NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
APRIL 1, 2022
NJPW has come to WrestleMania weekend and it looks like it could be a worthwhile time. A special showing on Fite featuring Dickinson versus Ishii, Suzuki versus Killer Kross, and Jay White versus Mike Bailey. NJPW seems to be slowly but surely getting back on track in 2022 with a hot and well-received New Japan Cup. They are now getting ready to rev up their US dates once again and hope to be successful in recapturing a lot of magic lost during the pandemic. It’ll take a lot of work and effort, but with a roster that is rejuvenated, determined, and talented they will hopefully be up to the task. They are all in love with Strong Style, and they are doing it in Texas.
Ren Narita def. Rocky Romero
Teacher versus student kind of match. Narita showed great fire, at times daring Romero to take his best shot, which Romero would gladly then do. This was a short opening match that won’t be on anyone’s Wrestlemania weekend list, but it was a good choice of opener to get the crowd pumped. Narita is great, he always showed potential, but he’s beginning to grow greatly into that potential, everything he hits has a nice snap and impact to it. Romero is always reliable in these situations and was a perfect opponent for Narita in this situation. Narita would get a really nice victory with a bridging belly-to-belly suplex for the pinfall in what was a nice spirited sprint between both competitors. No matter how many times I see him pull that move off it is wonderful. Narita is on his way, as he has been, to be something special, everyone. Rocky Romero played his role well in challenging the younger but continuing to grow Narita. This was pretty darn good. ***1/4
Mascara Dorada, Karl Fredricks, Clark Connors, & Yuya Uemura def. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, Daniel Garcia, & Kevin Knight
With the talent involved in this match, I had high hopes it was going to be really good. This was a lot of fun. There was no real STAR of the match, but everyone was able to play their parts and showcase themselves here and there. The crowd was really into it as well. The beginning of the match was mostly Uemura getting worked over, but once he was able to tag out things picked up and never slowed down in this match. Knight and Fredericks’ interactions were quite nice, with both men acting like they wanted to prove something to the other with Fredericks hitting the Manifest Destiny to get the win for his team in a really fun multi-man sprint. While this, like the previous match, won’t make it on any match of the weekend list, it was a nice sample and appetizer for everyone involved showing what they can do in bits and pieces. If everyone did their jobs, you’ll want to see more of them. I definitely want to continue to see more of Knight, Fredericks, and Uemura as they continue to showcase what they can bring and expand on in the near future. ***1/4
Minoru Suzuki def. Killer Kross
I have gone on record quite often stating I have no interest in Killer Kross, but I love me some Minoru Suzuki and thought maybe he could be compatible with Kross to make a very good match. This didn’t do much for me nor did it raise my opinion of Kross. Suzuki came off at moments of going through the motions big time, but he also seemed to be having fun which is nice. Kross has a great look, and I love how he laughed at Suzuki for some of his shots at him, but besides that his bell to bell is flat out boring. That’s the honest truth, he doesn’t excite me, he doesn’t thrill me, and I’m not looking forward to seeing him more in NJPW. The chop battle was fun just for the always exciting sound of the chops going off, but it wasn’t enough to make this match worth anyone’s while. I can’t call it disappointing, it was the kind of Kross performance I always expected, not good. Oh, Suzuki raised the hand of a child after the match. SUZUKI IS FOR THE CHILDREN!!!! **
Before the next match, I found myself squeeing because Jon Moxley decided to make an appearance, and the bad taste that is Kross was instantly washed out of my mouth. He cut a promo about being in an NJPW ring and how he loves this shit (HELL YEAH). He addressed Will Ospreay (who he is wrestling at Windy City Riot, and I’M THERE LIVE!) Moxley is excellent on the microphone and this was no different. It was hard to make it out at times because the sound wasn’t great, but Moxley was able to get his emotions and feelings across all the same. This was a nice and smart treat to promote his match at Windy City Riot as now they are looking forward to iPPV buys since the show is SOLD OUT!
Jay White def. Speedball Mike Bailey
A match I was highly anticipating once I realized it was going down. I had a feeling this was going to be the good stuff. At one point Jay White hit a brutal-looking TKO-esque hot shot on the top rope which looked painful as hell. Jay White ends up being just brutal when he’s in control with hard Irish whips into the corners, hard chops, and just taking it to Bailey, showcasing that he is the dominant wrestler. Bailey would get back into things with his kicks, which sounded great and looked great. Bailey has grown into an excellent wrestler in the past few years. He was always very good, but he’s molded into something fantastic. Both men were crisp in this match and hit everything well. Despite Jay’s dominance, Bailey is talented enough to get his shots in and able to stay in it throughout.
They click so well. Their interactions are great, and their sequences and spots just fit like a glove. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was fantastic wrestling I was watching between these two men. Moved at a good pace, and never slowed down to the point I felt things slogged. At one point they were fighting on the apron and Bailey attempted to hit a moonsault knees first and missed which made me cringe something hard and led to a Jay White submission attempt, which showcases Jay’s ability to take advantage of a mistake/weakness. Jay treated Bailey’s kicks like he was shot, and his chops in retaliation were nothing to sneeze at either. The downside to Bailey’s offense is he does damage to his own leg with it weakening him further and further, which he makes sure to sell, and it eventually is his downfall as he lands on his knees missing White with his finisher and it leads to Jay finishing him off. Excellent, excellent match that I absolutely loved. This was great stuff, far above the first three matches, and worth your time watching. ****1/4
Tomohiro Ishii def. Chris Dickinson
The main event is here, and this is going to be a slugfest I tell myself before this match even begins. Dickinson called his shot and demanded Ishii and now he has him. While they started off with some grapples, it didn’t take long before beefy men do beefy men things and start hitting the hell out of each other with chops and it is completely my Gotch damn jam. Neither men are the backdown kind of competitor and you can just hear the shots fire off their chests. Both of them are excellent opponents against each other, tough, respected, beefy, and full of the desire to take punishment and dish it twice as much. Dickinson gets his shots in but it’s only a matter of time before Ishii starts to return the favor in kind, which is what you expect and want from him.
Dickinson hits a deadlift german suplex which was hard and impressive and it makes me go “holy shit” for the first time tonight. They begin to go back and forth with each other and no selling each other’s best shots before collapsing and the crowd applauds. Neither man backs down from the other as they try to put each other away, trying to prove who is the toughest (and they are both pretty freaking tough). Sometimes they show off moments of exhaustion, others stubborn determination. Dickinson throws what he can to put Ishii away but by the fifteen-minute mark, it hasn’t been enough. Ishii begins to fire back up once more and try to beat Dickinson, eventually hitting his brainbuster and getting the win in what (to me) felt like a flat finish. I don’t mind Ishii winning with his finisher of course, just felt like a quick all of the sudden ending. This was good stuff, but I felt it was slightly less than the previous match which was my favorite match of the night. Overall though it was a good main event, just in the end felt like it was losing a bit of steam and I feel like the ending kind of came off flat and sudden. ***1/2
Show ends with Suzuki making it clear he wants Ishii in a one on one match (Please Please Please be Windy City Riot).
A rather quick offering of a show, with Bailey versus White the best match of the night. Kross/Suzuki was my least favorite affair. Not a top-tier show or anything, but easy to watch and enjoyable enough. At just over 90 minutes I should reiterate it’s a really short 5 match show, and maybe some of the undercard could’ve used a few more minutes each. Still, I enjoyed myself well enough and didn’t hate watching it. I would totally say watch Mike Bailey versus Jay White if you want to nitpick and not watch anything else.