1.Liger, Tiger Mask, Sasuke, Fujinami vs Otani, Sano, Taguchi, Takaiwa **3/4
2.Suzuki-gun vs LIJ ***
3.CHAOS vs Bullet Club **1/2
4.IWGP Tag Titles: GOD(c) vs FinJuice ***1/2
5.IWGP US TItle, Tx Death Match: Archer(c) vs Moxley ***3/4
6.IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title: Ospreay(c) vs Hiromu ****1/2
7.IWGP Intercontinental Title: White(c) vs Naito ****
8.IWGP Heavyweight Title: Okada(c) vs Kota ****3/4
We were gifted with two nights this year.
I skipped the dark matches, one featuring the dojo kids and the other seeing the dads picking up a novelty win. Nothing major, nothing bad. The STARDOM match also took place, but wasn't broadcasted due to logistic bullshit (as I tried to warn people who refused to believe me), but the champs did pick up the win.
The show began with Liger's penultimate match; a cluster tag featuring a lot of his best pals. It's bittersweet knowing the legendary junior is retiring, but I wish him the absolute best in whatever move he makes next in life. The match itself was solid, though only truly memorable considering the circumstances.
I'm not crying, you're crying!
Next, we have Minoru and his mischievous crew taking on the tranquilo boys. Good intensity and a nice builder setting up some stuff for night two. The rivalry between these two top factions is easily one of my favorites, and I still largely love the way New Japan has the groups interact in general. Good outing.
Yujiro eats a GTR and the pin in the next one. Decent cluster, but largely forgettable filler.
Championship defenses begin now, with the IWGP Tag Team Champions and Bullet Club duo, Guerrillas of Destiny in action against the lovable tandem, FinJuice. The latter are big parts of why I was excited for Lifeblood and, despite being MIA/gone from the group they've made a nice niche for themselves away. They're also a shot of life into the division that sorely needed it, so strapping the belts on them here was a nice call and the match itself was borderline great tag action!
AEW boy, Moxley, won the US gold from recently revived Archer in a great Texas Death Match next, which, as expected, used the stip very well. Ever been so made at a motherfucker that you threw a motherfucker at the motherfucker? Archer has. Great hardcore battle and I'm very excited about the next defense on night two. Elevate that championship, Mox!
After the match, Mox cut a pretty good, short and simple promo.
My most anticipated match of night one followed and it easily lived up to my expectations. Hiromu is one of my favorite workers in the world and his return from injury is a big deal to me. It's also worth noting that I consider his rivalry with the man who injured him one of the best modern feuds in wrestling and I'm just as eager to see that revived. Before we can get to that, the payoff for the build to this one was worth it as both proved why the NJPW Junior division is one of the most exciting things going in wrestling today, combining athleticism and storytelling perfectly in a way that few others could hope to pull off. And note that I might have mentioned the challenger a lot just now but Ospreay did win my Wrestler of the Year award last year, so... and it looks like he injured himself halfway through yet didn't slow down at all. In all, this was innovative excellence and an easy call for my first official MOTYC of 2020!
The semi saw White and Naito for the white belt. Yeah, there was some bullshit, as you'd expect from a Jay White match, but it was a story-heavy encounter with strong action backing it up. It did feel a touch off at times, but they still put on a hell of a show. Some subtle Marxism coming from the commentary crew was entertaining. Omega seemingly took a shot at White (or, more accurately, the way he was booked) which I get but the dude grew heavy into his role last year and deserves some credit for it. I'm a fan. They kicked off the main story of the weekend nicely and the right guy won. Hard to complain.
Closing night one, Okada and Kota put on a classic. Hell, the champ's entrance alone was killer though the production crew did miss the trunks reveal which is worth negative-five stars.
I know Ibushi got the blunt end of the stick during these shows, but long term it should be fine. The ace proved again why he's exactly that of course, and Kota why he's an elite worker in his own right. When he went to his "dark place", this picked up majorly. Like the best of New Japan main events, this felt epic and cinematic in nature as New Japan nailed their second MOTYC on the same card. I would've loved Kota winning here to set up another chapter in the Ibushi/Naito story, but I'll get over it.
Near perfect main event!
Night two's review should follow soon, along with AJPW, W1 TV, NOAH and more but know that this show was truly great and well worth seeing for anyone who fucked up and missed it!
Overall Rating: 90/100%