Air Date: 1/4/16
For the record I am watching the English Commentary and will always be doing so when it is available. I am not a fan of either Striker or Kelly but NJPW having English commentary is a big enough deal that I’ll try and power through listening to those two.
After a quick run down of the card we go to our first match which is for the Junior Tag Team Titles.
ReDRagon © vs. The Young Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice vs. Ricochet and Matt Sydal (IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship)
I haven’t enjoyed the booking of the Jr. tag titles this year with the titles being hot potatoed between three of these four teams, but there’s no denying these guys have been putting on some fun matches and Sydal and Ricochet being added to the mix can only do good things. It is also pretty ridiculous that Ricochet and Sydal never got a singles match for the titles even though they won the Jr. Tag League, but since these titles have basically been defined as opening match stuff for the last year I don’t think it’s worth complaining about it too much. Cody Hall and the Bucks attack the other teams before the match can start. Yoshitatsu is also on commentary for this show and keeps talking about returning to the ring which is pretty cool to hear, he’s hilariously bad on commentary otherwise. The stream freezes for me just as Beretta is going for a tope which is incredibly annoying, but it comes back after a few seconds with the Bucks in the middle of a superkick party. Things started out like a pretty standard tag match and eventually delve into the standard spot fest you’d expect from these guys. Cody Hall gets involved and hits Ricochet with a brutal looking Razor’s Edge from the ring to the outside, the Bucks then work over Ricochet until he and Sydal make a comeback. Ricochet gets his revenge on Hall by hitting him with an incredible springboard shooting star press to the outside. This was a really awesome opener overall, you had all the crazy high spots that you would expect from this guys but things never felt like they descended too far into madness. I could’ve done without all of the Cody Hall interference personally, which hurt the match a lot for me. Matt Jackson pins Rocky Romero with More Bang For Your Buck to win the titles *** ½
Toru Yano, Jay and Mark Briscoe vs. Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga, and Bad Luck Fale (NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship)
Tama Tonga cut an incredible promo at the press conferences last night about how he doesn’t get the respect he deserves that really makes me want him to win, even if it would be incredible for Mark Briscoe to hold a title in NJPW. This is The Briscoes debut in NJPW and what a place to debut, they are one of my favourite tag teams in the world and I really hope they deliver here. Hot start again as the Bullet Club attack #DemBoys before the bell but they quickly gain control. Mark Briscoe hits a cool looking Cactus Jack elbow on Yujiro. Kevin Kelly and Matt Striker continually question Yoshitatsu on his feelings of Yujiro joining the Bullet Club and he keeps responding with one or two words, please no-one ever pay this man to be a commentator again. The crowd seems dead for this match, which isn’t all that surprising since they probably have no idea who the Briscoe Brothers are. Toru Yano hits Tama Tonga with a chair and The Briscoes hit him with a Doomsday Device for the win. HOLY SHIT MARK BRISCOE HAS A TITLE IN NEW JAPAN! This was an alright match, but the finish seemed to come a little out of nowhere. Fine for what it was although I am a little disappointed. Jay Briscoe pins Tama Tonga with a Doomsday Device to win the vacant titles ** 3/4
Jay Lethal © (w/Truth Martini) vs. Michael Elgin (Ring of Honor World Championship)
What an interesting year it’s been for Big Mike, after a lot of weirdness with losing the RoH title and getting stuck in Canada he finally got his dream of working in Japan during this year’s G1 tournament and by god did he deliver. Lethal, on the other hand, has been having the best year of his career and was a dark horse candidate for wrestler of the year in 2015. This match could realistically go either way, with RoH touring Japan in February they may want to put the title on someone that is over in Japan like Big Mike. Equally they may wish to keep the title on Lethal and have Elgin chase him for the title on the tour, or even AJ Styles. Lethal tries to reverse Elgin’s stalling suplex without any luck in a fun spot that the crowd are loving. Elgin also hit’s Lethal with a one armed Gorilla Press and teases a power bomb on the ring apron. Lethal counters with a dive onto Elgin and hits the guard rail and then goes for another. Apparently Truth Martini did a spinaroonie in the ring but the camera wasn’t on him. The crowd obviously loves Elgin but aren’t really reacting much to Lethal. Elgin hits a stiff looking forearm on Lethal as commentary is talking about Star Wars. Yes, you read that right. Matt Striker hasn’t been quite as awful as usual but he keeps dropping random names that is already super annoying. Elgin hits an incredible stalling German suplex on Lethal. Striker keeps trying to get Yoshitatsu involved, but he’s so far outside of his comfort zone it’s awful. Striker did a Macho Man impression when Lethal does the elbow. Kill me please. Bless Elgin and Lethal, they are really working hard here but the crowd don’t care unless Elgin is on offence. Lethal hits Elgin with the book of truth after Big Mike hits Truth Martini with a backfist. Jay Lethal hits the Lethal Injection for the win. Solid match which loses some points because the crowd have no idea who Lethal is and barely react to him. Jay Lethal retains his title with the Lethal Injection ***
Kenny Omega © vs. KUSHIDA (IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship)
KUSHIDA’s booking this year has been one of the most talked about thing in New Japan this year. After winning the Super Junior league and beating Kenny Omega for the title earlier this year most people assumed this was finally the time more KUSHIDA to become the ace of the division, but he almost immediately lost the title and was in six man tag matches for most of the rest of the year. At the time I thought it was salvageable if KUSHIDA won the title at this show for the “bigger” moment, hopefully that is the case. There’s a lot of Bullet Club shenanigans in this match to start, which is even more annoying considering no match so far has been completely clean. Omega hits KUSHIDA with a sweet moonsault while holding a garbage can on the outside and works him over inside the ring. Omega hits his Terminator dive to the outside that was just a beautiful as ever. KUSHIDA keeps going for his modified kimura which leads to a lot of really fun sequences and then decks Omega with a stiff as fuck right hand. KUSHIDA rolls through a one winged angel and pins Kenny for the win and the title. Both these guys delivered in a big way and while I would’ve preferred a more definitive win for KUSHIDA they may have bigger plans for Kenny which is fair enough. The right man went over and hopefully KUSHIDA gets the push he deserves now. KUSHIDA pins Kenny Omega with a roll up to win the title ****
Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows (w/ Amber Gallows) © vs. Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship)
Talking about divisions that have been poorly booked, the heavyweight tag team championship has been stuck in a rut for the last few years with this year being the worst. There hasn’t been a heavyweight tag title match since Wrestle Kingdom 9 that I have enjoyed. The series Gun and Gallows had with The Kingdom may have been some of the worst stuff in all of wrestling last year, hopefully Honma and Makabe win these titles and the division can finally move in a new direction, especially with the rumours of Anderson being NXT bond. Interesting to note every match so far has had at least one gaijin in. Gallows hits Makabe with a hard looking clothesline with the chain around his arm. Anderson and Gallows work over Makabe until Honma makes the hot tag and comes in like a house on fire. He’s really brought up the pace of this match. The champs take back control and go after Honma. Makabe throws Honma into Karl Anderson which sets up for a top rope kokeshi. Honma hits another top rope kokeshi on Gallows followed by a King Kong knee drop by Makabe. Fun match that dragged a little bit in places. Makabe pins Doc Gallows after a King Kong knee drop ** ¾
Hirooki Goto vs. Tetsuya Naito
Naito has won a lot of people over since the summer with his heel turn and run with Los Ingobernables de Japon. For me he went from an okay but bland face to one of the most exciting and interesting characters on the roster. Goto, on the other hand, does very little for me personally so this could be an interesting one. Striker suddenly starts putting over Naito as if he was a face, which is really weird. Goto gets put through a table early on which looked awesome. Goto hits Naito with a sweet looking code red from the top rope some time later. This match has a similar problem to the Lethal/Elgin match from earlier in that while these guys are working hard, and this time the crowd are really into it, something about the match just isn’t clicking for me. There’s even a fighting spirit forearm exchange which I normally love that just seems to be lacking in emotion. EVIL and BUSHI go after Goto while the referee is down but are quickly disposed of by Goto. This match really did nothing for me, it was just kind of there. Goto eventually gets the win over Naito ** 1/2
Odd that Naito lost given how big of a push he seemed to be getting leading up to this, but he was seen smiling as he walked off so maybe they have something planned.
Tomohiro Ishii© vs. Katsuyori Shibata (NEVER Openweight Championship)
This may be the match I am most looking forward to. I didn’t really “get” Shibata until around the G1. He was boring and he just didn’t connect with me, but I slowly realised his simplicity is his appeal. Shibata doesn’t give a shit about being flashy or stylish, he just wants to punch you in the face. On the other hand, I have loved Ishii from the moment I first saw him and he probably had my match of the year in 2015 with Honma. He’s just a hard hitting bruiser and it’s just great. This is going to be a violent war and I can’t wait. Things start out hot with both men going after each other with kicks and slaps. They have a forearm exchange that makes Goto and Naito jealous. Ishii hits Shibata with a stiff looking kick to the back which Shibata completely no sells. They each ask each other to kick them to prove who the bigger man is in a fucking fantastic exchange. I love these guys so much. Shibata gets the upper hand and then they have a chopping exchange. This isn’t a wrestling match, this is a straight up fight between two tough motherfuckers to prove who the toughest motherfucker is. Shibata starts wearing down Ishii with some gorgeous submissions. There’s a one count kick out in this match that had me jumping out of my seat it was so great. Ishii counters the penalty kick with a stiff headbutt which leads them both to exchange headbutts that look like they could kill each other. The crowd is so hot for this match, as they should be. What a great match, these guys really brought it and went off on each other with stiff forearms and kicks. Just straight up brutal. Shibata pins Ishii with a penalty kick **** ½
We get a video package for AJ/Nakamura highlighting AJ’s run in New Japan so far. Nakamura also speaks on AJ and the match.
Shinsuke Nakamura © vs. AJ Styles (IWGP Intercontinental Championship)
There’s nothing I can write about these two men or this match that hasn’t already been written. Two of the best in the world having a first time ever match and I have no doubt they aren’t going to knock it out of the park. Tatsu completely buries the IC title on commentary in the funniest line of the night. AJ pretends to hurt his back and then goes after Nakamura when his back is turned. Striker basically no sells it because obviously he always has to be the smartest person in the room. Styles works over Nak until he counters with a backbreaker. Nakamura then works over AJ’s back. Yoshitatsu has been pretty bad on commentary all night but he’s seemingly worse in this match. Nakamura beautifully counters a calf killer into an arm bar. Throughout the match Nakamura keeps going for the Bomba Ye which AJ keeps avoiding until he finally runs into a brutal looking top rope Bomba Ye. Nakamura can’t get up for the pin and the have a forearm exchange in the middle. AJ hits Nakamura with a Bomba Ye and then hits a gorgeous 450 splash for a two count. Nakamura gets a triangle choke on AJ which gets reversed into a Styles Clash for another two count. AJ hits the bloody Sunday and is visibly getting annoyed at Nak refusing to stay down. AJ teases a top rope Styles Clash which Nakamura reverses into a falcon arrow looking move for the two. The crowd is at a fever pitch as Nak hits AJ with a vicious Bomba Ye to the back of the head and another to the front for the win. The two fist bump post-match. Wow, what an awesome match. Everything made sense with Nakamura going after the injured back of AJ and looked incredible. When Nakamura is on he is really one of the best in the world. Nakamura pins AJ with a Bomba Ye to retain the title **** 3/4
We get a video package hyping the main event.
Kazuchika Okada © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (IWGP World Heavyweight Championship)
This feud has defined New Japan for the last few years and has been integral to its rise. You have the incumbent good guy in Tanahashi who has carried the company on his back through the dark times and you have the young upstart in Okada who has something to prove. Okada is the IWGP World Heavyweight champion, he’s on top of the world, hell he’s even beaten Tanahashi for that very belt. But all of that means nothing unless he can beat him in the Tokyo Dome. Tanahashi for his part has started to become cocky and arrogant, something very new for the Japanese Superman. He doesn’t think Okada has a chance at beating him because in Tanahashi’s mind Okada is nothing compared to him, the once in a generation superstar. These both have had some of their best matches against each other and always bring the best out of each other, and there’s no reason this shouldn’t top everything they’ve done before. The crowd is already at a fever pitch before anything even happens, they know they are witnessing history here.
Okada seems more confident in this match, he knows he has Tanahashi’s number, and Tana is visibly flustered. They get in each other’s faces and Tanahashi slaps Okada. We get some mat wrestling which Yoshitatsu keeps calling slow and basic, man I’d love to see him and JR have a conversation about wrestling. Okada hits Tanahashi with a great looking crossbody over the guardrail in a clear reference to their match last year. Okada is in control and looks completely unfazed, he’s grown a lot in the last year, both the character and the man, and is a confident man now. Tanahashi starts to mount a comeback and hits a vicious dragon screw leg whip on Okada that damn near rips his leg out. He hits a brutal sling blade on the ring apron and then kills Okada with a high fly flow to the outside. He hits another high fly flow to the legs of Okada and gives a quick look to the camera that makes it clear that he’s still got a lot left in him. Tanahashi keeps working over the right leg of Okada. Both men can barely stand as they have a strike exchange in the middle that ends with Okada winning. Okada hits an incredible missile drop kick halfway across the ring and then a great elbow drop from the top rope. Yoshi calls Tanahashi out on working over both legs instead of picking just one. Tanahashi has Okada in a cloverleaf and the crowd is completely unhinged. Okada hits Tanahashi with a rainmaker and Tanahashi kicks out! Okada goes for a high fly flow of his own! Two count! Tanahashi counters Okada’s rainmaker into one of his own and the crowd is fucking losing their minds! Tana hits two high fly flows on Okada for another two count! Another high fly flow gets countered by a great drop kick by Okada. Tanahashi slaps the shit out of Okada and gets a dropkick for his troubles. A rainmaker attempt gets reversed with a slap, but Okada doesn’t let go! Rainmaker! And another! And a third! Okada wins! Holy shit what a great match! I can say with almost no hesitation that that might have been my favourite match of all time. Okada retains the title after three rainmakers in a row *****
Post match Okada and Gedo cut promos about Okada being the future.
There were a couple of iffy matches to start things off but nothing was particularly bad. The last three matches all delivered big time and more than made up for the start.