DECEMBER 22, 2020

Watch: NJPW World

This is the second of the three end-of-the-year Road to Tokyo Dome Korakuen’s, and it is very much the middle child of this mini-tour. The other two shows have more robust hooks: Night 1 had the novelty EVIL-Jay White teaming, and Night has the KOPW Provision Title match, which is a novelty in a completely different way. Night 2 has nothing of the sort; we see the final pairings of some Wrestle Kingdom matches and the first interactions of ones that didn’t make it to the December 21 show.

And so, this was your last chance to get a look at anything related to tag teams. The Junior Tag Title Match competitors faced off one last time, though the match itself was not confirmed until after the show. The Heavyweight Tag Team Championship program also saw its last in-ring action tonight. This show also presented the first, and only, interaction between Jeff Cobb and Shingo Takagi, as the NEVER Openweight Championship rivals, as both return to their units for the December 23 show.

The result: a quintessentially innocuous Road To show. Just enough of a taste to coat your palette with a thin viscous layer of COVID-era crunched booking, no more and no less. As a disclaimer, this particular configuration of wrestlers led me to taking notes on the Olympic Channel, also known as the No Fencing Ever Godammit Channel, which was playing in the background as I watched this show.


This match was reminiscent of the Fale and Owen’s World Tag League run, except without any stakes, with less motivation, and Honma. The perfectly honed recipe for ennui. Much of the match was spent working over Honma, who moves in staccato more and more, and contained a thorough amount of KOPW enticement: bodyslam attempts, corner pad shenanigans, and trophy assault.

At one point, Fale tried to Irish whip Yano across the ring into the exposed corner bucklings. Yano reversed the whip and sent Fale into the corner. The camera was at an angle behind the corner, so at the point of impact we were directly in line adjacent to the buckle. The perfect perspective to see Fale grab the top rope and stop himself just short of going into the buckle. At least, that’s what any reasonable person would assume, but then Fale grabs his chest and sells the exposed corner spot. To his credit, he got closer than Marty Asami usually does when Asami fucks up a ref bump, but bloody hell.

Chase then had a perfectly acceptable sequence with Hon…

Actually, no. I’m not done with that corner buckle spot. So, to reiterate, Fale came into the corner, at his usual glacial speed. He placed both hands on either side of the buckle, then slowly brought his chest in, coming up to the buckle but roughly an inch away. His shirt most definitely made contact; on this there can be no debate. But there is no goddamn way you could view that as anything but him slowing down his momentum and avoiding the peril. He then sold the non-contact, and on second viewing it looks like he grabbed the ropes for stability so that he could sensibly bring his pecs up to the top buckle, with the velveteen touch of a dandy fop. Ultimately, it is the camera angle that fucked over Fale here.

This whole enterprise was saved by the delicious ludicrousness of the post-match, delivered with complete sincerity, when Fale and Owens attempted to eradicate Yano’s shoddily repaired KOPW Provisional trophy. As Fale lifted his foot with dramatic exaggeration, Yano dove in and shielded his trophy like he was covering a grenade in some old vainglorious film of military patriotism. Later, Yano bellowed in his typically cacophonous style about fatherhood and protecting children. These children don’t actually exist to be protected, and so several ears in Orlando must have perked up. **1/4


Just a reminder, as we close the book on Minoru Suzuki’s 2020:

  • The Moxley match
  • The match with Baliyan Akki at Gatoh Move
  • The first Nagata Match
  • The second Nagata match
  • The Shingo match at Jingu
  • The G1 match against Ishii
  • The G1 match with Taichi
  • The G1 match with Ibushi
  • The Shingo match at Power Struggle

This man has nothing to do at Wrestle Kingdom. For the second year in a row.

Anyway, this match is the same as the one the night before on December 21. Despy came out and I counted two Despy towels and a bear on the tight shot during the entrance, but you know damn well that I scoured those wide shots and found at least one person in a Despy mask. The absolutely cavalier dismissiveness of Kanemaru is worth checking out on its own. Just no regard for any person there. He forgot about the match and the card before he left the building.

There are little consequential differences. Taguchi pinned Kanemaru this time, and it was as equally awkward as Wato’s clunky jack-knife spinny pin thingy. Actually, Kanemaru and Taguchi looked a bit out of sorts with each other in the closing stretch. Kanemaru whipped Taguchi into the ropes, but Taguchi went for a hip attack, and Kanemaru went for a languid dropkick, though it might have looked languid because he got confused halfway through, as things went against his expectations. Taguchi eventually lifted him up and was supposed to drop Kanemaru into a sitting position onto his feet, but Kanemaru just landed on his feet. He then had to sort of sit down so his buttocks made contact with Taguchi’s boots. An oddly disoriented sequence, considering these two.

Certainly, if something like this occurs in a Wato match you assume he is involved, almost always as the culprit. Unfortunately, this match was pretty routine, so I found myself drifting to the skiing competition on the Olympic Channel. I couldn’t help but make connections. Downhill skiing legends are really baffling to me. When races are decided by hundredths of a second and on some runs it seems like half the fields wipes the fuck out on a sharp bend, how does a Mikaela Shiffrin, or anyone, deliver year-to-year consistency? The level of control and coordination is beyond belief. If a skier misjudges the timing on a turn, skids just a fraction of a second too much, they go from 2nd place to, like, 7th. Then you get into proper body angles, leans, speed delegation… all of this complicated biometric physics that dance hazardously upon a razor-thin line. The point is: Master Wato would eat it every single run if he was a skier. He would absolutely blow through the first few time checks as blistering speed and then, inevitably, he was make some minor, totally unavoidable error. But, being Wato, that one minor error, is the worst possible minor error to make in that exact moment. He’d either be in the forest or in the fans. Someone is getting helicoptered out of there in a brace.

And I’m a fan of Wato, by the way. ***


This is the final time these two teams will square up in the ring before Wrestle Kingdom, but it wouldn’t be the last time they squared up in general. At the Wrestle Kingdom Press Conference held on December 23, Dangerous Tekkers never made it to the table because G.O.D. blocked their entry continuously until Taichi finally gave up. Zack delivered a few scathing witticisms but, generally, he’s been relatively taciturn. Months ago, I figured that his deference to Taichi in backstage comments during the Golden Ace feud was because he was the odd-man-out as an English speaker. Now Taichi is the odd-man-out but still drives the comments. I’m not sure what to make of it. As Zack exhibited during the G1, when he is alone he is as mordant and incisive as ever.

This did not differ much from the December 21 match, apart from Chase Owens being substituted for with Yujiro Yakahashi. Yujiro works very well in the G1 Climax, as a league format provides just the right conflation of moderately substantive stakes and controlled unpredictability to give him something of a puncher’s chance of winning at least one match. But Yujiro is so somnambulistic outside of league play that it is hard to justify putting him in one unless, you know, the entire world is engulfed in a miserable cataclysm.

At this point, I noticed that the Olympic Channel airs a lot of Copper Fit commercials, and at this point I think I know all of them by heart. There’s the one for the knee compression sleeve, and it really makes me wonder how much time they have to put into these things. So you’ve got the dudes playing football in the park, and you have the septuagenarian hiking some Grand Canyon-esque bollocks, and you’ve got Good Brother Bud Galloway and his moving company… how much are the going to make back with all these locations? Ol’ Bud seems like a real hustler BS artist as he emphasizes, in his southern cadence, that “menthol AROMA.” I don’t know if Bud Galloway actually owns a moving company and wears a Copper Fit Ice Knee Compression Menthol Penetrating Godammit under his loose khakis as he pushes hand trucks around, but Bud Galloway is a professional actor who’s been in prominent stuff for a good 15 years. So either Bud Galloway somehow finds time to run a moving company in Los Angeles in addition to being a regularly booked actor with several fairly famous friends, or Copper Fit didn’t give enough of a fuck to change Bud’s name for the commercial, completely unaware that someone was going to be bored enough by a repetitive New Japan Professional Wrestling Road To six-man tag that they’d look it up and get to the bottom of it.

Anyway, DOUKI was awesome, being the King of Korakuen and all. Tama bumped like crazy on a tornado DDT from DOUKI. If you are a keen listener to Tama’s very likeable podcast, he expresses, like many other New Japan wrestlers have, his intense admiration for DOUKI putting in ten years in Mexico. DOUKI seems to have a lot of credibility with the other wrestlers for that.

Tonga Loa put DOUKI away, though, and the G.O.D. side of Bullet Club continued their running gimmick that they basically show up and wrestler so that they could take elaborately posed pictures after the match. After the photo session, Taichi tried to protect Zack the way Yano tried to protect the KOPW trophy. Enjoy that one, pujoshis. You’ve earned it. **3/4


Not much to this one either. Once again, it is a similar match to one held on December 21, just with Hiromu taking BUSHI’s place and Ishimori taking White’s. Tomorrow will see essentially the same match again, with Shingo substituted in for Naito.

I guess when things are conceptually based around being the professional wrestler version of the KEEP WARM button on the water cooker, all you have is to notice the little things. Like how much smaller Taiji Ishimori is than Naito, who himself is on the border of heavyweight. Or appreciating the chain Bullet Club established for a cheating abdominal stretch spot. EVIL reached out to Ishimori through the ropes, and Ishimori pulled to provide that extra torque and leverage. But then Dick Togo grabbed Ishimori’s arm from the ringside area, providing even more torque. This is The Way Things Work stuff, indeed.

With the Jay and EVIL business out of the way, this one ramped up the energy on EVIL and SANADA a bit, and once again the timekeepers table was left in utter disarray. Hiromu was a frantic photon, bouncing around and giving the match a lot of life.

The match ended with what appeared to be a typical, familiar sequence: SANADA did something and the crowd went alight. Then he put on the Skull End, to instant silence. Just like usual. But while he had EVIL in the Skull End, Naito hit the Destino on Togo and that ended things. SANADA held on to the Skull End and refused to let go despite the imploring of the ref and Young Lions. In a funny moment, Hiromu got the belt and handed it to Ishimori, who was on the outside, sitting up against a barricade in pain. When Hiromu started his preening, Ishimori waved him away as if he was saying, “Hey will you go away, I’m fucking sellin’ here.” ***1/2


It appears that Great-O-Khan wears different gear depending on whether he comes out as a tag team with Cobb or with The Empire as a full unit. He is back to the half mask and open robe today. Ospreay is on the outside, and he is absolutely that guy that wears a black dress shirt, black pants, black tie, and black blazer. If you’re reading this, you might be that guy. I’m sorry if I offended you; I’ll make sure to stop doing so when you stop offending me by wearing A BLACK SHIRT WITH A BLACK TIE AND BLACK PANTS AND A BLACK BLAZER.

It would be unfair if I did not mention that there were a number of BUSHI masks and towels shown as he made his entrance. I’m not sure why. I guess it really does pay off being in the most popular unit.

This should be a complete squash. BUSHI getting in any offense on Great-O-Khan is aggravating. The fact that he even made it to the ropes in Khan’s head-and-arm choke is offensive. Cobb comes in, and it looks like you could stuff BUSHI inside of Cobb like a Russian nesting doll (and probably Ishimori inside BUSHI? I think that’s where the chain ends).

It is at this point that I have to break down anther Copper Fit commercial. And believe me, there’s many. Copper Fit now advertises a face mask, infused with the coper fibers and the menthol, or whatever. I thought these things were supposed to be therapeutic? What does the Copper Fit technology have to add to wearing a goddamn mask? Just go to RedBubble and get one with Jackie Daytona, Human Bartender printed on it, like the rest of us.

So the best Copper Fit commercial is the one where Jerry Rice and Brett Favre strap up in their Copper Fit back compression braces with the double tightening whatevers and obliterate some middle-aged dudes in touch football. There’s a lot to think about with this one. For one, there’s actually a story here: one team apparently wins every single week, and are smug about it to the point where you can probably guess at which age their first, and possibly second, wives took off.  So the habitually losing team introduced Jerry Rice and Brett Favre, to the exaggerated shock of the previously highfalutin fuckfaces.

We are then offered a montage of Favre throwing roughly 37 touchdown passes to Rice. A couple things to note here. Number one: every single pass is behind Rice. There’s not one Tecmo Bowl Montana-to-Rice-in-stride TD here. If there was, why wouldn’t they have shown it? The only logical explanation is that Brett Favre couldn’t be fucked to air one out. It was all this rinky-dink over the middle West Coast Offense BULLPLOP. Not that he had the form to, anyway Every time they show a Favre pass, he’s throwing side-arm, he’s pushing it out, he’s throwing off his back foot. Hey, how about a five-step drop, guy?

When Favre runs it is even worse. This happens twice. Each time, he does a sweet-ass pump fake that these shlubs totally fall for, then takes off through a hole in his line. By the way, these guys are actually blocking the whole time. So Favre takes off, showing the sublime preventative maintenance provided by the Copper Fit Back Tightening Kidney Juicer, and I swear he looks like Tenzan trying to run, his hips seemingly cemented in place like one of those wooden art dolls you use for sketching.

During this, we get some tidbits from Rice and Favre. At one point, Jerry goes, “This does feel good.” He says it with the inflection of someone who wasn’t even skeptical about the product they were testing; he had absolutely zero confidence that this sex corset would provide any sort of comfort or relief. He said it like someone that had been proven wrong. I’m not sure that’s the sentiment I’d want to go with when selling something through a television infomercial.

The denouement is that Jerry and Brett, who at one point were interviewed on the set, surrounded by pickups like it was the Hillbilly Nobleman’s WCW Junkyard, walked off together, leaving behind carnage. Guys strewn like it was fucking the cornfield at Antietam, with one guy literally bandaged up and being helped off the field by his buddies.

Quick question, though: why is everyone left in a debilitated heap? Weren’t they brought in by one of the teams? What happened that we didn’t see that left both friend and foe incapacitated in the wake of these two Hall of Fame maelstroms? Logically, those two are there for only two reasons. One: the team that Rice and Favre played for, desperate to avoid the stinging taunts of their foes, shelled out the big bucks to of the greatest people to ever play their sport. Two: Rice and Favre are friends with at least one person on the team that they played for and, seeing the catastrophic distress the other team’s weekly jeering causes their friend, demanded to suit up in support. And yet, why did every single person playing end up injured? Also, why was Favre limping? It was touch football and he was the quarterback.

Cobb and Shingo had some fun sequences, O-Khan cut another incredible mic-less promo in the ring, and I’m very much looking forward to these Wrestle Kingdom matches. ***


In full disclosure, I did not expect that bit to go as long as it did, and I already know that I am reviewing the December 23 show as well, so I can save some of my thoughts on KENTA and Jay White for that show. They are incredibly supportive of one another and it is awesome. They seem legitimately happy for each other to have cool, spotless new briefcases. Likewise, SHO and Ibushi actually look like brothers and Ibushi’s wide-eyed support for his lil’ jacked protégé is heartwarming, but also something we’ll probably see tomorrow.

I also really want to analyze the Time Life Music Collection infomercials that air very late at night on the Olympic Channel. There are a bounty of them and I have all of them recorded and saved in my DVR. Olympic Channel rotates them in and out but… well, that bit did go too long. I’ll break down The Soul of the Midnight Special when another perfunctory Road To tour arises.

Jay dressed in red, which he later confirmed was to play head games with Ibushi. There is a totally different dynamic between these two than between White and Naito. Whereas Naito and White are very stubborn and refuse to give in to each other, Naito unflinching in his disinterestedness, White steadfast in his intolerable vituperations, Ibushi does engage with White. He has the earnest reaction Jay is looking for, not a furious uncontrollable rage but an exasperated hand-waving. That’s what Jay White wants. It’s actually a Monsoon-Heenan dynamic; Ibushi is the manifestation of, “Will you stop?”

Gedo took a lot of the abuse here, though Ibushi makes god damn sure to take a DDT from White just as stupidly as Naito did on December 21.

Juice is something of an afterthought for much of it, but his hot tags always pump the crowd up. He was the catalyst for a very energetic ending, with Jay pinning SHO. This was all prelude to Juice going bonkers, shoving Young Lion around and eating the corner of KENTA briefcase in the melee. He accepts Juice’s challenge in English.

Ibushi continued to play a level of tiredness with Jay White’s antics that, unfortunately, did not have enough time to gestate. We’ll explore this idea in the review of the December 23 show, but as things take shape it does appear that Ibushi is on a path of vengeful redemption. He repeatedly told White that he remembers what happened “that day.” So, basically, Ibushi is going to punish him for cheating and making a mockery of him and this company and the title he needs to attain to finally transcend space-time. ***1/2


There is just enough difference between this show and the December 21 show that you would feel compelled to watch both, but not enough matters of consequence to make you regret missing it, either. Like each of these three shows, they exist to entice. These are a self-aware transition, merely meant to heat you up into a lukewarm state so that the shock of the temperature rise on January 4th is not overwhelming. Recommended to skip-watch.