Koji Kanemoto VS GENTARO
Wow. I’m officially convinced that the only reason Kanemoto re-news his contract every year after a lot of teasing is because he knows if he goes to other promotions after leaving NJPW that a lot of people out there would like beat the crap out of him like he likes to do to outsiders. It’s no big secret he tends to stiff outsiders harder than usual, and this was just another squash for Kanemoto. Poor GENTARO. Young lions get in more offense than he did here, and he took one nasty kick right in the face even, where as Kanemoto sold NOTHING, not even an eye-rake! Pointless match, unless it was NJPW’s way of saying, “please stick with us, and we’ll feed you more indy workers you can kick around to show what a tough guy you are.”Match Rating: DUDJushin Thunder Liger, Jado & Gedo VS Kintaro Kanemura, Bad Boy Hidoh & Tetsuhiro Kuroda
Kudos to the production team for actually keeping a camera on Kanemura & Jado as Kanemura was sticking a screwdriver or something in Jado’s head to cut him open!
Interesting to see CTU get out-rudo’d by a team who’ve been doing it for over a decade already. And Liger almost had his masked ripped off, but we still got a good glimpse of his face underneath.
Match basically started off as a big brawl, then the Apache Pro team work on Gedo’s injured ribs a bit in the middle, than a high sprint with both teams trying to get the win, with some good exchanges and near falls before “injured” Gedo scored the win with his Superfly splash.Match Rating: *Togi Makabe & Toru Yano VS Takashi Iizuka & Naofumi Yamamoto
The match was a see-saw battle. When Yamamoto was in, the heels were in charge, when Iizuka was in, the faces were in charge. Nothing really outstanding on the teamwork side as they mostly worked as individuals, with only a few tandem moves from Makabe & Yano, which cost them the match at one point when Yamamoto ducked a lariat from Makabe and Yano got clobbered, leading to the two arguing, Makabe giving Yano a German suplex and then walking out on him, leaving an opening for Yamamoto to hit a big backdrop for the win.
I like that Yamamoto is getting a push and is moving along quite nicely in his development. It’s always better to give the young lions a persona instead of just throw them in at each other and trade basics.
Iizuka was more fired up than usual and he threw a few good looking Exploders.
I like seeing Makabe back in action, he’s under rated, like Tomoaki Honma is in AJPW. Despite a bandaged ankle, he still moved well and delivered his signature power moves like the lariat and the brainbuster.
I thought Yano wearing the rookie black tights at the Tokyo Dome on 1/04/06 was a one time deal since he was part of Fujinami’s team and everyone on that team were wearing the same gear. So Yano goes from being a don’t-give-a-damn cheater, to a bad ass, to a rookie with an attitude? At least he didn’t work like a young lion and showed some strength when he powered up Iizuka from a standing position into a powerbomb.
The match was ok overall, a good showing to push Yamamoto, and build somekind of feud between Makabe & Yano.Match Rating: *IWGP Jr. Tag Team Titles: Minoru & Hirooki Goto VS El Samurai & Ryusuke Taguchi
Now this was a pleasant surprise. It started off a bit slow with Minoru & Goto cheating to get an advantage, and I like the way Minoru removed the corner pad when the referee wasn’t looking and set down in the corner with a little pat. I don’t think most of the live crowd caught it either.
Anyway, things got really good when the paced picked up. Goto & Taguchi got to show their growth, but one thing that bugs me is why hasn’t Goto been given a makeover yet? He won a title before Taguchi, but still looks like a rookie, whereas Taguchi is given a great look thanks to his excursion to Mexico. Taguchi looks a bit like Mohammed Yone almost. But the good thing here was that both worked well together and got the crowd behind them.
Minoru played the over-arrogant heel here, and I liked how he underestimated his opponents which came back to haunt him many times later. His kicking looked like total crap tonight though.
And kudos to NJPW for giving El Samurai the Akira Taue treatment of having one last big run. It got to the point where the crowd got a small Samurai chant going, and Samurai was aces for selling a bad arm, but still worked hard giving numerous reverse DDTs throughout the match. I just think maybe they pushed it just a little too much as Samurai survived multiple arm-locking attacks on a bad-arm, but only locked on one chicken wing arm lock on a fresh arm to get a quick win.
Still, this was probably the best IWGP Jr. Tag Title bout I’ve seen in a LONG time.Match Rating: ****IWGP Jr. Heavyweight and NWA Jr. Heavyweight Double Title Match: Black Tiger VS Tiger Mask
The last time these two faced each other for their junior titles at the Tokyo Dome last year, they put on one of the best matches on the show, so I was a bit disappointed in this one when they decided to speed through this one with next to no build, but an all out spotfest with things going see-saw in the opening minutes, to Tiger Mask kicking out of all of Black Tiger’s moves including his tombstone which won him the titles last time, to Tiger having his way with Black Tiger hitting him with a tombstone of his own followed by a Tiger Suplex for the quick and rather disappointing win.
I guess this is another one of those “serves NJPW right for putting their title on a guy that can’t tour regularly, so they take it off him in a flash to make their guy suddenly better than him” things.Match Rating: **1/2Hiroshi Tanahashi VS Yuji Nagata
Wow. The way they promoted this match, you’d think it was Tanahashi VS Brock Lesner next for the IWGP title. And not once did they even mention Nagata here, other than being one of Lesner’s victims.
With that said, the match was actually a really good competitive match. It almost seemed similar to the Shibata/Tanahashi match from 1/04/06 where Nagata stiffed the heck out of Tanahashi, even giving him a sick brainbuster out on the concrete floor! But than this match begins to suffer from a common trait of New Japan’s booking. Tanahashi, who’s been on a losing streak for a while, takes an insane amount of punishment and is able to battle back, suddenly getting a huge second wind and being able to put Nagata away in short order. I can appreciate giving Tanahashi a rub to get his heat back, but much like I’ve mentioned about Ryo Saito’s King of Gate win, this was a bit rushed.
The match finish was also one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen, where Tanahashi hits Nagata with a Dragon Suplex (which Nagata just let him put on), but couldn’t hold the pin and tries to float over into a pinning combination, but can’t get it right and it looks all wrong and f’d up.Match Rating: ***1/2 Brock Lesner & Shinsuke Nakamura VS Akebono & Riki Choshu
Well it was a good change to actually see Choshu sell for a change. Say what you want about Akebono’s in ring ability, but I actually enjoy watching the big guy in action. With that said, I was a bit disappointed that he sat out most of the match and Choshu did most of the work. The crowd was really eager to see Brock VS ‘Bono, and NJPW only gave them a taste of it today.
Overall, I thought this match was fun, but over too quickly. It wouldn’t hurt to show more of Brock against Akebono to really build something between them instead of have one confrontation and then throw them into an IWGP title match.Match Rating: ***IWGP Tag Team Titles: Masahiro Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan VS Manabu Nakanishi & Giant Bernard
So after all the build up of both team training hard and learning new tandem moves, the actual match turned out to be pretty average. It wasn’t bad, it just didn’t feel like a big main event match to me for some reason.
I didn’t really think there was much to this match as it was pretty much back and forth for the most part, with nothing much really developing other than Nakanishi & Bernard not being able to work all that well together and blowing up on each other for simple mistakes.
You gotta feel bad for Tenzan having to play the weak link for his team after clearly being made to be stronger than Chono a few years back. At least Chono worked the match more unlike their last title defense at the Tokyo Dome. It wouldn’t really hurt him to give Tenzan a rub by letting him make the pin either.Match Rating: ***Overall:
I thought the show was ok. You had one really good match, one really bad match, and a lot of strong matches scattered throughout. Passable, but I think they could have done better.