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NJPW on AXS 10-23: Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson vs. Katsuyori Shibata and Hirooki Goto for the IWGP tag team titles

We’re continuing our look at WrestleKingdom 9, held January 4, 2015 at the Tokyo Dome. Three more matches tonight, finishing up the undercard portion of the event.

First up is a six man tag pitting Jeff Jarrett, Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi against Satoshi Kojima, Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Tomoaki Honma. I completely forgot this match was on the card. And that reminds me, whatever happened to Jeff Jarrett being a part of the Bullet Club? That was a storyline that never really went anywhere beyond this match. This was really quick. Decent, but one of the shorter matches on the card. Honma won with the kokeshi headbutt from the top rope onto Yujiro Takahashi. The announcers compared it to Charlie Brown finally kicking the football (an old Peanuts comic strip gag from years ago). That sort of fits here, I guess, but him winning the G1 match later on in the year is the far better analogy.

Next up was the match between Minoru Suzuki and Kazushi Sakuraba, UWF-I rules. That means no pinfalls or submissions, either a KO, TKO, or ref stoppage will end the match. The presentation of the match was so cool, especially Minoru Suzuki who looked to be in the best shape of his career, wearing all white like he did when he won the King of Pancrase. This was really fun. Suzuki is one of the more unique wrestlers around as he always works HIS style of match, and it’s usually different than whatever else you’d see on a card we wrestles in. Lots of striking and submission attempts by both men. Suzuki kept goading Sakuraba to strike him, then Suzuki fired back, sinking in a sleeper, hip tossed him to the floor and Sakuraba passed out, so the ref stopped the match. This was a cool finish to a good match. Not the best on the card, but highly memorable.

Suzuki said he had been waiting for Sakuraba to come to New Japan for a long time. He didn’t feel much when shaking his hand, then said he wouldn’t elaborate since he didn’t like the way the interviewer answered the questions. He doesn’t look down at him. When asked why they hugged in the ring after the match, he refused to answer that as well and called the interviewer a loser. I miss Minoru Suzuki in New Japan. I so, so do.

Shibata is interviewed next. He talks about how he didn’t like the reactions he got in the Tokyo Dome before, but he liked it when he and Goto faced each other back at WrestleKingdom 8 as the reactions were more direct. In regards to his opponents, he says they have power and skill, and also work better as a tag team than singles wrestlers. When they won the tag league, they didn’t get a championship, so it’s here where they want to win the tag team championships.

The tag team title match aired. This was pretty good. The crowd were into Shibata and Goto as the challengers, and as a team they’re good. Anderson and Gallows are good as a team, and are fine as champions, but they aren’t great and aren’t going to really do anything to bring the tag team division out of the funk it is in this promotion. But this was a good back and forth match. A bit short, but was good while it lasted and never dragged.

Shibata and Goto mentioned that it was 20 years ago that they met each other, so they were glad they were able to become tag team champions tonight. Shibata also put over the fans, as to him they were the ones who helped them win the gold. Shibata said in his reflective interview pretty much what he said in the post match interview, he was happy to win the title. He finishes by saying he liked the shape of the belt.

We now have most of the undercard down, with the two big title matches still to go over the next couple of weeks. Pretty good show, though if there’s one match you need to see, it’s the Suzuki/Sakuraba bout, as it was a pretty cool match.