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Views from the Hawke's Nest: NJPW 2014 Part 2
Posted by TJ Hawke on 07.05.2014



After November through February proved to be a very creatively disappointing time for NJPW, I decided not to drive myself crazy watching every match on every show. Instead, I will just watch and write about matches that I’m actually interested in and patiently wait for NJPW to regain their form from 2012 and 2013. I will also be looking at certain matches from NJPW’s brief tour of the United States. Each installment of this series should contain reviews of seven matches. The next installment will be out soon.


War of the Worlds
The Young Bucks© vs. reDRagon (Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish) (w/ Tom Lawler) [ROH World Tag Team Championships]
Apparently, “Filthy” Tom Lawler is their training partner. The Bucks greeted him by kicking the ropes into his balls. Nick hit a beautiful corkscrew dive onto reDRagon. Matt went to the top rope, but Lawler shook the ropes to crotch Matt. reDRagon cut off Matt and worked him over. Matt escaped at one point, but Lawler had pulled Nick off the apron. Matt managed to escape again, and Nick made a hot tag. Fish came back on Nick and set him up for Kyle’s apron dropkick. Kyle went for it, but Nick caught him with a superkick! The Bucks caused Kyle to give Fish a tombstone and then drilled him a double superkick. The teams kept going back and forth. Fish nearly slipped on a super falcon arrow, but he managed not to kill himself or Matt, thankfully. Kyle reversed a buckle bomb attempt into a guillotine, but Nick saved him with a 450!!!! WTF! That got a nearfall. Nick wiped out Bobby with a Taker Suicida (he is in the Indie Taker). The Bucks went for More Bang for Your Buck. Kyle got his knees up on the 450 and reversed the moonsault into a cross armbreaker!!! Matt escaped but then ate Chasing the Dragon: 1…2…NO! Kyle then got the armbreaker with a hooked leg! Matt tapped out!

Just based on what I have seen, ROH’s pacing for these PPVs is absolutely perfect. There is no reason to work a 20 minute match when you can tell the exact same story in 12 minutes and have the match be twice as good. This was my favorite ROH match since 2012.
Match Rating: ****1/4



War of the Worlds
Adam Cole© vs. Jushin Liger [ROH World Championship]
Kevin Kelly called this one of the greatest matchups on paper. Ever. What the fuck. Kevin Kelly is one of the dirt worst voices of a company. Maybe he would have been better in a time when Gabe was booking the company, but everything about his work right now just turns me off the product so much. Nigel later wondered if this moment could be as important to Cole’s legacy as Joe vs. Kobashi was for Joe. Is Vince McMahon in their ears or something? Why do you want to kill your commentators’ credibility with such obvious bullshit? What the fuck is going on? “That is like asking if tagging with Ryo Saito could be as important for Facade as Orton & Batista joining evolution, the answer is clearly yes.” That quote comes from the great @MrJacobCohen.

Liger got an early advantage and even applied a dragon sleeper. Cole cut him off with a superkick on the floor. Cole worked him over for a bit until Liger came back with a koppou kick. Liger followed that up with a palm strike and a super ‘rana. Cole came back with a wizard for a nearfall. Liger came back with another palm stike and a frog splash. He then connected on a brainbuster for a nearfall. Cole came back by kicking out a knee and then applying the figure four. Liger made the ropes. Cole avoided the Liger Bomb and went after the mask. The distraction opened Liger up for a superkick, and Cole then applied the figure four again. Liger tapped out.

This was not bad, but it was nothing special at all. They worked a basic match with basic character dynamics. As a result, the match did in fact feel very…basic. I do not believe that Adam Cole is capable of carrying someone to a great match, and this match did not make me doubt that belief. He has a great character and has a lot of in-ring talent, but it’s not leading to a lot of memorable matches as champion (of ROH or PWG).
Match Rating: **1/2



War of the Worlds
AJ Styles© vs. Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin [ROH World Championship]
None of the competitors could get much of an advantage obviously. They did a blend of “one man out, two men in” spots and a few three-way spots to keep it interesting. Elgin was briefly taken out with a DDT to the floor, but he made a comeback shortly after that. Elgin was in full control, but Okada caught him with the Air Rain Crash on the thigh to finally slow him down. Elgin came back with a diving Codebreaker on AJ, but Okada then hit him with Heavy Rain. Okada went for a tombstone, but Elgin reversed it into a tombstone. Elgin’s knee started to act up, and AJ capitalized by applying the calf slicer. Okada made the save. Okada called for the Rainmaker, but Elgin stopped him and took him down with a lariat of his own. Okada ate the Fucking Machine Suplex, but AJ immediately pounced with a springboard 450 on Elgin: 1…2…NO! Pele kick to Okada. Okada avoided the Styles Clash and hit a tombstone. Elgin saved Okada from the Rainmaker for unknown reasons. Elgin ate the dropkick and a Rainmaker. AJ came out of nowhere on Okada with a springboard forearm and then hit Elgin with a Styles Clash: 1…2…3!

This was an entertaining main event, but it definitely lacked in substance and great drama. It felt like WWE television triple threat match. There is nothing wrong with that, but there’s nothing to get too excited about. Obviously, you would have hoped that ROH could have used Okada, the best wrestler in the world not named Daniel Bryan, in a more exciting fashion. We can only hope that NJPW will visit again and that will be rectified.
Match Rating: ***1/2



Back to the Yokohama Arena
Tomohiro Ishii© vs. Kota Ibushi [NEVER Championship]
Ishii got the early advantage with some big strikes. Ishii was in pretty firm control for a while. He even blocked the Kota Ibushi Moonsault to the Floor and hit a superplex. Kota managed to snap off a hurricanrana shortly after that though and then connected on the Kota Ibushi Moonsault to the Floor. Kota started to run through some of his offense. Ishii blocked a standing moonsault and then made a comeback. In a labored spot, Kota hit the Pele while Ishii sat on a turnbuckle. Kota went for a super ‘rana, but Ishii sort of reversed it into a powerbomb that nearly killed Kota. Kota came back and hit a big Liger Bomb for a nearfall. Ishii avoided the Phoenix Splash and hit a sliding lariat: 1…2…NO! One of Ishii’s eyes was busted open. They traded slaps. They traded lots of slaps. They traded lots of forearms. Kota avoided a dragon suplex and then hit a bridging one of his own for a nearfall. Kota went for his springboard super ‘rana, but Ishii countered with a lariat that dropped Kota on his head. Ishii lariat: 1…2…NO! Ishii Driver: 1…2…3!

I really run hot and cold on Ishii, but these two ended up having a great dynamic that brought out a side of Ishii that I had never seen used so effectively before. Ishii, as the short and stout bully (well, he was not a bully so much as just in control of the match), is way more interesting to me than the plucky, fighting spirit underdog. Ibushi gets his ass kicked in a tremendously fun way, and his comeback was not hampered by misguided work on his leg by the opponent. The crowd went nuts for this, and I ended up loving it. This gets a big recommendation from me.
Match Rating: ****1/4



Back to the Yokohama Arena
Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & Togi Makabe
I believe the winners of this match get a shot at Anderson and Gallows at Dominion.

Togi and Goto started the match, and I did not care much. Shibata and Tanahashi then tagged in, and I cared all of the much. Shibata actually got control and worked Tanahashi over. The Once in a Century talent was getting worked over for a while, but he eventually managed to tag out to Makabe. Makabe made a big comeback. Goto slowed him down after a bit. Tanahashi and Shibata went at it again. The teams went back and forth. It was not particularly engaging. Tanahashi got a nearfall on Shibata with a Florida Key, but Shibata got his knees up on the High Fly Flow. This match is going on for an unnecessarily long time. They almost did the US indie spot where everyone gets laid out after lots of movez which would have made me laugh. Goto eventually got finished with a High Fly Flow and then a diving knee drop: 1…2…3

Well, this is awkward. I’ve been complaining about the NJPW heavyweight tag team division for a very long time. I’ve wanted singles main eventers moved to the tag division to freshen it up and to give us classic tag team championship matches instead of the filler bullshit provided by TenKozy, Anderson/Gallows, Killer Elite Squad, the NWA, and whoever else. I finally got what I asked for when this matchup was announced….and I was completely underwhelmed.

This had all the clichés of the boring and tired tag formulas that the US indies and Dragon Gate do too much of. There is an emphasis on movez, nearfalls, and kickouts instead of story. It went on too long, and I found myself bored long before the finish.
Match Rating: **1/2



Back to the Yokohama Arena
AJ Styles© vs. Kazuchika Okada [IWGP Heavyweight Championship]
Styles defeated Okada for the belt at Dontaku after a lot of nonsense with the Bullet Club. I was displeased with the result and the way NJPW got there.

Okada’s best matches tend to be when he controls the match, and the crowd is really into his opponent. AJ’s best matches are usually when he’s getting his ass handed to him and making flippy comebacks. Much like the first match between these two, that is not the case here. Okada went for an early Rainmaker, but AJ obviously avoided it. Karl Anderson interfered early, and the whole Bullet Club got kicked out as a result. AJ stayed in control though. Okada started to come back, but AJ gave him a suplex on the apron. Okada avoided a superplex and then made a comeback. They started going back and forth. Okada got Red Ink. The Bullet Club came out. Yujiro dumped Okada to the floor in the most dangerous fashion I’ve seen in a while. Gedo ran off Yujiro. AJ and Okada went back and forth again. AJ avoided a Rainmaker by grabbing the ref. He then hit a Pele Kick and Bloody Sunday. Okada avoided one Styles Clash but then ate it on the second attempt: 1…2…3

It’s hard to believe anyone thought this match was good, let alone great. The crowd just does not care about AJ Styles, and I do not blame them in the slightest. If Okada was controlling the match with AJ making flippy comebacks, they would probably have a good dynamic (but I’m not even sure that would get over either). However, NJPW is forcing this Bullet Club shite on them, and the results are so boring. This was a failure.
Match Rating: **3/4



Best of the Super Juniors
KUSHIDA vs. Jushin Liger
This happened relatively late in the tournament.

Liger used a chair on KUSHIDA’s knee early on to get the advantage. He tried to win via countout, but KUSHIDA got back in the ring. Liger continued to go after the knee and even dropped the knee on a table. I like this Liger. KUSHIDA managed to come back a bit, but his knee was giving him some serious problems. KUSHIDA slowed Liger down by going after one of his arms. KUSHIDA connected on the handspring elbow, but Liger got his knees up on the moonsault attempt. Liger then hit a brainbuster on the floor. Back in the ring, Liger got a nearfall with a super ‘rana. KUSHIDA then reversed the tilt-a-whirl backbreaker into a kimura on the injured arm. Liger tapped out!

Well, this was just delightful. Liger was acting like a dick veteran with a very clear in-ring strategy, and that made him so much more interesting than he normally is. KUSHIDA got very lucky in the match in that he basically only got a few minutes of offense in, but it all targeted the same limb. That got him the win. Thumbs way up.
Match Rating: ***1/2



Thanks everybody for reading! You can send feedback to my Twitter or to my email address: Shabang728@gmail.com. Also, feel free to check out my own wrestling website, FreeProWrestling.com. Also, check out my Best of Chikara blog and an archive of all my 411 video reviews.


The 411: While this installment featured a slightly less consistent quality than the last NJPW review, there continues to be a lot to like from NJPW if you are looking in the right places. The matches that took place in ROH were also a nice change of pace, and I hope it's financially feasible for those two companies to continue to crossover like they are at the moment.
 
Final Score:  8.0   [ Very Good ]  legend





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