Night 14 had two huge main matches that I was looking forward to. Did they live up to my expectations?
There were three matches before the two main matches however. The opener, Toru Yano vs Sanada was a ridiculous comedy match with Sanada using his Paradise Lock (a bizarre move where you tie up the opponents arms and legs so they are trapped in a ball) to incapacitate Yano and commentator/Yano’s Chaos stablemate Rocky Romero (he had rescued Yano from a previous Paradise Lock) and win via countout. There really wasn’t much wrestling in this one, but it was pretty funny watching Yano battle the Paradise Lock. I’ll go 2.5/5 as this was too short and silly to rate any higher, but it’s worth watching, just for Romero’s panicked commentary while trapped in the Paradise Lock!
Tama Tonga vs Hirooki Goto was the usual Firing Squad G1 match. Interference, ref bumps, a DQ finish….Goto doesn’t really have the fire or charisma to rescue this match. The action was fine, but when the outcome is so predicable, it’s hard to get invested. When Goto hit the GTR and went for the pin, I instinctively looked at the referee, waiting for Tanga Loa to pull him out of the ring. I’ll go 2/5 for this as a protest against the booking here. To repeat the same match 18 times in a G1 is a terrible idea and the G1 has suffered for it.
Juice Robinson vs Zack Sabre Jr washed away the bad taste from the previous match in a really fun back and forth match (3.5/5). The contrast of styles (Robinson’s brawling vs Sabre Jr’s submissions) and focus on Robinson’s broken left hand was great…some of Sabre Jr’s submissions were insane, including the match winning submission that I’ve never seen before and have no idea what to call it. Sabre Jr’s win hinted at a US Title match against Robinson at the next US event and I’m up for that, I’d like to see both men have a longer match over the title.
Kenny Omega vs Tomohiro Ishii was incredible, frankly. The story of the underdog, the everyman Ishii taking on the undefeated IWGP World Champion and beating him in a war was thrilling – I was completely hooked on this match. The pacing was perfect, with Ishii’s comebacks being exceptional, and the action was fantastic An easy 5/5 for me, this is the kind of match that I would show anyone wanting to see what the fuss over New Japan is. Dare I say it, this match is in the argument for match of the year….
I wasn’t expecting Tetsuya Naito vs Kota Ibushi to be able to follow from the previous match, but they did and in style (5/5). Sometimes, I struggle to maintain interest in Naito’s matches, but here, his attack on Ibushi’s left leg was laser sharp and I thought Ibushi’s comebacks were great. There were some crazy moves in this one too, but I felt like they all added to the match, showing both wrestlers willingness to go all out for the win. I did think Omega vs Ishii was slightly better as Ishii is such a great underdog face, but I can’t really complain, both matches were brilliant.
Overall – a very up and down show…I would advise you definitely go and watch the two big matches…they definitely lived up to the hype! The score for this card is 3.50/5.00 which is a shame – the first two matches, mainly the Tonga vs Goto match, really let this card down. Still, I can’t complain with two 5/5 matches…