Hey, it’s The Beast In The East! It’s a house show from Japan that has magically found its way onto our screens! Magic, I tell you!
The show started with Chris Jericho coming out for the opening match. No twenty-minute promo, just a match to kick things off. This is what it feels like when doves cry.
Jericho got a HUGE reception from the fans and Michael Cole, who must have had cagematch.de open on his laptop, explained he’d spent time in his early career in Japan with FMW. Well, he did, like, four matches there and then had seventy-odd with WAR. If anything, it was a wasted opportunity to use the name Wrestle And Romance on modern TV and that’s a shame.
Jericho was fighting Neville. Cole, again plugged into the DATABASE explained that Neville had also spent time in Japan with Dragon Gate, but did not speculate that his, ahem, enhanced physique might have stemmed from his time there.
So Jericho and Neville had a GREAT match. I’m not talking a Match Of The Year candidate or anything, just a really solid opening match that ticked all the boxes you’d want it to tick.
Some people seem upset that Jericho got the win – with the Lion Tamer – but they don’t seem to understand how house shows work. The babyface – or the biggest star in the case of a babyface versus babyface match like this one – always goes over. Neville won’t be damaged by the loss and it is what it is.
After the match, they showed Brock Lesnar arriving at the Sumo Hall. He was walking and you could imagine he’d walked the whole way, along the bottom of the sea, because HE IS A MONSTER.
Hey, it’s Paige! That means that The New Day versus The Lucha Dragons was a dark match and the women’s match got to air. There’s no justice anymore. Paige came out to a smattering of cheers, and then Tamina Snuka – yeah, I know! – came out and played heel to the crowd. Finally, Nikki Bella came out and the fans seemed confused because WHAT IS SHE?
So they had a match and, although it was a three-way, they sensibly kept Tamina out of the ring for most of it. Nikki got the win, with a roaring forearm on Tamina, which – I guess – was apt for the surroundings. I was hoping for a Ganso Bomb, though.
The weird thing is that they’d present this match at all in Japan, the home of really great women’s wrestling for the last thirty years. But I suppose there isn’t much crossover between the audience for a WWE house show and your regular joshi puroresu punter, so what do I know?
They showed exterior shots of Tokyo, and Michael Cole explained that Sumo Hall would hold the boxing for the Olympics in 2020. Then they showed some Japanese fans dressed up as their WWE favourites. My favourite was the guy dressed as SIMON GOTCH. Manly. Although, I did like the Nise Curry Man in the front row.
Hey, it’s Kofi Kingston! He’s fighting Brock Lesnar! He’s going to die! Kingston came out on his own, weirdly. I think he could have done with some positivity from Big E & Xavier Woods. Then Lesnar came out to a MASSIVE pop. A love for ass-kicking monstertude is worldwide, it seems.
Kingston looked a little, well, reluctant to fight Lesnar, as well he might. But fight they did and this consisted mostly of Kingston trying to hurt Lesnar and Lesnar no-selling pretty much everything he did. Then Lesnar threw Kingston around a lot and pinned him with an F5. It was the best crappy match EVER.
After the match, Lesnar threw Kingston around some more and that brought out The New Day, who Lesnar also threw around, hitting F5s on each of them. A vulgar display of power and every bit what was wanted and needed. I hope Seth Rollins dies next.
Backstage, they showed Kevin Owens preparing for his NXT title defense against Finn Bálor, and then they hyped the match with a video, leaning heavily on Bálor returning to the scene of his greatest triumphs (as Prince Devitt in New Japan). I like this new, modern WWE that doesn’t ignore a wrestler’s past and isn’t afraid to acknowledge other promotions. I guess they’re not competition any more, so why not?
Hey, it’s Finn Bálor! He did his demon entrance which is still slightly spine-tingling, despite some awful direction by whoever was in that particular seat. To say Bálor, who is yet to appear on the main roster shows, was over is an understatement. Then Owens came out and the place went crazy again. NXT is big time.
They did the traditional Japanese title match rituals, such as streamers and girls presenting flowers to the competitors. Bálor accepted this gracefully but Owens threw his flowers to the floor and moaned about the streamers. Classic heeling.
And then they had a match. A great match. Twenty minutes of nearfalls, heel stalling, trash-talking… fast and slow, always intense. Owens stole Cena’s moves, as is his wont lately, and even teased a package piledriver, turning it into a slam instead. Bálor, for his part, teased the Bloody Sunday when his Coup de Grace only got a nearfall, and you could tell Cole was itching to call it by name.
Owens ensured that he was a very effective heel by stalling and very loudly deriding Japan and its people rather than by any shortcut cheating, and Bálor played the determined, resolute babyface throughout. Both men were perfect.
Bálor got the win – and became the new NXT champion – with a second Coup de Grace at just under twenty minutes, and the place came unglued. This was the first ever NXT title change outside of Full Sail and truly marked the little promotion (with deep pockets, admittedly) as a big thing.
After the match, Tatsumi Fujinami came out, to a big, respectful pop, and embraced the new champion. Then Bálor asked for a handshake and Owens looked like he was going to accept but then blew it off and left the ring. Great stuff.
At this point, there was still about forty minutes of the show left and I dreamed that we might get to see the odd pairing of Cesaro and Diego but God knows what happened to that match because Bad News Barrett came out for the main event. He was teaming with Kane, and I like to think that this weird team was a tribute to Japanese six-mans, like they used to have in Wrestle And Romance back in the day.
Kane & Barrett were fighting the uber-babyface team of Dolph Ziggler (thankfully without Lana, who has become a weight around his neck) and John Cena. This being a house show crowd, and abroad, Cena got a huge reaction, cementing his position as the unchallenged top guy in the company, no matter what weasel holds the title.
They did a pretty standard house show main event, going almost twenty-four minutes of mostly heel-dominated action. First Cena sold for the heels so Ziggler could make a hot tag, and then Ziggler played Ricky Morton so that Cena could be his Robert Gibson. The good guys got the win when Cena hit the AA on Barrett after Ziggler had superkicked him. The crowd seemed pretty happy with the result and Cena & Ziggler did victory laps, slapping hands with the fans. Cena even shook Nise Curry Man’s hand, which was cool.
This was a Really Good Show. It was refreshing to see these guys work on a big stage but without too much storyline and no bullshit finishes. I hope this is the start of a series of these events because I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours in the company of these men. Good work fellas!