New Japan Final Battle 2004
review by Kevin Wilson

The Date:  December 11th, 2004
Location:  Osaka, Japan
Attendance:  6,000

Some of the current Puroresu goodness.  Actually, as far as I know I am the first person to do a full play by play and review of this event, which is unusual since most the time I review older tapes.  This event was the next to last event on the tour, and was headlined by a classic duel between Tanahashi/Nakamura and Sasaki/Suzuki for the IWGP Tag Team Championship. Being a complete PPV card, all the big stars of New Japan were present.  The full card was as follows:

- El Samurai and Hiroshi Nagao vs. Ryusuke Taguchi and Akiya Anzawa
- Hirooki Goto vs. Masayuki Naruse
- Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask, and Wataru Inoue vs. Minoru Tanaka, Jado, and Gedo
- Genichiro Tenryu and Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Togi Makabe and Toru Yano
- Black Strong Machine, Scott Norton, and Nagai vs. Iizuka, Yutaka Yoshie, and Blue Wolf
- Manabu Nakanishi and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Riki Choshu and Tomohiro Ishii
- Masahiro Chono vs. Yuji Nagata
- Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima
- IWGP Tag Championship: Kensuke Sasaki and Minoru Suzuki vs. Tanahashi and Nakamura

In case you were wondering why there is no IWGP Heavyweight Championship match, that would be held the next night for the final card of the tour (which would be Hiroyoshi Tenzan against the champion Kensuke Sasaki).

El Samurai and Hiroshi Nagao vs. Ryusuke Taguchi and Akiya Anzawa
The referee has a cool mohawk.  Taguchi and Nagao start things off.  Takedown by Taguchi and the two struggle on the mat for leverage before getting back to their feet.  Tie-up, waistlock by Nagao into an armbar, Taguchi gets out of it, Nagao applies a leg lock which is reversed by Taguchi into a headscissors, wristlock applied by Taguchi, and he takes Nagao with him to his corner so he can tag in Anzawa.  Kick to the gut by Anzawa and he takes Nagao down.  Anzawa applies an ankle submission, but Nagao reverses it into a headscissors.   Anzawa makes it to the ropes though, and Nagao tags in El Samurai.  Kicks to the midsection by El Samurai in the corner and he chokes Anzawa against the bottom rope.  Anzawa takes advantage though with a wristlock, he puts El Samurai into an armbar, and tags in Taguchi.  Both Taguchi and Anzawa kick on the downed El Samurai and both choke him in the corner.  Finally Anzawa leaves, snapmare by Taguchi, and he applies a reverse chinlock.  Taguchi slaps on a Boston crab, releases it, but El Samurai rams Taguchi into the corner and tags in his partner.  Kicks and chops by Nagao, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock.  Taguchi struggles to his feet though and spins towards his corner, allowing him to tag in Anzawa.  Stomps by Anzawa in the corner, scoop slam, and he applies a single leg Boston crab.  Nagao quickly makes it to the ropes however, and the two exchange shots.  Nagao easily wins that battle, and makes it to his corner to tag in El Samurai.  Elbow to the back of the head by El Samurai, sidewalk slam, cover, but it only gets two.  El Samurai quickly follows up with a neckbreaker, cover, but another two count.  El Samurai tags Nagao back in, scoop slam by Nagao, cover, but Anzawa kicks out.  Anzawa manages to sneak in a series of punches and tags in his partner Taguchi.  Scoop slam by Taguchi, but Nagao gets back up, suddenly fired up.  Taguchi twice bounces off the ropes trying to knock down Nagao, but both times Nagao stands his ground.  The third time Taguchi tries, Nagao knocks him down with a shoulder block.  Now it is Taguchi that bounces off the ropes, clothesline, cover, but Taguchi kicks out.  El Samurai is tagged back in, he goes for a suplex, Taguchi reverses it, but El Samurai slides down Taguchi's back and applies a waistlock.  Taguchi reverses the waistlock, El Samurai elbows out of it, but Taguchi nails a dropkick and tags in Anzawa.  Elbow to the face by Anzawa, Irish whip, but El Samurai reverses it with a drop toehold.  El Samurai goes for a quick rollup, but Anzawa reverses it into his own pin for a two count.  Back on their feet, Anzawa sets El Samurai up on the top turnbuckle, but Taguchi comes up from behind and dropkicks El Samurai in the back.  Anzawa hops down, bounces off the ropes, but gets caught in a reverse DDT.  El Samurai tags in Nagao, Irish whip by Nagao, and he hits a dropkick.  Cover, but Taguchi breaks it up.  Irish whip by Nagao, reversed, but when Anzawa charges he gets kicked in the gut.  Irish whip by Anzawa now, and he hits a flying forearm in the corner.  Hiptoss by Anzawa, cover, but Nagao kicks out (for it is a rule a match can not end with a hiptoss).  On their feet, chops by Nagao, but Anzawa dropkicks him down for a two count.  Anzawa slaps on the 'ol Octopus hold, El Samurai breaks it up, so Taguchi comes in, tosses El Samurai from the ring and follows him out with a pescado.  In the ring, Nagao hits a dropkick on Anzawa.  Irish whip by Nagao, Anzawa goes for a sunset flip, but Nagao stops himself from going over and pulls Anzawa up by the neck.  Nodowa Otoshi (chokeslam) by Nagao, and this one is over.  Your winners:  El Samurai and Hiroshi Nagao

Match Thoughts:  A solid opener, although not spectacular in any way.  Taguchi is considered to be the future of New Japan, as he recently won the rookie of the year award for 2004 and has now left for his excursion in Mexico.  I made a clip of the dropkick since he is considered to have one of the nicest in the business.  The match itself was void of errors and quite fluid, but the pyschology was utterly non-existent which isn't unusual for openers.  So I would say that the match certainly wasn't bad, but it won't be a show stealer.  Score:  5.0

Hirooki Goto vs. Masayuki Naruse
The two feel each other out to start, both missing kicks to the legs.  Naruse manages to catch Goto with a quick kick, sending him down to the mat.  Back up again, Goto takes down Naruse, Naruse rolls Goto over, and both men are back on their feet again.  Naruse goes for another kick, but Goto catches his leg and applies an ankle submission.  Naruse tries to reverse it into a cross armbreaker, but Goto stays in control and goes for cross armbreaker of his own.  Naruse struggles back his feet and applies a reverse chinlock on Goto.  Slowly, Goto makes it to the ropes and Naruse breaks the hold.  Naruse goes for another high kick, but again Goto catches his leg and pushes Naruse to the mat.  Goto goes for a single leg Boston crab, but Naruse reverses it into a cross kneelock.  Unable to handle the pain, Goto taps out!  Your winner:  Masayuki Naruse

Match Thoughts:  This was simply a story of veteran versus young lion.  Naruse debuted in 1992 (in RINGS), and became a full fledged New Japan member in 2002.  Goto, on the other hand, did not debut until mid-2003.  Naturally, that is a huge gap, and something that Goto could not overcome.  Even though he was handily beat by his superior here, Goto (like Taguchi) is one of the brightest young stars in New Japan and has a solid background in amateur wrestling.  As for the match, it was obviously too short (under three minutes) to show either wrestler's full abilities, but it did accomplish it's purpose of establishing rank in New Japan.  Score:  4.0

Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask IV, and Wataru Inoue vs. Minoru Tanaka, Jado, and Gedo
The heels (Jado and company) jump the faces to start, as they take the brawl outside the ring.  Gedo and Tiger Mask get back into the ring, wrist lock by Gedo, but Tiger Mask snapmares out of it.  Monkey flip by Tiger Mask, he dropkicks Gedo from the ring, and follows him out with a tope.  In the ring, we cut back in time to see Kanemoto throwing Jado from the ring and he comes flying over the top rope with a pescado.  Not to be outdone, Inoue throws out Tanaka and pescados over himself.  By now Tiger Mask and Gedo are back in the ring, scoop slam by Tiger Mask, and he tags in Kanemoto.  Stiff kicks to the back by Kanemoto and he chokes Gedo with his foot as he lays on the apron.  More kicks by Kanemoto follow, scoop slam, he runs over and hits Jado, and finally tags in Inoue.  Inoue tries kicking down Gedo as Kanemoto did, but by now Gedo has had enough, rakes Inoue's eyes, and tags in Tanaka.  Tanaka and Inoue trade forearm shots, but Tanaka wins the battle by poking Inoue in the eye.  Snap suplex by Tanaka, cocky cover, but Inoue kicks out.  Jado is tagged in, and he chops Inoue in the corner.  Inoue drives Jado though back into his own corner, allowing Tiger Mask to tag himself back in.  Double Irish whip by Tiger Mask and Kanemoto and a double kick to the midsection, then Inoue greets Jado with more kicks.  Finally the referee gets the illegal men out, Jado hits a jawbreaker on Tiger Mask and rolls to his corner to tag in Gedo.  Irish whip by Gedo, but Tiger Mask ducks the clothesline and dropkicks Gedo down.  Another dropkick by Tiger Mask and yet another, but Gedo floors Tiger Mask with a spinning elbow and tosses him from the ring.  Jado works over Tiger Mask for a moment outside the ring and throws him back in.  Gedo tags in Tanaka, Tanaka straddles Tiger Mask in the corner and hits a low blow while the referee is tending to Inoue.  Vertical suplex by Tanaka on Tiger Mask, he applies a single leg Boston crab, but he breaks it up when he sees Inoue running into the ring to hit him.  The referee gets Inoue out, and Tanaka tags in Jado.  Backbreaker by Jado, he applies a submission, but it is quickly broken up with a kick in the back by Kanemoto.  Jado takes Tiger Mask back to his corner and tags in Gedo.  Snapmare by Gedo and he rakes on Tiger Mask's face.  Kanemoto saunters into the ring, which leads Gedo to break the hold and back up.  The referee again tends to Kanemoto, who leaves.  Irish whip by Gedo, Tiger Mask flips out of Gedo's grasp, but Jado comes in to hold Tiger Mask.  Tiger Mask still manages to kick Gedo, kick flip Jado, and then Tiger Mask takes down Gedo with an armdrag.  Flying headscissors by Tiger Mask on Gedo and a spinning heel kick.  Tiger Mask goes for a German suplex, but Gedo lands on his feet, Tiger Mask ducks the potential Gedo clothesline, and clotheslines Gedo down. 

Tiger Mask tags in Inoue as Gedo tags in Tanaka.  Irish whip by Inoue, reversed, and Tanaka nails the dropkick.  Tanaka tosses Inoue into the corner, Irish whip, reversed, but Inoue misses the shoulder block in the corner.  Tanaka bounces off the ropes, but Inoue brings him down with a Samoan drop.  Inoue picks up Tanaka and delivers an overhead toss.  Inoue bounces off the ropes, hits the spear, but when he goes for a clothesline it is reversed into a backslide, which gets a two count for Tanaka.  Tanaka bounces off the ropes, but Inoue slaps on his Triangle Lancer submission.  Jado runs in to break it up, and after beating on Tanaka some more, Inoue tags in Kanemoto.  Kanemoto bounces off the ropes, avoids the Tanaka dropkick, avoids another dropkick, scoop slam by Kanemoto, and he hits a second turnbuckle corkscrew senton.  Cover, but Tanaka kicks out at two.  Kanemoto goes for a German suplex, Tanaka wiggles out of it, and both men kick each other down.  Tanaka lands by his corner though, and he reaches up to tag in Jado.  Eye rake by Jado, as we see outside the ring Inoue is beating the crap out of Gedo for reasons I am not sure of.  In the ring, Jado and Kanemoto exchange chops, as we see outside that Tanaka has come to Gedo's aid.  Back in the ring, Kanemoto ducks a clothesline from behind (beautifully timed) and kicks Jado in the stomach.  By now, Inoue and Tanaka are fighting up on the entrance way.  Scoop slam by Kanemoto onto Jado, he goes for the moonsault, Jado moves, but Kanemoto lands on his feet.  Gedo comes in the ring to hit Kanemoto from behind, goes for a back suplex, but Kanemoto lands on his feet once again.  With both Jado and Gedo slumped in the corner, Kanemoto dropkicks Gedo (who is in front).  Kanemoto then gives Gedo his corner boot scrapes and finishes him off with a vicious running kick, sending Gedo out of the ring.  Jado then gets the same treatment, but Jado stays inside the ring after he gets the final kick.  Kanemoto picks up Jado and holds him for Tiger Mask, who comes off the top rope with a dropkick, but Jado moves.  Jado tosses Tiger Mask from the ring (it should be noted that Inoue and Tanaka are long gone at this point) and hits two german suplexes, but Kanemoto reverses the third into an ankle lock.  Jado reverses that into the crossface of JADO, as Gedo prevents Tiger Mask from getting in the ring.  Kanemoto slowly makes his way to the ropes, but before he gets there he rolls over and re-applies the ankle lock.  Now it is Tiger Mask stopping Gedo from entering, and Jado taps out!  Your winners:  Koji Kanemoto, Tiger Mask IV, and Wataru Inoue

Match Thoughts:  This was a very well put-together and exciting six man match.  I have discussed in the past that six man matches are very hard to pull off, since it is difficult if not impossible to establish a solid flow with so many different wrestlers tagging in and out.  This match did it much better then most.  Tanaka is one of the best jr. heavyweights in Japan, and just held their Jr. Championship for over a year wrestling as Heat.  Kanemoto and Tiger Mask are also great, and there really weren't any botched spots or mistakes through the whole match, which is rare in a match of this type.  If I had to gripe it would be that due to the match being so early on the card, they had to pull up from doing a lot of the more amazing spots I have seen from these wrestlers.  That aside, the match was very entertaining and really helped jump-start the card after the first two slower young lion matches.  Score:  7.0

Genichiro Tenryu and Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Togi Makabe and Toru Yano
Nakajima and Yano start things off.  Yano takes down Nakajima and applies a leg submission, Nakajima reverses it into an attempted cross armbreaker, but Yano gets on the side headlock.  Nakajima wiggles out of it though, and both men are back on their feet.  Yano tosses Nakajima into the corner and yells for Tenryu to tag in.  Tenryu does, and Yano runs back to tag in Makabe.  Yano then actually goes all the way outside the ring, making it clear he has no intention of wrestling Tenryu.  Tie-up, side headlock by Makabe, Tenryu Irish whips out of it, but Makabe shoulderblocks him down.  Vertical suplex by Makabe, but Tenryu is up fast and delivers his own vertical suplex.  Off the ropes, both men clothesline each other, but neither go down.  Makabe goes off the ropes again, this time he clotheslines Tenryu down, cover, but barely a two count.  Tenryu hits a clothesline of his own, cover, but Makabe kicks out and rolls out of the ring.  When Tenryu goes to exit the ring, Yano kicks the ropes up into his lower midsection.  Yano tags himself back in and goes to work on Tenryu with his umbrella.  Finally the referee stops him, and Yano rakes on Tenryu's face.  Yano chokes Tenryu against the ropes and kicks him in the corner.  More choking by Yano, but as he argues with the referee, Tenryu rolls over to his corner and tags in Nakajima.  Nakajima goes to work on Yano with kicks to the chest, Irish whip, and he nails a dropkick.  Another Irish whip by Nakajima, but Yano avoids the dropkick and chokes Nakajima.  Choke/sleeper applied by Yano, which the referee breaks up.  Yano tosses Nakajima into his corner and tags in Makabe.  Scoop slam by Makabe, he tosses Nakajima into the corner and hits a running elbow.  Cover, but Nakajima kicks out.  Another scoop slam by Makabe and he drops an elbow.  Cover, but another two count.  Makabe applies a Boston crab, but Nakajima is able to make it to the ropes after struggling for a few minutes.  Makabe throws Nakajima against the ropes and (not looking happy to be doing so) tags in Yano.  Yano tosses Nakajima from the ring and beats him with a wooden sandal and then with the umbrella.  Finally, Yano tosses Nakajima back in the ring, he goes to hit Nakajima with his drinking flask, but Makabe comes in and stops him from doing so.  The referee separates them, and while that is happening, Tenryu enters the ring.  Tenryu doesn't play games, first hitting Yano with some Guh punches, and then taking Yano's flask and forcing him to drink some (alcoholic beverage of some sort).  Yano spits it back in his face though and now forces Tenryu to drink.  Yano pushes Tenryu in the corner and chops him with his sandal, but Tenryu spits the drink in his face.  Finally, Tenryu exits the ring and allows Nakajima to tag him, so now he is legal.  Chops by Tenryu in the corner, and he smacks Yano with the sandal.  More chops by Tenryu, and Nakajima runs in to get him some action too.  53 Year Old (quick brainbuster) by Tenryu, cover, but Makabe breaks it up.  Makabe clotheslines down Nakajima and then clotheslines down Tenryu as well.  He holds Tenryu for Yano, Yano tries to throw powder in his eyes, but Tenryu ducks.  By now Nakajima has recovered and he knocks Makabe from the ring with a spinning kick.  Tenryu works over Yano in the corner with chops, Irish whip, reversed, and Yano hits a running clothesline.  Nakajima kicks Yano from the apron however, clothesline by Tenryu, cover, but Yano kicks out.  Another 53 Year Old by Tenryu, cover, and this time he gets the three count.  Your winners:  Genichiro Tenryu and Katsuhiko Nakajima

Match Thoughts:  This match was a nice change of pace, I like it when promotions mix it up on a card. Yano was the main focus, as he was constantly cheating and even his own partner got tired of it after several minutes. Eventually he gets caught by the old vet Tenryu, however, and from there the outcome was obvious. More "sports entertainment" then the rest of the card, but still entertaining as they allowed Yano to show a lot of personality to help set the match apart from the rest on the card.  Score:  6.0

Black Strong Machine, Scott Norton, and Mitsuya Nagai vs. Iizuka, Yutaka Yoshie, and Blue Wolf
I'm just psyched that I actually know what all these guys look like without looking it up.  Nagai and Iizuka start things off.  Iizuka goes for a single leg takedown, but instead applies a waistlock.  Nagai reverses that into an armbar, but Iizuka regains the advantage with an armbar of his own.  Nagai reverses that into a wristlock, but Iizuka quickly makes it to the ropes.  The two exchange forearm blows and kicks before Nagai takes down Iizuka and applies a cross armbreaker.  Iizuka is by the ropes, however, and Nagai breaks the hold.  They trade shots again, but Iizuka catches the leg of Nagai and slaps on an ankle lock.  Nagai makes it to the ropes, but after releasing the hold Iizuka continues kicking on Nagai's leg.  Iizuka tags in Yoshie, and Yoshie hits a splash on Nagai's injured leg.  Leg submission applied by Yoshie, but Nagai kicks out of it and tags in Strong Machine.  Strong Machine and Yoshie exchange shots, which Yoshie gets the better of.  Yoshie kicks Strong Machine in the corner and hits a second turnbuckle avalanche.  Snapmare by Yoshie, cover, but Strong Machine kicks out at one.  Yoshie twists the neck of Strong Machine, but Strong Machine bites down on Yoshie's finger.  Knee to the head by Strong Machine and a snap DDT follows.  Cover, but a two count.  Yoshie manages to regain the advantage, snapmare, and he tags in Blue Wolf.  Tie-up, but Strong Machine backs up into his corner and tags in Norton.  Norton kicks Blue Wolf into the corner, Irish whip, and he hits a big splash.  Clothesline by Norton, Blue Wolf tries to fight back, but Norton just shrugs him off and chops Blue Wolf down.  Irish whip by Norton, Blue Wolf ducks the clothesline, delivers his own, but Norton doesn't go down.  Scoop slam by Blue Wolf, and Norton gets up looking peeved.  Blue Wolf asks for the Test of Strength, which Norton of course wins, and he delivers a vertical suplex.  Norton tags in Nagai, but Blue Wolf remembers the bad leg and takes him down by it.  After briefly applying a leg submission, he takes Nagai over to his own corner and tags in Iizuka.  Iizuka continues working on Nagai's leg with a variety of strikes.  Nagai struggles to his feet, but Iizuka kicks him back down.  A single leg Boston crab is applied by Iizuka, but Nagai makes it to the ropes.  Nagai slowly works his way back to his feet and delivers a series of vicious knee strikes to Iizuka in the corner.  Strong Machine is tagged in, but Nagai and Iizuka continue to go at it.  Finally Nagai leaves and Strong Machine hits a release German suplex for two.  Enzigieri by Strong Machine, cover, but another two count.  Iizuka falls outside the ring, and Norton chops him and rams him into the apron.  Iizuka slowly climbs back into the ring, where Strong Machine greets him with more punches.  Irish whip by Strong Machine and he hits a running clothesline in the corner.  Another Irish chip, but this time Iizuka ducks the clothesline and hits a blizzard suplex.  This gives him time to tag in Blue Wolf, Irish whip by Blue Wolf and he nails a powerslam.  Blue Wolf bounces off the ropes, but Strong Machine kicks him in the stomach and delivers an Ace Crusher.  Blue Wolf crawls over to tag in Yoshie, while Strong Machine tags in Norton.  Clothesline by Norton, but Yoshie fires back with a Lou Thesz press.  After a series of Raiden drops, Yoshie goes for the cover, but Norton kicks out.  Irish whip by Yoshie, reversed, Yoshie ducks the clothesline, but Norton hits a flying shoulderblock.  Yoshie gets up quickly though, both bounce off the ropes, but Norton shoulderblocks Yoshie down again.  This time Yoshie stays down.  Norton goes for a powerbomb, Iizuka and Blue Wolf come up to stop it and go for a double vertical suplex, but Nagai reverses it and suplexes both of them.  Norton tags in Nagai, Irish whip by Nagai on Yoshie, and he hits a jumping knee attack in the corner.  Vertical suplex by Nagai, cover, but Yoshie kicks out.  The two exchange forearm shots, but Nagai knocks down Yoshie with a spinning heel kick.  Strong Machine and Norton come in the ring to knock Blue Wolf and Iizuka off the apron, Nagai Irish whips Yoshie into the corner and hits a jumping knee, then Strong Machine hits a clothesline, and Norton ends it with a running splash.  Nagai follows up with a capture suplex, cover, but Blue Wolf breaks it up.  Blue Wolf clotheslines down Strong Machine, has trouble with Norton, but Iizuka helps him by grabbing Norton from the apron.  Yoshie and Nagai exchange shots, and Blue Wolf runs over to clothesline Nagai down.  Scoop slam by Yoshie and he hits a diving body press from the top turnbuckle for the three count.  Your winners:  Takashi Iizuka, Yutaka Yoshie, and Blue Wolf

Match Thoughts:  Honestly, this match was much better then I thought it would be.  Not to say it was great, but it certainly wasn't bad.  I'm not going to go into my impressions on all the wrestlers, but I was impressed with Blue Wolf remembering Nagai's bad leg, the Nagai/Iizuka action was solid, and Yoshie hit his moves all very well.  Norton is getting old, but he still can dominate a match.  Nothing overly complicated and a rather straightforward match, but a fine match that got these guys on an important card.  Score:  5.5

Manabu Nakanishi and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Riki Choshu and Tomohiro Ishii
The heels (Liger, Nakanishi, and a mad looking Chono) start the match before introductions could even start, attacking Choshu and Ishii.  As Chono is escorted out, Liger exits the ring to the apron, allowing Nakanishi to manhandle Choshu and Ishii by himself.  Liger is tagged in and he hits a running shotei on Choshu in the corner.  Chops by Liger, but Choshu picks him up and throws him down.  Choshu tosses Liger from the ring and Ishii clotheslines him over the guardrail.  Ishii tosses Liger back in and Choshu tags him in.  A series of headbutts by Ishii follows, but Liger fights back and tags in Nakanishi.  Ishii tries to fight them both off, but is not successful as Nakanishi chops him down.  Nakanishi headbutts Ishii, the two trade forearm shots, but Ishii goes down.  Nakanishi tags Liger back in, Irish whip in the corner, and Ishii collapses on impact.  Liger tags in Nakanishi, blatant choke by Nakanishi, and Nakanishi drops an elbow on Ishii.  Cover, but Ishii kicks out.  Nakanishi picks Ishii up, nails a double armed suplex, and tags in Liger.  Irish whip by Liger to the corner, but when he charges all he gets is a boot to the face.  Overhead toss by Ishii and he rolls to his corner to tag in Choshu.  Clothesline by Choshu on Liger, Nakanishi runs in, but Choshu puts him on the top turnbuckle and gives him a superplex.  Another clothesline by Choshu to Liger and he applies the Scorpion Deathlock.  Nakanishi breaks it up though by coming off the top rope down on Choshu.  Argentine backbreaker (torture rack) by Nakanishi, but he breaks it so he can exit the ring, allowing Liger to tag him in.  Nakanishi kicks on Choshu in the corner, Irish whip, but Choshu gives him a kick to break his momentum.  Lariat by Choshu, but Nakanishi stands tough.  Choshu tries again, and this time Nakanishi goes down to the power that is Choshu.  Ishii is tagged in, Irish whip, and he hits a dropkick on Nakanishi.  Another dropkick, Irish whip to the corner, and a running clothesline.  German suplex hold by Ishii, cover, but Nakanishi kicks out at two.  Ishii tries to put Nakanishi away with a delayed brainbuster, but Nakanishi still manages to kick out.  Ishii bounces off the ropes, but Nakanishi takes him down with an overhead suplex.  Chops by Nakanishi, Irish whip, and he nails the spear.  Lariat by Nakanishi, cover, but Choshu breaks it up.  Nakanishi puts Ishii in the Argentine backbreaker, but again Choshu comes in to break it up.  Liger finally comes in and tosses Choshu from the ring, while Nakanishi nails his Hercules Cutter on Ishii.  Cover, and Nakanishi gets the three count.  Your winners:  Manabu Nakanishi and Jushin Thunder Liger

Match Thoughts:  Solid match, nothing to blow you away, but all four men looked good.  Even at his old age, Choshu still works well in this type of environment, and I was impressed by the energy that he brought to the match.  This match was shorter (around 8 minutes) then the other tag matches, but they did well with the time they had.  I wish that Liger had done more, but he was just coming back from an injury and might not have been 100% yet.  Overall not a bad match at all, with Liger and Choshu in there you knew that they would keep things interesting.  Score:  6.5

Masahiro Chono vs. Yuji Nagata
Chono starts the match with a quick kick, but Nagata knocks him down with a knee to the stomach.  Nagata continues kicking on Chono, Irish whip, and he nails a running knee into the corner.  We see that Chono is already bleeding, soon there would be puddles in various places in and out of the ring.  Headbutt by Nagata and he punches Chono down in the corner.  Chono rolls out of the ring to get a break, but Nagata follows him out and kicks him against the guardrail.  More kicks by Nagata and he bites on Chono's head.  Finally, Nagata rolls Chono back in and hits a brainbuster.  Cover, but it only gets two.  Nagata continues beating on Chono, who rolls out of the ring again.  Nagata again follows and gives Chono a stiff kick and removes the blue mat.  Nagata goes for a suplex on the exposed floor, but Chono reverses it (Nagata lands on the padded part).  Chono re-enters the ring (Jado rolls in Nagata), goes up top, but Nagata is up in time and gives Chono a super exploder.  Mounted punches by Nagata, Jado gets on the apron, so Nagata kicks him off.  Chono gets up in the meantime and dropkicks Nagata in the knee.  The referee tends to Chono's head, as a doctor comes in to look at it.  Chono says he is ok and goes back to work on Nagata's knee.  Nagata fights back though, and the two exchange punches while they are on their knees.  Chono is up first, kicks Nagata in the knee some more, but Nagata knocks Chono back down.  I am not sure if Chono re- bladed or what, but he is really gushing at his point.  Stiff kicks to the chest by Nagata, but Chono catches his leg and drives his elbow into it.  Leg submission by Chono is applied, but Nagata gets out of it.  The two exchange punches on their knees again, but Chono gets the better of it after a knee to the leg of Nagata.  Chono bounces off the ropes, but Nagata nails a high kick to the head.  Nagata's knee is bothering him too much to take advantage of the situation however, and Chono applies another leg submission.  STF by Chono, but Nagata is too close to the ropes and just has to reach out to break the hold.  Spinning heel kick by Nagata and he applies the Nagata Lock II (crossface).  After struggling and bleeding all over the place, Chono gets his foot on the ropes and Nagata has to break the hold.  Chono recovers enough to hit an atomic drop and reapplies the STF.  Frustrated, Chono releases the hold and punches Nagata, but Nagata fires back with a backdrop suplex.  Nagata reapplies the Nagata Lock II, and then reverts it into an arm submission.  Since Chono obviously can not escape the hold, Jado distracts the referee so that Gedo can come in the ring and punch Nagata.  Nagata punches down Gedo and dropkicks Chono.  A stiff kick by Nagata follows, he goes for a suplex, but his knee gives out on him and he can't complete the move.  Dropkick to the face of a kneeling Nagata by Chono and then he applies the FTS.  Nagata taps out in seconds!  Your winner:  Masahiro Chono

Match Thoughts:  Blood sure can make a match better.  Even though they only got 13 minutes (as opposed to 30 they would have gotten in the main event slot) these two did a great job at telling a story.  And Nagata losing because of the injured knee... just great ring psychology.  The story throughout the match of Chono being weakened by blood loss and Nagata being weakened by a bad knee was very well done.  I actually don't know why these two wrestlers hated each other at this moment, but they did such a good job that it didn't matter as they had no problem getting me into the match.  Chono switching to the FTS after the STF failed twice was a nice touch to show that he was willing to take it to that next step to win the match.  Overall a very enjoyable match, and even though it had a few small flaws, the result was definitely positive.  Score:  7.5

Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Satoshi Kojima
Tie-up to start, Tenzan pushes Kojima into the ropes and gives a clean break.  Tie-up again, side headlock by Kojima, Tenzan Irish whips out of it, and the two collide with neither budging.  Tenzan bounces off the ropes, again no one moves.  They trade chops and slaps for several minutes, but Tenzan gains the advantage with a series of Mongolian chops.  Kojima finally manages to avoid one, however, and both men are back on their feet facing each other.  Tie-up between the two, Tenzan starts to get the advantage, Kojima reverses it though and kicks Tenzan in the stomach.  Tenzan fires back with his own kick and the two yell mean things at each other.  Tie-up once again, armbar by Tenzan into an arm wrench, but Kojima makes it to the ropes and Tenzan breaks the hold.  Kojima goes for the single leg takedown, finally gets it, and he applies a leg submission.  While still in the submission, the two exchange slaps, which Tenzan wins, causing Kojima to break the hold.  Kick to the head by Tenzan and an elbow to the throat.  Headbutt by Tenzan, but Kojima gets fired up and forearms Tenzan in the face.  Tenzan and Kojima exchange forearms, tie-up, Kojima gets Tenzan in the ropes, but Tenzan rakes Kojima's eyes.  Tenzan kicks on Kojima while he is down, drops an elbow, cover, but barely a one count.  Tenzan applies a reverse chinlock and drops another elbow to Kojima's throat.  Cover, but Kojima kicks out.  Tenzan kicks on Kojima some more and delivers a series of Mongolian chops, but Kojima absorbs it and gives Tenzan some Mongolian chops of his own.  DDT by Kojima, and Tenzan rolls out of the ring.  Kojima comes out as well and kicks on the downed Tenzan.  DDT by Kojima on the outside and he clubs on Tenzan more until finally they get back in the ring.  Kojima goes for the Koji Cutter from the apron, Tenzan tries to fight it off, but Kojima hits it anyway.  Kojima gets in the ring first, Tenzan can't get back in, so Kojima goes out and gets him.  Kojima stomps on Tenzan's neck and rakes his eyes.  Chops to the back of the neck by Kojima, he goes for German suplex, but Tenzan makes it to the ropes to block it.  Kojima pulls him away from the ropes though and manages to deliver the suplex.  The referee checks on Tenzan, but Kojima gets tired of waiting and kicks on him.  Kojima applies a modified reverse chinlock, but Tenzan makes it to the bottom rope.  Front facelock by Kojima, but again Tenzan makes it to the ropes.  Kojima dropkicks Tenzan while he is still down, but Tenzan fires back with a chop.  The two exchange blows in the middle of the ring, but Kojima gets the better of it and applies another front facelock.  Tenzan makes it to the ropes again, so Kojima chops Tenzan in the corner.  Irish whip by Kojima and he hits a running elbow in the corner.  Another Irish whip, but this time Tenzan rebounds with Mongolian chops.  Kojima fights him off though with a forearm shot and he nails the backdrop suplex.  Brainbuster by Kojima, but Tenzan has rolled out of the ring before he can cover him.  Kojima comes flying over the top with a pescado, but Tenzan moves out of the way. 

Now Tenzan gets on the apron and comes down with a Mongolian chop.  Tenzan goes for a suplex on the outside, but Kojima reverses it into his own suplex.  Kojima gets back in the ring first, waits a bit, and finally comes sailing back out with a tope.  This time Kojima brings Tenzan back in with him and lays on the kicks and chops.  Irish whip by Kojima from the corner and he hits a running forearm smash.  Kojima ascends the top rope, but Tenzan is up in time, goes up top himself, and hits a superplex.  Kojima rebounds up unphased, but Tenzan knocks him back down with a spinning heel kick.  Irish whip by Tenzan, reversed, and Tenzan hits a flying clothesline.  Cover, but Kojima kicks out at two.  Irish whip again by Tenzan and he hits a clothesline in the corner.  After assaulting Kojima in the corner, Tenzan goes up top and hits a knee face crusher.  Cover, but a two count.  Backdrop suplex by Tenzan, another cover, but another two count.  Tenzan applies the buffalo sleeper, but Kojima manages to get his foot on the ropes.  Irish whip by Tenzan, but he misses the clothesline and Kojima hits the Koji Cutter.  Another Koji Cutter by Kojima, he goes for a third, but Tenzan fights him off and hits a quick mountain bomb.  Both wrestlers get up, Tenzan bounces off the ropes and hits a lariat, but Kojima doesn't go down.  Tenzan tries another one, and this time Kojima hits the mat.  Cover, but Kojima kicks out.  Tenzan goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Kojima gets up and hits a Super Koji Cutter.  Cover, but somehow Tenzan kicks out at two.  Kojima comes off the ropes, Tenzan ducks one clothesline, but he doesn't duck the second one.  Kojima nails his CCD (like a modified Emerald Fusion), cover, but again Tenzan kicks out.  Tenzan fights back with a few headbutts and he delivers a TTD (Tenzan Tombstone Driver).  Cover by Tenzan, but he only gets two.  Tenzan goes to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving elbow.  Cover, but again Kojima kicks out.  Tenzan calls for the moonsault, scoop slam, he goes up top, but Kojima moves out of the way.  Clothesline by Kojima, and he pulls off the elbow pad, signifying the end.  After hitting a clothesline from behind, Kojima nearly takes off Tenzan's head with a lariat, cover, but Tenzan manages to kick out of the pin.  A time is announced, crowd rumbles, must be almost 30 minutes.  Both wresters slowly get to their feet, Kojima goes for another lariat, but Tenzan catches his arm and nails a neck-grip sideslam.  Tenzan applies the Anaconda Vice and hits another neck-grip sideslam while keeping on the submission.  Kojima inches towards the ropes and finally gets his foot on the bottom rope, causing Tenzan to break the hold.  Scoop slam by Tenzan, he goes to the top turnbuckle, and this time nails the moonsault.  Cover, but Kojima barely kicks out.  Headbutt by Tenzan, he bounces off the ropes, but Kojima hits him with the lariat.  Cover, but it only gets another two.  Another time announcement by the times keeper.  One minute?  Tenzan picks up Kojima and hits another TTD.  Cover, but again Kojima kicks out of the pin.  Clothesline by Tenzan, cover, but Kojima is by the ropes and reaches out to grab the bottom one before the count even gets to two.  The bell rings, and the match is over.  Draw

Match Thoughts:  I really wanted to enjoy this match, and while it wasn't awful, it certainly wasn't great.  My list of complaints:  first of all, I have never been impressed with Kojima's moveset.  People complain he needs more of a push, but he has more to prove to me. I try not to be a "moves" guy, but in a 30 minute match I shouldn't be calling spots.  He gave Tenzan more then a handful of front face locks and no fewer then four Koji Cutters.  Also, since this was a New Japan vs. All Japan match, the draw was predictable.  To add to that, I didn't like the fact that both men did almost all their finishing moves and could not get the pin.  What did they have left?  The last lariat by Kojima or the moonsault press by Tenzan should have done it.  Not to really sound down on the match, but there also was very little ring psychology as neither man really stay focused on one area and no set story was told... they were just working towards the draw.  Those complaints out of the way, the last 5 minutes or so were quite exciting and the crowd reacted well to the moves being done.  Also the match was virtually botch free, with both wrestlers hitting their big moves without a problem.  Considering that these are the top two guys in their respective promotions, I guess I was just expecting a little more out of them.  I hope they delivered better at the 2/20 unification match.  Score:  5.5

Highlights are shown leading up to the next match.

(c) Kensuke Sasaki and Minoru Suzuki vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura
This match is for the IWGP Tag Team Championship.  Suzuki and Nakamura start things off. Nakamura goes for the leg, but Suzuki moves out of the way.  Waistlock by Suzuki, reversed by Nakamura, Suzuki puts on a armbar, but Nakamura flips out of it and applies one of his own.  Suzuki rolls out of the hold and tags in his partner.  Nakamura also tags out.  Tie-up between Tanahashi and Sasaki, Tanahashi gets Sasaki against the ropes and he gives a clean break.  Side headlock by Sasaki, Tanahashi Irish whips out of it, but Sasaki knocks him down with a shoulderblock.  Back on their feet, tie-up, and they go into a Test of Strength.  Sasaki gets the upperhand and pushes Tanahashi against the ropes, which he follows up with knees to the midsection.  Chops against the ropes by Sasaki and he tags Suzuki back in.  Kick to the gut by Suzuki and he works over Tanahashi in the corner.  Tanahashi fires back, but Suzuki hits a drop toehold, which Tanahashi sells like it killed his ankle.  The referee checks on him, but Suzuki comes after him and kicks him in the injured leg.  Suzuki drags Tanahashi back towards his corner and tag in Sasaki.  After a quick double team, Sasaki applies a leg submission, which Nakamura breaks up.  Suzuki runs in to kick Tanahashi in the leg, as Sasaki continues twisting it different ways to add to Tanahashi's agony.  Single leg Boston crab by Sasaki, and Suzuki is tagged back in.  Suzuki applies an ankle lock and then chokes Tanahashi against the bottom rope.  Kicks by Suzuki on Tanahashi's bad leg and he applies the figure four.  Nakamura quickly comes in to break it up however, so Suzuki tags Sasaki back in.  Chops by Sasaki in the corner, Irish whip, but Tanahashi kicks him in the stomach and delivers a stiff forearm to the head.  Tanahashi makes it to his corner to tag in Nakamura, who immediately spears Sasaki to the mat.  After running over to hit Suzuki as well, he Irish whips Sasaki into the corner and hits a running knee to the chest.  Snap suplex by Nakamura and he drops a knee to Sasaki's head.  Cover, but it only gets two.  Nakamura applies a sleeperhold, then nails a side Russian leg sweep and applies a head leg crank.  Sasaki manages to get his bottom foot on the rope however and Nakamura breaks the hold.  Nakamura gets a running start and bounces off the ropes, but Suzuki grabs him from the apron and holds him so Sasaki can hit a devastating clothesline.  Sasaki picks up Nakamura and knees him hard in the midsection a few times before tagging in Suzuki.  Kick to the back by Suzuki and he applies a modified reverse chinlock, almost a camel clutch.  Tanahashi comes in to break it up, and when Sasaki enters the ring he gets tossed out by Tanahashi.  The referee gets Tanahashi to leave however, and Suzuki stops Nakamura from making the tag.  Meanwhile, we see outside the ring that Sasaki has floored Tanahashi, but it was off screen. 

Sasaki clubs on Tanahashi as he lays against the apron, as in the ring Suzuki applies a leg submission to Nakamura.  Suzuki tags in Sasaki and the two chop Nakamura as he is in the corner.  Sasaki nails a brainbuster, cover, but it only gets a two count.  Arm submission by Sasaki is applied, but Nakamura makes it to the ropes.  They exchange chops and forearm shots, and Sasaki gets the better of it, knocking Nakamura down.  Sasaki tags in Suzuki who kicks Nakamura in the chest.  Suzuki applies a sleeperhold, cover, but it only gets two and from the pin, Nakamura rolls Suzuki up in an ankle submission.  Nakamura is near his corner, but Tanahashi is still out of commission from Sasaki's attack earlier.  He is almost back on the apron though.  Suzuki pulls Nakamura back to his corner and tags in Sasaki.  Sasaki drops Nakamura onto the top rope and follows it with an elbow.  Chops by Sasaki, Tanahashi is finally back on the apron, so Sasaki runs over and knocks him back off.  Sasaki clubs on Nakamura as he lays against the ropes, goes for a brainbuster, but Nakamura reverses it into a suplex.  Tanahashi is still not in his corner though, so Sasaki gets Nakamura and tags in Suzuki.  Suzuki straddles Nakamura in the corner and attacks him with chops.  Choke by Suzuki in the corner, Tanahashi is back on the apron, but Suzuki kicks him back off again.  Suzuki knees Nakamura while he is still down and kicks him in the corner.  Scoop slam by Suzuki, cocky cover, but Nakamura kicks out.  Suzuki applies a front facelock, cover, but he only gets a two count (Tanahashi is back up finally).  Suzuki takes Nakamura back to his corner and Sasaki tags himself in.  Sasaki and Nakamura trade slaps and punches, Nakamura almost makes the tag, but Sasaki pulls him back.  Running powerslam by Sasaki, cover, but Tanahashi runs in and breaks it up.  Sasaki does not appreciate Tanahashi's interference and kicks him out of the ring.  Literally.  Suzuki comes in so he and Sasaki can hit a double vertical suplex on Nakamura, cover, but Nakamura kicks out at two.  Sasaki tags in Suzuki, snapmare, and a stiff kick to the back.  Suzuki tries to kick Nakamura in the chest while he is still sitting on the mat, but Nakamura ducks it and dropkicks Suzuki.  Finally Nakamura makes the hot tag and Tanahashi nails a diving front dropkick on Suzuki.  After knocking Sasaki off the apron, Tanahashi throws Suzuki into the corner and flies out of the ring with a tope on Sasaki.  Tanahashi comes back to the ring via the top turnbuckle and hits a front dropkick on Suzuki.  Tanahashi goes for a suplex, but Suzuki stomps on his foot and dropkicks him in his previously injured knee.  Suzuki tags in Sasaki, who slams Tanahashi so hard into the corner that it sends them both over the top rope.  After re-entering the ring, Sasaki chops Tanahashi in the corner, followed by an Irish whip and a running bulldog. 

Scoop slam by Sasaki, and he hits a diving rolling senton from the top turnbuckle.  Cover, but Nakamura runs in to break it up.  Sasaki tosses Nakamura from the ring and hits a lariat on Tanahashi.  Cover, but it only gets a two count.  Another quick clothesline by Sasaki and he hits an inverted suplex.  Sasaki applies the Strangle Hold Gamma, but Nakamura dropkicks him in the head to break it up.  Suzuki comes in to help, Nakamura tries to fight them both off, but instead he gets kicked and chopped to the mat by both men.  Suzuki prepares Nakamura in a Gotch-style piledriver with Sasaki perched on the top turnbuckle, but Tanahashi comes up from behind and kicks Suzuki in the head.  He then goes up top with Sasaki and hits a superplex.  Tanahashi slowly crawls to his corner and tags in Nakamura, who hits an enzigieri on Sasaki.  He follows that with a release German suplex, scoop slam, and he hits the El Nino.  Cover, but Sasaki kicks out.  Nakamura goes for El Nino again, but this time Sasaki rolls out of the way.  Both men slowly get up, chops by Sasaki, and he tags in Suzuki.  Dropkick by Suzuki and he dropkicks Nakamura again while he slouches in the corner.  After slapping Nakamura a few times and having Sasaki choke him from the apron, Nakamura suddenly reverses an attempted throw by Suzuki into his Shining Triangle submission.  Sasaki comes in to break it up, but Tanahashi intercepts him and puts him in a dragon sleeper.  After fighting for a minute, Suzuki manages to get his foot on the ropes.  Tanahashi exits the ring, and Nakamura rolls over to tag him in.  And yes, Tanahashi is still limping.  Forearm shots by Tanahashi on Suzuki, they exchange slaps, Tanahashi rolls him up into a pinning situation, but it only gets a two count.  A dragon sleeper is applied by Tanahashi, but Sasaki breaks it up.  This brings Nakamura back in and they hit a double dropkick on Sasaki, sending him outside.  Nakamura then goes to the ropes and goes over with a great slingshot corkscrew kick.  Tanahashi picks up Suzuki, goes for a German suplex, can't get it, but Nakamura re-enters the ring, applies the Shining Triangle on Suzuki, and Tanahashi runs up and hits a Shining Wizard while he is still in the hold.  Sasaki gets back in the ring, Nakamura grabs him, and both Nakamura and Tanahashi hit German suplex holds.  Tanahashi's counts for the pin, but it only gets two.  Suddenly, Suzuki and Sasaki roll over their opponents and both apply arm submissions.  Suzuki reverts his submission into an ankle lock, while Sasaki struggles to apply a cross armbreaker.  Nakamura takes Sasaki outside the ring, while in the ring Tanahashi gets to the ropes.  Sasaki chops Nakamura outside, and Suzuki hits a Gotch-style piledriver on Tanahashi.  Cover by Suzuki, but Tanahashi kicks out.  Sasaki keeps Nakamura under control while Suzuki applies a sleeper to Tanahashi.  Suzuki goes for his overhead takedown, but Tanahashi rolls through and gets a roll-up for a two count.  Quickly back up, Tanahashi spins Suzuki around and hits his dragon suplex hold, Nakamura holds Sasaki's legs to stop him from interfering, and Tanahashi gets the three count!  Your winners and new champions:  Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura

Match Thoughts:  I am not saying anything new here, but Tanahashi and Nakamura are the future of New Japan, no doubt about that.  They both are very crisp, execute moves properly, and know how to sell.  Tanahashi in particular impressed me in this match, really selling the leg from the first minute all the way until the end.  Sasaki and Suzuki were solid, but this was about Tanahashi and Nakamura.   I always enjoy tag matches that don't follow the exact Tag Team Formula.... Nakamura and Tanahashi were dominated equally.  They also had some cool moves, with the Shining Triangle/Shining Wizard combination in particular being memorable.  I don't want to go as far as say this is the best tag match I have ever reviewed, but it is definitely up there.  Score:  8.5

Final Thoughts:

Even though most of the matches were at least decent, the main event really pulled up this event.  Tanahashi and Nakamura are simply great wrestlers and ended the PPV on a very high note.  The Jr. Heavyweight tag match was great fun, and the Nagata/Chono match was incredibly intense.  The only reason I am not giving this event my highest recommendation is due to the relatively poor (especially considering what they are capable of) Tenzan/Kojima match.  I know some people liked it, but I thought it feel flat.  But other then that, most the matches ranged from watchable to incredible, and if you are new to New Japan wrestling and want to see the future of the promotion showcased, then this would be a great PPV to buy.


Back to New Japan Event Reviews