MAY 15, 2018

Watch: NJPW World


Lots of mat-based grappling early on here, with Uemura’s fiery technical superiority matched by Tsuji’s bullying power and size advantage. Their work isn’t as quick, crisp or polished as their other dojo counterparts, but there’s more than enough talent to be excited about. Uemura’s submission game is strong, and he worked a nice range of manoeuvres to build the story around targeting Tsuji’s left knee to keep the match interesting. Tsuji, for his part, did a good job selling his knee in the second half of the match. He’s also quite noisy, with a nice array of screams and grunts. The pair managed to get the crowd invested in what turned out to be a very respectable 10-minute match with an exciting closing stretch. The time limit expires with Uemura refusing to tap to a Tsuji Boston Crab, with Tsuji refusing to relinquish the hold after the bell and continuing to attack Uemura, leading to a brief but bad-tempered post-match brawl. I like the way they’re continuing to differentiate their personalities, as it only takes a single hook for fans to get attached to a Young Lion if the in-ring quality is there. ***


This looks a bit like one of the Mirror Matches from the original Mortal Kombat, or like Oka is fighting himself from the future. Oka is improving at getting the crowd behind him, which is something he seemed to have been lacking last year. I can’t actually remember hearing fans chanting his name like they are tonight.

The match starts off fun, with the two charging into each other like a pair of bulls, but grinds to a halt as they brawl outside the ring and Nakanishi takes control. Oka sells his left shoulder well, and the crowd are fully invested in the comeback, despite the inevitability of his defeat. Nakanishi eventually wins with the Argentine backbreaker rack submission, but Oka managed to look good in a decent match considering Nakanishi’s physical limitations. Still, he must be casting envious glances higher up the card and wishing he were getting to wrestle Daisuke Sekimoto. **¾


I’ve got a bet with my Super J-Cast co-host Damon McDonald as to how many bumps Saito will take in this match. I, rather optimistically, picked two or more. Plenty of Taguchi silliness here, including Mongolian hip attacks. Ren Narita was doing the lion’s share (excuse the pun) of the work here, bumping and selling for his ponderous, plodding opponents. If you’re expecting high workrate and fast action, you’re not going to find it here, as this match failed to be anything more than the sum of its parts. Saito did indeed take two bumps (according to my count), so I’ll celebrate my impending can of Strong Zero from Damon by giving this match two stars, one for each Saito bump. **


The fact that these two have been matched up speaks volumes about the high regard that management have for “Showtime” Umino, a nailed-on future Ace at this rate. As expected, this match was great.

Umino bumped like a lunatic, and Sekimoto came across like the brick shithouse asskicker that he is but still made Shota look good by letting him get in enough offense and a couple of near-falls to make you wonder, just for a second, whether he’d pull off the upset win. Seeing Umino fire back with brief flurries of offense only to see them stopped dead in their tracks by the brutality and power of Sekimoto made for great drama.

The crowd were red hot for this match, with some even singing along to Sekimoto’s music. The match ends with Sekimoto practically decapitating poor Shota with a monstrous lariat. Sekimoto wants to shake hands afterwards, but Shota is having none of it. The template is here now – I’m ready to see Umino get a kicking from the Gotos, Ishiis and Elgins of the New Japan roster. Also, what are the chances of Sekimoto getting a G1 spot this year? ****


Yoshida is a 25-year-old from Kaientai Dojo, a tall, good-looking lad who showed ferocity and confidence in this match. He’s got swagger and technique, sold his injured left arm very well, and I suspect we’ll be hearing his name again on a bigger stage in the future. The crowd understandably seemed on a bit of a comedown after the previous match, and took a while to get invested here. It lacked the chemistry and the drama of the previous bout, but was a good match nonetheless. Nagata continues to amaze me with both his athleticism and the amount of punishment he’s willing to take from these young lads. It was very sad to see him retire from future G1 action, but these wars he wages with the young lads are almost as compelling, and arguably a better use for Blue Justice than jobbing for the rest of his block. Nagata wins with the backdrop driver hold, but Yoshida did more than enough to impress. ***½


A short, easy watch that was a great showcase for the Young Lions and gave the older boys something more meaningful to do rather than go through the motions on a Road To show. The dynamics between teacher and student are always interesting to me, and it’s fun to see the small incremental progression of the young talent. The Sekimoto v Umino match is highly recommended, and the opener is worth a watch too if you’re interested in seeing the development of the two newest dojo recruits.