New Japan Back to Yokohama Arena feedback and UFC 173

Back to Yokohama Arena.

Thumbs in the Middle
. One great match, 2 or 3 goods ones, but the rest of the card was average or less. Don't know if the place was empty or just a bad crowd but the reactions weren't great. Probably the best thing on the show was the match that didn't happen (Suzuki squash). Thank God that feud is over. By all accounts Yano vs. Iuzuka should be moved to the pre-show, and if they know any better they should add Capt NJ to that mix to get rid of him too. AJ and Okada did a lot but the crowd never really got into it. Think part of the reason is that AJ is a natural face. He is a normal looking guy (not a monster) with a moveset full of really cool moves. It's really hard to "hate" that. It didn't work in TNA and I bet it won't work here. The Junior tournament is around the corner yet they put all their juniors wrestlers in a meaningless 8-man match. Not the best way to promote your next tour.
Best Match: Ishii vs. Ibushi. Great match but because it was for the title I knew the finish so I never got into Ibushi's near falls. Plus, if you see one Ishii match you see them all: Fake Frye/Takayama deal 2 or 3 times per match, a couple of trademark spots and then the kicking out of all finishers until the end. NJPW needs to merge the NEVER title with the IC. Ishii is killing himself for nothing.
Worst Match: Sakuraba vs. Rolles Gracie or Nakamura vs. Daniel Gracie

1. Bushi, Taguchi, Kushida & Shelley vs Liger, Tiger IV, Dorada & Desperado **
2. Anderson, Gallows, Takahashi & Tonga vs. Nagata, Nakanishi, Homna & Capt NJ *3/4
3. Tenzan & Kojima vs. KES vs. Brisco & Conway **1/4
4. Suzuki & Benjamin vs. Iuzuka &Yano. (N/R)
5. Fale vs. Naito ***
6. Sakuraba vs. Rolles Gracie *
7. Ishii vs. Ibushi ****1/4
8. Tanahashi & Makabe vs. Shibata & Goto ***1/2
9. Nakamura vs. Daniel Gracie *1/2
10. Styles vs. Okada ***1/2

Leonardo II Mendez
San Sebastian, PR

Hi Dave,
I went to yesterday's New Japan Back to the Yokohama Arena show and just wanted to send in a few notes.  I won't send a full match-by-match report as I know you'll be watching this show.
I'll start with the bad.  This was far from a full house.  It looked like maybe 7,000 or 8,000 people with a large portion of the building blocked off for the stage and still large sections of empty seats were very visible.  This was the first sign that they need to change something up to keep their recent momentum going.
The crowd was also very quiet and cold for the most part, which was disappointing.
The show was enjoyable and a Thumbs Up because New Japan had a very good presentation.  The large stage and pyro made everything seem like a big deal and it made for an overall fun afternoon even though some of the action in the ring was lacking.  It would be difficult for New Japan to have a worse semi-main event, as we've come to expect Nakamura to have awesome matches every time out but there was only so much he could do here.  But worst match of the show, as the broken record continues to spin, was the match with the NWA guys.  Conway has been coming in for months and I still can't tell you a single signature move that he does, and he couldn't be less over.
On the opposite end, Ishii vs. Ibushi was an awesome match, and the match of the night.  In terms of best matches in Japan of 2014, I would rank it just slightly behind Ibushi vs. Okada from the Anniversary show which I also saw live, and on the same level as Naito vs. Ishii from New Beginning in Osaka, the 2 Tanahashi vs. Nakamura matches and Taiji Ishimori vs. Daisuke Harada, and slightly ahead of the best Dragon Gate matches at Dead or Alive.
AJ Styles vs. Okada was also great although the Bullet Club interference stuff should not be part of New Japan title matches.  I think a Styles title run could be interesting and could help them get some momentum back since there will be a ton of fresh matchups with really over contenders; it's far from a disaster just because of one bad crowd, but if they continue with the interference in their world title matches then I see trouble.
I thought the Tanahashi and Makabe vs. Shibata and Goto match was probably 3rd best of the night and very good but I was expecting a classic so was disappointed.  The opener was good as well.  The other matches weren't much, but the Iizuka turn on Yano was well done.
Andrew Kessler

Back to the Yokohama Arena
Literally just got finished watching the show...
rating- Thumbs Up!
best match- Ishii vs Ibushi
worst match- Iizuka/Yano vs Benjamin/Suzuki... Positive that they did a 3 second match with a good angle instead of doing a bad 10 minute match. It kept the show moving forward in a good direction
Great show. One of the best of the year. 
What a war Ibushi/Ishii was. That was a nasty cut over Ishii's left eye from what other than a head butt. Beauty dropkick and moonsault by Ibushi.The spot where Ishii blocked a super 'rana and dropped Ibushi on his head was scary. Hell of a physical match.
Styles/Okada was excellent too. AJ put over strong, I'm pretty surprised they beat Okada again. Looked dangerous when Yujiro overshot Okada over the top to the floor.
- The 8 man junior heavyweight opener was a lot of fun. Sick corkscrew dive by Mascara Dorada.
- The NWA tag title 3 way was much better than I expected. Kojima was super over and looked good.
- Fale/Naito was good. The crowd wouldn't fully get behind Naito which saddened me. Their match during the New Japan Cup was better I think.
- Sakuraba/Gracie wasn't even bad. Wasn't good either but better than I expected.
- Tanahashi/Shibata interactions were good. Goto bloodied Makabe's mouth with a stiff kick. 
- Good crowd in Yokohama. They got behind Nakamura big time. Decent match with Gracie. Neither Gracie match was bad I didn't think.
Dan Petrucci

Thumbs up

Best Match: Tomohiro Ishii vs Kota Ibushi
Worst Match: Bullet Club vs Nagata and Co.

I thought this was a really fun show. An entertaining opener. A great NEVER match. Really liked the Tanahashi vs Shibata tag match. Damn good main event. Even the Gracie stuff was much better than I expected. Even if there were some empty seats visible it was a lively crowd. I would recommend this show.
John Mulligan

Hi Dave,
Some UFC 173 feedback for the poll.
Thumbs in the middle for me, not great at all but saved by the main event.
Worst fight: Mizugaki v Rivera
Best fight: Dillashaw v Barao
Varner put up a valiant effort against Krause on one ankle, shame it went out so early.
Takeya Mizugaki did just enough in each round to best Rivera, with little of note happening.
Robbie Lawler looked great against Jake Ellenberger. As Joe Rogan said in commentary Ellenberger went into his shell early after the fast Lawler start and never recovered.
Dan Henderson against Daniel Cormier. Again to use Joe Rogan, Cromier was rag dolling him . Choked him out. The sight out Hendo wide eyed on the mat was sad. Cromiers takedown in third was awesome.
TJ Dillashaw stole the show with his win over Barao. What an epic performance to take down someone deemed one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet. To win every round then stop him was awesome him in style was just awesome.
I thought the commentators were great tonight and the sight of Bruce Buffer inching towards the fighters as he introduces them never gets old
Sean Coleman
Manchester, UK

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