Takashi Iizuka gives his career the Iron Fingers…
Takashi Iizuka has always been an interesting character and a notorious turncoat during his career with NJPW. Now his career is coming to an end and NJPW gave him this show to host his last match. Alongside his last hurrah, we were given a whole card of tag matches that saw many returning faces who were nowhere to be seen during the New Beginning tour. Let’s get into it.
Taiji Ishimori & Robbie Eagles defeat Yuya Uemura & Jyushin Thunder Liger via 450 Splash on Uemura
This match took the standard formula for a young lion and veteran team match and used it as a vehicle to bring back Robbie Eagles ahead of Honour Rising and start building towards Liger vs Ishimori. It was a fast little sprint that saw two segments where Liger showed his experience over Ishimori and trap him in the Romero Special. Unfortunately his partner Uemura would take a lot of abuse before making a Dropkick comeback and locking on the Boston Crab. Liger broke up the pin on the Super Backback but couldn’t stop Uemura falling to the 450 Splash. Liger and Ishimori ended up brawling after the match too. This was a nice little opener that gave Eagles a welcome back win and built towards an upcoming title feud.
Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma, Togi Makabe & Toa Henare defeat Satoshi Kojima, Manabu Nakanishi, Ren Narita & Yota Tsuji via Toa Bottom on Tsuji
We get more Young lions and older generation superstars action as two teams of mixed superstars go to war. Once again this was a light bit of chaotic fun to warm up the crowd and put some people on the card. It’s nice to see intense Henare is still with us as it gives him more character. Everyone played their parts well. All in all, nothing to complain about.
Tomohiri Ishii & Yoshi-Hashi defeat Yuji Nagata & Shota Umino via Butterfly Lock to Umino
The third match provided the return of both Yuji Nagata and Tomohiro Ishii. The last time those two were in a ring was New Year’s Dash. Much like that last encounter, a large part of the match was dedicated the two hitting each other in the face and chest. As this happened there would be large portions of the match where Umino was worked over by CHAOS lads. He would try to stand up to Ishii’s strikes but would ultimately fall to them. Nagata would do all he could to help and eventually Umino was able to make a massive comeback against Yoshi-Hashi. There was a nice section where Nagata and Umino worked as an actual team resulting in Umino hitting a top rope Missile Drop Kick to Hashi. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t result in a victory as Hashi was able to come back and trap Umino in the Butterfly Lock and win the match.
After the match, there was more Ishii and Nagata brawling as Yoshi Hashi tried to stop them. He was slapped aside by Nagata and the two kept fighting. We really need a singles match between these two as when they were in the ring, the intensity was off the charts.
Roppongi 3K defeat El Desperado & Yoshinobu Kanemaru via 3K to Kanemaru
Yoshinobu Kanemaru continues his role as Suzuki Gun fall guy as he eats the finish to the next match. The newly decided number one contenders Roppongi 3K were in action against the former champions. What started as an ordinary match quickly broke down into a brawl with SHO being battered down on the outside then picked apart in the ring. He was subject to maulings from both Desperado and Kanemaru and could only wait for his partner to make the save. After some more back and forth Desperado was dispatched and Kanemaru was hit with a surprise 3K for the win. It was an odd return match for 3K as they spent most of the match on the losing end. After making such a confident challenge for the titles they should have put on a strong match. Instead, they were mostly bullied and forced to take the underdog win.
After the match, BUSHI and Shingo Takagi made an appearance to mock the challengers. Roppongi 3K didn’t take this well, returning to the ring to drop a promo. A mini brawl ensues but BUSHI and Shingo wipe out both challengers. It was enjoyable enough but nothing we hadn’t seen before between the two.
Hirooki Goto & Ryusuke Taguchi defeat Zack Sabre Jr & Taka Michinoku via Clutch Hold on Taka
The Suzuki Gun losing streak continues as a returning Hirooki Goto teams with Ryusuke Taguchi to take on Zack Sabre Jr and his hype man Taka Michinoku. Once again this may not be the most inspired tag match but it was fun. ZSJ was willing to play Taguchi’s game and the chemistry between Goto and Taguchi was surprisingly high. It was short enough to not drag and it’s always a laugh to try and count how many submission holds ZSJ locks in per match.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Will Ospreay defeat Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr via Oscutter on Smith
More returns and more Suzuki Gun losses follow as Killer Elite Squad fall to the team of the Never Openweight Champion and the Former IWGP Heavyweight Champion. This was another match where the Suzuki Gun team had control for most of the match but were unable to seal the deal and lost because of it. The audience was happy with Ospreay’s surprise victory. Suzuki Gun lost despite being so dominant. This one was a bit more plodding than the previous and won’t detract from anything if ignored.
Toru Yano, Kazuchika Okada & Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeat Taichi, Minoru Suzuki & Takashi Iizuka via Moonsault Press on Iizuka
For the last time, Takashi Iizuka makes his entrance through the crowd. Shinpei Nogami came out to call the match. Nogami is special here as he was the main victim during Iizuka’s turn to madness. He would attack and embarrass Nogami mercilessly. This would happen for a final time as the second Iizuka saw Nogami he went for him, ripping the shirt right off his body. Tenzan tries one last time to bring Iizuka to his senses but it still doesn’t get through and he is forced to fight instead. He seems to have the one up on Iizuka until Suzuki interferes. Tenzan is unmasked pretty early on and bites everyone he gets his hands on. Even Minoru Suzuki takes part in the biting as Taichi distracts the referee.
The final stretch where Tenzan tries once more to break through to Iizuka but fails. Instead Iizuka is hit with a Low Blow from Yano when he tries to use the Iron Fingers, a Tombstone from Okada and is finished with a Moonsault from Tenzan was lovely. His regretful former tag partner still doesn’t give up as after the match he attempts to bring Iizuka to his senses once more. Just when it seems we’ve had a handshake and that Iizuka is about to hug Tenzan, he bites his head and the rest of Suzuki Gun attack. There is a brawl and Iizuka does one last lap of crowd before disappearing. During this lap the rest of Suzuki Gun clap him off and Suzuki provides a 10 hit salute on the ring bell. Thus ends the show and the wrestling career of Takashi Iizuka, Suzuki Gun’s favourite turncoat.
Best Match of the Night
There were two standout matches from this show. The first belongs to Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi vs Yuji Nagata and Shota Umino which was another example of how two angry people can put on a spectacle. The vicious exchanges between Nagata and Ishii were incredibly fun and the crowd were going mad for it. This was a continuation from a previous match where the two locked horns that should eventually progress into a fully-fledged feud.
The second goes to the main event as it was a massive mess with plenty of enjoyable moments. Since it was Iizuka’s send-off he got plenty of time to shine and throw in some throwbacks to his old style of wrestling. The match had enough star power to feel like a main event and didn’t take itself too seriously as we got several rounds of biting. The lack of a happy ending may be disappointing to some but it fits the crazy character perfectly. Instead seeing Suzuki himself conduct the send-off gives an extra level of feeling of loyalty to the members of his faction, even if they originally came to him through betrayal.
So that is that. A fun show of tag matches bringing back some familiar faces and either starting or ending stories. Most matches were fun, quick experiences that get people back in the groove before the Honour Rising tour and beyond. Iizuka had a proper send-off befitting of his character and the crowd got a show worth enjoying. It’ll be interesting to see if Suzuki Gun brings in a new member to replace him and if anyone new will pick up the Iron fingers of Doom.
(All images courtesy of njpw1972.com)