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New Japan: Wrestle Grand Slam
July 25, 2021
Live from the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan. The COVID situation in Japan is pretty serious, so there's only about 5,000 masked fans in attendance. Our English hosts are Kevin Kelly and Chris Charleton.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship:
Bullet Club © (El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori) vs. Mega Coaches (Rocky Romero and Ryusuke Taguchi)
Taguchi scores first with a hip attack on Ishimori. The Mega Coaches hit stereo knee lifts in a sequence that's just a bit too cute for its own good. Bullet Club comes back with a tandem step up rana on Romero. Bullet Club work Romero over with quick tags, and needlessly rake his back in the name of evil. Romero shreds Phantasmo's back in retaliation, but Bullet Club block the hot tag. Romero blocks a double suplex and dishes out a double rana. Taguchi hot tags in and cleans house with running hip checks. Ishimori reverses a hip check into an atomic drop, but Taguchi recovers. Romero returns with a standing sliced bread for 2, and a draping missile dropkick. Taguchi helps with a Gory Buster, but Phantasmo breaks the cover. Ishimori catches Romero with a glancing back handspring heel kick. Phantasmo tags in for a springboard crossbody, slingshot swanton, and lionsault, but Romero kicks out! Styles Clash by Phantasmo, but Romero kicks out! That false finish felt more silly than epic. V-Trigger by Phantasmo, Romero reverses One Winged Angel into an armbar, Taguchi stops Ishimori with a leg submission, but Ishimori rolls Taguchi onto Romero to break the submission! Taguchi returns with a springboard axe handle, but Ishimori answers with a springboard kick. Romero catches Phantasmo with a springboard clothesline Doomsday Device! Tornado DDT by Romero off of Taguchi's steel rear. Mega Coaches hit a Codebreaker/Facebuster combo but Ishimori kicks out! Desperation Code Red by Ishimori, followed by a springboard moonsault to outside. Phantasmo hits a cool, yet overly telegraphed, tightrope walk moonsault to ringside. Phantasmo is limping but still hits a UFO, but Taguchi kicks out in yet another comical nearfall. The match totally breaks down with all four guys hitting spots in full view of the referee. Taguchi unties Phantasmo's boot to go after his bad ankle and seems to find a weapon in his boot. Phantasmo sneaks in for a low blow and CR2 to win at 21:02: Well, they aimed high, but some unfortunate sloppiness and mistimed spots kept this from greatness. Also, most of the false finishes felt unwarranted and silly. Still, they kept a great pace and effort throughout, ***.
Winners and still IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: Bullet Club
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship:
El Desperado © vs. Robbie Eagles
It's been a short lifetime since I last saw Eagles in action, I'm surprised he made the trip to Japan given the state of the world. He looks to be in good shape and holds his own against Desperado in the feeling out process. Desperado has a bad jaw and Eagles has a bad leg, and they both know it. They jockey for position and Eagles hits a slick armdrag into a low dropkick. Eagles teases a dive and taunts Desperado into charging into a bad situation. Desperado comes back with relentless dragon screw leg sweeps. Eagles' leg takes tons of abuse, but he manages to drop Desperado over the guard rail. Eagles hits a well aimed missile dropkick to the knee and puts him into the Ron Miller Special. Desperado gets the ropes, so Eagles smashes the knee into the canvas for 2. Desperation back suplex by Desperado buys some time. They slug it out to their feet and trade mean kicks to the knee. Eagles' leg injury stops him from connecting with KO kicks, and Desperado hits a gut wrench Falcon Arrow for 2. Eagles stumbles into Desperado's spinebuster, and Stretch Muffler! Eagles thinks about tapping but muscles into a sunset flip, but Desperado reverses into an inside cradle. Eagles reverses into a close 2 count, and the take a breather. Eagles can't hit Sliced Bread, and nearly gets pinned. Eagles lucks his way into a KO kick to the bad jaw. Superkick by Eagles and Michinoku Driver, but DESPERADO KICKS OUT! 450 splash onto the leg by Eagles and the Ron Miller Special gets the hard earned submission at 19:56! This was a technically sound, dramatic treat, the surprise title change makes all the sweeter, ****¼.
Winner and new IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion: Robbie Eagles
Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
This is an unofficial #1 contenders match, as both guys are riding a wave of momentum. They tie up and Cobb teases a cheap shot on a clean break. Another tie up results in Okada patting Cobb in patronizing fashion. The pace quickens and Okada scores a running dropkick. Neckbreaker by Okada gets 1. Cobb breaks a chinlock and dropkicks Okada off of the top rope. Cobb slams Okada's lower spine into the ring frame and goes on offense. Okada hits a high elevation flapjack to buy some time. Okada strings some offense and gets 2 on a DDT. Okada dropkicks Cobb off the buckles to ringside for a breather. He boots Cobb over the rails and hits a draping DDT. Back to the ring, Okada gets the Money Clip, but Cobb drives him into the buckles. Running cross block by Cobb, Okada blocks a dead lift suplex, Cobb blocks a slingshot crossbody and hits a delayed vertical suplex at ringside! Okada sells a variety of injuries but avoids a countout. Cobb hits a running power slam for 2, so he hits a standing moonsault for another 2. Cobb follows with a spinning power slam (not quite Tour of the Islands) but Okada kicks out! German suplex by Cobb, but Okada powers into a running dropkick! Short arm lariat by Okada, and he holds on for a second lariat. Cobb ducks the Rainmaker, can't hit a Tombstone, but Cobb steals the Rainmaker! They take a breather and slug their way back to their feet. Doctor Bomb by Cobb gets 2. Okada blocks Tour of the Islands, Cobb hits a thrust kick and running headbutt, and they trade rapid reversals until Okda scores a back cradle to win at 19:29! Just a master class of workrate on display, and that finish leaves the door wide open for a rematch, ****¼.
Winner: Kazuchika Okada
IWGP Tag Team Championship:
Los Ingobernables de Japon © (Tetsuya Naito and SANADA) vs. Dangerous Tekkers (Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi, with Miho Abe)
ZSJ starts against Naito and would like to end this quickly, but has to settle for some chain wrestling. Naito breaks a head scissors and forces a stalemate. Tags are made, but Taichi is reluctant to lock up with SANADA. Dangerous Tekkers clear the ring and run roughshot over their challengers. SANADA gets worked over in a good heat sequence. LiJ manage to turn it around and soften up ZSJ's knee. Taichi gets a hot tag and runs wild through LiJ. Naito responds with an atomic drop and neckbreaker. SANADA can't hit a springboard move but settles for an Atomic Drop and then the Paradise Lock! It's high time that a WWE or AEW talent steal that move, it's really amusing and embarrassing for the victim. SANADA and Taichi remember they hate each other and trade stiff blows. Taichi hits an enziguri, ZSJ neutralizes Naito, SANADA hits a Tiger Driver for 2. SANADA misses a moonsault and ZSJ and Naito return to break down the match. Everyone goes down for the obligatory ovation, Taichi is up first and tears off his outer pants, blocks Skull End to kick SANADA in the head. ZSJ finds his second wind and runs wild, but Taichi cuts him off with a dropkick to the knee. ZSJ reverses into a crucifix, and trades blows with SANADA, and kicks out of an O'Connor Roll. Cobra Twist by ZSJ, but Taichi counters with a dragon screw leg sweep. The fans are digging this. Naito returns to stomp a mudhole into ZSJ's leg. Neckbreakers by Naito gets 2 on ZSJ. Desperation octopus by ZSJ, but Naito hyperextends his knee. ZSJ recovers with an enziguri to the arm, and kick-off DDT. The match breaks down again in spectacular fashion. Naito grapevines ZSJ's legs while Taichi and SANADA collide. Naito drops ZSJ onto his head for 2. Avalanche rana by Naito, but ZSJ rolls through for a Triangle Choke. Taichi breaks it up. ZSJ puts Naito into a head scissors while Taichi puts SANADA into a Dragon sleeper. SANADA hits ZSJ with a Lionsault, Taichi hits Black Mephisto, Naito hits a Destino, but ZSJ answers with a driver! Everyone takes a breather. ZSJ and Naito have a brilliantly nasty exchange on the canvas and pummel their way to their feet. Taichi hits a back suplex onto SANADA! Taichi clobbers Naito with an elbow. ZSJ hits a Penalty Kick to Naito for 2. SANADA breaks up the Tekker's finisher, but Naito traps ZSJ in a pinning predicament for the win at 37:58! Absurd display of pure athleticism and complex action. These guys are on a whole other level, ****½.
Winners and new IWGP Tag Team Champions: Dangerous Tekkers
IWGP World Heavyweight Championship:
Shingo Takagi © vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Tanahashi is subbing for Kota Ibushi, who is suffering from "aspiration pneumonia." They lock up like a couple of bulls and feel each other out. Shingo builds steam at ringside, slamming Tanahashi onto the ring frame. Tanahashi struggles for several minutes until he ducks a low lariat and nails a blistering dragon screw legsweep. Shingo sells a knee injury while Tanahashi rallies and hits a somersault senton for 2. Tanahashi hits a firm running dropkick against the buckles. Aces High Crossbody by Tanahashi, but he hurts his own knee in the landing. Shingo is clutching his neck but uses the opening to get back into it. Tanahashi dropkicks Shingo's bad knee to buy time. Dragon screw by Tanahashi, and then another off the buckles. This sets up a Texas Cloverleaf, but Shingo eventually gets the ropes. Shingo retaliates with a dragon screw in the ropes. Tanahashi desperately runs Shingo into the rails to earn a breather. Back to the ring, Shingo hits Made in Japan for 2. Bombay Bomber by Shingo also gets 2, the fans reward them with clapping. Straight jacket German, Sling Blade, and a high crossbody by Tanahashi. Kamigoye by Tanahashi, and the High Fly Flow only gets 2! Shingo blocks a suplex and hits Last of the Dragon. They slug their way to their feet, Tanahashi delivers a brutal head butt. Dragon Suplex by Tanahashi, Shingo pops up, Tanahashi cuts him off with a German for 2. They battle on the top rope, Shingo hits a series of tired looking head butts. Shingo hits an avalanche Last of the Dragon, but a slow cover only gets 2. They stumble to their feet and stiff each other with desperation shots. Shingo hits Last of the Dragon one more time to win at 37:30. This had everything you would expect from the New Japan main event style, it's kind of crazy to think that a near 40 minute match with this level of effort could feel routine, but here we are, ***½.
Winner and still IWGP World Heavyweight Champion: Shingo Takagi
Final Thoughts: Wrestle Grand Slam is one of the better shows I've seen in 2021. COVID has not been kind to New Japan, and it feels like they're surviving, rather than thriving, but don't count them out just yet.
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