Breathe with the Switchblade in his new era…
It’s been a wild event for Bullet Club. They’ve been doing an excellent job rebuilding after the departure of the Elite and have potentially become more dangerous than ever. Especially now since Tama Tonga has snapped once again and the fact they now once again hold the IWGP Heavyweight Title once again. However Bullet Club weren’t the only ones to benefit on this show so let’s see what went down.
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Jyushin Thunder Liger defeat Takashi Lizuka, Taka Michinoku & Minoru Suzuki via DQ
The first match once again saw Tenzan pleading with Lizuka to wake up from his crazy spell and join him once again. This had the same result as always with Lizuka ignoring him and a brawl breaking out. The finish came as Tenzan tried to use a t-shirt from their tag days to bring him back. Suzuki interrupted this with a chair but Lizuka grabbed it. It looks like a save but Lizuka wants to hit him instead. The match ends in DQ and once again Tenzan eats an Iron Glove for his troubles.
An exciting starting match that once again carries on the narrative that Tenzan wants Lizuka back. The highlights of the match come from the exchanges between Kojima and Suzuki. It’s still interesting to see if all of Tenzan’s efforts will result in a changing Lizuka.
EVIL & SANADA defeat Shota Umino & Yoshida Ayato via Magic Killer on Umino
This was the best match that the Young Lion team have had on this tour. They had a lot of offence displayed, especially over the latter half of the match. There was a great close call as Umino nearly hit his Fisherman Suplex but was caught in the Skull End. Excellent work from the young lions, LIJ seemed happy to put them over and SANADA seemed to be treating this as a lackadaisical match much to Don Callis’ annoyance.
Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI & Shingo Takagi defeat Taichi, El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru via Destino on Kanemaru
This match started as every match between these teams had, with a brawl. Suzuki Gun takes advantage and Naito is targeted. He is worked over until he escapes the Last Ride and finally tags in BUSHI. He mixes it up with Desperado and Kanemaru hitting a double Rana on the pair. Shingo is then tagged in and manages to overpower Desperado, blocking a Spear in the process. He manages to overpower Kanemaru too reversing Deep Impact. LIJ take the fight back to Suzuki Gun, bullying Kanemaru with a Pumping Bomber and finishing him with Destino. Naito has a brief stare down with Taichi but retreats pretty quickly.
These teams can’t have a bad match together and this may seem like another LIJ vs Suzuki Gun match, it was another fun and fast fight with no drag.
BUSHI and Shingo pose for the camera but their exit is blocked by Roppongi 3k who want to challenge for the Jr Tag Titles. LIJ originally try to ignore this but once their belts are stolen from them, they accept the challenge.
Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens defeat Tomoaki Honma & Yoshi-Hashi via Package Piledriver
The first Bullet Club match of the night featured two of the dirtiest members of the faction picking on Tomoaki Honma. He was bullied to the point that he had to use a Brainbuster to get out of trouble. Owens and Takahashi were smart in their approach as they would block Kokeshis and underhanded tactics to keep Honma from mounting any offence. Once Yoshi-Hashi was tagged in, he took off like a rocket. He took out both members of Bullet Club and even struck back when he was pulled under the ropes. The match devolved into a mix of double team moves and attempted finishers including Kokeshi. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to take out Yujiro or Owens and Honma eats the pin after suffering a Package Piledriver.
This was the most forgettable match on the card and probably the most generic. It isn’t boring by any stretch but you’d be forgiven for skipping it.
After the match, Kota Ibushi’s music hits and he takes to the ring. He has recovered from the concussion he suffered during his match with Ospreay and is officially part of NJPW. He has finally signed a contract with them and announces his involvement in the New Japan Cup. He is the first announced entrant and the crowd go wild.
Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa defeat Togi Makabe & Toru Yano via Guns Stun on Yano
If anyone had faith in good guy Tama Tonga reappearing then that was certainly quashed by the end of this match. G.O.D ambush Yano and Makabe as they make their way to the ring. Yano is attacked mercilessly and is hit with the Magic Killer early on. Makabe makes the save and the beat down on Yano continues. Yano finally escapes with a hair pull and tags in Makabe. He mixes it up with Loa and manages to overpower G.O.D until Jado decides to interfere. Yano comes back in, causes a ref bump and tries to win with a Low Blow. Instead, he takes a kendo stick to the face and a Gun Stun for his troubles. After winning, Tama goes on a spree beating everyone in sight with the Kendo stick and pushing a cameraman off the stage on his way out.
This was a coming out party for the Bad Boy’s return and definitely achieved what it needed to. It’s short enough to skip but for any Bullet Club fan, it’ll be a breeze.
Taiji Ishimori defeats Ryusuke Taguchi via Bloody Cross
Taguchi instantly tries to gain the psychological advantage over Ishimori by coming out dressed in fisherman’s overalls. This is meant to harken back to an old comedy gimmick of Ishimori’s and explains the dance Taguchi has been doing across the tour. Ishimori is unfazed and even joins in with the dance at one point, irritating Taguchi. The challenger starts by going for his usual comedy shenanigans and hip attacks but can’t mount any offence at all. Ishimori appears to have an answer to everything. Realising this, Taguchi gets serious, hitting a Plancha, dropkick and Tope Con Hilo. From there he takes control, managing to have extended Ankle Lock segments, hit the Three Amigos, the Bummer Ye and even hitting a Dodon that everyone thought would finish the match. Unfortunately, the champion was too resilient kicking out of the finisher, hitting the Tombstone Double Knees and reversing a second Dodon attempt into a Bloody Cross for the win.
The second best match of the night provided a mix of ring psychology and fast paced action. Taguchi once again proved he is an actual wrestler and not just a comedy man. This also provided a much more exciting Junior Title match for Ishimori than the disinteresting affair he had with KUSHIDA to win the belt. Definitely one of the highlights of this show.
After the match Ishimori points to Liger, challenging him to a title match. Liger comes away from commentary, gets in the ring and accepts the challenger. Jyushin Thunder Liger will be Ishimori’s next title defence.
Kazuchika Okada defeats Bad Luck Fale via Rainmaker
Okada wasted no time with this match. He threw his ring attire at Fale and instantly went on the attack. He suffers some offence at the hands of Fale and his lower back is targeted for attacks. Fale is eventually slammed by Okada and the two get into a striking battle where Fale has a clear advantage. Okada eventually gets the big man up for the Air Raid Crash Neckbreaker, hits an Elbow Drop from the top and manages to hit a series of dropkicks but doesn’t get the pin whilst Okada has to kick out of a Fale Splash. Seeing that the Rogue General is struggling, Bullet Club interfere. They beat down Okada but are brought to a stop by a save from Yoshi Hashi. Okada tries to get back into the match and Dropkicks out of a Grenade from Fale but eats a second attempt Grenade. This only achieves a two count, making Fale desperate. He tries to go to the top rope but is stunned by Okada and hit with a Superplex. Fale tries to stumble out some strikes but is put down by the combo of the Spinning Rainmaker then the traditional Rainmaker.
Once again, a main event match lives up to its name as this was yet another marquee fight between this pair. Okada had something to prove going into the match as he has suffered a string of losses as of late to Bullet Club members. He still faced an uphill battle in this match but managed to persevere and take advantage of any mistake Fale made. Another must watch from this show.
Jay White defeats Hiroshi Tanahashi via Blade Runner
Tanahashi and White have had an incredibly bitter rivalry. Tanahashi gave White his first loss back at Wrestle Kingdom 12 and since last year’s G1 has been target of White’s ire. The two last did battle for the G1 briefcase, again a match White lost. This time it was a match for the biggest prize of them all, the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Tanahashi started the match strong as he took a technical approach and dominated, even reversing White’s tricks and driving him face first into the ring post.
Gedo interferes and White comes back, hitting a Saito Suplex over the ropes and planting Tanahashi onto the announcer’s table. Tanahashi makes a comeback but this is stopped by a Flatliner/Deadlift German Suplex Combo. Momentum shifts again as Tanahashi destroys White’s knee with a rope assisted Dragon Screw Leg Whip. He then hits an Ace’s High to the outside and dodges a chair shot from behind, resulting in Gedo taking a shot to the face. The two trade finisher and move attempts until Tanahashi hits a trifecta of Twist and Shouts. Throughout the match Tanahashi is defiant in the face of White, shouting and insulting him as he takes strikes. There is an intense section where Tanahashi is wrapped in the ropes but never once looked downtrodden or defeated as he was hit. He used the energy from the crowd to keep going.
They go back and forth trading control. There is a flurry of Sling Blades and Tanahashi tries to set up the killing blow with another High Fly Flow. White gets up so Tanahashi goes for Ace’s High but White catches him and turns it into a Blade Runner. White has won the match and the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
This was by far the match of the night as it not only gave us the climax of one of the hottest new blood vs old guard feuds of all time but truly welcomed in a new era. The in-ring action was good, Tanahashi was the babyface ace who was defiant to the end and White has perfected the art of the heel. It was a gruelling fight between two men who had every reason to hate the other. After the match White makes a speech about how he used to class Osaka as his home. Now that he fights for himself with his own rules, the crowd has turned on him. He turns on Osaka and denounces it as his home, drawing further hate from the crowd.
So overall, this was a real New Beginning for NJPW. Bullet Club is finally at the top again after the Elite took over the faction and changed what it was. The faction is stronger than ever and holds two of the biggest belts in the company. The two title matches stole the show and Okada once again proves why is still one of the best in the company. Another knock out show by NJPW.
(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)