A little more than one year after NJPW’s first solo foray into the United States, the king of sports returns to the west coast to a packed Cow Palace to stake their claim on American soil. This marks the return of good Ol’ JR on commentary as well as 5 titles on the line so let’s not waste any time and get straight to it!
10 Man Tag Team Match: CHAOS (Roppongi 3k, Yoshi Hashi, Rocky Romero, & Gedo) vs BULLET CLUB (G.O.D. Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens, King Haku):
This is not a drill, it’s 2018 and King Haku (Meng for the WCW folks) is wrestling in a match, yes it’s a multi-man match and his bumps will be minimal, but he is out here in the curtain jerker and he’s as over as ever as he opens the match. A fun little scramble overall with a great finish with BC picking up the victory when Tama Tonga hitting the cutter with an assist from King Haku’s Tongan death grip.
Tag Team Match: SUZUKI GUN (Zack Sabre Jr & Minoru Suzuki) vs CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano):
The real meat and potatoes of this match are Ishii and Minoru beating the hell out of each other. And I guess Yano is in there somewhere, don’t worry, I don’t know why he’s there either. Sabre does a great job working the DVD salesman over with his one-of-a-kind submissions. Ishii and Suzuki continue to beat the hell out of each other on the outside and good lord do these two need to have a singles match as soon as humanly possible.
Again, another solid enjoyable match, with Yano picking up the W even though Sabre managed to avoid Yano’s signature low blow. After the match, some young boys have to swarm Suzuki to prevent him from attacking Ishii and Yano with chairs.
Tag Team Match: BULLET CLUB (Marty Scurll & Hangman Page) vs TEAM NJPW (KUSHIDA & Hiroshi Tanahashi):
Oh, the hype for this one is palpable, Scurll and Kushi start the match off in for sure what is going to be a barn burner, 3 of the most exciting talent in wrestling, and I guess hangman too. Can’t bury page too hard, his shooting star press off the apron still pops me every time and it makes its presence known early in this match.
Ryusuke Taguchi comes out and tries to help out his fellow Taguchi japan members, but he’s only rewarded with a trip outside the ring after missing his signature flying hip attack. Hangman Page must have heard me because he really brought his A game out here and secures the victory over KUSHIDA with the go-home driver. Although Kushi is still considered a junior, it’s a big scalp for hangman’s collection.
NEVER Openweight Championship: Hirooki Goto(c) vs Jeff Cobb:
A real slugfest on the cards for this one as the NEVER title is on the line between Goto and Cobb. Cobb got this shot after rescuing Elgin after he lost the title to Goto, and Cobb definitely looks like he belongs here. Cobb starting things off super hot with a release overhead deadlift suplex, showing off his clear strength advantage here. The two make their way outside and slug it out for a while before returning to the squared circle.
The story of this match is Cobb really holding his own, and he manages some really convincing near falls, but Goto against the odds secures his first title defense with the GTR. A result the clearly pro-Cobb crowd was not ok with. Though typically Goto has never been too over with the American crowds. A great match and keeping the string of great bouts going tonight. None of these matches have yet to disappoint.
IWGP Tag Team Title Match: The Young Bucks vs LIJ (EVIL & SANADA):
Really looking forward to what these two teams have in store for their dominion rematch and they both start the match super hot, no wasting time here between each team.LIJ really playing the tough heels in this match with the young bucks as the hopeful plucky babyfaces. Evil and SANADA doing their best to wear down the high flyers, and LIJ doing their best heel team antics complete with multiple stopped hot tags, great stuff, this is true tag team wrestling.
A really great spot on the outside with SANADA hitting a moonsault to the outside and evil teasing a dive of his own until his noggin is introduced to the business end of the young bucks’ boots. A ref bump really sends the match into the next gear as EVIL attempts to use a chair but again meets stereo superkicks, but they manage to hit an Indytaker of their own onto a chair but only manage a two count. The bucks hit the Meltzer Driver and vanquish LIJ in an early vote for match of the night. These two teams have such great chemistry and I hope to see many more meetings between them in the future. Such great action and a nice change of pace for the tag team division.
After this match, two more events are announced for the United States, and for crying out loud NJPW, are you ONLY gonna book events in California?? Sure it’s cheaper and closer, but ignoring markets like Chicago and NYC is just plain hands down leaving money on the table. Hopefully, the new brass comes to their senses and add some Midwest and east coast dates.
Tag team match: CHAOS (Will Ospreay & Kazuchika Okada) vs LIJ (Tetsuya Naito & BUSHI):
What an absolutely stacked match right here, at least 3 contenders for wrestler of the year come to the end of 2018, and BUSHI is no slouch either, we have a real treat in store here. Nothing really to report here since no real stories developed. Just a super fun little romp between these teams that leads to Ospreay hitting the Stormbreaker for the 3 count. Ospreay getting the pin in such a loaded match really shows you that the brass is behind him.
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Hiromu Takahashi(c) vs Dragon Lee:
Here we go folks, fasten your asses directly to your seats as the greatest jr heavyweight feud of the decade reignites this time in the United States as the time bomb and dragon lee step foot in the ring yet again. This match starts at a fever pitch with Lee hitting a Rana to the outside followed up by a Tope Suicido to the outside into the barrier. And to top it off, Dragon Lee mocks Naito afterward and continues to lay into Hiromu.
Dragon Lee is strictly business and is looking to put him away quickly. Takahashi takes the match into his own hands with a shotgun dropkick outside which launches Lee into the barrier, he then hits a diving seated senton to Lee. If Dragon Lee means business, Takahashi means business as well. This match has it all, insane dangerous spots, stiff exchanges, a red hot crowd, this one is going down as another classic between these two young flyers.
The future of junior heavyweight wrestling is so bright! Dragon Lee busts out a Phoenix-plex, are you actually kidding me?! This is the sort of spot that can end a career. At this point, we know that Hiromu is injured, as he took that bump directly onto his neck. But somehow, he is still going. Somehow landing a Canadian destroyer and following it up with the Timebomb for the 1-2-3 and the successful title defense. The ending was scary, but it doesn’t deter from an absolutely stellar effort from these guys. Cody and Kenny have quite the act to follow.
US Heavyweight Championship Match: “Switchblade” Jay White (c) vs “Flamboyant” Juice Robinson:
A battle between former young boys for NJPW’s newest title has me and other fans waiting in excitement to see what these two are capable of. Jay White has recovered from a less than exceptional start to his time in the top, and Juice Robinson has been rising at a meteoric pace since he came over to NJPW after a stint in NXT. This match has serious potential and these two have my full confidence in their ability to deliver.
Juice comes out with a vengeance against switchblade and takes him out of the ring and send him flying through a barricade, playtime is over for the flamboyant one! He wants nothing more than that red belt around his waist. Switchblade gives Juice a receipt and slings juice into the barricade twice, really showing off his mean streak, followed up by working over Juice’s injured hand. Switchblade is more than comfortable in the heel role against such an over babyface like Juice.
The crowd is absolutely unglued and universally hates the New Zealander. Things really get wild as Jay White suplexes Juice into the barricade and cause JR to fall and send Josh Barnett into a rage that causes him to get into the ring and chase Jay White down. Red shoes eventually gets the former MMA fighter to calm down but not before he lets off with a few choice words for Jay White. It’s rare for NJPW to have a pure heel, but switchblade is rapidly becoming the most hated man in the company.
They continue the absolute plunder on the outside but manage to make their way back into the ring, Juice doing a phenomenal job selling the hand. And speaking of the hand, red shoes prevents Juice from using his cast as a weapon and in the ensuing chaos, Switchblade nails Juice down south. But juice is able to recover and clobber Jay with his cast and hit pulp friction but only for a two count! Switchblade tries to hit his finish but Juice rolls him up for the win! Juice Robinson is the first American US champion and the roof just came off the venue, this crowd is electric.
I don’t have enough superlatives to describe how good this match was. Such an amazing effort put forth by the both of them. Hey Kenny and Cody, did I mention you have some hard acts to follow?!?!
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Kenny Omega (c) vs CODY:
In his first defense after finally vanquishing Okada and winning the title, Kenny Omega has the opportunity to vanquish the thorn in his side known only as Cody and finally drive away any doubt to Kenny’s place as leader of the bullet club. The crowd and the young bucks are firmly behind the cleaner in his first title defense. After a slew of incredible matches, let’s hope these two can keep up the pace.
I feel like of all matches, this one will be all about story so I may let some of it pass if the work rate isn’t exactly a marathon sprint like the others have been. Although Kenny is always operating at 110% so no complaints from his end. They end up outside, and Kenny hits a double stomp off the barricade and sends Cody through a table, Kenny really out there giving it his all.
They set up for another table spot but Cody rolls out of the way and Kenny hits the brakes before he flies through the table solo. As the match progresses, Cody reaches under the ring for a chair, but Kenny reaches for a ladder, a freaking ladder. But Cody manages to use the ladder first, scoop slamming Omega onto the ladder. He follows up with a flapjack onto the ladder while on the outside. Another table is set up on the outside, Cody and Kenny scale the ladder and Cody suplexes Kenny off the ladder, but into the ring and not into the table on the outside.
After a fracas involving red shoes, Cody lands the cross rhodes but only for a two count. Kenny replies with an especially nasty V-trigger followed up by a second one. And after a few series of back and forths, Kenny picks up Cody and sends him into the table, the table did not break and Cody goes cascading onto the floor. After a sizzling series of moves, Kenny nails Cody with One-winged angel and pins the American nightmare clean as a sheet in the center of the ring. Finally putting the ghost of Cody behind him. Omega helps Cody to his feet, and he and Brandi roll out of the ring and head to the back in defeat.
Kenny cuts a promo thanking the fans for coming and promises to give them the best pro wrestling matches with everyone on the roster. As they make their way to the back they’re greeted by G.O.D and King Haku. Who after celebrating with them, proceed to jump Kenny and the bucks, and laying a beat down until hangman Page comes in for an attempted rescue before he gets jumped as well, the same fate meets an onrushing Marty Scurll. Yujiro and Chase finally manage to calm down the situation until they themselves are attacked.
The three then motion Cody to come back to the ring, appearing to have sided with the American nightmare. They hand Cody a chair to attack Kenny, but Cody chooses instead to attack G.O.D. Before the numbers game catches up with him and he’s dispatched from the ring. Haku drops Kenny with a piledriver before exiting the ring leaving more questions than answers. In the aftermath, Cody and Kenny embrace and the rest of the Bullet Club joins them. Overall an incredibly solid evening with no match disappointing and a great angle to end the night on, where does the bullet club go from here?
Overall Juice vs Switchblade is far and above my match of the night, great story, great heat, amazing match. Go out of your way to watch that one. This was not just a fun exhibition for the American fans, this was a legitimate NJPW show that moved the story, and that established that NJPW has no plans for slowing down their American expansion, and we at Wrestlaholic look forward to what the future has in store for NJPW in the USA.