By Bryan Rose, WrestlingObserver.com
AJ Styles left TNA in early 2014 with many questioning about his future. Years of being there left him with a brand of once being great, but lame booking decisions and matches left him a former shell of himself, and WWE wasn’t really that interested in him. So the question would turn out to be if he’d be able to hang with some of the greatest athletes in the independent scene, and when he made his way to New Japan, would be be able to hang with the top elite talent?
The answer soon proved to be yes- AJ Styles had one of the best G1 performances in a long, long time that cemented him as another top NJPW talent in a roster filled with great talent. But when he first made his debut in April of last year, jumping Okada after a title defense, many questions still hung in the balance. And when he challenged him to a championship match the following month, many fans questioned if this was an angle that was coming too fast too soon.
Tonight’s show took place May 3, 2014 from the Fukuoka Kokusai Center for Wrestling Dontaku 2014.
The first matchup is the Young Bucks versus the Forever Hooligans for the IWGP tag team championship. Due to time constraints, this was cut down to about a seven minute version of the match. From what they’ve shown, it was your usual encounter between the two teams with crisp offense and good wrestling. Bucks win after the More Bang for Your Buck in a relatively solid affair. There were some hiccups with the commentary during the match with Barnett not knowing which Jackson was which and Ranallo mentioning they used to be Generation Next in TNA, but the commentary for this and the other matches were fine otherwise.
Second match shown is Kota Ibushi defending the IWGP junior heavyweight championship against Ryusuke Taguchi. This looked good as well, with Ibushi retaining after the Phoenix Splash. I’m not the biggest fan of Taguchi, as he’s not that charismatic both in the ring and out, but he was solid here and Ibushi did all of his great high spots and helped the match.
Kazuchika Okada is interviewed before the match airs. He said when AJ attacked him, he took that as people coming all over the world, targeting him. He thought he was in decline in the US. He talks about AJ’s Styles Clash versus Tanahashi’s, and he says that AJ’s is more impactful due to the way he uses his weight. He was caught off guard when the match was set. He was confident about what he had done in the US when he came back, so Styles wouldn’t be a problem since he thought he was done in the states already.
The match took place. I remember so not being a fan of the match when it first aired, and while I didn’t think it was a bad match at all after watching, it’s only in the ***1/2 range at most. The first 10 minutes or so was fine, but the crowd wasn’t into it and it got kind of dull at times as a result. The Bullet Club interfering twice in the match was a bit excessive, too. I remember people complaining at the time that this would lead to more run in finishes in the future, but in hindsight I get why they did it.
They went for a finish that they normally don’t do, and haven’t really done since, so that way people would remember the title change. It picked up after the Bullet Club got ejected the first time, but the finish was pretty lame, with Bullet Club coming in again and Yujiro surprise attacking Okada, laying him out with the Tokyo Pimps. A bloody Sunday DDT and a Styles Clash later and AJ Styles is the IWGP champion.
Gedo calls Yujiro a traitor after the match (he was a part of Chaos before the turn). It was all a set up, but just wait, we’ll get the title back and you’d better accept a rematch.
In the ring, Anderson formally announces the new IWGP Heavyweight champion and also announces the newest member of the Bullet Club, Yujiro Takahashi. Yujiro’s given the mic. You’re going down, Chaos. Today will be the end of you guys. From today onwards, he’s a part of the Bullet Club. He calls AJ the best one. He gives the mic to AJ where he says the Bullet Club is real. Gold streamers fill the arena as Ranallo laments on how AJ won the title.
Okada says he’d like to face AJ again. He was the AJ that he looked up to back in the day. He was the champion for a year, and it was weird losing it, like a part of his costume was gone. And that’s it!
Overall, this was a decent show, though there have been better. Next week will be the season finale as Kazuchika Okada looks to regain the title against new champion AJ Styles at the Yokohama Arena.