NJPW Toyonokuni 2017 review (4.29.17)

NJPW Toyonokuni 2017 review (4.29.17)

NJPW Toyonokuni 2017

 

April 29 2017

 

We’re in Beppu for the pre-Dontaku show. Because they have to sell tickets there are still a bunch of high profile matches and title defences. Hell, they had one a few days before this headlined by Minoru Suzuki vs. Hirooki Goto, which I missed due to illness. New Japan are trying to turn tours into multiple major events rather than a load of small ones building to a major one. In the past this may have just been a ‘Road To Dontaku (May 3)’ show.

 

Tiger Mask IV, Katsuya Kitamura & Shota Umino vs. Jushin Liger, Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato

A lot of young boys on show for the opener. Oka, mega-muscly Kitamura and Kawato are all on the ‘to watch’ list. Umino probably is too, it’s tough enough to get through the New Japan dojo that if you actually make the main shows you’re probably pretty good. The rate at which Japan churns out new talents is quite startling. They have so many now they don’t even run the ‘excursion’ route with all of them. Juice and Finlay just got bumped up to the Pride. Not that Juice, who’s headlining this show, has followed the true route of the Young Lion at any point. Of these boys Oka looked to be the stand-out but Kawato is improving quicker and Kitamura has the best look. Umino ends up strapped in the Young Boys finish; the deadly Boston crab, and submits. As the youngest young boy it is his job to job.

Final Rating: **1/4

 

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) vs. Roppongi Vice

This is not for RPG Vice’s junior tag straps because Suzuki-gun don’t deserve the shot. RPG Vice actually won the belts a matter of days ago from another Suzuki-gun tandem: Taichi & Kanemaru. It’s Romero’s eighth junior tag title run and he’s been a dependable star for New Japan’s junior division for his entire time in Japan. Sadly this match is driven by Suzuki-gun being Suzuki-gun. It’s an act that was stale years ago and the standard of heel wrestling from the group is extremely poor. That’s in evidence again here with bad refereeing positioning and Desperado missing a chair shot on a standing opponent and somehow hitting the mat. Explain the physics of that to me? RPG Vice put them away like the jobbers they are.

Final Rating: *1/2

 

Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & BUSHI) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & Yoshitatsu

I thought New Japan had fucked Tatsu off to CMLL. I guess they didn’t want him. I can’t blame them. He’s changed his hair, which makes him look even more awful and generic. At least if he’s teaming with goofball Taguchi he can learn some comedy and stop being completely useless. It’s a tough spot for SANADA & BUSHI because they have to take all this goofy nonsense and pretend that it’s as effective as the offence they’d normally face. Tatsu stinks, only occasionally rising to an acceptable level. LIJ phone it in. Nothing to see here. Tatsu teases a devastating back suplex but SANADA ignores it and taps him out with the Dragon Sleeper.

Final Rating: *

 

Bullet Club (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & David Finlay

No girl for Yujiro, which usually equates to no effort from him Bullet Club. This is immediately true with some of the lads sleepwalking through this. The concept of not trying hard on lesser shows is one that has definitely become more prominent since Kenny Omega essentially refused to do anything on the smaller shows. But he didn’t need to. He could coast by on personality. Tanga Loa hasn’t got a personality. The whole match has a house show structure and of the heels only Tama looks even remotely energised. This is in evidence when he engages Kojima and steals his moves. They could have had a tidy singles match. Finlay is the other guy who brings the effort. Perhaps powered by his lightened hair. You know he wants to be a rock star. Bless him. He’s still the junior man on the talent tree here so Tanga beats him with Apeshit (Greetings from Asbury Park).

Final Rating: **1/2

 

CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku)

Question: are New Japan reluctant to give Ospreay a sustained push in fear of him leaving? No girl for Taichi either. It looks like we’re stripped back to the bare minimum of expense this evening. Suzuki just overthrew Goto as NEVER Openweight champion so Goto is naturally surly this evening. Almost unbelievably it’s Suzuki’s first singles title in New Japan. The former Triple Crown Champion and GHC Champion still needs the IWGP strap for the grand slam. Taichi is his usual awful self here, failing to hide his cheating and Suzuki-gun in general do a horrible job of cutting the ring off. MiSu doesn’t really give a shit who he’s wrestling so it fits his character but the others should want to cut the ring off and isolate YOSHI-HASHI. How can you have a hot tag if none of the heels care if the guy tags or not? Ospreay barely gets any ring time at all and comes in to finish off TAKA, who’s trying to roll out of the ring as soon as the three count goes down. There were moments during this where Suzuki and Goto got into it that sparkled but otherwise it was underwhelming.

ToySuz

Final Rating: **3/4

 

INTERMISSION

 

Jesus, that was the pre-intermission match that’s supposed to require a break after it. This is not going particularly well, even by New Japan undercard standards.

 

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega, Bad Luck Fale & Chase Owens) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)

Don’t go getting excited at the prospect of Omega vs. Okada here. For starters our Kenneth is sporting a t-shirt, showing the correct levels of disdain. Secondly this is more about Fale and Bullet Club wanting to weaken Okada ahead of Fale’s title shot. Although they mysteriously opt to work heat on Yano. Presumably for the comedy purposes of Yano accidentally murdering the referee with the turnbuckle pad. Even t-shirt Kenny has to step up his game when he runs into Ishii but they play second fiddle to Okada-Fale, which is the focus so that’s ok. Okada blows his load by hitting a scoop slam on Fale immediately. It takes the wind out of Fale’s sails, psychologically. We have to believe Fale can win the title and that doesn’t help. Chase Owens, ever the optimist, tries to go after Okada and every time he tries for a pinfall I have a little chuckle. No mate. That’s not happening. They work quite well together until Chase gets killed with the Rainmaker.

ToyOkada

Final Rating: ***

 

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. Ricochet

Ricochet wears a princely crown but he’s not the champion around these parts. Unless there is a champion of flips and even so Ospreay would run him close for that.

ToyHiromu

They start like a house on fire. That’s the wrong metaphor. They start like a grenade exploding in a sweet shop. That’s better. Hiromu is accustomed to facing guys that do loads of flips and meets that tactic head-on. His experience in Mexico and his general lack of sanity allows lucha madness at every turn. Ricochet shows he’s more than flips though and has clearly scouted Hiromu’s moves. Even though some of Hiromu’s stuff comes out of left field, there’s Ricochet out in the field ready to catch it. Until Hiromu delivers one of the most insane Death Valley Drivers on the apron in the history of the spot. It was all throw and release. No downward assistance at all. Even after that they’re doing brainbusters on the floor and killing each other.

The most impressive thing about this match isn’t the movez, it’s the fluidity of them and the way it all flows from one spot to the next with a degree of logic attached. Sure, there are a few issues with the lack of selling, especially as the impact of everything is so intense, but it’s so exciting it’s easy to forgive. Especially after a drab undercard. Eventually the impact of the moves wears them down and the pacing slows. Despite being well under 20 minutes it has a sense of epic about it. Largely due to the intensity and the sequences.

The timing is excellent on everything with last gasp kick-outs and murderous bumps. Ricochet misses the 630 Splash and the Timebomb finishes for Hiromu. Yet another in a string of magnificent title matches from this young gentleman. He’s been killing it in 2017. Absolutely killing it.

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. EVIL

This has been an interesting little mini-feud to keep Tanahashi occupied. EVIL knocked him out of the New Japan so now Tana is back for revenge.

ToyTana

Tanahashi has the level of star power to be able to follow that last match without doing anything spectacular. It ends up acting as a buffer between Hiromu and Juice Robinson. Hang on, what the hell is going on? New Japan gets a lot of flack for not creating main event stars, and keeping the belt on the same guys, but the way they build people up for mini-feuds makes a lot of their guys credible, even if they’re not champion of the promotion. Case in point is EVIL, who is capable of beating almost anyone on the card but wouldn’t be considered a top tier guy. Capable of feuding with Tanahashi but not ultimately vanquishing him. Despite New Japan Cup win. Tanahashi can’t do what Ricochet and Hiromu just did, especially with his broken down body, but it doesn’t stop him from trying. In particular, hitting the High Fly Flow to the floor, a move I’m sure he said he wouldn’t do anymore to preserve his neck for future generations. You can’t argue with his effort levels. Tanahashi has done enough in his career that he doesn’t need to take any more bumps. At this point it’s all for the love of the business. He could coast by as a special attraction in the midcard and no one would moan. It’s tough to say what kind of condition Tanahashi is in because he sometimes goes easy for months at a time only to step it up when the time is right. This is not Tanahashi at his level best. EVIL tries to up his game to compete and it’s evident that he’s done his Tanahashi homework, even preparing counters for the dragon screw. The match is moving toward an inevitable Tanahashi victory when LIJ run in. Tanahashi, like in his many run-in’s with Bullet Club, did not expect this. I’m starting to think he’s a wee bit thick. However, BUSHI miscues the Mist and Taguchi runs in for the save. The whole situation leaves poor EVIL looking like a chump. Needing two of his mates to get anywhere. Tana then kicks out of his finish and hits the High Fly Flow to win.

Final Rating: ***1/2

 

IWGP Intercontinental Championship

Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Juice Robinson

Main Event Juice, baby! It’s happening at Toyonokuni.

ToyJuice

I’m not convinced Juice is popular enough to be headlining a show but his effort levels over the last year justify his spot. He’s certainly here to have a belter with Naito. The champ doesn’t care about the IC title at all but somehow that makes it seem more precious. Juice would love and nurture that strap. Naito literally kicks it down the ramp to the ring. By being above the title Naito is enhancing his own reputation, not harming the lineage of a secondary strap. Naito plays his laid-back game of making wrestling look easy and barely getting out of first gear. When he first started doing this I found it frustrating but his timing has gotten a lot better. You can’t waste an entire match with stalling but if you time it right it’s effective. This whole angle has been a Redemption of CJ Parker: The NXT Washout vibe to it. It’s raised a few questions about WWE Developmental and the New Japan Dojo. Different people can be a winning fit elsewhere, although I do find Juice a surprise. Naito has some communication issues with him and resorts to working over the knee ad nauseum to fix it. When Juice takes over he throws himself into his offence, determined to make an impact and prepared to cripple himself for the love of the crowd. Or possibly just cripple Naito, based on an apron spinebuster.

Toystupid

This is the face when you’re about to do something you know is reckless and dangerous but it could be of benefit to your wellbeing. Juice measures up a Cannonball into the rail and does it with abandon. If Juice never gets to main event another show at least he gave it his all. He may never walk again based on Naito’s leg work though. It makes Tanahashi’s usual leg assaults look tame by comparison. It’s all dropkicks, chopblocks and brutality. Juice does a fine job of selling the abuse and he adapts to ensure any offence is blocking Naito’s extravagance. The best is Naito going for a super rana and Juice just planting him with a superbomb.

It’s telling that Juice cannot get Pulp Friction and that his lack of mobility allows Naito to counter him into Destino. I’m not sure how much of this is down to Juice’s understanding of pro wrestling or how great Naito is nowadays but the match is well put together and builds to a series of crescendos. Eventually Juice finds Pulp Friction countered into Destino and that’s the end of it. Best Juice singles match by some distance. Another great Naito performance.

Final Rating: ****1/4

 

Post Match: Here comes the one true ace, Tana, to point out he’s a bit miffed he lost to Naito at the Dome. So he wants to go again. Naito’s response? Tranquilo!

ToyNaito

 

Summary:

Extremely bland undercard before two of the last three matches just blew me away. Definitely the kind of New Japan show you can skip the undercard on but don’t sleep on the Juice main nor another cracking Hiromu title defence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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