NJPW New Year Dash
Jan 5 2018
We’re in Tokyo at Korakuen Hall for the traditional fall-out Korakuen, following on from the big Dome show the night before. Think: RAW after WrestleMania. Only with a million multi-man tags. Hosts on the English language feed are Kevin Kelly and Don Callis.
Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino , Tetsuhiro Yagi & Ren Narita vs. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Oka is the top young lion but he’s leading his team into war against four veterans of the graps game. The poor kids take a thrashing but show heart, which is what this is all about. Kevin Kelly gives a shout-out to the Real Hero Fund. Holy shit. That’s pretty epic. Yagi is either stupid or ballsy. I reckon it’s the latter. He wants that beating, he wants to be the one to challenge the status quo and stand out. Kojima wins with a lariat. No surprises there. These young lads did themselves proud here. New Japan is producing so much talent right now. I can’t help but think Nagata is playing a big part in that behind the scenes.
Final Rating: **1/2
Takashi Iizuka, TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Togi Makabe, Henare & Hirai Kawato
Kelly reminds me of happier times when Suzuki-gun were banished from New Japan and left to rot in NOAH. Ah, what a wonderful two years that was…apart from watching NOAH of course, which sucked for two years straight. It’s notable that Suzuki-gun’s elite (Suzuki and Sabre) are nowhere near this pack of assholes. Henare, having gained a gimmick, has become quite an exciting prospect. Has he skipped over an excursion? Do they simply have too many guys to do excursions with everyone now?
There’s a lot of Iizuka here, and quite a bit of Taichi too. This is not ideal. It’s interesting that Kawato is in this match, not the opener. They clearly value him highly and the fans are very into Kawato. He looks rushed here and Don mentions that he needs to calm down a bit. The dickheads all hit their business on Kawato for the win, to prove a point.
Final Rating: **1/2
Katsuya Kitamura vs. “Switchblade” Jay White
Jay has a hugely disappointing WK and failed to get his gimmick over against Tanahashi. He needs to channel whatever anger he’s probably feeling right now and make this gimmick work. EVIL wasn’t great when he first came back to NJPW and he learned to grow into his gimmick. Now it’s a perfect match. It’s worrying for Jay that if I was booking, I’d put Kitamura over here because he has more upside.
Kitamura is more powerful, has more confidence and is even technically excellent. It’s really hard to fault him. The only reason he has a ropey win/loss record is because he’s a ‘Young Lion’. Jay shows little flashes of what NJPW want from him. Little short cuts, snap on his moves. He really shouldn’t have debuted this gimmick against Tanahashi. It was a big ask. He’s more at home here. Like against Tana he works the leg, and as luck would have it Kitamura has a bad wheel already. There’s enough improvement to have me thinking Jay will be ok. Plenty of other guys have tanked in a big match. Look at Jericho! His NJPW debut, all those many years ago, was a disaster. Jay batters Kitamura with elbows and finishes with Bladerunner. This was much better from Jay. If he goes around murdering Young Lions for a few months I’d be cool with that. Callis suggests White should join a stable.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Roppongi 3K & Cheeseburger vs. The Elite, The, The Elite
The Elite have some cool selling here. Matt has a bad back, Omega is in a mess so Nick starts and tweaks his knee on the first spot. He goes to tag out and both Matt and Omega hop off the apron. Come on, Nick! Strategy man! When Matt tags in to face YOH both guys are hurt and can’t do anything with their bad backs. This is pretty fucking great, actually. This is also a chance for Cheeseburger to show what he learned from the opponents in the Rambo last night, which includes Kojima’s Machine Gun Chops. SHO and YOH both killed it as Young Lions but I’ve struggled to get into Roppongi 3K. This might be the match, bizarre as this seems, where I turn the corner on them. Because they know when to cut off all the Bucks usual nonsense and when to let the crowd enjoy it. Plus their execution is crisp as ever. Is the Elite stuff self indulgent? Of course it is. Is it entertaining? For the most part, yes. They do enough different stuff here to show the process of an Elite six man is evolving. For a while it felt like the same shit, rinse and repeat. Maybe they should just wrestle Cheeseburger more. Meltzer Driver finishes ‘Burger off and I really enjoyed this. A tidy mixture of comedy and psychology. Kenny needed a ‘night off’ after yesterday.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Cody Rhodes, Marty Scurll, Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Leo Tonga vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & David Finlay
When I first saw Taguchi Japan I thought it was stupid and yet it’s become one of the most endearing gimmicks in the company. Kota and KUSHIDA don’t quite play along. Cody makes for both a tremendous villain, doing a t-shirt catch gimmick with Scurll, and then reveals his true self by handing the shirt to a little girl in the front row when he thinks the camera has gone. What a sweetheart. Marty’s heel act is more finely tuned. He brings a lot of the same shtick that we saw in the last match. You can see why the Elite lads like him. Speaking of synergy Kota gets into the spirit of Taguchi Japan by doing the hip attack business. The match is jolly good fun with five dropkicks at once, followed by five missed dropkicks. Again, there are Elite elements to it all and the show could have benefitted with a buffer match between this and the Elite’s trios bout. There are also issues like KUSHIDA trying to work around Leo Tonga’s obvious limitations. They try and keep it lighthearted and KUSHIDA shows off his comedic skills, especially opposite Scurll. I’m glad he sees the “Superkick, just kidding” coming after being treated to it last night. Brandi is on commentary for this match and she is not very good. I assume she hasn’t had much practice but she has elements of the Susan St James “uh oh” school of commentary. Scurll genuinely cracks me up a few times with his ideas during multi-man spots. He can be quite creative.
Brandi makes her way to ringside to play into the finish, where she hops on the apron and Finlay, the gent, stops. Cody puts him away and then turns his attentions to Ibushi, angry he lost yesterday. The problem with Cody is I don’t buy into him a serious heel when he’s doing a load of comedy Bullet Club stuff, both in Being the Elite and with the “kiss the ring” business. When Cody goes to kill Kota with a chair KENNY OMEGA SAVES HIM! Everyone has kittens over that. Kenny and Kota were a tag team for years before New Japan and Omega has hinted at Kota in promos. Meanwhile they throw back to the almost feud of Omega vs. Cody of last summer.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Omega gets on the microphone to talk about unity in the Bullet Club. He knows what they need and calls out Jay White to offer him a spot in the Bullet Club.
And then Jay lays out Omega with the Bladerunner! There was a lot to process here. Omega is definitely the Bullet Club’s leader but it’s a heel stable and he’s a babyface. Jay becomes a renegade anti-establishment guy for refusing the Bullet Club AND going after Tanahashi. Plus Omega teased that friendship with Kota Ibushi being in the background. To come from this:
Golden Lovers vs. Bullet Club
Omega vs. Ibushi
Omega vs. Cody
Omega vs. Switchblade
NEVER Openweight Six-Man Championship
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Beretta (c) vs. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa
The CHAOS boys only won the belts last night but they mean absolutely nothing. Ishii looks pissed off that he even has to be here. Look at his face!
So he sits back looking mad as fuck while Yano does all his antics.
The rope break does not work. Yano ends up eating heat for ages. It’s tonally different to the rest of the card but in a depressing manner. Ishii changes the tone somewhat but Fale is a brick shithouse. The match is strangely lifeless and the crowd go cold on it early and stay that way. Tama and Beretta show some decent chemistry in the closing stages before Tama hits Gun Stun for yet another NEVER trios title switch. This was very meh. The end sequence helped a bit, as did Ishii’s run at Fale but otherwise it was a total snoozer.
Final Rating: **
Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr & Killer Elite Squad vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin & War Machine
Bald MiSu looks really angry. As a contrast, Tanahashi’s hair is fucking perfect. How does he do it? Suzuki jumps Tana while he’s being introduced, clearly showing massive hair envy. I love how Davey Jr is mimicking his Dad’s 1999 run, which was the worst of his career, while also having the worst matches of his career in the process. KES are like War Machine only 90% duller and less impactful. They want to be War Machine so bad. Elgin tries to repair his reputation by doing the good stuff with Sabre. The crowd are notably quiet for it. Some of the crowd, even in Japan, have definitely turned on him. There’s no anger, only indifference. The match has two definite stages. One with Suzuki & Sabre and one with KES. One is much better than the other. MiSu spends most of his energy on fucking with Tanahashi. Sabre spends most of his energy trying to make the match suck less. Red Shoes loses all control over the match, mainly because he’s scared of Suzuki. Ray Rowe has another good showing, especially against Sabre, again. Hanson gets caught with the Killer Bomb, which is to be expected with War Machine likely to go to New York soon. The focus remains on Suzuki targeting Tanahashi. That seems to be where they’re going with MiSu. He’s mad at the world and he’s especially mad at the world’s hair. Who better to target than Tana!
Final Rating: ***
Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, SANADA, BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI, Will Ospreay & Gedo
SANADA & EVIL walked out of Wrestle Kingdom with gold last night but Naito did not. Naito takes out his frustrations on Ozaki, pulling him out of the ring by the mic cable. Across the ring Goto and Ospreay have gained gold and most importantly Big Kaz is still the IWGP Champion. Okada has more than a little heat for his victory and there are more chants for Naito than for the champ. Will comes in hurt but it doesn’t effect his ridiculous athleticism. Some of his early stuff here is mind-blowing. It’s so difficult and he makes it look so easy.
Okada’s trousers are still awesome. All you haters are jealous of your inability to live up to that next level fashion statement. As Naito and Okada resume battle the crowd choose sides and it’s a loud duel. Naito definitely has the edge. The match is actually better when it doesn’t focus on Okada/Naito and instead with YOSHI-HASHI trying to score a huge upset win over a fatigued Naito. Destino puts Tacos away and Naito gets a minor smidge of revenge on CHAOS. But it’s only fucking YOSHI-HASHI at the end of the day. The big fish escaped. LIJ beat the shit out of CHAOS after the match to prove a point about group superiority. SANADA’s horrific crank on Skull End suggests he might be next in line for Okada. Especially with Big Kaz having a bad neck.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Naito leads LIJ in a big old celebration of their crowd support and Chris fucking Jericho takes exception and runs down to beat his ass. The whole ‘what’s next for Naito’ has been answered emphatically. It’s Chris Jericho.
The Jay White match and angle with Omega was an obvious highlight, as was the show closing angle with Jericho attacking Naito to give him new purpose. The people who suffered because of the booking of WK were redeemed somewhat here, including Suzuki getting a new lease on life as a bald man. The in-ring was never going to match up to the Dome but it was mostly fun, light-hearted stuff.