NJPW – Tiger Hattori Retirement Event
Event Date: February 19, 2020 (18:30 JST)
aired live on NJPW World
Commentary (English): Kevin Kelly, Chris Charlton
Commentary (Japanese): Haruo Murata, Kazuo Yamazaki, Katsuhiko Kanazawa, Jushin Thunder Liger
Ring Announcer: Kimihiko Ozaki (1 – 3), Makoto Abe (4 – 6)
A tribute to Tiger Hattori, looking back at his long career and some of the historic matches he’s refereed.
Gabriel Kidd & Yuya Uemura & Yota Tsuji vs Toa Henare & Tomoaki Honma & Togi Makabe
(referee: Kenta Sato)
Result: Toa Henare pins Gabriel Kidd after the Toa Bottom
This was a fine opener. The young lions had a lot of energy as usual, and it was fun seeing the LA Dojo and Japan Dojo work together. Other than that thoughm this was pretty much just an exhibition for Henare, Honma, and Makabe. They never really had any trouble with the young lions except for maybe once late in the match.
Things got heated after the match when Yota Tsuji didn’t want to stop fighting. Uemura tried to hold Tsuji back as he went after Makabe, but that just brought in Honma to join the scuffle. Uemura and Tsuji were tossed out of the ring, but when Honma, Makabe, and Henare were leaving, tempers flared again. There was a brief brawl that ended with Henare and Tsuji trading a few really hard slaps to the face.
Tiger Mask & Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Will Ospreay (RPW British Heavyweight Champ) & Roppongi 3K (IWGP Jr. Tag Champs)
(referee: Kenta Sato)
Result: Will Ospreay pins Tiger Mask after Stormbreaker
This was a lot of fun. The first part of the match had Taguchi and Romero taking on Sho and Yoh as buildup for their upcoming Jr. Tag Title match. There was a little bit of comedy here, but they were mostly taking these moments seriously. Romero especially stood out in this part of the match. It felt a little like Romero was reminding everyone that he’s a really good wrestler on top of being fun and funny. The later parts of the match were dominated by Will Ospreay and Tiger Mask as they had a brief yet entertaining exchange to end the match.
After the match, Rocky Romero gets in Sho’s face. Sho shoves Romero, then Romero takes Sho to the mat. Taguchi puts Yoh in his ankle lock, and Ospreay attempts to break everything up. After a few more words for each other, Romero and Taguchi back off and leave the ring together.
BUSHI (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Champ) & Hiromu Takahashi (IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champ) & EVIL (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Champ) vs YOSHI-HASHI & David Finlay & Juice Robinson
(referee: Marty Asami)
Result: Juice Robinson pins BUSHI after Pulp Friction
Good match. Juice and Finlay looked good here, and they mostly prevented LIJ from working together like they usually do so well. Finlay and Juice needed a boost after being pushed out of the tag title picture, so this was a good match for them.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado & Taichi & Minoru Suzuki vs Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi
(referee: Red Shoes Unno)
Result: Satoshi Kojima pins Yoshinobu Kanemaru after running lariat
Very good match. Nakanishi’s matches on his road to retirement have been a ton of fun, and I think this was one of the best. Suzuki Gun is a great team to make Nakanishi and his friends look great. Taichi got real dirty with his attacks on Nakanishi, and at one point all four members of Suzuki Gun were pummeling Nakanishi at the same time. That made every strike and slam from Nakanishi’s team after that feel greatly satisfying. Kojima stood out at the end of the match with a very nice sequence with Kanemaru. This was another Nakanishi tag match that left people feeling good.
Colt Cabana & Toru Yano & Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Bad Luck Fale & Jay White w/ Gedo & Guerrillas of Destiny (IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champs) w/ Jado
(referee: Tiger Hattori)
Result: Toru Yano pins Bad Luck Fale with a backslide (and a low blow)
Very good match. Tiger Hattori had his hands full with this one. Bullet Club did pretty much whatever they wanted, while Yano and Cabana did a lot of goofing off. Ibushi and Tanahashi took this match mostly seriously as a way to build up some momentum for their upcoming tag title match against GOD, and they both looked good in their short times in the ring. This was a fun, chaotic match.
After the match, Gedo has some words for Tiger Hattori about how he officiated the match. Gedo gets in Hattori’s face, so Hattori kicks Gedo in the groin. Gedo goes down and rolls out of the ring, then Jado takes a swing at Hattori with his kendo stick. Hattori avoids the strike and kicks Jado in the groin as well. The Guerrillas of Destiny come in and try to intimidate Hattori, but Ibushi and Tanahashi come in for the save.
Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada vs SANADA & Shingo Takagi (NEVER 6-Man & NEVER Openweight Champ) & Tetsuya Naito (IWGP IC & Heavyweight Champ)
(referee: Tiger Hattori)
Result: SANADA pins Hirooki Goto with a bridging O’Connor roll
Very good match. The main attraction here definitely seemed to be Takagi versus Ishii. Those two men hit each other really hard a bunch of times, and they kept coming back together throughout the entire match. There were also fun sequences with Okada versus Naito and SANADA versus Goto, but Takagi and Ishii were adding a ton of intrigue for their upcoming NEVER Openweight Title match.
After the match, Tiger Hattori salutes with LIJ before they leave the ring.
After LIJ leave, Chaos (including Okada, Yano, Ospreay, YOSHI-HASHI, Goto, Yoh, Sho, Cabana, and Ishii) head to the ring to honor Tiger Hattori. Chaos leaves, and Liger, Tanahashi, Nagata, Ibushi, Tenzan, Makabe, Honma, Tiger Mask, Nakanishi, Taguchi, Romero, Henare, Kojima, Juice, Finlay, Katsuyori Shibata, Karl Fredericks, Yuya Uemura, Yota Tsuji, and Gabriel Kidd head to the ring to honor Hattori. Next, Kenta Sato, Marty Asami, and Red Shoes Unno present Hattori with a signed referee shirt. After that, NJPW president Harold George Meij and NJPW chairman Naoki Sugabayashi honor Hattori.
The Great Kabuki comes out next. He thanks everyone for coming out to support Hattori. Joining Hattori and The Great Kabuki in the ring is Hiroshi Hase. Hase thanks Hattori for everything he’s done. Next, Keiji Muto enters the ring and says maybe Hattori can take time to have a game of mahjong with him now that he’s retired. Riki Choshu is next to join the celebration. After taking some more photos with the legends in the ring, a video tribute featuring Genichiro Tenryu and Antonio Inoki is shown on the screen in the venue.
Finally, Hattori says a few words. He talks about spending his life in professional wrestling. There have been highs and lows, and he thanks everyone for their support throughout his entire journey. There would be no pro wrestling without teamwork and all the people involved. This is a great moment for Hattori, and he will never forget it. Everyone stands as the bell rings ten times, signaling the end of Tiger Hattori’s career in the ring. Okada then leads the charge to toss Hattori in the air.
This was a fun show. Nothing super important happened of course, and that let the focus of the night stay on Tiger Hattori, but the first few matches were oddly a bit more heated than I expected them to be. Seeing the young lions go after Honma, Makabe, and Henare felt pretty real at times. Also, seeing Romero and Taguchi attack Sho and Yoh after their match was unexpected. I liked both scenarios, probably because they were so surprising. But really, this was all about Hattori. I thought the tributes at the end of the night were great. It’s always nice to see mostly everyone come together in support of someone who has done so much in the cimpany and in the business.
Match of the Night
Chaos vs LIJ (main event)
Fittingly, Hattori’s final match was the best match of the night.
Official Results (Japanese): https://www.njpw.co.jp/tornament/228334?showResult=1