The commentary team for tonight is Jim Ross and Josh Barnett.
These are very important shows for New Japan and they are looking to make a statement.
Bullet Club (Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, Yujiro Takahashi & Bad Luck Fale) vs CHAOS (Roppongi Vice, Will Ospreay & The Briscoes)
This was the perfect way to open the show. It was fast paced and got the crowd invested early. It had the right talent to get the US crowd going and everyone got a chance to shine. It was a showcase for those involved and it was a spotfest, but it was a fun one. Get in, get your shit in, get out. Good stuff. ***1/2
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, EVIL, SANADA & BUSHI) vs Jushin Liger, Volador Jr, Dragon Lee & Titan
This was not as good as the opener. It wasn't bad but it was completely forgettable. I was expecting better. The short section with Takahashi and Dragon Lee was gold though. **1/2
IWGP US Title Tournament Round 1 - Jay Lethal vs Hangman Page
This was rough. For whatever reason this didn't click at all. Page, and to a certain extent Lethal, had a chance to make a statement here and just didn't. The finishing stretch was horrible too. *1/2
IWGP US Title Tournament Round 1 - Zack Sabre Jr vs Juice Robinson
I am a big fan of what Zack Sabre Jr does and I'm beginning to warm to Juice Robinson. This was great. Juice is settling into the resilient babyface role and heel Sabre Jr is the best Sabre Jr. He was a dick here. The finishing segment with Zack transitioning from one submission to another was excellent. ***3/4
Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, Jay White & David Finlay vs Yohei Komatsu, Sho Tanaka, Yoshitatsu & Billy Gunn
Ugh. Billy Gunn and Yoshitatsu. This was garbage. Billy Gunn looked fucking terrible. Why is he here? The IC Title match on night 2 has massive hurdles to overcome. How can Tanahashi and KUSHIDA be in a match this bad? Skip this. *
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles, No DQ Match - Guerrillas of Destiny vs War Machine
War Machine decided to add the stipulation before the match started. GoD were fine with it. This was a fun big bastard match but it lost a bit of impetus as it went on, with the crowd not really giving a shit about the Chase Owens run in. I think their previous title match was the better of the two. ***
IWGP US Title Tournament Round 1 - Tetsuya Naito vs Tomohiro Ishii
This was a really wise match for New Japan to book as there was almost no chance that this wouldn't be great. These two have fantastic chemistry and it really showed again here. I love Ishii, the crazy no neck bastard, and he was on typical double hard form here. When Naito had control he was a massive dick, which was fantastic, and it got the crowd rooting for Ishii. This was superbly done. ****1/2
IWGP US Title Tournament Round 1 - Kenny Omega vs Michael Elgin
Happy Canada Day. Omega was the default face here as the crowd had no interest in booing him. This was fan-fucking-tastic. Both men pushed each other to their very limits and the crowd responded, turning the match up a notch. There is a fantastic near fall where Elgin hit a second rope crucifix bomb. The finishing stretch is spectacular. The knee strikes that Omega hits look absolutely fucking brutal. Both men come out of this looking great and Omega keeps up his run of amazing singles matches. ****3/4
IWGP Heavyweight Title - Kazuchika Okada vs Cody
I really like the gimmick that Cody is using but I have been critical of his in ring output. I feel that most of his matches are just decent. Good but not great. I can't make that criticism here. This was an excellent main event and Cody's ring psychology and storytelling were on point. It was easily his best singles match ever. In a reversal of roles from Dominion, Kenny Omega came out and tried to get Cody's wife Brandi to throw in the towel for her husband. She refused but this changed the course of the match for Cody. He tried to win the match with Omega's finisher, the One Winged Angel, but his hubris was his downfall. Great main event that also built up the story of dissension in the Bullet Club. ****1/4
Overall Grade - A-
First off I will get the negative points out of the way. JR's commentary was woeful in the first half of the show. He got names wrong and generally seemed ill prepared for the show. He got it together in the second half but it was painful until then. There were also production issues with weirdly timed cutaways following matches and a couple of instances of the wrong music being played.
Now for the positives. The crowd was fantastic throughout, which isn't surprising given that the show sold out almost immediately. The show looked great, issues aside, and the second half of the show was wonderful. This has to be seen as a success for New Japan but the production issues need sorting.