New Japan “Back to Yokohama Arena”
Date: May 25th, 2014
Jumping out of order again with my reviewing, but I like to hit the big shows as close to when they happened as possible. Makes my reviews seem more current and topical, I promise I will get to the smaller New Japan shows from back in February that I skipped over. This was another major event for New Japan, as four titles were on the line and all the major players are here. Plus we have a special match of Sakuraba vs. Gracie to hopefully end that feud once and for all. Here is the full card:
- Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Mascara Dorada, and El Desperado vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA, and BUSHI
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Mascara Dorada, and El Desperado vs. Ryusuke Taguchi, Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA, and BUSHI
Dorada runs in the ring but Shelley hits a spinning headscissors on him, Liger runs in but he eats an enzigieri. Shelley goes out to the apron and snaps El Desperado’s neck over the top rope but El Desperado gets his knees up when Shelley goes for a springboard splash. Irish whip by El Desperado but KUSHIDA runs in the ring and they hit a double team combination onto El Desperado. Cover by KUSHIDA, but it gets a two count. Shelley picks up El Desperado and goes for a Shiranui, El Desperado blocks it but KUSHIDA tags in BUSHI while in the middle of the move. BUSHI goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick onto El Desperado. Liger and Tiger Mask run in the ring and throw BUSHI into the corner, Liger hits a Shotei and then hits a powerbomb. Diving headbutt by Tiger Mask and Dorada hits an avalanche senton. Diving leg drop by Dorada, cover by El Desperado, but the pin attempt is broken up. Tiger Mask and Liger Irish whip KUSHIDA, but KUSHIDA hits a handspring elbow strike on both of them. KUSHIDA then goes out to the apron and holds the ropes open so that Shelley can hit a tope suicida onto Tiger Mask. KUSHIDA then jumps down onto Liger, while in the ring El Desperado picks up BUSHI. Taguchi flies in with a missile dropkick onto El Desperado, then Dorada hits a swandive missile dropkick onto Taguchi. Dorada goes off the ropes and hits a corkscrew tope con giro onto Taguchi. In the ring, El Desperado charges BUSHI but BUSHI kicks him back. BUSHI goes up to the top turnbuckle and jumps off, El Desperado moves but BUSHI lands on his feet. BUSHI goes for a kick, El Desperado catches it but BUSHI kicks out of it. Double knee jawbreaker by BUSHI, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails the MX. Cover, and BUSHI picks up the three count. Your winners: Ryusuke Taguchi, Alex Shelley, KUSHIDA, and BUSHI
Match Thoughts: First of all, I just want to complain about El Desperado getting pinned in the opening match, just a few months after he was brought in as a ‘big deal’. So basically he is just another Jr. Heavyweight now, a wasted opportunity to make him more of a star. Anyway this was a perfectly fine opener, lots of Jr. Heavyweights flying around, quite entertaining. Just a fun way to start the show with no real substance, but entertaining nonetheless. Score: 6.0
Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Yujiro Takahashi, and Tama Tonga vs. Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Tomoaki Honma, and Captain New Japan
Anderson picks up Honma and mocks Nagata before going for a vertical suplex, but Honma blocks it and hits a vertical suplex of his own. Honma tags in Nagata, Nagata boots Gallows and Yujiro off the apron before kicking Anderson in the chest. Nagata kicks Anderson into the corner, Irish whip, and Nagata hits a running boot. Nagata goes for an exploder but Anderson gets out of it, Irish whip by Anderson but Nagata dropkicks Anderson in the knee. Nagata goes off the ropes but he is kicked from the apron. Tonga Irish whips Nagata but Nagata reverses it and hits an over the head suplex. Nagata goes off the ropes but Anderson catches him with a spinebuster. Back up, elbows by Anderson and he goes for a cutter but Nagata hits a heel kick. Nagata tags in Captain New Japan while Yujiro is also tagged in, Irish whip by Yujiro but Captain New Japan hits a jumping shoulderblock. Nagata, Nakanishi, and Honma come into the ring and they all hit running strikes on Yujiro in the corner. Exploder by Nagata to Yujiro and Honma delivers a headbutt. Captain New Japan goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving headbutt. Cover by Captain New Japan but the pin is broken up. Captain New Japan waits for Yujiro to get up and applies the Caribbean Death Grip but it is broken up as well. Gallows and Anderson hit the Magic Killer onto Honma and Anderson hits a Gun Stun onto Captain New Japan. Yujiro picks up Captain New Japan, he gets him up his shoulders and hits the Miami Shine. Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners: Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Yujiro Takahashi, and Tama Tonga
Match Thoughts: Too many wrestlers for one match but it wasn’t bad or anything. Some of the wrestlers did virtually nothing in the match, it would have been better if the match either got more time or had less wrestlers. The point I suppose was to put over the Bullet Club although pinning Captain New Japan isn’t the strongest way to do it. Just a typical run of the mill undercard eight man tag match. Score: 5.0
(c) Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima vs. Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr. vs. Rob Conway and Wes Brisco
Smith comes in the ring but Kojima hits a DDT on him as well. Conway clubs Kojima in the back, Irish whip by Conway to the corner but Kojima avoids his jumping elbow strike and hits his rapid fire chops in the corner. Irish whip by Kojima and he hits an elbow in the corner followed by a diving elbow drop. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kojima picks up Conway but Conway elbows him back and the two traded blows. Elbows by Kojima and he hits a roaring elbow and then hits a brainbuster. Cover, but he gets a two count. Irish whip by Kojima but Conway hits a spear. Archer comes in the ring and hits a chokeslam onto Conway, Brisco runs in the ring and slams Archer backwards into the mat. Smith comes in and knees Brisco, then hits a powerbomb. Cover, but Tenzan breaks it up. Heel kick by Tenzan to Smith, Conway comes in the ring and he hits Tenzan with Mongolian Chops. Tenzan comes back with his own chops, headbutt by Tenzan, Irish whip, and with Kojima they hit the 3D. Cover, but Brisco breaks it up. Tenzan knocks Brisco to the mat and applies the Anaconda Vice but breaks it when Bruce Tharpe tries to get in the ring. Dropkick by Brisco and a roll-up, but he gets a two count. Brisco waits for Tenzan to get up and dropkicks him in the knee. Figure four leglock by Brisco but Kojima breaks it up. Archer comes in the ring but Kojima lariats him back out of it, then he hits the Koji Cutter onto Conway. Brisco picks up Kojima and hits an Argentine Backbreaker into a cutter, Tenzan has recovered, Irish whip to Brisco and he hits the Mountain Bomb. Kojima comes back and he hits Brisco with a lariat. Tenzan goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers the moonsault, cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners and still champions: Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima
Match Thoughts: These matches are a little too illogical for my taste. When you have a match with three tag teams, but with no tag rules, wrestlers just have to ‘disappear’ for long periods of the match for no reason. For example both Smith and Anderson at various times were just gone. I saw a match with similar rules once live and I could see them just standing near the apron, waiting for the spot that told them to run back in the ring to do something. I know wrestling isn’t always logical but it’s a title fight so it was a bit frustrating. Other than that the action was fine, no real flow or structure at all, just power guys taking turns hitting power moves. Score: 3.5
Minoru Suzuki and Shelton Benjamin vs. Toru Yano and Takashi Iizuka
Match Thoughts: This match was eight seconds, not eight minutes like reports have listed. Just a storyline match as Iizuka turns against CHAOS and joins Suzuki Army. Not the biggest turn as far as I am concerned, Iizuka is old and is a bit player, plus he switched to one heel stable to another heel stable so I dunno why I am supposed to feel sorry for Yano. But I guess they got their point across. Score: N/A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Tetsuya Naito
Fale pushes him off, Naito goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick. Fale charges Naito in the corner, Naito moves, and Naito dropkicks Fale again from the apron. Cover by Naito, but it barely gets a two count. Elbows by Naito but Fale elbows him back, Fale goes off the ropes but Naito ducks the kick and hits a reverse DDT. Dropkick by Naito, cover, but it gets two. Naito grabs Fale and applies a waistlock, but Fale elbows out of it. Irish whip by Fale, he gets Naito onto his shoulders and hits a Samoan Drop. Fale goes for a chokeslam but Naito gets out of it, Naito goes off the ropes but Fale catches him by the throat. Side headlock takedown by Naito and he applies a Triangle Choke. Fale gets a foot into the ropes to force a break, Naito goes up to the top turnbuckle and dropkicks Fale in the back. Enzigieri by Naito, Irish whip, reversed, and Naito hits a jumping elbow smash. Naito picks up Fale and hits a German suplex hold, but it gets a two count. Naito positions Fale, he goes up to the top turnbuckle but Fale rolls out of the way of the Stardust Press. Fale charges Naito in the corner and hits a body avalanche, he picks up Naito but Naito rolls him up for a two count. Elbows by Naito, he goes off the ropes but Fale levels him with a lariat. Fale picks up Naito and nails the Grenade, cover, but it gets a two count. Fale picks up Naito and hits the Bad Luck Fall, cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner: Bad Luck Fale
Match Thoughts: Naito sure has fallen down the ladder, hasn’t he? Typical New Japan booking of pushing and then de-pushing, or did Naito deserve it? Maybe a bit of both. I try to like Fale because I enjoy big power wrestlers, but I find him generally uninspired. At times he looks awkward in a not-good way and Naito was primary concerned with seeing how many different types of dropkicks he could throw. Pretty lackluster affair even though it did have some bright moments, I guess Fale is moving up the card, hope that he continues to develop in the process. Score: 4.0
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rolles Gracie
Match Thoughts: This honestly wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. They kept it short, which was a fantastic idea, and kept the match moving. Gracie didn’t look out of place like he has in the past and it flowed quite well as it was more wrestling than MMA in a lot of ways. I don’t know if this will end their feud (Gracie was arguing with the referee after the match) but overall it was surprisingly decent. Score: 6.0
(c) Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi
Ishii goes off the ropes, big boot by Ibushi but ii ducks the next kick and gets Ibushi onto his shoulders before throwing Ibushi into the corner. Release German suplex by Ishii, Ishii picks up Ibushi and hits a second powerbomb, cover, but it gets a two count. Ishii picks up Ibushi, he puts Ibushi onto the top turnbuckle and joins him but Ibushi slides out and he hits an overhead kick while Ishii is still on the top turnbuckle. Ibushi then climbs back up and goes for a hurricanrana but Ishii blocks it and drops Ibushi on his head. Ibushi is up first and he elbows Ishii, and he hits a German suplex hold for a two count. Elbow by Ibushi but Ishii headbutts him. Ishii elbows Ibushi into the corner but Ibushi headbutts him back. Lariat by Ibushi, he picks up Ishii and he hits a sit-down powerbomb for a two count. Ibushi goes up to the top turnbuckle, Ishii rolls out of the way of the Phoenix Splash but Ibushi rolls up Ishii for a two. Ishii goes off the ropes and hits a lariat but Ibushi doesn’t go down. They trade slaps and palm strikes, high kick by Ibushi and he hits a second one. Cover, but it gets a two count. Ibushi goes off the ropes but Ishii levels him with a lariat. Cover, but Ibushi kicks out at one. Another lariat by Ishii, both wrestlers slowly get up and they trade elbows. Hard headbutt by Ishii, he picks up Ibushi but Ishii goes down his back. Kick by Ishii, he goes for a dragon suplex but Ibushi lands on his feet and hits a dragon suplex hold for a two count. Ibushi picks up Ishii, he puts Ishii up on the top turnbuckle and then joins him but Ishii elbows him off to the apron. Ibushi springs up from the apron but Ishii hits a lariat that sends both of them to the mat. Ishii goes off the ropes and hits a second lariat, cover, but it gets a two count. Ishii picks up Ibushi and drops him with a brainbuster, cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner and still champion: Tomohiro Ishii
Match Thoughts: A really entertaining match, as Ishii matches tend to be. There were a few sloppy moments but it didn’t really take away from the match as it came across as both wrestlers just trying anything to get the advantage. Ishii got busted open hardway at some point as they were knocking the stuffing out of each other, and there really was no downtime in the match at all. They were just throwing bombs through the entire match. Good stuff from both men here. Score: 8.0
Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe
Tanahashi manages to tag in Makabe, Makabe knocks Shibata off the apron and Makabe hits a lariat to Goto in the corner. A second lariat by Makabe and he hits a series of mounted punches. Northern Lights Suplex by Makabe, but it gets a two count. Makabe picks up Goto, Goto goes off the ropes but Makabe catches him with a lariat. Cover, but it gets two. Makabe picks up Goto and he hits a powerbomb, cover but Goto barely gets a shoulder up. Makabe gets Goto on his shoulders but Goto gets off his shoulders and hits a release German suplex. Makabe and Goto trade elbow each other on their knees, they get up and keep elbowing, Makabe goes off the ropes but Goto does as well and hits a lariat. Makabe goes off the ropes, Goto gets Makabe on his shoulders and hits a fireman’s carry onto his knee. Makabe and Goto both tag out, and Tanahashi trades elbows with Shibata. Uppercut by Tanahashi, he goes off the ropes but Shibata slaps him in the face. Strike combination by Shibata and he delivers a running kick to the face. Shibata elbows Tanahashi in the corner, he gets a running start but Makabe runs in the ring and lariats Shibata. Goto comes back in and Goto elbows Makabe down to the mat. Shibata hits a catapult dropkick onto Tanahashi in the corner, Shibata picks up Tanahashi and hits a release German suplex. Makabe runs in the ring and hits a German suplex onto Goto but Goto gets back up and hits a backdrop suplex onto Makabe. Shibata elbows Tanahashi, he picks him up but Tanahashi slaps him. Trapped German suplex by Tanahashi, but it gets a two count.
Tanahashi picks up Shibata and slams him to the mat, he goes up to the top turnbuckle but Shibata gets his knees up when he hits the High Fly Flow. Choke by Shibata to Tanahashi and he applies a Dragon Sleeper, but Tanahashi reverses the hold. Shibata knees out of it but Tanahashi catches his kick and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Tanahashi tags in Makabe, Makabe goes off the ropes but Shibata kicks him in the stomach and tags in Goto. Goto goes off the ropes and trades lariats with Makabe, with Goto winning the battle. Goto kicks Makabe into the corner, Irish whip, and Goto hits a heel kick in the corner. Backdrop suplex by Goto, cover, but it picks up two. Goto picks up Makabe and gets him on his shoulders, but Tanahashi kicks him to free Makabe. Shibata runs in and kicks Tanahashi, double Irish whip to Makabe, and Shibata and Goto both kick Makabe in the chest. Goto picks up Makabe and hits a fireman’s carry onto his knee. PK by Shibata, cover, but Tanahashi breaks it up. Shibata grabs Tanahashi and applies a choke hold, and Goto kicks Tanahashi in the chest. Goto picks up Makabe, he picks him up and hits the Ura Shouten. Cover, but Makabe gets a shoulder up. Goto picks up Makabe and goes for the Shouten but Makabe gets out of it. Shibata runs in the ring but he boots Goto on accident and Makabe drops Shibata with a German suplex. Tanahashi comes into the ring and hits the Sling Blade onto Shibata, and Shibata falls out of the ring. Makabe picks up Goto and hits Samoan Drop, then Tanahashi goes up top and hits the High Fly Flow. King Kong Kneedrop by Makabe, cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners: Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe
Match Thoughts: This was a really solid heavyweight sprint, and better than I was expecting. Makabe was actively not bad here, maybe tag matches are his calling, and all four of these wrestlers work extremely well together. The strikes were solid throughout and the only slow-ish time was the first Tanahashi/Shibata pairing. I am a little annoyed that Makabe pinned Goto since Goto > Makabe, but he didn’t go down easily so I’ll get over it. Really fun match though. Score: 7.5
(c) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Daniel Gracie
Match Thoughts: Certainly not a good match, they should have taken a page out of the Sakuraba/Gracie match and kept it shorter. The mat work didn’t look very convincing at all and while Gracie didn’t look bad, he had too many ‘advantages’ over Nakamura to not take advantage and win the match. That is the issue with MMA-style pro wrestling matches, when Gracie has a choke locked in away from the ropes, that should be game over. At least when Nakamura took over he won very quickly, and this result does allow me to continue to hope that this Gracie phase of New Japan is over. Score: 4.0
(c) AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada
Okada elbows Styles into the corner, Irish whip, reversed, Okada puts Styles onto the top turnbuckle, Styles goes for a sunset flip, Okada rolls through it but Styles hits a kip-up hurricanrana. Styles picks up Okada and slams him to the mat before hitting a kneedrop. Cover by Styles, but it gets a two count. Reverse chinlock by Styles but Okada gets back to his feet. Punches by Styles and he hits a backbreaker. Cover, but Okada gets a hand on the ropes. Styles picks up Okada, elbows by Okada and he goes off the ropes, and Styles nails Okada with a dropkick. Okada rolls out to the apron, Styles reaches over and picks him up and tries to suplex him back into the ring but Okada blocks it. Okada tries to suplex Styles but Styles ends up on the apron with Okada, and Styles suplexes Okada onto the apron. Styles gets back into the ring and Okada slowly gets back in the ring as well. Styles picks up Okada, snapmare, and Styles applies a reverse chinlock. Okada gets back to his feet and elbows out of it, punches by Styles and he puts Okada up on the top turnbuckle. Styles joins him but Okada blocks the superplex and throws Styles off the top. Okada dropkicks Styles hard into the corner, they both get up and Okada elbows Styles in the face. Irish whip by Okada and Okada hits a flapjack. Styles charges Okada into the corner, Styles kicks him back and sits on the top turnbuckle but Okada dropkicks Styles off the top turnbuckle down to the floor. Okada goes out after him, he Irish whips Styles into the railing but Styles jumps over the railing and then hits a springboard superman punch off the guard rail. Styles slides Okada back into the ring, he picks up Okada and throws him into the corner, but Okada moves when Styles goes for an elbow. Snap DDT by Okada, cover, but it gets a two count. Okada picks up Styles and hits a scoop slam, Okada goes up to the top turnbuckle but Styles recovers and pushes him off. Styles then picks up Okada and suplexes him into the turnbuckles. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Styles picks up Okada and goes for a suplex but Okada lands on his feet and applies the Red Ink.
Bullet Club runs back down and gets on the apron, and Okada elbows them off. Yujiro sneaks into the ring, elbows by Okada to Yujiro but Yujiro back bodydrops Okada from the ring out to the floor. Yujiro goes for the Tokyo PIMP but Ishii runs into the ring and hits a lariat onto Yujiro. Ishii takes Yujiro away from the ring, while the rest of Bullet Club is escorted to the back. In the ring, Okada charges Styles in the corner but Styles catches his kick and rolls up Okada for a two count. Styles goes out to the apron and goes for a swandive move, but Okada grabs him and hits a Schwein onto his knee. Suplex by Okada, cover, but it gets a two count. Okada picks up Styles and hit a scoop slam. Okada goes up to the top turnbuckle and he hits a diving elbow drop. Okada picks up Styles but Styles elbows him off and they trade elbows. Okada gets the better of the exchange but Styles goes to the ropes and hits the Stylin’ DDT. Irish whip by Styles and he avoids Okada’s dropkick. Okada goes for a tombstone piledriver but Styles hits a Pele Kick. Styles goes off the ropes but Okada delivers a dropkick. Okada picks up Styles and he hits the tombstone piledriver. Okada goes for the Rainmaker but Styles ducks it, Styles throws the referee at Okada and then hits the Pele Kick again. Bloody Sunday by Styles, he picks up Okada and goes for the Styles Clash, Okada gets out of it but Styles rolls out of the reversal and he is able to nail the Styles Clash. Your winner and still champion: AJ Styles
Match Thoughts: I thought this was better than their last match but still was lacking in some ways. The interference was kept to a minimal which was good and it felt like Styles did earn the win. My big issue with the match is that a lot of the big moves just didn’t feel like they meant anything. It was almost too tit-for-tat, meaning when one wrestler did a big move to his opponent within ten seconds the opponent was back in control. It just made the bigger moves less meaningful since there weren’t any long parts that one wrestler was controlling the match. The action was more crisp however as they are likely getting more familiar with each other and overall it was an entertaining match. Score: 7.0
Best Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs. Kota Ibushi. There were a number of really good matches on this card but this one was probably the best. It didn’t have any obvious flaws and both wrestlers played their roles well. Ibushi is a bit too flippy at times but he also has excellent strikes as well, and they just laid into each other here. Ishii can almost do no wrong at this point, and it was a really entertaining match.
MVP: AJ Styles. The crowd wasn’t really sure what to think of Styles a month ago when he won the belt, but here the crowd was buying what he was selling. Styles is such a veteran, even though he didn’t have much experience in Japan before he won the belt, he is still a convincing champion and he won here with very little interference from the outside which helped put him over as well. I don’t know where they are going with the Styles title reign, but so far so good.
Overall: This was a really good card from top to bottom. Three of the matches I’d recommend trying to watch, and others were very solid as well. There were a few stinkers but at least the NWA stuff was all confined to one match here and only one of the Gracie matches was a waste of time. For New Japan fans this show is a must, but any fan of Puroresu should find something here that they enjoy.
review completed on 6/4/14