New Japan Pro Wrestling
WRESTLE GRAND SLAM IN TOKYO DOME
July 25, 2021
Watch: NJPW WORLD
As a magical writing girl, I know a few things about curses obviously. This show is potentially cursed. State of Emergencies, Kota Ibushi getting sick and unable to be in the main event, The Rambo being the pre-show, this show is cursed. CURSED I SAY! Fear not though, it can overcome this! The card despite “subject to change” situations and crowd limitations is very strong and possibly quite good. Hell, there is a high level chance of it being great. Four of the matches (Five if you include the Rambo) are for titles, and the one that’s not has a grudge and potentially bragging rights/personal pride stakes. There is plenty for one can sink their teeth into, provided the limited clap crowd don’t drive you away (They do nothing to me.)
I’ve been hot and then cold (yes and then no) with NJPW a lot this year, admittedly more cold than hot, but I have high hopes and legit interest in this show. While I’m disappointed Ibushi/Shingo is not happening, Tanahashi stepping up, especially after his win against KENTA the previous night, works well. Their match early in this year was a high end M.O.T.Y.C so I have high hopes and expectations they can succeed at that again! Pro-Wrestling rules, and I hope this show delivers.
Pre Show: Chase Owens defeats “everyone who decided to watch this” KOPW 2021 Championship Rambo
There’s 22 competitors, forgive me if I didn’t type up 22 names above. Or don’t forgive me, doesn’t change my decision making process. Rambos are fun, they aren’t good, but they are fun. At least to most people. Also, there’s handcuffs involved. Everything is allegedly better with handcuffs…. Um err… This match disproves that anyway. Handcuffs count as an elimination. Like I said, some will find this fun, I definitely do not classify as “some.” I found this a chore, a slog, a bore, a long bogging down of the pre-show. I know people like seeing the Rambo popping up, but I wish it would stay down. Then it ended with Chase Owens winning which is just the perfect decomposed cherry on top of the turd this is. You know how awful a victory has to be to make me wish Yano actually fucking won? Dud doesn’t even cover this. This might be my new contender for W.M.O.T.Y. I’m creating a special rating. RAMBORE.
HIROMU SIGHTING!!!!!! My heart flutters as Hiromo came out to be Master of Ceremonies! He was recently cleared for competition and I can’t wait for him to get back to it. NJPW desperately needs him. Hiromu tries to get us all hyped for the show. Any Hiromu, even non-wrestling Hiromu, is good Hiromu. Hiromu announced that he wants to challenge the winner of the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match! AWWWWWW YEAH!!!!!!
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Championship Match
El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori (c) defeated Rocky Romero, Ryusuke Taguchi
Well, now that I washed/burn the pre-show match out of my mouth with a “healthy” dose of scotch (I would say don’t you dare judge but, no this would be fair) we move to the show proper. The IWGP JR. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles are probably my least favorite championships (Other than KOPW 2021) in the company right now. It’s staler than the opened bag of discount potato chips in my pantry that I keep telling myself I’ll throw away, and then never do. Enough about my procrastination and snark, this was a good choice to open the show. Once Taguchi got tagged in after Romero was worked over, the match picked up. Taguchi can work when he wants to, and we were blessed that in this match he wanted to. He and Ishimori had some really good back and forth to kick this match into next gear.
In truth, once they all turned the heat on this was a damn fine opener. The type of match you want to start off festivities. It has energy, and everyone makes it feel that it matters. As stale as the Jr. Tag division is, this had life and felt like the titles meant something to both teams, as I always say that’s appreciated. I appreciate El Phantasmo the more and more he performs. He used to not be my cup of tea, and he probably still isn’t, but I wouldn’t say no if offered. Ishimori was good and Rocky Romero is always a delight. I love seeing him do well.
.@elpwrestling "Rope Walk Moonsault"
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) July 25, 2021
This is good stuff, they gelled well and clicked. At one point Rocky counters a tag team move by clotheslining ELP to cause him to PoisonRana Ishimori whose shoulders he was on. Good nearfalls, especially when Ishimori had to grab the ropes after a Devitt Callback with the Black Hole Vacation. I bit that one. Phantasmo hit a walking top rope moonsault to the outside which was beautiful, but he hurts his ankle thus handicapping his sudden death kick! In fact that foot plays wonderfully into the finish as Tacuhi takes the boot off to show what is loaded in it but Ishimori goes to argue with the ref to give Phantasmo the opportunity to get the cheap win. The most I’ve been into a Jr. Tag Defense in a long time and a damn fine way to start the show proper. For a brief moment, things felt fresh ****
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Robbie Eagles defeated El Desperado (C)
Robbie Eagles is a welcomed return. He’s excellent, talented, a nice challenger here for El Desperado. Desperado has been a good champion since Hiromu’s misfortune turned into his opportunity. The night before Robbie got a pinfall over Despy which puts into your mind he can beat him. Early on Eagles plays up that his leg is injured as every extra movement he does he limps and touches it, giving you a reason for the leg to come into play and Desperado to abuse the hell out of it. Desperado has a bit of disdain/disrespect in his actions and body language, especially in the early goings-on, that plays into things well.
Very few enjoy limb work that’s meaningless, but with Robbie’s leg injured and Desperado’s ability to win matches by submission, it’s anything but. Every bit of punishment his leg takes matters. Even when Robbie is on offense his leg is harmed/hurt by his choice of offense which involves his legs. Robbie will return the favor and start attacking El Desperado’s leg as well, and it’s not boring as they both keep the offense used on the legs varied, doing both offensive moves and submission locks. It also helps that both wrestlers SELL the body part to make it clear they are damaged. Even simple things such as clutching it after performing a move helps. The little things make all the difference.
.@RobbieEagles_ "Turbo Backpack"
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) July 25, 2021
So much leg damage in this match and I love it because both men react and are affected by it. This is not a fast paced Junior’s match and that’s okay! This is a methodical, deliberate and calculated performance by both men that is enhanced by their focus on their selling and reactions. Robbie turns the Numero Dos into a sunset flip pin attempt and I love it. Both men are in pain holding their legs and I love it. I loved this. There are nearfalls I bite into. Robbie’s selling is great. Desperado is good also, but Robbie is fantastic. Robbie hits a 450 followed by Ron Miller special and Desperado screams and crawls in pain and I’m biting into it. At one point Eagles knees the fuck out of his leg and locks it back on and that’s it NEW CHAMPION! THIS RULED! ROBBIE EAGLES IS NEW CHAMPION AND DESPY GOES OUT IN A GREAT MATCH! A good showcase of how a match focusing solely on a body part can be interesting as hell. **** 1/2
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Kazuchika Okada defeated Jeff Cobb
I was hyped for this match the moment I realized it was happening. I called my shot, I tweeted out Cobb as victor before this match even began. Match started slowly, which is not to be unexpected. This is one of those matches that must be built. I like Cobb showing he ain’t putting up with B.S such as taking it to Okada when he tries to pat him on the chest and back away from him when he’s tied in the ropes. Shows he’s serious and what this match means to him. Beating Okada is significant, so everything needs to be treated as significant. While slow-burning everything is measured and calculated. Cobb shows power and determination, Okada shows experience and resilience.
At one point Okada springboards over the top only for Cobb to catch him and stalling suplex him on the floor which definitely ruled and sounded painful. It was at this point the second part of the build kicked in. Cobb starts hitting his heavier offense and going for pin attempts. Okada isn’t afraid to make his opponents look good and bumps and sells to do exactly that. Cobb’s strength is his…. Strength (the dumbest but most obvious statement I’ve ever made), and that comes into play as he hits slams, drops, and suplexes. His mass also comes into play as Okada constantly has trouble lifting him up.
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) July 25, 2021
Okada though is resilient and keeps finding ways to stay in the match whether it be dropkicks or short arm clotheslines as he prepares for a rainmaker attempt. Match isn’t high energy, but everything has purpose and feels as it matters in the match. Nothing feels wasted and out of place. We get some attempted finishers by both men and Okada has to steal the match with a tight roll up attempt making my called shot wrong. All well. Would’ve been nice. Overall a good match, but there’s definitely a better one in them. As long as we get that though I approve of this. Hey don’t they have this G-1 Tournament thingy in a few months. Hmmmm…… ***3/4
IWGP Tag Team Championship Match
Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Tetsuya Naito, SANADA (C)
This is the rematch from where Naito/SANADA defeated Taichi/Sabre Jr. for the titles several weeks ago. To pretend I have a high interest is lying. WIthin the first 5-6 minutes I was waiting for God from “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” to pop up and demand “GET ON WITH IT”. Not that there wasn’t action, but it was movement/moves that had a feel of “we’re going long so let’s waste some time” to it. If you’re going to waste time, you have to hide it better. Zack’s leg becomes a target and Naito and SANADA slowly (let me emphasize slowly) destroy it. A yawn escapes me and I do not dare try to keep it contained. Maybe it’s the time of morning, maybe compared to the other matches this isn’t doing it for me, maybe they need to flip the script and change the format. All of this is valid, and none of it doing this match any favors as I watched it.
I love mat wrestling at times, I love limb work at times, none of it is popping me in this match. For a long, while all everything feels like is “Let us stretch for the time”. Once tagged in after Zack is abused, Taichi has the audacity to bring life into this lifeless void of a match and we are blessed for it. At the fifteen-minute mark things pick up (We’ll give Taichi the credit), I feel my eyes stop wondering and focus on the match as best they can. They are clearly going for an epic but the majority of the time it feels forced. Things break down and we get the “everyone gets hit and everyone is down” reset at the twenty-minute mark. At this point, I can’t help but think this team could have a great twenty-minute match, but we aren’t getting that.
.@seiyasanada "Rolling Elbow→Tiger Driver"
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) July 25, 2021
Things late into the match start to feel better and more entertaining There are good things in this match, I just wish there was less mundane and needless space between it all. Different timing/pacing this match would be way better. I will say the final portion of this match was great and I was into it, just wish it didn’t take that long. Everyone hits big moves as we’re past thirty minutes I’m kind of into it by now. All men are (rightfully) exhausted. All four men are trying really hard and the work improves more and more the later we get into things. If nothing else I feel desperation from all four men as they want to cling to that victory. We end up with new champs after Zack survives a Destino attempt and gets a successful pinfall. I’m going to see a lot of mixed opinions on this I think. I didn’t dig the MAJORITY OF IT, but it won me over in the end? I can’t give it **** or over because of how not into it I was for the first 2/3, but I dug that final 1/3 so I want to be over *** I legit don’t know. We’ll go with this. ***1/2
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship Match
Hiroshi Tanahashi versus Shingo Takagi
Ibushi was supposed to be here but health complications prevented it. Tanahashi defeated KENTA the previous night and lobbied for this match if need be. Due to him being FREAKING HIROSHI TANAHASHI it was granted. I will say Tanahashi in the main event of the Dome always feels right. Shingo main eventing the dome? I love to see it.
Shingo is rightfully the aggressor early on in the match. Tanahashi is exhausted and recovering, taking this match on short notice. Shingo is not a fight from underneath champion. He is a “take it to you and dares you to fight back/out perform him” champion. Shingo is the top dragon in NJPW, he will burn you if you don’t rise to face him.
He’s against Tanahashi, a man who knows how to fight from underneath. He’s slain beasts, demons, royalty, and Gods. What is a dragon to him? What you get is a match you are 99.9 percent confident Shingo is winning, but you can’t shake that 0.01 because he’s Tanahashi, and he’s been here again and again and again. The match is slow but with purpose. The only thing these two are afraid of is making a mistake. Tanahashi flies off the top unto the outside on Shingo and it’s as beautiful this time as it’s been hundreds of times. Tanahashi stands up from underneath and begins to try to put Shingo down. You believe in Tanahashi because he believes in himself. Shingo has no time for belief, only fact and the fact is he’s champion and he won’t lose it on his first defense easily. When it looks like Tanahashi has the answers, Shingo begins to hit his share of physical rebuttals.
Tanahashi is never out though. He motivates himself, he wills himself. All it takes is a dragon screw leg whip and it changes things in his favor. No rushing, no hurrying, Tanahashi doesn’t waste time but he doesn’t speed it up either. He knows when and how he wants to do things. Shingo gets trapped in a double leg grapevine and with an expression of pain/determination/and maybe even desperation refuses to give in to the pain. Shingo learns and adapts and goes after Tanahashi’s legs as well. Twenty Five minutes in and Shingo goes for the kill, he’s done wearing down the legend, he wants to put him down. Every move devastating and with enough force to defeat Tanahashi, but Tanahashi survives. Shingo throws everything he can and Tanahashi is a man with little left in the tank.
.@tanahashi1_100 "Stay Dream"
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) July 25, 2021
But fumes is all Tanahashi needs. He counters Last Of The Dragon and with what little energy he has left mounts one final attempt. I begin to doubt myself. that 99.9 percent certainty that Shingo will win begins to give way to that 0.01. Tanahashi hits a kamigoye and then a high fly flow in a moment that made me lean forward and believe. Shingo kicks out and I audibly gasp. I’m hooked. As we near the end, what little is left, both men on fumes, maybe less than that, they throw what they have at each other. A legend, a dragon, a stubborn refusal to go down. I lean forward more and more. This match has me and will decide on its terms when to let me go. Shingo hits Stay Dream from the second rope and it fails to finish off Tanahashi who meekly lifts up his shoulder. Tanahashi throws some defiant desperate strikes, but Shingo takes him down and then finishes him off with another Last Of The Dragon in an exhausting fantastic epic. This was beautiful. All that was missing was a full dome of people losing their shit. I’ll take me losing it alone on my couch instead. *****
Evil attacks at the end of the show to announce himself as the next challenger. Yay?
Five matches (We’ll ignore the Rambo and pretend it never happened), two four stars, one the full five. The other two are above three. This delivered. This was awesome. This was the New Japan Pro-Westling I need over again and again and again. Shingo Takagi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi was an amazing main event and while Shingo was awesome, and the best damn wrestler in the world right now, all credit and respect to Tanahashi who rose to the occasion like the legend he is, and made me believe.