Sunday, 16 March 2014 10:25
Best match: Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii
Worst match: Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shelton Benjamin
My thumbs are up because of the Naito-Ishii, Shibata-Anderson matches, and the fact that nothing was technically bad. It's just that in my opinion this really dragged. I feel like I've just watched a four hour show as opposed to a three hour one. Maybe the pacing was off by cramming nine matches in that time, or maybe it was one match too many, or maybe it was just me. But I did find the match order puzzling, some of the pairings a little dull and monotonous, and overall it was quite predictable. People who recently got beat got their wins back and in a tournament of sixteen there's no doubt that Shibata's going to win the whole thing.
Yujiro Takahashi vs. Shelton Benjamin: A fairly standard opener with Shelton showing some good strength on a couple of spots. The best being an extremely inventive double underhook suplex.
Toru Yano vs. Minoru Suzuki: I felt that I've seen this match a million times, but I found myself enjoying it a lot and thought it could of been their best meeting so far. Minoru is such a good physical storyteller as was shown with the beautifully worked armbar and the facial expressions that followed. He also impressed with an equally picturesque dropkick.
Katsuyori Shibata vs. Karl Anderson: A wonderful encounter that showed Shibata is more than ready to be a main event player. Not to say Anderson didn't play his part, because he did, and he made Shibata look like a star in the process. Great stuff, and I can't wait to see a rematch.
Hirooki Goto vs. Doc Gallows: This didn't grab my attention. It wasn't bad by any means and had some enjoyable sequences, but I just didn't care who won either way. My main criticism though is with the booking of Gallows. He plays an effective big man, although New Japan have lots of them already, and ones that are protected a lot more thoroughly. If he gets beat all the time, his scariness is negated somewhat.
El Desperado, Kota Ibushi & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jado, Gedo & Kazuchika Okada: This didn't do much for me; which is surprising with Okada and Tanahashi in the mix. They were in together only briefly, and the interaction after the match was even briefer, although it did get me excited about a future "title vs. title" bout. As for the other four, if the idea is for Gedo and Jado to feud with Desperado and Ibushi, then I'm not intrigued. Gedo and Ibushi will probably be a good match, but it's not one I'm clamouring to see.
Lance Archer vs. Prince Devitt: Having Devitt attack Archer before the bell was a masterstroke. It put him in an adversarial position and put the crowd firmly behind Archer. The match itself had a lot of Brock Lesnar about it. Like the chair shots before the bell, throwing Devitt over the announce desk, and Archer's shriek. I had mixed feelings about the finish; I was glad Devitt went through, however I wish he did it by more nefarious means. Like Gallows, Archer seems less monstrous looking up at the lights.
Tougi Makabe vs. Bad Luck Fale: There's nothing like two mastodons shaking the foundations and this just about delivered. The Bad Luck Fall was incredibly impressive.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii: Not a patch on their previous singles match, but still pretty excellent. Some of the highlights were the body bouncing brainbuster off the top on Naito, the immensely ferocious super Frankensteiner on Ishii, and throughout the bout both competitors no selling each other's manoeuvres. Although, despite being entertained, I feel this feud should end for the time being. They've faced off countless times over the last three months and I have to admit I'm a little jaded.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr.: I won't lie, by this point I'd checked out and just wanted the show to end. Regardless, I couldn't understand why this was headlining. I half expected them to have something special up their sleeve and blow me away, unfortunately they didn't. This would of been an average undercard contest, never mind a main event. Needless to say, I wasn't enamoured and cannot fathom why Ishii and Naito didn't close the show.