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NJPW on AXS report 9-18-15: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Chase Owens for the NWA Jr. title

by Bryan Rose,

Tonight’s show took place on October 13, 2014 at Sumo Hall. It’s a look at New Japan’s annual November PPV,  King of Pro Wrestling, which is one of the bigger events on the New Japan calendar. Tonight’s show is our first look at the card, as this episode highlights the big junior heavyweight matches on the card.

First up is reDragon vs Timesplitters for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight tag titles. reDragon, as far as in ring work goes, are one of the best tag teams on the planet right now and Timesplitters aren’t too far behind. They’ve faced off countless times in the last year, and I think they’ve have had better matches on other shows than this one right here. Not that it’s bad, it was actually a pretty good bout, but it just feels like I've seen better from the four. reDragon have totally proved that they belong in New Japan, as we’ll see in future episodes, and when they won the titles I wasn’t too surprised, so good on them. Good, solid work from everyone involved overall.

After the match, reDragon and Timesplitters are confronted by two other teams- The Young Bucks and Forever Hooligans (Rocky Romero/Alex Koslov). All four teams argue with another as reDragon leave with the titles, holding them up. This sets up a four way at the WrestleKingdom show, but it doesn’t make much sense, especially since the Timesplitters just lost clean in the middle of the ring. But hey, the match on paper sounds pretty good either way.

Next is Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Taichi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship. This is the follow up to the previous episode where the Suzuki-gun junior heavyweights attacked Taguchi, and sure enough Taichi’s two cohorts Desperado & Taka Michinoku are at ringside for this match. Taguchi is the kind of guy who can have great matches with great workers, and Taichi isn’t considered a great worker in the least bit. Looking at the highlights here, they did end up having a pretty good match. The editing was kind of poor as they aired a big spot where Taichi gave Taguchi a Gotch piledriver through a table, then immediately fast forwarded to Taguchi making a comeback, eventually winning with the dodon. That wasn’t the best edit I’ve seen. Regardless, the highlights were good and overall probably a better match than people would expect.

After the match, Bullet Club members enter ringside. Karl Anderson enters the ring and introduces the newest member of the Bullet Club, “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega. He comes in and cuts a promo on Taguchi, saying that he didn’t want the lion mark prestige, all he really wants is the money. He also said that he wanted the IWGP junior title, and that he’s here to clean up NJPW. They have a staredown before exiting the ring, but not before Taguchi takes the mic and says he doesn’t understand English, then says to answer his question, oh my and garfunkel (his catchphrase). It doesn’t sound like it on paper, but after the long promo Omega cut it was pretty funny for Taguchi to give such a succinct answer. This also leads to a title match at WrestleKingdom.

Jushin Thunder Liger is interviewed next, as he takes on Chase Owens for the NWA Junior Heavyweight championship. He says when he thinks of the NWA, he remembers legends such as Ric Flair, the Funks, and Harley Race. They were truly the king of kings as they wrestle all throughout the word. In regards to Owens, he says his moves are simple but he knows to make them devastating. Says it's hard to wrestle at this age in a New Japan ring but he still has the biggest heart of any wrestler.

The main event aired. This was a solid match as well. Not great, but pretty good. Bruce Tharpe as the NWA manager is so great, his mannerisms are top notch and he’s effective as the wacky heel manager. Owens looked good throughout the match. Like Liger mentioned, he doesn’t do anything fancy, but does enough to have a good match and it works for him well. Always good to see a different style in New Japan, and Owens brings that to the table here. They kept it safe and didn’t do anything crazy. Liger went for a splash at one point but Liger made it to the ropes. Mostly just a good back and forth match until Liger laid out Owens with a brainbuster, then followed with another one and pinned Owens to win the belt. Commentary here did a great job as well with putting the NWA Junior Heavyweight title over as they made it sound like a really big deal when Liger won it.

Liger in a post match interview says that he wants to defend the title in NOAH and other places now that he’s a NWA champion. Tenryu told him to say to keep wrestling until you’re satisfied. Making a comeback is embarrassing, as he will never forget those words. He says that while this is the final chapter for Liger, he will keep going forward. In his reflective interview, he talks about winning the belt in Osaka. In regards to how he envisions the future, he says the future is amazing, and lists people like Kushida, Alex Shelley and Kenny Omega and also mentions that he wants to wrestle Tiger Mask IV one more time, which is something we’ll see down the road.

Very cool episode this week. It didn’t have any blow away matches, but it did show the healthy relationships with Ring of Honor and NWA and how they’ll continue to thrive into 2015, with both reDragon winning the IWGP tag titles and Liger winning the NWA Jr. title. Also very interesting to hear Liger’s words about this being his final chapter. I wonder if he still feels that he’s on the final chapter of his career as we now enter 2016.