Views from the Hawke's Nest: NJPW Power Struggle 2013
Posted by TJ Hawke on 02.09.2014
Can Okada survive another defense with the Bullet Club at ringside? Can Naito's chase for the belt get back on track? Can the heavyweight tag division not be a dumpster fire? All these questions are answered right here!
November 9, 2013
BUSHI, Captain New Japan, KUSHIDA & Manabu Nakanishi vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Yujiro Takahashi) & Forever Hooligans (Alex Koslov & Rocky Romero)
Haha, The Forever Hooligans and Yujiro are in a dark match. Good. They are boring.
The match broke down into a brawl on the floor. The good Captain was worked over. Nakanishi made a comeback. The match broke down again. The teams went back and forth. NAKANISHI HIT A SLINGSHOT DIVE! THE BEST! Romero blocked BUSHI from making a dive. The Hooligans then hit BUSHI with the Contract Killer: 1…2…3
I love Manabu Nakanishi. I will watch dark matches that involve him until the end of my days. Match Rating: *1/2
Suzuki-gun (Taichi & TAKA Michinoku) (c) vs. The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) [IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title]
The Young Bucks had just won the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Tournament to earn this title match. Suzuki-gun only won these belts at the last big PPV.
Suzuki-gun used fairly nefarious tactics that involved chairs to get the advantage. They tried their fast count gimmick to get a quick win. It did not work. The Bucks eventually made a comeback. The NJPW crowd does not seem to know what to make of the Bucks. I feel like they can be as over as Kenny Omega eventually. Suzuki-gun made a comeback. Taichi aped Nakamura before hitting a Liger Bomb for a nearfall. The Bucks started doing some Bucks things. TAKA called for his double jump plancha into the crowd, but Nick stopped him. Nick hit a senton into the crowd. TAKA then hit his double jump plancha into the crowd. Good stuff. Suzuki-gun had the match won, but Nick blocked the referee from counting. TAKA had Matt tapping with a crossface, but the ref was knocked out. TAKA ate a double superkick: 1…2…NO! TAKA then ate the tandem tombstone, but Taichi made the save. The Bucks sent Taichi to the floor and then hit TAKA with More Bang for Your Buck: 1…2…3!
The Forever Hooligans came out after the match. They said they were the rightful champions. KUSHIDA came out to interrupt everyone. He said, “TIME SPLITTERS are coming soon.” Taichi said something about the champs needing a rematch I believe.
This was actually better than I expected. They did some cool movez, got the crowd to bite on nearfalls, and the best tag team in the world won tag titles in the best promotion in the world. Huge thumbs up! Match Rating: ***1/4
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Tomoaki Honma
Spoiler alert: these guys will hit each other hard.
Honma got a very brief advantage to start the match, but Shibata came back quickly enough. Shibata had control for a while. Shibata had a figure four locked in, but Honma made the ropes. Shibata knocked him down with some slaps, but Honma made a comeback. Shibata got the sleeper and transitioned into a German. Honma caught the Penalty Kick attempt. Shibata delivered some nasty slaps. Honma was bleeding from the mouth and hit a crazy lariat. Brainbuster from Honma got him a nearfall. Shibata avoided the falling headbutt and hit the Delayed Corner Dropkick of Doom and Destruction. Shibata eventually hit the Hellevator: 1…2…3
I really hate the Hellevator. It makes it seem like the person giving it is actually taking a DDT. With that out of the way, this was a pretty good undercard match. The only real problem with it was that the winner was hardly in doubt and that took away from the drama. Match Rating: **3/4
CHAOS (Takashi Iizuka & Toru Yano) vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Yuji Nagata
Iizuka obviously attacked the NJPW play-by-play guy before the match. He gave him a cat face with spray paint and a marker.
Sakuraba was attacked by the CHAOS team before the match. It took a few seconds, but Nagata eventually made the save. They brawled outside the ring before the match. The match started, and they were still brawling outside the ring. Once they got to the ring, CHAOS worked over Sakuraba, as Nagata had been tied to a guardrail. Nagata escaped, but it took a while for Sakuraba to tag out. He finally did, and Nagata made a mild comeback. Sakuraba got involved, but Yano hit him with a chair. Iizuka went to use the Iron Finger on Sakuraba, but Sakuraba sprayed mist in his face! Kimura from Sakuraba! Armbar on Yano from Nagata! Iizuka taps out!
This was a fine wacky undercard match. NJPW is clearly big into giving fans a variety of styles, and the wacky brawl is becoming expected to happen at least once on every big show. The fact that Sakuraba is involved in some of these wacky brawls is delightful. Match Rating: **
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) vs. TenKoji (Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima) (c) vs. Jax Dane & Rob Conway [IWGP Tag Team Title/ / NWA World Tag Team Title Irregular Rules Match]
This match was so clunky and boring. I do not understand how anyone could enjoy it. They all did stuff. It was not interesting in any fleeting or substantial ways. Bruce Tharpe distracted Kojima long enough for Dane to spear him. Conway then hit Kojima with Total Anarchy: 1…2…3 Dane & Conway are the NWA Tag Team Champions now
KES gave Conway a double powerbomb, but Tenzan made the save. Everyone did more stuff. I really do not understand what people find entertaining about these matches. I am at my wit’s end with the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Division. Tenzan saved Kojima from defeat, but KES then gave Tenzan the double powerbomb: 1…2…3
I was not into this at all. The crowd seemed entertained by portions of it though, which means I cannot call it a complete failure. Match Rating: 1/4*
BULLET CLUB (Bad Luck Fale & Prince Devitt) vs. Kota Ibushi & Togi Makabe
After Makabe and Ibushi had some success early, the Bullet Club managed to isolate Ibushi and get the heat on him. Ibushi eventually escaped the attack. Makabe made a hot tag. The teams started to go back and forth. Ibushi ate a Samoan Drop, but he then avoided the Ghetto Stomp. Makabe fought back, which allowed Ibushi to hit his moonsault to the floor. Ibushi and Devitt went back and forth. Fale got involved, but Makabe sent him to the floor. Ibushi gave Devitt the Phoenix Splash: 1…2…3!
Makabe and Fale got into a pull-apart after the match.
This match made me so frustrated that the heavyweight tag division has become such a shit show. On top of being very entertaining, this match set up two matches for Wrestle Kingdom well enough. Thumbs up. Match Rating: ***1/2
Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii
These two had one of the best matches of the 2013 G1. I’m dubious they can come close to that again, but I definitely heard great things about this one. I also do not think Ishii will win again. I know Tanahashi says HBK is his favorite ever, but does he insist on getting “his wins back” just like the Heartbreak Kid!?!?
After trading lots of forearms, Ishii started going after Tana’s neck. Tana started to come back, but Ishii caught him with a German. Tana started selling the neck a lot after that. Tana hit a dragon screw, but Ishii got control right back with a dragon screw of his own. Ishii delivered a lariat, but Tana caught him with a slap before going down. Tana started to go after one of Ishii’s knees. Tana hit the Final Cut~! The commentators called it as such. Are these shots at The Big Show??? Tana got a nearfall with the Florida Key. Ishii went for a superplex, but Tana avoided it and hit a High Fly Flow to a standing Ishii. He then hit a release Dragon. Ishii no sold it and hit one of his own. Tana no-sold it and hit a Sling Blade: 1…NO! I’m sorry; I didn’t know I was watching a Drake Younger match. Ishii then connected on the superplex: 1…2…NO! Ishii hit a lariat for another nearfall. Tana came back with a couple of headbutts, a Styles Clash and the High Fly Flow: 1…2…3!
While they could not match the drama and the suspense of their G1 match, there’s no doubt that this was a worthy follow-up to that MOTYC. I think a lot of the drama of the first one had to do with Ishii potentially winning, and that never felt like a possibility here. This is pretty much the last important (non-tournament) show for NJPW before Wrestle Kingdom, which means that a lot of story lines are already set in stone. Thus, a lot of the winners feel somewhat predictable on this show. Match Rating: ****
Tetsuya Naito (c) vs. Masato Tanaka [NEVER Openweight Title/ / IWGP Heavyweight Title #1 Contendership Match]
At this point, I would rather have Tanaka main event Wrestle Kingdom with Okada.
Tanaka took out his Singapore Cane quickly enough. He hit Naito in the head with it and then took out a table. Tanaka hit the Superfly Splash through the table. The table broke! Huzzah! VERY VERY VERY BREAKY BREAKY BREAKY BISHI-BISHI! Tanaka was in control for a bit, but Naito made his typical comeback eventually. Tanaka came back and dropped him on the apron with a lariat. Naito fought back. Tanaka avoided the Stardust Press. They traded shots until they both went down. Tanaka took his head off with a lariat. Tanaka hit the Sliding D: 1…2…NO! Naito came back and hit the Stardust Press: 1…2…3.
Despite winning the G1 in a great match over Tanahashi, Naito’s big singles matches since then have felt very underwhelming. There is a distinct lack of emotion in them that I just cannot get over. This match was no different. Match Rating: ***1/4
Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki [IWGP Intercontinental Title Match]
Despite seeming awesome on paper, I’ve heard that this match is actually fairly underwhelming.
Things started slowly. Nakamura went for Boma Ye on the apron, but he hit the ringpost after Suzuki moved. That must have sucked. Suzuki started going after the knee. Nakamura managed to briefly come back at one point, but Suzuki quickly cut him off. They did the trading forearms spot, which is something I need less of in my puro and American indie wrestling. Nakamura came back and hit a diving Boma Ye. Suzuki avoided one Boma Ye. They did some stuff. Nakamura went for the Boma Ye again, but Suzuki caught him and got a knee submission on the injured knee. He started to attack the wrong knee in a sloppy move. Suzuki transitioned into a sleeper. He went for the Gotch Piledriver, but Nakamura avoided it and hit two Boma Ye: 1…2…3
After the match, Nakamura called out Tanahashi. The Once in a Century Talent came out. They will have a title match at Wrestle Kingdom.
This match was sound in theory, but it was not very exciting in execution. Suzuki has had an underwhelming 2013 since Wrestle Kingdom (at least on the big shows), and I hope he rebounds in 2014. After the incredibly fun match with Marufuji in October, this match was a big letdown from Nakamura. Match Rating: ***
Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) (c) vs. Karl Anderson [IWGP Heavyweight Title Match]
Okada went after the neck early. Anderson sent him to the floor where the Bullet Club beat Gedo and Okada down. Anderson was in control after that. Anderson tried to win by countout, but Okada got back in the ring. Anderson was still in control after that though. Okada avoided a senton and made a comeback. Okada hit a hanging DDT to the floor. The referee was being distracted by the Bullet Club, which caused Okada to attack him with a chair. Back in the ring, a Young Bucks distraction allowed Anderson to hit a spinebuster. Anderson got nearfalls with a Liger Bomb and a diving neckbreaker. Fale held Okada so that Anderson could hit a pump kick. He then gave Okada an apron powerbomb. Anderson hit a middle rope TKO: 1…2…NO! Sitdown tombstone from Anderson: 1…2…NO! Okada came back with the Air Raid Crash on the thigh. They then traded elbows. They avoided each other’s finishers a whole bunch until Okada finally caught him with the Rainmaker: 1…2…NO! Devitt pulled the ref out! That would have been a weak finish. Okada ate a double superkick from the Bucks, but he dispatched them quickly enough. Gedo assisted Okada in getting rid of Fale. Okada got rid of Devitt. He then gave Anderson a dropkick, a tombstone, and the Rainmaker: 1…2…3
Much like the Nakamura/Suzuki match, everything about this match was fine enough, but I never really got emotionally invested in the action. I think Okada is just more interesting when he’s in control and his opponent is someone the fans want to win. This was not that. This was a championship match where the fans clearly knew that the rudo, Anderson, had no chance. At the very least, the Bullet Club interference added to the match instead of frustrating me. I appreciate that because I want the Bullet Club to be more effective than they had recently been (in terms of entertaining me). Match Rating: ***1/4
After the match, Tetsuya Naito came out to make the Wrestle Kingdom main event official. We all know how that worked out.
While I have not watched every single show NJPW put on in 2013, I have watched a fair amount. Considering this is the last show from 2013 that I will be watching, I thought I would share some LISTS~! The people love lists.
Top NJPW Shows of 2013
1. Wrestle Kingdom
2. King of Pro Wrestling
4. G1 Climax Day Nine
5. G1 Climax Day Four
Top NJPW Matches of 2013
1. Kazuchika Okada vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - King of Pro Wrestling
2. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - Invasion Attack
3. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - G1 Climax Day Eight
4. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - Wrestle Kingdom
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Karl Anderson - New Beginning
6. Prince Devitt vs. Low Ki vs. Kota Ibushi - Wrestle Kingdom
7. Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto - Dominion
8. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tomohiro Ishii - G1 Climax Day Two
The 411: NJPW shows are so long that even when they have a great match (Tanahashi/Ishii) and several good matches, the shows can be a bit underwhelming if the top of the card do not deliver in a big way. None of the matches after Tanahashi felt special, important or even worth going out of your way to see. That so rarely happens on big NJPW cards right now.