In most of the wrestling world, it’s extremely rare for promotions of any size to work together. New Japan seems to be the exception, as in January, they held four shows with the Mexican CMLL promotion, and this weekend they held two shows in Korakuen Hall in league with Ring of Honor.
The Honor Rising weekend started on Friday night in Tokyo, featuring nine matches all made up of New Japan vs. Ring of Honor talent in some form, and plenty of tag teams with a mixture of both groups, and in one case, a mixture of acts. Friday’s highlight undoubtedly came in the main event, where Tomohiro Ishii shocked Roderick Strong and ended his four month run as ROH Television champion. Strong and Ishii started off slowly, but quickly escalated into the best match on the show, as Ishii’s heavy hitting style meshed perfectly with Strong.
The other in-ring highlight from Friday’s show came in the form of KUSHIDA’s non-title match with Frankie Kazarian, which featured a jaw-dropping Hoverboard lock from the top rope that turned into a facebuster from the IWGP Jr Heavyweight champion, before KUSHIDA gained the victory with the Hoverboard lock. We also saw a tease for the formation of the absurdly-long-named Los House de Ingobernables de Japon, with the team of Jay Lethal and Tetsuya Naito leading to a post-match celebration with Truth Martini and the other members of Los Ingobernables, as EVIL and BUSHI all gathered to celebrate, with Naito seemingly missing a monocle as he read the Japanese Book of Truth with eyes wide open.
After this weekend, of course, the Bullet Club will be undergoing some changes, as Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows complete their New Japan commitments. Friday’s show was mixed for the Club in tag team action, as Anderson and Gallows lost out to the Briscoes in a match that needed a little more time, whilst the Bullet Club C-team of Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, Cody Hall and Yujiro Takahashi lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi, Moose, Tomoaki Honma and Michael Elgin. Elgin in particular stood out in this match, but this was more of a showcase for Moose, as he got the win with a spear on Hall.
“The Elite” of the Bullet Club did taste success on Friday though, with Kenny Omega’s One Winged Angel on Kyle O’Reilly helping Omega and the Young Bucks beat O’Reilly, Bobby Fish and Katsuyori Shiibata.
Rounding off night one, Jushin “Thunder” Liger and Matt Sydal overcame Ryusuke Taguchi and Dalton Castle in an entertaining opener, and Delirious beat Gedo in a plodding affair that was more entertaining for Delirious’ antics than the match itself.
Night two continued the trend of mixed fortunes for the Bullet Club, as they bade farewell to Anderson and Gallows, with Gallows taking the fall once more as Fale and Tonga also ended up on the losing side of an eight-man tag. Katsuyori Shiibata’s Shining Wizard sealed the win for he and his team-mates of Hirooki Goto and reDRagon. By the end of the night though, the Bullet Club’s Elite were left standing tall, as they took the NEVER six-man titles with a surprise win over the Briscoe Brothers and Toru Yano. It was another typical outing for the Elite, with copious interference from Cody Hall at ringside, and plenty of use of the “cooling spray” that somehow doesn’t result in a disqualification in Japan.
The main talking point came before the match even started, as Omega came to the ring wearing a New Day t-shirt, continuing a cross-promotional feud between Omega and Austin Creed (Xavier Woods), that was based off of Omega’s appearances on Creed’s YouTube video game channel UpUpDown Down. Unless Creed gets released, it’ll be a while before this results in a match! All three members of the Elite flattened Yano, with a 450 splash being the deciding factor before Omega scored the match-winning fall. It’s just a shame that the Elite’s post-match attempt to use the six-man belt as a skipping rope flopped!
In the main event, Jay Lethal retained his ROH World title in a match which saw Lethal at times struggle against IWGP tag team champion Tomoaki Honma, and it wasn’t until Lethal’s new friends at Los Ingobernables de Japon ran in to interfere. Although Honma no-sold a shot to the head with the Japanese Book of Truth, in the end the interference was too much, and gave Lethal the opening to hit the Lethal Injection for the win. Post-match, Honma was suckered into accepting a handshake from Lethal, but that was just a ruse for BUSHI to spray green mist in the tag team champion’s eyes.
Elsewhere, Moose stole the show once more as he teamed up with KUSHIDA to beat BUSHI and Tetsuya Naito, whose pre-match antics were limited to watching the referee struggle to open the ropes for him, seeing how his usual lackey (former wrestler turned commentator, Milano Collection A.T.) wasn’t present. Dalton Castle picked up a win over Frankie Kazarian in what was mostly as comedy match, as was the tag team match with Matt Sydal and Jushin “Thunder Liger” against Gedo and Delirious. A shooting star press for Sydal got the fall over Gedo, as Delirious was limited to his wacky antics.
Jay White continued his winning streak in the undercard, tapping out David Finlay in the opener, whilst the another enjoyable six-man saw the former ROH television champion Roderick Strong team up with Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi, taking on IWGP champion Kazuchika Okada, YOSHI-HASHI and the new ROH TV champion Tomohiro Ishii. Elgin secured the win with a thunderous sit-out powerbomb on YOSHI-HASHI at the second attempt, after he originally evaded the first one with a sunset flip.
As we saw with the New Japan/CMLL Fantasticamania shows, such co-promoted events can be a breath of fresh air, particularly if the companies involved are based on different styles of wrestling. These two shows saw New Japan switch one of the main titles and extend an ongoing storyline internally within the Bullet Club, whilst ROH created intrigue by having their Television title go into the hands of someone outside of the company. Whilst neither of these shows can be described as blowaway events, and even though there are booking nightmares involved with such cards, the rewards on a creative level at least are well and truly worth it.
Both nights of Honor Rising were fun shows, but if you only have time to see one, make it the first night. Otherwise, make sure you see Ishii/Strong from Friday, the Elite vs. Briscoes/Yano six-man from Saturday, Honma/Lethal from Saturday, KUSHIDA vs. Kazarian from Friday and both matches across the weekend featuring Moose. It’ll give you an eclectic mix of entertainment, which was more than worth my 999 Yen monthly New Japan world subscription for this weekend alone!