(05/25) Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Kota Ibushi

New Japan Pro Wrestling
Yokohama Arena (Yokohama, Japan)
NEVER Open Weight Championship

Tomohiro Ishii is almost certainly Most Outstanding Wrestler of 2014 at this juncture.

To be in contention for that distinction in any given year, a wrestler needs help from the booking. Ishii has certainly gotten that. After being left off the January 4th Tokyo Dome Show completely, Ishii has been given a run of featured singles matches on New Japan’s biggest shows. He wrestled Tetsuya Naito for the NEVER Open Weight championship in February and again in April, with a New Japan Cup singles match versus Naito squeezed in between. He was given the featured singles match on the NJPW tour of Taiwan (defending the NEVER title versus KUSHIDA), had the most heavily praised match of the 5/2 New Japan show vs. Homna, and has been a featured player in many multi-man buildup matches for the promotion. Going by the majority opinion, he has delivered each and every time out.

Ishii had another well-received outing on May 25th in a NEVER title defense versus the reigning junior champion in Kota Ibushi. The match was what one would expect from an Ishii-Ibushi singles match. The style was very high-impact. Neither guy is shy of giving or taking a beating. The story was less of an underdog tale as it was with Homna. Ibushi was presented on an equal level with Ishii, as the Junior Heavyweight champion should be when wrestling for an Open Weight title. That point was hammered home loud and clear – although perhaps unintentionally – when Ibushi busted up Ishii’s eye on a head-butt. It made for a good visual. Ishii is at his best when there is some level of vulnerability to his act rather than when he just bulldozes through a match.

Ibushi pulled out all of his big flying moves for near falls where Ibushi countered with suplexes and hard strikes. They did the back-and-forth elbow exchanges, which at this point probably goes without saying. There was also a dueling one-count, fighting spirit kick out but the match was building to such a spot so by that point it did not seem out of context even if it is still a spot that some will find inherently flawed. Ishii finally put the challenger down with a brainbuster for the pin. The match was put over as a true war, with both the winner and loser down on the mat and in dire need of medical attention when the match finished.

It was a good match but in more of a spectacle way than in a convention story way that the Homna match was where Homna was clearly cast as the underdog. AS with most Ishii matches, if you love his other work you will love this. If you find flaws in the fighting-spirit/strong style structure of his matches, there are certainly those elements to be found in this match.

Yujiro hits the ring post-match to lay out the already down-and-out Ishii as means of asserting himself as a challenger for Ishii’s title. The Bullet Club already holds the Heavyweight singles championship and both sets of tag team titles and would be looking to add the NEVER title to their collection with a Yujiro victory sometime in the future.

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