If Wrestle Kingdom is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestlemania, then New Year’s Dash, is their RAW After Mania (Writer’s Note: Take a drink for every review of NYD you read that start’s with this sentence). Where Wrestle Kingdom often is the climax of feuds, this is where new ones start. It’s also a pretty good guess to assume there’ll be a fair few angles or surprises with the last two year’s featuring the ejection of AJ Styles from the Bullet Club and the return en-masse of Suzuki Gun. With that in mind, let’s get this started shall we? I’m Jozef, this is the NJPW New Year’s Dash Review and I can’t wait for the day that Cheeseburger wins the New Japan Rumble.
Yuji Nagata, Manabu Nakanishi, Hiroshi Tenzan, & Satoshi Kojima def. Tomoyuki Oka, Ren Narita, Shota Umino, & Tetsuhiro Yagi (8:00)
A fun, little sprint that saw the young lions matching the New Japan Dads and even looking for a short while like they might pull off an upset, they brawled from the bell keeping this a pacey affair with particularly from the Dad’s side, Nagata and Kojima continuing to look like men twenty years their younger and Oka seeming like someone with years more experience while everyone threw in some new moves including leg drops sentons and deadlifts. Eventually, Umino would eat a Lariat from Kojima for the pin but it was fun while it lasted.
Suzuki-Gun (TAKA Michinoku, El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Takashi Lizuka & Taichi) def. Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask IV, Hirai Kawato, Henare & Togi Makabe (9:10)
— LARIATOOOO!! (@MrLARIATO) January 5, 2018
If you’ve watched any New Japan before, you won’t be surprised to see the words ‘Suzuki-Gun attack before the bell’ here. This was a classic heel-face dynamic as the Gun tried to keep the face team from getting more than one member into the ring at any one time with everyone getting little moments to get their schtick in. This lacked a hint of enjoyment in comparison to the opener but Tiger Mask and Liger are always great value and Henare is really coming along. The finish came as Kawato fell to a superkick from Taichi and the Pinche Loco diving DDT from Kanemaru. Post-match, the Gun would beat down young lion Kawato with Lizuka hitting him with the iron claw, maybe to send him off on excursion.
Kitamura 7 Match Trial Series: Jay White def. Katsuya Kitamura (7:35)
So Kitamura as the standout (see one with the most distinctive and largest physique) of the current crop of young lions is getting a series of seven trial matches in order to prove that he can lose to more experienced opponents but that he can lose well. After that, they’ll probably send him to CMLL or ROH for a bit. This was also a good rehab for the Switchblade after many were disappointed that his Intercontinental title match yesterday was merely good, not great. They worked a solid if unspectacular match as Kitamura utilised his power advantage showing off some great suplex variants but was unable to match up to White’s more vindictive tendencies. Even with all his fire, Kitamura still fell to the Blade Runner swinging reverse STO for the pin. Not the best match but it did exactly what it needed to.
The Elite (Nick & Matt Jackson, & Kenny Omega) def. Roppongi3K (Sho & Yoh) & Cheeseburger (11:17)
The Bucks and Kenny were fighting this one taped up and in-house show tights so you had to expect a lot of comedy going into this one. A lot of the action was built around everyone (bar Cheeseburger) being bruised and/or exhausted from yesterday’s show and it worked as it produced something pacey but still incredibly entertaining that the crowd were lapping up every second of, including what promises to be probably this year’s only extended sprint between Omega and Cheeseburger (turns out by New Japan logic, a thoroughly bruised Kenny Omega = slightly better than a fully healthy Cheeseburger). The finish came as Cheeseburger hit the Shotei on all three members of The Elite and then went for a high cross but was caught into an Indytaker for the pin. Another fun if inessential match as The Elite know how to work a crowd but they also knew they didn’t need to push the envelope too hard here.
Bullet Club (Marty Scurll, Cody, Yujiro Takahashi, Leo Tonga & Chase Owens) def. Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Kota Ibushi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA & Dave Finlay) (13:30)
Brandi was on commentary for this one and left the booth to aid in a distraction for the finish.The match was as fun as expected with the sheer amount of talent involved, plus Yujiro, Leo and Chase with them working a very similar match to the earlier Suzuki Gun Jr. match with the finish coming as Cody would tap out Dave Finlay with the American Nightmare figure four inversion but the real action of note came after the match. Kicking out all of the losing team bar Ibushi, they Club would go all out on Ibushi, pinning him down and preparing to hit him with a chair till out came Kenny Omega to stop them (and push us closer still to a Golden Lovers reunion/match) and try and restore order to the Bullet Club. Calming down Cody and sending his clubmates away, Kenny spoke about how the Club hasn’t been whole for a while and they need to stop fighting and get back to dominating. His idea to help this was to bring in some new blood, he called Jay ‘Switchblade; White to the ring and offered him the plain Bullet Club t-shirt, a tad disappointing Kenny mate, you could’ve given him one of the pricer tees from your shop. After some deliberation, White would put the t-shirt on and embrace Kenny like a good brother only to be suckering him in for a Blade Runner, he would then tell Kenny he’s coming for his belt. Great stuff and I already am starting to see how Jay could fit into the New Japan landscape.
Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr., Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr.) def. Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Hanson, Ray Rowe & Michael Elgin) (11:40)
So as far as we can tell, this is possibly the last time we’ll be seeing War Machine in a New Japan ring as rumours are they (and Ricochet) are NXT-bound. If that is the case, it’s a shame that they didn’t have a bigger platform to say goodbye on but that is not to say this wasn’t a good time (writer’s note: hopefully what with his actions outside of the ring, this might be the last time we see Elgin for a while. Especially when there’s a very good Jeffrey Cobb they could be using). Once again, take a drink, Suzuki-Gun attacked before the bell splitting up the face team and trying to exploit the number’s game.
Much of the strongest action in yesterday’s NEVER Openweight scramble came courtesy of Zack Sabre Jr. & War Machine’s Raymond Rowe and today was no different with the distinct performance clash between the bald, strong-style Viking and the lanky, technical, Octopus King of Britain putting on some smooth sequences that really make me wish they could have put the War Machine lads into last year’s G1. The newly bald Suzuki spent the majority of the match and the post-match beatdown focussed n on Tanahashi, going after the neck and shoulders of the Intercontinental Champ, signalling that he’s coming for his title. The finish came as KES managed to hit a Killer Bomb on Hanson for a pinfall. If this is goodbye, for now, War Machine, it’s been fun. See you between the yellow ropes…
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Hirmou Takahashi, SANADA, EVIL & BUSHI) def. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay, Hirooki Goto, YOSHI-HASHI & Gedo) (13:55)
A good CHAOS v LIJ tag match is nothing new as various performers from each faction have competed in 64 of them since the last Wrestle Kingdom. The joy of watching LIJ is that they are different to other stables in New Japan because there are just five of them and even if they are all different, they still share a ‘group against everything’ mentality where they are face if you’re with them, heel if you aren’t. The match itself, while very good as always, was also an excellent set-up for some future title opportunities with seemingly Okada v SANADA, Goto v EVIL, Ospreay v Takahashi & maybe even SANADA & EVIL vs Goto & YOSHI-HASHI set somewhere down the line (plus one more match we’ll get to in a bit). Keeping the action coming thick and fast with both groups trying to isolate and work over one member of the alternate faction, after some great individual encounters including further strong work between Okada and Naito, the finish came as HASHI took a Destino spinning over-the-shoulder reverse DDT for the pin.
Post-match antics really clarified plans going forward as LIJ beat down the confusing conglomerate that is CHAOS with Okada taking a Skull End choke from SANADA, Goto taking an STO from EVIL, Takahashi hitting a Time Bomb side driver on Ospreay and taking out HASHI and Gedo, standing tall. After this, Naito would cut a promo talking about how he had no excuses for his loss the night before but that 2018 would see LIJ evolve and that he hope’s to take the audience to places they only dreamt of. Just as he was leading, Chris Jericho would charge the ring and begin beating down Naito till the young lions arrive to separate them, the lads from LIJ would return to back up Naito but he would charge Jericho and they brawled again until the two could be separated and removed. It didn’t take an expert to guess that Jericho wasn’t completely done with New Japan and a match with Naito not only makes sense but could be even better than Jericho’s encounter with Omega yesterday.