NJPW G1 Climax 25 – Day 3

Arnold Furious: 24th July 2015. We’re in Kyoto, Japan. Yesterday saw Block B kick off. After the wins and losses were tallied here’s how the Block looks:

Karl Anderson 2
Kazuchika Okada 2
Yuji Nagata 2
Hirooki Goto 2
Tomohiro Ishii 2
Satoshi Kojima 0
Yujiro Takahashi 0
Tomoaki Honma 0
Michael Elgin 0
Shinsuke Nakamura 0

Nakamura’s defeat, in the main event no less, was a big upset but the plan must surely be to have Nakamura on a slow burn. It’s likely he’ll lose again before he starts on the road to redemption. That’s how Gedo usually books. Seeing as we’re going back over to Block A, here’s a reminder of how that looks.

Hiroshi Tanahashi 2
AJ Styles 2
Tetsuya Naito 2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Togi Makabe 2
Doc Gallows 0
Toru Yano 0
Bad Luck Fale 0
Katsuyori Shibata 0
Kota Ibushi 0

Tonight’s big matches have Tanahashi against Tenzan. Both winners on Day One. Shibata vs. Naito, with Shibata anxious to kick Naito’s ass after their tag contest on Day Two. The other matches expose the weakness of Block A with Gallows, Fale and Yano all in different matches. With the exception of Yujiro Takahashi, the three weakest wrestlers in the G1.

Like Day Two this a show with no commentary, presumably being added later when it airs on Samurai TV, but unlike Day Two it’s a proper shoot with multiple cameras and it looks like someone is actually paying attention to the broadcast.

Michael Elgin, Mascara Dorada, Jay White & David Finlay vs. Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Yohei Komatsu
Elgin vs. Kojima is one of the Block B matches tomorrow, so they face off amongst a bevy of juniors. Both men had a decent showing but lost. They’ll be keen to set down a few markers to try and get inside their opponents head for their second bout tomorrow. There’s a good sign right off the bat; the crowd is rowdy and there’s a buzz around the venue. This was not the case at all during Day Two. It’s a pity last night’s card didn’t get this night’s crowd but on paper last night was better. Tiger Mask employs some totally weird psychology and hits the finish he used on Jay White last night in the first sequence in this match. That makes no sense, at all. He stays down selling afterwards, perhaps aware he’s erred. Liger is crazy over. The same way he is in America and the UK. Kyoto must not get to see him too often.

The juniors always get multiple man tags during G1 but rarely get booked into the tournament. How’s about this for an idea; winner of the Super Juniors gets a spot in G1? That would certainly give that tournament a bit more weight. And also, we’d get KUSHIDA all over these shows. There’s no downside to that. As Kojima and Elgin start to leather each other the crowd erupts, they’re going to be wonderful tonight. I love a good crowd. Elgin gets put over big time, double suplexing TM and Liger and making Komatsu look like a small child. If his pedigree was in doubt, in Japan, before this tournament that’s certainly changed already. Kojima gets the better of him with the Koji Cutter and Finlay takes the lariat for the loss. Elgin and Kojima looked seriously motivated here, which means good things for their match tomorrow night.
Final Rating: **3/4

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Cody Hall) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI)
If anyone can get a good match out of Yujiro it’s Ishii, who worked wonders during their NEVER title feud last year. They’ll be working a Block match tomorrow night, hence this tag. For those who don’t follow NJPW all that closely, Yujiro used to be in CHAOS before defecting to Bullet Club during AJ Styles IWGP title victory. CHAOS have not been fans of him since and he’s worked series with Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI. The only good thing about Yujiro is he can make it believable that anyone can beat him. Cody works the match like he’s Yujiro’s bodyguard and that’s an ongoing angle I could get behind. Cody didn’t get the memo where you’re not supposed to get over on anyone who’s in the G1 and tries to bully Ishii a bit, which gets him a kicking. Cody is showing signs of improvement, one of the benefits of working in New Japan where the standard is so high. He’s still making mistakes, big ones at that, but his persona is coming across much better than before and he’s gaining in confidence. I don’t think the Japanese fans get the Razor Ramon references so much but they tickle me. Cody’s blunders continue with a botched spot with YOSHI-HASHI, which he forgets to kick out of. YOSHI-HASHI finishes moments later with a corkscrew senton, which makes me think Cody just forgot what move the finish was. This wasn’t very good. Ishii vs. Yujiro should be better tomorrow.
Final Rating: *3/4

Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Tama Tonga) vs. Hirooki Goto & Captain New Japan
Karl Anderson is the talk of the puro world after beating Shinsuke Nakamura in Day Two’s main event. It’s a logical upset, as Nakamura will always contend and Gedo’s booking always sets out with the intention of sewing seeds of doubt. Next for Anderson is another favourite for Block B; Hirooki Goto. The current IC champion and 2008 G1 winner. Goto has spent most of his career hitting his head on the glass ceiling so there will always be question marks as to whether he can hang with the top guys. Beating Nakamura twice recently seems to have removed the stigma I always felt Goto had. Tagging with Shibata, he always looked like a weak link. Interesting to note that despite his transformation into confident main eventer, he’s carrying an injury and has taped ribs. Will that come into play as the tournament progresses? Anderson has been stuck in the tag ranks for some considerable time but come G1 he’s always able to hang with the big stars. Anderson has too much for Captain New Japan and batters him into submission before finishing with the Gun Stun in short order. In the early stages of this year G1 he’s been a big deal.
Final Rating: **1/4

Tomoaki Honma, Yuji Nagata & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Shinsuke Nakamura & Gedo)
This is in the spot where so far in the tournament we’ve had our best tag team matches. The line up for this one is great, apart from the insufferable Taguchi who seems to have wheedled his way into teaming with people who are genuinely good. Nakamura, if he wasn’t already a favourite of mine, would go up in my estimation by booting the foolish Taguchi in the stomach for fucking around during the King of Strongstyle’s introduction. As if to try and out-do that Honma puts Okada on notice! Honma’s intention is to claim his first G1 win by beating the IWGP champion tomorrow night. It’s not impossible and it would be a magnificent result…but I can’t see it happening. Okada is brilliant in opposition, slipping by Honma when he sets up for the Kokeshi and catching the confused opponent in the Rainmaker, only for Honma to duck under it. That match headlines Day Four with good reason. It will be quite sensational. Honestly, the only part of this match that isn’t great is Taguchi and how much of my time he wastes with his butt-based offence and stupid mannerisms. He is quite dreadful. Honma more than makes up for it, with perfect reactions to everything. The Nakamura-Nagata stuff is a bit muted as they had a feud for the IC belt earlier in the year and already laid any groundwork for a rematch. When they do clash, Nagata dominates Nakamura. Perhaps suggesting a Nagata victory is imminent to give Nakamura a proper uphill struggle, going 0-2. Increasingly Block B is the place to be. It has the better stories and the better matches. Seeing as Okada comes in with bags of confidence, as IWGP champion and having beaten Elgin on Day Two, he takes a knock or two. He gets trapped in Nagata’s armbar and gets whacked with Kokeshi too. Speaking of which; Honma’s Kokeshi connection rate is insane during G1 and he hits the Super Kokeshi on Gedo for the pin. A marked contrast to the million misses last year.
Final Rating: ***1/4

KOKESHI COUNT – 1 missed. 3 hit.


G1 Climax Block A
Doc Gallows vs. Kota Ibushi
Pre-match pick: Ibushi. His opening night loss was to Tanahashi but he looked like a genuine threat to one of the favourites. It’s unlikely Ibushi will win the whole thing but you’d want him to be a contender at least. Gallows is there to make up the numbers. The story they go for is an obvious one; Kota’s agility vs. Gallows sheer mass advantage. Gallows is very deliberate, throwing big hands in the corner in particular, reminiscent of the Undertaker. Ibushi isn’t used to working against bigger opponents and doesn’t really modify his approach to wrestling to suit. Hopefully this match will give him some ideas for the Fale match. Gallows certainly tries hard here, in a better showing than Day One, and throws in a combination of strikes and big spots. Some of the ideas are perhaps a bit ambitious and the set up to Ibushi winning with a sunset flip is all a bit contrived. At least the right guy went over.
Final Rating: ***

Picks: 7/11

G1 Climax Block A
Bad Luck Fale vs. Togi Makabe
Pre-match pick: Makabe. I think they’ll keep Makabe strong to start with. His third match is against Shibata, which is where the Block will start to get really intriguing. Fale offers very little by comparison, and lacks the conditioning he had last year. Togi’s idea of getting the match over is to take an enormous amount of heat, which Fale is ill equipped to dish out. He really is in horrible condition and the difference between Gallows effort in the last match and Fale’s total lack of effort in this one is noticeable. Several spots don’t work at all, even worse than the last match, and Togi’s answer to everything is a big overhand punch. Fale wins with a surprisingly safe Bad Luck Fall. I couldn’t get into it at all. Will probably end up being the worst match in the G1 this year. Unless Gallows vs. Fale is even worse.
Final Rating: *

Picks: 7/12

G1 Climax Block A
Toru Yano vs. AJ Styles
Pre-match pick: AJ Styles. Yano will probably win some matches here and there but surely AJ is going to be kept strong all tournament long and be there or thereabouts at the end. Even if it’s just as a target for someone else to overcome. Losing to Yano isn’t part of those plans. Surely. Yano goes into the ropes to start with. “BREAK. BREEEEEAAAAAAAAAK. BREAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAKK. BREEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK”. Yano’s whole gimmick is making fun of people who take themselves seriously. AJ’s certainly a contender for that and he eats a chair doing the rail hurdling spot. AJ probably feels he’s too good to get suckered by Yano but Yano’s magic has worked on everyone. Red Shoes isn’t keen on AJ’s muscle pose pin and won’t count it. “I’m trying to be entertaining here!” – AJ. Yano somehow has this ability to be faster when he’s cheating, and his timing is uncanny. AJ plays along with all the spots, including Yano’s RVD style pointing, smacking Yano in the back of the head with the springboard elbow after being made to look foolish one time too many. AJ’s block of the low blow into the Pele Kick is outstanding business too. Yano is a creative guy, who always seems to be one move ahead, usually illegally. For AJ to match him, he has to get creative. Yano gets caught in the Calf Killer, bang in the middle of the ring, and that’ll do it. This had several memorable moments and Yano definitely shouldn’t have gone over AJ. He’ll upset somebody in this tournament but when the time is right.
Final Rating: ***1/4

Picks: 8/13

G1 Climax Block A
Tetsuya Naito vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Pre-match pick: Shibata. This is the most intriguing match of the night and easily the hardest prediction. I ended up flipping a coin but basically Naito has started strong and Shibata is injured so that would be the logical call. However, logic goes out the window with Shibata and myself. I keep picking him to win everything. I still secretly hope he wins G1. The reactions to Naito’s new Ingobernables character have been indifferent so far but he gets booed soundly in Kyoto (which is near Osaka, a typical hotbed of Naito hatred). The tag match last night did a good job of building to this match as Shibata got some genuine hatred going and he jumps Naito before he’s taken off his mask and suit. Part of the tactic is defensive as Shibata is carrying that arm injury and doesn’t want to get into trouble. If he dominates, he protects his arm. When Naito does get into the match he doesn’t just go after the arm, he uses the arm to set up the leg, which Shibata had worked over by AJ Styles on Day One. A lot of the folks on Twitter seem really into Naito’s new character but it does nothing whatsoever for me. I just find it frustrating that one of NJPW’s more entertaining workers now has weird ticks that make him look lazy. Shibata knows how to please me, and Kyoto, and destroys Naito’s face with the sole of boot. Then he refuses to go down for Naito’s corner legsweep spot, by holding the ropes and double stomps Naito when he slingshots in. It’s good stuff, using Naito’s trademark spot and Shibata’s wrestling ability. He’ll have prepared a game plan for all of Naito’s spots. It’s Naito who kills the spirit of the match with his usual glassy-eyed stare into the middle distance. If he doesn’t give a shit, why should I? Shibata puts the wanker in a sleeper and then finishes with a PK. Good! Some decent limb work from Naito but his character is the worst. People who don’t care about anything are impossible to care about.
Final Rating: ***1/2

Picks: 9/14

G1 Climax Block A
Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Pre-match pick: Tanahashi. I’m pretty much picking him to win every match he’s in as I’ll be right 90% of the time. Tenzan won his opening match but he’s not on Tanahashi’s level, despite having three times as many G1 wins as New Japan’s ace. The crowd get Tana all pissed off during the opening exchanges by loudly chanting for Tenzan. Don’t they know they only get a star like Tanahashi once in a hundred years! It says so on his knee pads. It must be true. Tenzan gets lots of love for the Mongolian Chops and Tana starts getting a bit of heat. Tanahashi throws the kind of strop about it that you wish John Cena would do every once in a while. He gets so angry he stops off to play some air guitar. Have you ever gotten that mad? That’s Kevin Bacon anger dancing in a barn from Footloose levels of pissed off. Tanahashi wisely keeps the pace slow so Tenzan can keep up and not drop dead from exhaustion. Tanahashi never really seems in trouble and Tenzan’s domination of certain sequences seem to be Tana simply biding his time. Tana is content to simply wear Tenzan out by drawing the match out and hooking holds that cripple Tenzan’s cardio. The one spot that feels like Tenzan might get somewhere is when he hooks the Anaconda Vice bang in the middle of the ring and Unno is all over it, checking that Tanahashi hasn’t quit or passed out. Red Shoes has phenomenal false finish teases on submissions. He hints at ringing the bell, as if he heard an audio submission and then goes back to check again. It’s the work of a master. When the finish comes there’s a hint of inevitability. Tenzan is worn out from his attempts at getting a tap out and gets caught with the Slingblade. He kicks out of that but gets beaten with the High Fly Flow moments later. The crowd were really hoping for a Tenzan win but, despite the lengthy Anaconda Vice spot, it was never really on the cards.
Final Rating: ***3/4

Picks: 10/15. Best night yet for me on picks as I went 4/5. Only that son of a bitch Fale wrecked everything.

Before we go, here’s the new Block A standings.

AJ Styles 4
Hiroshi Tanahashi 4
Tetsuya Naito 2
Hiroyoshi Tenzan 2
Togi Makabe 2
Kota Ibushi 2
Bad Luck Fale 2
Katsuyori Shibata 2
Doc Gallows 0
Toru Yano 0

No hopers Gallows and Yano are the only two blanked after two matches, which will make absolutely no difference come the end. As predicted it’s AJ Styles and Hiroshi Tanahashi that are setting the pace. Expect those two to go to the wire. Shibata and Ibushi both picked up their first wins after losing to AJ and Tana, respectively, on Day One. I suspect both will still be in the running come the last couple of shows.

Summary: The least thrilling G1 show so far this year. A couple of decent matches but even the better matches didn’t deliver like the best matches on the other nights. Some of the undercard tags were quite fun but there’s a definite feeling that Block B has the better matches lined up. Still it worked fine as a show and kept me interested throughout. It was quite pleasing that they whole thing ran three hours instead of the bulging three and half hours of the other two shows. Avoid that awful Makabe-Fale match like the plague though.
Verdict: 64

RevPro High Stakes 2017

Arnold Furious: January 21, 2017. We’re in historic York Hall, Bethnal Green for the first major Rev Pro show of the year. I’m starting to sound like a broken record but I was at this show too. Hosts are Andy Quildan and Andy Boy Simmonz. Andy Q is rocking a new waistcoat and RPW look to have a crisper VOD for some reason. Also the music is completely new, with all the wrestlers getting their own music. Plus they’ve changed the logo to make it look more like the awful RAW logo. It’s a certified attempt to make RPW seem like a big deal. Not everyone was on board with the changes and I heard criticism of the logo and the music. I can honestly say it didn’t bother me that much and the music I totally understand as it’ll cost them less.


Interim British Cruiserweight Championship
Josh Bodom vs. Ryan Smile
Andy Q is getting booking tips from Dana White here by having a non-existent title on the line here due to Ospreay being too busy to defend the actual belt. These two are both incredibly good for their age. It’s easy to forget how young and inexperienced they are (Bodom is a 5 year pro, while Smile started working 9 years ago but stepped up his game around the time Bodom debuted) but Rev Pro believe in them both, as well they should. Ryan does some top flipping on the floor, a trademark of his work. The crowd amuse themselves by chanting “you threw up” at Bodom, reminding him of his accident after battling Tomoaki Honma. The crowd are weird throughout this show and here they boo Ryan, the babyface, for dabbing. What the actual f*ck is wrong with you people? Bodom shows a degree of fearlessness here that’s new, refreshing and, frankly terrifying. He’s a big muscular lad and his topes scare me. It’s certainly an aim to expand upon his existing talents and make him a contender for more important matches. So far he’s gotten by on being a solid heel, added in strikes and now the flying too. Smile, traditionally a flier, has been adding in strikes to up his game. It’s interesting to see these two guys at this respective point in their careers. That said, I’d prefer if both of them were working more established wrestlers to aid in their development. The work is largely strong in this one though and I’m especially impressed with Bodom’s subtle improvements. His timing, especially. Bodom takes it with the Blissbuster and becomes “Interim” cruiser champ. Seeing how much muscle he’s piled on recently, I can’t help think he’ll be too heavy for the division soon.
Final Rating: ***1/2


British Tag Team Championship
Joel Redman & Charlie Sterling (c) vs. War Machine
There’s a slight issue here with having no storyline development in the tag division. Redman & Sterling saved the division, from an in-ring perspective, but now find themselves fending off great challengers and it’s turned them heel. Even though they’ve done nothing to deserve that. Charlie leans slyly heel here, wearing a beret to the ring. War Machine are the aggressors but they’re also a great tag team that people don’t want to boo. Giving the match a muddy heel/face alignment is asking for the crowd to turn on the least talented of the two, which is totally unfair on the champs, who’ve done a cracking job. The never-ending clotheslines into the corner get Hanson over with ease but then the crowd just go to sleep. When Charlie asks for applause they boo him. What did he do to get heat? He’s right to look confused. The lack of heat kills the enthusiasm of the lads, apart from Charlie Sterling in his attempts to shut the crowd up with some outstanding aerial work. The crowd proceed to boo him some more. Rev Pro have delightful cards but they attract some terrible people to their shows. In spite of the crowd the match is actually quite good. Sterling in particular is superb in his fiery comebacks. The champs pull off the Tombstone, Twisting Senton finish. Decent match that would have benefitted from some heel/face alignment or a crowd that weren’t such pricks.
Final Rating: ***1/4


Post-match: Chris Brookes and Travis Banks run in to attack the champs and they get cheered too. Hey, I love Brookes but he’s the heeliest heel in the history of heeldom. He doesn’t need your applause. He looks borderline confused by it. What is this peculiar non-booing noise?


YOSHI-HASHI vs. Pete Dunne
Pete Dunne walks out to rapturous applause and I can’t argue with that. He was outstanding in WWE and deserves the praise. Of course you could look at as bullshit because he was a heel there, he was a heel in Rev Pro for his entire run and two nights into his WWE career he’s suddenly a massive babyface? I don’t know about you but WWE are the heels in the Great Promotion War because they’re the biggest company. Everyone loves an underdog. Or they should. It gets worse though. The balcony lads, in perhaps their most ill-conceived chant of the evening, suggest that Pete “sold out”, which is basically the Progress storyline overlapping and Dunne crotch chops them to loud cheers. HE’S THE HEEL. F*ck it, I give up. YOSHI-HASHI has no chance. Either people don’t watch New Japan, which would be bizarre, or they only watch the big matches and don’t care about Tacos. As the match settles down Dunne actually works heel and the crowd still cheer for him. Maybe this is Rev Pro missing a trick because Dunne is integral to their heel picture and gets loudly cheered. Perhaps switching his alignment on this show and booking him against a heel? Or perhaps the crowd should boo heels. When the match is two guys trading it’s actually really good because they’re both legitimately excellent top-tier wrestlers. Dunne is hugely impressive here. His timing is magnificent and his execution is majestic. He’s gone to another level, revelling in praise from the top WWE brass. The finish is weird with Pete outsmarting YOSHI-HASHI with his lack of knee pads before hitting the Bitter End. Logically that’s it right? Nope. Kick-out at two. The Loose Explosion doesn’t get it done for Tacos either but the Karma does. The winner is a shock to me, considering Dunne’s popularity, but the match came off better on tape than it did in person, where I was just obsessing over the crowd. Post match Pete Dunne, who was a dick all match deserving the boos that never came, shakes hands. What’s happening lads?
Final Rating: ***1/2


Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Marty Scurll
Everyone is fired up for this because Rev Pro spent an entire year building up to it and the crowd immediately f*ck it up by cheering for Scurll, who’s the heel. Rev Pro tried to switch gears on this, perhaps realising that Sabre should have been the one to turn on his mate, by having Zack banter the boys into submission at the Cockpit. This is a really long match and it starts really slowly. Considering the match was billed as “Good Friends, Bitter Enemies” that’s perhaps not ideal. Although they do try to outwrestle each other, which is a nice touch. It comes off as a game of chess with both men aware of the dangers the others possess. Sabre looking for armbars, Scurll looking to cheat. It’s easy to forget that Zack is a fantastic exponent of banter so when Marty attempts to goof around he gets bantered into submission holds. It’s tough to decide who’s the bigger prick in the match, due to Zack stepping on Marty’s head. Although Scurll is more conventionally heel with eye pokes and such. The match manages to reflect the crowd being so split by having both guys walk that line as a pair of tweeners. So everyone just yells for their favourite. It helps that both guys do excellent work. They know each other so well and are both technically strong. I prefer Sabre’s work, which is so technically pure, but Scurll knows what he’s doing out there too. Sabre’s rana into an armbar, countered out into a surfboard, countered out into a suplex is great stuff. Plus the crowd elevates it by being loud, mainly because the balcony lads won’t stop cheering Sabre to counter the tide of Scurll support. My favourite spot is Marty spending forever setting up the Chickenwing and Zack just slapping him in the face.

Scurll plays his part too, the counter into the Chickenwing is a delight and it helps immensely that these guys know each other so well. Is the match perhaps a touch overindulgent? It’s hard to say. I know some people were turned off by the sheer length of it but that’s not so much my criticism. It’s the length combined with some of the content. I have no problem with move theft or connecting trademark spots to specific body part work. That stuff is great. It’s more the deliberate DQ that’s not called. How is wrapping a bungee cord around someone’s finger not a disqualification? Even by Chris Roberts standards, that’s bullshit. I do love Sabre taping his fingers up though and working holds that don’t require his one hand. Sabre takes a horrific bump off the Tombstone but it’s weird that particular spot leads to another finger snap. It should be the neck that becomes the focus as Scurll promptly hits a pair of extra-vicious piledrivers. That probably should be the finish, lads. The match goes weird after that too, switching pace and going to ref bumps and umbrella spots. The match was going perfectly to that point. Sabre ends up fluking a pin by escaping a potential Chickenwing. I was in love with this one until the shenanigans right at the end. If it ended up on the triple piledriver I could have gone higher on the rating. Even the DQ finish would have at least made sense, although it would have been equally as unsatisfying.
Final Rating: ****1/4


Trevor Lee vs. Trent Seven
As Trevor Lee came out to the ring I turned to the gentleman next to me, who happened to hail from the Carolina’s, and stated “he has no shame”. He danced out to Taylor Swift, which I have no issue with, but he has no rhythm, or moves. He wants a dance off. Trent destroys him with one move so Lee jumps him from behind. Trevor, who I love in the Southern Indies, decides to get heat by imitating Broken Matt Hardy and claiming to be a TNA Superstar. The match has a worrying degree of goofiness to it, which is a real pity because when they hit hard it’s great. That’s too small a section of the match. Although I appreciate having to explain to the Carolinian lad the cricket bowling pose Trent does. If you don’t watch cricket that whole spot is weird. The match never takes off the way I’d like and ends abruptly when Trent ends Lee with the lariat and piledriver combo. Trent does wondrous selling post match by going to shake the ref’s hand and selling it after his ring post chop. Seven has a peculiar ‘waving goodbye’ celebration that seems a little odd. Does he know something we don’t?
Final Rating: **3/4


Martin Stone vs. Jay White
Jay coming out to “Rock The Night” by Europe makes him my immediate favourite. This going on second from the end is perhaps the only major error in booking from Big Andy Q all night because everyone is ready for the main event. Especially after the lengthy first half. This just screams ‘filler’ at this point. It comes off as flat because the crowd are disinterested, burned out and all ready for Shibs-Riddle. There’s nothing technically bad about it but it would be better off positioned somewhere else. Jay isn’t experienced enough to know what to do and Martin, in his “homecoming”, isn’t a big star in the eyes of the modern BritWres fan who missed him when he used to be a top line talent here and missed his development over in the USA too. Stone rather mocks the quiet crowd but unlike Sterling they reciprocate. It’s a pity the match sits in a dead spot because the work is fine. Stone showcases his newly found mobility, since the massive weight loss, and Jay is capable. Jay takes it with his version of the Liontamer. It looks great but you can’t actually see it on the VOD.
Final Rating: **1/2


Undisputed British Heavyweight Championship
Katsuyori Shibata (c) vs. Matt Riddle
Matthew Riddle continues to be incredibly popular in the UK. His habit of joining the fans for drinks after shows has turned him into a cultural icon of sorts. Nobody would bat an eyelid if Rev Pro put the belt on him here. It’s nice to see the Spandau Ballet chanting has followed him over from Progress too (along with the crowd). For the entrances the crowd come completely to life in a way they’d not for the rest of the evening and it’s because Rev Pro have been able to put on this modern day dream match when no one else can. Shibata refuses to show any respect before the bell, mainly because Riddle has never worked in Japan so why should Shibata care about him? The chain wrestling in this is at another level. Especially for Riddle who’s only been wrestling for two years. He’s on Shibata’s level and looks totally unphased by this. Due to their collective MMA backgrounds they base the match around submission attempts and it’s a joy to behold. The mat work is the best part of the match, reminding me that Shibata is an excellent and underrated technician and Riddle is ready to fight the world on the deck. Riddle kicks it up a notch by launching into series of strikes, which he’s exceptional at and Shibata does great work in selling for that. It’s when Riddle tries to settle into chops that Shibata decides he’s not selling any more. Shibata’s dismissive stance is amazing. He just walks it off and asks for more. The no selling isn’t limited to strikes with both guys refusing to stay down off suplexes and getting fired up. Them going head to head and knowing when to strike and when to posture shows how they’re both on the same page. Riddle stealing the sleeper and PK combo is an interesting move. Shibata doesn’t take that lying down and hits his own PK before tapping Riddle out with the sleeper, as a lesson for stealing his moves and stepping up to his plate.
Final Rating: ****1/4


Post-match: A key different in attitude from pre-match is Shibata shaking hands with Riddle. Matt earned his respect. After that’s gone down Zack Sabre Jr. shows up to remind Shibs that they’re 1-1. They need the decider!


Summary: The first half of this show was excellent, highlighted by the outstanding Sabre-Scurll marathon. The second half was less thrilling thanks to Seven-Lee and White-Stone both being somewhat underwhelming, before a fantastic main event capped off a good evening of wrestling. It’s tough to argue with a show that delivers two matches over ****, although 2017 has set its bar really, really high. For consistency this did deliver, and nothing was bad. When the show bottoms out at **1/2 because of a flat atmosphere then it’s a good show. I had Shibata-Riddle slightly higher after the live viewing because these two guys have such incredible live presence. It’s still a blinding match but it didn’t thrill me quite so much at second viewing (unlike Scurll-Ospreay from last year’s High Stakes, which blew me away on multiple viewings).
Verdict: 93

Dominion 7.5 in Osaka-jo Hall (2015)

Arnold Furious: 5th July 2015. We’re in Osaka, Japan. Dominion has a stacked card, the biggest since Wrestle Kingdom with the main event being the unpredictable AJ Styles vs. Kazuchika Okada contest. Without further ado, because this is a five hour show, let’s get down to business.


Dark Match:
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Mascara Dorada & Sho Tanaka vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV & Yohei Komatsu
Taguchi looks like an absolute tool with his yellow t-shirt and his sparkly green sunglasses. He pisses Nakanishi off a treat by not doing the pre-match chest bashing and instead doing his Funky Weapon pose. If you could read Nakanishi’s thoughts it’d basically be “fuck you Taguchi”. Nakanishi looks like he genuinely hates Taguchi, which makes me like him more than usual. I love Tanaka’s aggression as he wants to start the match and ushers everyone else out of the ring. His personality is starting to come together, albeit as a largely generic Young Boy. Given the ten participants they all get to insert a few trademarks and not much else. Tenzan’s Mongolian chops get a lot of love, as does Kojima’s crappy chop rush. The star of the match is the evergreen Nagata, which makes me wonder why they keep putting him in the opening match when he shows no signs of slowing down like every other veteran in this contest. The match is tremendous fun with each wrestler getting to switch the pace accordingly with their tags. It’s the kind of match where I could quite easily watch for 20 minutes as they’re able to keep the action incredibly fresh. Mascara Dorada picks off Komatsu for the win. This sort of thing is nothing new but I am a sucker for the multiple person throwaway openers.
Final Rating: ***


IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Young Bucks (c) vs. Roppongi Vice vs. reDRagon
This is rapidly becoming the new Bucks vs. Time Splitters vs. Forever Hooligans. Sadly Rock Singer announcer is back and he is as hard to understand as ever. When the Japanese announcer is easier to understand than the English language one that’s a problem. The Bucks have adopted Cody Hall in a Masterblaster piece of business. “He’s just a boy”. More pre-match goodness sees Beretta try to intimidate Matt, who completely ignores him. The Bucks have taken over this division. Making the matches about their quirky heel antics and insane moves. The matches have skewed toward comedy, although not when reDRagon are in there. They don’t do the funny. They only time they do anything funny it’s because they’re being serious and no one else is. The story of the match is how manipulative the Bucks are and how desperate they are to hold on to the belts. Frequently they make blind tags and tag out when it suits them. They play the rules, which they’re very familiar with, in their favour. When it’s a fair match reDRagon destroy everyone with their hard-hitting offence but more often than not the Bucks manage to position the other two teams for their benefit. There are plenty of high spots and exciting double teams. The one big surprise, for me anyway, is how over Rocky Romero is now. He’s been getting that way for a while but he has serious love in Japan. There’s a Superkick Party and More Bang For Your Buck allows the Bucks to retain. Given the tactics they employed, it’s not a surprise. On their way out the Bucks yell “what’s up Finn, great match last night” as a shout out to former Bullet Club leader Prince Devitt. Increasingly the Bucks just do whatever the hell they want. It works in small doses.
Final Rating: ***1/4


Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Tetsuya Naito & Tomoaki Honma
The build up to this one has seen Naito act like a complete dick. He’s had issues with the Osaka crowd in the past so chances are they will not like him during this match. I honestly thought they were going to try and rebuild Naito as a blue-eye and had been going that way since his failed Wrestle Kingdom 8 main event. With CHAOS having drifted into babyface territory, not that they were ever evil heels, the bad guy side of the roster is perhaps a little lacking, so I can understand the turn. Naito leaves Honma to get his ass kicked in this match, which is what happens in most Honma matches anyway. He is the ultimate underdog. When Naito finally does take a tag the crowd HATE him and he’s working against Bullet Club, who are the top heels in the promotion. He doesn’t even eliminate his flashy offence. He just inserts more posing in between. His whole demeanour says ‘I cannot be bothered with entertaining you, Osaka’. He seems indifferent to everything. It’s so effective that the crowd cheer Fale over him. However the structure of the match makes no sense with Naito playing the plucky babyface role and still getting heat. It needed to be better structured. There’s one moment that totally wins me over; Honma finally hits a Kokeshi, with assistance from Naito, and Tetsuya just sits there in the ring with the pinfall going down. He looks bored out of his mind. Honma hits the Super Kokeshi to get the pin and Naito, having done the bare minimum to help, just walks off. An odd match, given Naito’s circumstances. Not sure where he’s going with this act. At least he’s going somewhere.
Final Rating: **1/4


Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Katsuyori Shibata
Laughter7 explode! These two were tag team partners when they came into New Japan from the world of MMA a few years back but took different paths. The crowd seem happier with Shibata, who’s adapted to strongstyle and become a crowd favourite in the process, whereas Sakuraba was more popular when he first arrived. Some of the lustre has come off him in the past two years. One thing you know you’re going to get from these guys is mat excellence. It’s shoot-style done with just enough puroresu thrown in to make it entertaining. The great thing about this match is Shibata takes it really personally and hammers Saku with almost every spot, including a pair of vicious hanging shotgun dropkicks in the corner. The emotion is there, which is a rarity for Shibata. What I really dig about Shibata is he doesn’t make little slap noises on his thigh when he kicks someone, he makes those noises by kicking the crap out of people. As they kick the hell out of each other I’m absolutely riveted. The balance between puroresu and MMA is perfect and makes for an enthralling contest, better than Saku vs. Suzuki from Wrestle Kingdom 9. While Shibata is better at striking, Sakuraba frequently catches him on submissions. The one that Shibata breaks by biting the rope is amazing. The fact that he’s continually caught in submissions reflects why Shibata had such a poor MMA record. The fact he’s able to escape shows why he’s such a showman. It’s a belter of a contest, one that surpasses my already high expectations for atmosphere alone. Shibata’s short strikes often draw a reaction from me and for a jaded old bastard like myself that’s impressive. Shibata ends up using his weight to lean on Saku during a sleeper, a rare opportunity for him to showcase his wrestling skill, and with Sakuraba going out Shibata pelts him with the PK for the win. Great fucking match, I hope they do it again.
Final Rating: ****1/4


IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship
Kenny Omega (c) vs. KUSHIDA
“Where we’re going, we don’t need roads”.

You have to love a man who takes his inspiration from wrestling and Back to the Future. This match is all about KUSHIDA and his boyhood dream coming to fruition, finally getting the chance to challenge for the junior title on a big show. (Ignoring his brief 2014 run with the belt that was completely unmemorable, defeating Kota Ibushi at Kizuna Road and losing in his first defence to Taguchi). He’s watched a lot of other guys come through the junior division and get shots ahead of him but now he’s earned his moment. Will The Cleaner oblige by losing to him? KUSHIDA was the outstanding performer in the Super Juniors tournament and indeed captured victory in it. There’s a feeling it’s now or never for KUSHIDA. Kenny Omega’s habit of marching to the ring with a broom makes him look like an even bigger doofus. His character needs a personality tweak before he becomes a joke.

KUSHIDA is one of the best technical wrestlers in the junior division, mixing submissions into his flying and strongstyle. It makes him a great all-rounder. Compared to most junior guys. The Young Bucks are ringside to aid the champion and do so by banging out the Terminator theme music, which Omega uses to turn into a cyborg killing machine…who does topes. KUSHIDA has a taped up knee, which Omega targets with the kind of ruthlessness he rarely displays. I’m generally not keen on limb work as the selling of it is a forgotten art. It used to be that if you worked the leg then the guy getting his leg worked would be screwed. Now it’s just an exercise in killing time before a comeback that usually involves a Shooting Star Press and cartwheel dives. The idea behind Omega destroying KUSHIDA’s legs is to limit his offence but also it gives KUSHIDA even more of an underdog position as he struggles around on one leg. KUSHIDA does try to sell the leg, using the ropes as support and his immobile legs as weapons. But what’s his next move? A fucking springboard dropkick. So, as per usual, the limb work was just a way of killing time that achieved nothing. I’m used to it by now but I expect more of top technicians like KUSHIDA. The second half of the match, after the leg stuff has gone nowhere, would be pretty good as a stand-alone. They do far better work on Omega’s arm, which KUSHIDA focuses on. At least this leads to genuine submission attempts as KUSHIDA’s finish is the kimura but why not just do leg vs. arm? Why include a bunch of flying spots after the knee has been worked over? It doesn’t make any sense to me. The one moment where it does resurface is on a dragon suplex where KUSHIDA can’t hold the bridge because of his knee. Omega goes for the One Winged Angel but is countered into the Kimura and KUSHIDA wins the title. The title switch was almost inevitable and I was pulling for KUSHIDA to get the win but the knee stuff was frustrating. They barely paid lip service to it in the second half of the match. KUSHIDA winning is a feel good moment but they had a much better match in them than this. With minimal changes required.
Final Rating: ***1/2


NEVER Openweight Championship
Togi Makabe (c) vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Being a big Ishii fan, I was disappointed NJPW chose to job him out to Togi not once but twice in the first half of 2015. Will it be third time a charm for the Stone Pitbull? Spastic ring announcer goes completely nuts over Togi. It’s possibly the worst ring announcement in the entire history of wrestling. Ishii means business and hits a lariat from the bell and follows up with a senton to the floor, which hits Togi with a glancing blow. It’s a ridiculous bump for a guy with a permanently injured shoulder to take. Ishii’s aggressive start is a marked contrast to the last two matches. As if he came in with a very deliberate game plan, to eliminate Makabe as a threat from the start. It’s a powerful showing from Ishii, who bullies the champion. It’s a shame they go from there to trading, where Togi’s awful gimmicked punches all miss. Here’s a hint; if you’re aiming punches at someone, aim below the top of their head. The lack of good strikes from Togi is the principle reason why the Makabe-Ishii matches can’t live up to the other great Ishii contests. Honma springs to mind. As per usual Ishii brings legendary selling. The kind where I’m convinced this is the match where he’s broken something and will be sidelined for six months to recover. Only for Ishii to pop back up and start into another elbow duel. When they’re battering each other with lariats and elbows it’s a much better match. A regular war of attrition. They have a few timing issues, which is disappointing. It seems mainly due to poor communication. Togi gets a big run up for one spot only to find Ishii bent over double and in no position for any spot he has in mind. The match works better when it’s purely about the striking. Ishii takes a few big bumps, including the Spider German and the King Kong Kneedrop finishes. This wasn’t quite as good as the previous matches and with the same disappointing outcome. Ishii’s insistence at selling the bejesus out of his neck/shoulder made it convincing at the very least.
Final Rating: ***1/2


Video Control takes us to the official announcements of the Blocks for G1. Excited!


Togi Makabe
Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Toru Yano
Doc Gallows
Bad Luck Fale
Tetsuya Naito
Katsuyori Shibata
Kota Ibushi
Hiroshi Tanahashi
AJ Styles


Hirooki Goto
Satoshi Kojima
Yuji Nagata
Tomoaki Honma
Michael Elgin
Karl Anderson
Yujiro Takahashi
Tomohiro Ishii
Shinsuke Nakamura
Kazuchika Okada


Interesting to see the CHAOS overload in Block B. Elgin is a surprise, seeing as he’d basically been overlooked by NJPW to this point. It’s a big role for him. The lack of Suzuki-gun confirms they’re staying in NOAH for a while. Block A has four potential winners in Shibata, Ibushi, Tanahashi and AJ. It’s really strong. Glad to see Honma getting in to the G1 without someone else getting injured first. If I had to pick now I’m going with AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura in the finals. Nakamura to win. It’s the biggest match out there that’s not been done as yet. Nakamura vs. Okada in the group stage takes place on 15th August, right at the end of the block matches so you’d better believe that will be the decider in Block B.


IWGP Tag Team Championship
The Kingdom (Michael Bennett & Matt Taven) (c) vs. Bullet Club (Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows)
After the six-person tag back at Dontaku both Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows are at ringside. Earlier they had a video package where Anderson’s machine gun entrance played over Maria firing kisses at the camera. Top production work. Karl seems to have gotten over being smitten with ROH’s first lady of wrestling. The Magic Killer on Maria at Dontaku suggested as much. The Kingdom’s initial tag title win was a big upset but served to show how few actual tag teams are in NJPW at the moment. As per usual the NJPW cameramen have no shame whatsoever and film Maria’s ass like it’s a long lost species, thought to be extinct. This is not a match that interested me when it was announced but seeing as it’s a title match on a stacked card I felt I should pay attention to it. That said, the NJPW guys pay more attention to Maria and her surprised facial expressions. At one point they give up on the ring and shoot the action over Maria’s shoulder, with the camera aimed low enough to capture her moneymaker. The crowd even chant her name. She’s definitely left an impression on the Japanese audience. A beautiful butt shaped one. Both ladies interfere but unfortunately Gallows clocking Maria for her role comes off camera. It must have been bad because she’s got a medic holding ice on her neck. Bennett gets all chivalrous, gets laid out and Taven eats the Magic Killer for Bullet Club to get their straps back. Michael Bennett is pissed off and swears revenge. Specifically he tells Doc “I’ll fucking kill you”.
Final Rating: **


Toru Yano vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
This is a break from all the seriousness as Yano is incapable of having a serious match. He’s pretty much in the G1 to provide a rest night for the participants in his Block. His role here is to allow Tanahashi to appear on a PPV and do very little. Yano’s idea of working hard is hiding in the ropes and screaming “BREAK, BREAK, BREEAAAAAAAAKK” at every opportunity or removing the turnbuckle pad. It allows them to tell an easy story and preserve Tanahashi’s broken body. He needs to be healthy for a busy G1 where he’ll be forced to compete with the likes of AJ and Shibata. No one ever accused Yano of being a good wrestler but he’s entertaining and a welcome break in the show’s intensity. Tanahashi plays along and sells a shot to the groin for longer than usual, eager to not allow Yano to monopolise the laughs. To give you an idea of the seriousness, and lack thereof, there’s a ref bump in this match. It goes a lot longer than I was expecting (12 minutes, about 7 minutes longer than expected), featuring much Yano cheating and several of his patented cheeky roll up’s. Tanahashi finishes with the Slingblade and the High Fly Flow to put this feud to bed before G1 kicks off.
Final Rating: *1/2


IWGP Intercontinental Championship
Hirooki Goto (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This match is perhaps the most intriguing on the show. If Nakamura wins it says a lot about the long term ambitions regarding Goto and indeed about where the IC title belt is going. Nakamura has made it a legitimate top belt. But do they want him involved with the actual IWGP title going forward? Nakamura comes out here dressed as a sparkly red ninja. There are few human beings on the planet that could pull the look off. Nakamura has a presence that few human beings on the planet have. Goto imposes himself in the early going, keen to prove his title win was no fluke and he’s capable of dominating a big star. Hirooki has a history of coming up short so perception of him will not change overnight, just because he won one big match. There’s a feeling this match isn’t as important as the first one, as it sits beneath the IWGP title match on the card. The way they’d been doing PPV’s suggested a parity between the two main belts but as soon as Goto gets the secondary one it’s no longer a headline belt. That’s the way the crowd react too. Remaining quiet and detached, especially with Goto controlling the pace. When Nakamura takes over, with knees and theatrics, the match gains a sense of importance that Goto cannot provide. Instead Goto gets his thrills from countering big Nakamura spots. The action gets more violent as the match builds and that’s when Nakamura takes over. His strikes are sharper, his ideas are brighter. They have some killer sequences down the stretch where the counters get more animated. Goto finally steps up to the plate and meets Nakamura head on, literally at times. This is the proving ground. After blocking with a headbutt he hits Shouten Kai to retain. I’m still not convinced by Goto as a champion, and although it’ll take time to accept him as such, back to back wins over Nakamura will go a long way to building his reputation. Goto goes into G1 as the secondary champion. He’s having a big year.
Final Rating: ****


IWGP Heavyweight Championship
AJ Styles (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada
“He will be an icon…when I’m done” – AJ Styles, of Okada. AJ certainly has the advantage in their matches to date and has beaten Okada several times with the belt on the line including ending the Rainmaker’s year long run with the big strap in 2014. Previous AJ-Okada contests have been blighted by outside interference, usually by Yujiro Takahashi, and AJ doesn’t help matters by bringing out the Bullet Club to support him. It doesn’t fill me with confidence that today will be any different. They start out with basic counters but done at speed. It helps to establish parity. Okada is on the championship level, something you could have argued against during his crisis of confidence post-Wrestle Kingdom. He’s as cocksure as ever in this match. AJ’s advantage, besides his champion’s advantage, is the numbers game and it doesn’t take long for that to play into proceedings. When Okada gets in charge Bullet Club simply distract and interfere. It’s the same crushing over-reliance on interference that ruined previous contests between them. There’s potential, in their interactions, for a brilliant match between AJ and Okada. One day we’ll see it. My frustration with AJ having this kind of support is that he simply doesn’t need it. After a while Red Shoes gets sick of the interference, tells AJ to “suck it” and ejects Bullet Club from ringside. Quite why they let them out here to begin with is a mystery. Anyway, with that bullshit sorted out we can have an actual match.

Some of AJ’s execution in this match is flawless. The quebrada inverted DDT is the cleanest and most fluid I’ve ever seen him hit it and his dropsault is perfection. Which makes it all the more frustrating that they killed so much time with the Bullet Club angle. Okada seems to be on his game too and when they run the AJ springboard elbow smash spot Okada nails him in mid-move with the dropkick. It’s beautiful.


The countering continues out of the top draw, showcasing both men’s incredible talent. It’s really hard to make a cooperative situation look like a struggle but several times they absolutely nail it. AJ looks especially impressive when he’s pounding Okada with elbows. He’s developed a pure style for Japan and he’s exceptional at it. The fight over the Tombstone is great, as they pull out four counters before it’s delivered. This leads right into AJ’s springboard 450 Splash. It’s a message from AJ. He’ll pull out all the stops to retain this title and he’s not just about a numbers game. Okada steps it up too with a ridiculous DVD out of the ring onto the apron and a precision missile dropkick across the ring, where he seems to injure himself on landing. Tombstone! But AJ ducks the Rainmaker and hits the Pele Kick. They’re really hitting a top groove at this point and I’m still steaming over the misuse of the opening ten minutes because this is so good. Okada kneeing out of the Bloody Sunday is one fine example. They continue to counter and roll through stuff and AJ gets planted with the RAINMAKER! Okada doesn’t pin, goes for another, gets countered but it’s countered back again and Okada belts AJ with another RAINMAKER! Okada wins the title! Skip the first ten minutes and this is pushing for MOTY territory. Everything after the Bullet Club were ejected was solid gold. The counters in the finishing sequence are so incredible that it makes Okada and AJ look like the best in the world. Just sensational wrestling. There are three NJPW matches I like better than this already this year but regardless this was great storytelling and execution. Very high recommendation.
Final Rating: ****1/2


Summary: Great show from New Japan. The only big discrepancy between my thoughts and everyone else’s is that most people seem more prepared to forgive the selling in the KUSHIDA title win. Mainly because there are subtle bits of selling in the second half. I just didn’t dig it as much. If you take all the persistent leg work out of the first half it’s a top match. Even with me not liking that match as much there are still three matches at **** or higher and they’re all different. The main event has a wonderful big match feel, Nakamura & Goto just worked their socks off and Shibata & Sakuraba had one of the most technically proficient matches you’ll see all year. It probably falls short of Wrestle Kingdom 9, thanks to that card finishing with two ***** matches, but it’s a solid second for best show of the year. Strong recommendation to check this out and to subscribe to New Japan World immediately because G1 Climax 25 is coming and you’re about to buried under an avalanche of snowflakes.
Verdict: 91