Hello friends, and welcome to this historic night for New Japan! The first New Japan show held in the United States with a stacked card featuring Cody taking on Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the tournament for the brand new IWGP United States Championship. I’m also excited because I can watch it live and don’t have to watch on my computer, get a NJPW app for PS4 New Japan! Let’s get started.
We’re live from the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California with Jim Ross and Josh Barnett are on the call. The pre show is announced by a Japanese and American ring announcer, a nice touch. During this JR mentions Naito said if he wins the United State Championship, he’s throwing it in the ocean, hilarious.
Marty Scurll, The Young Bucks, Yujiro Takahashi, and Bad Luck Fale vs. Roppongi Vice, The Briscoe Brothers, and Will Ospreay
Sadly, Tokyo Latina didn’t make the trip. As expected, the Bullet Club was really over with the US fans, especially Scurll. Ospreay got a huge reaction for a shooting star press to the outside springboarding off the top rope. There was a great spot in the match where Rocky goes for the Forever Clotheslines on Fale but they don’t phase the largest member of the Bullet Club. This led to Fale giving Beretta the Bad Luck Fall to the outside where he landed on members of the Chaos team and Marty Scurll. The match ended when the Meltzer Driver was stopped and Romero rolled up Matt Jackson for 3.
Winners: Roppongi Vice, The Briscoe Brothers, and Will Ospreay at 9:23. Crowd was hot for the opener and JR did a nice job, he definitely adds a huge amount of credibility to this. I’ve heard him a few times on the AXS show but I don’t watch usually since I’ve seen it a few months earlier, but he’s much better live.
Hiromu Takahashi, Evil, Bushi, Sanada vs. Dragon Lee, Titan, Volador Jr, and Jushin Thunder Liger
Liger is hugely over with the Long Beach crowd which shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Dragon Lee and Takahashi squared off in the middle of the match and really got the crowd into it. Titan was also impressive with some of the moves he pulled off. Takahashi distracted the ref as Sanada put a chair over Titan’s head and Evil nailed the chair with another chair. Takahashi then hits the Time Bomb to Titan for 3.
Winners: Los Ingobernables de Japon at 6:46.
Time for the first round of the United States Championship tournament.
Hangman Page vs. Jay Lethal
Lethal has taped ribs and JR said it was from an ROH match with the Beer City Bruiser. Lethal hit an early suicide dive sending Page crashing through the metal guard rail, not sure that was supposed to happen since he usually does those in threes. Page gets control of the match targeting the ribs of Lethal. Lethal took back control but hurt himself with the big elbow drop and Page took control again with some more shots to the bad ribs. Lethal tried the Lethal Injection and hits it but Page’s head seemed to slip out during the move so he didn’t get all of it, not sure if it was planned that way but JR said it was due to the bad ribs so I’ll agree. Lethal hits another Lethal Injection for the win.
Winner: Jay Lethal at 8:30.
Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Juice Robinson
I should point out, for those without AXS, that they’re not cutting into matches for commercial breaks which is so great. I can’t stand that, even if they do air the match during commercials like some other company in America. Speaking of that company, Juice Robinson has been killing it in New Japan since leaving there and this was a hell of a match. Sabre worked over the left arm of Juice, as JR pointed out Juice is left handed much like me, and eventually set up Juice for the arm bar. Sabre turned the arm bar into a triangle arm bar which Juice broke out of with a power bomb which got a huge reaction. Sabre eventually locks in the Octopus Hold and every time Juice goes for the ropes Sabre manages to grab another arm and lock it up. It was a really impressive submission and it led to Robinson tapping out.
Winner: Zack Sabre Jr. at 10:09. A bit of an upset since I wouldn’t have been shocked to see Juice go pretty far in this tournament but showcasing Sabre Jr. to an audience that may have never seen him before is never a bad idea. Definitely the best match of the show thus far. I also can’t overstate how important it was JR mentioning Juice was left handed, it’s nice touches like that, that make him the best.
Tempura Boys, Yoshi Tatsu, and Billy Gunn vs. Kushida, David Finaly, Jay White, and Hiroshi Tanahashi
Taking a quick break from the US Championship tournament to set up the Intercontinental Championship match for night 2. Kushida seemed to be the most over guy in the match, especially after he told the former DX member to, “suck it.” Gunn is finally tagged in to a chorus of boos, especially after telling Kushida to, “Suck my…” you fill in the blank but I doubt the AXS censors were thrilled with it. Tanahashi and Gunn evnetually square off and it was somewhat sloppy. Looked like a combination of Gunn’s age and Tanahashi’s torn bicep. After a bit of chaos Jay White hits a flatliner to Tatsu for the win.
Winners: Kushida, Finlay, White, and Tanahashi at 9:40. Obviously a lot has been made about Billy Gunn inexplicably getting a title shot. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the match. Gunn’s age is showing as he failed to catch Tanahashi from a cross body and you can tell Tanahashi’s arm is hurt when he does the Slingblade. For me, it’s whatever. I’m sure the match won’t be good and I think there’s several people you could have used, even ex WWE guys if that’s the route you wanted to go, in Gunn’s place but it’s not like he’s winning so it probably doesn’t matter. Famous last words right?
There’s an intermission with a really good Cody/Okada video package. After the video they cut back to JR and Josh, before JR can get out a sentence they cut to commercial. Well, they’re new to live TV, what can you say? Speaking of commercials, AXS is showing a commercial for a new Sammy Hagar show every single break. Sammy, your commercial is driving me crazy.
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match
War Machine vs. The Guerillas of Destiny (c)
Before the match, Rowe said in Osaka you brought weapons into the match, so let’s bring weapons into the match now. Tama Tonga grabs the mic and nails Rowe with it essentially accepting the stipulation of No-DQ. See, this is the kind of Americanizing I can get behind, not so much Billy Gunn. Hanson had a really impressive Forever Clothesline on both members of the GOD that got a nice ovation from the fans. Roa hits a big diving head-butt followed by a big splash from Tama Tonga for a 2. War Machine come back with that tandem pop up power slam on Tama Tonga for 2. War Machine went for the Fallout but Chase Owen interfered with a chair shot to Hanson. GOD hit a tandem power bomb to Rowe onto a pair of chairs and that only gets a 2. A table gets set up and War Machine hit the Fallout on Tonga Roa through the table for the win.
Winners and new IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions: War Machine at 11:13. Very surprising to see the title change there but hey it leads to more matches with the two teams and I’m OK with that. I wonder if rumors of War Machine going to WWE were more of that fake news.
Back to the US Championship tournament.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Crowd was solidly behind Naito at the beginning of the match but he got some boos through his usual disrespectful actions like spitting or toying with Ishii. At some point Naito started to bleed from the mouth. The match was a very good back and forth affair, very physical. Naito hit his side slam move he calls Gloria for a 2. The match isn’t even over yet, and it’s definitely the best match of the night thus far. Ishii manages to nail Naito with a brainbuster for the win.
Winner: Tomohiro Ishii at 15:51. A bit of an upset there but hey you need upsets in tournaments to keep it interesting right? Very good match and we’ll get Ishii vs. Sabre Jr. tomorrow which should be quite good.
Michael Elgin vs. Kenny Omega
Happy Canada Day to these two and all the great Canadian readers of PW Ponderings. Kenny got the biggest reaction on the show and definitely is coming across as a star. New Japan needs this guy long term if they want to really expand into the US, just saying. Elgin hits an impressive delayed suplex for a 2. Any offense Elgin gets is booed. The match spills onto the outside, Elgin tries a running power bomb to the entrance ramp but Omega counters it and hits the Kotaro Krusher on the ramp. Later in the match Omega hits the Rise of the Terminator to the outside. Elgin managed to regain control with a German suplex on the apron and hits a top rope Elgin Bomb for 2, really impressive. Omega takes over with one of the best looking V Trigger’s I’ve ever seen. After a few more V Trigger’s Omega hits the One Winged Angel for 3.
Winner: Kenny Omega at 22:32. Well it goes without saying but that was the new best match of the night. Omega and Lethal should be really good.
IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match
Cody vs. Kazuchika Okada (c)
Cody getting a lot of heat which I know some people interpret as go away heat but you know what, I like it. God forbid a heel get booed anymore. Any heel that gets booed it has to be go away heat, well I say screw that, Cody is a good heel. Well if anyone was hating Cody for his 3 star matches, this was definitely his best match since leaving WWE, that being said I missed the Cody/Daniels match. After two Rain Makers, Omega comes down and is going to throw the towel in but Brandy Rhodes stops him. What a great story, Cody then tosses the towel back at Omega. Cody tries to put Okada away with the One Winged Angel but Okada gets out of it, as he tends to do then comes back with the spinning tombstone piledriver and the Rain Maker for the win.
Winner: Kazuchika Okada at 27:12. After the match Omega told Okada being in the main event of this show was a great honor and they have a rematch in the G1 but tonight is his night.
Overall I think night one was a success. The big matches all delivered and the stars came across as stars. The commentary was good minus a few slip ups and the production had a few missteps as well but nothing too egregious. I’ll be back for tomorrow for night two. In the mean time follow me on twitter at Eddyc85 and or PIWShow. Also check out my podcast on iTunes, Podbean, or Stitcher it’s called the Politically Incorrect Wrestling Show. If you were at the show please tweet me and let me know how the show was, I’ll use your tweets for tomorrow’s review.