The Seibu Dome is huge and the entrance ramp is about ten thousand miles long.
The video screen behind the entrance ramp is awesome.
Did you love the G1 tournament and think it was a series of some of the greatest matches you’d ever seen? Well now that’s over and here’s a bunch of dudes you either don’t already know, or never really liked to come muck everything up in multi-man matches.
Ryusuke Taiguchi, Tiger Mask, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan v. El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku, Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer: Immediately I’m disappointed by this match because El Desperado didn’t come out through the crowd but I’m immediately back on board with Taichi accompanying Suzuki-gun to the ring. Even in multi-man matches I guess we’re not done with the TenCozy/Killer Elite Squad feud. TAKA finally getting into the ring after being ringside for a million matches during the G1, and he immediately apes Rocky Romero with that corner lariat spot. The crowd goes wild when Tiger Mask gets the hot tag to Kojima. It probably doesn’t need to be repeated but this crowd is absolutely massive. This was a really fun and hot match that had bodies flying everywhere — everyone had a chance to look good and the match ended with Taiguchi hitting TAKA with the Dodon and getting the pinfall victory for his team. Fun way to open the show and set the tone.
BUSHI, Manabu Nakanishi, Yuji Nagata v. Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Bad Luck Fale, Doc Gallows): BUSHI stepping in for an injured Togi Makabe. I’m guessing there are mixed feelings all over the world as to that substitution. Gallows has his noose back, and Fale is wearing a bandana over his mouth, which I think might be the first time I’ve ever seen him wearing the bandana. I had a feeling going in that this wasn’t going to be a match that I loved, and it wasn’t. I thought Nagata was great , everyone else was just there. Yujiro picks up the win for Bullet Club after the Miami Pimps on BUSHI.
YOSHI-HASHI, Kazushi Sakuraba, Toru Yano v. Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka, Minoru Suzuki: If I skipped this match completely would you blame me? At this point the Toru Yano/Minoru Suzuki feud has become the Israel/Palestine of our time – it’s a never ending cycle. We will all die and Yano and Suzuki will still be feuding in the afterlife. If you’re a fan of Iizuka walking through the crowd this is the match for you because he has to walk about three hundred yards to get to the ring. You’ll forgive me if I never really got into this match until Suzuki and Sakuraba wound up in the ring together just slapping the shit out of each other. Even Suzuki and Sakuraba couldn’t help me get into this one because Suzuki just lost his shit, attacked the ref, choked out Sakuraba in the ropes and wouldn’t let go, then all hell broke loose. I’m kind of at a loss about this whole thing, it’s probably better if we just move on.
Captain New Japan, Jushin Thunder Liger v.The Kingdom (Adam Cole, Michael Bennett): Michael Bennett throwing Maria at Captain New Japan to stop him and distract him is fantastic, seriously only the lowliest of heels needs a distraction to get the better of Captain New Japan. I can’t imagine anyone in this audience really knows who Michael Bennett is (or Cole for that matter). They do know Liger though and the crowd gets loud when he makes the hot tag from Capt. New Japan. I will give credit where it is due, Cole and Liger had some nice chemistry when they had the chance to be in the ring together, it doesn’t hurt that one is arguably the best wrestler of all time and the other is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now. Of course Maria winds up on the ring apron doing a strip tease to distract Capt. New Japan, otherwise why would she even be here, crowd popped for that because JAPAN. Bennett uses the distraction to hit the piledriver on Capt. New Japan and ladies and gentleman Michael Bennett just scored the pinfall in a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling. This is not a drill. I liked that, didn’t love it – but it was fun for what it was.
*IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship* Time Splitters v. reDRagon: After the Young Bucks I think you’d be hard pressed to find two better tag teams on the planet right now than these two, which is why the fact that they put on a potential Match of the Year should be no surprise to anyone. Heading into this match you’d have to assume that reDRagon would be a very popular act in Japan. Loved the tandem offense employed by reDRagon to focus their attack on Alex Shelley’s injured shoulder. Both Fish and O’Reilly did a great job of modifying their usual attack just enough to make sure it was directed at the taped shoulder (well taped until O’Reilly ripped off the bandage). There were some great spots in this match too — Shelley’s springboard from the outside right into a triangle choke from O’Reilly was spectacular and didn’t involve the “jumping nothing” that has become commonplace in those types of reversal moves. KUSHIDA with a flying cross body to the outside was also an excellent visual as he went over the guardrail and into the weird photographer’s pit that they set up around the ring. Of course none of that compares to Kyle O’Reilly’s insane leaping knee off the apron onto Shelley on the floor because they broke through the barricade and that shit looked super painful. Bobby Fish with a SUPER FALCON ARROW for two was amazing as well because nobody kicks out of the falcon arrow. Seriously though these four went for it in this match and I loved it so, so much. I hope this performance gets reDRagon back to New Japan because I think they have a chance to be stars in the company as a team and individually, seriously Kyle O’Reilly, Katsuyori Shibata anyone? The match ends with KUSHIDA getting O’Reilly to tap to the Hoverboard Lock and good lord was that match amazing — heart shaped eyes and everything for that one.
Tetsuya Naito v. Tomoaki Honma: How great is it that Honma’s hype video is him missing falling headbutts? Can we call the irresistible urge to go for a diving headbutt when you know it won’t succeed — Honmania? Like, the match was going well for Honma but he suffered from a bout of Honmania and the tides turned in favor of Naito? As crazy as it seems, nothing is more popular with a New Japan crowd than Honma actually hitting a diving headbutt, it’s like the Burning Hammer of 2014. Also for the record, “sort of a dick” Tetsuya Naito is a great development. This was a standard match that you’d expect from these two, but it was still pretty great. Naito sold the shit out of a launching headbutt and Honma got a great nearfall on a quick roll up attempt. Ultimately Naito got a little sloppy at the end, which is kind of his thing lately but Honma is just so great at taking offense that he could sell anything, even if it’s not clean. Naito wound up winning with the Stardust Press because even in meaningless G1 matches, Honma can’t catch a break.
Tomohiro Ishii v. Karl Anderson: It’s been awhile since a Bullet Club member had interfered in a match and actually had an impact so of course as soon as the bell rings Takahashi jumps on the apron, distracts Ishii and allows Anderson to attack. Welcome back, thing we all hated from earlier in the year. Ishii gets busted open pretty quick in this one and anytime I see blood in a New japan match it turns up the intensity. We even get a little break in the action for the ringside physician to check on Ishii, that’s commitment to a bit. Ishii selling the shit out of his injured shoulder during this match though I can’t say that Anderson did a ton of offense directed at the wrapped shoulder. For as much as Ishii sold the injury to his shoulder it didn’t really affect his ability to drop Anderson on his head with a brainbuster and get a two count. After the brainbuster Takahashi gets into the ring and puts a beatdown on Ishii — which brings out YOSHI-HASHI to make the save and those two wind up brawling into the netherworld somewhere. Great spot where Anderson goes for a headbutt only it winds up hurting him and not Ishii. Finally Ishii goes for the brainbuster, which Anderson reverses into the gun stun and the win. Pretty okay match though the interference was unexpected and the idea of YOSHI-HASHI being the guy to chase off Takahashi was surprising.
Hirooki Goto v. Katusyori Shibata: Sometimes you just know that you’re going to love a match as soon as you see it announced — this was one of those times. This was just two guys that know each other really well, beating the shit out of each other. There were a couple amazing spots in this match, Goto hitting Shibata with the PK was great, but the highlight had to be Goto eating one of the most brutal Go 2 Sleep’s that I’ve ever seen. I mean these guys are friends and Shibata just knee’d Goto right in the mouth. Even the second G2S was devastating by Shibata, followed up by a great PK and Shibata gets the win. That match was super exciting, it was exactly what I wanted it to be when it was announced and I loved really everything about it. Just hard hitting, brutal action from bell to bell with a satisfying conclusion. Good stuff. I even loved Shibata tossing Goto out of the ring by his hair and helping him to the back only to have Shibata fall before they get there and Goto having to carry HIM to the back. Wonderful.
Hiroshi Tanahashi v. AJ Styles: This is your 2nd place finishers match. AJ being accompanied to the ring by Doc Gallows waiving the Bullet Club flag and Bad Luck Fale regrettably not carrying Styles out on his shoulders. Both of these guys deserve a shit load of credit, they were put in a very unenviable situation, they had to know Goto/Shibata would be stiff as hell, and Nakamura/Okada is going to be amazing so they did everything in their power to put on a hell of a match. Tanahashi shoving Styles out of mid-springboard and watching AJ bounce off the ropes, then the ring apron to the floor was great. As was Tanahashi’s flying cross body over the guard rail and onto Styles in the media pit. During a near fall about 15 minutes into the match I noticed that the ref was red-sleeve referee and I was immediately nervous. Luckily those nerves were not warranted because the dumb shit parade didn’t start until after the match. The match itself was excellent, the dueling reversed High Fly Flow, and Styles turing a Styles Clash into a tombstone before hitting Bloody Sunday was cool, and Tanahashi getting the quick roll up victory actually made me pop because I thought a clean finish was warranted and it made sense to give the old man the nod. I also think it’s telling that as soon as Tanahashi got the win the crowd went bananas, little kids were like trampling each other to get to the guard rails to celebrate. Everything after that was dumb as shit. Jeff Jarrett joining the Bullet Club with Scott D’more is the most WCW thing ever and I hated every second of it. Jarrett saving Tanahashi and actually being a non-Bullet Club entity would be interesting, but this is just lame. Jarrett hasn’t been relevant in like 15 years and even then he was a middle act. The only positive that I could come up with is that at least the interference and guitar shot didn’t happen during the match, so I guess we’re getting better.
*G1 Climax Finals* Shinsuke Nakamura v. Kazuchika Okada: I can’t be the only person who was surprised that Nakamura came out second right? This entire show was leading up to Okada’s first Rainmaker pose and the pull out camera shot right? It was worth it. Also I am going to see Nakamura’s Rainmaker lariat reversal into an armbar in my dreams for the rest of eternity. The other amazing point in this match is after Nakamura stops his momentum, Okada misses a dropkick and Nakamura hits the BomaYe he goes for a pin and gets two — red sleeve ref jumps to his feet in disbelief that Okada kicked out, sometimes the refs in these matches are just as important as the participants. The end of this match was just fantastic with Nakamura kicking out right into a lariat, second lariat, huge Rainmaker that Nakamura sold like a fuckin boss and Okada getting the pinfall victory. This was almost thirty minutes of the two biggest stars in the company going toe to toe, I didn’t love all of it (or really even half of it) but the final like seven minutes was especially amazing. The crowd was electric for the finish and they lost their minds when Okada got the pin.