Destruction comes to an end at the Kobe World Hall in front of 6,454 fans eager to see next installment of the Tanahashi/Okada series. Also featured is the first of two semifinal matches for the vacant IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. That and a lot more fun along the way, let’s get started!
Yota Tsuji vs Yuya Uemura – 10 Minute Draw – **
I already love this rivalry. These two young lions play off one another really well, each of them excelling at their respective strength. Uemura has that amateur wrestling feel while Tsuji is all about the power game. Their energy is always high, neither wanting to be outdone by the other. Uemura had a smooth spot where he couldn’t apply the Boston Crab so he transitioned into a Jackknife pin for a nearfall. He found himself in the Boston Crab in the closing stretch but was able to wait it out until the time limit was reached. They met forehead to forehead after the match but made sure to bow to the fans, thanking them for their support before heading to the back.
Roppongi 3K def. Shota Umino & Ren Narita @ 8:47 via YOH Falcon Arrow on Narita – **1/4
The young lion team seems to be lobbying for inclusion into this year’s junior tag league. Narita shined brightest tonight. He battled out of SHO’s Gutwrech Suplex twice before winding up delivering one of his own. Later on he’d also dish out a Belly-to-Belly Suplex onto YOH. Umino showed good fire as well, landing a pair of dropkicks and holding his own in a forearm exchange. Narita did his best to trap YOH into several sneaky pins but wasn’t able to find the right combination and found himself taking the loss via Falcon Arrow. Great fight from both lions, especially Narita.
Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger & Tiger Mask IV def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado @ 6:46 via Crucifix Pin – **1/2
The legends were introduced first but before they could make it to the ring, team Suzuki-Gun attack them from behind. Liger is hit with chairs and Tiger is isolated in the ring but he’s able to fire back with relative ease. Liger regroups and hits a few Shoteis before landing a Frankensteiner onto Desperado from the second for good measure. Kanemaru cuts off the Liger Bomb but quickly finds himself in an armbar from Tiger. The old timers were on absolute fire. This was a whole lot of fun. They had an answer for everything Suzuki-Gun tried to pull, winning the match by countering Kanemaru’s Brainbuster into a Crucifix Pin. Post-match they laid claim for the junior tag titles and I’m all about that match taking place at King of Pro-Wrestling. Make it happen.
Nagata, Nakanishi, Tenzan & Kojima def. Makabe, Honma, Taguchi & Yoshida @ 9:56 via Nagata Backdrop Hold on Yoshida – **1/2
Nothing out of the ordinary but like the last match, the old timers came out on fire. Everyone got their signature spot and Yoshida had a nice showdown with Nagata in the closing stretch. They’ve worked together several times in the Lion’s Gate Project shows and Nagata sees a lot of potential in him so he asked Yoshida to really bring it, which he did by busting Nagata’s mouth open. Exactly the match you’d picture in your head, nothing more, nothing less but still good.
Best Friends def. Killer Elite Squad @ 12:42 via Beretta Crucifix Pin on Archer – **3/4
As a long-time Beretta fan, I’ve had my reservations about his ceiling in New Japan. His reactions are generally lukewarm at best but this feud with K.E.S. seems to be working for him. They dominated him most of this match, keeping him isolated but unable to keep him down. He kicked out of a huge Chokeslam from Archer which shocked the crowd and got them to begin rallying. The rally was short-lived as a Killer Bomb soon followed but Archer’s lazy pin allowed Beretta to hook him up for the win. The result surprised the crowd and seemed to make them genuinely happy. Kids flocked to the rails in order to congratulate Beretta on his win with a handshake. Really sweet moment. The most I’ve ever seen a crowd support him.
White, Y-H & Ospreay def. Juice, Finlay & Henare @ 9:04 via White Blade Runner on Henare – **1/2
High energy from everyone involved. Y-H came out on fire with some dropkicks, FinJuice fired back with a pair of their own and Ospreay, as usual, wasn’t to be outdone. He got the hot tag and hit the top rope 619, top rope Senton to the floor and a Springboard forearm back inside the ring, all within a thirty second flurry. Y-H hooks Henare up for White to attack but Henare escapes and instead Y-H gets blasted. Still, White wastes no time and grounds Henare with Blade Runner. Y-H shoves White after the match and stomps off to the back. Ospreay is caught between the two, unsure how to handle the situation.
Naito, EVIL & SANADA def. Suzuki, Sabre & TAKA @ 11:19 via EVIL on TAKA – **3/4
Suzuki-Gun attack before the bell but are handled with ease. It’s not until Naito hits the ropes that Suzuki makes another attack, locking him into an armbar over the top rope. The crowd rallies behind Naito which causes Suzuki to stop his attacks and give them the death glare. They trade strikes, Naito spits at Suzuki and floors him with a flying forearm and they tag out. EVIL shows Sabre he has new tricks by countering his holds but Sabre schools him in new submissions, showing him he has more to learn. Falling into his old bag of tricks, EVIL decides to use power and takes out TAKA for the win, taunting Sabre. A lot of attitude between EVIL and Sabre. I’m all for this feud continuing to grow.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semifinals
KUSHIDA def. BUSHI @ 16:42 via Back to the Future – ***
BUSHI is a hard wrestler to get excited for because he burns you with uninspired performances more often than not. Not tonight. He came out on fire, had a game plan but deviated and found himself swallowed up by KUSHIDA. BUSHI caught KUSHIDA with a Lungblower, drove him into the rails and focused on grinding down the head and neck area. He got cocky though and let KUSHIDA up and was unable to get him back down after that. KUSHIDA had an answer for all of BUSHI’s tricks, even dodging an MX and turning it into a Hoverboard Lock. BUSHI thought he could gain the advantage back into his favor by using the mist but even that couldn’t stop KUSHIDA. One Back to the Future wasn’t enough, KUSHIDA wanted to prove a point by hitting a second and scoring the win. This felt like a slap to the face in every way possible to the character of BUSHI. He had the match in full control, it wasn’t until his ego got in the way and he tried his old shenanigans that KUSHIDA was able to rebound. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a change coming soon for BUSHI.
Wrestle Kingdom Briefcase Rights
Hiroshi Tanahashi def. Kazuchika Okada @ 35:44 via High Fly Flow – ****1/4
The feud of the decade continued tonight in the main event and like always, they found a new wrinkle to keep the story from becoming stagnant. This is their third match in just under five months yet every time, the stakes have been different. A real testament to the focus this rivalry receives. Okada wastes no time, immediately going after the worn out knees of Tanahashi. That was his focus from the start and he rarely deviated. Tanahashi was quick to return the favor and the match began taking a dark turn. Okada started grinding on Tanahashi knee, even standing on it with all of his weight. The crowd didn’t appreciate Okada taking this approach but that didn’t stop him from applying a kneebar and holding until the count of four.
Soon after, he dropkicked Tanahashi off the top rope but instead of falling, Tanahashi’s leg got stuck and was giving out from under his weight. Down but not out, Tanahashi ducked the Rainmaker, hooked Okada for a Twist & Shout, landed a Slingblade, went to the top for a High Fly Flow but Okada got his knees up. The damage began taking its toll on Okada too. He attempted a Tombstone but the pressure on his knees was too much. They traded strikes until Okada quickly realized Tanahashi still has a lot left in the tank and kicked his knee out from under him. Another Rainmaker is attempted soon after but Tanahashi slaps his way out of it, hits a second Slingblade and connects with the High Fly Flow but tends to his knees before making the cover which affords Okada enough time to recover.
He goes up for another High Fly Flow but Okada dropkicks him on his way down, lands the Tombstone, goes for the Rainmaker but Tanahashi ducks and transitions into a Dragon Suplex for a great nearfall. Again, Tanahashi climbs to the top but Okada cuts him off with a dropkick and meets him on the ropes. Okada tries to Tombstone Tanahashi off the second rope but in a moment of desperation, Tanahashi slaps Okada and as Okada stumbles off the ropes, Tanahashi leaps off with a High Fly Flow. With Okada on his knees, Tanahashi delivers a Crossbody, followed by the finishing High Fly Flow. Another excellent edition to this legendary feud. They continue to find new wrinkles to add into the story, it never feels old.
Post-match, Tanahashi looks to send the crowd home happy but Jay White charges in from the back and lays him out with a Blade Runner. White then turns his focus to Okada and begins stomping him into the mat. Next, his focus is on Rocky Romero. He shoves him into the crowd and takes his chair. Poor YOSHI-HASHI tries to make the save but trips, busts himself open and is less effective than planned. Gedo comes out, takes the chair from White but instead of saving Okada, he attacks Okada. White hits a Blade Runner onto Okada and Gedo ushers in a ‘new era’ as he calls it and that’s how we end the show.
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for since January. Everyone knew White was going to betray Chaos, he never had any real loyalty to them to begin with. Gedo is the snake in the grass, attacking on a show that was without Ishii and Goto. Neither Ospreay, Best Friends nor 3K came out and the jury is still out on Ishii, Yano and Goto. What we know right now is White and Gedo are together on one side while Okada, Y-H and Romero are on the other. It’ll be interesting to see where the lines are drawn within Chaos.
Start to finish, I thought this was a good show. There was a lot to sink my teeth into and every match got a passing grade. I’m usually not a BUSHI fan but even I was feeling bad for how the guy got treated in his match. The big takeaway is of course the fallout of Chaos but that shouldn’t take away from yet another great installment of the Tanahashi/Okada series. That’s the match to see and stick around for the post-match attack.
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