New Japan Pro Wrestling
Togi Makabe 20th Anniversary Show
February 21, 2017
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Tomoyuki Oka Def. Henare

Henare, about a minute and a half into the match, rolled his ankle and couldn’t stand on it, and lost via referee stoppage around the three minute mark. Reportedly the issue is with his achilles and it doesn’t sound great. I’ve really taken a liking to the guy, and the match was on its way to becoming something good until it took that unfortunate turn. Him and Oka are going to have some real bangers this year, I’m sure of it. Every time New Japan sends their young lions on excursion we worry that the new crop won’t be able to fill their shoes. White and Finlay took Tanaka and Komatsu’s places when they left and did a nice job, and now that White’s gone and Finlay’s no longer a young lion, Oka, Henare, Kawato and Kanemitsu have taken their place, and they’ve also done a nice job. I can’t wait for Henare’s return, I want more of what we saw in this match pre-injury. N/R

Gedo & Jado Def. TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado

Speaking of injuries, it turns out Desperado’s wasn’t all that serious, thankfully. I like that New Japan changed things up on this show and stuck TAKA with someone other than Taichi, one of the worst wrestlers in the company. Stick him in there with Jado, arguably the worst wrestler in the company, and there’s a good chance it would have been one of the worst matches of the year, and that’s not a hyperbole. TAKA’s not exactly what he was in his prime either. He’s solid at best these days, and is actively bad a lot of the time. But hey, Gedo and Desperado are awesome and this was a decent little match. **1/4

Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Takashi Iizuka & Yoshinobu Kanemaru Def. Katsuyori Shibata, Yuji Nagata, Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV

There was a lot of criticism when it came to Suzuki-gun losing all of their matches at New Beginning, and my response to said criticism was, and remains to be, that Gedo did the right thing by establishing Suzuki-gun as a solid upper mid-card act. They don’t need titles, they already have the credibility, titles don’t add that, it’s good they were given the title shots, but they didn’t need to win. Suzuki-gun, and Suzuki in specific, is exactly where he should be, in an upper mid-card, occasional main event role. There’s nothing wrong with that. He doesn’t need to be Okada or Naito or pre-2016 Tanahashi. Being an upper mid-card card guy is fine for someone who’s pushing 50 and can still go when he needs to. The interactions he had with Shibata here were tremendous as they built towards what will probably be a match at Genesis (Invasion Attack) in April or in the Cup finals next month, if Gedo wants to be cute about it. It’ll be fun, gives both something to do and is good for Shibata, since he’s obviously winning. Solid match here. Heated, everyone worked hard, Liger and Tiger Mask were grumpy, Kanemaru was a prick, Iizuka was…we’ll go with “inoffensive,” Taichi was just there; good stuff. ***1/4

Juice Robinson, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, David Finlay Jr. & Ryusuke Taguchi Def. Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA

Another heated multi-man. Taguchi has had a sneaky good year working these sorts of matches and is often one of the highlights, perhaps because he’s known all along he was getting a junior title shot and has been more motivated than usual as a result. Taguchi and Hiromu have good, yet odd chemistry together and there’s no doubt in my mind they’re going to kill it in their eventual title match. They were the focus here alongside Juice, who’s been elevated to a decent degree and has had a relatively good year in his own right. He’s probably getting another title shot in the near future as he’s been scoring all the falls in these matches over the past month or so, even after losing to Goto. He’s over, he’s been delivering, and I’m all for another match between those two. He’s been booked perfectly, it wouldn’t be all that egregious if he was given another shot, in fact, it’d make perfect sense. I’m on Team Juice. He pinned BUSHI here, Taguchi and Hiromu went nose to nose afterward, Taguchi licked the junior title belt as Hiromu held it above him, mocking Hiromu’s antics since his return, and the match was fun. No complaints on my end. ***1/4

Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI Def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi

Satoshi Kojima, the greatest man to ever grace Twitter dot com, had what looked like a fresh haircut for the occasion. If you aren’t following Kojima on Twitter, you’re doing this whole “life” thing completely wrong. Kojima-san likes ketchup on his fries and his dog Cookie likes a walk very much. Kojima was on top of his game with all that training he does and the extra motivation of having said fresh cut. Unfortunately, him and his buddies didn’t pick up the win over the youngsters in Okada, Goto (who’s 37, but who cares) and YOSHI-HASHI (who’s 34, but who cares), but all three put on a solid performance and delivered a highly enjoyable semi-main event. ***1/2

Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma Def. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano

Makabe’s a guy I’ve always had mixed feelings on. I don’t hate him, there’s been times I haven’t liked him, there’s been times I have liked him, but there’s never been a time I’ve loved him nor a time I’ve outwardly hated him. He’s been a solid enough hand for 20 years, and this was New Japan’s way of patting him on the back and thanking him for his service. As expected, Gedo didn’t want to put the titles on him and Honma but didn’t want them losing so had them win a non-title match. While it makes sense, I would have preferred if they were to win the titles, not necessarily because it Makabe’s anniversary show, but because I can’t stand Ishii and Yano as a team (I can’t stand anyone and Yano as a team, I just can’t stand Yano).

While Yano almost ruined it for me and sticking anyone else in there would have been an improvement, the rest of the match was so good I was able to overlook it. Best described as a good World Tag League match is what this was. One of the handful of World Tag League matches you can recommend, which are few and far between. Makabe, Honma and Ishii were so great not even Yano could drag them down to a significant degree. I wasn’t expecting it to be bad, I knew it’d be good, but it definitely over-delivered. ****

Final Thoughts:

The Togi Makabe 20th Anniversary Show was not one of the better New Japan shows this year but was still quite fun. If you’re short on time and can’t watch everything, skip to the main event. If you do have the time, just watch the whole thing. It was good fun.