NJPW New Beginning in Osaka
February 11, 2014
-From Osaka, Japan.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship:
The Young Bucks (Nick and Matt Jackson) © vs. Time Splitters (Alex Shelley and KUSHIDA)
I find it interesting that the Young Bucks are heels almost everywhere they go now, you’d think their flashy offense and small size would make them natural baby faces. They make their heel act work by letting their talents go to their heads, but it’s still a bit backwards. Nick and KUSHIDA show off with a stalemate sequence. Shelley tags and fights out of the Bucks corner with quick hip tosses and arm drags. Shelley hit’s a stunner onto the rope but gets tripped off the apron, but KUSHIDA saves with quick attacks, including a seated senton off the apron. The Time Splitters work together to set up a chancery/drop-kick to the face spot. The Bucks rebound to drop-kick Shelley off the apron and isolate him with creative blind tags and even knocking KUSHIDA off the apron to prevent a tag. KUSHIDA gets the inevitable hot tag and shows off his athleticism while cleaning house. He puts one Jackson through the guard rail with a top rope dive, but fails to pin the other Jackson with a Frog Splash. KUSHIDA counters into a Tornado DDT on Nick for only 2. The Young Bucks fluster KUSHIDA with quick attacks (including a Sliced Bread #2 off each other). Nick accidentally hits Matt with an enziguri, but Matt still counters Shelley’s flying cross body. Shelley arranges another enziguri miscue, leading to a series of shots to the head. Matt still kicks out! Nick barely saves Matt from being pinned after a moonsault. The Young Bucks deliver a springboard Tombstone piledriver combo on Shelley, but KUSHIDA saves the match. KUSHIDA back handsprings into dual super kicks and suffers More Bang For Your Buck for the loss at 13:02. Hot opener and ambitious spot-fest here. It’s hard not to respect the Young Bucks after that performance, ***½.
Winners and still IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: The Young Bucks
YOSHI-HASHI vs. Katsuyori Shibata
As Shibata marches to the ring, I think of the old Bryan Danielson chant “You’re gonna get your f*cking head kicked in.” YOSHI attacks Shibata as he’s entering the ring and the brawl quickly spills to ringside. YOSHI smashes a non-folding chair over Shibata and they head to the ring to exchange forearm shots. Shibata lands a nasty kick to the face and applies a Boston Crab. YOSHI rebounds with quick strikes good for only 2 count. Shibata cuts him off with a knee lift and lands a running drop-kick to the corner. Overhead suplex by Shibata gets 2, as does a back suplex. Shibata wins with a hard kick to the face at 5:25. YOSHI got in just enough offense early on to prevent this from being classified as a complete squash, but it was close, *½.
Winner: Katsuyori Shibata
Bullet Club (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows, and Tama Tonga) vs. Minoru Suzuki (with Taka Michinoku and Taichi) and Killer Elite Squad (Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr.)
Tonga goes right after Archer, who quickly cuts him off. All six men proceed to brawl at ringside. Back to the ring, Archer hits his patented choke slam on Tonga, but Gallows attacks from the apron with clubbing blows. Another ringside brawl breaks out somewhat aimlessly, as Tonga delivers a cross body on Archer. Anderson tags and Archer no-sells his strikes and delivers an overhead suplex. Suzuki tags and trades blows with Anderson. Suzuki looks for the sleeper and absorbs a neck breaker in the process. Smith and Gallows make tags and are all fired up, but its Smith who hit’s a delayed vertical suplex. The Bullet Club isolate Smith and all three of them hit rapid fire attacks. The tables are turned as Tonga gets isolated (even Michinoku and Taichi run in for needless cheap shots). Smith and Archer nail their power bomb/slam combo on Tonga for the win at 7:58. They seemed a bit lost at times, but pulled it together for the final stretch, **.
Winners: Minoru Suzuki, Lance Archer, and Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Bullet Club (Prince Devitt and Bad Luck Fale) vs. Togi Makabe and Ryusuke Taguchi
Fale waits for Makabe to turn his back before attacking, but Makabe is more than happy to match shots. Taguchi and Devitt make tags and Devitt flees after a cheap shot during a break. The match continues with Taguchi falling for the same cheap shot trick again. Devitt lures Taguchi into a clothesline ambush from Fale and they isolate the idiot baby face. Taguchi reverses a Devitt suplex and side steps Fale’s head of steam to make the hot tag. Makabe plows through Fale with clotheslines and turnbuckle punches. Fale misses a big boot, allowing a Makabe lariat for 2. Fale rebounds with a Samoan drop, but Devitt misses a flying double stomp, allowing another lariat from Makabe. Devitt no-sells to sprint through an exchange with Taguchi, who dishes out the Three Amigos. Taguchi catches Fale with an enziguri, and Makabe clears the ring for him. Missile drop-kick on Devitt by Taguchi allows a near upset. Devitt counters in time for Fale catch Taguchi with a head of steam. The flying double stomp from Devitt connects, but Taguchi rolls Devitt up for the big upset at 9:51. This was alright match, elevated by some cool moments, **¾.
Winners: Togi Makabe and Ryusuke Taguchi
-Devitt is furious over the loss and attacks Taguchi, but Makabe chases him out with a swinging chain.
-Bruce Tharpe comes to the ring to antagonize the crowd. He introduces his team, Big Daddy Yum Yum and former Nexus goon, Michael Tarver.
Big Daddy Yum Yum and Michael Tarver (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. NWA Heavyweight Champion Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan
The winners get a shot at the NWA Tag Team Championship (oh boy!). BDYY and Tarver attack before the opening bell and we get another ringside brawl. Back to the ring, Tenzan and Kojim reverses whips to launch BDYY and Tarver into each other. They fluster Tarver with forearm shots and knock him off his feet for stereo attacks. BDYY trips Tenzan and pulls him to the floor, sparking another brawl. Tarver and BDYY take control and isolate Tenzan. They put a slow-motion beating on Tenzan until he reverses a BDYY suplex and makes the hot tag to Kojima. BDYY suffers rapid fire chops in the corner and a flying elbow drop for 2. Kojima escapes a BDYY backbreaker, but Tarver tags in and dishes out hard strikes. Kojima absorbs the punishment and nails the Ace Cutter! Tenzan returns and bats Tarver around. Tarver nails a spinebuster for 2. Tarver follows with a hideous looking suplex, but Tenzan retaliates with something resembling a shoulder-tackle. Tarver suffers a double team neck breaker, and Kojima drops BDYY with a lariat. Tenzan applies the Anaconda Vice on Tarver for the win at 12:53. This was awful. Tenzan got blown up and could hardly keep up, Tarver has no business being in a NJPW ring, and the match just wouldn’t end, *.
Winners: Satoshi Kojima and Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Rolles and Daniel Gracie vs. Yuji Nagata and Kazushi Sakuraba
Oh no, not this stupid feud again. And coming off of a stinker of a tag match before it. Having legit martial artists face pro wrestlers in a worked MMA contest is a terrible idea on any continent. Daniel starts against Nagata and it’s just as awkward as it was at Wrestle Kingdom. Rolles and Sakuraba make tags and the match drags on. Rolles looks like the dorky kid from your 4th grade class who took karate lessons and thought he was hot shit, fast-forward 30 years with the same stupid haircut. The crowd pops for Sakuraba’s slingshot plancha, but sadly that results in him getting isolated by the Gracies. Have to hand it to the Japanese fans for tolerating this match, pretty much any U.S. crowd would have giving this the “boring” treatment. The crowd pops again while Nagata and Daniel exchange submission attempts, so what do I know? If all four men were fully trained professional wrestlers trying to put on a technical wrestling clinic, that would be one thing, but worked MMA is embarrassing and doesn’t fit into the context of a wrestling event. Sakuraba taps to a Rolles armbar at 9:27. Awful, simply awful. DUD
Winners: Rolles and Daniel Gracie
-Toru Yano grabs a microphone and challenges the Gracies to a match later on. I don’t speak Japanese, but it seemed pretty clear.
Shinsuke Nakamura and Yujiro Takahashi vs. IWGP Intercontinental Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jushin Liger
Takahashi brings the fight to Liger in the early going, pulling the hair for an advantage. Liger dumps Takahashi for a baseball slide but fakes him out on a springboard. Tanahashi and Nakamura make tags and the crowd is jazzed for another chapter in this rivalry. They exchange holds but come to a stalemate. Tanahashi quickens the pace and flusters Nakamura with a pair of arm drags. Tanahashi skins the cat, but Nakamura catches him with a cross arm breaker. Nakamura continues targeting the arm, wrapping it in the guard rail for a nasty kick. Tanahashi gets isolated and has his arm worked over for a while. Liger gets the hot tag and dishes out a Liger Bomb on Takahashi. Liger suffers a lariat, allowing Nakamura to choke with his boot. Liger answers with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Tanahashi tags and lands a somersault leg senton on Nakamura. They exchange forearms but Nakamura catches Tanahashi with an overhead suplex. Tanahashi counters with a drop-kick to the knee of Nakamura. Takahashi stiffs Tanahashi with some shots and hits a Buckle Bomb. Liger and Nakamura tumble from the ring, leaving Takahashi to hang Tanahashi on the ropes. The match breaks down and it’s “let the bodies hit the floor” time. Tanahashi catches Takahashi with a straight jacket German suplex! Liger leaps off the apron for a seated senton on Nakamura. Tanahashi clotheslines Takahashi into place for the Frog Splash for the win at 12:40. Perfectly good tag match here that felt important, ***.
Winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jushin Liger
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Kota Ibushi © vs. El Desperado
They shake hands and kick things off with some clean chain wrestling. They quicken the pace and Desperado is overzealous on a dive and lands on the announce table. Desperado’s back hit the guard rail awkwardly, so he might be hurt. The dive still caught Ibushi, who struggles back into the ring, where Desperado is waiting to apply a Cobra Clutch. They jockey for position and Ibushi delivers a hurricanrana. Springboard missile drop-kick to the back of the head by Ibushi, followed up a leaping moonsault to the floor! Standing SSP by Ibushi and another moonsault is only good for a 2 count. Ibushi wipes out on a 450 splash, and Desperado nails a spear. Desperado hits a second spear in the turnbuckles and delivers a running cannonball! Desperado’s guillotine leg drop doesn’t quite connect (also looked like Ibushi might have been trying to counter something with his legs up) but they salvage it with a pin attempt. They both sell exhaustion as head to the top rope and Ibushi nails an impressive hurricanrana! Desperado recovers for a modified Cloverleaf and a sit-out power bomb for 2. Desperado counters into a Vertebreaker for an excellent false finish! Ibushi comes back with the Liger Bomb and the 450 splash finishes Desperado at 13:32. Pretty good face vs. face outing with all around solid action and some nice surprises in the final stretch, ***.
Winner and still IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion: Kota Ibushi
-El Desperado is a class act and shakes hands with Ibushi before strapping the title belt around him.
Tetsuya Naito © vs. Tomohiro Ishii
They lock up and almost get a clean break against the rope but Ishii throws a forearm. They take turns disrespecting one another and trading stiff shots. The crowd turns on Naito pretty early on and he plays to it. Ishii serves a vertical superplex. They puff out their chests and exchange stiff shots. Powerbomb by Ishii gets a 2 count. They trade counters until Naito hits a sick German! It would be a miracle if Ishii doesn’t have a concussion. Naito slips on the ropes and they both tumble onto the mat. They exchange counters again until Naito nails a tornado DDT. Another nasty German suplex by Naito gets 2! Ishii nearly decapitates Naito with a clothesline. They trade more forearms and stumble around to sell their exhaustion. Ishii absorbs a missile drop-kick to the head but Naito blocks all his attacks. Ishii survives a lariat and finally catches Naito with a power bomb for a monster of a near fall. Pair of lariats by Ishii but Naito KICKS OUT!! Naito desperately maneuvers into an enziguri but is too hurt for a cover. Naito throws a spinning uranage and a slam for only 2 counts! Naito misses the Stardust Press and the crowd is going ballistic. Ishii plants him again for another near fall that the fans are buying hook, line, and sinker. Another German suplex by Naito but ISHII KICKS OUT!! They trade open hand slaps and head butts. Enziguri by Ishii gets another extremely close 2 count. Brainbuster by Ishii ends it at 23:36! Just when I thought the match was getting meandering, they turned it up to third gear and had one of the hottest false-finish sequences I can recall, ****¼.
Winner and new NEVER Champion: Tomohiro Ishii
IWGP Heavyweight Championship:
Kazuchika Okada © (with Gedo) vs. Hirooki Goto (with Katsuyori Shibata)
Okada has a freaking dinosaur accompany him to the ring. That’s not a metaphor for a veteran wrestler, they have an actual raptor puppet on the stage. Okada looks like a bad-ass marching to the ring with the IWGP title around his waist and hoisting a giant anime-style sword. The match begins with them pacing themselves with a feeling out process. Goto lands a hard chop, and Okada pats the chest mockingly in a break. Goto turns up the intensity with a shoulder block and hard shots. Okada directs the fight to the floor, where he wraps Goto’s head into the guard rail for some punishment. Goto is pissed, but Okada sets him up for a slingshot senton in the ring. Okada focuses his attacks to the neck of Goto. Okada gets caught on the top rope and Goto nails a hard clothesline. Series of stiff kicks by Goto and a back suplex! Goto clotheslines Okada to the floor and whips him into the barricade for a running heel kick. Back to the ring, Okada counters by drop-kicking Goto off the top to the floor. Okada sets up a Randy Orton style DDT off the barricade. Okada continues to roll with a flying elbow in the ring. Goto comes back with a clothesline, but Okada retains control with a series of uppercuts. Flapjack by Okada sets up the STF. Knee to the head by Okada and a suplex gets 2. Goto avoids a drop-kick and throws a desperate clothesline. Goto throws hard shots and drops Okada face-first onto his knee! Goto plants Okada onto the canvas for a near fall. Goto drops Okada off the top rope onto his knee for the first real false finish of the match. Okada surprises with a picture-perfect drop-kick. Goto counters a clothesline with a head butt! Penalty kick by Goto gets a very close 2 count. Okada drop-kicks the head and nails the Tombstone Piledriver. Short-arm lariat finishes Goto at 22:46. They worked a fairly deliberate pace and it was surprisingly one-sided in Okada’s favor until Goto’s late match comeback. Solid match, but not the MOTYC they probably thought they were having, ***½.
Winner and still IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Kazuchika Okada
-Shibata gets into the ring for a staredown with Okada, teasing a future meeting between the two.
Final Thoughts: I’m starting to get the impression that NJPW might not be the promotion for me. There’s some excellent in-ring action, but their main event style is one that I get bored of if I see too much of it. Also, there’s a LOT of crap on the under cards, especially in the form of some of the questionable American talent (looking at you, Michael Tarver) and the worked MMA nonsense with the Gracies. I might be better served cherry-picking the best matches rather than try to see too many more complete shows. Thumbs in the middle for some solid ***-ish matches and the killer Ishii/Naito outing.
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