NJPW 45th Anniversary
Manabu Nakanishi vs Tomoyuki Oka
Oka looks like a young version of old Nakanishi. Not like Nakanishi looked in the 90s, but what he looks like now...but younger. Very short young lion gets smashed by vet match. Nakanishi won with the torture rack.
Chaos vs Suzuki-Gun
8 man tag action. Could there be anything more undercard NJPW? I was going to talk about how great of shape Harry Smith has gotten himself into, but then he went and bleached his hair for some reason. I assume to try to mask his thinning hair. The Hardcore Holly trick. Curious to see which guy Goto will end up having a match against coming out of this. I'm assuming Harry, but he pairs off with Suzuki right away. IWGP to NEVER championship seems like a pretty big drop off. There's really not much going on here, as you'd expect from a second match 8 man tag. Goto and Suzuki had some kind of hottish sequences. For a second on the card match. Yoshi made Taka tap out to the Chono butterfly lock.
Bullet Club vs Jushin Liger/Yuji Nagata/David Finlay/Tiger Mask IV/Togi Makabe
Kenny Omega is wearing his Young Bucks gear, which means he's putting no effort into this match. Expect a lot of comedy spots. FUCK Yujiro. Not even frick him. FUCK him. That piece of shit. Bullet Club is such a joke now. Even more than they were. I don't even know why the exist beyond the t-shirts. FRICK, why is Tiger Mask in this match for so long? I forgot all about Camacho being in the Bullet Club. Kenny does almost nothing in the match, beyond a comedy spot where he slammed all of the BC members onto Finlay, only to fall over when he tried to slam Fale. Fale pinned Finlay with a Tongan Spike.
Suzuki-Gun vs Roppongi Vice IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships
FRICK. RPG get attacked during their entrance, so hopefully this will be a short match. Not that I expected this to be some crazy high quality show, but for a 45th anniversary show, you'd think NJ would put on something a little more special than their normal undercard of half speed tags. I don't ever want to see any of these guys again. Ever. Taichi and Kanemura won with a powerbomb > diving DDT combo. New champions. Whatever. FRICK.
Zack Sabre Jr vs Katsuyori Shibata British Heavyweight Championship
Nice, Shibata kicking the shit out of another pasty Brit. I want to say this is Zack's NJPW debut, but I'm not positive. I know he's done some UK stuff with NJ, but i'm pretty sure this is his first match at an official NJPW show. Man, people talked shit about how scrawny he looked in the CWC and a WWE ring, but holy shit at how scrawny he looks next to a guy around 200 pounds. His arms are just bones. Do some curls, breh. Some nice mat stuff to start, with Shibata again going to the WOS well and seeming to enjoy himself doing it. Fucking straight jacket holds being used for minutes. Back and forth. LEVERAGE. Or something. This plays out kind of similar to the Shibata/Ospreay match, but more technical based. ZSJ goes after the seemingly permanently taped up shoulder. Of course, Shibata doesn't give a shit at all about Zack's strikes, because they look weak as shit. You scrawny fuck. HIT HARDER, BITCH! Shout out to using the Octopus Hold on the 45th anniversary of the company. INOKI BOM BA YE! Shibata eventually has to take the arm work seriously even if he doesn't take the strikes seriously. Oh shit, a sleeper suplex! And then a bully choke suplex OUTTA NOWHERE. But Minoru Suzuki jumps up on the apron OUTTA NOWHERE, causing a distraction to the ref. Shibata knocks both the ref and Suzuki off the apron, so Harry Smith hits the ring and lays Shibata out. Suzuki hits the Gotch piledriver. PK. ZSJ wins! New champion. Zack Sabre Jr has joined Suzuki-Gun!
TenCozi vs Chaos IWGP Tag Team Championships
Gedo pls. You're trying to get me to watch a match with dead arm Tenzan and Yano? You mother fricker. I expect some hard strike exchanges between Ishii and Kojima and everything else to be terrible. Of course, just to torture me, Yano and Tenzan start the match. FRICK. Ishii and Kojima do indeed beat the shit out of each other. So there's that, I guess. Ishii has a very tight elbow brace on. To the point where it looks like he has a serious triceps injury or something. Like Macho Man in late 1995 working with a detached triceps. Hey, maybe take some time off to heal up, guy. Dude has had braces or tape for years straight. This is okay when it's Kojima vs Ishii, but terrible otherwise. Ishii takes another one of his wacky DDT bumps. Man, this strike battle with Ishii and Tenzan is terrible. Especially when they start doing headbutts. Kojima did a kokeshi in tribute to the fallen Honma, who got seriously injured and probably ended his career on this tour taking a hanging DDT that injured his cervical vertebrae and left him temporarily a quadriplegic. Of all the crazy shit Honma did in his career, it was a Randy Orton spot that ended it. Kojima pins Yano with a lariat. New champions. Dead armed Tenzan getting a title run in 2017.
Los Ingobernables de Japon vs Hiroshi Tanahashi/Juice Robinson/KUSHIDA/Michael Elgin
If figured after the last two matches that there wouldn't be another 8 man tag, but here we are. Evil gives Tanahashi the business in the opening moments, setting up their upcoming match in the NJ Cup. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with damn near mid carder Tanahashi. Shit is weird and unseemly. It's actually much weirder than John Cena as a mid card title holder. Elgin and Sanada seem like they're going to have a solid match in the future. This seems like a showcase for Juice more than anything. Which is fine, but also weird since Tanahashi and Naito are in this. Naito pinned Juice with the Destino, then the faces all got a beat down after the match with EVIL standing on a downed Tanahashi.
Himoru Takahashi vs Ryusuke Taguchi IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
FRICK. FRICKIN' TAGUCHI. FRICK! Can't believe they're following the Takahashi/Dragon Lee match with...Taguchi. Takahashi starts working the back, but he should be working the ass. I hate Taguchi's ass attack. I also hate that seemingly 70% of the NJ roster now does the Boma Ye. Takahashi is good, but there's only so much you can do with a shit bird like Taguchi. I hope he spends every day feeling bad about how all the dudes he broke in with became much bigger stars. Takahashi's bumping and general cuntiness makes this watchable, and thankfully he wins with the Time Bomb. Title retained. Frick Taguchi forever. Kushida came out and challenged Takahashi after the mask.
Tiger Mask W vs Kazuchika Okada IWGP Championship
Now, Tiger Mask W is Kota Ibushi. Everyone knows it. It's a bit of an inside joke. This match is a tie in both with the 45th Anniversary of NJPW, but also the revival of the Tiger Mask anime that debuted in late 2016. Still, it's Okada vs Ibushi. Ibushi has had classics with Nakamura and Tanahashi, so this should be good even with the Tiger Mask gimmick. I hope. I thought Okada/Suzuki had to be good before I saw it, too. Indie RESPEK. It's weird seeing Okada work like the imposing heavyweight vet. That veneer kind of fades when he throws his weak ass strikes that look half as hard as with Ibushi is throwing, though. This gets a lot more fun when Ibushi starts doing Ibushi things as opposed to Tiger Mask things. Okada starts being an absolute fucking prick half way through the match, which is the first time since becoming the true ace that I've felt like he came off as THE guy. And then Ibushi beats the shit out of him. Lol. Nothing is better to me than when two Japanese brehs go full disrespectful cunt towards each other. There's a LONG tease for an avalanche tombstone, which definitely seems like something Ibushi would take. Thankfully it didn't happen, but Ibushi did hit an avalanche Tiger Driver that nearly won the match. Okada wins with 3 rainmakers. Title retained.
Now, a lot of people are talking about Okada's 2017 and how it's so incredible, a top year of any top guy ever. But what I see is a guy who, 5 years into his push at the top of the company, still doesn't fully believe he's the ace, seems almost timid at times, has matches the FEEL like they have a lot of downtime even if they don't, and needs the right opponent to take him to that higher gear instead of the other way around. Which is certainly not to say he's not a great talent. I'm just not so sure I buy him as the ace. Naito has eclipsed him on every level (character, charisma, ring work), Tanahashi was always the better guy in the ring, and while I think Okada is a better wrestler from a structure standpoint than Nakamura, he certainly doesn't have the charisma or excitement factor to him that Nak did.
Naito has consistently out performed Okada in big match situations for the past year and a half. Naito some how had a nearly 5 star match with MICHAEL ELGIN. Meanwhile, Okada had a dull as hell match with Minoru Suzuki, and a pretty good but not great match against Kota Ibushi. I'm positive Tiger Mask W vs Naito would be a better match.
As for the rest of the show, even with the title changes, it seemed like a Road To... show. I guess match of the show was Ibushi/Okada, but ZSJ/Shibata was just about as good and it wasn't blow away or anything.