New Japan Pro Wrestling
Wrestling Satsuma no Kuni Night 2
April 29th, 2021
Kagoshima Arena (Nishihara Shokai Arena)
Hiroshima, Japan

Watch: NJPW World

Our Match Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the New Japan Undercard, April 29th 2021

Results

  • Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI and SANADA) def. Yuya Uemura and Yota Tsuji
  • Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and El Desperado) def. Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) and Tiger Mask
  • Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr., and Taichi) vs. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) – No Contest
  • Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, and Toru Yano def. Dick Togo, Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi, and EVIL

What To Look For

BUSHI’s Terrible finish?

It’s balls! Why? I’ll tell you why. Because it’s BALLS, that’s why. Complete BALLS. Balls in the sense of balls.

Tekkers vs. G.O.D.: When Things Heat Up in Steps 18 and 19 of a 21-step Process

  • As noted in reviews of the April 26th and April 28th shows, despite the fact that these teams have faced each other 19 times since the Road to Wrestle Kingdom shows, exactly 19 weeks from this show’s date, and they’ve wrestled 14 times on this tour with a ladder match hanging over them, it wasn’t until the April 26th show that ladders came into play. On that night, Tama Tonga garnered a DQ by sneaking a ladder from under the ring and hitting Taichi with it. Taichi returned favor on Satsuma no Kuni Night 1 by forgoing subtlety and just grabbing a ladder and hitting Tama, again for a DQ.
  • The natural progression would be either a double DQ or a rare No Contest, and the latter was achieved here. The beginning was clever and amusing, as G.O.D. came out during Taichi’s music, but their ambush attempt was thwarted by Tekkers’ prescience. They arrived through the side entrance. Taichi and Tama dueled with ladders and it was general bedlam, until Kenta Sato was injured and Marty Asami, incredibly, was the one to attempt to instill order by calling for the NC.
  • Back in January, when people first started realizing just how excruciating 2021 New Japan could be, a lone highlight was the United Empre vs. Tencozy feud. It built itself in stages, culminating in a string of awesome, galvanizing No Contests that felt genuinely chaotic and brutal.
  • This one, even at only four minutes, felt a bit long, because there was empty space where nothing seemed to happen at points. Taichi and Tama did their best; there’s only so much you can do with ladders like this, and they are too unwieldy to really swing swiftly. There was a slightly frightening moment when Taichi was about to slam the ladder onto Tama from the top of the other ladder, as the ladder he was about to throw had a loose hinge at the top that assuredly would have punctured the fuck out of Tama.
  • All’s said though, it was a hot angle that probably does nothing for the Western audience that gave up weeks ago, but the domestic crowd ate it up.

Toru Yano is grating, dreadful, loathesome, debilitating, catastrophically stupid, a worthless chore, a liar, a humbug, a hypocrite, a vagabond, a loathsome spotted reptile and a self-confessed chicken strangler

  • Or, at least, that seems to be the trend. As I noted in my review of the April 26th show, “apathy” is just three letters removed from “antipathy,” and paradoxically the former can become a petri dish for the latter. What one sees in the general discourse is increasingly antagonistic towards the guy, especially after this KOPW match with EVIL, which is garnering acerbic, concentrated vitriol and full-throated fulmination.
  • At this point, one has to wonder if Okada surreptitiously despises Yano and the KOPW concept has been an elaborate maneuver on Okada’s part to further provoke and exacerbate Western acrimony towards Yano.
  • So basically, Okada studied his backstage politicking history, and saw all the times Hogan clandestinely vanished the instant he sniffed out a drop in ant significant metric, then re-appeared when he detected an upswing. The classic Hogan technique fueled his messianic complex but is largely based around spotting trends and having an intuitive touch for when to leave and when to return. It is reactionary, and, like happened in the waning years of WCW, when one guesses wrong in this scenario you’re finished. Okada’s new twist: what if you stayed and controlled this stuff yourself, and substitute the state of staying or going for the state of holding the title or not?
  • And so, that KOPW drivel is all just one aspect of his larger stratagem to enact devious subterfuge that undermines the company, so that when he finally regains the title there will be clear delineations: everything was great with him on top, it fell apart with Naito and Ibushi, and then he single-handedly resurrected the company with his British protégé.
  • If Okada loses to Will, then this theory is officially confirmed. He should just refuse the title until the pandemic conditions are cleared, even if he has to wait until 2025. It would be the exemplar of wrestling caginess.
  • On the plus side, Yano’s backstage comments have assumed an amusing running thread that Yano in convinced that he carries the spirits of both Sasaki Kojiro and Miyamoto Musashi, who had one of the most famous duels in history: the legendary Ganryu Island Duel.

The discrepancy between the perceivable domestic crowd response and international one is widening

  • This deserves its own piece, honestly, and Joe Lanza covered it well on the solo flagship he did this week where he buried my numbers, and I think he deciphered, as some of the few left covering this nonsense have also deciphered, that the Japanese audience might not be bothered by the stuff. In fact, it might be the opposite.
  • It’s going to be a very sour realization for many when Japanese live crowd conditions return to normal in 2024, and everyone is presented with the idea that the domestic crowd is eating up the stuff many in the West revile, up to and including the Yano stuff, the EVIL stuff, and the Ospreay stuff.
  • Joe mentioned numbers in support of the idea of Western ennui, and I have some that support the idea of domestic stability. I cannot say I’m ready to go all-out with them, but what I have found is that New Japan’s pandemic numbers have generally done consistently in the 30% range of their highest recorded pre-pandemic attendance numbers, usually between 30-35%. This show was a bit lower than normal on night one, and higher than normal on Night 2.
  • Supposedly, this arena has a capacity of 5,000, but it’s hard to parse these things, and how New Japan’s configuration eats into that capacity. Regardless, the highest number they’ve done at Kagoshima Arena is 4,004, on September 16, 2019 when KENTA challenged Ibushi for the G1 briefcase.
  • Night 1 of Satsuma no Kuni drew 1,055, 26.35% of their highest recorded draw. Night 2 drew 1,701, 42.48% of that peak number. That’s actually the low and high end of the numbers I’ve seen. Apart from Korakuen, which is a whole other issue, holy fuck.

Taiji Ishimori is impossibly smooth

  • This is a drum I have beaten with demonic persistence, but goddamn, Taiji Ishimori is really fucking good. It is worth skipping through his multi-man matches just to watch his segments. His movement and his touch are recherche. His backstage comments have significantly improved as well.
  • His match with Desperado last year in the Best of the Super Juniors was a true hidden gem, and they are slyly building to it very deliberately right now, with Ishimori patiently waiting for his shot and commiserating with Despy having to deal with chumps like R3K. Their heel-heel dynamic is pretty great: two absolute chodes that spend most of their time trying to out-cheat the other one, but share common hobbies like laughing at others’ misfortune and deriding the SHO’s, YOH’s and Wato’s of the world.
  • And, for the goddamn selling bean counters out there, we also have two wrestlers that work different limbs. The BOSJ match ended up being an arm v. leg match, and yes, both guys sold the limbs extensively. In fact, many would agree that Despy sells everything to an excessive degree, as much as that admission is painful.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito) def. The United Empire (Will Ospreay and Great-O-Khan)

Here are the timestamps and descriptions of every encounter between Naito and Ospreay in this match (timestamps for Japanese VOD):

  1. Naito knocks Will off the apron at 1:30:58
  2. Will elbows Naito and kicks in out of the ring at 1:36:14
  3. Will holds Naito down for about 10-12 seconds to prevent Naito from breaking O-Khan’s standing neck rank on Shingo, starting at around at 1:37:13
  4. Ospreay hits the Pip Pip Cheerio on Naito at 1:37:33
  5. Naito hits Ospreay on the outside and holds him for about 10-12 seconds while Shingo pins O-Khan, starting at 1:39:08

That’s it. In a regular tag match that exceeded twenty minutes, these two interacted for all of 30 seconds combined. They did not even acknowledge each other in the pre or post-match periods. It’s not even like there’s a forcefield between them, it’s like there’s a forcefield that also prevents them from turning their heads to even glance at one another.

It’s starting to make one ruminate on whether Will might hold this title until Wrestle Kingdom and face Naito there… ether way, these are the things this company does to subtly inform its audience that a specific match-up is a very big deal, and why I’m not ready to say they’ve lost all the velocity on their fastball just yet. People were asking questions about Clayton Kershaw too, remember.

This one was exceptionally worked and while the length confuses me, it didn’t feel superfluously long. The crowd was clap-hot for Naito, and this diffused to every other wrestler in the match, and one has to wonder if the wiser scheduling decision would have been to main event Night 1 with Naito-GOK and put the Junior tag titles as the April 26th main event. Naito v. Great-O-Khan would have been exponentially more ebullient with this Kagoshima audience.

One thing that I love about Naito and O-Khan’s sequences is their artful similarities, as Naito pointed out in backstage comments. It’s understated, but even the way they execute moves is similar. One is reminded of this when observing O-Khan deliver some of his power slams and throws. There is a delay, a sustained pause as he holds his opponent up, specifically that move he does where he lifts his opponent into a back suplex, and then drops them face first to the canvas. We see Naito do similar things, like how he hangs in the air during the final leg of the Combinación de Cabrón. It appears like Naito simply enjoys himself too much interacting with this guy, and I maintain hope this evolves into a legitimate rivalry.

I am developing a new concept around Will Ospreay’s character, where he is aggressively, relentlessly annoying, in large part because many people find him legitimately annoying in real life (which itself is probably a severe downplay of how many feel about him). Will talks a lot, he claps a lot, he struts a lot. It’s annoying. Engulfingly annoying, and inescapable.

It is not go-away heat, though. It’s something different. Will’s posturing doesn’t make me want to turn away, but I also don’t revel in it either, as I do with KENTA, the greatest professional wrestling performer alive, or Jay White, or wrestlers of that ilk.

Will Ospreay is an Endurance Heel. He has Endurance Heat. I find him insufferable, on both real and fake levels, but he doesn’t make me want to stop watching, but I’d rather not watch him, but I don’t care enough to want him to go away, either; I endure him for the results the are achieved. And when the opponent is Shingo, I’m willing to put up with a lot, as when he faces Ibushi, or Okada, or eventually Naito. And his backstage comments have significantly improved, in large part because he has simplified them considerably. They are forthright and deliberate.

In his sequences with Shingo, they move at a breakneck pace, and thankfully there is a purpose to Will’s obnoxiousness;  these demonstratively aggravating mannerisms usually predicate his selling.. He acts like a fool, and then exhibits equally exaggerated shock when someone turns the tide on him. Shingo plays his part well, partly exasperated and partly unenthused by Will’s behavior.

It also helps that they continue to deliver astoundingly intricate sequences, replete with reversals, counters, and feats of physics repudiation that are marvelous to behold, but also refrain from empty movements. Everything seems logical and administered with the intent to land. I chronicled one of these sequences on the April 26th show.

Shingo put away O-Khan and now the tour has been bookended. It began and ended with Shingo pinfalls in LIJ v. UE tags, with a ton of UE wins in-between. Shingo is a perfunctory challenger, that much is obvious, but he’s so fervently zealous, so intensely passionate, it’s hard not to be drawn in. ***3/4

Golden Ace (Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi) DEF. The United Empire (Jeff Cobb and Aaron Henare)

Monster Matanza Cueto v. Tiger Mask W: New Japan is back in business!

Kota Ibushi is the best wrestler alive and possibly the most versatile we’ve ever seen, something on full display and confirmed in his 2020 G1 Climax performance. You can save the limb selling hogwash; go put it in a ledger and drop it in the Registry of Historical Facts. You’d be shocked into shame to discover that momentum overrides realism.

Ibushi’s return here was exultant, and the crowd was absolutely clap-molten, just consistently loud the entire match. In the last match, they were loud for Naito and that carried over, but in this match they were that level the whole goddamn time.

It’s hard to say that Ibushi looks any different or exhibits any differences… he’s been gone for less than a month. He seems refreshed, for sure. Ibushi’s sincerity has been sorely missed, certainly. But there seemed to be an organized talking point here, one reiterated by the commentary team, the post-match reporters, and Tanahashi himself: “Wow, is this the same Ibushi?” Or, alternatively, “The old Ibushi is back!” Of course, let’s ignore the idea that an “Old Ibushi” wouldn’t need resurrecting if they would have booked the New Ibushi coherently.

But despite the fact that Ibushi has only been absent a month, it feels like he’s been gone for years. Maybe because New Japan squeezed what felt like several years worth of shows and content into that month, and thus Ibushi’s return felt legitimately affecting. We also were treated to the return of the goofy energy that Ibushi exhibits when around Tanahashi, which we only really saw emerge during his title reign during those ludicrous backstage segments he had with SHO and Hiromu.

And so, goal #1 of this match was accomplished: re-introduce Kota Ibushi in the most propitious circumstances.

Goal #2 was also accomplished successfully: enact the Ibushi-Cobb program in a way that suggests a legitimately great singles match in the future.

That goal was achieved literally 2 seconds into the opening bell, as Ibushi and Cobb cleared out their partners and agitatedly awaited Unno’s signal. They sprinted towards center-ring, evaded each other, and then unleashed a ferocious torrent of strikes. It was a perfect rendering, and instantly reminded everyone that Jeff Cobb, for some reason, abhors Ibushi and obliterated him after Ibushi’s title loss at Sakura Genesis. And it reminded us that Ibushi, whatever stance you hold on the capacity of his brain system, very much remembers that ignominy.

The match is going to rule. Cobb is going to toss Ibushi all over the ring, and Ibushi is going to light Cobb up like a heavy bag because he kinda is one. If I wasn’t wearing my glasses, you could easily convince me that Jeff Cobb is literally a heavy bag hung from the wall.

Ibushi, of course, looked spectacular. He even broke out the standing corkscrew moonsault, and I can’t even recall the last time he’s pulled that one out of his bag of tricks. Cobb looked sensational as usual since last year’s G1 Climax (and that pre-dates his turn, don’t let anyone re-write this history). Their G1 Climax match was one of Ibushi’s lesser matches of that mind-blowing month-long genre hopping exercise he legislated, but it was still a fun 10-minute match.

Belligerent Jeff Cobb vs. Barbarous Ibushi (knee-pads downs from the start) is going to be phenomenal.

One would presume a third goal, a sub-goal, and that was to rehabilitate Henare a bit after his loss to SANADA. It turns out that goal was theoretical, and possibly never even considered. This one was more of a mixed bag. By having Henare work Tanahashi, Henare was offered a chance to control the match, as everything built towards hot tags to Ibushi. There were moments when the two looked very smooth, but for the most part Henare just worked over Tanahashi’s leg. It helped firm the notion that Henare is a precision killer, but in a tag match it just meant that he ate up the time, though he did do it well.

Henare looked alluring against Ibushi in their brief exchanges, however. It was brief, but there was a blistering strike exchange between the two, the kind that makes you wonder what they will eventually pull out in a full singles match. If both are trained in actual striking sports as deeply as has always been reported, and it sure seemed like it from some of the strikes they were showing here, both from a technical side and a blocking aspect, we may get some kind of Fedor v. Cro Cop match-up.

Is Henare ok? Is he just a loser wearing sunglasses indoors and Orenthal-fitted gloves? No, that’s not true. He’s going to eat a lot of falls coming up, and sure, on paper that’s going to look like a mere continuation of his character pre-Empire. But watch this backstage comment. This Henare feels different. “It never felt so good to lose:”

All this is to say that this was an invigorating tag team exhibition with a noticeably engaged and clap-clamorous audience. It ended with a sensational sequence. Henare found himself at a disadvantage, so he started striking out, initially gaining the upper hand. He dropped Tanahashi with that phenomenal left hook to the body, but when he hit the ropes and bounced back, Ibushi was waiting with a perfectly timed jumping knee. Fucking awesome. It further took a Slingblade, an Aces High, and a Kamigoye to finish him off… if that matters. I think wins and losses are less important than look and posture at this point for Henare. Perhaps I’m insane here, which might be confirmed by the amount of words I’ve committed to this company in their coldest year in over a decade, BUT… ****

Of note: Ibushi’s backstage comments were tremendous, really getting across the idea that even someone as gifted as Ibushi, a statue from antiquity come to life, he can still feel envy, and someone with an Olympic background and caliber such as Jeff Cobb’s makes him envious. It’s much longer than the usual backstage deal, but it’s well worth watching just to see how subdued Ibushi is for most of it, just in case we needed to recall how endearing this SOB truly is.

If anything gets across the idea that Ibushi seems different than he did a whole 26 day ago, it is this backstage comment video. He appears tranquil but sagacious, serene and equanimous, a quietly percipient roshi:

FINAL THOUGHTS

We cannot wholesale recommend this show. In fact, considering that there was a distinct lack of immediately consequential results from the top two tag matches, we cannot generally recommend it. However, the semi-main and main event tag team matches were excellent, involving some of the best wrestlers the company has to offer, and some of the hottest in this ice cold company (in the West). If you want to forget about the contextual nonsense that has eroded both confidence and interest in this company, and just watch a couple of matches that will remind you of the caliber of this roster, then we do, indeed, recommend watching the final two matches.