This is the first time we’ve ever broken sequential order of a promotion for the site. Weeman had the review of the 3/20 Road to show, as 3/19 just aired on Samurai. This show includes Katsuyori Shibata defending his NEVER Openweight Championship vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan in the main event, plus Steve Anthony looking to recapture the NWA Jr. Heavyweight Championship stateside as Tiger Mask defends against him. Plus typical multi-man madness, and two special matches: The Young Bucks take on Michael Elgin and Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Kenny Omega faces Juice Robinson in singles action. This, of course, was prelude to the 6 man match that took place just a day later. I always look forward to these unique NJPW house shows. Let’s get into the show.
This was clipped, and was a 9 minute match; so we only got about 5 minutes of it, but it was a hoot like expected. Right off the bat we had sexy Liger and him diving all over the place trying to take out Gedo. The KUSHIDA and Romero interactions were fantastic, that would make for one hellyuva Jr. Heavyweight title match. The big tease was Finlay Jr. winning the war against RPG Vice on his own, but that of course didn’t happen. After getting a few things in and being saved by Liger, Finlay was eventually hit with Strong Zero as CHAOS rolled out with a win. Really cool to see the young lions get these kind of matches in comparison to lion vs. lion openers.
After the match we got a Roppongi Vice interview. They hyped up Will Ospreay and said “the kid doesn’t lose.” They also explained that they will win the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championships. They also taunted KUSHIDA and explained his time was up!
Another clipped match. I’m not complaining. Super short viewing timetable with a few minutes to spare. It was sort of ‘fun’, with Sakuraba keeping it real with the likes of Tenzan and Nakanishi. Nagata and Nakanishi got their strongmen spots in and Yano threw a few forks in the plans. Sakuraba doing Mongolian Chops is a sight I never NOT want to see. Not much else of note sans the finish. The ref was all confused and Yano pushed Nakanishi in the direction of a Sakuraba kick which allowed an immediate roll-up of Nakanishi for the CHAOS win.
More clipped stuff. Once again nothing out of this world, but by far the best clipped match on the small undercard here. Jay White and Tama Tonga stole the show together. There wasn’t a lot of stuff from anyone else aside from Honma and Tama also providing quality sequences with Kokeshi’s involved. There was a fun section of the match that saw Makabe take care of Fale and Hall in one sitting. What was also hilarious is how the finishing stretch was set up. A bunch of guys hit their signatures and Taguchi was the game changer, knocking Cody out of the ring with a flying hip attack~! Yujiro knocked Jay off the top rope before the signature missile dropkick was hit, but it was OK because White routed back to give Tama a run for his money, with even a very close roll-up near fall in which Tonga sold perfectly. That bounced right into a Gun Stun, which, in turn, was followed up by a Headshrinker DDT giving Bullet Club the win. Fun wrestling.
A Bullet Club promo leads us into the NWA title bout. Really short and sweet with Tama touting them as the future. Honma and his raspy voice gave us some unknown language that I can only assume is “we’re going to fuck Tonga and Camacho up at Invasion Attack.”
This was surprisingly a great short match that showed that at times, less means more. A few seconds were chopped off because of the 2 hour Samurai block here and there, but these two busted their asses to make this dynamic work in such a short time; MORE surprisingly, Tiger Mask specifically. I can’t remember the last match Tiger looked this good in a long time. He dove off the top rope, locked in great submissions, hit a top rope Tiger Suplex, and was very fluid in the ring; plus not grumpy. Anthony, albeit generic, was the cocky United States heel not giving a rats ass about ref Tiger Hattori and if he bumps around a few times during the match or not. Yes, there were two ref bumps, but one meaning more at the end. Overall great wrestling and drama leading up to the finish where Hattori bumped, Anthony kicked Tiger Mask in the balls, gave him a claymore kick, and finished the match off with the Exclamation Point to become the new NWA Jr. Heavyweight Champion. After the match he added insult to injury by throwing Tiger Mask out of the ring.
More promo time on Samurai, with Anthony as new champ. He ran down the crowd for thinking Tiger Mask was the man, and brought up Bruce Tharpe, who was unfortunately not present. He explained that New Japan better gear up, because this is only the first step. It was a mistake when Anthony dropped the title to Tiger Mask, and whether it is NWA or New Japan…you line up your best juniors (AND HAHAHAHA it cut off to Juice vs. Omega.) That is amazing.
NO! This got chopped up too. Not a lot but still to the point where a few minutes of the match was missing. The stuff that did make air though was ridiculously amazing. I loved this match. It was a barrel of fun, including tons of shenanigans because Kenny is allowed to go all out goofy on house shows, and Juice is a very intriguing opponent. By far the highlight of this match was Kenny wrapping up Juice in a mat, and getting air off the apron to stomp both things. There was some Juice comeback, but Cody Hall cut it short by sneaking up on Juice. This led to a few near falls and a variety of build to the finish which saw Juice get out of Omega’s One Winged Angel attempt, only to eventually be hit with a fancy knee to the face (with Terminator clap buildup) as Omega reigns supreme.
This was match 2/2 in the series of prelude matches to the NEVER 6 man on the next day’s show. As per usual this combination delivered. For only about 10 minutes plus, this was great and to the point. It took many twists and turns, and even included some in-match one ups man ship between Elgin and Hall to setup another Road to match that’s happening on 3/27 for the NJPW vs. Bullet Club theme. This also gave background to the spray gimmick which benefited the Bucks in the 6 man, but didn’t give them an advantage here except for in the moment. Tanahashi was worked over in a much more extravagant manner than on ROH TV this week in the same match, and Elgin’s spots always differ even if it’s the same booked match, like a slight twist on a double Buck vs. him predicament. Cody kept trying to get involved but was taken out. He threw the spray at Nick before an Indytaker but it was all for show. The Indytaker was prevented and from there The Unbreakable Aces had the match one. Elgin threw Tanahashi into Matt and Hall on the outside, and pinned Nick with an Elgin Bomb for the win. Excellent house show type of match that crossed a lot of bridges and gave twists and turns along the way.
This was a fantastic co-main event. I couldn’t have asked for more. Everybody busted their asses here and gave a great 15 minute tag match. Everything made sense, the pace was methodical, it built to guys letting their screws loose and killing each other, and there were so many little things that made this what it was. You had Naito and Okada who built up anamocity well and touched at the right times, providing exciting moments. You had EVIL and Ishii absolutely teeing off on each other whenever their paths crossed. You had a new look Goto as well as the most insane image of 2016 NJPW sans Cheeseburger which was BUSHI wrestling Ishii! Then, in the GIF below, came one of the craziest sprints/endings to a match this year, where everything that unraveled separately came together for fireworks. There were teases of Goto losing at times, but eventually, thanks to Ishii (once again in GIF) he routed back against blatant fall taker BUSHI. He went for a Shouten-kai but was unable to pick BUSHI up, yet eventually gave him an Ushiogoroshi and hit his new finisher GTR (spiking into the knee) for the win. Fantastic stuff, watch this if you can get your hands on it.
Watch their Big Mouth Loud match if you haven’t yet (Shibata’s now defunct promotion). Holy shit. This is a match of the year contender. Not that it is match of the year, but if you would put this near the top of your list, I’d have absolutely no problems with it. It was so well paced, so versatile, hell, even the camera work was top class. I’ve never seen a Shibata match paced exactly like this. It fed into Kojima being older and having to take more breaks, but when you’re watching the match, there is no time period where you think they’re stalling. It was either Shibata BRUTALLY working over Kojima’s lariat arm, the two going at it like an Ishii/Shibata pace, or Kojima on the offensive. The rest was fantastic selling, as Kojima sold the arm at every checkpoint, and Shibata benefited from the pace, hulking up yet toning his facial expressions and physical selling back down to “I just need to relax” after being hit with big impact spots such as a top rope Koji cutter or the Cozy lariat that was built to the entire match. The signature spots were not only built to masterfully, but they felt natural. Everything felt natural except the pick you up and then you drop me section, which at least was sold better than the Ishii/Shibata ones. The crowd got highly invested and some of the near falls were unreal like the brainbuster spot on Shibata. One of my favorite submission spots I’ve seen in a while saw Shibata nearly tap Kojima with a MASSIVE arm bar that was completely diagonal, and that was also sold like hell. I loved everything about this match, its pace, the big spots, the meaning, the camera work, and even the fact that all of Kojima’s generation was ringside, and they’d cut to them in big moments routing him on. Watch this. Now.
This show is one of my favorite shows of the 1st Quarter 2016 wrestling year. Everything delivered, and even if some stuff was clipped, every single thing was fun to watch, and every single thing delivered. Especially the co-main event tag and the main event. At under 2 hours, this clocks in as a helluva easy watch, and is a show I recommend you watch before Invasion Attack. Be sure to be on the lookout for more New Japan coverage in the coming weeks. Until next time.