Ah yes. The time has come. It is now close to midnight PST on April 9. That means we’re just minutes away from Invasion Attack, as this is my second live review in a week; check out WrestleMania if you haven’t yet. This show sees Kazuchika Okada look to defend his IWGP Heavyweight Championship vs. Tetsuya Naito, plus with tons of other title matches, including Katsuyori Shibata looking to take out yet another member of the third generation, and Will Ospreay debuting to challenge for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, this show as aforementioned is a show of the year type of card on paper. Whether or not it delivers is up to the huge title matches, a huge debut, and other multi-man mayhem and title matches. It’s Invasion Attack, live from Sumo Hall. This show has an English commentary option, and with Steve Corino calling the show alongside Kevin Kelly, and not Matt Striker, as well as the fact I cover ROH for the site, I find it fitting I will choose that option. Let’s get into the show.
It’s crazy to see Juice fluctuate all over the card. He goes from main eventing in a Battle Royal and getting a showcase match vs. Kenny Omega to losing to Bad Luck Fale in the opener. To be fair this is one of the bigger cards of the year. This match was extremely short and wasn’t much. Juice Robinson screamed “FUCK YEAH” and Corino/Kelly completely paused on spot. Fale hit the Samoan Spike but Taguchi screwed up the pin breakup to cause awkwardness, much like other spots in the match. Fale hit a spear and pinned Juice with the Bad Luck Fall after Yujiro compromised Taguchi on the outside.
Look at the adjective: HOSS DADS (for Dustin). The rest of the third generation got a matchup with third string CHAOS. Kevin Kelly plugged Purocast and Place 2 Be Nation, I expected Corino to retort back with a Puro in the Rough plug because ZERO-1~! The New Japan Lads are fantastic in these multi-man tags. Any combination of Nagata, Nakanishi, Tenzan, and Kojima plus Liger added in with two of them make for a lot of fun. Liger was worked over for a while which transitioned into incredibly fun Kojima and Sakuraba sequences. Nagata got in and trolled Yano. He then pinned GEEK YOSHI-HASHI with a backdrop. Another short, alright enough multi-man, and cool to see Liger with #TheLads as aforementioned.
This is where the card beings to pop off. The most stacked undercard tag bout possible, booking such with all talent ahead on the card already slotted in, is this one, with CHAOS and Ingobernables continuing their fun as all hell to take in feud. The crowd shit on Goto during the match, which sort of was surprising; but just shows how over Ingobernables our, even without Naito. Goto wasn’t the legal man and got booed till he returned to the apron. It didn’t help, but add to the confusion that Goto worked super stiff and more over the top than ever before. Goto and EVIL destroyed each other for a hot stretch, culminating in a huge double clothesline spot. If both these long singular stretches were turned into singles matches, you’d have a G1 preview early. Ishii and BUSHI got the other stretch down pat. Ishii is such a good salesman he provided near falls for BUSHI, and the crowd started to get behind BUSHI. He kicked out of Ishii’s powerbomb and everything else until he was put away with an Ushigoroshi/Sliding D combo. Great tag with tons of heat, and mixed crowd reaction. We got the exact same post-match with a pull apart brawl between Goto and EVIL. Beautiful.
This was not only finally a 2 vs. 2 title match for these belts, but served as the first domino if Ricochet will be heading to WWE in June. If I recall correctly these guys had a fantastic match in the title tournament back last year. Corino spent a lot of the match putting over Rocky. Well deserved. I don’t know if acoustics were turned up or what, but everything was so silky smooth and extremely exciting to watch. Ricochet has never looked this good … like maybe ever. He hit all of his spots so persisely and bumped around like an overlord. So many chaotic spots and sequences paced out well. Sydal missed his hurricanrana off the top rope but they came up with a substitute ending to said sequence with a mid-air spinning heel kick. Sydal’s SSP was turned into a roll-up which led to Trent’s self Strong Zero drop for a kickout. A ridiculous Romero and Ricochet sequence saw Ricochet flip all the way through the air for a deadly lariat. He flipped a lot to sell and it was beautiful, not overdone. Ricochet landed on his feet via a hurricanrana, but got hit with INSANE double knees anyways! Rocky nearly dived onto the crowd and on Sydal in the process, and Strong Zero was hit on Ricochet (wink) for the victory. This was one of the better junior tag team matches since the tag team tournament, better than most then. Everything connected and felt just right, and over the top like juniors should be. Goodbye Ricochet?
Will Ospreay dedicated this match to Travis on-air as well as wearing special attire. At 22-years-old this international cruiserweight sensation made his New Japan debut challenging for his weight-limit gold. Unreal. They spelled his name on the on-screen match graphic Osplay. This was so much different than expected. Ospreay put in an incredible selling effort. We got light scouting tricks and some flips early, but boy did this match take a very positive unexpected turn. Ospreay screamed, groaned, and played with his arm the more it got worked over by KUSHIDA. Everything about this match was so stiff and intense except it wasn’t strong style at all; it was junior style done right. Ospreay was such a brilliant salesman that he failed to hit the springboard because of his arm, so he used NO ARMS to propel himself off of a springboard and smashed KUSHIDA in the face with a kick. We even got a mini hockey fight and a baseball punch battle. Ospreay took so many bumps and offense. A top rope cross arm breaker was executed and he was kicked into oblivion on the ground. Ospreay screamed “COME ON YOU FUCKING DICKHEAD” and fought right back only to be nearly knocked out, but propel back for a Spanish Fly. A huge corkscrew shooting star press was countered into a roll-up yet Ospreay was kicked in the arm. He lifted KUSHIDA all the way up only to be spun back into the Hoverboard Lock. Ospreay taps to KUSHIDA in his debut. Brilliant selling all the way through, a surprising performance on defense rather than offense, and KUSHIDA working so stiff on Ospreay. This was a unique yet so enthralling debut for Ospreay, and KUSHIDA has finally been solidified as the ace, thankfully to my grin.
Post-match a Liger challenge was accepted. This could very well be the last time he’ll ever challenge for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.
A G1 Climax 26 announcement video played. It runs from 7/18 – 8/14 with the three final nights in Sumo Hall again.
This lived up to the standard of very good NEVER Openweight 6-Man title matches. Right off the bat things got wacky with Nick Jackson doing a Jeff Hardy tribute act swanton off of the arena section onto everybody else. Cody Hall got carted out and sold his injury over the top (update, he might actually be hurt). Elgin had a trash can placed over his head, placed on a dolly, and was superkicked in motion. The rest of the match teased the Clash being hit on Tatsu many times albeit well, and gave everyone time to shine. The ELITE kept cutting off the hot tag from Tanahashi to Elgin or Tatsu, and Omega sprayed everyone with the mystery spray. Three superkicks to Tatsu but Elgin and Tana came back with the spray! The babyfaces cleared house, Elgin hit a super falcon arrow, Omega saved the pin but a super Elgin bomb was hit on Nick anyways for the victory and NEWWWW champions. It lived up to expectations, got goofy and fun at times, and was effective at teasing multiple things and delivering, plus making my prediction come true.
We got two post-match angles. Omega and Elgin had a stare down with their two belts vs. each other. There will be a definite singles match between the two for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Also, Bad Luck Fale destroyed Tanahashi with a splash in the corner and a Samoan Spike. Those are some of your programs past Invasion Attack that both combine into more NEVER Openweight 6-Man matches. All in all a solid match and solid post-match angles. It pushed everything forward, making everyone look good, and gave things for the future.
Just when I thought I couldn’t be any happier, Masahiro Chono joined Japanese commentary, and over on English commentary, Steve Corino namedropped Big Mouth Loud. OK, fine, I’ll admit it: this had absolutely no chance to live up to the Kojima match. This was much shorter, crunched, and less meaningful. However, Shibata played A LOT of defense. Shibata threw a temper at the ref early on, gaining the advantage by smashing Tenzan in every way, however Tenzan fired back with BONE ON BONE headbutts. Shibata whenever pressed would try to kip-up or keep moving even when playing from under which added a lot to the selling and defense of the match. He hit his trademark STO out of the anaconda vice position, and Tenzan kicked out of the powerbomb at 1! More headbutts were hit on Shibata, and as Shibata tried to deliver a headbutt he was knocked down again. Shibata fought out of the last attempt at a vice, gave Tenzan a huge overhand slap, locked in the rear naked choke, and delivered a Penalty Kick for the victory. Decent enough match, but nothing too special. I enjoyed Shibata selling around a lot, with Tenzan going all out to try and capture the title for the generation, only to be laid out like partner Kojima.
Post-match the group came in to check on Tenzan, and Shibata showed disrespect – this time to Nagata. Nagata and Shibata had a heated stare down over the NEVER Openweight title. A young boy held Nagata back like a kid holds a parent back at a soccer game during a heated confrontation.
Asking this match to impress or at least be decent was too much to ask I guess. They need to combine the tag team divisions by now. Even new combinations are excruciating to sit through, and it’s not just me, but many people. A funny moment saw Tama yell “what the fuck, ref?” at Red Shoes. Some highlights include: Makabe missing a King Kong Knee Drop, Doomsday Kokeshi being reversed only for Honma to hit two on Tama, and being fired up in general; and Honma kicking out of a new version of the Magic Killer to a huge pop. Honma was a very good underdog as per usual. However, an assisted headshrinker DDT finished the match and gave us new IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champs. Still a “fine” match but dry for the most part, and incredibly boring to sit through. I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up, the heavyweight tag division is brutal at this point. I don’t see that fact changing anytime soon unfortunately, either. I hope Great Bash Heel split up now.
CHAOS vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon culminated with the ultimate title at stake, with their two stars facing off in the main event of Sumo Hall for the IWGP Heavyweight title. It took three members, yes, a new addition on top of the usual group, to defeat Kazuchika Okada for his IWGP Heavyweight belt. This match will not be remembered for the in-ring yet its significance in relation to New Japan Pro Wrestling and where it goes forward; plus as the debut point for Seiya Sanada. Not a return from excursion, not one of their own talent, but a talent from OUTSIDE of their own company – finally NJPW is using someone who has the potential, and could already be, after tonight, a mega star. Sanada debuted after Okada gave Naito three dropkicks culminating in a coast to coast one. Okada avoided all interference and mist. He was clear, until a man in a mohawk-mask combination showed up. He got in the ring, and hit a beautiful cutter. He slowly unmasked as it was him. A newborn member of Ingobernables, a perfect way to make your debut, in a hot match that was building, only for this to occur. Just enough was teased prior to the debut flipping things. I felt as if the match could go 10 more minutes. It was perfect. The Destino was countered by Okada, which led to Germans, but the Rainmaker was countered into the Destino as Tetsuya Naito is your new IWGP Heavyweight Champion! Not a lot of the in ring mattered, what mattered though, was a pro-Naito crowd causing a crazy environment for a slow match build, only for another Ingobernables member to unleash and cause Okada to lose his baby in front of 9000+ fans in Sumo Hall. Naito’s grand scheme was successful. The pop for Naito’s win was unreal.
Post-match Naito during the belt ceremony destroyed Red Shoes who handed him the belt. The crowd sang along with Los Ingobernables … De … Japon to end the show. Naito only posed with the belt for a picture after that and threw it down on the ground upon leaving with the Ingobernables.
Invasion Attack was not a Show of the Year by any means, but still delivered for the most part. The multi-mans were fun, we have four new champions, storyline progression matters more than in ring, as in ring will be a crucial part of the product come soon with Best of the Super Juniors and the G1 Climax with all other important shows too. The IWGP Jr. Tag Team title match was fantastic, along with the other Jr. title match which saw Will Ospreay look aces in his loss to KUSHIDA. Our new definitive directions look to be: Goto/EVIL, KUSHIDA/Liger, Tanahashi/Elgin/Yoshitatsu vs. Bullet Club (Tanahashi vs. Fale, Elgin vs. Omega), Shibata/Nagata, and Naito/Ishii. This felt like such a short show for 4 hours long, it went by like a breeze. I am so excited for the future of New Japan as well as the present. The future is now. For all your NJPW coverage, you’re already in the right place, Wrestling With Words.