There is more buzz for the Japanese product right now than since I can remember being a fan when I got my first tape of the New Year Giant Series 1999 and the Super J Cup 1994. New Japan World has allowed many English speaking viewers to jump in on the product in an accessible way. Global Force Wrestling upped the ante by carrying this show live on PPV in the U.S. with Jim Ross and Matt Striker announcing.
I have recruited the help of lead analyst Pete from Titans of Wrestling (@titansowrestlin) and Pro Wrestling Super Show host Steven Graham (@StevenGrahamTWS) to give our ongoing thoughts on the show.
A. PreShow Rambo Rumble
Entrants were as follows:
- Tiger Mask
- Yuji Nagata
- Sho Tanaka
- Hiro Saito
- Yohei Komatsu
- Captain New Japan
- Tama Tonga
- Manabu Nakanishi
- Yoshiaki Fujiwara
- Great Kabuki
Liger vs. Desperado is a budding feud and they go after each other setting up the NWA Junior title match the next day. Hiro Saito was a surprise entrant and gets a nice pop giving a senton to Liger. Captain New Japan’s camo gear was ugly as sin. He gets immediately jobbed when Tama Tonga comes out. Desperado and Liger eliminate each other because of hate. Fujiwara comes out to Rise of the Valkyries and lays waste to Tiger Mask to my sheer delight. Great Kabuki is next! He blows red mist to Taka! Fujiwara has the Fujiwara armbar on Taka and they gang tackle pinning him like he is a monster. Hilarious moment happens next of Fuji shrugs his shoulders outside as him and Kabuki retreat to the back. Saito is then gone and it’s the regulars left. Young lions Tanaka and Komatsu team up and start working together and rid us of Tiger Mask. Nakanishi gives them a double suplex. Guys drop like flies and we are down to Nagata and Yoshi-Hashi. After some back and forth, Nagata hits a saito suplex with a bridge and wins the Rumble. Fun pre show match with a couple of surprises.
This was a lot of fun. The surprises were perfect. Saito, Fujiwara, and then Kabuki. I think Kabuki got DQ’d for not getting in the ring in time. For a prematch it had me smiling from bell to bell. A million smiles.
1. reDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Time Splitters vs. The Young Bucks – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
I was worried about the fate of this match after the first couple of completely unspectacular minutes. There is an old trope that junior matches suck in the Dome based on heat. I normally don’t like subscribing to old sayings in wrestling, but man did the crowd not really give a crap about anything much going on in this match. I thought The Young Bucks really injected a lot of energy when they became involved in this match and it turned toward the finishing spot fest. A good dive train sequence and all the signature spots from the four teams. Everything was hit cleanly here but something felt off for me and nothing broke any new ground. I am fine with an energized opener as a spotfest, but I thought this failed to reach expectations. **3/4
This was fun stuff. It started slower than I expected. It really picked up though. These guys got a hell of a lot more time than I thought they would. I love hot matches like this to kick off a show. reDragon winning isn’t a shocker. I thought the Holligans schtick spots got over pretty big compared to some of the hot moves. ***1/4
This is taking a while to get going. Kushida is such a better version of Chris Sabin. Well that was alright, but usually these junior tags are hotter and more fun
2. Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima and Tomoaki Honma
This was about what we expected. Honma missed a headbutt, Karen interfered and a guitar shot went awry. However, the finish was splendid.. Honma is the ultimate underdog in New Japan.. Hanging in there with the big boys but always falling short. He didn’t win one match the entire G-1. Him gaining the victory here felt like a great payoff of a long running angle and was a ton of fun. I see this being the end of Jarrett in New Japan. **1/2
Honma just makes people care about his matches. Awesome to see him get his win. A real nothing match. Looks like Jarrett is out of NJPW. *1/2
3. Mikey Nicholls, Naomichi Marfuji, Shane Haste and Toru Yano vs. Sujukigun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, Shelton X Benjamin and Takashi Izuka)
Yano recruited the NOAH boys in a hot angle on the 12/20/14 Korakuen show. This felt real inconsequential and a straight showcase for whatever is happening between New Japan and NOAH. Marifuji picked up the victory in short order. *1/2
Man Archer’s chokeslam looked sick.Another nothing match. *. Saving time for the matches that matter is good.
4. Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
Suzuki bringing out the old school UWF white tights was awesome. I thought this was really good and a happy medium from people that wanted a straight grappling battle and the naysayers that are completely turned off by that style. They worked a heavyweight style match that worked on a big stage but also had focus on the arm of Suzuki. Suzuki’s comeback and eventual choke out of Sakuraba was a great finish. Afterwards, the two men embrace and the feud is buried. ***1/2
This is cool. Sakuraba takedowns are quick. Not a fan of it being on the ramp. Suzuki is selling big here. I really enjoyed Suzuki’s leg kick selling. Suzuki with a sick choke out. Ok match but I would have preferred it to stay confined to the ring. **1/2
5. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe NEVER Title
Ishii has been great when given a chance for a decade but has really took the ball and run with his NEVER title reigns having **** match after **** match according to most reviewers. Makabe is someone I am usually meh on so I was interested to see how this match would turn out. This really disappointed me because Makabe was never able to match the intensity or stiffness in his strikes to match what the match needed with no other storyline or extended selling going on. On top of that, he wins which is a really poor result IMO. Biggest letdown so far. **3/4
Looks like they start with a mirror battle. Both guys are really going after one another. There is no finesse in this match. This is high impact wrestling. That top rope samoan drop looked like it should cripple Ishii. Man this was just a real hard hitting affair. I was real surprised by Makabe going over. ***3/4
The worst of New Japan. It felt like the first 15 minutes were missing. All strike exchanges and fighting spirit and no substance.
I can’t believe I fell asleep and missed Sakuraba-Suzuki and woke up for this one. Ishii deserved a much better opponent.
6. Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega – IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
I thought this was dreadful. It had a couple of good spots but no story to speak of, an awful performance by Kenny Omega doing “The Cleaner” gimmick and minimal interference. No heat to boot. Yuck. *
I’m not a fan of Taguchi, but he’s had good matches.The spray gimmick was funny. Omega seems to be playing a character. Plus the spray should be the finish. All it did was hurt the match. That was a great finishing run, but didn’t save the match. A pretty mediocre match. **1/4
Kenny Omega’s new gimmick is a crappy Razor Ramon rip off? I haven’t seen Omega in years, and he gets praised so maybe this will be good?
Taguchi is the absolute worst Eddie Guerrero tribute wrestler I have ever seen.
This is Omega’s big debut in New Japan and he wins the Junior Title in a middling match in which his lackies tried to interfere many times. At least his finisher looked good.
Really a nothing match though.
7. Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) vs. Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata – IWGP Tag Team Championship
This match really overachieved for me and was a best case scenario. Fun stuff with Gallows and Anderson working together to cut off Goto and Shibata. They sprinkled in the teases well and the finish was sufficient and you have to feel happy for Goto and Shibata given their past track record in title matches. ***1/2
I thought that was a heck of an all action sprint. I wish Gallows would have sold the double GTS. I know he’s monster, but come on. Best friends win the titles and the monkey is off their back. ***1/4
Since I missed Sakuraba-Suzuki match this tag match has been my match of the night so far.
The right team won in the end and it should lead to some good stuff in the future.
Finally a match that built, instead of just going into a finishing sequence from the start.
8. A.J. Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito
This was a really good match and they are creating a nice series for each other. A.J. worked over Naito’s leg and he did an adequate job of selling which is an upgrade on some of his past performances. The finish really brought the match up a bit in my eyes as A.J. took a nasty bump to the floor following a Styles Clash tease. We then got a countout tease before A.J. pulled out the victory with a second rope Styles Clash. My match of the night so far. ***3/4
This is such an awesome match. I loved the opening. Styles cutting off Naito and going to work on the leg was tremendous. Styles has really become a master at telling a story in the ring. Naito needed to sell the leg off the spring board DDT. OK now we’re getting some subtle Naito selling of the leg. Spring board punch by AJ made me grimmace. Liking Naito’s fight here. The cross ups adding to the story. Calf Slicer by AJ. Great tease of a tap. We get a Bloody Sunday. The crowds here always buy a potential countout. Strong finish. A heck of a match. I liked their G1 match just a tad better. Naito needs to change up his offense. It hurt the narrative of the match a bit. ****1/4
I was excited for Styles-Naito, since their G1 match from last year was so great.
Maybe it was the time or the blood that made that match so great, but this one tonight was a disappointment to me.
A very good match though, these two do have real good chemistry. A really great finishing sequence. ***1/2
9. Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Incredible match that will be tough to top in 2015. This was the coming of age of Ibushi as he was there with Nakamura at every step and mirrored his spots refusing to back down. Nakamura is at worst one of the five best wrestlers in the world and rarely fails to deliver a great performance in a big match. He was simply astonishing here with his mannerisms and gaining more respect and fear for Ibushi as the match went along based on his actions, not over the top acting. The deadlift German back into the ring had me jumping out of seat and the last five minutes were dramatic wrestling at its best. The book on Ibushi hasn’t been written yet but this gave him all the ability he needed to jumpstart a legendary heavyweight career. ****3/4
Nakamura on top to start. Ibushi comes back with hot moves. That leads to some more Nakamura in control. There is some fun back and forth. Nakamura’s selling might be the best in wrestling. Nakamura’s arm breaker came out of nowhere. Ibushi’s escape was simple, but effective. The finishing run was some great stuff. ****1/4
Here comes King Shinsuke Nakamura to steal the show. Nakamura even arrives with a crown and continues his streak of great Dome entrances.
The G1 match from 2013 was a classic and this may had been better.
They were given time and it built to a dramatic finish. Even the strike exchanges that usually bore me to tears were done in the most entertaining way possible.
**** 3/4 match which could easily end up being my match of the year for 2015.
10. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi IWGP Championship
Would have to watch the King of Pro Wrestling match again to see what my favorite of their series is. I also liked Nakamura vs. Ibushi better but this was great stuff. The finish was surprising to me and I am a little miffed that Okada couldn’t find that extra gear that he had in the G-1 final, but the call backs to the leg and that being the foil made perfect sense overall. Tanahashi also kicked out The Rainmaker. Tanahashi re-establishes himself as the ace heading into the year of New Japan. ****1/2
Man this place is coming unglued. Some basic mat work to start. The aggression is beginning to escalate. Okada going after Tanahashi’s neck. The battle on the runway is pretty neat. Okada is great at connecting dots in his matches. The Rain Maker zoom is the coolest shot in wrestling. Great touch with Tanahashi going back to Okada’s leg. What a dive by Tanahashi. The reverse tombstone spot made me think I was back in 92 in WCW.The mocking of the Rain Maker and Okada delivers a big fuck you to Tanahashi by hitting one of his own. .Awesome nearfall off the piledriver escape. I love that Okada’s kryptonite is his leg. Awesome match overall. ****3/4
Last two matches were outstanding and this had some very good stuff before it. The Omega match still has a bad taste in my mouth preventing me from throwing out all-timer type accolades but this is certainly worth a recommendation and a look if you are interested in New Japan.
This was a great show saved by the final 4 matches. I need to revist Nakamura/Ibushi. I dozed off for a few minutes. I thought Okada was going to win it tonight. The emotion coming out of Okada post match is amazing, and cements how important being the champ is.