Best Match: Tanahashi/Goto/Naito vs. Okada/Nakamura/Ishii
Worst Match: Captain New Japan/Honma vs. Yano/Iizuka
I decided to get this show at basically the last second, as I'm an insomniac and was still awake at the 4:30 am start time, and $15 seemed like a great price to try my first iPPV. I've always been more of a Dragon Gate (current) & NOAH (historically, not so much now) fan, but I've been catching up on all the great New Japan matches through Youtube and the like since the awards issue came out, so really it's your newsletter that turned me onto the promotion. And holy crap, if this is what a live B-show was like, they just made a repeat customer out of me. I will definitely be getting at least one of the two shows next weekend (maybe not both, $50 is kind of a lot...), because this show rocked.
First of all, the crowd was great all night long. They reacted to almost every match like they were seeing stars in the ring, and that always helps. The Bullet Club got more boos than I've ever heard from a New Japan crowd. Suzukigun was beloved, especially Minoru & Davey Boy, and matching them up against the Bullet Club group really worked. And I think CHAOS were ostensibly supposed to be the heels in the main event, but the crowd absolutely adored all three men, especially Okada & Ishii, even booing the babyfaces at different times. The way the crowd reacted all night long on what was clearly a B-show just added to the impression that this is a very hot promotion.
Secondly, I had a real hard time picking a Best or Worst match, because the entire card was just so solid. Not gonna go match-by-match as I'm now really tired, but nothing was bad and almost everything was great. WWE is so missing the boat by only allowing one save per team in their tag matches, because the Japanese style of needing to incapacitate and hold down the partners to get a fall adds so much drama and unpredictability. I have no idea why they stubbornly refuse to change such a stupid rule.
Finally, this show just looked major league. The gaijin are all utilized extremely well by mixing them up into units, all of which seemed to have their own personality and cool matching colors. Having so many strong units running around at once ticks one of my own personal boxes (maybe because when I came of age as a wrestling fan was right at the start of that whole nWo thing), so that added something to the show for me. This show felt like a big league pro wrestling show in a completely different, and arguably better way than WWE does, and I had about 500x more fun watching it than I did watching the Royal Rumble (or really any WWE show in recent memory, maybe with the exception of SummerSlam). My brother, who is the definition of a lapsed fan as I don't think he's watched much of any wrestling since 2006, walked in during the TenKoji six-man tag and, after watching until the finish, remarked to me "this is what a pro wrestling show is supposed to look like." Yup. If I was Jeff Jarrett trying to open my own alternative to WWE, I would be studying these shows and trying to find anything I can to adapt for an American audience, instead of trying to be another WWE-lite like TNA. And hey, speaking of TNA, there were, what, five guys on this show tearing it up that TNA totally misused (Alex Shelley, the Young Bucks, Okada, and Doc)? That's embarrassing.
Overall, this show was great. I don't know if I would *highly* recommend getting the replay, as the novelty of watching it live as my first Japanese iPPV probably had a big part in my enjoyment level, but if you're bored definitely check it out. This is the best pro wrestling promotion in the world, and IMO Dragon Gate is their only real competition. Great show.
Best Match: Naito, Tanahashi & Goto vs. Ishii, Nakamura & Okada
Worst Match: Iizuka & Yano vs. Capitan New Japan & Homna
For a non-major event, I thought the show was good. All of the post-intermission matches were good or better. I came away from the show more excited about several matches on the New Beginning cards, which is really the entire point of a show like this.
Opener with Taka & Taichi versus Tanaka & Komatsu was fine. Komatsu looked good. The next two matches (six-Man with BUSHI, Liger & Tiger Mask and Yano/Iizuki tag) were about what you would expect with nothing to see really. The Ibushi/El Desperado six-man had some good moments, particularly from Desperado & Ibushi.
Wataru Inoue announced his retirement post-match. He has been out for ever with injuries and apparently decided that he could not make it back. Inoue was fighting back tears during his speech, as was Nagata who watched from the entrance area.
Everything after intermission was good. Suzuki-gun versus Bullet Club six-man was the second best match of the night. Gallows and Davey Boy Smith Jr. looked good and the IWGP Heavyweight tag title match is one of the New Beginning matches I am looking more forward to after watching this card. Eight-man was fine. Shelley & KUSHIDA pulled out a few nice double teams. I liked the main event quite a bit. The focus was heavily on Ishii/Naito. New Japan has done a great job building to that match. I am not a big Ishii fan and am indifferent on Naito, but the build has me actively looking forward to their singles match.