January 5, 2015

Current Watch List:

  • New Year Dash !! (New Japan Pro Wrestling)
  • Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose in an Ambulance match (WWE)

Matches Watched:

Tiger Mask IV & Sho Tanaka vs. Taichi & TAKA Michinoku
New Japan Pro Wrestling

A short, average opener to New Japan’s post-Tokyo Dome event.  With the NWA junior title match between Liger & Desperado serving as the featured match on this card, this match takes on the role of a prelude.  Tanaka continues to look solid.  There was less cheating than usual in this match from the Suzuki-gun team.  TAKA has also looked good as of late, this match included.  Nothing special, but an average match to open the show and remind people – through the presence of TM IV and Suzuki-gun – of the title match later in the evening.

reDRagon vs. Forever Hooligans
New Japan Pro Wrestling

After their successful title defense at the Tokyo Dome, the IWGP Junior Heavyweight and Ring of Honor tag team champions take on Rocky Romero & Alex Koslov in a non-title bout.  Fish & O’Reilly have been frequent opponents of both the Young Bucks and Time Splitters, so this was somewhat of a fresher match up.  The usual comedy spots from the Hooligans (handshake spot, Romero rolling away from top rope moves, Romero’s out of control charging, ect.) were peppered throughout.  Someone needs to get Koslov on a scale – he has got to be getting close to the junior weight limit.  Romero hit a sharp straight tope that looked good.  There was not much to this one, but overall it was a fine way to give the junior tag champs another clean win before the head back to the US for a month.

Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, Iizuka & Shelton Benjamin vs. Tomoaki Homna, Captain New Japan, Hiroshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Manabu Nakanishi
New Japan Pro Wrestling

This was a nothing match in that there was little memorable action and no obvious direction coming out of it.  Suzuki – as he did at the Dome – was working hard.  Coming off of his win the previous afternoon, Honma was over but didn’t factor into the finish. The Killer Elite Squad picked up the win on Nakanishi with their finisher.  The are the only two of these eight with an obvious direction (a feud with TMDK).

Jushin “Thunder” Liger © vs. El Desperado
New Japan Pro Wrestling
NWA World Junior Heavyweight

Liger and Desperado feuded on and off for most of 2014, beginning with an altercation at this same New Year Dash show last January 5th.  Their NWA World Junior championship bout was presumably bumped from the Tokyo Dome to this show due to time constraints.  They did the normal NJPW junior opening mat work that was commonplace in Liger’s heyday but feels like higher quality stuff these days due to the lack of such foundation work in many modern matches.  The match had surprisingly little heat given it was the only advertised and hyped match on the show.  Desperado took control after some chair shots to Liger’s arm on the outside.  Desperado’s arm work was varied and fun.  He also landed his always awesome Homicide-style flip dive through the middle rope.  Desperado ripped at Liger’s mask in a continued tease of a mask match involving those two, which at this point, may or may not ever actually happen..  Tiger Mask IV made the save when Taichi got involved following the referee getting temporarily knocked out.

Liger thanks Tiger Mask for his help by offering him the next title shot.  I still get the impression that they are going to end up at a mask vs. mask match between Desperado and Liger or perhaps a mask vs. hair tag match that gets Tiger Mask IV and Taichi into the mix (Taichi could easily eat the pin and get a shave if the stipulations were arranged that way).

Overall, this was a little bit above average match that was hurt a bit by the lack of heat.  Liger going over felt flat, which is partially why this feud doesn’t seem to be over.  It doesn’t make much sense for Liger (at this stage in his career) to decisively win a feud against Desperado.

Bullet Club (Young Bucks & Kenny Omega) vs. KUSHIDA, Alex Shelley & Ryusuke Taguchi
New Japan Pro Wrestling

In what must have been an attempt to make themselves feel better after their respective losses at Wrestle Kingdom, KUSHIDA and Taguchi both sported new hats during their ring entrances. KUSHIDA went with a standard baseball cap while Taguchi went with a classy green fedora.  Ultimately, the hats proved unnecessary as the good guys extracted a measure of revenge when KUSHIDA pinned BOTH members of the Bucks with a combo bridging pin and German Suplex.  Really cool move.  Shelley spent much of the match getting beat up but was effective in that role, knowing just when to make comebacks and to tease tags.  All three members of the face team hit stereo slingshot planchas in a nice touch.  This was a fun match and now that the Bullet Club has three junior members, I hope we see more trios matches involving the juniors.


Bullet Club (Tama Tonga & Bad Luke Fale) vs. Kazuchika Okada & Toru Yano
New Japan Pro Wrestling

A major post-Tokyo Dome question concerned the immediate plans for Kazuchika Okada.  Re-matching with Tanahashi for the title would have been way, way too soon.  There is still much potential in a long Okada vs. Nakamura feud and doing that now would not have been the right time.  Okada clearly had to step out of the title pictures for a bit, but the problem was that most of the usual upper mid-level options – Styles, Shibata, Goto, Ibushi – were either otherwise occupied (Shibata and Goto), a stale match up (Styles), or not a good fit (Naito feuding with Okada at this stage does neither any good).  Instead, if this match is any indication, Okada is going to spend some time feuding with Bad Luke Fale and/or the entire Bullet Club.

Fale dominated Okada must of the match and scored the pin fall victory with his instant death finisher, the Bad Luke Fall.  Some theorized before this match that Okada might work a long down on his luck angle culminating with him rediscovering his mojo around G1 or Tokyo Dome time.  This could be the start of an angle like that, although I am not convinced yet.  Fale has been protected strong enough to the point where the promotion (and hopefully the fans as well) view him as a legitimate threat for Okada.  At the same time, New Japan does not appear to have any real plans to push Fale so at the end of the day, they won’t have any problem beating him.  There is just as good of a chance that this is a feud to keep Okada busy for a month or two while Nakamura and Tanahashi carry the heavy load.

This was fine and served its purpose with the finish setting up – well – wherever this is ultimately going to lead to.


Kota Ibushi, Yuji Nagata & Togi Makabe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
New Japan Pro Wrestling

For the past two years, the January 5th Korakuen card has been used to setup feuds for the major February shows (the two night “New Beginning” cards).  The only tour in January is FantasticaMania, so this show is sort of essential to get the ball rolling for February.  This trios set up two likely February bouts.  Makabe and Ishii went at it a bit during the match with their usual tough guy stuff.  They also had a post-match stare-down as well with Makabe holding his new NEVER Open Weight title in Ishii’s face.  They seem destined for a re-match.  Nagata – who worked hard and look pretty good in the match – pinned YOSHI-HASHI.  Feeling confident after back to back wins (Battle Royal at the Tokyo Dome and now this match), Nagata challenged Nakamura to an Intercontinental title match after first putting over both Nakamura and Ibushi for their efforts at the Tokyo Dome.  That appears to be a lock for one of the big February cards and could be a good one.

The in-ring highlights were provided by Ibushi and Nakamura.  The two Tokyo Dome opponents worked several variations of sequences they used the night before.  I thought it was a neat touch in that they didn’t do the exact sequences, but rather played off of them and gave them new twists.  Both guys worked really hard for what was essentially a throw away trios.  Ibushi appears directionless at the moment with no obvious February matches on slate.

A solid trios overall that effectively set up a couple of February title bouts.


Hiroshi Tanahashi, Tetsuya Naito, Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto vs. A.J. Styles, Yujiro Takahashi, Karl Anderson & Doc Gallows
New Japan Pro Wrestling

The card for this show didn’t come out until after the bell sounded for the first match.  However, upon seeing this matchup listed it was crystal clear what purpose it served.  That purpose was to position Styles as the next challenger to Tanahashi’s IWGP Heavyweight belt at one of the New Beginning shows.  To accomplish that, it was somewhat imperative that Styles pin Tanahashi even though that rarely happens to him in multi-man tags.  Tanahashi defeated Styles at the Seibu Dome in August and again for the title in Osaka this past October.  At 0-2, Styles needed some sort of victory over Tanahashi to justify a title shot.  Defeating Naito the night before and Yoshitatsu back in November wasn’t going to be enough given the circumstances.  Sure enough, Styles got his pin fall win on the IWGP Heavyweight champion via a Styles Clash that was proceeded by Gallows & Anderson using their tag team finisher on the champ.

Styles has gotten himself over nicely, as evidenced by the audible “A-J-Sty-les” chants from the Korakuen crowd.  We’ve heard those before in this venue but before the chants were scatted.  This was a concentrated and very audible effort.  For all the hand-wringing over Styles not being over last May upon his debut, things have turned out just fine.  It takes time for someone with little history in a promotion and country to get over but he’s gotten there just fine.  It’s cool to see.

The match was good, but not in the league of last year’s eight-man tag main event that served to set up three title matches for the New Beginning shows.  Styles and Tanahashi worked well together overall, but were a little rough when working pinning reversal spots.  Gallows had another good performance which is becoming a trend.  There was no indication one way or another whether Gallows & Anderson will re-match with Shibata & Goto for the tag titles in February, but that seems likely.

The other story here was that Cody Hall (son of Scott) – who was spotted earlier in the evening working traditional young lion duties at ringside – accompanied the Bullet Club to the ring for the main event.  Cody was dressed in his Dad’s old red & black Wolfpac gear and Karl Anderson announced him as the Bullet Club’s young boy.  This has already drawn groans from some.  Hall has limited experience on the US indies and is training in the New Japan dojo.  A young lion generally wouldn’t get this sort of exposure and it appears to be a special exemption being made in this case.

Personally, I think it is a good fit for the Bullet Club and don’t see the problem with it.  As a foreign heel group, messing with the usual Young Lion set up in this way is a fine little wrinkle.  When Anderson announced Cody as Scott Hall’s son, it got a big “Oooohhhhh” reaction from the fans.  The idea is to get guys over, not to follow unwritten rules.  If the association with the Bullet Clun can position Cody better AND he can eventually develop into a solid wrestler, then what is the harm?

Bray Wyatt vs. Dean Ambrose
United States & Canada
Ambulance Match

It is probably safe to say there has never been a legitimately good ambulance match of for that matter, any match where the objective is to “put” your opponent in something.  This was probably as good as it gets for the gimmick.  Ambrose had several neat spots including an elbow drop from the roof of the ambulance through a table that came off well.  Unfortunately, the gimmick is counterintuitive and the crowd – which wanted to get into matches the entire night – just couldn’t.



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