NJPW Wrestling Toyonokuni on April 29, 2017
Watch: NJPW World
Beppu B-Con Plaza – Beppu, Japan
Prior to Wrestling Dontaku on 5/3, NJPW presented Wrestling Toyonokuni headlined by Juice Robinson challenging Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, with two other big singles matches as a stacked B-show combo.
To kick things off we saw Tiger Mask, Shota Umino, and Katsuya Kitamura face Jushin Thunder Liger, Tomoyuki Oka, and Hirai Kawato. This wasn’t a first time ever predicament as this match has been done multiple times before. It’s helped the young lions polish their game, along with Tiger and Liger working alongside them for the experience. The match is exactly what we’ve gotten every time out — a very fun match with repeating significant moments. The highlight of which being Shota trapped in a Boston Crab by Oka, and selling it like death, very cartoony in all the great ways. He was able to grab the ropes but would tap when it was re-applied. Everyone had fun and looked good.
Next came a non-title match as the new IWGP Jr. Tag Champs RPG Vice of Beretta and Rocky Romero faced their “rivals” in Suzuki-gun, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and El Desperado. Despy subbing in for Taichi, funnily enough, didn’t make the match up all too better because this was short and more hollow than the title change match a few days ago. Suzuki-gun cheated, with RPG Vice being great babyface foils for it — the catch being that it doesn’t make the other team’s work any better. Kanemaru is always remarkably average, it’s impressive. Nothing of note here except the finish where Strong Zero was hit on Kanemaru. RPG continue their momentum wave as new champs.
In a short, sometimes annoying because Yoshitatsu was in the ring, match, Los Ingobernables de Japon of BUSHI and SANADA had their work cut out for them as they faced a Taguchi Japan pairing — Ryusuke Taguchi and the aforementioned horrible excuse for a pro wrestler Yoshitatsu. It was decent for a 5-6 minute match. Taguchi got trapped in the ropes, Tatsu exposed himself, we got typical LIJ schtick, and SANADA tapped out Tatsu with the Cold Skull. Meh.
Two of the three teams involved in the Wrestling Dontaku IWGP Tag Title match gave us a small preview of what’s to come as Bullet Club of Guerillas of Destiny of Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa, alongside Yujiro Takahashi clashed with TenKoji of Satoshi Kojima (#BreadClub) and Hiroyoshi Tenzan, alongside David Finlay. It wasn’t a memorable match and was one of the weaker matches on the card, but it was still a tad bit enjoyable as it wasn’t a long match. Finlay was protected up until the babyface fire comeback/losing finish, and TenKoji were fun as always to see mix it up. Loa got the win off an impact driver on Finlay.
In more undercard, short match tag #content, CHAOS of Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, and YOSHI-HASHI faced Suzuki-gun of Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, and TAKA Michinoku. Yet another okay tag that was elevated by the continuation of Goto/MiSu’s slugfest, alongside exciting interaction between Ospreay and
Taichi, um, I mean, TAKA. The embedded in my mind moment of the match came when Suzuki hooked a chair around Goto on the outside and choked him with it. The hot mess would continue post match when both refused to stop brawling. Brilliance! As for the finish to the match, Ospreay won for CHAOS after an Os-Cutter on TAKA. Perhaps a BOSJ preview? Pretty please?
In the featured match of the tag wars of the night, which came after intermission, CHAOS of Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, and Toru Yano faced Bullet Club of Kenny Omega, Chase Owens, and Bad Luck Fale. This provided plenty combos that make you grin, laugh, etc, as Omega was in comedy mode for the majority of the match. This also served as previews for the two big matches on Dontaku (Okada-Fale and Omega-Ishii). While the in-ring wasn’t everyone at their best game, the interactions between everyone, and to some extent, spectacle (see: Omega hitting CHAOS one at a time with a clipboard), carried the match along fine. The previews were fire emojis, as even though stuff was saved, we got bonkers work in Okada leaping around trying to get Fale and Fale laying him out post-match with a slam on the mat as a counter to a plancha. Okada pinned Owens after a rainmaker.
In my clear-cut match of the night, Hiromu Takahashi defended his IWGP Junior Title against ‘King’ Ricochet. It was built up as a blatant innovative match, with two of the most idiosyncratic wrestlers in the world clashing. From the get-go, this already established a different identity than any other Hiromu defense preceding it, as Ricochet beat Hiromu at his own game — going 100 miles a minute to try and end the reign as fast as Hiromu ended KUSHIDA. As staffer Quentin roughly put it, “Ricochet did the 40-yard dash of flips”. Beyond that, the match was paced beautifully in all its reckless glory, something Hiromu excels at more than any other “new age” type of wrestler. It’s not go go go with Hiromu; it’s go go go that matters all the time, and not just as spectacle entertainment. Some of the stuff pulled out was jaw dropping/screaming reaction invoking, like an inverted Canadian Destroyer, Ricochet hitting the suplex combo on the mat, Hiromu dying into barricades, and Ricochet missing his big trademark top rope moves near the end of the match. Even though he kicked out of a sweeping timebomb, a DVD on the apron combined with the pain of a DVD in the corner, and another timebomb, put Ricochet away for good. A tremendously well-done match that lends itself to an already ridiculous resume of 2017 Hiromu Takahashi matches. As all Hiromu matches are right now, this is must-watch. You can’t match the excitement and spectacle the timebomb has in-ring.
Hiroshi Tanahashi and EVIL delivered a baseline average, weak in relation to their other battles, barely functioning as to showcasing the talent of both, type of match. Though that was a mouthful, that’s how I’d describe this let down of a match that makes this card feel a little less important. Their NJ Cup match was at least filled with drama, with some side stories coming together for an overarching theme of EVIL cheating to beat an ace that runs the place. Here was similar to Fale/EVIL from the tournament, as though it picked up more towards the closing stretch (duh), it relied on interference to kick into the next gear, and that next gear would only be a few minutes long. After BUSHI accidentally sprayed SANADA, the interference didn’t pay off, as Tanahashi would hit two high fly flows to put away EVIL and get his win back. Nothing must see at all. Disappointing.
When Juice Robinson first signed with NJPW, I did not expect to be reviewing a New Japan main event with him in it, but that lends itself to the awesome New Japan system. I’m over the moon watching whatever Juice does now. He’s found his babyface groove, his character, his selling, his timing, his offense; everything has come together for Juice Robinson that was never meant to be in NXT. It was a natural match against Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Title. Though it was 26 minutes long, it felt more like 15-20, as Naito matches never feel like wasted time (except maybe the big Okada matches). Jamesie recently brought this up on Twitter, but as much as everyone puts over Naito’s LOS gimmick, they forget to mention how much of a limb work master he is. That’s the key to all his great matches. This is a very good match based upon the leg work of Naito, Juice’s huge babyface comebacks, and an amazing kick out of the Destino that made the crowd go INSANE. A spinebuster was hit on the apron that shattered the earth (and Naito’s back). Juice staring soulless into the camera was an incredible image. After a drama-filled, excellent finishing stretch, Juice was put away with another Destino. Watch it.
Post-match saw Hiroshi Tanahashi challenge Naito in what will be a runback of Wrestle Kingdom 11 at Dominion. They had my favorite match on the show, so I won’t be surprised if they have it again on Dominion, and top it. Naito cut a promo and posed in a grand celerbation to end the show.
NJPW WRESTLING TOYONOKUNI ON APRIL 29, 2017
DECENT - 6.5/10
I'm feeling decent on NJPW's Wrestling Toyonokuni 2017. It wasn't a great show by any means, but it was still an enjoyable watch, marred by a let-down in EVIL-Tanahashi, but capped off with a fantastic Jr. Title match, and a very good main event.