May 18, 2021

NJPW Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2021 Night 12 (April 26) Results & Review

Watch: NJPW World

New Japan has coerced everyone in the wrestling world into a full-blown metaphysical crisis. Do these shows exist? Do these reviews exist? Is what we perceive true forms, or, by the precepts of German/Platonic Idealism, can we imagine a higher function of reality, one where EVIL retained his eyeshadow and Ibushi was actually talking about being the Earnest Young Mortal Feller we all needed? Should we just go full on Bishop Berkeley and deny any substantive reality as we perceive it?

Or, better yet, simply ignore it all. That is the path many have chosen. How am I sure, beyond anecdotal evidence? Well, for one, you are not reading this. No one is. I am writing it, that I can be sure of. My editor reads at least some of it, because they pop for the arbitrary reference to Tribe Called Quest and ESPN Classic’s Cheap Seats. Does that prove our existence? Before this gets too Cartesian, allow me to give everyone (not reading this) some insight into Voices of Wrestling office discourse:

J. Michael: Hey, is anyone going to cover this Road To show on the 26th? It’s a bit bigger than the usual Road To.

Voices of Wrestling Staff (in unison, marching through streets, holding aggressively worded placards, storming the Winter Palace and jumping up on tables and waving bits of paper at each other): A E DUB! A E DUB! A E DUB!

Fisticuffs break out over Darby Allin’s numbers in the 12-34 female demo. Brandon Thurston drinks Coke Zero from August Baker’s freshly decapitated head.

J. Michael: I mean, there’s a Naito singles match, that’s pretty significant…

Voices of Wrestling Staff (in unison, kneeling before a gilded, fiery altar, sensually writhing in ecstasy like Amenhoptep II in Akhnaten): Zeus! Zeus! Zeus! Zeus! Zeus! Zeus! Zeus!

J. Michael: I’m literally begging, someone please write this review.

Voices of Wrestling Staff (in unison, dancing spasmodically around massive, 10-story bonfire, surrounded by terraced earth mound pyramids, slathered in ceremonial war paint, moving in counter-clockwise circles): Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma! Su-wa-ma!

J. Michael: Fine. I have 4500 words to say about this show ANYWAY.

All this is to say: New Japan is in a lull. Singles matches on Road To’s have not broken this slumber. KENTA, the best performer in professional wrestling, cannot break this slumber. The prospect of stadium shows cannot halt this ennui.

I’ll quote the best philosopher on this one: “So it goes…”

Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru, and Minoru Suzuki) DEF. SHO, YOH, and Tiger Mask

Despy merch watch: nothing, just a Suzuki-gun towel. But wait, then there’s a Desperado towel in the background! That’s all, though. I guess Despy, like YOSHI-HASHI, is a Kanto phenomenon. Truly, all nations follow the same pattern: the taste profile is set in the East, and gradually dissipates as you move further south and west.

These matches are simply not as compelling without a Young Lion for Suzuki to badger, and so the intrigue of this match was the result: another clean win for Kanemaru (and more credence to my belief that they are booking all the juniors strong right now due to the division’s diminished numbers). Kanemaru used his veteran savvy to thwart the overzealous SHO. He dodged SHO’s attempt to save Tiger Mask, pushed SHO into Tiger Mask, swung him around into Tiger Mask again, evaded SHO’s spear, and jackknifed Tiger Mask for the clean pinfall.

Desperado, who did next to nothing in this six-minute match, once again proved himself to be the worst winner in the company, relentlessly taunting Roppongi 3K after the match. There’s a particular sadness to faces being out-cooled by the heels, but that’s pretty much been R3K’s career, hasn’t it? Obviously it’s impossible to be out-cooled by The Young Bucks, so you have to give them the edge in that one, but after that? Three years of selling gravure and looking like dorks. Not a bad life, really.

SHO was annihilated by Suzuki here, and his smoldering backstage comments make it almost too obvious that some kind of turn is coming. In this case, please provide the obvious, because if these guys continue like this, with their pharmaceutical convention opening music and logo, they will no longer be plateauing, but in full descent. **3/4

Bullet Club (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) DEF. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) By Disqualification

This is the eleventh match-up between these exact trios teams in twelve shows, over a span of 16 days. What else can be said about it. Read my review of the April 10th show. Or the April 20th show.

DOUKI rules. Ok? He fucking rules. Give G.O.D. credit, because they deserve a lot of it here; they’ve been building on DOUKI’s spots all tour. Where he once got planted when attempting the Daybreak, and then adjusted the next show and hit it, here he countered the counter and turned it into a rana. His rivalry with Jado has been building for four fucking months. Even more ludicrous, the Tekkers-GOD rivalry can be extended even further, back to November 22nd, but we’ve had multiple matches between those teams. We’re getting blue, space, balled for DOUKI v. Jado (2021). I’m looking forward to it.

This one ended with some balderdash, as Tama Tonga hit Taichi with a ladder. That’s worth a DQ that even Kenta Sato would call for. Balderdash it was, but this was acceptable balderdash. In fact, this was a very propitious and worthwhile ending. I’m willing to go that far because, improbably,  this was the first instance of a ladder coming into play all tour. Considering the participants and the upcoming stipulation, that might be hard to believe; for those that skipped this tour, I assure you that this is accurate. There hasn’t even been a hint of a ladder all tour, at least on the broadcast shows. And so, Tama pulling the ladder out was surprising and a perfectly fun way to end the 11th matchup between these teams.

And SEVENTEENTH since mid-December. Almost a match a week. **1/2

Master Wato, Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Toru Yano and Hiroshi Tanahashi DEF. BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi, Dick Togo, Gedo and EVIL) By Disqualification

As this review is being written, Monday Night Raw, a wrestling program produced by the Stamford Connecticut-based media corporation WWE, offered as “story” two guys throwing tomatoes at their rivals, like it was fucking Toejam & Earl. I’d be impressed if someone in the writer’s room turned Vince onto the game a full 30 years after its release. It is, objectively, the greatest video game ever created.

And I’d fully be in support if the Fed shifts completely to basing the foundations of its storytelling on the floating Earth levels of that game (Random World, of course). Who wouldn’t want to see Randy Orton run over by an Ice Cream truck, Dana Brooke chased down by sandstorm tornadoes, Commander Azeez advised by a thoughtful sage in a carrot suit, or John Morrison hounded by a battalion of chickens with a mortar? The ball has been rolling on this for decades; aspects of the game have already appeared in wrestling. We’ve already had a dentist character, Santa has popped up countless times, and Damian Priest’s NXT persona was essentially that hidden level where you hang out with the hula girls in the hot tub.

The question is, who play the Toejam and Earl roles? The most obvious pairing is Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens, but that seems a little too obvious. Their buddies 3.0/Ever-Rise have the chemistry, but they’d almost certainly overwhelm the scenes. Each present they find would be a 25-minute riff-fest. The Street Prophets would be fun, if they were still in NXT. Under the pernicious guidance of main roster scripting, I’d rather keep them away from this project. My best choice:  re-pairing Chad Gable and Shelton Benjamin, and the legitimately unique cadence they developed in the 6 weeks they were a team (with a big highlight of 2 consecutive weeks on tv!). And more questions then arise… do you incorporate Panic on Funkotron? Do you use the split screen? Who plays Peabo?

I mean, what else do I have to talk about with this match? The only real difference between this and the other 11 times the TanaYano v. Togo-EVIL match-up has occurred on this tour is the infusion of Master Wato. And Wato was largely restrained; he sold underneath for a brief period, hit some kicks, executed that tilt-a-whirl backbreaker (and, of course, over-rotated his opponent for the every-single-timeth time), and got the hot tag to Tanahashi.

The key element here is that Wato’s time underneath was brief. In fact, despite a daunting 12-minute runtime, this was a really easy match to watch. From bell to bell this one was pretty much all action. It was well constructed, so that all ten wrestlers involved were cycled in and out continually, and if anyone was in for an extended period, it was the exuberant Juniors (and at this point, we have to consider that Ishimori has a Midas touch right now).

Of course, there is also the element of mind-numbing stupidity inherent in the current EVIL-Yano storyline, one made even worse by the objectively terrible voting record of the Japanese populace. The fucking hoods came out several times in this one, even amidst the frenetic action. Whether or not that offsets the thankfully brisk pace is a matter of personal judgment. ***

The Empire (Jeff Cobb and Will Ospreay) DEF. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI and Shingo Takagi)

This one was perfunctory. BUSHI ate another Storm Breaker, but was kept awfully strong, which once again leads me to believe that the bookers feel the crunch of the Junior division contraction and want to keep everyone looking credible. And thus, BUSHI squirmed his way out of Ospreay and Cobb’s moves numerous times before Ospreay finally put the elusive junior down.

There are different ways of looking at money, as exhibited here.

Q: Shingo going absolutely bonkers on his hot tag, sending the crowd into a hot clap-frenzy?

A; MONEY. MINT. Start printing.

Q: Will Ospreay riling up the crowd by mocking the LIJ fist pump in the heavens pose to no reaction?

A: “Money is nothing but an evil yoke that the capitalist slave-masters have chained to the neck of the working class oxen.”

Of course, this specific tag team match-up is very advantageous for Shingo, allowing him to move at breakneck speeds with Ospreay (and take neck-breaking bumps), but also assert this incredibly pragmatic power. Remember, we can now say that he’s has five-star matches with both of these guys. And so, against Will we see this educated sequence, retold in a TNM7 style (best of luck, health-wise, to Oliver Copp, by the way):

      1. Sliding lariat attempt by Shingo
      2. Will ducks under lariat
      3. Will attempts side kick
      4. Shingo ducks kicks
      5. Shingo attempts German suplex
      6. Will elbows out of waistlock
      7. Will Irish whips Shingo
      8. Shingo reverses the Irish whip
      9. Will attempts handstand springboard back elbow
      10. Shingo catches Will in waistlock and attempts German suplex
      11. Will flips through German suplex
      12. Will hits enzuigiri
      13. Shingo uses momentum of enzuigiri to hit ropes
      14. Shingo attempts Pumping Bomber
      15. Will rolls through Pumping Bomber (ala the New Japan Cup Final)
      16. Will lifts Shingo into powerbomb position
      17. Shingo flips through powerbomb position
      18. Shingo obliterates Will with a Pumping Bomber
      19. The crowd is going crazy

Starts at 1:30 here:

That sequence took 20 seconds. To be frank, this was not the place for it. That Pumping Bomber roll-through was pretty divisive… certainly, the better time to exploit and build upon it would be the big title match. ***1/4

SANADA DEF. Aaron Henare

The main take-away from this one: Henare looked like he belonged in a New Japan semi-main event, against the established semi-main eventer of the company (compliment for Henare, not so for SANADA) . Henare’s strikes looked clean and devastating at times, his ground game was logical and sound, and his selling was exceptional. This is a tricky sell, too, because he has to lose once again, but his loss had to feel different from the myriad other losses he has absorbed. He accomplished this wonderfully, The way he rolled out of the ring, seething and discontented, was flawless.

His backstage comments after the match were even better, the laments of a man that came close, and knows that next time will be different. He is presenting the persona of a wrestler that has finally figured things out, even though we know he really figured things out ages ago.

His look is well-conceived. His entrance is a masterful composite of sound and vision. I’m not sure how many people in the world can look cool while putting on tight gloves, squirming and wriggling them onto each finger, but Henare sure as fuck looks cool doing it.

SANADA, for his part, provided an excellent base for Henare’s stuff, and showed some real dexterity. Some of his striking looked like it had an extra oomph on it in response to Henare’s blows, something you just wish SANADA would incorporate into his offense more often. SANADA also showed astuteness in ramping up the pace of the match, which was necessary considering Henare’s offense is still adjusting to the character.

Of course, this is one match where you wish the Paradise Lock would have been kept in storage. I’m a defender of the move, and to be sure the live crowd adored the move, as all the live crowds do, but this was not the time. Henare is trying to portray this badass, composed, sober, austere punisher character. The Paradise Lock is totally incongruous with that presentation, and actively harms Henare in his first major singles outing in this persona.

The Selling Accountants out there will be sure to audit SANADA for his leg selling in this one. After Henare worked on SANADA’s leg, bashing it on the guardrail and then locking in a heel hook sort of thing for a full minute, SANADA busted out his trademark double leapfrog and dropkick spot, followed by his sustained plancha. Honestly, I’m not sure Henare did enough to warrant full on leg selling, but SANADA did that sequence almost immediately after the heel hook.  Again, a fully appreciative crowd, and in SANADA’s defense there was a brief interlude, and in that interlude he skipped when Irish whipped into the corner to sell the leg damage.

SANADA had a brilliant sense for when to break out big moves in this one. Sure, his Skull End looked dreadful, though his supporters can quickly correct the detractors by pointing out that the Skull End is supposedly a neck crank instead of a traditional dragon sleeper. Of course, that evades the point that it’s also a terrible neck crank. Either way, SANADA looked quite good, the pinnacle being when he squirmed out of the Streets of Rage, hit a series of strikes culminating in a beautiful spinning kick, which turned Henare around into position for a glorious Tiger Suplex. Great stuff.

Henare’s best move is not the Streets of Rage. That’s pretty clear, and it’s not a dynamic finisher. Not yet, at least. Henare’s best move is not that running uranage thing he does, although that did look great, probably better than his actual finish. No, Henare’s best move is that left hook to the body. Somewhere, Emmanuel Steward is smiling, because the way Henare employs that punch is spectacular. He delivered a few in this match, and it brought SANADA’s momentum to a halt each time.

Henare also pulled off a OKITE YABURI by swinging SANADA around from the Skull End position, amongst all the other cool things in the last 7-8 minutes of this match. That Tiger Suplex from SANADA seemed to awaken Henare, who kicked out at 1, a fantastic kick-out in comparison to one from the main-event by O-Khan that missed the mark. SANADA caught Henare in a TKO and rounding body press to finish it, though. Excellent closing stretch and a fine showing from Henare in his new guise. ****

Tetsuya Naito DEF. Great-O-Khan

“This was no more valuable than beating a Young Lion… He seems thin. Too bare to pay for his own meal.”

Great-O-Khan, March 4th, 2021

And thus began one of the most ferocious verbal battles in recent New Japan canon. Certainly there have been more memorable promos than this 6 six-week string of barbs, brickbats, belittlements, objurgations, and invectives. But this one was particularly delicious in the careful, deliberate craftsmanship evident in the day-to-day mudslinging. The story followed a natural path, not anchored to superficially connected, singular motivations. Each night they referenced their opponent’s previous night’s comments. It had a sort of Two Ronnies’ Mastermind element to it (I swear, I am not an English person).

“There aren’t as many peasants coming as normal. The blame falls on Ibushi and Naito. Nothing to do with the current situation.”

Great-O-Khan, March 6th, 2021

Frankly, this match deserved better than a Road To, albeit a gimmicked one with two “special singles” matches. That itself is less impressive considering that the April 19th Korakuen show had three. After a two-tour buildup replete with physical confrontation, laptop-based manzai routines and such robust verbal jousting (and, you know, the most popular guy in the company and all of Japanese wrestling by a sizeable margin), it seems a bit frivolous to put this match here. It drew 1111, slightly less than the scathingly criticized New Beginning in Hiroshima – Night 1 show in the same building. That show had two title matches, so it retains its status as a thorough disappointment, but this draw proves that not even Naito can overcome the Road To stigma.

That said, the crowd was noticeably more galvanized during this match than the others, and this was a crowd that had been actively engaged all night. The clearest example of this was when O-Khan slapped on that grounded head and arm choke thing that he does. It’s very similar to what Henare slapped onto SANADA, and the venerable Ian Hamilton called it a “grounded Cobra twist,” so something approximating that. This came near the 20 minute mark, and yet the crowd grew increasingly responsive. Naito’s work in establishing Hiroshima as his Western home base has paid off, exhibited by the effusive clap-rallying on display in that moment.

“He really is putting in the overtime as UNITED EMPIRE’s P.R. person, right? Right now, he’s speaking on the mic as if he was the one to get the pin. Maybe Great-O-Khan isn’t dominating with the UNITED EMPIRE… As much as he’s getting used by them? I’m worried.”

Tetsuya Naito, April 13th, 2021

“What is with that poverty-stricken tongue of yours? Are you that jealous of the meals we can afford? At this point all that’s left for you to do is count the peasants who still support you… Allow us to teach you the differences between us over a fine meal. Since I’m in charge of P.R. at the EMPIRE, I can more than cover all the expenses you cannot.”

Great-O-Khan, April 15th, 2021

A lot of the repartee between these two focused on the idea of a home and of cultivation. O-Khan mercilessly mocked Naito’s educational background with the peremptory insistence one would expect from a pretend-noble. O-Khan’s home, of course, is the mat, and I am always left a bit dismayed when someone grapples O-Khan equally. Honestly, that’s something that should be reserved for Nagata, Suzuki, and Yano when he dusts off the Serious Yano gimmicked gimmick. That’s it. That’s the list.

Thankfully, Naito is too clever to be caught up in the meaningless exercise of trading leverage with a someone who was a legit national champion of Japan in wrestling and sambo. When O-Khan dropped to the mat and started the Inoki shuffle, Naito was cautious to engage. When he finally did, he was clearly outmatched. The best he could manage was a mutual heelhook spot. I wish this happened more often; of all the homages to Don Frye in the wrestling world, I’d like to see a few less Frye-Takayama spots and several more Frye-Shamrock spots, as seen here.

“By the way, where is O-Khan actually from? Mongolia or something, right? Since he mocks my hometown, Adachi, I want him to tell us about his hometown… He mocked me, calling me, ‘Captain Adachi’. Did he just rip-off when I called Goto, ‘Captain Kuwana’? Is that the best you could have done? I wish he could be a little more original. He mocks my educational background, but perhaps we’re more alike than he thinks?”

Tetsuya Naito, April 18th, 2021

“Captain Adachi, you sure spoke a lot yesterday, for being the loser. I got tired of listening to you in the middle of your rambling. What was it? What did he try to say? Probably something about dying of starvation in the slums he comes from.”

Great-O-Khan, April 19th, 2021

O-Khan’s best attribute in this program was his gameness, the alacrity with which he embraced Naito’s cavalier ridicule and rolled with the punches. And so, if Naito wants to treat the program like a bit, and pretend to do work on the abandoned laptops spread around Korakuen Hall that no one ever references, O-Khan will walk over to him and unleash vituperative so alluring that Naito couldn’t hold in his laughter.

The same goes for the braid. The braid played a key role in this one, as it has the past two tours. When Naito has been in trouble, he grabs that conspicuous braid, one made even more conspicuous with the green streaks added on after O-Khan cut a chunk off in a completely irrelevant New Japan Cup match with Yano last month (one not worth sacrificing a strand of his hair, let alone several inches of his braid). Naito turned the tables, but O-Khan proved himself malleable as well. When he took control back, he mockingly offered the braid to Naito.

When Naito references them being alike, the compatibility is not limited to their personas and the humorous results. They also take bumps right on their fucking heads and necks. O-Khan seems to have perfected the ability of rolling through a DDT, or an Esperanza, right on the crown of his head. It looks phenomenal, without the Mutually Preferred Destruction that we see with Naito v. Ibushi. Of course, then Naito took a full fucking flip on a thrust kick from O-Khan.

“The P.R. of the UNITED EMPIRE is awfully considerate to take such an interest in us. But perhaps it’s about time that you worry about yourself, huh? I didn’t see a bunch of fans wearing O-Khan’s new t-shirt today. I took a good look and counted… I think I saw one t-shirt in the East stands. Even though he’s so active in promotions, he isn’t really catching on enough, is he?”

Tetsuya Naito, April 19th, 2021

“We’ve been provoking you, but you only care about t-shirt sales. We didn’t expect you to be this lame.”

Great-O-Khan, April 20th, 2021

I was watching a show the other day, and one of the segments had a perversely disturbing premise. Basically, there are these sunglasses, and if you put them on you see through the façade of everyday life. And so, the wearer notices the hidden subliminal messaging on billboards and signs, all of which reinforce a desire for obedience and monotony.

The kicker is that the sunglasses reveal that a large chunk of the population are actually aliens disguised as humans. Through an elaborate cloning/casting process, aliens assumed the identities of captured humans, and the rest of the population cannot perceive the difference.

I’m now convinced that, if one were to put those sunglasses on and watch Tetsuya Naito execute his running Destino, at least half the time you would see Master Wato in place of Naito. That’s the only realistic explanation, especially for the one in this match. On this running Destino, Naito did not even come close to reaching the O-Khan’s neck. His arm comes up to the stomach, at best.

Perhaps there’s some kind of mislabeling going on here. I’d love to be corrected, like how the Skull End is actually a terrible neck crank, referenced above. Perhaps the running Destino is actually meant to be a running, rounding reverse waistlock takedown. Either way, it’s typical Naito: ambitious to a fault, nonplussed if the results are inadequate.

“We know you lack confidence, due to your background, lack of education, your failings in pro-wrestling. You have quite the inferiority complex, don’t you? Even when you tried to kiss the peasants’ asses, you were still booed… You weren’t even popular to keep your spot at the Tokyo Dome. That was unprecedented, wasn’t it?”

Great O-Khan, April 19th, 2021

“I’m starting to feel really bad for UNITED EMPIRE’s P.R. man. So, I hesitantly decided to wear the O-Khan shirt for the match. I know I lack the fame and education O-Khan has, so I wasn’t so confident. But I mustered the courage and wore the shirt anyway. I hope he appreciates that.”

Tetsuya Naito, April 20th, 2021

Naito’s confidence is well-founded. Throughout this tour, O-Khan often had the last word, with the Empire nearly running the table on LIJ all tour, thus giving O-Khan literally the final word most nights. And yet, Naito turned the tables at the very end, as he always does.

That Running Destino was hogwash, but then he pulls out a picture-perfect, mesmerizingly immaculate Destino counter to O-Khan Eliminator claw-slam. It was absolutely stunning how well this came off. If Naito didn’t need a definitive win here, that would have been the ideal fall, one that would have allowed O-Khan to blame the flash nature of the counter, akin to the Tanahashi match.

But Naito did need a definitive win, and O-Khan showed room for growth. After the flawless Destino counter, O-Khan gave a particularly weak kick-out at 2. I went back and watched this a dozen times, trying to find something culpable, but the answer is straightforward: O-Khan kicked out in a really weak manner, simple as that. It wasn’t even poorly timed, just weak, almost too weak for the crowd to notice. This might be a bit captious, but the crowd’s response says it all. Whereas they responded strongly to other near-falls, in this or the semi-main event, this one fell flat.

Naito’s experience revealed itself beautifully. Sensing the crowd deflating, he worked them back up before putting O-Khan away immediately with a full Destino, and this one landed. ****

“How humiliating it is to lose to the one we mocked so much. Now we look like the fool.

“However… That performance in the ring is nothing to be ashamed of. We can at least hold our head high. We’ll let you have your fun, for now.”

Great O-Khan, April 26th, 2021

“Let me make one thing clear, I’m not looking down on what you do. You put up a hell of a fight in the ring, and also put in the work as P.R.? Not bad….

“I gotta tip my hat to you. I needed someone worthy to kickstart Tetsuya Naito’s REVITALIZACIÓN…My resurgence. Beating up a nobody wouldn’t do it. That’s why I targeted you. So, the UNITED EMPIRE P.R. rep, Great-O-Khan, was just the man for the job.

“I’m going to make tonight’s win the jumpstart of Tetsuya Naito’s resurgence. People will think back, ‘It all started when he beat Great-O-Khan in Hiroshima.’”

Tetsuya Naito, April 26th, 2021

Pro wrestling works when the best and most adroit capture an audience and compel them to follow the proteges that follow the path that they have set. At least, in theory it does. There are so few examples of this actually happening, either through deceit, covetousness, greed, envy, enmity, malice, or straight-up animus. The green-eyed monster is wrestling itself.

But we’ve seen it happen here, as Tanahashi laid way for Okada over a four-year plan. Now we see the same ethos emerge from this feud, this program that hopefully will blossom into a legitimate rivalry. Two imperious, highfalutin fuckfaces, trying to outdo each other in supercilious taunting, and in the end it was humility and deference that shone through. Perhaps shining through a thick miasma of pride, as both comments are saturated in self-regard, but acknowledgement.

Yes, once again a show has concluded with the Empire shut-out, vanquished in all of the meaningful matches. But how often do you see the loser’s backstage comments aired live? Shingo just recently pointed out that one of the motivations he has for being the victor in a New Japan main event is that the only person to have their backstage comments broadcast on the live feed is the main event winner. But on this night, we saw O-Khan offer the words quoted above on camera… after Naito’s. That is significant.

For his part, Naito exquisitely framed this whole endeavor. He puts O-Khan over hard here, and gracefully. Sure, O-Khan is a stepping stone, that much is made clear. But also self-evident is that the company’s most popular wrestler chose Great-O-Khan for this role. Underlying his words is the notion that it had to be O-Khan, in his chosen second home, on the verge of two baseball stadium shows. No one other than O-Khan could be the catalyst for the Tetsuya Naito career resurrection, after a whole 3 months out of the main event.

O-Khan is wracking up losses to surefire elite-wing Hall of Famers that will be paid back in full in years to come. We might have to pull a Nixon-Elvis to Okada’s John Lennon and fuck with Okada’s green card to keep him out of Florida, but I do believe those losses will be paid back. I hope that this two-tour feud between Naito and O-Khan develops into a year long rivalry. We may need to pull some Six Million Dollar Man-type science to keep Naito’s neck intact, but hell, we can see almost real-time footage of rovers landing on Mars.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Apathy is a few scant letters away from antipathy, and I fear that for some, their disinterest in the company will soon transform into animosity. For them, I recommend the semi-main and main events of this show. Certainly, I cannot recommend this show in its entirety, but the final two matches are encouraging signs for anyone fed up with this company’s nonsense.