NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
NJPW SENGOKU LORD 2020
JULY 25, 2020
AICHI PREFECTURAL GYMNASIUM
NAGOYA, AICHI (JAPAN)

Watch: NJPW World

MEET OUR REVIEWERS

Ricardo Gallegos: Already tired of the ‘EVIL sucks vs. EVIL is good’ discourse, Ricardo just wants a nice, fun night of NJPW. And more Master Wato. You can follow him @wallyrgr

Tyler Forness: Just like Ricardo, Tyler is also tired of the discourse, mainly because people are stubborn.  He’s excited to see where it goes, even though he wants to evacuate the discourse immediately. Plus, we have an El Desperado title shot! You can follow him @TheRealForno

Before the show started, it was announced that Tomoaki Honma and Yota Tsuji were off because they recently filmed TV stuff with someone infected with COVID.

TAIJI ISHIMORI DEF. YUYA UEMURA

Ricardo: To kick things off in NJPW Sengoku Lord, we got a standard young lions match that suffered from timing problems. Taiji was dull and did nothing of notice during the first five minutes. Things improved with Uemura’s drive and brief offensive period that included a bunch of pinning attempts and a boston crab. However, the young trainee looked uncomfortable, particularly when trying a springboard attack. Ishimori eventually recovered and, with some problems, applied the Yes! Lock for the win. **

Tyler: One of the worries I had for this match was something Joe Lanza mentioned on the Flagship this week: will Taiji Ishimori mail it in or will he try during this match? The first few minutes were some decent chain wrestling but it wasn’t exciting. As Ricardo mentioned, Yuya felt a little uncomfortable but as always did a good job selling and keeping the match interesting. **1/4

TOMOHIRO ISHII, YANO TORU & GABRIEL KIDD DEF. TOGI MAKABE, RYUSUKE TAGUCHI & SATOSHI KOJIMA

Ricardo: Gabriel Kidd was the highlight of a match with lazy comedy and a disappointing low number of interventions from Ishii. The young lion slapped Makabe, got a couple of close nearfalls and even locked a boston crab: he looked fiery and hungry. I loved it. However, he was eventually pinned with a german suplex. ***

Tyler: One of the things I was looking forward to on this show was a little Young Lion fire with Kidd vs Makabe. In the post match interviews from Monday’s Korakuen, Kidd said he wanted a piece of Makabe and he came out and got in his face right away. After that, it was as Ricardo said, a lot of comedy. I love Toru Yano but it didn’t land with me like it usually does. I love that the match basically started with Kidd and Makabe and finished with the same. Hell, Makabe even bumped for Kidd which says a lot. He is slowly becoming my favorite Young Lion. ***

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TETSUYA NAITO, BUSHI & SANADA DEF. HIROOKI GOTO, YOSHI-HASHI & SHO

Ricardo: Not much to say about this one. At first I was annoyed at Naito for his lack of anger. I mean… he got betrayed, lost the double championship and is wrestling in the third match. However, he showed that anger after the match, when he let off some steam by attacking the referee. And the match itself was just fine. SHO looked very good, and showed chemistry with SANADA. Unfortunately he had to submit to the weak-ass Skull-End. ***

Tyler: Over the course of the last year, SHO has become my favorite wrestler in New Japan. His in-ring acumen and unbridled charisma are fantastic. The unfortunate injury of YOH has really given SHO the opportunity to take off as a singles star and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him in singles gold by the time January 4th comes around. Outside of that, it was slightly above your basic NJPW 6 mag tag. Had some good interactions with Goto and Naito, but I don’t understand why SHO would take the fall. It feels like you’re building him up and he submits to SANADA. I understand the Jr and Hwt dynamic but still. YOSHI-HASHI was there to help protect SHO. It’s a minor gripe that likely means nothing, but still. As Ricardo mentioned, LIJ attacked the ref after the match. Over the course of the night/Summer Struggle tour, it will be interesting to see how this story continues. ***

Big announcement time! NJPW will have an open air show at Jingu Stadium (baseball stadium located in Tokyo) on August 29. This will be the second New Japan show in this venue, and the first since 1999. The event will be called “Summer Struggle in Jingu”

HIROSHI TANAHASHI, KOTA IBUSHI, HIROYOSHI TENZAN, YUJI NAGATA & MASTER WATO DEF. MINORU SUZUKI, DOUKI, TAICHI, YOSHINOBU KANEMARU & ZACK SABRE JR.

Ricardo: Nagata and Suzuki went at it hard! They brawled, slapped and suplexed each other during and after the match. It was glorious. Kanemaru kept heating the rivalry with Wato; Zack and Ibushi had a brief, but superb exchange; even without chants, it was a joy to watch Tanahashi commanding the crowd; and DOUKI got very close to pinning Ibushi… but at the end, a Kami-Goye destroyed DOUKI. This was a lot of fun. ***½

Tyler: Everytime I watch Tanahashi make his entrance, his gear looks like he took the Best Of Super Junior trophy and made it into a Road Warriors cosplay and I can’t get past that. It rules so much. Onto the match which kicked off with Yugi Nagata and Minoru Suzuki beating the piss out of each other. This has far and away been my favorite thing in New Japan this summer. Just two old guys who want to beat each other up because “I’m Better than you.” I love a detailed and nuanced story, but the simple stuff rules. At the end of the exchange, I laughed hard at Master Wato getting in front of Nagata saying I got this. This was a really fun multi man tag with some good exchanges between Golden Aces and Dangerous Tekkers. After the match, you can audibly hear Tanahashi say to DT that “we challenge you” so hopefully we see these two teams headline a Summer Struggle show or go at it again at the newly announced Jingu Stadium show on August 29th. ***1/4

KAZUCHIKA OKADA DEF. YUJIRO TAKAHASHI

Ricardo: A nice little match that no one will remember in a week. Yujiro worked hard and tried stifling Okada with a bunch of kicks and holds. He even used a cane to hit Okada (thanks to Gedo’s distraction), but to be honest, the Rainmaker never looked in trouble. He absorbed some punishment, and after a couple of attempts, he managed to lock in the Cobra for the submission win. I don’t know what else to say. COVID era Okada hasn’t been good at all. ***

Tyler: This match was exactly what Yujiro telegraphed it would be: he can’t get to Okada’s level so he will drag him down to his. As Ricardo mentioned, Yujiro worked really hard but he just isn’t in the same stratosphere as Okada. Gedo makes an appearance as expected but doesn’t make an impact in the match whatsoever. Okada continues to establish the Cobra Clutch as a finisher which will be awesome in his next big main event because there will be genuine concern he will win with it. Also, in case you forgot, Okada has the sexiest drop kick in pro wrestling. ***

NEVER OPENWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
SHINGO TAKAGI (C) DEF. EL DESPERADO

Ricardo: It gave me tremendous joy to see Despy in this big title match. He looked awesome and was absolutely vicious in his efforts to hurt Shingo’s leg: he used the guardrail, a chair, and the nasty-looking Número Dos hold. The match moved at a good pace, and Despy felt like a legit threat. 

Shingo’s selling was superb: even when he was on top, he made sure to show signs of injury. His fire was rewarded with an increasingly excited crowd. We got an awesome strong style exchange, but soon after, Shingo hit a Pumping Bomber and Last of the Dragon for the win. Even though I felt the bout ended too soon and lacked some drama in the third act, the finale kind of made sense because Shingo was looking increasingly desperate and eager to stop Despy from hurting his leg… so he just decided to quickly rip his head off. Once again, Despy showed he can hang out with the big boys, so my humble advice to Gedo is this: put all the belts on him. ****

Tyler: THE SWAGGER BY DESPY WEARING THE NEVER TITLE LIKE A CHAIN. Push him to the moon Gedo. Shingo comes down after with a vengeance wanting to murder Despy. It starts out feeling closer to a blood feud but evolves into a technical match focused on Shingo’s knee. This is not something I was expecting and it kind of took me out of the match. The build had me thinking this was going to be a slugfest and I felt kind of let down by what was delivered. Don’t misunderstand, the match has been really good, but it’s not what I was hoping for. About half way through the match, El Desperado grabs the belt and murders Shingo with it and the match really picked up from here. I love Despy’s Numero Dos as it gives me vibes of Brock Lesnar’s Brock Lock circa 2003. Once Shingo breaks the hold, he gets physical and nasty beating the piss out of Despy. He takes his head off with a pumping bomber and hits the Last Of The Dragon for the pin. A match that almost lost me lured me back in with a great closing stretch. Shingo’s NEVER title run has been awesome. It feels like a real openweight division and he has elevated SHO and Despy to a new level. While the COVID era has really halted the push of some wrestlers, it has been great building up other wrestlers, making the company stronger for the future. ***3/4



IWGP HEAVYWEIGHT & INTERCONTINENTAL CHAMPIONSHIP
EVIL © DEF. HIROMU TAKAHASHI

Ricardo: First things first: suit Dick Togo looks very cool. Proper boss vibes here.

As for the match, this was all about Hiromu Takahashi. He came all guns blazing during the first few minutes, he bumped his ass off and got the crowd heavily invested. This was never about EVIL, this was solely set-up to keep pushing Hiromu as a major star and the future ace of the company. 

EVIL is nothing more than a temporary champion, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. He worked a good match with Hiromu, and even created some drama with all the heel shenanigans. Due to the lack of booing, the dynamic was definitely weird but I really think the interferences made Hiromu even more empathetic. When he stopped Togo the first time, the crowd erupted in claps. You could feel the energy building and their desire to see a new champion. And soon enough, Hiromu hit Everything is EVIL, the DVD and the Time Bomb. The crowd loudly gasped. There was so much electricity right there! Hiromu hit the Time Bomb 2, but just before the three count, Togo pulled Red Shoes. Oh man, the disappointment in the crowd. 

There was more interference, but no LIJ comrade came out to help. They were probably busy watching Suwama vs. Ishikawa or something. EVIL hit the low blow, Darkness Falls and Everything is Evil for the win. Ishimori came out to attack Hiromu, and FINALLY Naito came out to stop him, and then challenge EVIL. Thank the wrestlings gods it wasn’t Okada challenging.

To be honest I was kind of annoyed that a heavyweight needed so much help to defeat a junior, but again… this was all about establishing Hiromu. And despite some bumps on the road, the annoying pace, and the dumb lack of help from LIJ stablemates, I think the match achieved its goal. Now, it’s just a matter of time: soon, Hiromu will be in the top of the industry. ***¾

Tyler: One of the best parts of the build is that Hiromu was never promoted as the Jr Heavyweight Champion in any of the posters or video packages. He was presented as a credible threat and not a junior which I believe is important.

If you hate the fact that EVIL is the champion, I suggest you evacuate my portion of the review because I am a big fan. Since his turn, he feels like a bonafide star. The eyeliner is gone, the charisma and attitude have increased tenfold and his in-ring mannerisms have gotten a lot better with his character shift. My only real concern with him as champion is if he could deliver a great match bell to bell. If he does that tonight, I will be all-in on EVIL as the champion.

I have to say, Dick Togo looks like a badass in his suit. He looks like a mob boss and feels like a real ass kicker. This match started off with a bang as Hiromu nailed EVIL with an awesome shotgun drop kick. Once he threw EVIL outside of the ring, he hit two more and sent him into the railing. Once they got back into the ring, we get our first Togo interference spot, which feels more natural and believable than Gedo, as Togo comes across as someone who will kick your ass whereas Gedo is just an annoying pest.

The middle portion of the match moved at a very methodical pace. It doesn’t feel slow per say but definitely could benefit from moving a little faster. I was really hoping that EVIL would get rid of the spot where he uses the ref for the magic killer and the double chair home run swing but they are still there for now. Hiromu did counter the magic killer into a super kick so maybe it starts getting phased out.

After knocking Hiromu to the ground, EVIL gives him the cut throat slit and starts throwing Hiromu around like a rag doll with a bunch of germans, including one where it looked like Hiromu died landing right on his neck. Throughout the whole sequence, EVIL did a great job of emoting and looked like a sadistic killer. After trying Everything Is EVIL, Hiromu dropped down appearing exhausted then drove EVIL into the exposed turnbuckle shifting momentum. He then used two flatliner style moves, one with a wheelbarrow start and the other was more of a flapjack and they both looked great.

Having a long history together is showing more and more as the match goes on, as Hiromu is ready for all of EVIL’s shenanigans, countering the low blows but he eventually gets lured into knocking out Red Shoes and we get our first elongated interference spot. Togo comes in and takes Hiromu’s head off and they hit a magic killer. Togo goes up to the top rope and EVIL gets pushed into the ropes, dropping Togo right on his balls. Hiromu gets up and hits Everything is EVIL on his opponent and we hear the 25 minute call. He can’t get the pin as Red Shoes rolls back into the ring about 30 second too late. Hiromu hits the DVD into the corner and follows with the Time Bomb. EVIL kicks out then he hit Time Bomb 2!!! He gets the visual pin but Togo pulled Red Shoes out of the ring and Togo grabbed his steel cable and starts choking Hiromu after EVIL hits him in the nuts. My biggest gripe here: where is LIJ? They know EVIL is going to be an underhanded cheater so why aren’t they there for Hiromu? This is a common theme for LIJ and it’s annoying.

Anyway, EVIL hits darkness falls, and Everything Is EVIL for the pin. This was a really good match that could have done without the interference, but more than anything, built Hiromu up to a new level, as he got a visual pin on the double champion. Fans are going to salivate for Hiromu to get to the top and become the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, making his eventual crowning that much better. After Ishimori attacks Hiromu, seemingly challenging him for the junior title, Naito finally comes out to help Hiromu. He then steps up to EVIL and seemingly challenges for the double title, leaves the ring and helps Hiromu to the back. 

I’m going ****1/4 on this match, but dammit LIJ needs to figure their shit out and help their comrades. They look like absolute geeks who are stupid every time they don’t go down to help their stablemates. It feels so bush league and this isn’t the first, second or twentieth time this has happened. On the other hand, EVIL was so good in this match. His facial expressions, charisma and heel work were all excellent in this match. I hope he continues to grow in this new character and add some new offense but I’m fully sold on him as the double champion. His shenanigans feel more natural than those of Jay White and they feel more dastardly as well. Pivoting back to Naito feels a tad too soon, but we will see how things evolve during the Summer Struggle tour that starts tomorrow.