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NJPW ‘Takashi Iizuka Retirement Show’ (2.21.19) Results & Review

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Tonight is the celebration of Takashi Iizuka’s thirty-two year career in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He lost his way in 2008 but Hiroyoshi Tenzan hasn’t given up hope. He’s determined to bring back the Iizuka he once knew and tonight is his final chance. Let’s get started!

Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles def. Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger & Yuya Uemura @ 7:48 via Eagles 450 Splash on Uemura – **1/4
Robbie Eagles returns for the first time since the Super Jr. Tag League, once again teamed up with Ishimori. Liger is set to be Ishimori’s next challenger for the junior title at the anniversary show in March. He took it to Ishimori early on, putting him in various submissions and completely dominating him on the mat. Eagles had his hands full with the young lion who fired off a dropkick into the corner and set up for a suplex. Eagles floated through the suplex, dropped Uemura with the Turbo Backpack and finished with a 450 Splash. A fine opener that showcased Liger’s ability to still go and refreshed the fans on Eagles’ offense. Liger and Ishimori have a short brawl after the match.

Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Toa Henare & Tiger Mask IV def. Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi, Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji @ 11:36 via Henare Toa Bottom on Tsuji – **1/4
We saw more out of Makabe than his usual tag team outings. He as more willing to work with Tsuji who he likely sees as the young lion who’ll take his place. Tiger had interactions with Narita who, like Makabe, probably sees similarities between he and Narita. Big battle between Henare and Tsuji with forearms traded back and forth. Henare cuts it off with a headbutt followed by a lariat and a uranage for the win. A good amount of fire from everyone involved.

Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI def. Yuji Nagata & Shota Umino @ 13:45 via Y-H Butterfly Lock on Umino – ***1/2
Ishii and Nagata pick up right where they left off at HNew Year Dash, big chops and forearms traded back and forth. Nagata ducks a lariat, goes for the Nagata Lock, Ishii escapes but Nagata is quick to stay on top and bring Umino in. Ishii makes quick work of the young lion, traps him in the single-leg Boston Crab and tells Nagata to come back in the ring. They brawl outside, Umino has a chance against Y-H but Ishii comes back and pushes Umino to give his all. Umino lands ten consecutive overhand chops to Ishii’s chest all the while Ishii remains stone faced and backs Umino into the corner. Nagata helps the young lion out, takes a suplex from Ishii but pops back up and drops Ishii with an exploder.

The two once again brawl outside. Y-H gets caught in a Boston Crab by Umino so Ishii makes his way back in and frees Y-H with a headbutt. Nagata aides Umino is his comeback, holding Y-H up for a dropkick off the top. Umino lands a bridging German suplex, slaps Y-H for kicking out, eats a kick before being put away with the Butterfly Lock. Intense match. Ishii was on fire. Both he and Nagata continue to battle after the match.

Roppongi 3K def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru @ El Desperado @ 12:13 via 3K on Kanemaru – ***1/4
3K come out with a game plan and are noticeably more aggressive to get the jump on Suzuki-Gun. SHO blind tags in order to get the quick double team advantage but Suzuki-Gun nullify the plan immediately by taking the match outside. 3K have to match their new found craftiness with determination. SHO takes a lot of abuse from a double team, eventually fighting through a third slam and turning it into a suplex. YOH comes in, has to fight through eye gouges, manages a Dragon Screw, but the numbers again find SHO at a disadvantage, even taking a Deep Impact. YOH cuts off the pin, they double Kanemaru but Desperado cuts off the flurry with a spear. YOH dropkicks Desperado out of the ring, follows with a plancha outside. SHO ducks the whiskey spray, lands a lariat, Kanemaru escapes the Shock Arrow but in doing so is dropped with 3K. There was a strong sense of urgency from 3K. The win establishes them as the true next challengers as opposed to another three way.

Shingo and BUSHI make a surprise appearance after the match. YOH tells them they’re coming for the titles. 3K are taken out by Rebellion and the champions tell them that they’re no match.

Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi def. Zack Sabre Jr. & TAKA Michinoku & 10:55 via Taguchi Roll Up on TAKA – **3/4
After a couple of really heated matches, in came the comedy. Goto and Taguchi looked to work on their tag team chemistry. It didn’t work early on but they managed to land a double team in the closing stretch. Sabre had strong interactions with both Goto and Taguchi. He got in on the goofiness of Taguchi as well with a series of uppercuts to the butt and caught a hip attack into a submission as well as turning a pin from Goto into an armbar. Tons of creativity as we’ve come to expect from a match involving Sabre. The finish came when Taguchi looked for Dodon. TAKA rolled through into a pin and Taguchi rolled through TAKA’s pin into one of his own. The blend of Taguchi’s goofiness mixed well with the serious threat of Sabre.

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay def. Killer Elite Squad @ 12:51 via Ospreay Oscutter on Smith – ***1/4
Speaking of Sabre’s creativity, being paired with the two giants of Suzuki-Gun gave Ospreay a chance to showcase his unique offense. He used the height advantage of K.E.S. as a way to give him space to backflip out of slams and suplexes and his speed to drop them with kicks before they could account for his reversals. Smith in particular had a great showcase. He showed that he too can cartwheel around and be athletic as well as use his strength and submission abilities to trap Ospreay. There was a great dynamic between those two in particular. Tanahashi came to make the save on a couple of occasions but this was mainly a battle for Ospreay. The crowd rallied behind him as he fought out of a Killer Bomb, dropped Smith with a Spanish Fly and finished with an Oscutter. Really strong chemistry between Ospreay and Smith as Ospreay adds to his list of heavyweights he’s defeated.

Takashi Iizuka Retirement Match
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano def. Takashi Iizuka, Minoru Suzuki & Taichi @ 22:12 via Tenzan Moonsault on Iizuka – ***1/4

Commentator Shinpei Nogami comes out to call Iizuka’s retirement. Nogami was a key player in Iizuka’s madness. He would constantly attack and embarrass the commentator to the point he needed therapy. Upon making his final entrance, Iizuka saw Nogami at ringside and for a final time attacked the commentator, ripping his shirt of his body and into pieces.

The match itself saw a lot of brawling. Tenzan pleaded for the Iizuka he once knew to come back. This only enraged Iizuka. Taichi removes Iizuka’s mask and both he and Suzuki chewed on Tenzan for the camera. Okada and Suzuki had a lengthy exchange that Iizuka wound up cutting off with an attempted sleeper hold. The crowd was going nuts for Iizuka to lock it in. Okada would escape and hit the Rainmaker pose but Iizuka elbowed out of one and turned a second into a knee bar. The crowd came unglued as Iizuka showed signs of his former self. Tenzan lacked the killer instinct to put Iizuka away which put him into prime positioning for the sleeper.

Taichi distracted the referee while Iizuka grabbed the Iron Fingers. Tenzan pleads for Iizuka not to do it but it doesn’t work. He managed to duck the attack, Yano dropped Iizuka with a low blow, Okada followed with a Tombstone and Tenzan came off the top, delivering a headbutt. Once again Tenzan pleads for Iizuka to come back but he refuses. Tenzan puts their tag team shirt over Iizuka, climbs to the top, and lands a moonsault, pinning Iizuka for the win with their shirt between them.

Tenzan holds out his hand for Iizuka and the crowd pleads for him to shake. Instead Iizuka bites and Suzuki-Gun all come out from the back to hold Tenzan for a final attack with the Iron Fingers. Iizuka drops Tenzan once and for all and heads through the crowd on his way to the back. Suzuki gives a quick ten bell salute for the veteran. Taichi sees the glove in the middle of the ring. He teases putting it on. The crowd gasps, he smirks and walks off holding the glove instead. They cheer for one final appearance but Iizuka doesn’t come. That’s how we end the night.

Great sendoff for a long-standing member of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling roster. Suzuki-Gun take the loss but it’s the fans who ultimately lose as they were unable to bring back the Iizuka of old. This was a fun and memorable exit, filled with a lot of history that didn’t receive the happy ending the fans were begging to see.

Recommended Matches
Ishii & Y-H vs Nagata & Umino
Tenzan, Okada & Yano vs Iizuka, Suzuki & Taichi
Tanahashi & Ospreay vs K.E.S.
Roppongi 3K vs Suzuki-Gun

Robert McCauley hasn't missed an NJPW show since the launch of NJPW World. Always be on the look out for his reviews where he shares results and gives his honest opinions on the goings-on of New Japan Pro-Wrestling.

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