NJPW certainly know how to celebrate an anniversary. This show saw both the Junior Title and Junior Tag Titles on the line as well as offering some special matches across the card. The main event saw the traditional non-title champion vs champion match as IWGP Heavyweight champion Jay White received a challenge from NEVER Openweight champion Will Ospreay. It was a packed card so let’s waste no more time and get into it.
[Replay ‘Anniversary Event’ on Mar 6th, 2019]
7TH MATCH: ANNIVERSARY DAY SPECIAL SINGLE MATCH @WillOspreay vs. @JayWhiteNZ!! #NJPWWorld Watch now▶︎https://t.co/Tj7UBINesh #njpw #njpw47th pic.twitter.com/5mxRkf1EkJ
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) March 6, 2019
HIKULEO, Chase Owens, Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa & Bad Luck Fale defeated Ren Narita, Shota Umino, Yoshida Ayato, Toru Yano & Togi Makabe // Package Piledriver from Owens to Ayato
The opening contest was less of a match and more of a mugging. The Bullet club army featuring the returning HIKULEO took on a rag tag team of Young Lions and Home Team members. From the get go the Young Lions try to stand up to the BC and Narita starts the match. He tries to take out Jado, instigating a brawl and making himself a target for most of the match. Everyone in Bullet Club works him over until he finally tags in Makabe and a brief comeback begins. Makabe battles the Guerrillas of Destiny but he too is forced to tag out bringing in Ayato. The Young Lions try to work together but fall victim to more Bullet Club antics, leading to Ayato eating a Package Piledriver and a loss.
This was a decent opening brawl most designed to showcase HIKULEO and allowing him to start building momentum again. There was also the fact that Chase Owens was trying to get into Juice Robinson’s head ahead of their New Japan Cup meeting. Whilst the match was nothing special, it was a solid enough opener featuring Bullet Club at its most villainous.
Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI defeated Yuji Nagata & Toa Henare // Kumagoroshi from HASHI on Henare
Once again it seemed that Ishii and Nagata were more occupied with beating each other up than taking part in the actual match. They would come to their partner’s aid and Ishii had some fun beating up Henare but for the most part it was more brawling and beatings from the two. Since they have an upcoming NJ Cup match, this just further fuelled the fire. These two seemed content to just pummel each other. There was very little flashy from them as they traded kicks, forearms and chops in an effort to knock the other out. Nagata seemed to have the upper hand and acted like a proud dad when Henare took control over Yoshi-Hashi. Both Henare and Hashi also had something to prove since they both have their own NJ Cup matches coming up. Hashi was his usual fired up self, trying to bring the best out of Henare too. After a heated exchange between the pair, Hashi threw a vicious Lariat and finished Henare off with a new finisher that njpw1972.com calls the Kumagoroshi, a Fisherman’s Suplex Style Brainbuster.
I will never tire of watching Ishii and Nagata fight. They stole this match and have built more hype for the New Japan Cup than an advert could do. They provided a fun backdrop as the two that wanted to prove themselves had it out. There was plenty to enjoy and once again the match length gave it enough time to breathe whilst also not letting it drag.
Satoshi Kojima, Tomoaki Honma, Tiger Mask, Dragon Lee & Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku // Dodon from Taguchi on TAKA
There is the return of Dragon Lee and Iizuka’s iron glove as this match starts. Taichi now proudly wears the weapon that has caused so many DQs. The match starts in typical Suzuki Gun fashion with a brawl with everyone going after everyone. Dragon Lee officially starts the match fighting Desperado before he tags out to Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask gets worked over but eventually comes back tagging in Honma. He fights with his NJ Cup opponent Taichi and eventually hits a Kokeshi after absorbing a lot of punishment. They bring in Kojima and Suzuki who proceed to beat the hell out of each other with Suzuki enjoying Kojima’s Machine Gun Chops a bit too much. They trade strikes until both are semi dazed and Kojima escapes the Gotch Style Piledriver with a Koji Cutter. Kojima tags in Taguchi who is victimised by Suzuki and the rest of Suzuki Gun. TAKA is tagged in and the rest Taguchi’s team decide to give Suzuki Gun a taste of their own medicine, allowing Taguchi to hit the Bummer Yi. This gets a two count so Taguchi reverses the Michinoku Driver and hits the Dodon for the three count. The brawl continues after the match with Kojima and Suzuki bordering on a chair war. Suzuki is pulled away and takes out his frustration on the Young Lions at ring side.
Once again Suzuki Gun did what it does best, provided a multi layered brawl that showcased a series of mini rivalries heading into the NJ Cup. Everyone had a time to shine and the return of Dragon Lee was a pleasant surprise. It may have been standard fare for Suzuki Gun but that doesn’t stop it being fun and Minoru Suzuki’s facial expressions are a riot to see on a screen (I imagine they’re terrifying up close.)
IWGP Jr Tag-Team Championship: Roppongi 3K defeated Shingo Takagi & BUSHI (c) // 3K on BUSHI
The next match saw current IWGP JR Tag champs BUSHI and Shingo Takagi take on their latest challengers Roppongi 3K. SHO and Shingo instantly went to it trying to out power the other. Shingo is mostly responsible for SHO and Yoh losing their title shot at Wrestle Kingdom. It’s safe to say he was holding a grudge. 3K go to work on Shingo’s knee until some well-placed rail shots saw BUSHI take control. From here SHO gets picked apart until Yoh makes the save on multiple occasions. There were the usual spots such as the BUSHI T shirt choke, enziguiris galore and other strikes and moves as the match went on. From here it is a much more back and forth affair with both teams bringing out the big guns. Finishers are missed and double team moves are kicked out of. A Rebellion attempt is reversed and SHO is hit with the poison mist from BUSHI. The Pumping Bomber is administrated to both members of 3K and eventually BUSHI tries to hit MX, misses and ends up getting caught for the 3K. New champions are crowned and Shingo is very, very unhappy with the results.
As much as I love BUSHI and Shingo, I have to applaud the performance of 3K in this match. They were able to outsmart and outlast the damage dealt to them by their opponents. The junior tag division is rather small so it’s been a while since 3K have been major players. There should be a case for a rematch as only BUSHI was pinned, Shingo had to be taken out of the match. Even Rocky wasn’t allowed to celebrate as he was punted after the match. It was a fun title match and the right team won. 3K put on a compelling match with some opponents who did not want to play fair.
IWGP Jr Heavyweight championship: Taiji Ishimori (c) defeated Jyushin Thunder Liger via Yes Lock
Now this was an amazing match. Ishimori and Liger have so much chemistry that this match was destined to be great. The match started technical with Liger tying Ishimori up in all sorts of knots to work on the legs and back. We saw the Romero Special, a Figure 4 and other holds used to try and slow down Ishimori. Liger got too cocky though and Ishimori was able to capitalise. The match sped up as Ishimori threw Liger into the railings and worked him over in the ring. Liger was able to comeback and hit a Brainbuster on the outside, almost forcing a count out. From there it was another round of Liger’s greatest hits as he pulled off both a Shoutei and a Liger Bomb. Unfortunately these only got a two count so the match continued. Ishomori would keep coming back into the match, trapping Liger in a Crossface and almost knocking him out with the corner Double Knees. Liger almost won with a series of Roll ups but Ishimori kept kicking out. Ishimori would try to use the Bloody Cross but that too was always countered. In the end Ishimori was able to lock in the formerly named Yes Lock and tap Liger out in the middle of the ring. Liger respectfully leaves the ring to a hail of applause from the crowd and Ishimori demands a mic to address the crowd. He calls out anyone from ROH to challenge him at G1 Supercard at MSG. This challenge is accepted by Dragon Lee and the two have a minor face off in the ring.
What a match. Liger is a legend of the junior wrestling scene and matches like this prove why. Despite his age, he had no problem keeping up with Ishimori and relished the periods where he was in control of the match. He took his fair share of punishment and always tried to give it back. He may have lost but he lost with dignity after laying it all out in the ring. He gave the audience what they wanted hitting all his famous spots and almost winning on multiple occasions. This is a must watch match from this show. So far Ishimori is proving to be an amazing champion and will hopefully continue to give us this calibre of matches.
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Kazuchika Okada & Hirooki Goto defeated EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito via Goto Shiki on SANADA
Next up was a special six man tag match between the Chaos and Home Team combination vs LIJ. It started with Okada and Naito mixing it up and going move for move into a pose off. Everyone mixes it up and Tanahashi comes in. He is bullied by targeted attacks to his leg and has to use an Inverted Dragon Screw on EVIL to finally break away. Okada comes in and has some excellent sequences with SANADA and EVIL. He goes power for power with EVIL and manages to catch SANADA off the ropes into a Neckbreaker. When he has taken enough he tags in Goto for the final stretch of the match. Goto and SANADA trade moves going between Skull End and GTR attempts before SANADA eats an Ushigoroshi and Goto is almost trapped in Skull End. Instead he reverses the hold into an intricate pin attempt locking up SANADA’s legs and folding him over. This wins the match and as the team celebrates everyone states they are going to win the NJ Cup. It’s all a bit awkward.
Whilst this seems like a thrown together match, it was rather enjoyable to watch. LIJ and Chaos don’t mix it up as often as people would probably like so this was a nice change from the Suzuki gun feuding. Everyone had a bit of fun in the match as it wasn’t a fully serious contest. It was short, it was sweet and it featured a lot of big names. What’s not to like?
[Replay ‘Anniversary Event’ on Mar 6th, 2019]
5TH MATCH: IWGP Jr. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH @Liger_NJPW vs. @taiji_ishimori (c)!! #NJPWWorld Watch now▶︎https://t.co/Tj7UBINesh #njpw #njpw47th pic.twitter.com/bcfRmfbanZ
— njpwworld (@njpwworld) March 6, 2019
Jay White defeated Will Ospreay via Blade Runner
Holy hell this was a violent war. There were so many times where either man had this match won and by some miracle the other would kick out. It started slow as Ospreay tried to prove he was more than a junior and had the power to match White. This worked until White hit a Saito on the floor and started targeting the previously injured ribs of Ospreay, grounding the once aerial Assassin. This would continue for a while with White meticulously targeting the ribs with strikes and Gutbusters. Will would eventually get back into it and launched over the ropes with a Space Flying Tiger Drop. He would fight for control when White failed to Saito him over the ropes leading to another flurry of high impact moves, finishing with a missed dive, winding himself and knocking over the Japanese commentary table.
White tries to take advantage of this but ends up in eating a Cheeky Nandos kick and being slapped in the Tree of Woe. A distraction from Gedo allows White back into the match where the two trade forearms, knocking White down again. Ospreay follows up with a second rope Electric Chair Driver and attempts the Oscutter but is caught in a Crucifix and elbowed mercilessly. Ospreay reverses the Blade Runner and hits a reverse Rana but Gedo saves the day as White is about to receive a Hidden Blade. White uses the distraction to hit a Low Blow but his Blade Runner attempt is cut off by a massive Powerbomb. He follows up with an Imploding 450 and only gets a two count, the camera reveals White has grabbed the ropes. An incensed Ospreay finally gets White up for Storm Breaker but White slides out and catches an Oscutter attempt into a Blade Runner and follows up with another to finally put Ospreay down. Post-match Ibushi saves Ospreay from a further beat down and both Bullet Club and Chaos storm the ring.
As you can see there was a lot to this match. It was a two person war that ended up taking it all out of both men. Ospreay felt he had a lot to prove and pushed himself beyond the limits to try and put his crafty opponent away. If it weren’t for Gedo, he probably would have succeeded. White is a ring general and paced the match perfectly, knowing when to strike and how to slow Ospreay down. Some will think it was too long or too spot heavy but as NJPW main events from 2019 go, this has to be near the peak. Hats off to both men.
Another strong showing by NJPW where the title matches provided and the main event truly felt like a main event. This was a celebration of NJPW and it felt special enough to be classed as such. No match was too difficult to watch nor did any feel like wasted time. The junior match and main events stand out above the rest and give me faith heading towards the NJ Cup and beyond.
(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)