May 3rd, 17:00 from Fukuoka Convention Centre, Fukuoka
The final New Japan show of Golden Week sees Kazuchika Okada defend his IWGP title against Bad Luck Fale, Kenny Omega taking on Tomohiro Ishii, and the NEVER 6-Man and IWGP tag team titles on the line. Let’s get to it.
Here we go…
Pre-show match: Hirai Kawato & Yoshi Tatsu vs. Tomouki Oka & Katsuya Kitamura
A solid effort in which Yoshi Tatsu picked up the expected submission win over Kitamura with a modified Indian deathlock. I’m actually pleased to say Yoshi Tatsu looked fine here. Bad as he is, I don’t want to see the guy humiliated. *1/2
CHAOS (Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi)
Bullet Club, of course, attacked before the bell, isolating Yoshi-Hashi briefly before Ospreay was in for some of his always-impressive offence. Owens used a lovely slingshot Death Valley Driver, a move I’ve never seen before, but then Yoshi-Hashi was back. Ospreay flattened Yujiro with Sasuke Special and Yoshi-Hashi blocked Owens’ piledriver to cinch in the Butterfly Lock for the tap-out victory. After a breakout 2016, Yoshi-Hashi has slid back to his previous standing, so I hope he can go on to pick up more wins in the lead-up to the G1. Good little opener. **1/2
Tiger Mask W, Tiger Mask IV & Togi Makabe vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & Yuji Nagata
Plenty of support for the mysterious Tiger Mask W. He and his predecessor were denied stereo suicide dives and IV was trapped in Liger’s Romero Special, then punished by Nakanishi and Nagata in turn. He managed a Tiger Driver for two, and Tiger Mask W was back in for a missile dropkick and standing SSP for another two-count. Nagata landed an Exploder, W replied with a dropkick, and Makabe and Nakanishi were in to hoss it out. Lariat to Makabe for two, then the match broke down. IV with a suicide dive to Liger, W with a Golden Triangle moonsault to Nagata, and Makabe with a King Kong Knee Drop to Nakanishi for the win. Liger and Makabe flipped the bird to one another post-match. Fun. **1/2
CHAOS (Baretta, Rocky Romero, Jado, Toru Yano & Hirooki Goto) vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Minoru Suzuki)
If you can believe it, this one started with a big brawl before Roppongi Vice took control, then all of CHAOS comically pummeled all their opponents (bar Suzuki). Suzuki-gun again resorted to taking the fight outside, isolating Jado via much cheating and Minoru’s minions ran through their usual schtick before the tag was made to Yano. The master of the turnbuckle pad showed these punks how a real man cheats, then Goto was in to try and avenge his NEVER title loss to Suzuki. He wasn’t particularly successful initially, but fired up and drew Minoru into an elbow battle. A nice reversal sequence – better than anything in their singles match – saw no man take an advantage, and it all broke down. Legal man Taka was left to receive an Ushigoroshi and GTR from Goto to give CHAOS the win. This picked up nicely after the usual nonsense. **3/4
Post-match, Goto and Suzuki went at it and it looks like a rematch is on the cards. Suzuki also laid out young lion Kitamura with straight right, as is his wont.
David Finlay vs. Cody
Cody was back for the first time since the joint shows with Ring of Honor in February. An even back-and-forth culminated in slaps, then Finlay was sent outside. Cody missed with the double-jump crossbody and Finlay hit a cannonball from the apron, but then Cody nailed him with an Alabama Slam onto the floor. Back in, a delayed gourdbuster landed, but Finlay fired up and nearly caught Cody with his Granby Roll. Something got messed up, then Finlay hit a slam for two, and a nice deadlift German got the same. Elbows up from the knees, but Cody countered a diving European uppercut to the Cross Rhodes for the win. I don’t think I can overemphasize how little the crowd cared about this. Another poor singles outing for Cody on a big show. *1/2
KUSHIDA & Juice Robinson vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito)
By way of contrast to the last match, here’s Juice to demonstrate what an over foreign talent looks like. The fight spilled out to the crowd, where Kushida was hammered by his opponents, including a scoop slam from Naito. Back in the ring, Naito missed with the slingshot dropkick, then Kushida’s handspring elbow enabled the tag. Juice fired away with punches and a Juice is Loose to Naito, before landing the cannonball and a big diving crossbody for two. He caught Naito’s leaping elbow for a backbreaker/leg sweep combo, but the senton hit the knees and Naito nailed a tornado DDT. Hiromu and Kushida were in to slug it out, and Kushida blocked the sunset flip powerbomb, countering to an armbar on the apron! Juice spinebuster’d Naito to set up Kushida’s flipping senton from the top-rope onto both opponents on the floor. LIJ got it together, however, with Naito saving Hiromu from the Hoverboard Lock, then the junior champion nailed Kushida with the buckle DVD and Time Bomb for the win! Kushida cannot beat Hiromu and it’s a gonna be a long road back for him – a journey I’m looking forward to seeing. This was a super-fun sprint, which the crowd loved. ***1/4
Best of the Super Juniors 24 announcement:
- A Block – Jushin Thunder Liger, Ricochet, Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi, TAKA Michinoku, Taichi, Dragon Lee, and Marty Scurll(!)
- B Block – Tiger Mask IV, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHIDA, Volador Jr., ACH, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado, and BUSHI
What a line-up! I’m surprised by Chase Owens’ absence, but if Marty Scurll is to be Bullet Club’s singles junior representative (that’s conjecture, of course) I can deal with that.
IWGP Tag Team Championship
War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe) (c) vs. TenKoji (Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga)
War Machine (who wore some very nice helmets to the ring) claimed the early advantage over GOD, but TenKoji quickly took control with Mongolian chops and the slingshot elbow/headbutt double-team. Machine gun chops to Hanson and Rowe, but GOD were back in again and they imperiled Kojima as the match settled down. Tama dropkicked War Machine from the apron, then Loa received a Koji Cutter and Kojima opted to tag in Hanson. Non-stop clotheslines to GOD had the crowd applauding, but the Guerrillas fought back to hit a diving headbutt (Loa) and diving splash (Tama) for two. Rowe and Tenzan were in, and the latter scored a suplex for two, then TenKoji both hit Kokeshis for a near-fall! The Anaconda Vice was broken up and suddenly all hell broke loose. GOD blocked War Machine’s double-team slam, but were sent outside, and Tenzan found himself on the wrong end of Fallout. Rowe covered for the three-count to retain the belts. As with the previous three-way tag matches this year, the content is entertaining enough, the lack of structure largely hinders any investment. A fairly mindless all-action affair, which isn’t the worst thing. ***1/4
The Guerrillas nailed War Machine with the tag belts post-match. A 2-on-2 match should be decent.
NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championship
Taguchi Japan (Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Hiroshi Tanahashi) (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japón (BUSHI, EVIL & SANADA)
Evil and Tanahashi to start, then Taguchi and Sanada, with Taguchi distracted by Sanada’s impressively high hair. Taguchi instructed his teammates to assist in his ass-based offence, but found himself outnumbered by LIJ and unable convince them not to beat him up. Bushi’s t-shirt choke and Sanada’s Paradise Lock punished Taguchi, and Evil’s senton earned two, but a counter lariat gave the Ricochet the hot tag and he sliced through his opponents with ease before making the tag to Tanahashi. A ref-assisted side kick from Evil put him down, but Tanahashi’s Dragon Screw enabled the Cloverleaf (and a triple submission spot). Sling Blade connected, but the High Fly Flow hit the knees, and Taguchi and Bushi were in. Taguchi missed a charge and the Codebreaker put him down for two. The Diving Codebreaker missed, however, and led to a parade of attacks and signature moves, concluding with Taguchi’s diving hip attack from the top-rope. Enzuigiri and Dodon to Bushi, but the count was interrupted! Double planchas from Tanahashi and Ricochet to Evil and Sanada, then the ref was bumped, and Bushi tapping to Taguchi’s ankle hold wasn’t seen. Taguchi was misted and rolled-up for… 2.9! Diving Codebreaker, but pin was broken up at the last second! Evil and Sanada cleared Ricochet and Tanahashi from the ring. A second Diving Codebreaker from Bushi connected, and this time no-one could prevent him from picking up the win and once more giving Los Ingobernables de Japón the titles. The extended feud between these two teams has been so enjoyable to watch, and this was yet another of their very good matches. ***3/4
Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kenny Omega
Ishii beat Omega in a surprise result in the New Japan Cup, and despite beating him in a tag match at Sakura Genesis, Omega wants to avenge his singles loss and gets the opportunity here.
Ishii hammered Omega from the start, nailing a lariat, dumping him with a German suplex and almost getting the win early with a powerbomb! Outside, Ishii blocked a barrier-springboard and looked for the One-Winged Angel(!), but Omega slipped out and floored him with a running dropkick. An apron powerbomb followed and Ishii just broke the count. After fighting over a suplex on the apron, Omega nailed a knee strike, a snap dragon suplex back in the ring and another knee strike for two. Ishii flattened Omega with a lariat, and both men were down. Elbows back-and-forth now, and a three huge chops from Omega before he spiked Ishii with a DDT. Stomps and kicks from followed, then he pulled Ishii out of the corner with a neckbreaker for two. Ishii fired back briefly, but Omega landed the leapfrog bulldog for another two-count before slapping Ishii dismissively across the head. Not clever. A spitwad was the final insult and Ishii marched forward, leaning into strikes and returned the spitwad before hitting a powerslam. Backdrop for two. Omega came back with the Finlay Roll/Moonsault combo, then headed up top only to get caught, and Ishii brought him down with the superplex for two. Strikes, and Omega’s frankensteiner sent Ishii to the floor, and he followed up by launching himself with a springboard crossbody all the way over the barrier onto Ishii!
Ishii made it back before the count, but was met with a missile dropkick to the back and a Liger Bomb for a two-count! He popped up after a German suplex but got absolutely nailed with the V-Trigger knee for two! One-Winged Angel blocked, huge lariat from Ishii! Headbutt from Ishii, and another lariat turned Omega inside out for a near-fall! One-Winged Angel-style Ushigoroshi and a sliding lariat from Ishii! 2.9! Reverse frankensteiner from Omega, followed by the V-Trigger knee strike and a HUGE lariat! Cross-legged Ushigoroshi, then Ishii countered the One-Winged Angel into a reverse frankensteiner of his own!!! Lariat! 2.999! Wow. Omega blocked the brainbuster and laid in elbow strikes, a slap, and two huge knee strikes. Brainbuster from Omega for another near-fall and finally the One-Winged Angel connected for the win! Phew. I’m out of breath just watching that. After the high octane opening minutes, it understandably slowed down, but from Ishii’s comeback onwards there was no stopping it. It built and built to a crazy climax with both men openly thieving the others’ move to gain any kind of advantage. Great match. ****1/2
Ishii eventually made it to the back under his own power, drawing applause for his efforts.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Bad Luck Fale
Fale, having come runner-up in the New Japan Cup, attacked Okada at Sakura Genesis immediately after the epic IWGP title match to demand a shot. He then pinned the champ with a tombstone at the opening Dontaku tour show in Korakuen and looks to have Okada’s number. A very good video package showed Fale’s development in the company through the years.
Okada got absolutely nothing early on, with Fale simply brushing off his offence, catching a plancha and slamming him onto the floor. Okada thankfully slipped out of an attempted Bad Luck Fall, but was slammed into the ringpost and left for dead in the crowd, breaking the count at 13. Back in, Fale worked on the back, using his weight to his advantage and testing the referee’s patience. A massive back body drop earned a two-count, then a bearhug into a spinebuster got the same. Okada blocked a charge and nailed a DDT to finally earn some respite. Kip up, and the body slam connected at the second time of asking thanks to some rope-assisted momentum. Outside, Okada kicked Fale over the barrier and followed with a leaping crossbody!
Okada dragged Fale back into the ring, failed to lift him for an attempted tombstone, and a shoulder block and Samoan Drop turned the match back in the challenger’s favour. Grenade blocked though, and some sort of DDT-ish move put both men down. Main Event Elbow Battle time, shotgun dropkick from Okada, and he succeeded in landing the reverse neckbreaker! Diving elbow drop and the Rainmaker was signalled, but easily countered into a bearhug. Running attack in the corner and a big splash for two. The Grenade! Two-count only. Okada again avoided the tombstone and nailed The Dropkick. The diving shotgun dropkick from the top-rope connected and was followed by the tombstone from Okada! Rainmaker reversed to the Grenade by Fale! Spear for a near-fall! Bad Luck Fall… avoided, but a lariat floored Okada and Fale nailed the tombstone! One, two, NO! Bad Luck Fall… countered to a ‘rana! Backslide attempt from Okada pulled into the Rainmaker! Okada held onto the wrist, picked up Fale and clotheslined him down again. A third Rainmaker was momentarily blocked, but Okada landed a German suplex before finally hitting it and the three-count was academic. Okada retains. I’m a little disappointed, but my expectations after Okada’s recent run and Fale’s Cup final performance were probably too high. There’s only so much Okada can do against Fale, who is not at his best in 21-minute main events. The closing sequence was strong though and they really brought the crowd into it. A good match that served it purpose well. ***1/2
Bullet Club came to Fale’s aid and, after the presentation of the belt, Okada got on the mic and called out Kenny Omega. Kenny came back to the ring, soaked up the crowd response and it looks like it’s on!
Promo from Gedo and Okada to close the show, the confetti falls and we’re out!
Final thoughts: A fun watch, with Ishii/Omega the obvious match of the show. The only notable bum note was Cody’s match and he really needs to step it up if he’s going to be in the G1. Everything else was a breeze to watch, with War Machine solidifying their reputations, Hiromu continuing to have KUSHIDA’s number, and we have Omega vs. Okada 2 coming soon. Good stuff.
I’ll be back on May 17th for the opening show of this year’s Best of the Super Juniors tournament. See you then.