Views from the Hawke's Nest: NJPW 2014 Part 3
Posted by TJ Hawke on 07.06.2014
Bad Luck Fale...got better?!?!?
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.
Best of the Super Juniors Ricochet vs. KUSHIDA
This was the finals of the 2014 BOSJ.
They did some cool athletic things early on. KUSHIDA then started going after one of Ricochet’s arms. Ricochet eventually came back and hit the Sasuke Special. Ricochet was in control after that. Ricochet went for a back handspring move, but KUSHIDA hit a dropkick mid-move and then hit a senton to the floor. KUSHDIA went for a kimura, but Ricochet reversed it into a Go-2-Sleepy Hollow: 1…2…NO! They traded lots of strikes. KUSHIDA managed to apply the kimura, but Ricochet got to the ropes. KUSHIDA connected on some big kicks for a nearfall and then got a bridging dragon suplex: 1…2…NO! Ricochet avoided a corkscrew moonsault. They traded more forearms. KUSHIDA went after the injured arm more. There was a labored bit where both men got on the top rope. Ricochet managed to hit a diving Go-2-Sleepy Hollow: 1…2…NO! 630: 1…2…NO! KUSHIDA avoided the Benadryller and hit an enzuigiri. KUSHIDA avoided another Benadryller attempt and reversed it into a kimura!!! Ricochet got to the ropes. Ricochet couldn’t get to the ropes, but he got to his feet. He hit a back kick to the head and then connected on the Benadryller: 1…2…3!
One of my biggest frustrations with NJPW in the last year or so is that there are very few juniors matches that feel important. As a result, some of the company’s most talented wrestlers are working in front of crowds that often are only politely invested in what is going on. That was not the case here. The crowd loved this match and clearly care who won. While Ricochet and KUSHIDA did not work a match with the substance of Tanahashi vs. Okada, they worked a match that worked fantastically with this crowd. I greatly enjoyed this. Match Rating: ****
The Splitters were mostly running through the Bucks early in the match. They hit stereo pescados. The Bucks eventually used their trademark offense to cut off Shelley. Then they worked over his injured arm (which kept him out of the BOSJ semi-finals). Shelley continued to fight back, but the Bucks were in control for a bit. Shelley finally had an opening to tag out, but Nick pulled KUSHIDA off the apron. Shortly after that, Shelley broke free of the beatdown and tagged out. KUSHIDA ran wild for mere moments before Nick momentarily stopped him. KUSHIDA then proceed to run wild again. The Bucks started to come back. KUSHIDA took them out with a senton to the floor. The teams went back and forth some more. They traded some big movez and nearfalls. KUSHIDA managed to avoid More Bang For Your Buck. KUSHIDA then got the kimura on Nick out of nowhere, as Shelley took out Matt with a dive. Nick tapped out!
This was everything you would want from a NJPW juniors tag match. While that has unfortunately be a rarity in the last few years, it was nice to see NJPW finally giving one of these matches the time they needed to make it seem important. These are probably two of the best three teams in the world at the moment, and it was a joy to see them go at it. The only minor complaint is that I didn’t feel the submission finish was set up at all, but that is a nitpick for sure. Match Rating: ****
Dominion Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto
Nagata and Honma mauled Shibata at the start. He quickly cut off Honma though with a big forearm, and Honma was then worked over for a while. Nagata eventually tagged in and made a big comeback. Honma and Nagata were building lots of momentum. Goto connected on a headbutt to Honma, and the teams started going back and forth. Shibata and Nagata brawled into the crowd. Goto hit Honma with a neckbreaker variation: 1…2…3
This was a fun midcard match. They didn’t overdue the strikes and head drops, which was a nice change of pace for the competitors involved. This mostly served to make me interested in a future Shibata/Nagata match. Match Rating: ***
Ricochet got control early on. Kota came back and hit The Kota Ibushi Moonsault to the Floor. Ricochet came back and hit his tope con hello over the turnbuckle. Back in the ring, Ricochet hit a Go-2-Sleepy Holly for a nearfall. Kota tried to hit the springboard super ‘rana, but Ricochet landed on his feet. Dayum. Ricochet did a sequence that finished with a brainbuster: 1…2…NO! Kota avoided the Benadryller and hit a big lariat. Kota got another nearfall with a Liger Bomb, but he then came up empty on a Phoenix Splash. Ricochet came with a springboard SSP for a nearfall. Kota avoided two straight Benadryller attempts and reversed the second one into a snap hurricanrana for a nearfall. He then hit a Phoenix-Plex: 1…2…3. The Phoenix-plex is basically a bridging Steenalyzer for those who have never seen it before (like me).
They did some very cool stuff and movez (both of which I’m a big fan of), but I was slightly surprised that the crowd was not electric for the match. The BOSJ finals with Ricochet and KUSHIDA had a Tanahashi/Okada atmosphere. This match felt like any old juniors title match on PPV, but with way more impressive movez. Match Rating: ***3/4
Dominion The Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows) vs. Togi Makabe & Hiroshi Tanahashi [IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships]
I really hope the Bullet Club drop the titles here.
Not much of note happened early on, but the crowd definitely seemed interested in the matchup. Gallows brought Makabe to the floor and dropped a barricade on him. Tanahashi then ate an apron powerbomb from Anderson. Tanahashi was worked over for a long time after that. Tanahashi eventually escaped, and Makabe ran wild on a hot tag. Makabe took Gallows down with a big lariat. Tanahashi recovered enough to make a comeback, too. Gallows cut him off though. Anderson hit Tanahashi with a TKO for a nearfall. Makabe made another comeback. Tanahashi hit Anderson with the Sling Blade, but he got the knees up on a High Fly Flow. Makabe made another big comeback. He hit Anderson with a falling powerbomb for a nearfall. Anderson ate a High Fly Flow. Makabe went for the knee drop, but Gallows hit him with a chair. He then hit Tanahashi with a chair. Makabe then ate a spinebuster: 1…2…NO! Tanahashi saved Gallows from the Tornado-Plex, but then ate it himself. Makabe made *another* comeback, but he ran into a Gun Stun. Tornado-Plex: 1…2…3
As much as I dislike Doc Gallows and think he holds back Anderson and the heavyweight tag division (and I really do), this match clearly worked. Makabe was probably the MVP of the match, as he got the crowd to care about all of his (many) comebacks, and he basically kept the crowd invested in everything. I wish Bullet Club dropped the belts here, but the match exceeded my expectations that I don’t care all that much. Match Rating: ***1/4
They brawled on the floor early. Fale got the advantage there. Fale then worked him over in the ring for a while. Nakamura eventually hit an elevated DDT and then delivered some knee strikes. Fale slowed him down with a suplex. Fale worked him over some more after that. Nakamura started to come back again, but Fale cut him off with a big lariat. The Samoan Spike got him a nearfall. Nakamura came back with a superplex, backstabber, and a sleeper. Nakamura hit the FUNPLEX! Boma Ye: 1…2…NO! He went for another one, but Fale hit a spear. Fale hit a folding powerbomb for a nearfall. Fale then hit a Superfly Splash: 1…2…NO! Razor’s Edge: 1…2…3
While one must consider the wisdom of having Nakamura drop the belt to Fale, I cannot deny that I saw a ton of improvement in Fale during this match. Their New Japan Cup finals match felt like a complete carry job by Nakamura, but Fale seemed so much more comfortable here. Strangely, the match itself was not noticeably better, but the heat in their first match after Nakamura got busted open was something this match never really managed to achieve. Match Rating: ***1/2
Kizuna Road Hiroshi Tanahashi & The Time Splitters (KUSHIDA & Alex Shelley) vs. Kota Ibushi, Tetsuya Naito, & El Desperado
The crowd really loves Tanahashi. He hit a simple shoulder tackle and then busted out some air guitar. The crowd went wild. Desperado was worked over for a while. He eventually fought back against Tanahashi, and Ibushi then made a hot tag. KUSHIDA tagged in and had a lot of success on Kota. He went for the kimura. Kota went to tag out to Naito, but Desperado pulled him off the ropes so he could tag in. He then accidentally speared Kota, which left Desperado all alone. He ate the Superfly Splash/standing moonsault from the Splitters, but he kicked out. Naito and Kota got back involved. Lots of movez! KUSHIDA did his senton to the floor. Desperado managed to kick Shelley low and get a Fruit Roll-Up: 1…2…3!
This was a super fun match with a shitty finish. Luckily, I was less invested in the result and just enjoyed the ride for whatever it was worth. It was worth a lot. I would love to see more things like this on the bigger PPVs. I continue to not understand NJPW’s insistence on pushing Desperado though. He has done nothing to impress me at all during his run. Match Rating: ***1/2
The 411: The most interesting thing about this set of matches is that Dominion actually managed to produce five matches that interested me, which is the most from a NJPW PPV in a while (if you discount War of the Worlds with ROH). NJPW continues to be inconsistent though, and I've yet to be convinced to start watching full shows again.