New Japan TV, Taped 5/5/09
review by Mike Campbell
TAKASHI SUGIURA/ATSUSHI AOKI vs. HIROOKI GOTO/KAZUCHIKA OKADA
Why are the two young boys outworking Goto? Granted, the centerpieces of the match are the exchanges the two young boys have with each other, as well as Sugiura killing Okada, but, Goto’s contributions are minimal and he could have easily been swapped out for almost anyone else and the match would have been virtually the same. For the most part, this is all action. There’s some silliness early on with Goto and Sugiura, and then Okada and Aoki follow along, but once that’s out of the way this finds its grove and flows quite nicely. Sugiura looks like a total juggernaut throughout the match, Okada tries to be cute early on, with a playful kick to the head and trying to take Sugiura down, and Sugiura adjusts a bit so he winds up on top of Okada and starts laying in closed fists to the rib area. A bit later, when Aoki tags in Sugiura, he goes ballistic on Goto, killing him with running knees in the corner. As if that wasn’t enough, Sugiura also gives Okada a nice little run of offense toward the end, culminating in Okada dropping Sugiura with a dropkick off the top. Compare that to Goto, who gives Aoki all of one spot in the whole match, an ugly counter of the Shouten into an armbar, and it’s clear who the better one is.
The Aoki/Okada exchanges are also nice, although the extended forearm exchanges get old fast. Spots like that worked in mid to late ‘90's Triple Crown matches because of the symbolism of Kobashi and Kawada challenging Misawa, not just for the titles, but for his position as the top guy. Neither Aoki, nor Okada, has any sort of position worth challenging, so the exchanges don’t come off as well. The intensity is nice, but that’s about all they’ve got Okada looks for all the world like the embodiment of New Japan fighting spirit, no matter how badly Sugiura and Aoki hurt him, he simply refuses to stay down. The young boys’ presence makes the finish obvious, the established star going over the young boy, Sugiura using the Olympic Slam to finish Okada, but, it was a very fun ride, despite the predictable outcome. ***1/4
HIROSHI TANAHASHI/KOJI KANEMOTO vs. TAKESHI MORISHIMA/KOTA IBUSHI
It’s a good thing that Morishima was here, he seemed to be the only one with the right idea of how to get the match in the direction it needed, even if he bumped way more for Tanahashi (IWGP Champion or not) than he needed to. The other three seem more concerned with trying to be cute. Just look at the opening kick sequence from the two juniors. It looked more at home in some Kung Fu movie than a wrestling ring. That’s only the tip of the iceberg with Ibushi, yes, he’s a brilliant flyer and it’s easy to marvel at what he can do, but that’s all he’s really good for here. There’s really no need for most of his flying spots, like the missed moonsault from the top where he lands on his feet and hits a standing moonsault. There’s another overly contrived spot where Kanemoto whips him into the corner and he jumps to the ropes and moonsaults onto Tanahashi on the floor. Impressive? Yes. Necessary? Not in the least. The only really meaningful spot that Ibushi was involved in was the back flip kick, which Koji saw coming and countered into the ankle lock.
Morishima has the right idea on how to get from A to B, and that’s by killing the competition, Kanemoto slaps him across the face and Morishima responds by drilling him with a lariat and then standing on his back. Again, he does way too much bumping for Tanahashi, there’s really no reason for him to be taking perfect bumps from arm drags and getting dropped by the Sling Blade. There are times that he makes things work, like the missed seated splash to give Tanahashi an opening, and running into Tanahashi’s dropkick to the knee. Listen to the heat when Tanahashi is in control and you’ll get the picture, despite giving Tanahashi a very close near fall from a senton and elbow, there’s zero reaction, because nobody thinks that Tanahashi can beat Morishima unless he harpoons him. Like Sugiura before him, Morishima tries to give Kanemoto a little hope before extinguishing the hopes and dreams of the New Japan fans, although it’s not nearly as good as what Okada has to offer because Koji isn’t used to playing underdog, the only really good spot is Koji doing the ankle lock and Tanahashi dropping the High Fly Flow onto his back. But Morishima survives the onslaught and drills Koji with a lariat and causes a TKO. Forgetting the size disparity, if Tanahashi, Koji, and Ibushi put in the effort of Morishima into trying to make sense out of this, it probably still wouldn’t be as good as the previous tag, because even Morishima had his issues, but it’d probably be a hell of a lot better than this.
Conclusion: Definitely give the first match a look, the second one is passable thanks to Morishima knowing what needed to be done. Ibushi is worth a look due to his flying as well, but don’t expect much beyond that.
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