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New Japan on AXS report: Ishii battles Honma in a match of the year candidate

More New Begining coverage is on the menu for today’s New Japan on AXS, as we return after two weeks with a match of the year contender. The most interesting thing to remember on this show is that Tomoaki Honma was never scheduled to be on this show - Togi Makabe was set to defend the NEVER title against Ishii, but pulled out the day of the show due to suffering a flu. Fate is a funny thing sometimes.

Today’s bouts are from the February 14, 2015 New Beginnings show in Sendai.

Kota Ibushi and Tetsuya Naito vs. Toru Yano and Kazushi Sakuraba kicks things off. I’ve said this before, but man has Naito totally changed his look and persona in the last few months. This was only about ten months ago, but Naito has changed himself so much in that timespan this looks like a match from years ago, especially when you consider Ibushi’s been gone for a while. Ibushi and Sakuraba had some cool exchanges. It’s unfortunate that Ibushi and Sakuraba’s proposed match at the Toyko Dome isn’t taking place as they had some pretty good chemistry. Considering I’ve seen many World Tag League matches in the last couple of weeks which feature formulaic, solid wrestling, this was refreshing. A really good match with everyone getting some shine, and didn’t feel formulaic in the least bit. Everyone worked hard, even Yano, and that made this an exciting bout. Yano did his shoving opponent into the ref/low blow spot, but Naito transitioned during the execution and pinned Yano in a flash pin. Nice to see Naito beat Yano at his own game.

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata took on the Bullet Club, consisting of Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, and Tama Tonga. This was fine, but felt like I’ve seen it before. A better version of a six man tag you’d see on any New Japan house show this year. Tanahashi gave Tama Tonga the slingblade, high fly flow, then pinned him

Main event hype time. Ishii said that he knew that Makabe couldn’t fight him due to getting the flu, but he didn’t know why he was facing Honma since he just lost to Ibushi a few days ago. He hasn't thought much on Honma as his eyes were only on Makabe heading into this fight.

The match aired, and it hurt. Hurt bad. These two chopped and slapped the crap outta each other, repeatedly dropped each other on their heads and decapitated them with lariats in one hell of a match. Dave gave this ***** when it aired earlier this year, and I would have to agree with his. It’ll be on many people’s top 10 lists this year, and not a bad match to watch this time of year considering the Observer awards coming next month. Just a hellacious battle that proves that you can book a guy to lose all the time, but he can still be over if he’s given the opportunity. Honma very rarely pins a guy, but he gives it his all so much in every match people are into him, and makes his matches that much more special. The near falls in this match were so incredible. Even though you KNEW Honma wasn’t winning, this match was so great in making you believe he might be the next NEVER champion. After Honma kicks out of a sliding D to the side of the head (!), Ishii lays him out with a brainbuster and pins him in an excellent match.

Honma questioned himself why he couldn’t win in a situation like this. He promised a win next time. He’s not going anywhere, and that’s not changing anytime soon. Ishii says it’s only a temporary belt and won’t wear it until he beats Makabe. Prepare yourself.

Ishii, again a man of few words, says he doesn’t have much thoughts on the match. He wants to surpass the IC title with the Never title. He wants to win the belt and wear it in front of Makabe. Deep down, he feels the same with all opponents, and when he faces them he wants them to be fired up just as much as he does.

Excellent show this week, very much recommended if you haven’t seen this match yet. Be warned, however, as it’s not for the weak of heart.