NJPW Sakura Genesis 2017 Review

Jushin Liger, Manabu Nakanishi & David Finlay vs. Hirai Kiwato, Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka

This is the veterans vs. young lions opener so the outcome isn't really in doubt but the the young boys looked good and it was nice to see Finlay pick up the pinfall. This was short and to the point. **1/2

Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi, Chase Owens & Guerrillas of Destiny) vs. Yuji Nagata, Togi Makabe, Tiger Mask & Tiger Mask W

The Bullet Club B Team is here. If Takahashi didn't have the sensational valet I would completely forget he existed. This was another typical multi-man tag match but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It was brisk, it had some nice moments and it never outstayed its welcome. Chase Owens looked good here. ***

Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku & El Desperado) vs. CHAOS (YOSHI-HASHI & Roppongi Vice)

We are flying out the gate with the multi-man tags. This one differentiates itself by being more of a brawl. Suzuki-gun attacks before the bell, as is customary, and we get some scrapping at ringside. When it returned to the ring they told the story of YOSHI taking the punishment before picking up the win. I suspect we may get YOSHI vs. Suzuki soon. The match was fine but never really got going. **1/2

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles - Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemura) vs. Gedo & Jado

Well, this was fucking awful. It was all shenanigans. I really don't like Taichi. *

Bullet Club (Kenny Omega & Bad Luck Fale) vs. CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano)

We get t-shirt on, comedy Omega. I wouldn't normally have a problem with that but it doesn't seem like this is the right time for it. I would think that it would be serious rebuilding time. At least he won. This was good when it was Omega vs. Ishii but I'm not high on Fale and Yano annoys me somewhat. **1/2

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL, BUSHI & SANADA) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet, Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson

Back to the multi-man tag matches. This one has real promise, even though they have done a variation of LIJ vs. Tanahashi and friends roughly 747 times so far this year. It's a fast paced, entertaining match throughout with everyone getting their chance to shine. There is a section in the middle with Ricochet taking everyone out that is particularly spectacular. Juice picks up the pinfall on Naito which sets up a future IC Title match between the two. A really fun way to head in to intermission. ***3/4

IWGP Tag Team Titles - Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima vs. War Machine

I have liked War Machine for a while and it is great to see them get their shot in New Japan. This match was superb. It was the hard hitting match that I hoped it would be and it showcased War Machine perfectly. The finishing stretch is a thing of beauty with some brilliantly done near falls which meant that you never knew who would pick up the victory. In the end though it was War Machine that picked up the win before paying respect to their opponents and the titles. Hopefully they get a meaningful title reign. Highly recommended. ****1/4

NEVER Openweight Title - Hirooki Goto vs. Zack Sabre Jr

Sabre comes out wearing the Evolve, PWG and Rev Pro titles. They take up the entire top half of his body. The bulk of this match is Sabre outwrestling the bigger Goto who always just about manages to escape. It's a really good technical match that is building nicely before the other members of Suzuki-gun get involved. Despite the interference Goto wins and gets in to a ruck with Suzuki post match, setting up a future match. It's a really good match but it could have been great. ***3/4

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title - Hiromu Takahashi vs. KUSHIDA

Well this was unexpected. KUSHIDA attacks Takahashi before the bell, working over the arm. He rolls him back in the ring, works the arm a little bit more and then gets cut off. Takahashi delivers a superkick then a sunset flip powerbomb to the floor. Takahashi rolls him back in, hits a Time Bomb, a DVD in the corner and another Time Bomb and that's all she wrote for KUSHIDA. It was a statement of dominance from Takahashi. It was a crazy 2 minute match but I can't really give a worthwhile rating to a match this short. NR

IWGP Heavyweight Title - Kazuchika Okada vs. Katsuyori Shibata

The contrast between Okada, in his outlandish entrance robe and gold chain, and Shibata, black boots and black trunks, is a perfect representation of this match. The crowd is firmly behind Shibata. They start off with Shibata getting the best of Okada by keeping him grounded. This moves on to a game 'anything you can do, I can do better'. This portion of the match features some absolutely sickening sounding strikes by Shibata and a spot of ringside brawling for good measure. Okada also resorts to a few underhanded tactics which begins to turn the crowd against him. There is a spot where Okada hits a clothesline and Shibata responds by headbutting him so hard that he busts himself open. Shibata then puts him in an octopus hold and Okada has to dig deep to escape in a spot somewhat reminiscent of Angle vs Michaels at WrestleMania 21. The crowd is so into this that they pop for a chin lock. Shibata decides that means he should give Okada a sleeper suplex. He then gives him a Rainmaker slap keeps hold of the wrist and kicks the shit out of him. But, as he looks like he is about to succumb to the steamroller of kicks and headbutts, Okada hits a desperation Rainmaker and follows it up with a swift kick to the head and a second Rainmaker for the hardest fought of victories. And, breathe. This was absolutely top drawer stuff throughout. New Japan finds a way to make all of it's major show main events feel special and the story of Shibata establishing himself as a main eventer after walking out of the company years ago was the icing on the cake. There is a subtle moment after the pinfall where Shibata pats Okada on the shoulder as if to say 'We fucking nailed that' and it was great. I cannot recommend this enough. *****

Following the match Bad Luck Fale comes out to attack Okada and set up the next title match. I can guarantee it won't be a patch on this.

Overall Grade - A

The first half of the show was a pretty typical New Japan show with multi-man tags and such but the tone changed in the 8-man tag before intermission. From there on in the standard was consistently high and the main event is a must watch.