New Japan returned to Long Beach and delivered a dynamite show, featuring a second half filled with nothing but next level wrestling. Right now is a great time to be a fan of New Japan and that rhymed. Let’s get into the show.
Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero def. SoCal Uncensored @ 11:27 via 3K on Scorpio Sky – **
Exciting, fast-paced opener that had crowd support the entire way. The Long Beach crowd were happy to see 3K and supported them throughout the match. Not the cleanest or most crisp match but it was filled with enough fun moments that they didn’t lose interest. Just the right opener for this type of show.
Juice Robinson & David Finlay def. Hirooki Goto & Gedo @ 7:21 via Finlay Prima Nocta on Gedo – *1/2
There were noticeable jeers in response to Juice when his music hit but thanks to a few snug shots on Goto that got color, he managed to win most the doubters over. This added a little extra fire behind Goto which only ever helps matches. The U.S. fans really wanted to get behind Finlay and they were rewarded with a rare win by the third generation wrestler. Not as fun or exciting as the opener but the match was fine enough.
Killer Elite Squad def. Toru Yano & Chuckie T. @ 10:44 via Killer Bomb on Chuckie T. – **1/4
Great environment to this one thanks to Long Beach fully behind all of Yano’s antics. They ate up everything Yano threw their way, like the gluttonous pigs Americans are known for being. Nothing big or special, this was the same match you’d see on any New Japan house show. The difference was that, thanks to the fan support for both Chuckie and Yano, this was an absolute joy to watch. Thank you, Long Beach.
Cody & Marty Scurll def. Guerrillas of Destiny @ 10:48 via Cody Crossroads on Tanga Loa – *1/4
The match started with a little more unfolding of the Bullet Club story. G.O.D. officially have stated that they are not aligned with Cody. Scurll, on the other hand, remains to be conflicted. At one point, Scurll wanted to join G.O.D. but they turned him away. There were some good moments here, especially in the beginning, but as the match more on the less the crowd seemed to care. Tama and Scurll both received a lot of fan support and Cody had nice heel spots but by the six minute mark it seemed everyone was looking at their phone.
Naito, SANADA, Hiromu & BUSHI def. Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Taguchi & Dragon Lee @ 12:13 via Naito Destino on Taguchi – **
Long Beach was ecstatic to see LIJ tonight and they provided a fun, albeit fairly standard LIJ tag match. The opening and closing segments were a lot of fun, filled with high energy, but the middle was largely forgettable. Still, massive amounts of charisma kept the match from ever getting boring. These teams are incapable of a bad match but at the same time, this wasn’t much anything to rave about other than it being LIJ. I will say that it is always nice to see Hiromu and Dragon Lee tear into each other’s chest. Again, this wasn’t bad, I enjoyed the match, it just wasn’t at that level I was hoping they would reach.
Rey Mysterio Jr. came out and addressed the fans about his injury. He stated that although he cannot wrstle tonight, he does plan to wrestle for New Japan at a later date.
Will Ospreay def. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger @ 10:36 via Oscutter – ***1/4
This was an incredibly fun sprint. They spent ten minutes hitting one other with their signature moves, no wasted motion, no wasted time, just pedal to the metal and it was awesome. Liger hit three variations of the Brainbuster that all looked like they could have killed Ospreay and in retaliation, Ospreay hit him with with his own version of a Liger Bomb. Post-match Ospreay takes exception that he only had a match tonight de to Mysterio’s injury. He says that he’s consistently been the best junior and wants to prove it against Rey. Scurll attacked Ospreay from behind and stripped Mysterio of his mask. Liger came in for the save as he and Rey embrace to end the segment. Clear highlight of the show to this point. Complete madness all around, I could not have been more pleased.
Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr. def. Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii @ 19:51 via Sabre Orienteering with Napalm Death – ***1/2
Both Okada and Suzuki received great reactions from Long Beach, starting the match off with an awesome atmosphere. The interactions between Suzuki and Ishii stole the hearts of the crowd in attendance. Everyone was going insane for each of their striking battles which were absolutely insane. Long Beach was split 50-50 in their love/hate for Sabre but they ate up everything from the other three. I cannot stress enough how great this atmosphere was, they really made the match feel like a big deal. People in the west have a tendency to skip tag matches that are not for title but please do not fall into that trap here. Definitely go out of your way, this was something really great.
New Japan announces they will return to the U.S. on July 7th, this time in San Francisco!
IWGP US Heavyweight Championship
Jay White (c) def. Hangman Page @ 24:57 via Bladerunner – ***1/2
Bonkers. That is the best word to describe this match. Unfortunately the crowd didn’t seem as into this match as I was and made the atmosphere awkward. Once Page began doing his signature flips, Long Beach came alive. Maybe this was a case of them not excepting the style match they got but this was insane. Again, bonkers. Too many beautiful, yet deadly, suplexes to keep track. I really wish the atmosphere matched how I was feeling because the disconnect ended up bringing me down a little. If you like that old school pick ’em up and drop ’em on their heads style then I cannot recommend this match enough. Post-match, David Finlay attacks Jay White and challenges him for the title April 24th at Korakuen Hall. Between his matches with Omega and now Page, Jay White has put together back to back great championship matches.
Golden Lovers def. The Young Bucks @ 39:21 via Golden Trigger on Matt – ****1/4
If you were looking forward to this match I don’t think there is any way possible that you were let down. Two of the best, if not thee best, tag teams, not just today, but all time, having a career defining match. Conversely, if you weren’t a fan of these teams before, this likely didn’t win you over. Insane amount of innovation in a big blown out spectacle of eye candy. The stuff that makes purists fill with rage. The stuff that is changing the way the mainstream audience is looking at wrestling. The limits to which performers at an elite level can go continues to rise. Pure insanity and its unadulterated finest. Post-match, Omega and Nick embrace but Matt refuses to join along with his brother. Omega promises bigger and better thing when they return in July.
I believe that it’s fair to say that String Style Evolved over delivered on my expectations. Both the Suzuki tag and US title matches went above what I had hoped while the main and Ospreay/Liger were at the level I had expected. When the card was announced I saw many people complain about the amount of tag team matches but for the most part I think everything on the show delivered. Although we’re not accustomed to a show filled with tag matches, there should be no question left in anyone’s mind that the show can still deliver. For my own personal taste I consider the show a huge success. I found four matches to be great and whenever a main event with huge expectations delivers, how can you walk away upset?
Golden Lovers vs The Young Bucks
Suzuki & Sabre vs Okada & Ishii
Jay White vs Hangman Page
Will Ospreay vs Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger
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