2.Hiromu vs Okada (07/03) ****
3.Bayley, Banks vs Asuka, Sane (07/03) ***1/2
4.SHINGO vs SHO (07/12) ****1/2
5.Golden Ace vs Dangerous Tekkers (07/12) ****
6.Naito vs EVIL (07/12) ***
7.Arisa vs Yoshiko (07/13) ****1/4
8.Io vs Nox (07/15) ****
9.Reed vs Gargano vs Strong (07/15) ***3/4
10.Asuka vs Banks (07/19) ***3/4
Splitting this one into two parts. I also have a DDT event and some We are STARDOM to watch separately from July.
Up first, two of my personal favorites tried their best to kill each other. Now, I'd like to quickly note that I have no interest in them putting Hiromu in the heavyweight group anytime soon largely because the dude is the best junior in the world and the division would hurt without him. That said, I'd still like occasional matches like these on spot shows. Ishii is a god of course so mixing them together makes for high expectations and they both killed it!
Hiromu, in my opinion, out performed the ace here. Okada was great, but not his normal self and I found the finish to be a tad flat. Alas, it was still a fantastic affair but it's hard not to see it as a slight disappointment considering...
The women's tag match was a strong tv match that was well worked. They used their time in a smart manner and all four stepped up nicely enough. Pretty good stuff overall. Note that I know Sane left but she is now claiming to be a brand ambassador back home. Interesting and something to keep an eye on for sure.
Next, we head to this year's Dominion pulls.
It shows how strong the roster is that New Japan can put dudes like this and a match like this three matches from the top. SHINGO continues to be one of my top five workers, as he has been for years, and SHO once again showed that he is a huge star in the making. MOTYC for sure and done so in a manner of ease for the two titans of talent!
A fantastic tag battle followed. Taichi is hit or miss but this team is a good fit for him for sure. Sabre, Kota, and Tana were great as usual. I enjoyed the layout and thought they all stepped up nicely. I'd be interested in a rematch.
And now....let's take a moment and talk about the video I attached above and the lead in to this championship match, the contest itself, and the direct and immediate outcome. The virus created a situation where Bullet Club was depleted as much of the talent were not able to be at the shows, leaving a b-team appearance for the group. EVIL was apparently in line for a big push regardless and they tend to, once a year, do something big and experimental especially when they think they need a shakeup (such as White's rise after Omega cut). I still am unsure this was the original plan but I was more than willing to go with it. EVIL turning on Naito, leaving LIJ, and joining Bullet Club is a fun moment and I have no huge issue there. Then, they announced this match would be for both belts and I admittedly starting having problems. I agree with quotes Naito's put out there saying he should be defending them separate or they should unify them. EVIL's heel turn and push plan is fine, but I in no way think they should have even teased ending Naito's reign this way. And then...they actually ended it. This match was far from NJPW quality, fitting more with something WWE would release, and seeing EVIL hold both belts felt wrong. He's talented, but not that level and I am not the only one to feel that way. I know White's run as Heavyweight Champ was an issue for many but I think he stepped up and it worked for me. EVIL, not so much and I'm hearing his reign was iffy at best. Moving forward, I think it's best that EVIL stick to secondary title runs at most. I was higher on this one than most despite what it sounds like, as you see above, but can't in good faith recommend checking it out. Props for bringing in Togo.
Next, joshi time! A reminder that Arisa is a legend. I must add that I cringe a tad anytime I pull the trigger and bite the bullet on watching something with her opponent here as I have a hard time not seeing the damage she did when she decided to break the biggest rule of wrestling. I sincerely dislike her. Anyway, Arisa once again displayed proof of her brilliance and further reminded me that she should hold every damn championship the world has to offer here. While not to the level of the last defense, this was fantastic nonetheless and worth checking out! Too bad it's the second match in a row that had an outcome I strongly disagree with.
We close with three more stateside matches.
Io and Nox was super fun. The bridging fallaway counter from Nox was awesome and that's just one gif worthy moment. I should also point out that I still dislike WWE's camera methods though the production choices on NXT are far better than that of the other two main outputs. If you want a killer bout with two top tier women, this is well worth the click.
Three-way battle time. I truly enjoyed the layout and everyone looked good, getting time to showcase themselves along the way. All action and a great triple threat with a decent finish.
Last up, Asuka and Banks built off of the tag match listed above for this title defense. While I found the endstretch to be a bit off for my tastes, the entire affair was strong. WWE has a terrible tendency of doing finishes like these which is a shame. Change the last two minutes or so into something better and you could have had something truly special. Still worth a watch but expect some shit down the stretch.
Part two coming soon.