I know this review is about a week and half late, but as I said in my Great Balls of Fire review, there is a reason for that. This is a show I was surely going to watch and of course I was going to review it, but due to the things that came up in the last week, it was delayed, as well as a number of album reviews. So please, bear with me.
This is the second time (that I know of) New Japan made their way onto US soil, the first time being their “Attack on East Coast” Invasion Tour in 2011. Things have changed a lot since then and the product has gotten much better in these last 6 years. Their talent-exchange partnership with Ring of Honor has really helped with that. This is only the first step in their expansion into the American market, which will hopefully go on to bring us a lot of big things in the future. Overall, both these shows were great shows. There were a LOT of filler matches, but it was a great show nonetheless. You can always count on NJPW to deliver and they sure as shit did on these 2 nights. It had a great 8-man tournament to crown the inaugural holder of their newest title and three awesome title matches all throughout these two shows. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. This was kind of a bitch for me to review and it took a while, but I did.
Now, for this review, there won’t be any match graphics or pictures, aside from the header. With everything else that I’ve had to deal with this past week, I just haven’t had the time or the patience to gather up all the match card graphics for this entire two-day event. So this one is going to look a little different.
So, anyway without any further adieu, let’s get to the meat and potatoes.
10-Man Tag Team Match: Will Ospreay, Briscoe Brothers & Roppongi Vice vs Marty Scurll, Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale & The Young Bucks
- Starting off with a shmazz tag match like only New Japan does. Decent at best opener overall. Ospreay did his thing, the usual flippy, flipflop stuff, The Briscoes got their shit in doing their usual great stuff, Bullet Club guys with their usual shtick and Marty Scurll being awesome as always, snapping motherfuckers fingers and all. Decent overall. The good guys win with a roll-up on one of the Bucks by Rocky Romero. Cool.
8-Man Tag Team Match: Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, EVIL, Bushi & Sanada) vs Jyushin Thunder Liger, Dragon Lee, Volador Jr. & Titan
- Next we have, you guessed it! Another multiple man tag match. This time with 8. Again, decent at best tag overall. I didn’t care for it much. I like Los Ingobernables, but when they’re in actual matches. Here it was just whatever. Short story short, Los Ingobernables pick up the win via Takahashi pinning Titan. Nothing much else to say.
Jay Lethal vs Hangman Page (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- On to the real matches, starting with this one. We can always count on Jay Lethal to put on a banger of a match and Hangman Page is no slouch himself, so it was almost a given that this would be a good one. It was a really good match with some solid action between these two. I love Page’s springboard front-flip clothesline thing. Always a sight to see. Lethal was a good as ever. My favorite match of his is still his match with Jay Briscoe from Best in the World 2015. He’s had some great ones since then though. Anyway, Lethal wins with the Lethal Injection (one of my favorite current finishers). Overall, just a really good match and Lethal advances to the semi-finals.
Juice Robinson vs Zack Sabre Jr. (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- The second US Title tournament match between the Technical Wizard and the former hippy. I’ve really been digging Juice Robinson since he joined New Japan. He’s finding his footing and coming along just fine. ZSJ is a skinny fella, but awesome nonetheless. These two put on a very solid match that meshed their styles pretty well. Nothing mind-blowing, but decent all in all. Zack Sabre Jr. wins with a pretty brutal Octopus Hold, making Juice tap out and advances.
8-Man Tag Team Match: Yoshi Tatsu, Billy Gunn, Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, Jay White & Kushida
- Another multiple-man tag. Didn’t care much for this one because there were already two more before this (oh, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet tho), so it was whatever. Cutting to the chase, Tanahashi, Finlay, White & Kushida win after Jay White hits a flatliner on Yoshi Tatsu for the pinfall. Again, just another schmazz tag match and nothing special.
Guerrillas of Destiny (c) vs War Machine (IWGP Tag Team Title)
- The Dominion rematch between the two top heavyweight tag teams for the belts. Another really good, hard-hitting big man match put on by these guys as expected. Hanson busted out his usual crazy shit he can do for a big dude and Rowe held his own as well. Tama Tonga and Tonga Roa were also really good here. Their dad, Haku was at ringside, by the way. Overall, really good back and forth match that saw War Machine pick up the win via Fallout on Tonga Roa through a table. New champs! Good stuff here between all 4 of these guys.
Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- Time for the last 2 quarter-finals matches for the United States Title tournament! Naito, who I love and the hard-hitting brute Ishii collide in what was a great match. Naito as heelish and “tranquilo” as ever and Ishii as brutal and murderous as ever, this was a really good back and forth match that could have gone either way and I would have been cool with either scenario. Some really cool spots pulled out and some suspenseful near falls. If I go into too much detail here, this will become an essay, so short story short, Ishii picks up the win with a Brainbuster and advances. Excellent match! Very intense and very suspenseful and the crowd ate it up like PEZ candy.
Kenny Omega vs Michael Elgin (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- You can always expect a great match out of Kenny Omega. That’s a given at this point, and Michael Elgin, i’m not as big a fan of, but these two Canadians put on the match of the night in my opinion. Super intense, super stiff and very competitive. Lots of V-Triggers delivered by Omega. Lots. The crowd was behind Omega for the most part, but Big Mike had his backers as well. A lot of great back and forth action and a lot of near falls. Again, can’t go too in depth without making this an essay, but just watch this yourself and you’ll see what I mean. In the end, after a lot of failed attempts and counters, Kenny hits the One-Winged Angel for the win and advances, going on to face Jay Lethal in the semi-finals. Nice!
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Cody (IWGP Heavyweight Title)
- Main event time for night 1. IWGP title on the line as the “Match of the Year Machine” Okada defends against “The American Nightmare” Cody. I’ve really become a fan of Cody and was expecting a great match here. It wasn’t quite as good as it could have been, but still very enjoyable. Good back and forth action with some controversy in-between. Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks came out mid-match and Omega tries to throw in the towel like Cody tried to at Dominion, causing a rift between the two during and after. This will clearly lead to Kenny breaking away from Bullet Club and Cody replacing him as the leader. Should be interesting to see down the road. Anyway, aside from that, good match overall. We had some mock spots here and there with Cody attempting a One-Winged Angel and a Rainmaker on Okada and Okada hitting a Cross Rhodes on Cody. In the end, after a few reversals, Okada hits a Tombstone and a Rainmaker for the 1-2-3. The Rainmaker retains! Overall, not as good a match as I was expecting, but a good one nonetheless. Cody will be IWGP champ sometime down the road in my opinion, but now just isn’t the right time. I think we have one or two more Okada/Omega matches to see; maybe right after that, Cody’s time will come. Until then, this was a good first look at that.
On to night 2!
6-Man Tag Team Match: Jyushin Thunder Liger, Kushida & David Finlay vs Yoshi Tatsu, Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu
- Starting off night 2, we have another schmazz tag match between the legend Jyushin Thinder Liger, Kushida (who I actually like now) and young up and comer, son of Fit Finlay and Trevor Lee doppelganger, David Finlay (who I also like) and Yoshi Tatsu and The Tempura Boyz (Sho Tanaka and Yohei Komatsu). Again, as I say about every multi-man tag that opens every NJPW show these days, decent match overall. I didn’t care for it too much, but it was entertaining enough. Cutting to the chase, Liger, Kushida and Finlay pick up the win when Finlay forces Tatsu to submit via a stretch muffler. That’s it, nothing else too noteworthy. Decent match overall.
Kenny Omega vs Jay Lethal (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- The first match of the show I was looking forward to. This one was hindered a little by Lethal’s rib injury that he suffered in his match the night before, so this wasn’t as good a match as it could have been. There were still some good spots in this one. Lethal hits a Lethal Injection at one point causing Omega to roll out of the ring and avoid a pinfall. Omega hits his usual display of brutal knee strikes and focuses on the injured ribs all throughout, which pays off in the end. After a few reversals and counter attempts, Omega hits a One-Winged Angel and gets the win. Not as long or good a match as it could have been, but hopefully we see another one between these two down the road. Omega advances to the finals!
Tomohiro Ishii vs Zack Sabre Jr. (IWGP United States Title Tournament)
- Next, we have a very interesting mesh of two different styles that made for an interesting and entertaining bout. The hard-hitting, headbutting, shit-beating style of Ishii vs the technical, scientific, body tying mat style of ZSJ. Very good match overall. Zack tries to get into some striking exchanges with Ishii, to no avail, as Ishii puts and end to it with some headbutts. Zack was able to lock in a lot of his signature submission holds on the big guy and nearly submits him a few times and puts up a pretty damn good fight against the Stone Pitbull. In the end, however, after a hard-hitting bout, Ishii picks up the win with a Brainbuster and advances to the finals. Very good match that could have gone either way.
10-Man Tag Team Match: Juice Robinson, Jay White, Dragon Lee, Volador Jr. & Tatan vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hiromu Takahashi, EVIL, Sanada & Bushi)
- Another multi-man match that I didn’t really care for. Decent at best overall. Some really good spots and good back and forth action. That’s about it. Jay White, Dragon Lee, Juice Robinson, Titan & Volador Jr. win after Jay White hits a flatliner on Bushi for the 1-2-3. Not much else of note. I was rooting for Los Ingobernables de Japon, but it is what it is.
6-Man Tag Team Match: Hangman Page & Guerrillas of Destiny vs Michael Elgin & War Machine
- Here we have a pretty good 6-man tag between the heavyweight tag teams who put on a good one the night before and two of the first-round tournament contenders. Not as good as any of their respective matches on night 1, but still good for what it was. Nothing of too much note, but very entertaining. Hangman Page hits the rite of passage on Raymond Rowe for the win and him and the Guerrillas of Destiny walk out the victors. Again, good match, but nothing more than just another filler.
Young Bucks (c) vs Roppongi Vice (IWGP Junior Tag Team Title)
- The IWGP Junior Tag Team Titles are on the line as the Young Bucks and Roppongi Vice face off for the millionth time. They always give a pretty damn good match, but damn, so many of them. Anyway, this one was no exception. Really good match with some really good spots. Earlier in the day, the Bucks promised they would hit the most epic Meltzer Driver in honor of Dave Meltzer’s father, who passed away a few days prior, which they did. The best spot in this match was the insane Meltzer Driver to the outside on Rocky Romero. Pretty fucking crazy sight. It was your typical spotty, high-flying, flippy-floppy, superkick-happy Young Bucks match, but it’s always very entertaining and fun to watch and Romero and Beretta work really well with them each time. Good back and forth match with a lot of crazy shit and the Bucks win with stereo sharpshooters on both RPG Vice guys, to which they both tapped. Nick and Matt retain the titles.
8-Man Tag Team Match: Bullet Club (Cody, Marty Scurll, Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi) vs Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay & The Briscoe Brothers
- The last multi-man filler match of the weekend. AGAIN, didn’t care too much for this one but it was pretty decent for what it was. Marty Scurll snapping fingers as always (always a sight) and decent back and forth action all around. Bullet Club picks up the win after Cody hits Cross Rhodes on Will Ospreay. Not much else to say about this one.
Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Billy Gunn (IWGP Intercontinental Title)
- Veteran vs veteran, Tanahashi defends the IWGP Intercontinental title against the 50+ but in incredible shape Billy Gun. Not a bad match overall. Gunn is quite passed his prime, but can still work a really good match; just look at him and Road Dogg’s last WWE run a couple years ago when they held the tag belts. He can still go and Tanahashi is a pretty good opponent for him. Pretty solid back and forth match. They did what they could. Nothing mind-blowing, but entertaining nonetheless. Tanahashi wins with his usual combo of the Slingblade and the High Fly Flow. Tanahashi retains, as I expected. Again, good for what it was.
Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii (IWGP Untied States Title)
- Main event for night 2; tournament final to crown the first ever IWGP United States Champion. Omega and Ishii were bound to put on a banger. Did they ever. This was a hell of a fucking main event and hell of a bout between these two; brutally hard hitting with some crazy chop exchanges that saw some catch Kenny in the throat, goddamn, brutal V-Triggers from Kenny and sick headbutts by Tomohiro, etc, etc. Just crazy brutal shit allover the place! There was another crazy spot where the Young Bucks (who were in Kenny’s corner) set up a table at ringside and Omega and Ishii ended up on the apron and Kenny goes for a Full Nelson Suplex through the table. After one attempt where Ishii was holding on to the top rope by his fucking teeth, which got a huge pop from the crowd, Omega was finally able to hit it and both guys go crashing through. Brutal fucking spot. Everything else in this match was just as brutal and just as entertaining. In the end Kenny Omega would hit the One-Winged Angel on Ishii for the 1-2-3 and pick up the win. Kenny Omega is the first ever IWGP US Champ! Excellent match and great way to wrap things up.
- I love Jim Ross, I do, but this was a rough show for him on commentary. Especially night 1. He was getting a lot of guy’s names wrong, didn’t know most of the storylines and just sounded off all around. His head just isn’t in the game right now and he’s just not what he used to be. He’s the greatest announcer of all time, but this just wasn’t his finest hour. He and Josh Barnett just didn’t click well for me. I would have much preferred Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.
- Ricochet taking shots at Lucha Underground… damn. Get em’, Puma!
That does it, folks. Overall, aside from all the filler matches, this was a pretty damn good pair of shows. All the tournament matches and title matches were really good to great and even the filler ones had their moments. This was another excellent outing by New Japan and hopefully this leads to many more shows in the States (there already are in 2018). Their expansion into the American market is looking very promising so far and hopefully it’s a success. They’re putting out some of the most entertaining wresting on the planet right now, especially with their partnership with ROH. Hopefully this is only the beginning of great things to come for everyone involved and New Japan becomes something big on a global scale. If they just keep this up, they have a hell of a shot.
Until next time.