NJPW Sakura Genesis on April 9, 2017
Watch: NJPW World
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, Japan
Precursor: When reviewing I try to give the overall story, feel, and important moments to a match. I try not to veer off into move descriptions. This keeps it fairly short and sweet. I always put the result of the match in italics as well if the champion(s) defended or if there’s a new champion. I don’t use star ratings or any scale because the system doesn’t work for me. I spew out what I think of the match and articulate my thoughts that way. (Evil laugh…) — you’re forced to read my writing and not glance at the stars! Got it? Enjoy.
David Finlay, Jushin Thunder Liger & Manabu Nakanishi vs. Katsuya Kitamura, Tomoyuki Oka & Hirai Kawato
This is the “0 match” of the card, akin to the dark match for those more familiar with that term. These air live for the big shows and take place about 20 minutes before the shows. This was as you’d expect from a pre-show match. It gave everyone a showcase while telling stories that are always existent — like Kawato and co. rushing everyone before the bell only to recieve backlash from the well travelled dads (and Finlay who’s higher on the totem pole). The best part of the match was Oka and Kitamura stealing Nakanishi’s torture racks. Finlay won for his team after a stunner on Kitamura. I like how Finlay got the win. Neat warm-up match.
Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe vs. Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi, Tanga Roa & Tama Tonga)
A few things elevated this for me: Yujiro and Roa were kept to a minimum, my dog was in my arms for part of it, and Tiger Mask W was in the match. It overdelivered to the point where I’m impressed on a minor level how no one was terrible here. Mask W was able to get in his signature spots then sit out while we got everything under the sun expected in an opener with all these folk. Bullet Club beatdowns, veteran’s greatest hits, and Chase Owens being *better-than-you-give-him-credit-for*! Everything clicked to create a fun welcomed pace that never dragged. Tonga won for his team after a Gun Stun on Tiger Mask. We went from fine/eye roll status on paper, to nearly a good opener. Everything was solid.
CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI, Beretta & Rocky Romero) vs. Suzuki-gun (TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado & Minoru Suzuki)
What a combination! I knew I wanted MiSu vs. anyone on CHAOS, and we got it. The story told throughout was Suzuki and HASHI battling, where YOSHI naturally was the face in peril waiting to get back in for a hot tag. I love a lot of the guys in this match and they naturally crossed over as alluded to at the start of the review. It was an enjoyable match that flashed by, but gave us the ultimate one move interaction where Trent kicking MiSu out of the ring. Suzuki-gun tried to dominate but fell victim to YOSHI-HASHI-MANIA(?) We’ll just call it karma. YOSHI-HASHI won for his team after a Karma on TAKA. This got in and out in a blink of an eye while telling a satisfying story with Suzuki and HASHI while providing good action throughout. A very good addition to the undercard. Suzuki crushed a bunch of young lions with a steel chair post-match.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Taichi) (c) vs. Jado & Gedo
Expectations: LOW. Output: HIGHER THAN LOW. This was an enjoyable Jr. Tag Title match, and wasn’t the dirt worst. There’s not a lot to complain about with this one, as it was kept short, and made into a ridiculous clusterf$%^ that Joey Janela might be proud of. Outside interference came in multiple forms: Desperado, RPG Vice, and even Yujiro’s gal. I literally bit on a Jado DDT near fall. The state of the match blew my mind, although it still wasn’t anything great. It was good in its slot, remained inoffensive, plus didn’t give Taichi a lot of time. I am a happy lad sitting through it. Kanemaru won for his team after a jumping DDT on Jado. Whether you refuse to believe what I’m saying or not, this was executed in a way that wasn’t offensive, and formulated the match to be a fun cluster — a Bullet Club/ROH/Gedo ideology implemented with this weird scroll of people.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Kenny Omega) vs. CHAOS (Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii)
This tag provides two New Japan Cup rematches. Some may handwave this as the obvious “comedy” tag, but Omega and Ishii helped seamlessly intertwine their chemistry into a match with a lot of shenanigans. That resulted in the match hitting close to the middle on the dart board. Yano and Fale tend to cancel themselves out in these tags, and we got a taste of vintage DDT Omega with some great comedy spots, like him thinking a cutter was coming, holding his position — or accidentally hitting Fale in the back with a corner pad after Yano ducked. Not only that, but Omega continues to tease, pointing to the sky like Tiger Mask before he hit a springboard. On top of all this came Ishii and Omega sequences carried over from their epic New Japan Cup First Round encounter. Omega won for his team after a One Winged Angel on Ishii. On a card that oozes a little more variety on expected, this was welcomed with open arms.
Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi, Juice Robinson & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito)
Not only do these NJPW all-star tags always deliver, but this one in particular rises above the crop of them all due to a few special moments. Ricochet’s hot tag is my favorite since Cesaro’s recent Super Mario Bros ones. The match was very fun with Taguchi being placed in obscure situations trying to act all serious, like being hung on the ropes. Everyone played their part working hard as usual, but one final sequence made this a memorable pre-intermission bout for the rest of this year to come. I can’t cut through the grass avoiding this. JUICE ROBINSON GOT ANOTHER UPSET WIN AND IT FREAKING RULED. Juice got the win for his team after a Pulp Friction on Naito. The finishing sequence and follow-up is licence to print money. The crowd was into it every step and it kept me on my toes figuring Naito would get offense back. Nope. Juice dumped him on his head, Naito made him look like a million dollars, and there’s our next IC Title program. Hell yeah.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima (c) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Raymond Rowe)
As predicted this was a very good match. It took all the elements that make these two teams great and meshed them together for a fun flow. What started off as Kojima playing face in peril turned into a massive shoot your shot back and forth, then turned into Kojima dying slowly but surely. The highlight of the show in terms of an impressive sequence so far (sans Ricochet’s hot tag) was Hanson hitting a slam then transitioning into a tope on Tenzan instantly. The crowd ate up War Machine in every way, making this even better. Throw in a multitude of good near falls and you have a certified banger. I had a gut feeling War Machine would walk away with gold. I’m not wrong. Rowe won for his team after a Fallout on Kojima. War Machine are the new IWGP Tag Team Champions. Exactly the type of title change/match to boost the momentum of the card headed into the even more important title matches. Recommended watch. Post-match War Machine bowed to Tencozy to a huge ovation.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
They played it safe for this title defense, but navigated through the 15-16 minute patch so well. Everything clicked, and the crowd ate up all of ZSJ’s offense. Speaking of ZSJ offense, that was the key to making the match work so well. Although there was plenty of grappling back and forth early on, it was ZSJ relentlessly targeting the left arm of Goto that took this to that next level. I was invested in everything happening — I bit on multiple holds. The two have an undeniably good chemistry. There was interference in the match that worked out perfectly. Goto overcame the interference, as Brother Mort said on Twitter, reminding you that interference isn’t always a death wish. Fired up Goto on the prawl! Goto won after a GTR. Goto is still the NEVER Openweight Champion. A borderline great match that’s my favorite on the card up to this point and one of my favorite matches from both guys this year. Post-match saw Goto and Suzuki get into it, as that’s the two’s next program, obviously being a title match to come as well.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs. KUSHIDA
I see Gedo read my piece on how epic doesn’t always have to equate to long. The match lasted 1:56. It stayed hot the whole way through, as KUSHIDA had the upper hand for a minute, only for Hiromu to hit the sunset apron powerbomb that looked NASTY as hell. Before you knew it, KUSHIDA was down and out, and was hit with the finish out of nowhere. It had to have been confusng for all to watch, but I love, love, LOVE it. I was thinking in my head how awesome it’d be if one of the two big matches went “super sprint” mode. Thank you Gedo for granting my wish. Hiromu won after a Time Bomb. Hiromu is still the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Ricochet challenged Hiromu post-match. 1000x yes.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Epic; out of this world; elite; best in the world; emotional wreck — whatever other terms on top of those that can be attached to this match MUST be used when talking about it. This is my favorite New Japan match this year. One of my favorite matches in general this year. At first I was skeptical as to how it’d go after a brilliant call on the junior match, as we’d all have figured out that this was going long. But it was worked selfishly for me. I WANTED it to be worked like this so bad. Shibata gave Okada the beating of a lifetime. Okada didn’t get in a lot of offense. It was all Shibata. The crowd was close to all Shibata. It felt like it was finally his time, and I found myself slipping further and further into the quicksand that was this match’s emotional attachment. Whether it was Shibata tanking through Rainmakers, or having Okada to the point of submission, just missing out on wins, et. I continued to be in awe of the special atmosphere, plus how unique this was as an entity. I was losing my shit internally when Shibata kicked Okada off a Rainmaker position about 12 times, yet Okada survived by the skin of his teeth. Three Rainmakers with that forever gorgeous zoom in of the arm link chain. Okada won after multiple Rainmakers. Okada is still the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This is one of the best matches all year, and I can easily seeing it being your best. It told a marvelous story of Shibata having Okada trapped in aplenty corners, only for the champ to merely survive by the skin of his life. It’s heartbreak at its finest for the pro-Shibata crowd and us fans alike at home. I’m depressed now. But luckily I have the urge to rewatch this ASAP. Wrestling is art, and this match painted a classic on the canvas.
Post-match Bad Luck Fale attacked Okada to set up the next main event program. I’m A-ok with this as not only does it make 2/2 “homegrown” talent in the main event titles picture, but it will seemingly be yet another great match between these two, who have excellent chemistry.
NJPW SAKURA GENESIS ON APRIL 9, 2017
Fantastic - 9/10
With one of the best undercards on a major NJPW show in a long while, combined with continuing to push homegrown talent (a la Juice now fighting for the IC Title, and hell, Fale in the main event again is dope), and a top four better than the Wrestle Kingdom show, Sakura Genesis is easily my second best show this year falling in a neck and neck race to 16 Carat Night Three. The main event is my favorite NJPW match this year thus far. There was tons of variety on the card as well, with a bold booking decision that's already paying off in spades. Sakura Genesis was NJPW at its best.