Monday, August 31, 2015

New Japan Pro Wrestling - The Road To "New Beginning" Review

We get a preview of what's to come at New Beginning!

So with NJPWWorld becoming a thing, we now have access to a plethora of New Japan content. An example of this is the various “Road To….” Shows. These are basically New Japan House Shows, but are titled as such to held build up the upcoming major shows. In this case, I’ll be taking a look at two house shows from The Road To “New Beginning”. I’ll be reviewing Night 1 & Night 7, and if you’re wondering why just those two, it’s because New Japan doesn’t post all of their house shows on NJPWWorld. These were the only ones available, so that’s why I’m watching them.

A quick note on these reviews before I begin. I’m not going to be breaking down each match on these house shows individually. Instead, I’ll give my match ratings, and then discuss my thoughts on the show as a whole. I also won’t be reviewing entire shows, as I’ll be picking & choosing certain matches from each show. With this in mind, I’ll usually keep all of these house shows as one post on my blog.

NJPW Road To “New Beginning”: Night 1
Tokorozawa, Japan 1/30/15

1.) Alex Shelley vs. Jay White: **3/4

2.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champion & ROH World Tag Team Champion Kyle O’Reilly vs. Yohei Komatsu: ***1/4

3.) The Young Bucks vs. KUSHIDA & Mascara Dorada: **1/2

5.) Eight-Man Tag - NEVER Openweight Champion Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tetsuya Naito & Yugi Nagata vs. CHAOS (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi): ***1/4

7.) Eight-Man Tag - Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, & IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. The Bullet Club (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows & Tama Tonga): ***1/4

Overall: 6.0/10

This is pretty much the definition of a standard New Japan House Show. If you have any singles matches, they’re usually involving the ‘young lions’ of New Japan. In this case, we saw Jay White take on Alex Shelley, and Yohei Komatsu going up against Kyle O’Reilly. I would say the latter contest was the better of the two. I should note that Bobby Fish had flight issues, and missed the first part of the tour. The Young Bucks vs. KUSHIDA & Mascara Dorada was surprisingly average. Even with the random pairing of KUSHIDA & Mascara Dorada, I thought it would be a little better, but it was a fine match (and a short one as well). The remaining two matches I watched were Eight-Man Tags that were pretty much the same in most respects, as they both broke down into brawls (as they multan tags usually tend to do in New Japan). The positive, of course, is that they’re helping to build upcoming title matches, so in that respect, they do their job pretty well.

NJPW Road To “New Beginning”: Night 7
Shizukuishi, Japan 2/8/15

1.) Sho Tanaka vs. Jay White: **1/4

2.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions & ROH World Tag Team Champions reDRagon vs. Tiger Mask & Yohei Komatsu: **1/2

4.) Eight-Man Tag - The Time Splitters & IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata vs. The Bullet Club (The Young Bucks, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows): ***1/2

6.) Eight-Man Tag - NEVER Openweight Champion Togi Makabe, Tetsuya Naito, Yugi Nagata & Captain New Japan vs. CHAOS (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi): **3/4

7.) Hiroshi Tanahashi & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. The Bullet Club (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi): ***

Overall: 6.25/10

This was definitely the better of the two house shows. That mainly had to do with an Eight Man Tag, featuring The Bullet Club going up against The Time Splitters, Goto & Shibata, that I thought was really good. It’s really fun to see heavyweights & juniors mix it up, and it ended up being very entertaining to watch. We also saw some solid action from the ‘young lions’, as Jay White & Sho Tanaka went at it, and Yohei Komatsu teamed up with Tiger Mask to take on reDRagon. We did get an Eight-Man Tag that was similar to a match from Night 1. The Main Event was another match that featured heavyweight & juniors mixing it up, as Tanahashi teamed with Ryusuke Taguchi to defeat The Bullet Club’s Kenny Omega & Yujiro Takahashi.

New Japan Pro Wrestling - New Year's Dash 2015 Review

It's the night after Wrestle Kingdom 9. What will the fallout be like!

So this show is basically New Japan’s version of the RAW after WrestleMania, where we see some fallout, and things being set up for the future. Let’s see how they follow up the night after one of the greatest shows in wrestling history!

NJPW New Year Dash 2015
Tokyo, Japan 1/5/15
1.) Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Taka Michinoku) vs. Tiger Mask & Sho Tanaka: **¼

The show kicks off with the Suzuki-gun juniors of Taichi & Taka Michinoku taking on Tiger Mask and one of the young boys, Sho Tanaka. Nothing much to this one. A pretty basic opener. The Suzuki-gun juniors get the victory.
2.) Non-Title Match - IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions & ROH World Tag Team Champions reDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans: ***¼

These two teams have faced each other many times before, in New Japan & ROH, but this would be their last encounter. It was revealed later that Alex Kozlov was finished with the company, apparently taking a sabbatical from wrestling (probably due to injuries piling up). The fact that Kozlov got pinned both at Wrestle Kingdom 9 and this show makes sense, knowing that he was leaving. A solid match here. Very respectable tag team match. As I alluded to earlier, reDRagon picks up the win.
3.) Ten-Man Tag - Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Takashi Iizuka, Shelton "X" Benjamin & The Killer Elite Squad) vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Captain New Japan, Manabu Nakanishi & Tomoaki Honma: **¾

While Minoru Suzuki won his match at Wrestle Kingdom 9, the rest of his teammates lost an Eight-Man Tag to Toru Yano & NOAH contingent that included Naomichi Marufuji & TMDK. Here, they’re taking on a random assortment on New Japan babyfaces. A fine Ten-Man Tag. It was pretty chaotic, as you would expect. Suzuki-gun would get the win, and they continued beating up the babyfaces after the match.
4.) NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title - Jushin "Thunder" Liger vs. El Desperado: ***

I believe this was a match that was going to take place on the main Wrestle Kingdom 9 card, but I’m assuming due to the four hour time constraints of the PPV, it got bumped to this show. I thought that, as a whole, it was a fine match, though it had a few issues, such as going a little too long and outside interference from Suzuki-gun & Tiger Mask (the latter coming to Liger’s defense). In the end, Liger would get the win to retain his NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title.
5.) Six-Man Tag - The Bullet Club (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks) vs. Ryusuke Taguchi & The Time Splitters: ***¼

So Kenny Omega is coming off of his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title victory over Ryusuke Taguchi, while The Time Splitters are positioning themselves as the next challengers to The Young Bucks. A pretty solid match here. Good action from all six guys here, as you would expect. KUSHIDA would get the win for his team, setting up a future IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match.
6.) The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Tama Tonga) vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano): **½

Of course, Okada is coming off of his heartbreaking loss to Tanahashi in the Main Event of Wrestle Kingdom 9. He somehow has to bounce back against the monster of The Bullet Club, Bad Luck Fale. This was ok. The action was just kind of there, but the main story here is that Okada (who wasn’t at 100%, as he was taped up in several places) gets pinned by Bad Luck Fale, continuing his fall. One thing we know for sure, is that Okada has a long climb back to the top.

7.) Six-Man Tag - CHAOS (IWGP Intercontinental Champion Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Kota Ibushi, NEVER Openweight Champion Togi Makabe & Yugi Nagata: ***1/2
While Nakamura vs. Ibushi & Ishii vs. Makabe were big title matches on Wrestle Kingdom 9, Yuji Nagata & Yoshi-Hashi were relegated to the pre-show Rumble, which Nagata one. A very good Semi-Main Event here. Pretty entertaining stuff here. In the end, Nagata would get the win over Yoshi-Hashi. Nagata challenges Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Title after the match, which Nakamura seemingly accepts. So it looks like we’ll be getting that match soon.

8.) Eight-Man Tag - The Bullet Club ("The Phenomenal" AJ Styles, "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows & Yujiro Takahashi with Cody Hall & Scott D'Amore) vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito & IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata: ***½

Before the match, The Bullet Club introduces their “young boy” Cody Hall, the son of Scott Hall. As far as the match goes, it pretty much comprised of a few rematches from Wrestle Kingdom 9 (save for Hiroshi Tanahashi & Yujiro Takahashi). Much like the previous match, it was pretty solid. Good action throughout, and the match ended with Styles pinning Tanahashi with the Styles Clash. Afterwords, Styles calls out Tanahashi for a rematch, while Karl Anderson cut a Bullet Club promo to close the show.
Overall: 7.0/10

I thought this was a pretty solid show. Obviously, we weren’t going to get any spectacular, or even great, performances on this show, since everyone worked their asses of the night before to produce on of the greatest wrestling shows of all time. Still, this show served it’s purpose as a follow up very well. We got a lot of future matches set up here, specifically AJ Styles vs. Tanahashi, & Nakamura vs. Nagata. There was also a rare house show singles match with Jushin “Thunder” Liger vs. El Desperado for the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title, the departure of Alex Kozlov, and the Fall of the “Rainmaker”, as Okada suffered a loss to Bad Luck Fale. The wrestling was pretty solid, but this show did more to set up what was to come in 2015.

New Japan Pro Wrestling - Wrestle Kingdom 9 Review

Tanahashi vs. Okada & Nakamura vs. Ibushi headline New Japan's version of WrestleMania!!

NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 9
Tokyo, Japan 1/4/15

So here we are! It’s New Japan’s biggest show of the year!! I should note that I did watch both versions of this show, those being the regular version with Japanese commentary on NJPWWorld, as well as the English Commentary version, presented by Jeff Jarrett’s Global Force Wrestling, with Jim Ross & Matt Striker calling the show. The only real difference is that the pre-show match was only on NJPWWorld, while the Global Force Wrestling/English Commentary did not include this match. If you’re wondering about my thoughts on the Jim Ross/Matt Striker English Commentary, I’ll talk about that at the end of this review.
1.) 15-Man New Japan Rumble: *

So this is a match that pretty much is meant for everyone else on the roster who was left without a match on the main PPV. This included Yuji Nagata, Yoshi-Hashi, Tama Tonga, Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka, Taka Michinoku, Jushin “Thunder” Liger, El Desperado, Taichi, Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask, & Captain New Japan. We also got a few surprise entrants in the form of three very old legends: Hiro Saito, The Great Kabuki, & Yoshiaki Fujiwara. Royal Rumble style matches are actually extremely rare in New Japan, so it’s actually not totally surprising that this match wasn’t that good. The only difference between this match and a Royal Rumble is that, when it came down to the final two, the match could be won by pinfall or submission. Yuji Nagata would end up getting the pin on Yoshi-Hashi to win the match.
1.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Four-Way Tag Team Match - ROH World Tag Team Champions reDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans vs. The Time Splitters vs. The Young Bucks: ***3/4
The PPV officially kicks off with this four-way match for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. There was a ton of fast action in here, as you would expect. It was a really good match, though it wasn’t great (and I would say part of that was due to the crowd’s lack of reaction at points). Still, this was very entertaining. All four teams got the chance to shine in this match. We even saw The Young Bucks hit The Meltzer Driver at one point. Through all of this high-octane carnage, reDRagon were eventually able to gain the edge, scoring the pinfall on Alex Kozlov to retain their IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles!

2.) Six-Man Tag - The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Jeff Jarrett & Yujiro Takahashi with Karen Jarrett & Scott D'Amore) vs. Tomoaki Honma, Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan: **3/4

Back at the G1 Climax 24 Finals at the Seibu Dome, Jeff Jarrett joined The Bullet Club after hitting Tanahashi with a guitar. In the following months, it seemed that he was going to get into a match with Yoshitatsu at this show (the rumor was a tag team match with Jarrett teaming with Bad Luck Fale to go against the team of Yoshitatsu & Tomoaki Honma), but after Yoshitatsu suffered a serious neck injury after a botched Styles Clash in a match with AJ Styles, things changed, and we now have this Six-Man Tag. I thought this was a perfectly fine match. We got the usual Bullet Club shenanigans, as you would expect, but there was some solid stuff in here. A highlight was Jarrett missing a guitar shot and (inadvertently) hitting Yujiro. In the end, Honma would successfully hit the Kokeshi from the top rope onto Yujiro to score the victory for his team.

3.) Eight-Man Tag - Toru Yano, GHC Heavyweight Champion Naomichi Marufuji & TMDK (Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste) vs. Suzuki-gun (Takashi Iizuka, Shelton "X" Benjamin & The Killer Elite Squad of Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer): **1/2
Unfortunately, this is yet another match in the seeming never-ending feud between between Toru Yano & Suzuki-gun. The good news, however, is that we’re getting some NOAH guys!! With Minoru Suzuki having a match with Sakuraba, and other CHAOS members occupied, Yano enlisted the help of NOAH’s Naomichi Marufuji & TMDK of Mikey Nicholls & Shane Haste. This eight-man tag was about on-par with the six-man tag that preceded it. The match turned into a brawl, and everyone got to have their moment. At one point, Lance Archer hit a HUGE chokeslam on Shane Haste!! That looked brutal. The match was kept relatively short, which was definitely a good thing (it didn’t need to be that long). Marufuji, then the GHC Heavyweight Champion, would end up pinning Iizuka to score the win for his team.

4.) UWFI Rules Match - Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba: ***¾

The stipulation of this match basically means that the match can only win via submission or knockout. Suzuki comes out in all-white attire, and his spiked hair is dyed white. I knew a lot of people were going into this match unsure of how it would go, but in the end, I think this match was definitely a hit. These two worked really well together. Lots of hard strikes and submissions in this one. The crowd was really into it. Suzuki would eventually put Sakuraba away with the Saka Otoshi for the victory. Really good match that I think blew away the expectations a lot people had coming in.

After the match, Suzuki & Sakuraba embraced in a sign of respect.
5.) NEVER Openweight Title - Tomohiro Ishii vs. Togi Makabe: ****1/4
Up next we have another match that is guaranteed to be a hard-hitting affair, as Ishii defends his NEVER Openweight Title against Togi Makabe. As you would expect, this was just a brutal match. These two just beat the ever living crap out of each other right from the opening bell. There really isn’t much to say other than that. It was pretty brutal. Through all of this carnage, Makabe was finally able to hit his King Kong Knee Drop on Ishii to get the win and capture the NEVER Openweight Title.

It was at this point that we got a video promoting a number of events coming up on New Japan’s calendar in 2015, including The New Beginning, The 2015 New Japan Cup, Invasion Attack, Wrestling Dontaku, a return to North America for more joint shows with Ring of Honor, The 2015 Best of the Super Juniors Tournament, Dominion, and the 2015 G1 Climax. Lots of exciting shows to come!

6.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title - Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Kenny Omega: ***¼

Omega made his debut as part of The Bullet Club at Power Struggle 2014. Now dubbed “The Cleaner”, he made his intentions very clear, challenging Taguchi for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Early on, Omega sprayed some kind of deodorant (or other substance) into Taguchi’s eyes, and actually spent some time during the match working over Taguchi’s eyes (and Taguchi did a good job selling this as well). I thought the match was pretty solid, though it wasn’t anything great. We also got several attempts at interference by The Young Bucks, but Taguchi was able to fight them off. In the end, however, Omega would defeat Taguchi, capturing the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title for The Bullet Club.
7.) IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - The Bullet Club (Doc Gallows & "Machine Gun" Karl Anderson with "Bullet Babe" Amber Gallows & Tama Tonga) vs. Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata: ***½

Anderson & Gallows have held the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles for a full year coming into this show (they won the title at Wrestle Kingdom 8 the year prior). Goto & Shibata earned this title match by virtue of winning the 2014 Global Tag League in December. This was another match that I think was better than expected. People have been really down on the Anderson & Gallows title reign, but this was probably the best tag match they’ve been in. I’m sure a good amount of the credit goes to Goto & Shibata, who are great wrestlers in their own right. The match didn’t go very long (it was under 10 minutes) and I think that helped. Goto & Shibata were eventually able to put away The Bullet Club, and captured the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles!
8.) "The Phenomenal" AJ Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito: ****
Even though it was never explicitly said, this could be viewed as a #1 Contender’s Match. Naito actually defeated AJ Styles during the G1 Climax, while Styles was still the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Styles, in turn, lost the IWGP Heavyweight Title to Tanahashi before Naito could challenge, and Styles had yet to receive his rematch. So the winner would presumably get the next title shot. This was a great match that told a really good story. Every time Naito seemed to build up some momentum, Styles would cut him off. He really worked over the legs of Naito, even putting him in his leg submission, The Calf Cutter, for an extended period of time. Naito was never able to mount a comeback, and Styles would put him away with a Styles Clash from the top rope! Again, this was a really good match that did a great job established Styles as the next challenger for the IWGP Heavyweight Title.

9.) IWGP Intercontinental Title - Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Kota Ibushi: *****
Up next we have the first of two huge title matches. These two had an incredible match during the 2013 G1 Climax, but haven’t faced each other in a one-on-one match since. Nakamura has a fantastic entrance, where he comes out with a huge cape, and an awesome looking crown, in addition to usual jacket (really putting over his “King of Strong Style” persona). I absolutely LOVED this match!! It was all kinds of awesome!! The action throughout was just spectacular. Nakamura was his usual amazing self, but this was a really a star-making performance for Ibushi, who proved he could hang with the top tier talent in New Japan. It was also an excellent follow up to their aforementioned match from the 2013 G1 Climax. Just amazing stuff from start to finish. It definitely had a big fight feel, and it delivered in spades. Nakamura would, in the end, finally put away Ibushi to retain his IWGP Intercontinental Title. Once again, this was absolutely incredible match with a great story told throughout!!

10.) IWGP Heavyweight Title - Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada: *****
On any other show, under any other circumstances, it would be next to impossible to follow the insane match that came before it. This isn’t just any other show, however, and if any match could follow Nakamura vs. Ibushi, it would be Tanahashi vs. Okada. This match was set up when Okada won the 2014 G1 Climax, while Tanahashi later defeated AJ Styles at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014 to capture the IWGP Heavyweight Title. I can confidently say that these two delivered another instant classic. This match was fantastic!! The fact that they were able to match the incredible contest that preceded it is a testament to how great these two guys are. What’s amazing is that this was definitely a contrast to the IWGP Intercontinental Title Match. While Nakamura vs. Ibushi was filled with big moves & high-octane action, Tanahashi vs. Okada had much more emphasis on the story in addition to the big moves (not to say Nakamura vs. Ibushi didn’t have a story, but I think this match had more storytelling as a whole). These two pulled out everything they had, and the combination of action & storytelling produced an amazing match that was another classic match in their series of classic matches. Eventually, Tanahashi was able to outlast Okada, and retained his IWGP Heavyweight Title!! For those wondering, their overall record against each other is now 3-3-1.

After the match, Okada was helped to the back by his manager/mentor Gedo. He began crying, heartbroken that he had fallen to Tanahashi yet again in the Main Event of the Tokyo Dome Show. Tanahashi cut a promo saying that while Okada was great, he still wasn’t The Ace of New Japan. He celebrated with his signature air guitar to close the show.

Overall: 10/10

Wrestle Kingdom 9 certainly had a lot of expectations going into the show. Not only did they meet those expectations, but they absolutely shattered them. This was amazing event from start to finish. Not only is it the best show of 2015 (it will be next to impossible for anything to top this), but I would dare to say that this was one of the greatest wrestling shows of ALL TIME. It was that great. There wasn’t a single bad match on the show. The undercard had a lot of stuff that ranged from solid to great. You had a great opener in the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title Match, two short multi-man tags that served their respective purposes, a really good match in Suzuki vs. Sakuraba, a hard hitting NEVER Openweight Title Match, two very solid matches for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title & the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, and a great effort in the form of AJ Styles vs. Tetsuya Naito.

The show closed out with two all time classic matches in Nakamura vs. Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Title, and Tanahashi vs. Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Both of these matches were absolutely spectacular, but also had their own unique traits & characteristics. They are matches that you absolutely need to go out of your way to see, and turned the show itself into one of the greatest of all time. As far as the English Commentary goes, I thought the Jim Ross & Matt Striker, on the whole, did a very good job. The first half of the show was a little rough, especially for Ross, but I think they got settled in once the second half rolled around. They were both great during the Main Event Title Matches, and I think made it a great experience for people who may have been checking out New Japan for the first time (not as good as Mauro Ranallo & Josh Barnett do with the AXS TV Show, but for a one-off, I thought they did a fine job). Simply put, this show was nothing short of amazing, and it showcased everything that’s great about New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

So this show is basically New Japan’s version of the RAW after WrestleMania, where we see some fallout, and things being set up for the future. Let’s see how they follow up the night after one of the greatest shows in wrestling history!

New Japan Pro Wrestling - Power Struggle 2014 Review

Shinsuke Nakamura defends the IWGP Intercontinental Title against Katsuyori Shibata!

NJPW Power Struggle 2014
Osaka, Japan 11/8/14


1.) BUSHI & Mascara Dorada vs. Fuego & Tiger Mask: ***

Nothing really much to this one, in terms of back story. Just a match that’s happening. This was actually pretty solid for a pre-show match. It was a lot of fun, with Dorada & Fuego being the highlights of the match. The team of Mascara Dorada & BUSHI would get the win.

Main Show

1.) Three-Way Tag Team Match - The Young Bucks vs. The Forever Hooligans vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & Taka Michinoku): ***1/4

The show officially kicks off with a battle of Junior Heavyweight Tag Teams. These teams had taken part in the Super Junior Tag Team Tournament (which took place in the run-up to this show), but were all unsuccessful. I thought this was a pretty good opener. It wasn’t that long (I think it was just under eight minutes), but they packed a lot of action during that time. Exactly the kind of match you would want as the opener. The Young Bucks would end up getting the win.

2.) Toru Yano & Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka): *¼

I’ve lost track of how many times these two teams have faced off (I feel like it’s the 3rd time though I could be off). This was easily the worst match these two teams have had, though it didn’t actually go very long (it went under five minutes). The less I have to talk about this match, the better. Yano & Sakuraba would score the win.

After the match, Suzuki cuts a promo challenging Sakuraba to a UWF Rules Match at the Tokyo Dome Show on January 4th. From what I’ve been able to gather, it’s basically a match that can only end via Submission or Knockout.

3.) NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title - Chase Owens (with Bruce Tharpe) vs. Jushin “Thunder” Liger: **3/4

If you recall, Chase Owens & Bruce Tharpe challenged Jushin “Thunder” Liger a month prior at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, and here is the subsequent match. It was pretty solid, though not quite as good as the opener. The action was good, though there seemed to be something missing. It’s so weird seeing Chase Owens using the Package Piledriver, a move made so famous by Kevin Steen over the years. He tried to hit it on a number of occasions, but he wasn’t able to. In the end, Liger was able to overcome both Owens & Bruch Tharpe to capture the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title!

4.) Eight Man Tag - The Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tetsuya Naito, & Captain New Japan: ***¼

Back at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, The Bullet Club were defeated in an Eight Man Tag. They’re in another one on this show, except in this match, Captain New Japan is taking the spot of Kota Ibushi on the opposing team. This was a pretty solid Eight Man Tag. Of course, it broke out into a big brawl, and everyone got to have their moment. Eventually, through all of the carnage, Bad Luck Fale is able to pin Captain New Japan after connecting with the Bad Luck Fall.

5.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - The Time Splitters vs. ROH World Tag Team Champions reDRagon: ****¼

reDRagon lost in their New Japan debut against Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA back at the G1 Climax 24 Finals at the Seibu Dome. O’Reilly & Fish were able to earn another title shot by winning the Super Junior Tag Team Tournament leading up to this show. These two teams had a fantastic title match! reDRagon looked great, as did The Time Splitters, and we saw some amazing back & forth action. The last few minutes of the match were especially great. In the end, O’Reilly & Fish were able to hit Chasing The Dragon for the victory, capturing the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles!! reDRagon are now double title holders. Once again, this was a freaking great match!

Afterwords, as reDRagn are celebrating, The Young Bucks & The Forever Hooligans come out, and we get a four-way staredown, seemingly setting something up for The Tokyo Dome Show on January 4th (we’re getting a lot of that tonight).

6.) IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title - Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Taichi: **3/4

Taguchi successfully retained his IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title against El Desperado back at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, but here he’s defending against another Suzuki-gun member in the form of Taichi. We got all sorts of shenanigans right from the start. El Desperado & Taka Michinoku interfered, and at one point, Taichi put Taguchi through a table with a Cradle Piledriver! I didn’t see that coming. Despite this, Taguchi was somehow able to come back and defeat Taichi to retain his title! There were a few good things in here, but the interference really brought this down. Plus, the fact that Taguchi even got back in the ring after that table spot was wonky.

After the match, The Bullet Club comes out, and introduces their newest member: Kenny Omega, now known as “The Cleaner”. Omega talks about how he wanted to be part of New Japan (Omega had recently signed a deal with New Japan), but he had lied! He’s here for money & the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Taguchi retorts by saying that he doesn’t understand English, but he accepts Omega’s challenge!

7.) “The Phenomenal” AJ Styles (with Jeff Jarrett) vs. Yoshitatsu: ***1/4

Yoshitatsu made his return to New Japan back at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, thwarting the interference of Jeff Jarrett in the AJ Styles/Hiroshi Tanahashi IWGP Heavyweight Title Match. This was a good match, but I also feel like it could have been better. It seemed like Yoshitatsu was still in that transition period of getting away from the WWE style, and that played a part in how the match turned out. Styles would get the win, but in the process, Yoshitatsu landed right on his head while taking the Styles Clash. It would later be revealed that he suffered a serious neck injury, and is still out of action, as of this review.

After the match, Jarrett goes to attack Yoshitatsu with a guitar, but several babyfaces come out for the save. This leads to Tetsuya Naito having a staredown with AJ Styles.

8.) NEVER Openweight Title - Tomohiro Ishii vs. Hirooki Goto: ****3/4

Ishii regained the NEVER Openweight Title from Yujiro Takahashi back at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014. Here, he’s defending his title against Hirooki Goto. This match was amazing!! These two men just beat the crap out of each other from 18 minutes. Sheer brutality in this one. It’s one of those matches that just has to be seen. In the end, Ishii would finally put away Goto to retain his NEVER Openweight Title.

Afterwords, Togi Makabe comes out, and has a staredown with Ishii, seemingly setting up a title match at The Tokyo Dome Show on January 4th.

9.) IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kota Ibushi vs. CHAOS (“Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada & Yoshi-Hashi): ***¾

With Tanahashi’s IWGP Heavyweight Title victory over AJ Styles at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, the Main Event for the annual January 4th card in The Tokyo Dome had been set, as Tanahashi would defend his title against the G1 Climax Winner, Okada. Here, we get a preview of that match, as Tanahashi teams up with Kota Ibushi to take on Okada & Yoshi-Hashi. This was actually really good. I think it was much better than people were expecting. That’s not to say these guys can’t deliver a great match, because they absolutely can, but it seemed like it was positioned to be a lesser match, sandwiched between two matches that were bound to be great. Despite that, these four guys were able to step in up when others might not have been able to. Ibushi would get the win for his team after hitting the Phoenix Splash on Yoshi-Hashi.

After the match, Tanahashi & Okada had a staredown, building up their encounter at The Tokyo Dome Show on January 4th.

10.) IWGP Intercontinental Title - Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Katsuyori Shibata: ****

So Shibata defeated Nakamura during the G1 Climax, and then he & Hirooki Goto defeated Nakamura & Yoshi-Hashi in a tag team match back at King of Pro-Wrestling 2014, setting up this match. I thought this was a great match. It seemed like some people were down on it, but I thought it was on-par with their match from the G1 (though if I had to pick, I’d give a slight edge to that match). Great action from these two throughout the match, as you would expect. Again, I thought it was really good, though there was no way it was following the NEVER Openweight Title Match. Eventually, Nakamura would score the victory over Shibata to retain his IWGP Intercontinental Title.

After the match, as Nakamura is celebrating, Kota Ibushi comes out of nowhere and hits a German Suplex! This pretty much sets up Nakamura vs. Ibushi for the IWGP Intercontinental Title at The Tokyo Dome to close the show.

Overall: 8.5/10

Another great show from New Japan? What a shocker! In all seriousness, this was, for the most part, a really good card. It had some rough points, such as the Suzuki/Yano tag team match and the Taguchi/Taichi match for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title. Despite that, there were some really fantastic high points. Ishii vs. Goto for the NEVER Openweight Title was incredible. You also had an exciting match for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles between The Time Splitters & reDRagon, a very good tag match to set up Tanahashi vs. Okada, and a great IWGP Intercontinental Title Match in the Main Event. This show also set up a lot of stuff for The Tokyo Dome Show on January 4th, which is nice to see.