JUNE 11, 2017

Watch: NJPW World

 David Finlay, Tomoyuki Oka, & Shota Umino def. Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura, & Tetsuhiro Yagi

Kawato is starting to stand out amongst the younger lions. His dropkick is becoming an undercard highlight. Oka seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the match. Umino started out strong, but also didn’t make much of an impression. Kitamura, however, has a special charisma that creates a buzz – even in a bigger building like Osaka-jo Hall. Finlay was good and made his younger counterparts look strong. Finlay got the win with Prima Nocta. **

Togi Makabe, Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask W, & Tiger Mask def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi, & Jushin Thunder Liger

Even though he hasn’t been around for a while, Tiger Mask W got a great reaction when his music hit. W was especially interesting and defiant here – his exchanges with Kojima were a highlight. Side note: Tenzan’s legs/feet are in bad shape, it looks like walking is a challenge for him. A fun, light-hearted start to the show. Makabe got the win over Nakanishi. **

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Titles: Los Ingobernables de Japon (c) def. Taguchi Japan, Suzuki-gun, & CHAOS

It looks like New Japan did some special entrance videos for this show – a nice touch. It’s too bad that YOSHI-HASHI has lost virtually all the momentum he gained from last year’s G1. I’m still looking forward to seeing how he fairs this year. (Note: this was addressed later in the show.) Yano rolled up Yujiro for the quick win to bring out the Suzuki-gun team, Zack Japan. Yano tried to get another quick win for CHAOS, but Zack pretty much immediately pinned him to bring out Taguchi Japan.

Juice hit Pulp Friction on Taichi to bring out the champions, but Zack locked Juice in a manjigatame while LIJ made their entrance. Ricochet has one of the best hot tags in the company, which really got the crowd into the match for the first time. They spent most of the BOSJ undercards setting up this match. However, the format ultimately undermined the rivalry between LIJ and Taguchi Japan. Bushi hit the MX on Taguchi to retain the titles for LIJ. **3/4

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: The Young Bucks def. Roppongi Vice (c)

They started off at a fast pace and eventually settled in with the Young Bucks isolating Baretta after taking out Rocky. They did a great job of building up tag attempts and cutting them off. Rocky spent a lot of the match laid out from a ringside attack. Rocky finally appeared to hit a Strong Zero, but Nick broke up the pin with a Swanton Bomb. Romero did a great job of selling the attack on his back. Nick hit a slingshot facebuster on Rocky while he was trapped in a sharpshooter. An Indytaker and another sharpshooter got the win and the titles for the Young Bucks. This was very creative and I enjoyed it. ***1/2

IWGP Tag Team Titles: Guerrillas of Destiny def. War Machine (c)

There were some great exchanges between Rowe and Roa – these teams have good chemistry. Hanson flew around the ring, prompting commentary to emphasize the junior-esque style on display. For example, Liger asked for confirmation of Hanson’s weight.

There was a great Gun Stun reversal by Tama that led to a ref bump. Rowe had the chance to use a chair, but ending up eating one that lead to Guerilla Warfare and a title change. I would expect a rematch in Long Beach. ***

Cody def. Michael Elgin

Commentary tells me that “former top WWE wrestler” Cody has returned to the New Japan ring. It feels like it’s been too long since the “Canadian Grizzly” has been on the cerulean blue mat. I’m not sure what Cody was going for with the over-the-top theatrics. I didn’t really notice this in his previous matches. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call that Elgin needs to be on more shows. The fans love him and he always puts in a good performance – especially when given the opportunity in singles matches. Cody was solid here, but his style feels out of place in New Japan. They worked hard and got a pretty good reaction, but this felt more like an exhibition than a fight. **3/4

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: KUSHIDA def. Hiromu Takahashi (c)

KUSHIDA came out with a new costume, while Hiromu had his big match “Glastonbury balls.” The junior title match opened with a big chant for the champion and a blistering start. In contrast to the previous match, this felt like a fight from the opening bell.  Another huge “Hiromu” chant drowned out some minor support for the challenger. KUSHIDA got a few gasps of air until he finally countered Hiromu’s sunset flip powerbomb with an armbar on the apron.

Hiromu dropped KUSHIDA with an Emerald Frosion-style Time Bomb that commentary called a “Dynamite Plunge.” KUSHIDA hit a crazy avalanche-style Hoverboard Lock and went for Back to the Future but was thwarted. An explosive sunset flip powerbomb sent Kushida bouncing to the floor.

This was all about KUSHIDA being able to beat Hiromu at his own game. The crowd rejected KUSHIDA’s aggressive attack, but the bloodied challenger won with the Hoverboard Lock. This was an excellent match between two of the best wrestlers in the world. Hiromu wasn’t hurt at all in defeat. ****1/4

Post-match, BUSHI misted KUSHIDA to a huge reaction; cutting short the new champ’s celebration.

NEVER Openweight Title: Minoru Suzuki (c)  def. Hirooki Goto

It was refreshing to have some opposition support at ringside to minimize Suzuki-gun’s interference. I wish the babyface units would show more cohesiveness on a regular basis. Minoru was great in this. His submissions looked terribly painful and his facial expressions were scary. Moreover, Minoru’s interaction with Liger really turned up the heat on the match.

I always forget, but Minoru throws the hardest elbows around. A ref bump set up YOSHI-HASHI to singlehandedly clear the ring and hit a great tope con giro. Taichi drilled Goto twice with a chair and Minoru hit a Gotch-style piledriver to for the win. This was very good. ***1/2

YOSHI-HASHI cleared the ring again and looks like Minoru’s next challenger.

IWGP Intercontinental Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Tetsuya Naito (c)

Tanahashi attacked Naito mid-entrance to a good reaction. The crowd was firmly behind Tana’s assault and they booed Naito at every opportunity. We haven’t seen Naito booed like this recently, so it added a lot to the match. Tanahashi started selling the arm before Naito got a move in. As expected, Naito targeted the arm right away. Naito (and Tanahashi, for that matter) is known for his leg-based offense, but he did a great job of adapting to fit the backstory of this match. For his part, Tanahashi focused on Naito’s leg.

It didn’t take Naito long to spit on Tana, but it got a great reaction. Tanahashi tried to attack Naito’s leg, but his arm prevented him from gaining control. Tanahashi did an amazing job of conveying his struggle and desperation. Eventually a dragon screw on the apron set up a huge High Fly Flow to the floor.

Naito’s relentless attack on the arm was great and his facial expressions exuded confidence as Tanahashi writhed in pain. Commentary teased a doctor stop since Tana missed the whole BOSJ tour due to injury. A rolling Twist and Shout opened the door for a High Fly Flow, but Naito moved as Tana’s elbow crashed into the canvas. An ugly swinging DDT dropped Tanahashi on his head and set up a swinging Destino.

Naito tried to go for Destino again, but was spiked with a dragon suplex and two sling blades. Tana did Shinsuke’s pose before crashing down with a High Fly Flow; a tribute to the man that elevated the Intercontinental title.

Shockingly Tanahashi got the submission victory with Texas Cloverleaf. Even with a ridiculous head start, Naito couldn’t get Tana to give up first. Don’t worry about him though, the loss frees up Naito to be a favorite to win the G1. One of my favorite matches of the year. ****3/4

IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika Okada (c) and Kenny Omega went to a time-limit draw

This is the rematch to one of the most talked-about matches in recent memory.

In contrast to the rest of the big matches tonight, the crowd seemed fairly split to start the match. The early stages of the match felt very similar to their Dome encounter. This all changed when Okada went for a tope con giro, but landed on his leg badly. Kenny used the opening to focus his attack. Kenny attacked Okada’s knee from every angle, while Okada’s selling was excellent. Unfortunately, they more-or-less abandoned the story of Okada’s leg after a few sequences.

There were quite a few callbacks to their Dome match. Kenny hit the same brutal missile dropkick. He went for the avalanche-style dragon suplex, but Okada wiggled out and dropped Kenny on the apron with Heavy Rain. Okada tried to back body drop Kenny through another table, but couldn’t. Okada went for a diving elbow drop through a table on the floor, but the table didn’t quite break.

Cody came down to throw in the towel, playing up his desire to take the belt off Okada himself. Kenny spiked Okada with the One-Winged Angel, but Okada got his foot on the rope to a HUGE reaction. Kenny falling to his knees to dodge a Rainmaker was a great touch to emphasize exhaustion. Okada hit a final Rainmaker at the 30-second remaining mark, but the time expired with both men on the mat.

They did an amazing job of recreating the atmosphere from Wrestle Kingdom without rehashing the match. A creative follow-up and another excellent chapter in their rivalry. If you loved that match, you will also love this match. ****1/2

Final Thoughts

Overall, this show is an easy recommendation and a legit show of the year contender. I personally preferred the attention to detail of the Intercontinental match, but I also loved the epic main event.  Although there were many rematches on the card, each match took a creative spin on its history.