MARCH 20, 2019

Watch: NJPW World


It’s not even the end of March, but I think when we look back on 2019, booking YOSHI-YASHI to go all the way to the quarter-finals of the New Japan Cup will rank as one of Gedo’s bigger booking mistakes. I mean, after watching this match I thought about what an awesome job this could have been if Chase Owens was in this match.

Over half of this match is holds and seemingly never-ending strike exchanges. Ishii can get away with that sort of thing. But YOSHI-HASHI trying to pretend he’s in Kenta Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki at the Tokyo Dome is never going to work. Also, we were treated to a couple of long Butterfly Lock spots before the match starting approaching anything resembling good.

Then there’s YOSHI-YASHI’s effort. There’s not much to it. He’s had G1 matches as recently as last year where he showed fire and could play the underdog effectively. That wasn’t on display here and hasn’t been since his return from injury in January.

But was this a truly awful match? Of course not. That’s impossible when Ishii is in the ring. The match finally does pick up when Ishii starts busting out the Backdrops and Powerbombs. YOSHI-HASHI gets some hope spots from Lariats, a Fisherman’s Buster and roll-ups that are decent and Ishii sells them like threats. But the problem is again not the moves, but how he carries himself. It’s more like him accidentally managing to hit Ishii with a Lariat after being pummeled than summoning his Fighting Spirit in order to do so.

Oh and this match going 20:25 didn’t help either. Five minutes cut off and I’d be more generous because we would’ve had less plodding stuff from YOSH-YASHI. Truly, this match is a tribute to Ishii’s incredible skills. This match was the most Gentlemen’s *** that ever Gentlemen’s ***-ed.


This match is kind of the opposite to the first tournament match on this show as in a fucking loved it right out of the gate but felt the ending was a little flat, at least by the standards of a Kazuchika Okada singles match.

They both started out doing some great matwork and then wound up on the outside and then back in the ring trading bigger moves. I thought the pacing and the build of this match was excellent. It went 20:11 and the time flew by, to the point where you wanted more after the end of this match.

Ospreay managed to hang with Okada offensively right up until the end of this match. Another cool part of the match is that while Ospreay’s first attempt at a high flying move (a leap of the barrier while both wrestlers were outside) was countered by Okada, as the match went on he continued to land bigger flying stuff culminating with two Shooting Star Presses near the climax of the match.

Oh, and Ospreay kept the weird noises while selling to a minimum in this one.

Now the negatives.

I didn’t like the placement of Ospreay gaining wrist control, hitting a couple of Short-Arm Lariats before trying a Rainmaker only to have Okada reverse that. It felt more contrived than a lot of the other wrestler uses his opponent’s own move spot you see in a lot of big NJPW matches. While it came later on in the match, it wasn’t some sort of desperate attempt at survival, as Ospreay ended up going back on offense soon after with some kicks.

And here was my issue with the end. I didn’t think it was quite as hot and furious as other Okada singles matches. After Okada kicks out of two Shooting Star Presses, we get Okada going for his dropkick and Tombstone to set up the Rainmaker. Now Ospreay does manage to reverse a Rainmaker into a Stormbreaker that Okada then reverses. But then we get Okada then doing a pretty standard build into another Rainmaker for the win.

Now you could argue that a not so furious ending shows that Okada still has an edge over Ospreay. But I think given how he went toe-to-toe offensively with Okada the whole match including getting a number of near falls, and the push that New Japan seems to be giving him, this match deserved a finish where Okada barely managed to eke out a victory.

I think now is the time to keep these two far away from each other as opponents until it’s time for Ospreay to get his first win over Okada. He’s got plenty of opponents to take on to help him build to that point now. Some time apart to build the story of Will’s ascension to the top of the card and giving them more than 20 minutes to have a match, will help these guys will have a Match of the Year one day. ****1/4


My nitpicking aside, Ospreay vs. Okada is in the top ten of matches for the 2019 New Japan Cup tournament so far and is a must watch.

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