Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

New Japan Pro Wrestling: Strong Style Evolved 3/25/18

I'm planning on doing an Segunda Caida X00 this year, whether that number be 100, 200, 300, or what. So I have to watch a lot of wrestling, including stuff that I don't think I'll like a lot. I need to keep an open mind and look for names that might eek onto the list. This is a show New Japan is running in Long Beach, and while I'm not a big modern NJ fan, I like the idea of a non-WWE fed coming into America now and again. It can only be a good thing for wrestling. So the show is on TV, baseball season hasn't started yet, and I forgot about WWE Fastlane (thus no love blog), so I may as well make up a Sunday.

Christopher Daniels/Scorpio Sky/Frankie Kazarian vs. Rocky Romero/Sho/Yoh

ER: Well this write up is looking like a dumb fucking choice. I don't like a lot of guys in this match, but I guess I relate to it. All the Americans are people that I first started watching and seeing live in 2000/2001, going on road trips with friends to Southern CA. They're all older, balder, still doing the same thing they were doing nearly 20 years ago. So I am them. Older, balder, still writing about pro wrestling, still seeing the same guys. Life is a straight line. All guys do something I like, some things I don't. Kazarian doesn't shortchange stomach kicks and gets great height on a legdrop. Sadly he majorly botched a springboard legdrop off the freaking bottom rope. Once he slipped he just hopped on one leg to finish the spot. He at least sold a knee injury on the apron for a bit, so that was a decent bounceback. Yoh is a decent face in peril, Scorpio throws a better right hand than I remember, Daniels is still doing the same offense he did in '99, but he hits a nutty split legged moonsault to the floor, throwing himself into the barrier. This was kept short, and was fine.

Juice Robinson/David Finlay vs. Gedo/Hirooki Goto

ER: This was a fun one. Juice is a mean dude who would be the best possible member of a Breezango trios. His kicks land, he's got good punches, a high senton, and he always surprises with stiff shots. Here he busts open Goto's mouth with a hard back elbow. Goto shows more personality than I have maybe ever seen from him, after he gets his mouth busted. Something snaps and he is suddenly intense. Finlay is never the wrestler I want him to be, and with that last name he won't ever be, but he's a good fired up babyface. His hot tag was great, tons of energy, great flying back elbow, good presence on that pasty bod. Gedo is always a favorite of mine, and we get typical great Gedo punches and a superkick that looks like it still matters. This was quick and fiery, I dug it.

Davey Boy Smith Jr./Lance Archer vs. Toru Yano/Chuck Taylor

ER: Over/Under on how many time's JR compares KES to Hansen/Brody? 4. I think 4 is fair. KES are too goofy, Yano is too goofy, serious Taylor is still too goofy. KES are never as hoss as I'd like them to be, and I hate the look of orange spray tan, blonde spiky hair, big doopy mouth guard. Smith still moves so stiffly around the ring. He never looks comfortable in there. Archer has a face I dislike on sight, but he hits hard on a shoulderblock, and he and Smith can at least sometimes act like big guys. I don't have much use for Yano, and I still can't buy Taylor as a competitive heavyweight.

Marty Scurll/Cody vs. Tanga Loa/Tama Tonga

ER: This match has one of my favorite NJ guys (Tama Tonga) opposite my probably least favorite NJ guy (Marty Scurll), so I know which team I'm rooting for. Scurll stinks. I hate how JR always compares him to Marty Jones, Regal, Finlay, it's gross. Scurll always comes off so hack. He attempts a Regal-esque spinning wristlock sequence and clunked his way through it, getting hung up twice. Tonga is awesome, though, like the Usos working a main event Roman Reigns style. His exchanges are fast, he throws nice strikes, goes down like a shot on a Scurll superkick, misses a Superman punch in style, I always dig him. Loa is good too, never really got a chance to do much in WWE, but he hits hard and has a nice moveset, really sinks that spear. Both Tonga and Loa take offense well. Cody still doesn't do a lot for me, but his ring confidence is far bigger now than ever, and that counts for something. Scurll stomped Tonga's elbow nice a couple times. I'll give him credit for that, at least.

Hiromu Takahashi/BUSHI/SANADA/Tetsuya Naito vs. Ryusuke Taguchi/Dragon Lee/KUSHIDA/Hiroshi Tanahashi

ER: Boy with all these multi-mans they must be trying to use 40 guys on one show. We're 5 matches in and we've had 26 guys on the card. It's a lot. This match felt like it should have been better. It's impossible to have a bad 8 man, really with almost anybody involved. Everyone has to be in so little that you can really play to strengths. This wasn't a bad match, but it had guys with a lot of strengths, and should have been better. Takahashi and Lee cram a lot of ideas into their singles matches, yet here only get a couple quick moments together, nothing really memorable (though Takahashi does chuck Lee into the turnbuckles on a wild suplex). I like "Tanahashi is injured" matches, and they kind of start going after his arm but it doesn't go anywhere. The stretch run dance partner trade off was really fun, one guy after the next running in to do a move or two before getting taken out by the next guy. Those moments are always fun with talented guys. Taguchi impressed me here, liked his energy, liked his heel hook roll through, liked a couple of his hip attacks. I was similarly impressed by BUSHI. But this should have had more oomph to it.

Jushin Liger vs. Will Ospreay

ER: I was optimistic about this one, as Liger is great enough to reign in the excesses of Ospreay, and Ospreay is talented enough to be reigned in. And I liked the story they went with of Liger working up to big time the hot rising star and surprise him. Liger is aggressive and nails a somersault dive off the apron, crushes Ospreay on the floor with a brainbuster, drops him with a Liger bomb. We get more intrigue when Ospreay lands funny on his left knee and I honestly can't tell how legit the injury is. He still does a bunch of crazy flying stuff, but he sells his knee the whole damn time, even during flying moves, and I don't know if Ospreay's selling is THAT good. There was some impressive attention paid to his knee injury here. He also takes a great bump off a shotei, with Liger hooking him under the chin, and Ospreay looked like a cartoon cat running into a laundry line that he didn't see. The match ends a lot shorter than I expected, about 10 minutes, not sure if that's the overstuffed card or if they went home earlier because of that pesky real/fake leg injury. But we get a couple nice nearfalls before the sudden finish, and I thought the match was real good. Ospreay even cuts a good promo post-match, giving credit to Liger but also acting big for his britches. He gets a good reaction by challenging Mysterio too, which could be a fun match. But then they have Scurll come out and cheapshot Ospreay and rip Mysterio's mask off. Did we really need to give Scurll that much of a rub? Spend your time on other guys.

Zack Sabre Jr./Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii/Kazuchika Okada

ER: Okada just doesn't to it for me, but there's enough personality in this match to really make it work. And sure enough, cocky doofus ZSJ is awesome and I love that I'm now the high vote on the guy. Seeing he and Suzuki put a bunch of dickhead tandem submissions on Ishii while the crowd chants "Fuck you, Sabre" is joy. You see, Suzuki is too cool for them to be mad at, they would want to be friends with him and hope Suzuki thought they were also cool. But Sabre is just a hateable mug who should be pummeled. He stomps Ishii to the rhythm of their chant claps, and continues to poke the bear by rubbing his boot laces in Ishii's eyes, kicking him condescendingly, rubbing it in while Ishii is on the mat. When Ishii snags him and lifts him into a deadlift German it's a great moment. I love ZSJ using Okada as his submission jungle gym. Okada can often come off Polar Express-eyed and this makes him show some emotion, a little fight and a little desperation. Okada throws some embarrassing elbows when it's his turn to fight, really disappointing stuff. I hear Sabre get called out a lot for being too skinny, but he's practically the same size as Okada, and I don't hear that complaint about Okada. I don't get it. I think people just like to hate Sabre, which he should get credit for. Sabre continually doesn't learn his lesson. After a (too long) Suzuki/Ishii who-can-hit-harder contest, Sabre is back and mockingly kicking Ishii. Ishii catches a kick and steps in with a great headbutt and stiff powerbomb. Ishii is okay but is he as good as even Kazuyuki Fujita? Is he even the best Japanese guy working a "Man with no neck" gimmick? He's nowhere near Masa Saito. I don't know if he's better than Fujita. But I do really like how Sabre and Ishii match up, loved their July 2017 singles match, love how Sabre acts around Ishii. Sabre taps him with a great tangled up grapevine, puts Okada in an octopus hold after (but does not tap him during the match, which would have felt like a huge deal), even tosses Okada's title on the floor after the match. That's an Okada singles match I would watch.

Jay White vs. Hangman Page

ER: Last couple matches were pretty exciting, crowd is noticeably cooled off for this one. I usually like White, but he can also benefit from good opponents, and Page isn't very good, so I get the quieted down crowd. They make an effort though, so things liven up a little bit down the stretch. Once they really get the crowd into things, they immediately go into this lonnnnnnnng and drawn out spot where Page repeatedly tries to set up the slingshot lariat, and White keeps wandering unnaturally to the side to break it up, and Page keeps resetting him, and never actually gets to hit. It's like they were working a silent vaudeville comedy act and it could not have come at a worse time in the match. And then they go from Page not succeeding at hitting his indy offense four times in a row, to the other end of the spectrum, with White hitting a DDT on the apron and then a freaking German suplex from the apron to the floor. What the fuck!? Page flips and lands on his feet and then falls backward, so it's not like he got dumped on his head (earlier he did take a nasty snap dragon suplex in the ring), but it's a crazy spot to come out of nowhere. So much Page offense has a really implausible set up, which means he'll fit right in with New Japan main eventers. This match is really overreaching at this point, it's going way too long. White singles matches can drag on too much. I think he's much better in trios. Page sets up an improbable swinging neckbreaker off the top rope, and it's treated like a big move on commentary, but moments later White is hitting Page with a nasty back suplex on the floor, and another in the ring. They trade big moves. JR even shrugs off a "Well they're hitting a lot of big stuff..." after they keep trading moves. That shooting star shoulderblock is such a risk for what the payoff is. It just looks like a less impactful normal sholderblock, with added risk of breaking his own neck. He throws a nice lariat, but adds in that stupid rope flip right before (that he always stumbles a bit on). White throws so many rough suplexes in this match, all with really low launch angles, all looking like they bounce Page off his head. Way too many of them. And after all of those suplexes, his finisher is basically a Roll the Dice. These two tried to do way much. Page looked tougher than anybody else on the show tonight. Everyone else pinned and submitted so much quicker. They did a lot of things you'd think this crowd would like, but the reactions were never really there.

The Young Bucks vs. The Golden Lovers

ER: This was overly long, overinflated, overkilled match that had plenty of great moments. It tried to have way too many great moments, but it had some great moments. It also had moments where I watched in 2x speed. It was around for awhile. This was the match fans in attendance wanted to see, they wanted to celebrate modern New Japan, and this match gave them the chance to chant and clap "Fight Forever" and "New Japan". They are a part of something, this is their punk rock, etc. I thought this was a great Nick Jackson performance, with Matt stepping it up down the stretch. Ibushi is a nut, but I hate that he does so much offense that can occasionally drop himself on his own head. But this whole production was just stretched too long. They could have made much better use of partner saves. There are a lot of kickouts, and by the end Matt Jackson is kicking out of everything. It was a little deflating. They overpeaked it and suddenly they were the last person to finish at an orgy, and everyone's been done for 15 minutes and you're still working towards a finish. The big time where they utilize a partner save to great effect, Matt had just kicked out of some huge things, so Ibushi hits the V Trigger, with Omega hitting the One Winged Angel. OWA is one of the more contrived set-ups in finisher history, but it's super protected and Nick flying in for the save was awesome. But it had all gone on for so long at that point. Ibushi was off a bit all match. He'll still commit to crazy, but some nights he's like Sabu, looking just as ready to injure himself as his opponent. The first table spot was handled really nicely, I always like a good instance of something set up early that is forgotten later, until it makes its presence known again. This usage reminded me of the great Modest/Daniels vs. LeGrande/Thompson match I flipped out live for so many years ago. The table had been set up at ringside long before, and the Bucks were trying to separate Ibushi from Omega, Omega kept getting knocked to the floor, as the Bucks tried to string offense together, and after Nick hits a 450 then Matt goes crashing off the top through Omega, through a table.

I loved the sequence around that, but it is always fleeting with these guys, as it felt big enough to lead to a finish, but instead Omega is back quicker than expected and - and here's what I hate - instead of coming back and just beating ass, Omega is worried about getting Matt up onto his shoulders so Ibushi can fall on his head kicking someone. Having such clunky, difficult to set up finishers just makes guys look stupid when they come roaring back into the match and have to go through a convoluted sequence. We get Omega snap dragon suplexing Matt, only for Matt to bounce off his own neck and spring up to do a piledriver. Both moves looked great, and Matt grabs at his neck (after popping up from a suplex and delivering a piledriver, naturally), but they always leave me a little empty. Matt was good down the stretch and delivered the storyline heft, and Nick was great throughout, his timing more on point than anyone in the match (and matches like this obviously need some precision timing), I loved some of the sequences in the match, but didn't always love where they lead, and I think some of the bigger moves would have felt even bigger if Hangman Page hadn't just brushed off several headdrop suplexes. I want more space in a match like this, but the fans got the exact match they wanted, so I am not shocked that this is getting called classic. I wouldn't go classic, but it was plenty fun.

ER: A not bad show. They announced they were coming to the Cow Palace on 7/7, and I'm not sure what would need to be on the card to get me in the building. The word is Jericho/Naito, and that will not get me in the building. But if they do Liger/Mysterio? That would probably get me. It all depends on the price point, as I have an unknown mental price point in my head for everything ("I will happily see this music band for $10. Oh, the show is $20? I am less interested."), but I'll know it when I see it for this show. It's like art, you know what you like when you see it. For the Cow Palace show, I'll know if it's out of my range or not when I see the price. But on this show, I liked Liger/Ospreay, liked the Sabre/Suzuki tag, really thought the show breezed by nicely until White/Page.

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Blogger Discotortoise said...

Ishii at his best is a middle class man's Hero, I think, in that he's good at working other people's matches but doesn't really have a match of his own for others to work. Like, "his match" is Goto's, and Goto has unironically beeh really great the last year and a half and since they're stablemates it's not like they'd face off. More than anything with him it's the matches that they've avoided for no genuinely good reason, which is a singles with Suzuki and a title match with Okada. I hope that with Kojima out he ends up working some Lion's Gate stuff this year, since Lion's Gate is unironically the best thing that they put out. Him vs. GO Asakawa would be really fun, plus the actual Young Lions like Red Shoes's kid (who's genuinely really great).

Everytime I see him I just think that this resurgent run by Homicide is what people want Ishii to be/think that he is.

1:23 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I thought Nick was easily the best guy in the main. Which I didn't really expect going in (although he has clearly been the better half of the Bucks for quite awhile.)

The semi-main was Adam Page damn near killing himself repeatedly to try to get the most bland guy on the show over. I'm not sure Page is ready for a spot that big, but I'm damn positive White isn't.

2:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If it's not already been pointed out, Sabre vs Okada singles is happening for the title on April 1st. The tag match was mainly a lead-in to that.

5:15 AM  

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