New Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
New Japan arguably does a stronger job in setting up programs and transitioning from one feud to another better than any promotion currently. We saw it in the opener of the January 5th Korakuen show where in one match, El Desperado was established as a solid foe for Kota Ibushi. Here – in the main event of that same show – the promotion effectively sets up three matches for its pair of major mid-February events. They do it all through basic in-ring interaction and without too much heavy-handedness. After this match is over, Ishii/Naito and Goto/Okada are established as new programs while Nakamura & Tanahashi seemed destined for an Intercontinental Championship re-match.
Okada and Tanahashi go at it early on and for two guys who have spent the better portion of the past two years wrestling one another, they sure don’t seem to be moving in the same step. The heels work over the good Captain in an early-extended heat segment. Ishii taunts Naito right away and they go at it throughout. Ishii does not sell much (as is his tendency) but Naito – particularly late in the match – takes a good beating from him. If their eventual singles match is worked with Naito fighting from behind, it will likely be for the better than if the two wrestlers exchange blows back and forth with little to no selling, as Ishii is want to do.
There is a nice intensity to this eight-man that on paper feels like a throw-away on a down show following the big Tokyo Dome event. Everyone goes at it pretty hard and the match is effective in planting the seeds for the February event. The finish is all sprinty but in a good way. Tanahashi – still clearly booked as the promotion’s top star – puts an end to the parade of each guy hitting a big move by taking out Nakamura and Yoshi-Hashi in succession with dragon screw leg whips. Goto is able to eventually follow up on the assist by pinning Hashi to begin the buildup to his February title match.
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