New Japan Pro Wrestling
Alive 2015
July 12, 2015
Fukushima Big Palette
Fukushima, Japan

A teaser for the upcoming G1 Climax (and a free teaser for first time subscribers taking advantage of the New Japan World trial), New Japan’s “Alive” lineup originally featured what may have been on paper the best tag team match main event of the year to this point with IWGP Intercontinental champion Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata facing off against Shinsuke Nakamura & IWGP Heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada (which may have contributed to the 1,850 Super No Vacancy, as matches of that caliber rarely occur on house shows). Unfortunately we’ll never know how the match would have played out, as Shibata suffered an arm injury earlier on this mini three stop tour and was pulled from the match. As I type this, there is no word on the severity of the injury, which if serious could not come at a worse time with G1 roughly one week away. The list of potential replacements is thin, but my vote would go to Tama Tonga, who I believe would surprise people if given a chance to work nine high level singles matches on a big time tour. Hopefully this all turns out to be pointless conjecture, with Shibata simply being given a couple of house shows off as to not aggravate a minor injury any further.

Yohei Komatsu vs Sho Tanaka

For those of you scoring at home (probably just me), with this victory Komatsu has opened up a comfy lead in the series at 15-10-23. You all know by now how good these guys are, but it’s gotten to the point that they’re pushing 4-stars in these openers, which is absurd. If they were given a chance to work higher on the card with slightly more time, i’m totally convinced that these guys could consistently put together 4-star plus matches every night. As it is, they always make the most of the short amounts of time they’re given, and never have matches that lack story or structure. The story here was Tanaka working over Komatsu’s back, before slapping on a deep crab hold in the center of the ring. These two have perfected the art of building to crab holds (and getting the crowd behind them while attempting to break them) that we’ve reached a point where the crab hold itself, which in the context of New Japan is a nothing move reserved for young lions, is now over as a threat when veterans use it as a throwaway spot higher on the card. Komatsu fought like death to escape, and continued to be worked over before Tanaka went for his overhead stretch muffler slam. Komatsu rolled out of that, reversed into a singe leg crab, cinched it in deep, and Tanaka was forced to tap. Excellent match. ***1/2

Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask vs Jay White & David Finlay

I’ve been impressed with Tiger Masks’s bully offense lately, but his role here was to sell to set up the Liger hot tag. His reward for selling for the lions was scoring the fall, pinning Finlay following a double underhook suplex from the top rope. Basic match structure and the usual clean work from White & Finlay, who like Komatsu & Tanaka are advanced beyond their card position. Good, solid tag match with some compelling control work by White & Finlay, who have good chemistry together. **3/4

Mascara Dorada, Captain New Japan, Manabu Nakanishi vs Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, KUSHIDA  

Dorada & KUSHIDA started things off, and part of me wished the other four guys would just head to the back and let these two have a go. KUSHIDA still brings the Best of the Super Juniors trophy to the ring, which would be like a Super Bowl team carrying around a conference championship trophy. Dorada kept doing the classic belt motion pantomime to KUSHIDA. I love when guys do that, and even though we know Ricochet is getting the next title shot, I hope that was a tease (it probably wasn’t). This match had a shocking amount of Nakanishi, which is never good. To be fair, crowds still love him, and his slow motion offense gets respect pops, so he doesn’t kill the atmosphere or momentum of match. For the finish, Captain New Japan blocked a Koji Lariat, but moments later got killed with a second. The “fuck this guy” look on Kojima’s face after he nailed the second was great stuff. The brief opening exchange between Dorada & KUSHIDA was pretty great. Hopefully they hook up at some point for the title. **3/4

Tetsuya Naito & Yuji Nagata vs Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall

Naito couldn’t be bothered mixing it up with Hall to start, so he slapped Nagata in the chest to tag him in and then slithered out of the ring in the skankiest way possible. Naito was pretty great here, sauntering around the apron and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else, and this heel act is starting to get a noticeable amount of heat. The match itself was not good. Yujiro is dry as a bone and looks like he doesn’t give a shit, and Hall blew the finish when he couldn’t get Nagata up into Razor’s Edge position. Twice. He got him up on the third try, but then dropped him a little too early before Naito was supposed to make the save with a top rope dropkick. What a mess. Nagata hit a backdrop hold on Hall to mercifully end this. Naito wasted no time heading to the back after it ended. Naito was the only good thing about this match, even shoving the ref down at one point which would have had me buying into a cheap DQ win for the Bullet Club had they placed the spot later in the match. *3/4

YOSHI-HASHI, Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe 

Makabe was announced last, which was subtle thing that doesn’t bury the NEVER title. Well, this was a match. Carbon copy of the previous thousand or so bouts like this that you’ve seen in New Japan over the years, with the crowd pleasing finish of CHAOS pin eater YOSHI-HASHI taking not only the Kokeshi, but also a High Fly Flow. Nothing to see here aside from some fun Tanahashi/Yano spots. As a side note, I’ve enjoyed the Yano’s feud with Tanahashi about a million times more than the endless walk & brawl Yano/Suzuki feud. ***

Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Shinsuke Nakamura & Kazuchika Okada

Taguchi replacing Shibata ranks right up there with Team Tremendous replacing The Young Bucks on a 2CW show a few months back when it comes to massive steps down in substitutions. To be fair, Taguchi was fine here, fun even, doing a mock mimic of Nakamura’s entrance, and then copying Okada’s mannerisms during the match. This ended up being very good, and you get the feeling it would have been great had Shibata not gotten injured. While it may have been a result of the booking changes, I was surprised to see Goto paired off with Okada for most of the bout as opposed to Nakamura, and hopefully that was a hint towards something down the line because I think an Okada/Goto title program could produce some amazing matches. The closing stretch was good, with Taguchi hanging in just fine, and the usual dramatic finisher teases that you get in matches like this. Okada predictably took care of business with a Rainmaker on Taguchi, and whatever he said in his promo popped the crowd big time, as did handing the mic to Gedo, which actually received the biggest reaction of the night. Gedo has somehow managed to get over in his mid 40’s as a glorified second and part timer more than he ever did as an active wrestler. ***1/2

Final Thoughts

This was the last stop of the short “Alive” tour as we gear up for the G1 Climax and predictably, aside from the young lions, nobody was interested in turning it up to ten. Decent show, but casuals can easily get away with skipping this. Hardcores should watch the opener and the main event. Aside from that, there’s nothing here you need to see unless you’re a super die hard who doesn’t like to miss anything.