Yuji Nagata celebrates his 35th anniversary with the ninth edition of Blue Justice in front of 2,149 fans at the Togane Arena. He teams together with the Third Generation as they take on the Bullet Club in a ten-man tag team main event.
Yota Tsuji def. Yuya Uemura via submission @ 8:50 with a Boston Crab
NJPW’s Blue Justice IX preview noted that these two have wrestled each other 29 to a record of 4-4-21 and, appropriately, they wrestle a very even back-and-forth match to start. Both men’s chops look and sound MUCH better than they did on the first couple days of the tour which is very promising—not all of them are perfect, of course, but definitely an overall improvement. Tsuji’s explosiveness and sense of urgency is impressive once again and he also gets some good opportunities to show his power but this match really goes back and forth and back and forth with neither man gets the advantage for more than a move or two.
The finish is phenomenal with Tsuji using a GIANT SWING followed by a Boston Crab to tap Uemura out. A VERY impressive outing for Tsuji, as far as I’m concerned. Backstage, Tsuji tells Uemura he’s proud of him that they’ve pushed each other to this point but reminds him their battle isn’t finished because they still have to defend Noge dojo in the YLC. I believe this is the first mention of the dojo battle by a Noge dojo guy. Perhaps some of the veterans’ backstage comments about not wanting the Noge guys to lose to the L.A. guys has gotten through to them.
Shota Umino def. Ren Narita via pinfall @ 9:09 with a Bridging German Suplex
This is definitely the YLC match I’ve most been looking forward to and I’m sure others have as well. The match starts with some impressive grappling and mat wrestling; both men are wrestling with a lot of fire which is unsurprising considering the rivalry that’s developed between the two over the course of their matches on the G1 tour as well as this current tour. These two guys really unload their arsenal on each other and it’s impressive to watch. The finish sees Shota hit a monster top rope shotgun dropkick which Narita fires up out of but Shota stays on him (perhaps he read the Shibata interview?) and hits a bridging German and BARELY gets the three count. Narita thinks he kicked out at 2 but the ref counted 3. Hard to tell if it was a botch and it probably was but I actually liked it—you don’t see that enough where wrestlers almost kick out but not quite and you’d think it would happen more than it does. I know it’s not the best visual but it definitely looks more realistic. Backstage Narita is furious about the call and says he doesn’t feel like he lost at all.
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Yoshi-Hashi, & Tomohiro Ishii def. Clark Connors, Alex Coughlin, Karl Fredericks, & Michael Richards via submission @ 11:15 with a Yoshi-Hashi Butterfly Lock on Richards
I really like this opportunity for the Young Lions to face off with some seasoned, savvy veterans to get that experience and test themselves against guys with TONS of experience but who also aren’t too overpowering. Tenzan talked the other day in his backstage comments about the Young Lions needing to be more aggressive, even with the veterans, so this is their chance and they take advantage of it.
Coughlin gets some great time to shine with Ishii, staggering him with a shoulder block (!!!) and then absorbing Ishii’s chops before staggering him with one of his own (!!!!!). He lands a flurry of shots but Ishii absorbs them and comes back before Coughlin catches him with a dropkick. Fredericks also gets to show off some great explosiveness here, especially on that huge dropkick (which Honma goes out of his way to put over in his backstage comments). The Lions also get a nice tandem assault on Yoshi-Hashi and the others but ultimately Yoshi catches Richards in the Butterfly Lock and taps him out.
Backstage, the Lions do their interview together and Coughlin does most of the talking. He does a great job, seems very natural, allows his natural personality to come out and turns it up a notch. Connors and Fredericks both also sound very natural; Connors is very captain-like in his statement (“we are the L.A. Dojo and we’ll learn from this”) and Fredericks is very Fredericks (“I’m gonna beat the brakes off Uemura”). Makabe says they showed the Lions how hard it is to break through and that they’re still not good enough because those veterans have been through hell—including the “Dark Ages” of NJPW.
El Phantasmo, Taiji Ishimori, & Chase Owens def. Will Ospreay, Robbie Eagles, & Toa Henare via pinfall @ 10:17 with a Chase Owens Package Piledriver on Henare
So, in the interest of being positive but also being honest about the Wrestling Conversation that is Will Ospreay, I’ll get this out of the way now and then try to be at least constructive in my criticism moving forward: I WANT to like Will Ospreay. I really do. He’s freakishly talented and you’d have to be blind not to see that. He shows flashes of the wrestling intelligence and the little things that people have criticized him for in the past, though he remains inconsistent. My biggest criticism, however, is that he seems more interested in being a superhero or an anime character than a wrestler. He no-sells too much, a lot of his moves are more style than substance, and dear GOD he’s corny. It’s hard not to want to like him, though—as hard as he makes it sometimes—so I try to be constructive with my feedback. Let’s give it a whirl…
I still really like Ospreay and Eagles together, even if it is because they’re both corny and (kayfabe) dumb (dumb enough to never see a BC sneak attack coming). Okay, not a great start. I’m trying, bear with me. I will say that Will Ospreay hot tags are pretty much the most Will Ospreay thing ever—dude is like a Mexican jumping bean and, hey, it’s not really my thing but it’s super other people’s thing and I don’t wanna yuck anybody’s yum for something so subjective, especially when it pretty objectively looks cool and that’s something we can all get behind. I will say I’m not a huge fan of the monkey flip into the back kick because it doesn’t look particularly impactful and it seems like it would be just as easy to monkey flip a guy to his feet for a superkick, which I think would look way cooler. Also even the Japanese announce team has to call his flying forearm “Pip Pip Cheerio.” Sigh. Anyway.
Bullet Club looks good here, too. I loved Ishimori’s sleek little John Morrison-like spot in the corner and the BC guys finding 11 different ways to rake their nails across a guy’s back is pretty hilarious and definitely makes me hate them more. Speaking of hating them, holy mother of GOD El Phantasmo is the most annoying human being alive. I mean that in a good way. Sort of. It’s obviously his job to be this annoying and make you hate him and he’s very good at that job—maybe a little too good cuz holy crap I hate this guy. Ospreay and Eagles are super corny in their backstage comments but El-P’s whole tongue thing is THE LITERAL WORST (again, in a good way). I also really love Ishimori continuing his not-so-secretly missing Robbie Eagles storyline, responding to Eagles saying he couldn’t reach his full potential in Bullet Club: “Don’t say things like that. That makes me sad.” Poor, poor Taiji. <3
Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre, Jr., Yoshinobu Kanemura, & Douki def. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, SHO & YOH via submission @ 12:40 with a ZSJ modified armbar on SHO
Alright, I’ve made no secret of my disdain for butt-based offense but even I can set aside my hatred long enough to appreciate Taguchi’s wildly entertaining third-base coach spot (note: I accidentally typed “third-based coach” and this somehow seems more appropriate). Of course, I didn’t enjoy that NEARLY as much as Suzuki being infuriated by this showmanship and absolutely murdering YOH on the outside, stabbing him with a pen and smashing him with a length of barricade and a chair. Poor YOH tries to hit Suzuki with forearm smashes and gets crushed and toe-locked for his trouble—SHO tries to break it up but Suzuki refuses to let go and puts HIM in a toe-lock, then the referee. If you don’t love Suzuki you just straight up don’t like wrestling as much as you think.
Finally YOH is able to create some separation with a Falcon Arrow and then a huge hot tag for Tanahashi and some great stuff between him and ZSJ. Then SHO and YOH get some good spots in on ZSJ but Suzuki and Douki (Sudouki?) break it up and hit some good tandem stuff on YOH, who ends up isolated in the ring by ZSJ who taps him out, which is just a phenomenal ending.
Post-match, Suzuki tosses a Lion trying to help YOH while ZSJ and Tana have some words. Backstage, ZSJ responds to Tana saying he’s going to get him to reveal all his tricks by saying he hasn’t even started using tricks yet, that this is him at his most basic level, tapping people out with zero effort. “Tekkers,” he says. “Technical wrestling.” Suzuki continues his feud with Jyushin Thunder Liger, asking where he was tonight and claiming he has no anger or fighting spirit left. This has to be leading to Suzuki being Liger’s final match of his career at Wrestle Kingdom, right? Please?
Shingo Takagi, SANADA, & BUSHI def. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, & Rocky Romero via submission @ 13:20 with a SANADA Skull End on Romero
Another excellent outing for the Okada/SANADA (Okanada?) and Shingoto feuds where both get some great opportunities to interact and use them very well. I’ve found it kind of interesting that so much of Okada and SANADA’s time together in the ring on this tour has been spent feeling each other out considering these guys have wrestled four times in the past year already. Especially when Shingoto are spending most of their time trying to shoot murder each other. Shingo’s hot tag here is HOT FIRE. He lands some great stuff on Goto and the two trade forearms and clotheslines which is also great. These two are gonna tear it DOWN in Kobe. Shingo is also able to stop a full assault by a fresh Okada cold with raw power to get SANADA in the match to Paradise Lock Okada, all of which is excellent. The one-on-one stuff between Okada and SANADA is great, as usual, and then things break down which is glorious, of course, and results in SANADA tapping out Rocky Romero with Skull End.
Post-match, Shingo attacks Goto with a chair before the Lions pull the two apart. Okada and SANADA stare each other down as Okada exits. Backstage, Shingo talks more about looking ahead of Goto toward a possible future singles title he feels he deserves. As much as I want Shingo to beat Goto and get pushed to the moon, the fact that he’s talking about looking past Goto likely means he’s going to lose. It definitely makes sense for Goto to go after KENTA and the NEVER belt considering his relationship with Shibata and the time he recently spent at the L.A. Dojo. I can’t really see KENTA dropping the belt before Wrestle Kingdom so as much as I’d love for Shingo to be the guy that takes it, it looks like it’ll probably be Goto. I just hope Shingo takes it off Goto and eventually we get the Shingo/Ishii rematch we rightly deserve.
Tetsuya Naito & EVIL def. Jay White & Gedo via submission @ 12:40 with an EVIL Scorpion Deathlock on Gedo
I thought it was a bit of a weird choice for Jay to go with Gedo here in facing Naito and EVIL; seems like a pretty big mismatch to me, though I do appreciate that Gedo has to resort to cheating to even hold his own against most NJPW talent, which he should. I also think it’s an interesting move on NJPW’s part having EVIL position himself for wanting a heavyweight title shot. Not sure he’s really at that level quite yet—or that he ever will be, for that matter.
What I really love here, though, is Jay White’s whole Heath Ledger Joker thing he’s been doing this tour about how much he loves facing Naito and how much fun he’s having and it’s clear Naito is having fun too. The two of them work so well together both in the ring and outside of it and I love how much they’re selling how much fun they’re having beating each other up and antagonizing each other. That’s a whole different level of chemistry. Also Naito’s spinebuster was DOPE. Almost a mini-spear in midair.
Post-match, Naito almost gets his hands on Jay but Jay slips away. Then Jay gets on the apron as Naito kneels into the ropes and Jay tells Naito “you and me: Destino; you’re my Destino.” In other words, you might say, they’re “destined to do this forever.” Jay tries to give Naito an LIJ salute and Naito considers it for a second before spitting in his face—and Jay spits back. Backstage, Jay says they’re more alike than he previously thought and then does the LIJ listing-of-names for Bullet Club. Naito sarcastically raves about Jay’s ability to see into the future. I love all of this SO MUCH and I can’t wait to see these two go at it. I really hope they follow through with all the “destined to do this forever” stuff and have them become rivals for years to come because their chemistry is absolutely magical.
Jyushin Thunder Liger, Manabu Nakanishi, Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, & Yuji Nagata def. Jado, Yujiro Takahashi, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa, & Bad Luck Fale via submission @ 15:07 with a Yuji Nagata Nagata Lock II on Jado
I have kind of mixed feelings about this match. The Blue Justice IX preview on the NJPW website specifically mentions the history between Nagata and Fale—Nagata taking Fale under his wing in their time in the dojo and Nagata wrestling his emotional last G1 match ever against Fale—and also mentions Tenzan and Kojima being fired up to tag together again after being pitted against each other in Young Lions matches most of this tour. The problem is that barely any airtime is really given to these two storylines. It’s weird to me that the two things that were mentioned in the preview weren’t put front and center from a storytelling standpoint but the match itself was still very enjoyable.
Jado apparently wants to start the match against Liger and tries to shake Liger’s hand but Liger tells him and the rest of BC to go screw. Jado tries it again, though, shaking hands with all of BC (as a sign of good faith, I guess? not super convincing), and very carefully Liger shakes Jado’s hand, then once Jado has fully convinced him he’s on the up and up enough that Liger turns his back on BC for a hug and a hand-raise, they attack. Sting levels of dumb trust in his adversary right there. BC abuses Liger for a while before he tags in Kojima—Tenzan comes in for a very little bit and they do some cool tandem stuff and then Kojima stacks BC one by one in the corner for chops and then Fale runs into them which was a very fun spot.
BC is able to gain control again, beating up on Kojima. Tenzan wants in bad but Nakanishi gets the tag and he and Fale have a nice sequence—I would have liked to see Tenzan in this spot, though. Nagata gets tagged in rather unceremoniously for his spot with Fale, which I felt really should have come off a hot tag. Then Fale tags Jado just as unceremoniously after some good (albeit brief) stuff between Nagata and Fale. BC beats up Nagata a while until his teammates get involved and everything breaks down leading to Nagata tapping out Jado with Nagata Lock II.
Post-match, Liger fans Nagata as he addresses the crowd which is great. Nagata thanks them for coming out and says he hopes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Blue Justice next year. Backstage things get really interesting: Liger rips Suzuki for attacking him instead of just saying he wants a match and for attacking Young Lions—he even castigates the press for not caring or writing about these attacks and NJPW for allowing Suzuki to get in the ring. Then Nagata (with the rest of his team around him) puts over Liger huge with an emotional speech about how he’ll be their mentor until he retires in January no matter how many years they’ve been in this business and how sad it will be to see him go. Really powerful stuff. I absolutely cannot wait to see what Suzuki and Liger (I assume) have planned for Liger’s retirement match. That one is really going to be something special.
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