(02/11) Kota Ibushi (c) vs. El Desperado

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Bodymaker Coliseum (Osaka, Japan)
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship

Ibushi and Desperado started off with the expected junior opening mat work but quickly moved on from it. The match was a tad slow in getting out of the tracks in the immediate aftermath of those basic hold-exchanges, but once the two hit a mid-match groove and took to the air, this turned into an above-average juniors title match.

Desperado’s tope con hilo has been a highlight since he returned from Mexico. He hits it like he is still in Mexico, with so much force that he goes flying right into the crowd which is far more the norm in Arena Mexico than it is at Korakuen Hall. In this match he did it on the side of the announcer’s table and went flying over the table rather than the rail. It made for a cool visual.

Ibushi was on his A-game. He transitions onto offense at one point with a very athletic dropkick that that rocked Desperado to the mat. He followed that up with his always visually pleasing running springboard moonsault to the floor. Ibushi later added a springboard hurricanrana from the apron into the ring (with Desperado standing on the top turnbuckle) for good measure. Ibushi’s best flying spots are truly impressive and it is when he keeps those spots in the bag that his matches can sometimes suffer. He just doesn’t have enough mid-level offense to hang on a regular basis. On a big show like this when he pulls out all of the stops, he is a pretty sure bet to deliver.

Desperado had a nice pinning combo where he tied up Ibushi’s legs using his arms (think Texas Cloverleaf) and then turned that into sort-of a reserve Cloverleaf deal. Down the stretch, he hit a powerbomb and vertebreaker, the latter of which drew a good near fall reaction from the Osaka crowd. After kicking out, Ibushi got a powerbomb of his own for a near fall. He finally put Desperado away with one of his twisting, rotating splashes.

Post-match, Ibushi and Desperado made nice after not exactly getting off on the right foot since Desperado’s debut one month prior.

The match picked up steam maybe 1/3rd of the way through and both guys hit all of their spots from then on out. Really, this was the perfect match for its position on the card as it was clearly a step up from the matches that proceeded it, as it should have given it was one of three title matches to close out the show. At the same, it didn’t get out of control and left plenty of room for the two heavyweight singles title matches to shine, which they did.

Juniors | Worthwhile | Quality

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