NJPW: Fighting Spirit Unleashed Review

Finally, the Lion Spirit has come back to the WALTER Pyramid. The last time New Japan Pro Wrestling took their show to American shores we saw Juice Robinson defeat Jay White for the IWGP US Championship, the last match before injury time for Hiromu Takahashi & the first appearance of The Firing Squad. With Cody now making himself number one contender to Juice’s title, Marty Scurll & Will Ospreay fighting for a shot at Hiromu’s vacant belt & plenty of Bullet Club over the upper card, let’s see what NJPW could deliver this time:

Image courtesy of njpw1972.com & TDEwrestling.com

Results:

Taguchi Japan (Ryusuke Taguchi, Jushin Thunder Liger & ACH) def. Roppongi3k (Rocky Romero, Sho & Yoh) // Taguchi pinned Romero off a Dodon:

This was a very fun and good opening match with the right man taking the pin as Liger/Tiger, ACH/Taguchi & 3k should all be in the Jr Tag League.

The Addiction (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) def. Golden Elite (Chase Owens & Hangman Page) // Daniels pinned Owens off a Best Meltzer Ever:

A smartly-worked little showcase that hopefully is giving The Addiction some momentum going into G1 Tag League? Please?

Flip Gordon, Chris Sabin, & Jeff Cobb def. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Chuckie T & Trent) // Cobb pinned Chuckie off a Tour of the Islands:

This was the best of the undercard with everyone coming off well but especially Cobb who came off as a bona fide star.

Post-Match: Cobb & Goto have a staredown, teasing another match between the two big boys.

Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr, Lance Archer, & Davey Boy Smith Jr) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, EVIL & SANADA) // Zack Sabre Jr pinned EVIL off a Clutch Hold

This was a slighter encounter than some others, perhaps due to the played-out interactions between these two factions but ZSJ-EVIL continues to be a brilliant mini-feud.

Post-match: EVIL isn’t feeling it, man.

CHAOS (Jay White & Gedo) def. Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA) // White pinned Tanahashi off a Blade Runner

No-One’s surprised that three of the men in this match were great but it’s worth saying that Gedo looks the most engaged he has in years, pulling back into his classic scumbag ways.

Post-match: Jay White calls out Tanahashi for not giving him his briefcase shot. He was a complete and Utter prick, the audience hated him. I loved it.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Semi-Final: Marty Scurll def. Will Ospreay // Scurll pinned Ospreay off a Graduation

This is one of those pairings that will have to be on a really off-day to not deliver the goods. This was very much an on-day. Ospreay’s mini-tribute to Hiromu Takahashi was very sweet & Scurll was at his sadistic best. I like how Ospreay’s loss plays into the wider collapse of all of CHAOS beyond Switchblade & Gedo (Switchbledo?). Scurll vs KUSHIDA is going to be wild.

Images courtesy of njpw1972.com

IWGP Tag Team Title Championship: Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) w/Haku def.The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) (c) // Tama pinned Matt off an elevated Gun Stun

This was precisely as good as you’d expect. Over this year, the Bucks seem to have gone out of their way to prove that they aren’t just ‘spot monkeys’ and have shown that they really are the premier tag team on the market with the story of Matt succumbing to GoD’s leg work being beautifully played out. Satisfyingly as well, the Firing Squad had a match free of shenanigans, even with Haku at ringside it kept the work clean and just well-done. For all the people who disliked Tama Tonga’s G1 Climax run, this is a very good reminder of how strong he is as a tag wrestler. As good as this match is, I hope that they start wrapping up the Golden Elite-Firing Squad as its interactions are beginning to feel a little forced.

Images courtesy of njpw1972.com

IWGP United States Championship: Cody def. Juice Robinson (c) // Cody pinned Robinson off a Paul Smackage.

Fuck Cody. Up until the finish, the action was pretty decent with Juice and Cody playing quite solidly old-school face-heel dynamics but after the standard both men hit their finishers but are unable to capitalise, the finish came with a roll-up off a superplex with the announcers playing up that it looked like both men’s shoulders were down but that Cody was declared champion. The problem here is that it sells out Juice once again, here we have possibly the purest underdog figure in modern wrestling made to look less like an underdog and more just a loser. Cody, on the other hand, doesn’t need another belt, him winning via dodgy dealings neither brings prestige to the belt or actually elevates him . I’m fully aware that if the roles had been reversed and Juice had won under these precise circumstances, I probably would have still loved this match and I accept that bias especially as I have to give credit to Juice for getting a better match out of Cody than most but sadly, even though he’s perfectly placed in ROH, Cody still doesn’t feel like he makes sense in New Japan.

Images courtesy of njpw1972.com

Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) def. CHAOS (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) // Ibushi pinned Ishii off a Golden Trigger

Of the 6 shows NJPW has put on in the US, Kenny Omega has main evented 5 and 3 of those in tags alongside Kota Ibushi, 2 of them now against Tomohiro Ishii, the other 1 involved Kazuchika Okada. Thank goodness for this because these factors all made for probably the best non-title tag NJPW has had in ages. Taking a similar framework to the similar match from Road to Destruction  but by substituting Ospreay for Okada, they made the finish more in doubt as you always know in ring with 4 performers when one’s a junior, who’s taking the pin. This was just twenty+ minutes of peerless ring work with Ibushi’s sequences with Ishii still with epitome of everything wrestling should be. Just go watch this if you haven’t.

Post-match: The Golden Elite hug it out in the ring. Cody twists Omega’s proverbial arm into making King of Pro wrestling’s main event a Triple Threat between Omega, Ibushi & Cody for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. In many ways this continues a theme from the very first NJPW US show of adding the threat of having to see Cody as IWGP Heavyweight Champion lending some extra tension to a match.

Images courtesy of njpw1972.com

In terms of consistency, this was possibly the best NJPW US event yet. While it lacked one truly classic match such as Takahashi vs Dragon Lee from G1 Special In San Francisco or Omega vs Ishii from G1 Special In USA, it was just top-to-bottom good fun. I think that it’s good that they’re not going straight in with the CHAOS civil war storyline if that’s the route they go as there’s still the Golden Elite-Firing Squad to resolve and much as I may disagree with their complete domination of the top of the card, it’s hard to argue that in the US, Bullet Club aren’t the stars. This was very good, now let’s watch King of Pro Wrestling top it.