Notes In Observance – NJPW English 2/5/17: The Paintaker
By Nicholas Jason Lopez
“Notes In Observance” features random thoughts on television shows. Quick results can be found at the bottom of the post.
– It’s 2017 and New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s all the rage these days, so we figured why not put them in the same review family? Granted, we can only cover the English commentary shows, but by the looks of 2017, there’s quite a few shows already. Where we last left off, we saw the sudden onset of the Suzuki-gun faction, with a fierce return not seen since the days of Nexus. A moment of silence please for that ill-fated group. For an exclamation point, they laid out IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, as the group’s leader, Minoru Suzuki, laid claim that every Title would soon be theirs. How nice. Now, no matter what they say in it, it’ll still be incredibly difficult to understand the video packages per se, but damn, their production skills are sleek AF and a little extra on the side. So flashy and easy to follow. Everything looks damn near epic. Plus, that voiceover guy? Forget about it. We’re hooked. Also liked the onscreen broadcast presentation graphics of all the matches for this show laid out, as it felt quite sports-like. To the first contest – Kushida/Hirai Kawato against El Desperado/Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Obviously, Kushida will stand out off the bat here, but this was a story all about Suzuki-gun’s return momentum and the Chaos representatives with a goal to shut that down immediately. Also oddly enough, Don Callis fits right in with Kevin Kelly on commentary, though he’s got a big chair in Steve Corino’s absence to fill. A lot of attention was paid to Kushida getting in Kanemaru’s face, conveying that it was purely about Championship gold. The heels began aggressively, with Kawato selling like a Champion, undergoing such punishment. They pulled out this cool spot where Kushida German suplexed one opponent while he held the other in a bridge. They certainly established Kawato’s fighting spirit well here. ED’s single-leg half crab was thwarted when he got to the ropes. Close near-falls towards the end on both sides. All you could ask for here. In the end, ED pinned Kawato with a move similar to a spinning blue thunder bomb. Good for an opener and to continue Suzuki-gun’s momentum. Post-match, they attacked the winners outside. Well, damn.
– The Six-Man Tag between Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Yuji Nagata/Satoshi Kojima and Yoshitatsu/Henare/Tomoyuki Oka revolved around the easy “rebel faces against established veterans” story. Yoshitatsu was the “captain” for some reason. Still not getting this whole “Bullet Club Hunters” thing. Will he actually hunt any of them down? What if he’s a spy from the inside? Anyways, this bout featured lightning-fast action. It was interesting that they mentioned several times that Henare hailed from New Zealand. Didn’t add anything to the match, but a cool factoid. YT and Nagata had some golden exchanges. The finish involved Oka tapping out to Nagata’s face hold after being in the move for some lengthy time. Not much was established here, but we guess it made sense to put the veterans over and showcase the “Young Lions” simultaneously. The Third Generation could always use more love.
– The Six-Man Tag between Gedo/Jado/Will Ospreay and Katsuyori Shibata/Jushin Thunder Liger/Tiger Mask was a clever mix of veterans with that steamy trio of TM/Liger/Shibata. If you run into those three in an alley, just lay down on the floor immediately. Ain’t no running from them. Liger/Jado had a brief standoff that ended with a sumo stance of sorts. This was all about flashy, crafty athletics. Given who was in the ring here, are you shocked? Shibata/Ospreay had some cool exchanges right to the finish where Ospreay pinned TM with a springboard back cutter. Post-match, Shibata tried to intervene and the cocky Ospreay laid him out too. With Ospreay/Shibata set for battle in Osaka on Feb. 11 for Ospreay’s British Title, this made all the sense in the world. It was actually cool to see Ospreay get to show off this heel side. To add icing on the kayfabe cake, he mocked Shibata’s Indian style sitting stance with the belt. Mind games, much?
– The Yoshi-Hashi (he’s one person)-Takashi Iizuka match took the show on a twist, with this breaking away from the tag team formula. Iizuka had some kind of beef with one of the Japanese announcers and the Suzuki-gun “animal” (El Desperado held him on a leash literally) had to be restrained as he came out through the crowd. He came close to the announcer dude, but was stopped at the last second. Hashi wasted no time as he zeroed right in on Iizuka on his way to the ringside area, but got laid out at the commentary booth and practically left for dead. To sell the drama, they had him beat the 20 count by two mere seconds. Iizuka took some lessons from Daniel Bryan and began to choke Hashi with whatever he could find, whether it was a microphone cord or a rope. This was your basic upward battle for the babyface underdog. Think of NJPW’s version of Sami Zayn against Braun Strowman. They opted for the surprise finish as Hashi got the pin with a maneuver close to a sit-out powerbomb after he knocked ED off the apron. Nice story as they portrayed Hash as a fast-thinking hero who won before the bad guys could pull any more tricks from their sleeves.
– The 10-Man Tag between Dragon Lee/IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi/Ryusuke Taguchi/Manabu Nakanishi/”Unbreakable” Michael Elgin and Hiromu Takahashi/Sanada/Evil/Bushi/IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito was probably the biggest in-ring thriller of the show, we’ll address the main event later. Anyways, any Los Ingobernables de Japon fans got their fill of gothic masked techno glory. They cleverly focused again on the Elgin-Naito feud, that stemmed all the way back from when Elgin had his orbital bone injured by Naito, who showed no eagerness to take Elgin on and played mind games early. Lee/Takahashi started off fierce and fast. Takahashi tried a head scissors and Lee cartwheeled his way out of it. Naito was his usual self as he did his “Tranquilo” pose when Elgin tried to throw him down. Elgin got the upper hand when he lifted Bushi up and tossed him down onto Naito. In a sight for sore eyes, he actually gyrated in the ring and used his ass to ram into Naito. Yes, that really happened. In another fun moment, Naito ran the ropes for as long as he could before he was finally sent over the top. In another highlight, Lee did a plancha onto Takahashi, but his legs hit the steel barrier hard. Elgin began to channel Brock Lesnar with suplexes for anybody associated with LIJ. Elgin lifted Naito up and powerbombed him onto the others below. Tanahashi followed up with High Fly Flow onto everyone, which cleared the way for Lee to score the pin. In a match that had just about everything and could’ve been a main event in its own right, this was surely just a way to lead into intermission. No complaints though.
– The IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship match between Champions Roppongi Vice and Taichi/Taka Michinoku was in a clever spot on the card, since it teased the continuation of a great night for Suzuki-gun. There was something weirdly gothic about Taichi’s entrance. Kanemaru/ED attacked the Champs before the bell, while Miho Abi was seductive and stuff. We think that’s her thing. RPG returned with stereo suicide dives. Taichi used a bell hammer on Trent Bareta’s head because why not? Michinoku did a fake fast three-count, which Callis bought into. Funny. Rocky Romero ran the ropes until he was able to hit a double clothesline and spoke smack in Japanese. Good to be versatile, we guess. We almost got a tease of new Champs by way of a chair in Bareta’s face as Abi “fell” into the ring to distract the Referee. Michinoku hit an Acai moonsault to the floor. The story was that Suzuki-gun closed in on the belts, but RPG hung in there. It was easy to buy since RPG still have to prove themselves as Champs. Bareta’s Dude Buster on Taichi struck a two. Bareta used the chair as Suzuki-gun’s plans backfired. Romero did that thing where he hits a missile suicide dive. Eventually, the Strong Zero was landed and RPG retained. Smart call anyway, since RPG have more to gain as Champs here then to lose them for the one-night story of Suzuki-gun gaining momentum. They somehow accomplished that anyway with the post-match angle, where ED/Kanemaru attacked the Champs in the faces with their own belts, which gave way to Minoru Suzuki’s promo, which we assume was about his upcoming match with Okada.
– The NEVER Openweight Championship match between Champion Hirooki Goto and Juice Robinson sounded nice on paper and was Robinson’s second recent chance at Championship gold. They mentioned his failure to uncrown Marty Scurll of the ROH World Television Championship on Ring Of Honor TV. You can check out that show here. This one was likely easy to predict though. Robinson was in the midst of proving himself, while Goto was in his own redemption twist. Juice began heavy with forearms in the corner and his cannonball followed with a headbutt. A turning point was that Juice missed a barricade cannonball. Goto began to work the back, highlighted by a Boston crab. It also helped to sell the story in that Juice recently pinned Goto in a tag match, that likely was why he got the shot in the first place. Juice sold the back as the match progressed. He missed a moonsault and had a close pin on a powerbomb. Intense final exchange as Juice rolled through a German suplex attempt and neither man backed down from the other. Another two for Juice after a big lariat. Juice even kicked out of the GTR with his feet draped over the top ropes. This was becoming a sleek bout. Finally, another GTR put Juice down. Great match, maybe the best on the show to this point.
– The IWGP Tag Team Championship Three-Way match between K.E.S. (Killer Elite Squad – Lance Archer/Davey Boy Smith Jr.), G.B.H. (Togi Makabe/Tomoaki Honma) and Champions Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii was a necessary big clash. What distracted us early on was Archer’s tendencies to spit all over the crowd with water upon his entrance. We never imagined a team like KES sounding so good. Yano continued to fish for laughs as he quickly tagged in Makabe after he avoided Archer’s running attempts. It wasn’t long before the steel in the corner was exposed. Archer’s thing was that he yells a lot and spits water. Nothing of consequence. This is what we’d call mid tempo action. Nothing too outstanding, but enough to carry the load. Play a drinking game every time Archer shrieks, “Shut up!” to the fans. You’ll be drunk by the third minute. To his credit, the big crossbody he did off the top rope was impressive. Yano took a German suplex off the top rope by Makabe. As per his antics, Yano did the double low blow on KES and pulled the tights to get the win. Typical stuff, but still entertaining. Post-match, KES attacked GBH. A sudden downturn for Suzuki-gun’s night.
– The IWGP Heavyweight Championship match between Okada and Suzuki had been the talk of the show since minute one and rightfully so. There was an excellent and logical backstory here as Okada nursed a knee injury by way of a Suzuki kneebar when he attacked him at a recent press conference that Suzuki had called. Given Suzuki-gun’s sudden reemergence and a big advantage, it wasn’t a given that Okada would just fight through this and retain. The video package that led in had some killer shots of Suzuki in a mafia boss chair amongst his squad. It was actually really cool that NJPW gives so much time for its main events with extensive packages and emphasis on entrances. Good exchange of mind games as Suzuki attacked the knee after he did the same thing Okada did to him. Some stiff shots as it looked like Okada actually begged for more hits to the knee. Okada dropped a DDT to the floor. Suzuki attacked the knee with his back turned as Taichi provided a distraction. He then added a chair to the melee. Lots of time was spent on Suzuki’s toying around on the knee damage while Okada occasionally fought him off. Some great teases of an early finish as Gedo had to contemplate throwing in the towel as Okada nearly tapped out, but ultimately got to the ropes. Suzuki locked in the Figure Four this time. Smart stuff. Soon enough, KES/Suzuki-gun members ganged up on the Champ. To even the score, we got a run-in from Chaos’ Ishii/Yano. Gedo got rid of Taichi, but Okada was once again in the kneebar. After about legitimately five minutes in the hold, Okada again reached the ropes. Followed that up with some intense slap exchanges. Damn, this is epic now. Okada countered a sleeper hold into a neckbreaker. Who does that? Geez. Suzuki went in and locked in the sleeper yet again. Just watching this match now, it’s like you know Okada will eventually overcome this and win, but how on Earth could he possibly? He landed the Rainmaker, hit a German suplex and then another Rainmaker to get the victory. That was come crazy good stuff there. Suzuki lost nothing since he looked smart and calculating and Okada was the underdog of a lifetime. Some may poop on the 40-minute length, but it was solid in story and makes you question what kind of reign Okada is in for.
- El Desperado/Yoshinobu Kanemaru def. Kushida/Hirai Kawato via pinfall
- Six-Man Tag – Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Yuji Nagata/Satoshi Kojima def. Yoshitatsu/Henare/Tomoyuki Oka via submission
- Six-Man Tag – Gedo/Jado/Will Ospreay def. Jushin Thunder Liger/Tiger Mask/Katsuyori Shibata via pinfall
- Yoshi-Hashi def. Takashi Iizuka (w/El Desperado) via pinfall
- 10-Man Tag – Dragon Lee/Hiroshi Tanahashi/”Unbreakable” Michael Elgin/Ryusuke Taguchi/Manabu Nakanishi def. Hiromu Takahashi/Tetsuya Naito/Evil/Bushi/Sanada via pinfall
- IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – Roppongi Vice (Champions) def. Taichi/Taka Michinoku (w/El Desperado/Miho Abe/Yoshinobu Kanemaru) via pinfall to retain
- NEVER Openweight Championship – Hirooki Goto (Champion) def. Juice Robinson via pinfall to retain
- IWGP Tag Team Championship – Three-Way Tag – Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii (Champions) def. G.B.H. and K.E.S. via pinfall to retain
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada (Champion) (w/Gedo) def. Minoru Suzuki (w/Taichi) via pinfall to retain
Posted on August 5, 2017, in NJPW English and tagged Bushi, Don Callis, Dragon Lee, El Desperado, Evil, GBH, Gedo, Henare, Hirai Kawato, Hiromu Takahashi, Hirooki Goto, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jado, Juice Robinson, Jushin Thunder Liger, Katsuyori Shibata, Kazuchika Okada, Kevin Kelly, Killer Elite Squad, Kushida, Manabu Nakanishi, Michael Elgin, Miho Abi, Minoru Suzuki, New Japan Pro-Wrestling, Roppongi Vice, Ryusuke Taguchi, Sanada, Satoshi Kojima, Suzuki-gun, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka, Tetsuya Naito, Tiger Mask, Tomohiro Ishii, Tomoyuki Oka, Toru Yano, Will Ospreay, Yoshi Hashi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Yoshitatsu, Yuji Nagata. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.