New Year’s Dash!! has turned out to be one of the pivotal events in the New Japan Calendar. None of the matches are announced, you get pot luck on what you will see, but they are all booked around what had happened the night before at Wrestle Kingdom, or the now two nights before at Wrestle Kingdom. Sometimes you get surprises, like Suzuki Gun rolling back into town after their year-long NOAH exile, or KENTA and Jay White demolishing Hontai. And sometimes nothing much happens, and after an emotional rollercoaster of the previous forty-eight hours, perhaps some nice quiet wrestling is what we needed.
Yuji Nagata defeated Gabriel Kidd
Yuji Nagata is one of the best trainers on earth both at amateur and in the pro ranks. In contrast, Gabriel Kidd is right at the start of his career and has a ton of upside. Already a fully formed heavyweight, the NJPW Dojo has rebuilt his fundamentals both in LA and Tokyo. Having paid some of the dues he has added some British flash to his austere NJ offence and so this was an interesting contrast in styles. Kidd is a throwback in many ways, his style is very much in the Billy Robinson, Steve Regal, “Super Destroyer” Pete Roberts and this makes for a great contest with the heavy-hitting Nagata, no clues for guessing who won though. It was the kind of palette cleanser you needed after watching Ibushi and White go to Broadway.
Suzuki-Gun (DOUKI & Minoru Suzuki) defeated Tiger Mask & Yuya Uemura
DOUKI was the breakout star of 2020 in the Junior Division but didn’t win a great deal, Minoru Suzuki is frigging Minoru Suzuki. Part God, part human, all the anger ever manifested into one perfect form. Tiger Mask is a living legend who has just had a year off with colonic diverticulitis and literally has had body parts removed. Yuya Uemura on the other hand seems to want to embrace the sweet release of death. He called out Suzuki before Wrestle Kingdom and, in their last outing, Suzuki deemed him unworthy of taking his finisher the Gotch Style Piledriver. Which shows how much Uemura has gone up in Suzuki’s estimation, he’s moved from merely offended to actively hostile. He finished him off Uemura with it today. It gave the match some impetus and a story which in lower card affairs like this is refreshing. Suzuki was smiling too. A truly awful feeling, because you know someone, probably Uemura, is going to pay.
The Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay) defeated TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) & Yota Tsuji
TonKoji and Yota Tsuji were really on a hiding to nothing here. With The Empire losing all their matches at Wrestle Kingdom, they desperately needed some oomph back in their story and Hiroshi Tenzan would be the unfortunate person to be on the receiving end of a beating. Ospreay is still trying to find his feet as a heel character in this environment, but he is still seen as a liability by a lot of Western fans. O-Khan had a much better Wrestle Kingdom than most expected with Tanahashi beating him, but the match gave him room to explore what he can be like in the upper mid-card and I strongly approve. Jeff Cobb was spectacular in defeat to Shingo Takagi, but this was about re-establishing a brand. Some great moments from the babyfaces, but someone was going home in a Kanto Region ambulance. Billy No Mates’ Colonial Imposition need something to make them more interesting, this was a small step to a bigger story.
BULLET CLUB (El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) defeated Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr.)
Bereft of his IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, Taiji Ishimori went after a new target in the form of El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru, taking the annoyingly unoriginal El Phantasmo with him for the ride. This should be a good matchup for the Jnr Tag belts which have lacked heat this year due to a series of unfortunate injuries too whoever was holding the titles at the time. The Heavyweight tag titles on the other hand have not been hotter in years. GoD stand tall over the tag world and can legitimately claim to be the greatest NJPW Tag Team ever. They’re taunting of Taichi and ZSJ has been excellent and it bodes well for a rematch down the line. Dangerous Tekkers have been outstanding in the last 12 months and it keeps them out of a loaded singles scene that needs time to breathe. The renaissance of the heavyweight tag division in NJPW has been breathtaking, hopefully, they can work the same magic with the Junior Titles, which once had the Time Splitters, Forever Hooligans, Young Bucks and reDRagon at the same time. The match had great moments, but these four teams should move on to bigger and better things together.
CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI) defeated BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale, Chase Owens, EVIL, Jay White & Yujiro Takahashi)
This had little to do with the long-standing CHAOS/BC rivalry and was more of a victory lap for Okada whose win at Wrestle Kingdom firmly put him back in the title picture. Jay White on the other hand is talking about retiring. If it is so, and let’s be honest it probably isn’t, it was an example of what both squads do so well. CHAOS stood up and were counted, and Bullet Club cheated. Just better than anyone else going. It had everything that this kind of match needed to work, there was no fat, and the ten seasoned pros put out what they needed to do. What really mattered was the finish; Tomihiro Ishii pinned Jay White for the second time in three months with an Avalanche Brain Buster. Ishii noted that he hadn’t had a 48-minute career-defining match the night before and was fresh, but advised White to rest up, get his head square and come look for some revenge. Ishii just does not care, but maybe White cares too much. Things are always fine with Bullet Club until they are not. The sharks will circle, but one should never forget that the Great White is the most dangerous shark of all.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito) defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kota Ibushi, Master Wato, Rocky Romero & SHO
Unbelievably Bushi got the pin in this match and as is the tradition, the person who wins via pinfall in the main event gets to address the crowd. He apologised to everyone that they wouldn’t get to hear Naito speak and challenged Master Wato as Takagi was going after Tanahashi, Hiromu wanted Sho as a challenger, and SANADA had staked his claim for an IWGP Double Title match which had readily been accepted by Kota Ibushi. Only Naito had no plans. And boy did he look lost without those titles. The Hontai/CHAOS team put in a stunning performance, the opening exchanges with Sho and Hiromu are especially worthy because they got the Tokyo Dome City Hall crowd rocking with just forearms, imagine what they’ll do when they actually wrestle. Tanahashi vs Takagi looks to be a genuine Ace-on-Ace affair which surely would have been a dream inter-promotional match when Takagi was with Dragon Gate, and Master Wato will learn a lot from feuding with Bushi. The rub is what now for Naito? He passed the torch to Ibushi graciously. LIJ are not as Ungovernable as they once were, what’s next? The most popular wrestler in New Japan will no doubt tell us in time.
The show was not as exciting as the previous years when it comes to surprises, but it was good solid wrestling that was a nice change after the pageantry of the previous two days. It had some cool matches and teased what might be, the trouble is when will that be? This might end up being the show that closes out wrestling in Japan again for a while. The whole of Puroreso holds its collective breath, NOAH’s big February show at Buddokan Hall, Stardom’s run also to Buddokan in March and numerous other events are on hold until the Japanese government reviews it’s Covid Strategy. Everyone is hoping spring has some wrestling this year.
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