WARNING! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
This was the epic and historic show that featured the first ever IWGP/Triple Crown double title match, pitting two former tag team partners and good friends who went on to become the aces of their respected companies.Naofumi Yamamoto VS Hiroshi Nagao
Only interesting move of note was the chokeslam Nagao won the match with.Match Rating: Boring.Hirooki Goto & Akiya Anzawa VS Yujiro & Katsuhiko Nakajima
Match Rating: Skipped.Yutaka Yoshie & Masahito Kakihara VS Togi Makabe & Masayuki Naruse
Four of the most unde-rated and overlooked guys on the roster, and who also happen to be four of my favorites. The Makebe/Yoshie stuff was fun to watch, as was Makabe’s exchanges with Kakihara. The ending seem to come out of nowhere though.Match Rating: **
Koji Kanemoto, Wataru Inoue, Katsushi Takemura & Taiji Ishimori VS Minoru Tanaka, Jado, Gedo & James Gibson
My first time seeing Gibson in Japan. Now this was a really fun match as they kept things speedy and the crowd was way into it throughout. They did the always fun one-hit-one-kill spot where one guy runs it and takes out one guy only to be taken out by the next guy, and the multi-man dive out of the ring. Even Gedo & Jado picked it up a notch! Only the ending was a bit of a let down as Ishimori & Takemura just seemed to vanish into thin air as the CTU team had their way with Kanemoto and Inoue leading up to their victory.Match Rating: ***
IWGP Jr. Title: Tiger Mask VS Jushin Thunder Liger
The fun factor in this one picked up half-way through when Liger tore a page out of Bret Hart’s book by faking a leg injury to steal an advantage. It was almost priceless the way he reacted to show everyone he was really ok after planting Tiger with a huge Liger-bomb. Business picked up from there as they busted out the big moves, but Tiger managed to tough it out and score what many would consider an upset as he beat Liger clean. What I didn’t like about it was how Liger threw everything but the kitchen sink at Tiger and it wouldn’t put him down, yet it took like TWO moves for Tiger to finish Liger. Sure I’m not a big Liger fan, but I’m not a big fan of this kind of booking either, which is used prominently in Osaka Pro as well.Match Rating: ***1/4
Osamu Nishimura VS Riki Choshu
This was probably the best undercard match of the night next to the IWGP Jr. Title match, but screwed up due to the piss-poor ending. Nishimura was in full-on serious mode looking for revenge on Choshu, he was even in Darkness Muga mode as he came barefoot and went on a rampage on Choshu’s ass, then Choshu takes over and busts Nishimura open. But it goes downhill from there as Choshu gets a cheap DQ loss for not releasing the Scorpion Death Lock. Match Rating: **1/4
New Japan VS Black New Japan Singles Elimination Match:
Kensuke Sasaki VS Masahiro Chono
This was surprisingly good as Chono actually kept up with Sasaki to make the match entertaining. It was predictable that it would go to a draw since they both withstood everything they threw at each other, but they still worked hard and made the match fun and probably the best in the series.Match Rating: **1/2
Yuji Nagata VS Manabu Nakanishi
This started off good, but then got really boring as the two just seemed to run out of gas and started working at a snails pace. Nakanishi just seems to be getting worse and more boring everytime I see him now, and I’m even losing faith in Nagata right now. What the heck happened to these guys?!? It just seemed like they stalled a lot and were trying to push a 20:00 draw, but not do as good a job as Chono/Sasaki. They picked it up a bit at the end, but it just didn’t seem to click to me.Match Rating: *1/2
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Manabu Nakanishi
There was one cool spot in this match where Nakanishi withstood a spear by Nakamura and turned it into a front necklock, and that was followed by an equally cool Hercules Cutter counter into a DDT by Nakamura! It was also impressive seeing Nakanishi pick up Nakamura from the Shining Triangle and slam him down twice while the hold was applied. I thought Nakanishi was pretty dumb to tap out to Nakamura’s cross-armbreaker at the end instead of realizing how close to the ropes he was and could have broken the hold.Match Rating: **1/4
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Mitsuya Nagai
There was on SICK spot in this one when Nakamura tried a double leg take down, but dove right into a knee strike by Nagai to get a very near fall! The replay showed just how sick the spot was as Nagai caught him right on the chin with his knee. I felt this was really good as unlike the other matches so far, Nagai was actually trying to WIN it and not stall like the others seemed to do. The ending spot where Nakamura countered a slam into the Shining Triangle for the win was really good too.Match Rating: **3/4
Shinsuke Nakamura VS Minoru Suzuki
MiSuzuki comes in and it’s back to the stalling, boring pace. Nakamura picks up the pace with some fun and innovative roll-ups into submission attempts. I guess it made sense Suzuki won since Nakamura already went through 2 other men, but they sort of made it look too easy for Suzuki in the end, especially with the arrogant cover he did.Match Rating: *3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Minoru Suzuki
This was just bad and it’s not Tanahashi’s fault! Suzuki just led too much of this match which resulted in too many boring rest holds. It sucked that everytime Tanahashi tried to pick up the pace, Suzuki would drag it back down again. I was actually HOPING Tanahashi would pull out a flash cradle win to put me out of my misery of having to watch this match. Unfortunately I had to sit through another LONG submission hold by Suzuki who won it with another arrogant cover after locking a sleeper.Match Rating: *IWGP Heavyweight Title & All Japan Triple Crown Double-Title Match:
Hiroyoshi Tenzan VS Satoshi Kojima
Definitely a very unique atmosphere to this match as it kicks off. Both men advance out of their corners at the opening bell, but put on the breaks as they eye each other out. After a bit of a stare down, they lock up and break, then lock up again. Kojima backs Tenzan into the ropes and breaks clean. Lock-up again and Tenzan backs Kojima into the ropes, then slaps him on the break! They trade slaps and chops before locking up again. Kojima backs Tenzan into the corner and gives him a loud chop! Lock up again and a headlock by Kojima. Kojima takes down Tenzan, and the IWGP champion puts Kojima in a head-scissors followed by an armlock. They get to their feet and Tenzan takes down Kojima with a hammerlock. Tenzan works the arm for a bit before swithing to a sleeper. Kojima escapes into an armlock. Great mat work by these two in the opening minutes. Kojima tries a sleeper, but Tenzan works Kojima into a chinlock. They get to their feet and Kojima whips Tenzan into the ropes. Shoulder block and neither man moves. Lock-up again and Tenzan pushes Kojima into the ropes before giving him a body shot followed by a slap to the face. Kojima looks irritated. They trade chops again and Tenzan unleashes the Mongolian Chops sending Kojima to the outside at the 5 minute mark.5 MINUTES
Kojima catches a breather on the outside and gets back in. Test of strength now as they lock hands. Tenzan has the upper hand at first, but Kojima battles back for leverage, but Tenzan muscles him to the mat and clamps on a side headlock. Kojima fights to his feet again, but Tenzan pulls his hair to slam him down again! Back to their feet and Kojima floors Tenzan with a single leg takedown into a modified leglock. Tenzan delivers a few headbutts before escaping the hold and locking on an STF! He moves into a front neck lock and flips over into a ground cobra twist pin, but they roll right into the ropes. Crowd is still patient at this point. Back to their feet and Kojima with a drop toe-hold into a side crossface. Tenzan reaches the ropes to break at the ten minute mark.10 MINUTES
Both men to their feet and Kojima gives Tenzan a boot followed by several chops. Tenzan answers back with a Mongolian Chop, but Kojima blocks the second attempt and gives Tenzan a Mongolian Chop of his own! Elbow shot and Tenzan goes down. Kojima taunts Tenzan as he gets up and they lock up again, and Tenzan immediately starts throwing right hands. Snapmare by Tenzan followed by a deep elbow drive, and he makes the first pin attempt of the match to get a 1 count. Reverse chinlock by Tenzan now, then he turns it into a figure-four headlock. Kojima rolls Tenzan over and escapes with a side crossface again. Tenzan reaches the ropes to break. Kojima unloads kicks and chops as Tenzan gets to his feet. Tenzan replies with some elbow shots and eventually drops Kojima. Tenzan picks up and drives Kojima into the corner and pounds away on him for a bit. Kojima reverses an Irish-whip, but gets taken down by a big shoulder block by the IWGP champion. Tenzan misses a knee drop, looked really dumb on his part. Kojima whips Tenzan into the corner, but runs right into a big boot. Tenzan tries a lariat, but Kojima blocks and tries for the Koji-Cutter, but he’s pushed into the corner and then flattened by a running lariat from Tenzan. Tenzan pounds Kojima for a bit, then goes up top and drives Kojima’s face into the mat with the calf-branding. Tenzan covers for a 2 count. Tenzan with a headbutt into a swinging neckbreaker and gets another 2 count at the fifteen minute mark.15 MINUTES
Tenzan tries for a suplex, but Kojima blocks it and gives him a brainbuster! Lariat to the back of the head sends Tenzan out of the ring! Kojima follows out and rams Tenzan’s back into the guard-rail. Kojima starts working the back now. Kojima gets back in the ring and dives out on Tenzan with a big plancha! Kojima back into the ring, and gives Tenzan a big running elbow strike as he gets up on the apron, knocking him back down to the floor. Tenzan rolls back into the ring and Kojima starts pounding his lower back. Tenzan shouts at Kojima for more! And Kojima replies with a side-slam! Cover and a 1 count for Kojima. Modified bow & arrow lock by Kojima before switching to a single leg crab hold. Tenzan reaches the ropes, but his back is hurting. Boston crab by Kojima, and Tenzan quickly reaches the ropes again.20 MINUTES
Kojima picks up Tenzan and gives him a DDT. Tenzan fights to his feet and lands several forearm shots before Kojima attacks his back again. Big piledriver by Kojima for a 2 count! Tenzan chant starts up as Kojima sets up Tenzan for another. Tenzan fights to escape, but gets drilled by another big piledriver! Another 2 count for Kojima. Suplex by Kojima followed by a Scorpion Death Lock! Tenzan reaches the ropes to break the hold. Tenzan rolls out of the ring, but Kojima follows and continues the assault on the IWGP champion’s back. Kojima lays in some big chops, but misses a lariat, ramming his arm into the corner post! Back into the ring they go, and the crowd starts making some noise as Tenzan stomps on Kojima’s now busted arm!25 MINUTES
Big slap by Tenzan, and Kojima answers with one of his own, but hurts his arm to do it. Tenzan drops him with a pair of headbutts for a 2 count. Tenzan tries for the Anaconda Vice, but Kojima fights it off so Tenzan turns it into a wakigatame instead! Tenzan then turns it into a triangle arm-bar! Kojima’s foot reaches the ropes to break the hold. Kojima uses the corner to help pull himself up, and Tenzan charges in only to eat a pair of boots to the face, followed by a big running dropkick by Kojima! Tenzan pops up Undertaker style, but Kojima pushes him down for a pinfall, but Tenzan just kicks out before the referee even counts 1! Tenzan with some headbutts rocks Kojima’s noggin. Kojima replies with some big corner chops and whips him to the other corner, and follows with a jumping elbow strike. Instead of shouting “Ichiauzo Bakayaro!”, Kojima just hits an elbow drop on Tenzan. Another big jumping elbow drop by Kojima, who then goes up top to deliver another big elbow dive for a 2 count. Kojima tries for the lariat, but is instead caught in a mountain-bomb. Kojima gets up, and Tenzan gives him a SPEAR for a 2 count! Elbow strikes by Kojima, but Tenzan reverses an Irish whip and takes down Kojima with a jumping lariat. Cover and another 2 count for Tenzan. High-angle backdrop by Tenzan plants Kojima on the side of his head! Cover and another 2 count for Tenzan as the crowd is acting up. Buffalo sleeper by Tenzan at the thirty minute mark!30 MINUTES
Tenzan releases the hold and covers for a 2 count. Tenzan locks on the Buffalo Sleeper against with a body-scissors! Kojima gets to the ropes to break the hold. Tenzan drops him with a Mongolian Chop and goes up top to deliver the diving headbutt for a 2 count! Lariat by Tenzan and Kojima doesn’t go down! Tenzan tries another, but Kojima ducks it and hits the Koji-Cutter! Tenzan gets right back up and tries another lariat which Kojima counters into ANOTHER Koji-Cutter! The crowd is alive now as both men struggle to their feet. Kojima gets up, but drops under his own weight! Kojima up again and tries a lariat, but get a Mongolian to the face followed by a big backdrop-German suplex! Kojima rolls to his feet and gives Tenzan a big backdrop! Both men are down as the referee begins counting them down. They get to their feet and Kojima hits a running elbow followed by a lariat to the back of Tenzan! Tenzan is still standing! Kojima tries for another lariat, but Tenzan blocks it and counters into a cobra-twist for a big “OOH!” from the crowd! Old School, baby! Tenzan rolls into a ground-cobra ala Osamu Nishimura for a 2 count. Tenzan is fired up as they get to their feet! Mongolian Chop followed by a TTD attempt, but Kojima blocks it! Kojima fights out of it and picks up Tenzan before planting him with the CCD! Cover and a long 2 count for Kojima! 35 MINUTES!
Kojima locks on his new shoulder submission hold! Tenzan struggles and manages to get a foot on the ropes to break the hold. Kojima tries for a lariat, but Tenzan Mongolian Chops his lariat arm, then clips his knee with a spear! Armbreaker by Tenzan shades of Antonio Inoki! Tenzan drives a knee into Kojima’s arm on the mat. Tenzan signals for the TTD again and Kojima blocks it again, but Tenzan eventually lifts him up and drives him down! Cover by Tenzan for a 2.8! ANACONDA VICE locked on! Big Tenzan chant as Kojima fights and eventually reaches the ropes to break the hold. Tenzan stomps Kojima and gives him a backbreaker! Tenzan goes up top, but MISSES the moonsault as Kojima rolls away! Tenzan landed hard on his knee, and Kojima attacks it with low dropkicks. Pair of Dragon Screws by Kojima, and follows with a figure-four leglock! 40 MINUTES!!
Tenzan fights and manages to reverse the hold on Kojima who is forced to release it. Dragon Screw again by Kojima! Quick Puroresu Love pose by Kojima followed by a Shining Wizard for a near fall by Kojima! Commentator makes note of the significance of Kojima using the Dragon Screw, figure-four and Shining Wizard, all Keiji Mutoh’s signatures! Tenzan & Kojima slug it out, and Kojima bodyslams Tenzan before going up to attempt a moonsault?!? Tenzan cuts him off though, and drops him with a running powerbomb out of the corner! Cover by Tenzan for a 2.8! Tenzan goes up top and lands another diving headbutt for another 2 count! Tenzan is groggy as he goes up top again, but this time Kojima catches him in mid-air with a Koji-Cutter! Referee Wada Kyohei counts both men down, and Kojima gets to his feet at 8 and rips off his elbow pad to give Tenzan a wicked lariat! Kojima covers only to get a 2.9! The crowd is going nuts for Tenzan now as Kojima tries another lariat, but Tenzan catches his lariat arm and slams him down with an Anaconda Slam for a 2 count! ANACONDA VICE by Tenzan in the middle of the ring!!! Tenzan releases the hold and signals for the moonsault again!45 MINUTES!!!
Tenzan goes up top and connects with the moonsault press! Cover and another 2.9 for Tenzan! Tenzan goes back to the Anaconda Vice! Kojima looks almost out of it as a huge Kojima chant starts up and he makes it to the ropes. Kojima lets out a yell as he gets to his feet but collapses again. Tenzan drops a head butt followed by a TTD into the Anaconda Vice! Tenzan picks up Kojima in the Anaconda lock and tries to fling him down, but Kojima counters into an armlock takedown! Kojima quickly follows with his shoulder lock again! Tenzan does a reverse headbutt to break the hold. Kojima to his feet and levels Tenzan with a lariat for a 2.9! Kojima tries the lariat again, but Tenzan catches him with a spinning heel kick! Tenzan has a wicked weld on the side of his cranium! Tenzan picks up Kojima and has a little trouble flinging him over with a German suplex due to fatigue. Tenzan picks up Kojima again and hits a beautiful German suplex-hold for a 2 count! Dragon Sleeper by Tenzan! Tenzan releases the hold and Kojima pops to his feet like a zombie! They hit each other with lariats and both men drop to the mat!50 MINUTES!!!!
Wada Kyohei counts both men down and Tenzan gets to his feet, but collapses again, restarting the count. They get to their feet and Tenzan gives Kojima a rear lariat for a near fall. Backbreaker by Tenzan, and he goes up for the moonsault AGAIN, but MISSES!!! They struggle to their feet and trade chops. Lariat by Tenzan rocks Kojima, who replies with a elbow shot that drops Tenzan. Kojima taunts him to get up. They trade strikes again, and Kojima goes wild with elbow shots followed by an enzuguiri! Shades of Kawada! Kojima covers for a 2.8! STRETCH PLUM by Kojima!!! Tenzan escapes and locks on the ANACONDA CROSS!!! But he can’t keep the hold on. Kojima to his feet and tries for a powerbomb, but Tenzan fights it so Kojima kicks him in the head, just like Kawada does! Kojima drags Tenzan up and gives him a powerbomb-pin for a 2.5! 55 MINUTES!!!!!
ROLLING ELBOW by Kojima! Osamu Nishimura shows up and splashes water on Tenzan! Even Nagata is shouting at him at ringside! Tenzan struggles to his feet, but one slap from Kojima sends him to the outside! Nishimura again splashes water on him to get his act together, and Nagata is getting in his face even! Tenzan rolls back into the ring and a big Tenzan chant starts up! Kojima covers for a 2.9, and you can clearly see Tenzan’s lights are on, but nobody is home. 57 MINUTES!!!!!!
The referees check on Tenzan as Kojima taunts him. Tenzan just doesn’t seem to respond and even gets a few boos from the audience, or maybe they were for Kojima?58 MINUTES!!!!!!
Tenzan still can’t get up and Kojima drops elbows on him! Takashi Iizuka and the referees check on Tenzan again as Kojima is really fired up now! The referee starts counting out Tenzan, but Kojima tries to pick him up! Kojima is BEGGING Tenzan to get up and finish the match as the fans boo! The NJPW referee holds back Kojima as Wada Kyohei starts counting again. The referee counts TEN and KOJIMA IS DOMINANT!!! We have our first 4-Crown champion as the NJPW regime tends to Tenzan. Tenzan is loaded onto a stretcher and carried out.Match Rating: ****1/4
Post match, Nagata & Tanahashi get in Kojima’s face and Kojima mouths off at them that he’s Satoshi Kojima from ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING! Nagata takes a cheap shot at Kojima as his back is turned, and Kojima tosses the IWGP belt into the ring as he leaves, causing Tanahashi to go on a ballistic! He goes after Kojima and has to be held back by seconds, and Nakamura holding the IWGP Title chases Kojima all the way back to the locker room where Kojima mouths off at him face to face before disappearing into his locker room.
Ok, you had to have known by watching this that this wasn’t the way the double title match was supposed to end. Tenzan just became dead-weight and couldn't respond. You could tell Kojima was going for a Tiger Driver too since he tried lifting Tenzan into a powerbomb type position, and Kojima had been utilizing the moves of the people who beat him in the past during the final sprint. I wouldn’t blame Nagata or the whole locker if they turned their back on Tenzan after this cause he just blew the ending big time, whether he meant too or not, but the overall match was passable and the best thing I’ve seen from NJPW in a LONG time.Overall:
Which brings me to the rest of the show, which was pretty shallow save for a few high points like the IWGP Jr. Title match and the Nishimura/Choshu match before the lame finish. Still, it's worth checking out for the epic main event alone.