- Best Match: Okada vs. Suzuki
- Worst Match: Yoshi Hashi vs. IIzuka
New Japan shows are always good, but this one felt kinda missable honestly until the LIJ match before intermission and the main event, but the main event was spectacular. Didn't like how Suzuki gun lost a lot, but I trust New Japan to do something with it at this point.
Originally I was disappointed that they didn't put all this on one show or the main event on the show that's coming Saturday that should be amazing, but with the length of the main, I guess that makes sense. Okada was incredible as usual this match, and it's funny because I compared how I rooted for Okada in this match to my sense of dread over Roman winning at the Rumble.
Okada gets the audience on his side the way that he sells, creates drama and suspense so that they want him to win, and everything matters and leads to something else. Reigns has been turned into a superhuman kick out machine to where it takes a tank to do anything to him. I just thought it was such an interesting thing the way NJPW built Okada and Suzuki in this match by having it done this way by these guys, making both of them into something important.
- Jonathan Beckner
Best Match: Goto/Juice
I spent my 60th birthday watching this show and thought it was a booking disaster. It brought back memories of that the WWE Nexus angle where they had great build up and then Wade Barrett lost and they were dead. I thought the main event was overlong and made me never want to see them wrestle again.
If Okada can beat him with a couple of rather mediocre looking Rainmakers after being destroyed for 35 minutes, what's the point of a rematch? If that match had been the rematch after Suzuki hadn't beaten him clean in a quick match, it might have been fine, but I think it killed the entire angle in one night. The junior tag match was also terrible.
- Russell Griffiths
- Best match: Okada vs Suzuki
The main event was outstanding. I would go 4.75. The little things in the match really made it special. The last 7-8 mins were fantastic and Okada always had the best finishing sequences. The more I think about it Okada is probably the best wrestler in the world rite now. He adapts to any style and his selling and facial expressions are top notch.
It's good that Bryan brought up about kicking out of finishers on WOR. The way Okada was hitting the Rainmaker but was too hurt to get the pin was phenomenal. Its so much better than in WWE where they kick out of everything and make the finishers a joke. I love this match so much! They took so little risk, they didn't hit a bunch of high spots or do anything super dangerous and it was still awesome. So credit to both guys.
The crowd was pretty bad for most of the show, but they got them into it in the main event.
I thought Don Callis did a very good job overall. He had a few Matt Strikerisms where he put stuff over a little too much, but I wouldn't say it was to the point he was hurting his credibility or insulting our intelligence.
- Kyle Aworski
- Best match: Okada vs. Suzuki (Consolation prize to the IWGP Heavyweight tag title match -- most fun match of the night)
- Worst match: Shibata, Liger & Tiger Mask vs. Gedo, Jado & Ospreay -- just a nothing match to push a Shibata and Ospreay angle
Yoshi-Hashi vs. Iizuka played better with the Japanese commentary. I switched from English to Japanese halfway through when Kevin Kelly sounded like he was snoozing.
Fun and easy to watch card. A few throwaway matches that never over stayed their welcome. Main was fantastic, gripping and dirty. Suzuki didn't lose, Okada survived. The junior tag just seemed off, while the heavyweight tag had great chemistry, and was fun (which made the pace and style of the main event more grueling and intense -- just love the build and rhythm of these NJPW shows).
- Vincent Clappsy
Thumbs in the Middle
- Best Match: Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki
- Worst Match: Yoshi-Hashi vs. Takashi Iizuka
That main event match was tremendous, with outstanding drama and great facial expressions by both guys. Suzuki is a one-of-a-kind, and while the dead weight in his faction is bad for New Japan, he and Okada had an epic battle.
But the rest of the show was just okay. I had a hard time getting into Juice vs. Goto, the junior tag title picture has been downgraded by Suzuki-gun's return. And, despite that main event, I just can't give this show a thumbs up.
Here's hoping NJPW brings Suzuki over for the Long Beach shows. Would be a chance to bill them as his first-ever matches in the United States, presuming that is in fact true. It still bugs me that Ring of Honor p*ssed away a similar opportunity with Ishii last year -- money left on the table, IMO.
I watched the first half in English, and Callis made me laugh when he suggested Kevin Kelly used to wear something similar to what Iizuka was wearing. I switched to Japanese at intermission and I'm glad I did, as Shinpei was on fire on the call in the main event.
It bugs me more than it should that Kevin Kelly calls an insufficient volume of moves for my liking. I realize he's not Mauro, but for neither Kelly nor Callis to call the name of the move used for the win in that El Desperado undercard match was pathetic. Moments like that are where Steve Corino will be missed in color, or where Josh Barnett would have been really helpful to have.
I read your write-up on the main event. Agreed on the selling, that was so good, and I legit bought the possibility that Okada would tap, especially when he got pulled away from the ropes a
second time. That is part of the subtle genius of Gedo's booking, having Suzuki-gun struggle on the undercard, making you think Suzuki might win to even it out.
- Lou Pickney
- Best match: Suzuki vs. Okada
- Worst match: Iizuka vs. YOSHI-HASHI
SuzukiGun losing every title match was surprising but I was happy about it. I think the negative reactions show how many new people have started watching NJPW. SuzukiGun has done the "taking over" act many times in NJPW and they just got done doing it to death in NOAH. I don't think many long time fans wanted them to do it again since we have seen plenty of bad Taichi matches, or Iizuka matches, or matches with ridiculous amounts of interference from them.
The newer fans haven't been exposed to them at all if they came in during the last two years of major growth. Don't think it buries them by any means either since the core, Japanese fanbase, as well as long term western fans, know the group's history and SuzukiGun was established a long time ago. Thinking Killer Elite Squad takes the heavyweight titles in Osaka but I'm on the fence if Kanemaru/Desperado will in March. If they do, I could see KUSHIDA teaming with someone and going after the titles since KUSHIDA/SuzukiGun have beef from the 2016 Super J Cup.
- Andres Chio
Huge thumbs up
- Best Match: Okada (c) vs. Suzuki
- Worst Match: Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano (c) vs. KES vs. GBH
But sort of a weird night overall. Suzuki Gun feels like they're being sent back to NOAH after getting shut down in every match against CHAOS when it looked like, at the start of the night, they were going to run wild all over the New Japan roster. The only push they have at all is from beating a Young Lion tagging with KUSHIDA.