Views from the Hawke's Nest: NJPW 2014 Part 2
Posted by TJ Hawke on 07.05.2014
More great NJPW action from the last few months...
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.