Steve and Andrew take a look at NJPW “Strong Style Evolved,” featuring the Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs. The Young Bucks (Nick & Matt Jackson), Jushin Liger vs. Will Ospreay, and more.
Note: NJPW “Strong Style Evolved” will be replayed on AXS TV tonight at 5:00pm PDT.
Andrew: I’m basing my views on both the live event experience and a re-watch on NJPW World. I’m assuming the NJPW World version of the event was an unedited version of the live feed, as it included shots of the crowd sitting around and post match stuff that I assume didn’t make television. We had Josh Barnett and Jim Ross welcoming the audience to the show. A video package going over the card was played. After that, we go to our first match. We didn’t see the opening video with Barnett and Jim Ross at the live event, but we saw the opening package. Cody goy a lot of heat, and Naito got a huge reaction.
Steve: My views are based solely off the live event, as I have not had a chance to rewatch the show. Over the last few years New Japan Pro Wrestling has been hands down the best promotion in the world. With their Los Angeles office now open, along with the LA Dojo, I think we are going to see the promotion make a real impact on the local scene. I was actually in the building prior to doors opening, and having never been in there before I was surprised at the size, especially how high the roof was. Part of me worried if all that space would suppress crowd noise, but once the building filled up I thought the acoustics were fine. I noticed multiple merchandise tables setup, so it appears the promotion learned from last year in that regards. The line for the concession stand was huge, but New Japan can’t be blamed for that.
Roppongi 3k (Sho, Yoh, & Rocky Romero) over SoCal Uncensored (Scorpio Sky, Christopher Daniels, & Frankie Kazarian) via 3K on Scorpio Sky
Andrew: Hearing Jim Ross say “SoCal Uncensored” on a NJPW event and major TV broadcast was surreal. Aside from a slip from Kazarian at one point in the match, the action in this match was really good. SCU were the heels in this and controlled the match early on. Rocky Romero had a pretty good hot tag sequence, and the match pace picked up. After that, Sky hit a dive on Sho & Yoh while Daniels and Kazarian hit a Best Meltzer Driver Ever on Rocky. There was also a funny spot where Sky accidentally hit Daniels with an Ace Crusher thinking it was Yoh. Eventually Sho and Yoh got a bunch of offense in on Scorpio Sky, and hit the 3K on him for the win. Like I said, this was a really good match. In person the match was good, and it came across better on TV.
?Andrew’s Rating: ***
Steve: It was great to see SCU and Rocky Romero on this show. When all is said and done all four wrestlers should be in the SoCal Wrestling Hall of Fame. I thought this was a good opener. The crowd was absolutely hot for everything both teams did. I really think Scorpio Sky would be a great fit in New Japan, and hopefully with him working as an instructor at their Dojo this is only the start for him.
Steve’s Rating: *** 1/4
David Finlay & Juice Robinson over Hirooki Goto & Gedo via Prima Nocta
Steve: Goto was bleeding from the mouth in this, which was a pretty cool visual. There wasn’t a whole lot to this. It was actually the worst match on the show, but it wasn’t bad. I thought Finlay and Robinson had a much better match against Brody King and Tyler Bateman the day before at New Japan’s Dojo show, so hopefully that gets put up on New Japan World soon. Robinson hit Goto with a Plancha and Finlay hit the Prima Nocta on Gedo for the win.
?Steve’s Rating: ** 1/2
Andrew: This was a solid match, but pretty uneventful. Juice got a huge reaction from the crowd, and he came off like a star. Goto also got a nice ovation too. Like Steve said, it wasn’t a bad match. There just wasn’t a lot to it like your typical NJPW undercard match.
Andrew’s Rating: **1/2
The Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) over Toru Yano & Chuckie T (Chuck Taylor) via Killer Bomb
Andrew: This was such a fun match. The Killer Elite Squad did a great job at playing asshole heels. They bullied Chuckie T and Yano at the start of the match, and worked over Chuckie T. There was some comedy from Yano and Archer when Archer would scare Yano off the ring apron. Eventually Chuckie T tagged him in and did more comedy with Archer. The crowd really loved this and were super into Yano’s schtick. They popped really hard when did his turnbuckle pad removal spot. I wasn’t really a fan of Archer when he was in TNA, and I don’t remember him in WWE, but he’s been really fun in NJPW. His sequences with Chuckie T were my favorite parts of the match next to Yano’s antics.
Andrew’s Rating: ***1/4
Steve: Before the match Archer was running around spitting water on fans. One guy tried to block it, which lead Archer into the crowd to make sure he was drenched. Smith Jr. is so good. I hate to say he’s under rated, but he should be getting much more hype than he does. Like Andrew said, this was really fun.
Steve’s Rating: ***
Marty Scurll & Cody over The Guerrillas of Destiny (Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga) via Cross Rhodes by Cody on Tanga Loa.
Steve: This was really half a wrestling match and half storyline. We start with Cody saying there wouldn’t be a match as Bullet Club are all friends. He then said everyone is on Team Cody. Tanga Loa said they aren’t denying the fans a match and attacked Cody. Marty Scurll celebrated with Guerrillas of Destiny until he realized they were going to attack him too, then he was back in Cody’s arms. The crowd hated everything Cody did while still loving Scurll. Cody really comes off as a superstar. His transformation from the guy everyone loved for leaving the WWE to one of the best heels in wrestling has been great. This match was a lot of fun. Cody hit the Cross Rhodes on Loa for the win.
Steve’s Rating: *** 1/4
Andrew: For the record, I’m #TeamCody. I feel like his arrogant heel who thinks he’s a major star schtick is tremendous. He gets a lot of shit from people, but I think he’s been fantastic this past year. This match was a really good faces/heels match, and Cody was the star of it. The G.O.D. are also awesome. I kinda wish PWG would book them. They could have some matches with teams like Ringkampf and the Chosen Bros.
Andrew’s Rating: ***
Before the next match, we see highlights of the NJPW LA Dojo grand opening event.
Los Ingobernables de Japon (Hiromu Takahashi, BUSHI, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) over Dragon Lee, Ryusuke Taguchi, KUSHISDA, & Hiroshi Tanahashi via Destino by Naito on Taguchi.
Andrew: This was a really fun match. I honestly think Naito might’ve been the most over person on the show. He came off as a legitimate star, and the fans were crazy for him. Los Ingobernables de Japon were also really over. Taguchi also got a nice reaction from the fans when they saw his paper In-N-Out hat. The crowd really came alive when Naito and Tanahashi were starting off the match. Dragon Lee and Hiromu Takahashi’s sequence was really awesome. While this was just a standard multi-man tag match, the fans really enjoyed it. It flowed really well, and the pacing kept it from dragging. I really enjoyed this match.
Andrew’s Rating: ***1/2
Steve: I agree that Lee and Takahashi’s sequence was great, but I was a little disappointed they never really matched up again aside from that one time. Sometimes New Japan’s multi-man tags can be forgettable, but this was great.
Steve’s Rating: *** 3/4
Will Ospreay over Jushin Liger via OsCutter.
Steve: Before the match, Rey Mysterio Jr. cut a promo promising we’d see him in a New Japan ring. He then joined the commentary team. I thought this was really good. Will Ospreay did a great job selling his knee early in this, and sold it more and more as he hit more offense. He had Liger set up for a 619 right in front of Mysterio, nut Liger managed to avoid it. Liger looked great in this too. This was probably his best singles match in a few years. Ospreay hit a powerbomb and and OsCutter for the win. After the match Ospreay challenged Mysterio, and Scurll came out and hit Ospreay from behind. Mysterio tried to come in for the save and Scurll demasked him.
Steve’s Rating: *** 1/2
Andrew: Man, Liger might not be the same guy he was in 1994, but he’s been able to adapt so well inside the ring as he’s aged. He based really well for Ospreay’s offense. This was a well structured match, and I’m kinda glad we got this over Liger vs. Mysterio. I’m sure that would’ve been fun too, but Will Ospreay really stepped up here. The post match angle was really good too. Everyone where I was at was going nuts the entire time. Great stuff from NJPW on this angle.
Andrew’s Rating: ***3/4
Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre Jr.) over Chaos (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) via Submission after Sabre made Ishii verbally submit.
Andrew: This was a really good match to help build the upcoming Okada vs. Sabre match in Japan. They had several exchanges in the match, with Sabre spending most of their sequences trying to submit and out-grapple Okada. There were some fun moments throughout the match where Sabre would counter Okada’s offense with various submissions. Suzuki-Gun also worked over Ishii and Okada outside of the ring, with Minoru and Ishii doing some crowd brawling. Suzuki-Gun did a great job at playing asshole bullies in this and being relentless assholes.
Sabre was really entertaining here at being a dickhead in the match. Tomohiro Ishii had a really good performance in this as well, and his interactions with Minoru Suzuki were fun as well.
Andrew’s Rating: ***1/2
Steve: I thought this was really good. The one nitpick I had with the match was it seemed like the main purpose was to help build for Sabre versus Okada, and it never felt like Okada was in any danger from Sabre in the match. Even when Sabre would get a submission hold ion Okada it didn’t feel like there was any danger of him tapping. That was really a small issue, and overall the match was well put together with a lot of fun interactions.
Steve’s Rating: *** 3/4
After the match, Sabre put an Octopus Hold on Okada, and he and Minoru Suzuki put the referee in submissions. Sabre also grabbed the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and threw it at Okada’s feet.
Jay White over Hangman Page via Blade Runner to retain the IWGP U.S. Championship.
Steve: I felt bad for these guys, as they were really put in a bad position being between the last match and the main event. They went all out on trying to get the crowd into the match, but it took until close to the end. I thought both wrestlers really had great performances here, especially Page. I’m really looking forward to rewatching this, because live I thought it was the second best match on the show. White hit the Blade Runner for the pin.
Steve’s Rating: ****
Andrew: I’m really not sold on Jay White. He’s solid inside the ring, but I’m just not buying into his matches. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but they sorta lack excitement. Hangman Page is really good, and it’s cool to see him getting booked in PWG next month. The match itself was pretty solid, but seemed to drag. The fans in my section weren’t really into it. It felt like everyone was just waiting for the main event. Again, this was a solid match, but I don’t think the fans had enough reasons to be emotionally invested in this match.
Andrew’s Rating: ***
After the match Finlay attacked Jay White to setup a future title match between the two of them.
The Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushii) over The Young Bucks (Matt Jackson & Nick Jackson) via Golden Trigger.
Andrew: What a great match this was. I’m sure people have heard all the hype for this match. In person, it was an amazing experience. Even after over three hours of action, the fans were still into this. There were even these two young girls in section 102 who were reacting to everything the Young Bucks were doing in the ring. This might’ve been the best tag team match I’ve ever seen. Aside from a botch from Kota Ibushi, this match was pretty much perfect. It had good storytelling, good physiology, great structure, and all the spots were built up really well.
The various subplots to the match like Matt’s back being injured, Kenny not wanting Ibushi to hurt Matt’s injured back, and Nick trying to maintain peace between the Bucks and Omega by keeping Matt from using a table early in the match. Like I said, this was a great match. Everything worked really well. It’s going to be hard for anything to top this match, and right now this is my frontrunner for Match of the Year.
Andrew’s Rating: *****
Steve: This match was everything we could have hoped for. The storytelling in this was fantastic. This was really one of those matches you can show peple who aren’t wrestling fans and they’ll understand why you love wrestling. In the post match interview Kenny Omega said that Ibushi had a legitimate concussion in the match, which makes it even more amazing they were able to pull off what they did. With Matt Jackson really selling his back, Nick Jackson really had to work extra and did an amazing job in this. I know it is only March but this was the second best match I’ve seen this year, in Southern California or out, behind only Gargano versus Almas in NXT.
Steve’s Rating: *****
Steve: Overall this was a great show. I think the G1 Special in the USA shows from last year were actually better overall, but that is comparing great shows to a great show. I can’t wait to rewatch it on New Japan World or checkout the replay on AXS.
Andrew: I thought it was a good event that felt like a real NJPW style show. You had an undercard full of fun tag matches, and a main event that went balls out. The main event was great, and I highly recommend everyone check it out on NJPWWorld or on AXS TV when they replay it.
To watch this event, tune into AXS TV tonight at 5:00pm PDT or check out NJPW World.