New Japan Pro Wrestling/Ring of Honor
Honor Rising 2017: Night 1
February 26th, 2017
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

KUSHIDA, Juice Robinson & David Finlay def. Silas Young, Jado & Gedo

Jado & Gedo were both wearing Silas Young’s “Last Real Man” T-Shirt, which is literally a black T-Shirt that has “Last Real Man” on the front. Young also cut a promo before the match claiming that his team has been disrespected by the people of Japan. This was a pretty standard six-man tag, but for what it was, I thought it was fine. It’s disappointing that they’re only using Silas Young in the openers for these two shows, but if there’s a silver lining on this night, it’s that he’s teaming with Jado & Gedo, who seem to be a good fit as a trio. There was an awkward moment or two, particularly when Young tried to do his headstand moonsault (as the turnbuckles are covered differently in Japan compared to western promotions), but other than that, the action was mostly solid. We did get some color here, as Young appeared to be bleeding from the mouth, while Juice Robinson busted up his nose…..again (Juice’s nose must be made of glass, because it seems like he always gets it broken or really banged up). Fortunately for Robinson, he still managed to get the win for his team after hitting Pulp Friction on Gedo. ***

NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA) def. Delirious, Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask

One of the reasons why these NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Titles are so entertaining is that the possibilities are endless when it comes to potential challengers. This particular title defense is a perfect example of that, as Jushin “Thunder” Liger & Tiger Mask (a semi-regular tag team) paired up with Delirious, of all people, to challenge LIJ for the titles. While the outcome was never really in question, this was still a relatively solid six-man tag. For the moment, I think this division is a perfect spot for BUSHI, EVIL, and SANADA. They’re probably one of the stronger trios to hold the titles thus far, and hopefully they get a decent reign with these titles. The challenging side proved to be a fun trio. Delirious did his usual shtick, Liger was Liger, and Tiger Mask appeared to do a little bit more than he usually does in these situations (such as busting out a tombstone piledriver). They had some nice nearfalls towards the end with Delirious & SANADA, and shortly thereafter, the finish came when EVIL hit Delirious with a chair (while BUSHI had the referee distracted) which led to SANADA locking in the Skull End for the win. Again, this was a fine match, and probably served to get a solid title defense under LIJ’s belt. ***

CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, & YOSHI-HASHI) def. The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, The Guerrillas of Destiny, & Yujiro Takahashi)

Well, The Bullet Club is back in full force on these Honor Rising shows, as four of the remaining five matches on this card feature members of The Bullet Club. Their first outing of the night saw them go up against a pretty strong CHAOS contingent led by Okada. This was a good multi-man tag, but it was the only match on the entire show that seemed to lack any ROH influence. Yes, technically Will Ospreay is working for ROH now, but I would associate him a lot more with New Japan than ROH. While it was a perfectly good match, as I already mentioned, it’s a match you can see on any random “Road To…” show. There was actually a similar situation on the FantasticaMania Tour from earlier this year, as one of the shows featured a multi-man tag made up entirely of New Japan regulars, and had zero CMLL influence. The only noteworthy thing here is that YOSHI-HASHI scored the pin over Yujiro, which makes sense, as he would be challenging Adam Cole for the ROH World Title the next night. ***1/4

War Machine def. The Young Bucks

It was at this point in the show that I noticed someone wearing (what looked to be) Bubba Ray Dudley cosplay sitting in the front row. Not exactly sure why someone would want to dress up as Bubba Ray Dudley, especially on a show where New Japan partnering with a promotion that he never wrestled for, but whatever.

There are a lot of interesting things going on here. Outside of the obvious (a heavyweight team vs. a junior team), these two teams actually wrestled each other at a recent ROH show in Columbus, Ohio that (reportedly) was the best match on that show. They managed to do the same thing on the other side of the world, as this was easily the best match on Night 1 of Honor Rising. What made this encounter so entertaining was that, for the most part, it was packed with action from start to finish. Both teams went back and forth, with big move after big move, as they tried to keep the opposing side down for the count. There were a number of particularly cool moments, such as Ray Rowe intercepting a Meltzer Driver attempt, and The Young Bucks forcing Hanson to hit a sitout tombstone piledriver on his own partner. Ultimately, War Machine managed to score the victory over The Young Bucks in this great tag team bout. ****

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetusya Naito & Hiromu Takahashi) & Punishment Martinez def. Dalton Castle, Hiroshi Tanahashi, & Ryusuke Taguchi

In what had to be one of the most memorable moments of the evening, Tanahashi & Taguchi assumed the role of “The Boys” for this six-man tag. Now Taguchi dressing up in some weird outfit is far from an unusual sight in New Japan, but seeing Tanahashi wear the costume of The Boys was certainly a sight to behold. As far as the match itself goes, this was easily the worst match of the night. It wasn’t necessarily bad, but it felt (for the most bare) very average and bad-bones. I’m sure a lot of people were curious to see what Punisher Martinez would do, but honestly, he didn’t do much here. He started the match with Dalton Castle, interacted with him for a little bit before getting tagged out by Naito, tagged in late, and eventually got the win over Castle with his chokeslam variation. It sucks that Dalton Castle had to be fed to Martinez here, but I guess there weren’t any other options, since Taguchi has a title shot against Hiromu Takahashi coming up, and Tanahashi is most certainly not taking the fall. Another question surrounding Martinez was whether this match would lead to a more permanent alignment with LIJ. Fortunately, this didn’t happen, as after Martinez refused to do the LIJ salute for the second time following the match, Naito & Hiromu just flipped him off and left. **1/2

Katsuyori Shibata & Jay Lethal def. The Bullet Club (Cody & “The Hangman” Adam Page)

This was the first time we’ve seen “The American Nightmare” in New Japan since he defeated Juice Robinson in his debut back at Wrestle Kingdom 11. Interestingly, Cody has issues with both of his opponents in this tag team bout. He’s been feuding with Jay Lethal since Final Battle, and will be having a Texas Bullrope Match with him in Lakeland, Florida during WrestleMania Weekend. As for Shibata, he was one of the names on Cody’s infamous “list”. The tag team match itself was fine, with decent action throughout, but nothing spectacular. We did get some interaction between Cody & Shibata here, and a confrontation after the match obviously suggests that a singles bout between the two is coming. It’s only a question of when it will happen, not if. I would guess that they might meet in the first round of the New Japan Cup, but we’ll see. There was a really noticeable botch towards the end of this tag team match, as Shibata was way too close to the ropes when Page went to hit him with his flipping clothesline (it looked incredibly awkward), but shortly thereafter, Lethal hit Page with the Lethal Injection for the win. ***

The Bullet Club (Adam Cole & Kenny Omega) def. The Briscoes

For Kenny Omega, this was his first appearance in New Japan since the night after Wrestle Kingdom 11, and the subsequent controversy that followed regarding his future. He got a big response from the crowd in his return to Korakuen Hall, as he teamed with the ROH World Champion Adam Cole to take on ROH stalwarts The Briscoes. This was a very good tag team main event, but I wouldn’t call it great. There was some entertaining action throughout the contest, and some cool moments (like Omega hitting a moonsault off the guardrail, or countering The Doomsday Device), but the match was a little too long for my liking. I understand it was the main event of a Korakuen Hall show, but I think it could’ve been better if a few minutes were shaved off. Aside from that issue, there wasn’t much else to dislike about this one. Kenny Omega looked strong in his return, and The Briscoes almost never fail to impress in a big tag team match. Adam Cole was fine as well, but it’s….interesting to see how he’s used in New Japan. Given how many times he utters his catchphrase, it almost seems like he’s become a caricature of himself. What was also interesting was to see the apparent seeds of dissension they’ve planted between Adam Cole & Kenny Omega, both in the match itself, and in the post-match promo, where Cole interrupted Omega while he was talking about his return. It could be nothing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that something is going to happen down the line. With the rumors surrounding Adam Cole potentially departing ROH in the new few months, this could lead to Cole being kicked out of The Bullet Club, but time will tell. ***½

Final Thoughts:

This was by no means a spectacular show but Night 1 of NJPW/Ring of Honor Honor Rising was an entertaining nonetheless. War Machine vs. The Young Bucks was clearly the best match on the show (definitely worth checking out), while the main event, featuring the return of Kenny Omega, was also pretty good. The rest of the show had its moments, like Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi dressing up as The Boys, but none of the other bouts on the card are really worth seeking out.