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NJPW on AXS TV results 9/11: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. AJ Styles for the IWGP Heavyweight championship

by Bryan Rose,

Tonight’s show is the main event of King of Pro Wrestling, held on October 13, 2014 at Sumo Hall in Japan.

We’re going right to the main event as Hiroshi Tanahashi is interviewed. He was after the belt and nothing but the belt, that was his goal going into the match. In regards to AJ Styles, he has great moves and his his body is well built, so he knew he was a wrestler that the fans liked. He also knew going into the match that it wasn’t going to be a one sided match in his favor.

The match itself was really great. Seeing Jeff Jarrett at ringside annoyed me,  but I get why they did it, and it built to a cool moment later anyway. Slow build, but really well worked with both guys looking like the best in the business, which at this point they very well are. They way they built up to the false finish was great, with Jarrett pulling out right as AJ was being pinned after two high fly flows. Very rarely does anyone kick out of two consecutive high fly flows so this was awesome, at least when looking back at it roughly a year later. I bet that pissed off a lot of people when it aired live, but hey, everything happened in this match for a reason. Jarrett’s role in the match was to come out and wield the guitar, which he did, and was about to strike Tanahashi with it when who should come out but Yoshitatsu, fresh off a WWE run and making his return to New Japan after a six year absence. Crowd liked this one once they knew who it was. With the interference out of the way, they scored some hot near falls.

This was a more americanized match they usually do. Some people hated the Bullet Club stuff, and I see why, but this made it feel different than their other matches. If you do ONE americanized kind of match on a show like this, I think it works well and could even add to a match with the right circumstances. This was a good example of that. It was a well worked match throughout, with Jarrett coming into the equation just once so they could build the return of Yoshitatsu. Once that was over with, it was a fun of great near fall spots until Hiroshi Tanahashi caught AJ with a high fly flow in the standing position then finished him off with another. I wouldn’t say it was an excellent match, but it was a very good New Japan main event by those standards.

After watching this show live, I was kind of bummed that they went with Tanahashi winning the title back. To me, the story of 2014 seemed to be Okada getting his revenge against the Bullet Club by beating AJ Styles at WrestleKingdom. But they went ahead with Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada again as a main event. But as much as I didn’t understand it in 2014, I get why they did it after watching this match again. The story that they’ve been building isn’t so much AJ versus Okada - it’s Okada vs. Tanahashi, which of course in ring wise (and probably promo wise considering the post match stuff) has been one of the best feuds of the decade. Think about it - when Okada loses at the Tokyo Dome show, he leaves the ring crying his eyes out. The second opportunity he has to beat Tanahashi at the Tokyo Dome was blown, so of course he’d be sad. Small things like this tell me that all this will culminate at the Tokyo Dome when Okada finally gets his win against Tanahashi. Of course, this could all change, but this seems like the story they’re going towards, and it makes the most sense.

Yoshitatsu is interviewed. He didn’t come here to save Tanahashi but his body moved when he arrived here in the arena to help him out. Most of all, he feels that this was the place to return to in the end.

Okada and Gedo came out to confront Tanahashi. Gedo says it’s funny, he thinks the belt has been looking for you. But that won’t work against the Rainmaker. The Rainmaker will make sure of one thing at the Toyko Dome...he will bury you. Well, as long as it’s not Stephanie McMahon. Okada complimented him on the great work, but said a dull sun like him won’t light up New Japan. As the bright golden sun, he will, and he will light up the entire’s time for him to go down.

Tanahashi says he isn’t tired. He says Okada, maybe you can make money rain, but you can’t be the sun because I exist. They had a brief posedown before Okada make his exit. Tanahashi did his usual thanks, then in a post match interview gets a beer bath by Captain New Japan and the timesplitters. He says that He’ll answer expectations much more now that he’s champion.

Looking back at the match, he said that he stayed focus on his path back to the title. He says in regards to winning the title for the seventh time, a record, he says that he is emotional whenever he has the belt and he feels the connection the crowd has with the belt and himself. He also says that he remembers seeing Yoshitatsu wrestle in the FCW arena when he was working for TNA, so he is happy to see him back since it is the best timing for him. In regards to winning the 2014 MVP, he felt this match was the deciding factor; as far as 2014 goes, this was definitely his most important match.

A really great stuff. Between the main event, and the post fight promos, this was a well done show.