcing Hiromu to claw towards the ropes, only for Eagles to drag him back to reapply the hold as Hiromu eventually tapped out. An excellent outing as Eagles records his first defence – and claimed a big scalp – against a Hiromu Takahashi who came close, but in the end Eagles’ match-long game plan came up trumps. ***¾
Post-match, El Deserado’s out to ask for his rematch – while having his right hand iced up. That’s commitment. He offers a shot at the junior tag titles as those things seem to be perpetually being put up in deals… it’s a good (relatively new) idea, but can we get out of this cycle?
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: EVIL vs. Shingo Takagi (c)
They still haven’t oiled EVIL’s squeaky door… but he does have his new House of Torture colleagues in Yujiro Takahashi, SHO and Dick Togo with him. Never before has a group name been so apt.
Of course, we’ll have shenanigans with EVIL’s mates at ringside, and we start with EVIL rolling outside for a chat. SHO’s going to recent callbacks as he holds the remnants of the chair he bashed over YOH’s head yesterday to distract Shingo, and it worked as EVIL came in with a side headlock and a resulting shoulder tackle, but Shingo’s double chop takes down his challenger. A suplex lands for a two-count, as EVIL again rolls outside… but gets thrown into the railings as the pro-Shingo crowd lapped it up. Back in the ring, we’ve interference as Yujiro distracted the ref as SHO pulls Shingo out and into the rails, before Shingo was used to wipe out the ring announcer, who’s clinging onto the IWGP title belt like a teddy bear. They take their time to have the ring announcer recompose himself and get seated… and EVIL knocks him out again.
EVIL grabs some chairs to hit the home run, before Shingo decided to tidy up and throw the chair under the ring. Shingo’s thrown outside to take a beating, but referee Red Shoes Unno refuses to count because he’d suspected something happened. The cheating continues with the chained-up abdominal stretch, but the ref spots it and kicks it apart. The corner pad’s gone, but Shingo’s able to avoid it and hit a DDT on EVIL after landing the jab and chop. Shingo picks up with slams and back sentons, before EVIL’s chopped into the ropes. EVIL powders again, before Shingo’s attacked in front of the ref… that’s not a DQ as we have a discussion en route to EVIL getting thrown into the timekeeper’s table… Dick Togo’s sat next to him, as SHO and Yujiro then swarm Shingo… and get charged into the rails and table. Turnabout is fair play, or something like that.
Finally Red Shoes takes charge and ejects EVIL’s mates, threatening to call the match if they didn’t leave. Either that or he was going to hit them with the timekeeper’s hammer if they didn’t. Now we have that out of the way, we can now wait for their inevitable return, as Shingo took the match back to the ring for a noshigami. A wheelbarrow German suplex is next from Shingo, before EVIL used the ref for an accidental Magic Killer. EVIL adds a clothesline into the corner, before taking Shingo up top for a superplex, ahead of a Darkness Scorpion that ends in the ropes. Darkness Falls is next for a two-count, before Shingo got shoved into the exposed corner, only to return out with a clothesline.
Apparently Dick Togo wasn’t ejected as he’s popped up at ringside – pulling out the ref as Shingo looked to win with Made in Japan. Cue bullshit in the form of the garrot wire, but Shingo overpowers it as Yujiro comes back out with the pimp cane. A Pimp Juice DDT laid out Shingo, getting a delayed two-count after the ref came to… but that’s the cue for Togo to choke out Shingo again. BUSHI runs out to make a save as EVIL went for a chairshot, but SHO gets rid of BUSHI with a German suplex as Red Shoes caught up on his sleep. SHO pops out another chair seat on Shingo’s head – but Tetsuya Naito and SANADA have had enough of this bullshit and run out to make the save. Dick Togo’s brought the belt into the ring as EVIL low blows Naito to send him packing.
Cue EVIL with the belt, but Shingo ducks a belt shot as a tug of war breaks out over the belt. The ref’s coming to, and is right there watching as Shingo teased hitting EVIL with the belt… then blocked a low blow, before the Shingo combination had EVIL down. A Pumping Bomber clatters EVIL from there, as a Last of the Dragon leads to the win as we crept north of 30 minutes. Probably the best of the EVIL main events, but that spell with the returning interference threatened to drag this down – although the fact that the Saitama crowd finally poked through into the English audio mix showed just how (relatively) hot they were for this. ***½
Hiromu Takahashi finally comes out after the match, hobbling, as the House of Torture crew left with their tails between their legs, while we had the slow-closing promo with all of LIJ reunited once again… even if Shingo was the only one with any hardware.
New Japan’s back in just under two weeks, as the G1 Climax gets underway on Saturday September 18 in Osaka’s Edion Arena, starting at 9am BST/4am EST. The entire tournament will be streamed with live English commentary, with Kevin Kelly in Japan and on-site. Thankfully lacking any kind of match to drag down the averages, this was easily the better of the two MetLife Dome shows – but this seems to be the level we’ll be operating at for these big shows in this current era. Five or six matches that reach a certain level, with all manner of bells and whistles to try and mask the reality. It’s not bad, it’s not good, it’s just what New Japan is as we leave the summer of 2021.