Apologies for being a bit late with this show – I had an impromptu trip to the cinema on Wednesday night to watch ‘Darkest Hour.’ I think the wrestling might have been less melodramatic…
Anyway, let’s get into it…
The opening ten man tag team match (Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi, Tomoyuki Oka & Yuji Nagata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Jushin Thunder Liger, KUSHIDA, Ryusuke Taguchi & Tiger Mask) was a decent opener (2.5/5) I enjoyed the effort of the Young Lions before their inevitable defeat.
The six man tag team match between CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) and David Finlay, Juice Robinson & Toa Henare was fun and I could of happily watched more of it. I like Henare more every time I see him and Ishii was his usual awesome self. Their mini-feud (basically Henare has graduated from Young Lion status and decided to pick a fight with the tough as nails Ishii) is a highlight of these lower card matches, I’ll go 2.5/5 as I felt the match was just that bit too short to go to 3/5.
The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match between Roppongi 3K (c) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Suzuki-gun (3/5) had some good spots, but it really shone at the finish. A nice, chaotic ending and new champions in Suzuki-gun’s El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru made this worth watching. I do think Hiromu Takahashi is above the IWGP Junior Tag Titles though – I’m hoping he has a good showing in the Best Of The Super Juniors in May and June.
Sanada vs. Yoshi-Hashi had a pretty slow start, but I liked the way it ended. These two have good chemistry together and I liked the battle of the submission holds between the Butterfly Lock and the Skull End that led to the finish. That said, I enjoyed their previous matches more. I decided on 3/5 in the end, though I would understand if people didn’t enjoy the match due to the slow start.
Taichi vs. Tetsuya Naito (3/5) wasn’t one I was looking forward to, as I’ve not been a fan of Taichi in what (admittedly, little) matches I’ve seen him wrestle before. However, I found myself enjoying this match – there were some vicious powerbombs from Taichi, one on the entrance ramp! In in all, it was a spirited match and hopefully we’ll see more of this from Taichi. I also liked Taka’s post match promo, building up Naito’s New Japan Cup match against Taichi’s fellow Suzuki-gun member Zack Sabre Jr. I think it’s good storytelling to see a faction sending various members at an enemy and it adds intrigue to an already promising match.
Minoru Suzuki’s IWGP Intercontinental Title defence against Togi Makabe was a good brawl (3.5/5). My opinions waver on both men – I find Suzuki hit and miss and I think Makabe is past his best – but I appreciated the simple, but hard hitting action here. I liked the focus on Makabe’s knee too, as I’m a fan of when wrestlers focus on a limb, when it’s well done it really adds to the story of the match. Suzuki doesn’t always gel well with his opponents (I’m thinking Suzuki vs Omega from last year’s G1) but I think Makabe suits his pace better than most. Like Taichi vs Naito, I wasn’t looking forward to this match beforehand, but I really enjoyed it.
Kazuchika Okada vs. Will Ospreay (3.5/5) was a good exhibition match, but it was lacking the heat and drama to be in the main event position. At no point did I ever feel Okada was in any trouble. I can’t fault the action, it was technically superb but I wanted a bit more sizzle with the steak. Maybe if the match was 5-10 minutes longer and Ospreay had more chances to win, then I could have graded the match higher.
Overall, I’ve score the New Japan Anniversary Show 3.0/5.0. It was a solid show with no low points, but no high points either. Next up in New Japan is the New Japan Cup. I might just rate all the matches in one post after the finals, as I’m already two days behind. All because of a trip to the cinema….