Commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Kazuki Kusanagi, Shinji Yoshino, Yohei Onishi
Ring Announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki, Makoto Abe
The show starts with a highlight reel of some of the best and most memorable moments from NJPW in 2017.
Tetsuhiro Yagi vs Shota Umino
(referee: Kenta Sato; ring announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Kazuki Kusanagi)
Result: Shota Umino wins via submission with a Boston Crab
This was a pretty good opening match from the young lions. Both men fought hard, though Umino looked like he fared better over the course of the match. There was a lot of mat work and a fair amount of submission attempts. Nothing flashy, but it worked well for them.
Ren Narita vs Katsuya Kitamura
(referee: Kenta Sato; ring announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Shinji Yoshino)
Result: Katsuya Kitamura wins via pinfall after a jackhammer
Another pretty good young lion match. Narita had a lot of fight in him, and he seemed to surprise the much larger Kitamura. The crowd also seemed to be behind Narita more, which drove his fighting spirit. Narita pulled off some surprising moves on Kitamura, including a big German suplex and a Boston crab, but Kitamura’s size and strength kept any of Narita’s bursts of offense from going on very long.
Tomoyuki Oka vs Hirai Kawato
(referee: Kenta Sato; ring announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Yohei Onishi)
Result: Hirai Kawato wins via pinfall with a rollup
This one wasn’t quite as interesting as the previous two young lion matches, but I really liked the surprise ending. Both guys fought a fairly even match up to that point.
TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado & Kanemaru Yoshinobu vs Henare & Tiger Mask & Jushin Thunder Liger
(referee: Tiger Hattori; ring announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Kazuki Kusanagi)
Result: El Desperado pins Tiger Mask with El Es Claro (crucifix pin)
Good match. Suzuki Gun took the fight to the floor almost immediately. Back in the ring, Liger took a lot of punishment, but he also helped build a comeback. Suzuki’s Gun’s dirty tricks eventually started to backfire, but some miscommunication between the good guys put their chances in danger against a team that if very familiar with working together.
Leo Tonga & Yujiro Takahashi vs Kota Ibushi & Togi Makabe
(referee: Tiger Hattori; ring announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Yohei Onishi)
Result: Kota Ibushi pins Leo Tonga after Kamigoye (wristlock knee strike)
Good match. Kota Ibushi was the star of the match, but Makabe looked good as well. Ibushi showed his great strikes and some of his flying abilities while Makabe powered through their opponents. The two members of Bullet Club in this match didn’t fare very well.
Taichi & Takashi Iizuka & Minoru Suzuki (NEVER Openweight Champ) w/ TAKA Michinoku vs Toru Yano & Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto
(referee: Marty Asami; ring announcer: Makoto Abe; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Shinji Yoshino)
Result: Hirooki Goto pins Taichi after a GTR
Good match. It was more of a brawl than a wrestling match for the first half, but that’s not surprising considering Suzuki Gun was involved. It also wasn’t surprising that Toru Yano didn’t do much in the match. This match was clearly about building up the fight between Goto and Suzuki at Wrestle Kingdom, and I think it worked well for that. Goto did most of the fighting for his team, and he ended up fighting all four of the Suzuki Gun members in and around the ring during this match. This match was all about brawling, dirty tactics, and power moves, and I expect that’s what Goto versus Suzuki will be like at Wrestle Kingdom as well.
After the match, Goto gets on the mic and calls out Suzuki. Suzuki returns to the ring and attempts to cut Goto’s hair with the clippers he’s been carrying, but Goto fights Suzuki off with the help of some of the young lions at ringside. Suzuki gets thrown from the ring where he takes out his frustration on Tetsuhiro Yagi, cutting a large stripe out of his hair. Suzuki threatens to cut the ring announcer’s hair as well, but just laughs and walks away after scaring Makoto Abe.
Masked Horse & KUSHIDA & Satoshi Kojima vs Rocky Romero & Roppongi 3K (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Champs)
(referee: Marty Asami; ring announcer: Makoto Abe; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Kazuki Kusanagi)
Result: Satoshi Kojima pins Rocky Romero after a lariat
Good match. Masked Horse (a masked Ryusuke Taguchi) provided some comedy for the first time tonight, and the rest of the match was fast-paced and fun. Romero and Kojima had a really nice segment in this match where Romero did Kojima’s multiple chop gimmick, then Kojima responded with his own. All three members of each team seemed to share the ring time equally and everyone looked good.
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Title Match
Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale vs BUSHI & SANADA & EVIL (NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Champs)
(referee: Marty Asami; ring announcer: Makoto Abe; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Yohei Onishi)
Result: Bad Luck Fale pins BUSHI after a Grenade; Fale, Tonga, and Loa become the new NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Champs
Good match. Bullet Club seemed to prevent a lot of Los Ingobernables de Japon’s dirty tricks and (usually) impeccable teamwork, but LIJ did manage to dominate large segments of the match. Towards the end, when everybody was fighting, there were some extremely close near falls. I really enjoyed this match, though I think both teams could put on an even better one. Bullet Club seemed to take a ton of time early in the match, leaving long gaps of time between moves for no real reason.
Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada (IWGP Heavyweight Champ) w/ Gedo
(referee: Red Shoes Unno; ring announcer: Makoto Abe; commentary: Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Shinji Yoshino)
Result: Kazuchika Okada forces Hiromu Takahashi to submit to a Cobra Clutch
Very good match. This one built up extremely nicely to an exciting finish. It very much served as a preview for Okada versus Naito at Wrestle Kingdom (they spent most of the match fighting each other essentially one on one), but YOSHI-HASHI and Takahashi helped bookend the match with their contributions. YOSHI seemed to warm things up by starting the match for his team, and Takahashi came in late in the match to face off against Okada. Takahashi got surprisingly close to beating Okada, and it made for an unexpected and tense finish. This was better than I thought it might be considering it was basically a match meant to build up Okada and Naito.
This show was pretty good. Not great, but still entertaining and worth watching. I think it did a good job of setting up some of the matches for Wrestle Kingdom. The night took a while to get going with it’s three young lion matches, but once it got going I didn’t have any complaints.
Match of the Night
Hiromu Takahashi & Tetsuya Naito vs YOSHI-HASHI & Kazuchika Okada
I think this was pretty easily the best match of the night, mostly for it’s surprisingly good finish. I’d like to see Takahashi versus Okada one on one sometime in the near future.