NEW JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
SAKURA GENESIS 2024
APRIL 6, 2024
RYOGOKU SUMO HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: NJPW World

MEET YOUR REVIEWER:

Suit Williams: Suit has been…a bit down on New Japan since Wrestle Kingdom. But there are some promising signs, and Suit is here to cover them all as part of a jam-packed weekend. You can read Suit’s long-form previews and reviews of wrestling from around the world here at Voices of Wrestling. You can also find his weekly reviews of AEW Collision over at F4WOnline. Follow Suit on all social media platforms @SuitWilliams.

TALES FROM THE UNDERCARD:

  • Pre-Show Frontier Zone Six Man Tag Team Match: CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) & Oleg Boltin def. Ayato Yoshida, Chicharito Shoki & Takuro Niki
  • Kosei Fujita & Zack Sabre Jr. def. El Desperado & Ryusuke Taguchi
  • BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi def. David Finlay & Gedo
  • DOUKI, SANADA & Yuya Uemura Callum Newman, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb – Uemura caught O-Khan with a crucifix pin to win. Afterward, O-Khan charged at Uemura only to take a Deadbolt Suplex and get an official challenge from Uemura for the KOPW Championship. Uemura later challenged for the tag team titles, having pinned one of the champions on this tour.

IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM TITLE TORNADO TAG MATCH
BULLET CLUB WAR DOGS (CLARK CONNORS & DRILLA MOLONEY) (C) DEF. CATCH 2/2 (FRANCESCO AKIRA & TJP) & INTERGALACTIC JET SETTERS (KEVIN KNIGHT & KUSHIDA)

While I’m a bit tired of this generation of Jr. Heavyweight tag teams, these three teams used the tornado rules to keep the energy up and have a high-quality scramble, undoubtedly the best scramble-type scenario you’ll see this weekend. KUSHIDA and Kevin Knight were a big boost of energy here, with the big spot being Knight’s dive over the guardrail to take everyone out. They did miss the peak a little bit, with Connors and Moloney hitting both their singles finishers on the Jet Setters before hitting No Chaser to retain. Minor gripe on what was a very good match. ***3/4

IWGP TAG TEAM TITLE MATCH
BISHAMON (HIROOKI GOTO & YOSHI-HASHI) DEF. BULLET CLUB (CHASE OWENS & KENTA) (C)

Bishamon became the 102nd IWGP Tag Team Champions.

When you expect nothing, everything can become impressive. That’s what happened with this match here. I’ve slated Owens and KENTA for being two of the worst workers on this roster, which they still are. But they showed up to Sumo Hall with something approximating their working boots on, limited the nonsense, and had a rock-solid tag title match here with Bishamon.

Owens worked the majority of it as KENTA was fresh off of a plane from Philadelphia, defending his DEFY Title as part of WrestleMania Weekend. He got some very close nearfalls in, one after a chair shot to Goto from KENTA, another coming from a pair of C-Triggers. He fought off the Shoto multiple times, but after a superkick from YOSHI-HASHI, Bishamon landed Shoto to get the win. A good match only compared to my severely lowered expectations. ***1/2

BEST OF THE SUPER JUNIORS 31 FIELD ANNOUNCEMENT

  • Ryusuke Taguchi (2012 winner)
  • El Desperado (2x finalist – 2020, 2022)
  • Kevin Knight
  • YOH
  • Hiromu Takahashi (4x winner – 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022)
  • BUSHI
  • Titán (2023 finalist)
  • TJP
  • Francesco Akira
  • DOUKI
  • Robbie Eagles
  • Taiji Ishimori (2018 finalist)
  • Yoshinobu Kanemaru
  • SHO
  • Clark Connors
  • Drilla Moloney
  • Kosei Fujita (debut entry)
  • Blake Christian (ROH, debut entry)
  • Ninja Mack (Pro Wrestling NOAH, debut entry)
  • HAYATA (Pro Wrestling NOAH, debut entry)

OUT FROM LAST YEAR: KUSHIDA, Lio Rush, Mike Bailey, Master Wato

IWGP JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
SHO (C) DEF. YOH VIA MEDICAL STOPPAGE

This match ended almost instantly, as YOH dislocated his shoulder after hitting the mat on a dropkick and the match was quickly stopped. For our Dragongate fans, this was reminiscent of Madoka Kikuta’s shoulder injury from Dead or Alive back in 2021. A shame, as I had become a fan of YOH during last year’s Super Juniors tournament. Best of luck and a speedy recovery to him.

Kosei Fujita made his way to the ring and challenged SHO, wanting to become the youngest Jr. Champion in history. DOUKI came out and told Fujita to wait his turn and made a challenge to SHO. SHO denied them both and took a springboard dropkick from Fujita for his troubles. After posing with the belt, Fujita left. DOUKI then stole the title belt, telling SHO he could face the winner of a DOUKI/Fujita match down the line. I’m tired of the hot potato with the physical belt, but I love the fresh blood in the title mix. DOUKI was one of my picks to win this year’s Super Juniors, and this is a promising sign.

JON MOXLEY & SHOTA UMINO DEF. HOUSE OF TORTURE (JACK PERRY & REN NARITA)

This was fine. I was hoping for a wild Moxley-style brawl here, but we got a pretty normal tag match with the crowd firing up as Moxley got involved. After getting shouted out by the Young Bucks on Dynamite this week, Scapegoat Jack Perry hit Umino with the Locomotion suplexes before hitting a Macho Man elbow off the top. Get it? Anyway, Mox scored the win over Narita with the Death Rider ahead of his match against Tetsuya Naito on Friday at Windy City Riot. Narita and Perry looked fine here, but this wasn’t a standout match by any means. ***

NEVER OPENWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
SHINGO TAKAGI DEF. EVIL (C)

Shingo Takagi became the 44th NEVER Openweight Champion.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru was listed as a special ref, but New Japan never cleared that as Marty Asami kicked Kanemaru and Togo out from ringside. I’m sure that will hold up. After a decent opening stretch, the House of Torture clown car cleared out. We had Dick Togo in a BUSHI mask, the actual BUSHI misting the ref, and Kanemaru and Hiromu counting pins. Eventually, EVIL ended up with a face full of powder and whiskey, AKA a Friday night in the back of the Sportatorium. It also called back to how EVIL eliminated Shingo in the New Japan Cup. Hiromu got Red Shoes Unno to come out and officially count the fall for Shingo after Last of the Dragon to officially crown Shingo the NEVER Openweight Champion. **

After the match, the War Dogs jumped LIJ. Gabe Kidd decried the state of the NEVER Openweight Title and New Japan as a whole, cursing the Americans wrestling like it was American TV and the idea of Jack Perry being in New Japan as a punishment. He cut a fiery promo, referencing Tanahashi’s stabbing back in 2002 as he sat on commentary before promising to take the NEVER Title and bring some respect back to it. I know the potential Gabe Kidd has, and it’s clear that New Japan is behind him. I hope that he can find the balance point between his work and his character to maximize his talent because I believe there is a lot of talent there.

IWGP WORLD HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE MATCH
TETSUYA NAITO (C) DEF. YOTA TSUJI

The story early on in this match was Naito working on Tsuji’s neck. That helped him out deeper into the match as Tsuji’s strength was sapped, limiting Tsuji on his offense, and sapping his energy. Tsuji’s explosiveness allowed him to stay in the mix, hitting short-range versions of the Gene Blast spear and the curb stomp. Tsuji later became determined to tap Naito out with a Boston Crab to get revenge for his young lion send-off match against Naito three years ago. When that didn’t work, Tsuji used one last burst of adrenaline to hit his big double stomp and a falcon arrow for a nearfall. Tsuji went for the Gene Blast, but Naito shot him off into the corner before hitting a Gene Blast of his own for a one-count nearfall. Tsuji tried to fight off a Destino attempt, but Naito countered a Falcon Arrow into a Destino. A second Destino got Naito the win.

This was far better than the SANADA title matches, mostly because the crowd gives a shit about Tsuji. Tsuji also accounted for himself well, looking better than he did against Uemura in the hair match. But this fell short of the lofty New Japan main event bar that they were shooting for. Maybe it was the story of the explosive and exciting Tsuji getting slowed down by the wise veteran that worked against it. Maybe the house style main event doesn’t mesh with Tsuji’s strengths to where he can excel in the big spots. It could be that Naito’s style doesn’t pair with Tsuji’s the way it did with his best rivals. Either way, this was a good match in a spot where you expect a great one. ***1/2

After the match, Jon Moxley came to the ring, where Naito confirmed that their match at Windy City Riot this Friday will be for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Did this show assuage my worries about New Japan going forward? No, not really. They shuffled some deck chairs around and had a watchable show, but on a busy weekend like this, there isn’t anything I would say is must-see. Check out the Tag Title matches, Gabe Kidd’s promo, and the main event if you want to see more of Tsuji’s long-term story play out.