Welcome to coverage of New Japan Pro Wrestling Fighting Spirit Unleashed from Long Beach, California.
The show is streaming live on New Japan World but will air in taped format this Friday on AXS TV.
The crowd is obviously way down from previous NJPW events here at the Golden Pyramid.
Kevin Kelly and Jim Ross are on commentary.
Mauro Ranallo is in the front row.
FIGHTING SPIRIT UNLEASHED
*ACH & Jushin Liger & Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Roppongi 3K & Rocky Romero in a very good opener. Liger received a nice reaction. Liger was worked over until he finally made the tag to ACH, who hit all his big offense, culminating with a big dive to the outside on Sho and Yo. Taguchi was showcased at the end with hip attacks and finally pinned Romero, which was the right call, As an opener, this was exactly what it needed to be.
*Christopher Daniels and Kazarian defeated Adam Page and Chase Owens. Page and Owens worked over Kazarian for a long time before Daniels tagged in. Kazarian pulled his knees up when Page went for the flip into the shoulderblock off the apron and it looked evil. Daniels and Kazarian worked over Owens and finally scored the pin with the Best Moonsault Ever. Good bell to bell action. Kazarian didn’t look like his injury on Friday at the ROH show was slowing him down.
*ROH TV Champion Jeff Cobb & Chris Sabin & Flip Gordon defeated CHAOS’ Chucky T & Trent Beretta & Hirooki Goto when Cobb pinned Taylor after Tour of the Islands. This was very much a spotlight on Cobb, who New Japan is looking to push heavily. Early on, Sabin was being worked over but Gordon made the tag and hit all his cool looking offensive aerial maneuvers and kicks. Goto tagged in and he and Cobb went to war, going back and forth and it was just great, obviously teasing more for down the line. Cobb reversed a double suplex attempt from T and Beretta. Cobb then massacred Tayor to score the win. Another good bout.
*Zack Sabre Jr. & The Killer Elite Squad defeated LIJ’s Tetsuya Naito & EVIL & SANADA. Another solid six man tag. SANADA was worked over early in the bout. There was a great sequence with EVIL and Sabre Jr. going back and forth. In the end, Sabre escaped an STO from EVIL and scored the pin.
*Jay White and Gedo defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and KUSHIDA after Gedo drilled Tanahashi with a foreign object and White pinned him. This was meant to be a major step up for White. The match was OK with some back and forth action, but no major standout sequences. The crowd was eh on the finish. Lots of solid wrestling so far, but it’s very much a house show and not a big spectacle of a show at this point.
*White cut a promo saying that he beat Tanahashi after Okada couldn’t. He said that he has the right to claim the briefcase for the Wrestle Kingdom title shot and Tanahashi and New Japan are scared of him being in the main event picture. He got some decent heat for the promo. One would think this sets up a singles bout. White came off like a star in his presentation.
*Marty Scurll defeated Will Ospreay in one hell of a match. Ospreay was all over the place with 100,000 big spots and a huge dive to the floor at the onset. Scurll cut him off with a superkick and began beating Ospreay down in the ring. Ospreay made a comeback with a sunset flip powerbomb to the outside. They battle to the top where Scurll hit a superplex while trapping Ospreay in a chickenwing. Scurll scored the pin. Easily, by FAR FAR FAR, the best thing on the show thus far. Scurll vs. KUSHIDA is now set to determine the new IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship. Ospreay is obviously bulking up and is heading for the Heavyweight division in the long term future. He’s going to be a top one percent talent in the end.
*The Guerrilla of Destiny defeated The Young Bucks to capture the IWGP Tag Team Championship. The story here was that Matt Jackson’s back, which he has been selling as problematic pretty much since last January, was the weakness that caused the title loss. Matt was shoved off the top through a table that kept him out for some time as Nick was worked over. Matt made the save but when the Bucks went for big moves, his back failed him and he was slower than usual. Really well told story. For everyone who still thinks the Bucks are all spots, this match is proof enough that claim is garbage.
*NWA Champion Cody Rhodes pinned Juice Robinson after catching him in a small package out of a superplex. The NWA title was not on the line. This was solid. Cody was caught coming off the top and hit with a belly to belly. They did the classic Ric Flair-Dusty Rhodes figure four attempt and reversal. Brandi was playing the Sherri Martel role, running interference and at one point Brandi Rhodes pulled Cody out of the ring to prevent the pin. Robinson didn’t want a countout win and brought Cody back. That was his mistake as Rhodes caught him with Crossrhodes on the floor. They teased a countout before they returned at 19. Cody nailed a vertebreaker for a near fall. Robinson did a great job selling that he was out on his feet. Juice came back with a superplex and nailed it, but Rhodes locked him in a small package for the surprise win, capturing the United States Championship. That makes Cody a double champion, which puts him in quite the political advantageous position. The crowd seemed shocked by the finish and chanted for Juice on the way out.
*The Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi defeated Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii. Just an incredibly physical bout. Ibushi and Omega started out and went back and forth. Omega and Ishii tagged in and they did spots setting up Ishii’s power, including a shoulderblock that sent Omega flying. Ibushi drilled Ishii with a series of kicks to the chest but Ishii absorbed them and dared him to bring more. Omega and Ishii battled to the floor with Omega being tossed into the railing. Ishii worked over Ibushi until Omega made the hot tag and nailed a flying bodypress. Omega nailed a bad looking leaping DDT with Ishii looking to come down on the side of his head. Omega seemed to be a little off at times with the announcers claiming his knee was hurt over the course of the match. They teased Omega and Okada facing off for the first time ever in the States but Ibushi dropkicked Okada to the floor. The Golden Lovers hit the cross slash stereo dives to the floor. They double teamed Okada but Ishii returned and nailed a Saito suplex on Omega. Okada killed Ibushi with a dropkick into the corner. This led to Omega and Okada finally facing off one on one. They went back and forth with punches and chops. They each avoided their signature moves. Omega finally nailed a snap Dragon suplex. Ibushi took out Ishii with a dive. Omega nailed the V-Trigger but Okada escaped the One-Winged Angel. They went into a series of reversals until Okada nailed a tombstone and Ishii drilled Omega but Ibushi made the save. Ishii and Ibushi faced off, drilling the other with forearms. They all went into a great series of back and forth near falls. The Golden Lovers went for the Golden Trigger but Okada hit the ring and DDT’d Ibushi. He went for a dropkick but Omega caught him with a sick powerbomb in mid-air. Ishii drilled Omega but was hit with a backflip kick by Ibushi. Everyone was down and the crowd chanted for New Japan. The battle continued with Ishii turning Ibushi upside down with a lariat for a two count. Finally, Okada and Ishii double teamed Ibushi, who still kicked out to show his fighting spirit. Omega pulled Okada out and tossed him into the railing. Ibushi scored a two count on a Dragon suplex. The Golden Lovers drilled Ishii with a double kick to the head. Omega smashed Okada off the apron into the railing. They nailed the Golden Trigger and scored the pin. A damn fun match.
Omega addressed the crowd after as Bullet Club joined him. Omega said they didn’t have a perfect record tonight and apologized to the Bucks about their loss. He said there were some empty seats tonight, but he sees lots of familiar faces from last time and happy faces as well. Omega challenged Ibushi to have a singles match at the King of Pro Wrestling event. Cody came out and said he wanted to help them out. He challenged Ibushi and Omega to a three-way match at the show instead. Omega said it was actually an ingenius idea. He said there has only been one triple threat match for the IWGP title and now they can re-write history. He agreed to the match and said they will show the beauty of pro wrestling and made the match official. He said it isn’t personal or because breaking their promise to each other, but to show the originality and beauty of professional wrestling. He joked about screwing up sticking to the script and said they were running long, so he bid everyone goodnight, saying the business would change in 2019, but they still have three months so let’s change it now.