NJPW Sakura Genesis
April 1 2018
Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens vs. The Young Bucks
The Bullet Club continues to explode. The Bucks have become an island in Bullet Club due to their friendliness with Kenny Omega, who’s definitely out of the BC. Matt continues subtlety selling his back and they have a great spot where he hooks the Sharpshooter and he’s clearly struggling with it and Yujiro bumbles in there to break it up way too quickly because he doesn’t understand wrestling.
They go back to it and Chase Owens taps out. If Yujiro wasn’t in this match it might have been quite good.
Final Rating: **
Taichi & Takashi Iizuka vs. Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano
Is this a complete waste of Ishii? Yes. Does this mean Ishii gets to wrestle a match without destroying what’s left of his neck? Yes. There is way, way too much Iizuka in this match. I mean, any Iizuka is too much Iizuka but there’s a significant amount of Iizuka on show here. Yano wins with a roll up on Iizuka and we can all move on with our lives.
Final Rating: ½*
NEVER Openweight Six Man Championship
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi
The ring announcer does a killer sell on Fale’s intro. He’s known for killing the announcer so he bails out in mid-sentence and announces him from the floor. Great timing on it. Like every Michael Elgin match his very presence is hugely distracting. Since the stories about him broke I find him impossible to care about as a babyface.
I’m quite pleased when Fale chokes him with a microphone cord. Based on the likes of my screenshot on Twitter this is a popular opinion. Fuck Michael Elgin. Taguchi brings the light-hearted comedy and I’m really glad he’s in this match. You need a distraction where Elgin is involved. Tama puts Taguchi away with the Gun Stun and this was a perfectly serviceable bout…when Elgin wasn’t in there.
Final Rating: **1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson & David Finlay vs. Jay White, Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI
This is largely filler apart from the ongoing White-Finlay storyline dating back to their dojo days. When you grow up with someone and they turn heel it makes it all the more personal. It helps that Jay has grown into the Switchblade character and he’s starting to believe in it. He needs Finlay almost as much as Finlay needs a title match. It’s a beautiful set up and when they wrestle they’ll smash it. Juice is way over here and his progress up the NJPW card has been a highlight of the last 18 months. I never rated him in NXT at all so to see his improvements is great. It’s part of being a wrestling fan; seeing guys come out of nowhere and become stars. Finlay vs. White is an obvious high point of the match but Juice taking out Goto with Pulp Friction gets a huge pop too. Tana puts YOSHI-HASHI away and everyone is happy. The handsome babyface lads hug fans on their way out and make everyone happy. There ain’t no party like a Tanahashi party and the Tanahashi party don’t stop!
Final Rating: **3/4
Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA vs. Minoru Suzuki & Killer Elite Squad
Huge pop for Naito. LIJ are over as a unit, because they do feel like pals even though they have differences. Whereas Suzuki-gun; I do not believe these guys get along outside the ring. Maybe Suzuki and Zack (and Despy and Taka) but there’s no way Suzuki hangs around with wankers like Archer and Davey Boy. The match is based around Suzuki vs. Naito, thankfully. Any time they’re together the match is magical.
— laurence fishburne's thot son (@skrongstyle) April 1, 2018
Also Lance Archer makes kids cry. What an a-hole. But mostly Suzuki vs. Naito. It’s great. The match also has a breakneck pacing and KES don’t look too bad thanks to the constant action and the rotating of players in the contest. Killer Bomb puts EVIL away. I have no idea if the legal men were involved in the finish (Text me Rob Reid). This was really fucking good.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Naito lays down a challenge to Suzuki for the IC belt. The crowd are into it, as am I.
Video Control points out G1 starts on July 14 in Tokyo. Then continues until everyone is dead from seeing too much wrestling. There’s a lot of Tokyo dates! Opening two days, then a trio back in the capital before going on tour properly. The tournament finishes 10-12 August at Budokan Hall.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Roppongi 3K vs. Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI
I had completely forgotten who the IWGP Jr tag champs were. The division is hard to care about at the best of times as the belts change hands a lot and there are too many multi-team matches. Speaking of which, we have one right here. Why? Also the tag rules are all over the place. I bet Rob Reid is super pissed off (if he’s watching). There used to be this five second rule on tags so everyone knew who was legal but they can’t be fucked with that anymore so no one knows what’s happening. Hiromu is an inevitably high point of the match. His charisma is dominating. He would win the match with the Time Bomb but Kanemaru pulls the ref out of the ring. More Suzuki-gun bullshit follows. Despy gets the pin. I did not like this at all.
Final Rating: **
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (c) vs. Marty Scurll
They’ve had this match everywhere. New Japan crowds weren’t into it to begin with but they are definitely into it now. So all their familiar counters get huge reactions whereas back on Scurll’s debut tour it was getting polite applause at best. Even Scurll’s mockery is met with laughter. Both guys have gotten over big time. Ospreay did when he debuted but Scurll and this match have taken longer to get over. The first five minutes are so electric that they fly by. Plus they’re layered. Like when Ospreay goes to flip and Marty grabs his hand for the finger snap. Marty focuses on the neck, which is perfect. Will has had neck issues due to his flippity style and Scurll knows this. It makes perfect sense for him to go after that body part rather than an arm or a leg. Plus he can still do all his flips with a bad neck he just needs to sell the impact of landing. It’s clever planning. Although he did a blinding job of flipping around an arm injury against KUSHIDA. I do dig the familiarity here. Like Scurll trying to block the Cheeky Nandos and Will knowing he will do that and blocking the block. Admittedly they do the spot in a more traditional fashion afterwards, which I don’t agree with at all. I’m more into the counters based on previous matches and familiarity. Like Ospreay’s cutter out of nowhere or Scurll stopping Will from flipping by grabbing his finger or Marty yelling “Chickenwing” so Will doesn’t come off the ropes backwards. There’s some sensational stuff in this match based on previous encounters and common sense.
There’s some great selling too, from both guys. When Scurll hits a Tombstone on the floor he goes down holding his knees while Will has major neck issues. The counters continue and Will’s flip out into a powerbomb is sensational. He’s so creative. The ideas at play in most of his offence are next level. His bumps often terrify me and the one where he drops to the floor, bouncing off the apron, is horrible to look at. In a good way. The Spanish Fly off the apron is incredible and Will hitting his head on the apron is SICK.
It looked so improvised. I mean, it obviously went wrong but hell, it created an incredible visual and Will’s urgency to finish the match after that spot was incredible too. Especially with Will busted open from landed badly.
I love Will’s selling and he goes from screaming in agony to dead during the course of the match and Scurll continually drops him on his head but the Spanish Fly was the turning point in the match, unintentionally so. Ospreay lying there dead while Scurll stomps his neck is a scene of such brutality that even without the cut it would be majestic viewing. Literally my only complaint is that the finish comes out of nowhere with an Oscutter. What an incredible match from two great wrestlers who are so good together. British Wrestling!
Final Rating: ****3/4
Post Match: Ospreay calls out KUSHIDA, who’s doing commentary. “I beat Hiromu. I beat Marty Scurll. I need to prove it wasn’t a fluke I beat you”.
Cody Rhodes & Hangman Page vs. Golden Lovers
I would not want to be these guys and have to follow that match. “There’s no heel in this business like Cody” – Don Callis.
Cody gets a tonne of legitimate heat, which isn’t normal in Japan where there is respect for everyone, even the bad guys. Cody makes a point of beating on Kota to upset Kenny. It’s psychological warfare and the more upset Omega is, the more upset the fans are. Cody is mad at Kenny because he has that connection to the Japanese people and Kota exemplifies that. There’s a lot of old school heat here and Cody is smart for doing that, as it allows the crowd to react differently to the last match, which was very exciting. This is very storyline driven and there’s a lot of heat before The Young Bucks come out here and that’s the deal. The Bucks don’t support Cody going after Kenny as viciously as he is. Hangman is drinking the Kool Aid but that’s not true of every Bullet Club member. The group is almost certain to shatter at some point and lots of allegiances are unknown.
Cody gets opened up and we have hardway juice for a second match running. The Golden Lovers are starting to click again and the Cross Slash actually happens here.
Cody is bleeding badly. It’s a horrible cut, right over the eye. He doesn’t let it effect him at all and it’s a great performance from Cody in this match. To be fair to Hangman Page, he’s really good in this match too. The Golden Lovers don’t have the emotional connection of the Bucks match nor the glorious enthusiasm they had vs. Cody & Scurll. Omega takes a bump though the table, which was ever present at ringside during the match. The match is really solid but it does suffer from having to follow Ospreay-Scurll and the pacing is very deliberate because it’s such a story-heavy match. That’s not to say it’s bad, far from it, and the result is clever booking. Cody winning with a handful of tights on Ibushi. Cody needed to big win to legitimise his heel persona and ‘Bullet Club leader’ position.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Cody goes after Ibushi with a chair and Omega comes back to make the save.
Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr
I’m am so fired up for this. Sabre has been booked excellently by New Japan of late and his New Japan Cup victory is one of the best ‘star making’ tournament wins in recent memory. Okada actually tries to mat wrestle and it’s noticeable that he fairs a lot better than Tanahashi or Ibushi or Naito. This is the big time. However Zack is in no mood for Okada’s shit and his rope break chest tapping gets countered right into an armbar. The whole point of this match is to show off Okada’s mat game and he takes Sabre on at his own match. It kinda reminds me of the Hulk Hogan ‘technical wrestling’ bit where he only knew one hold. Only nowhere near as ridiculous because Okada can actually wrestle on the mat…just not to Sabre’s level. Okada brings the Mexican mat work though, which Sabre isn’t familiar with and that works for me.
After ten minutes Sabre figures it out and shuts it down. Now Okada finds himself in a world of hurt and tries to resort to strikes but Sabre closes the distance. Sabre slowly targets the leg and stops Okada from standing, thus limiting his explosive offence and leaving him with nothing but short strikes. The dropkick is attempted by Sabre just drags him down and slaps him back in a hold. Oh, it’s fucking beautiful. Okada switches gears and tries to bait Sabre into a fight, knowing he’s bigger and stronger. One of Sabre’s weaknesses, kayfabe wise, is that he’s baited into fights over his manliness. As a character he has ‘small man syndrome’ and I like that it’s a consistent thing with him. Whenever he gets into trouble it’s because of that and going outside of his control holds. It takes a period of Okada control to drag him back into his mentality of technical dominance. From there Okada is in trouble because Sabre is so hard to cope with. Every time he tries a counter Sabre has a counter to the counter and a chain of submissions up his sleeve. Okada has to get inventive, rather than persistent and he switches his offence around. At the start of the match Okada was playful but as it progresses he get more and more frightened of Zack’s counters and starts worrying about his ring position. It actually effects his approach to the match. Zack has a counter for everything Okada does. He’s done his home work.
Another signature Okada move scouted by ZSJ! #njSG
— TDE Wrestling (@totaldivaseps) April 1, 2018
Okada starts thinking about finishing the match, so he can stop getting hurt, and Zack has Rainmaker counters. Boy does he. He even has Rainmaker Pose counters.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) April 1, 2018
Sabre busts out the same counter, the flying armbar, that Nakamura beat Okada with back in the G1 a few years ago. It’s the only time Okada has ever submitted. I love Zack doing his home work it’s fucking beautiful.
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) April 1, 2018
Sadly it has to end. Sabre can’t find a submission and Okada can find the Rainmaker. Twice. No wait, Sabre counters a third one! Holy shit!
But no, Okada gets out, hits the Rainmaker and retains. Ugly bump from Sabre on the finish tainting an otherwise outstanding match. Okada has now tied Tanahashi for the defences record.
Final Rating: ****3/4
The show had two definite matches that were above and beyond the rest of the card but those two matches are both genuinely MOTYC. Can’t say any fairer than that. Massive thumbs up. Loved this show. Love the Brits!