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New Japan on AXS: Makabe tries to get NEVER title back from Ishii

Tonight’s episode are matches from NJPW Wrestling Hinokuni, which took place on April 29, 2015 at Grandmesse Kumamoto

First up is a NWA title defense as new champion Hiroyoshi Tenzan defends against Big Daddy Yum Yum. The challenger is former WWE developmental wrestler Byron Wilcott who has been here a few times in the past, most famous for selling Kojima’s chops in the most bizarre manner possible. He has good presence but everything else just feels off, from his offense to his selling to his ring gear. Even the announcers were saying this wasn’t good, and it really wasn’t. Tenzan should be the one carried at this point, not the other way around. Tenzan eventually got the win with a second anaconda vise. Pretty bad.

Makabe talks about how he had to vacate the NEVER title due to the flu. He mentions how Ishii said he’d have to win the title from Ishii for it to really mean something. He thinks wrestling is all about your heart, and this upcoming match shows this.

The match aired. I’m torn when it comes to these matches. They’ve never been terrible. Both guys are great brawlers and know their style very well. Ishii has always been consistently great. Some people want to rip on Makabe because he’s one of the more protected guys (he has mainstream popularity due to his love for sweets, among other things) even though he’s not as dynamic as others on the roster, but he can still put up a tremendous performance. Problem is, in 2015 they faced off for the NEVER title at least four times. It was overkill by the third defense, and the fourth was just kind of unnecessary.

But in terms of how the match was...it was every match they’ve had. Which means, in other words, it was quite the spectacle. People were into it from the start, as Ishii has this kind of vibe and style where you can get into his work pretty much immediately. Lots of stiff shots, kicks, lariats and all the like. Ishii took very hard suplexes to the back of his head. He can’t be doing this style forever. After 25 minutes of intense back and forth brawling, Makabe won the NEVER title back after pinning Ishii with the King Kong knee drop.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the match, and if you’ve never seen it before, it’s worth your while to check it out. For me, personally, I’ve seen these guys have plenty of great matches, and I just kind of want to move on from watching them. They spent too much of last year feuding, is what I’m getting at here. I think we’re only halfway done with this feud as well as far as this timeline goes, so that’s kind of a bummer for me personally.

Ishii didn’t have anything to say after the match.

Makabe takes a microphone after the match and says that no matter how many times we’ve been beat, we come back up because we have guts. Makabe says he and Ishii might look dirty, but we are talented. He gave away this belt once, but it came back to me. That’s what a true wrestler does.

Makabe backstage says he’ll disprove andy prejudices with this belt. He then says anyone else watching this that has championships, he’ll overthrow them.

In his reflective interview, he says that he knew he had to get the belt back. It was an obstacle, for sure. But he knew that's the match the people wanted, which is why it was so intense. It’s nice to see different kinds of matches. To him, it’s all about the heart of the match.

And that’ll do it for this season of New Japan on AXS! We’ll return March 4 with Jim Ross replacing Maruo Ranallo. Much thanks to Mauro as he really helped these initial seasons of New Japan on AXS feel really special, and his knowledge of the product felt really refreshing compared to virtually everyone else who does English language broadcasting.