NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed 2018 Review: NJPW in America and Golden Lovers vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada

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Results + Star Ratings:

  • Rysuke Taguchi, Jushin Liger, and ACH defeated Roppongi 3K via pin @8:55 ***1/4
  • So Cal Uncensored (The Addiction) defeated Bullet Club (Hangman Page and Chase Owens) via pin @8:12 ***1/2
  • Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin, and Flip Gordon defeated Chaos (Goto and Best Friends) via pin @12:06 ****
  • Suzuki Gun (ZSJ and Killer Elite Squad) defeated Los Ignobernables (Tetsuya Naito, Evil, and Sanada) via pin @9:22 **1/2
  • Gedo and Jay White defeated Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida via pin @8:49 **1/2
  • Marty Scurrl defeated Will Ospreay to advance to the finals of the IWGP Jr Title Tournament via pin @16:10 ****1/2
  • Firing Squad defeated The Young Bucks to win the IWGP Tag Titles via pin @19:20 ****1/4
  • Cody defeats Juice Robinson to win the IWGP US Title via pin @16:43 ****1/4
  • The Golden Lovers defeated Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii via pin @23:05 *****

 

Roppongi 3K vs. Rysuke Taguchi, Jushin Liger, and ACH:

  • Liger and Yoh start the match.
  • A good face-off between Yoh and Liger.
  • Surfboard Lock by Liger to Yoh, ACH, and Taguchi put ankle locks on Rocky and Sho creating a triple submission spot. 
  • Taguchi coaches his team to lariat Yoh in the corner. Taguchi follows it up with a hip attack. 
  • Yoh whips Liger into Taguchi’s butt and Yoh grabs Taguchi’s ass sending him to ringside, wrestling is weird.
  • Sho inadvertently punches Romero off the apron, Liger hits a tilt a whirl backbreaker to Sho, hot tag by ACH leads to him hitting an awesome suicide crossbody. 
  • German Suplex Bridge by ACH on Sho, first near fall. 
  • Hot tag by Taguchi fails as he misses a Hip attack on Romero, Romero takes the momentum and hits 2 lariats to Taguchi in the corner. Taguchi goes on a hip attack rampage. 
  • Lungblower/Double Superkick combo by R3K on Taguchi, near fall. 
  • Great suicide dive by ACH wipes out Sho and Yoh, Dodon by Taguchi on Romero closes the match.

Winners: Liger, ACH, and Taguchi

Rating: ***1/4, a very fun tag team sprint. Taguchi played the comedy wrestler but took a lot of the offense of this match, ACH delivered some great dives, and it’s always great to see Liger. R3K is always fantastic and delivered here. A good opener to start the show. 

So Cal Uncensored vs. Chase Owens and Hangman Page:

  • SCU finally back in Southern California. 
  • Frankie Kazarian and Hangman Page start the match, a former feud in ROH. 
  • Kazarian’s head is patched up after the Briscoes match at Death Before Dishonor. 
  • Lariat sequence by Page and Kazarian leads to both men making tags. 
  • Great Dropsault combo by Page onto Kazarian, first near fall.
  • Standing Shooting Star Press by Page onto Kazarian, another near fall. 
  • Bullet Club isolating Kazarian, Kazarian finally makes the tag and Daniels does a  hot tag. 
  • Wheelbarrow Facebuster by Daniels on Owens, near fall. 
  • Buckshot Lariat by Page knocks Daniels down, Springboard Backbreaker by Owens on Daniels, another near fall. 
  • Shooting Star Shoulder Block off the apron by Page caught in mid-air by Kazarian with a codebreaker. 
  • Best Meltzer Ever by SCU closes Owens. 

Winners: So Cal Uncensored

Rating: ***1/2, another fun sprint with a hometown SCU and the very talented Hangman Page. The pacing was great, the spots were great, and Page really shined. Another good opening tag match. 

Chaos (Hirooki Goto and The Best Friends) vs. Jeff Cobb, Chris Sabin, and Flip Gordon:

  • Having Cobb with the ROH TV title kinda spoils the fact that he wins at a taping because it hasn’t been broadcasted yet. Weird move. 
  • Chuck Taylor and Chris Sabin start the match.
  • Early roll up attempts by Sabin and Taylor leads to near falls. 
  • Triple Strikefest ensues with the match participants.
  • Tandem Sequence by Team ROH leads to a near fall by Sabin on Taylor. 
  • Crucifix Cutter by Best Friends takes out Flip, Cobb teases a suicide dive on Best Friends but Goto stops it with a lariat, apron Penalty Kick by Sabin to Goto, Trent teases a suicide dive but Taylor stops him with a hug. The Best friends hit stereo tope con hiro taking everyone out. 
  • Standing Elbow Drop by Goto on Sabin, near fall. Sabin has been the only one legal for his team in the 5 minutes so far. 
  • A stiff chop by Baretta fires up Sabin inciting a chopfest but Trent wins. 
  • Sabin drop toe holds Taylor into Baretta headbutting a low blow, Tornado DDT by Sabin finally opens up tags. 
  • Amazing Hot tag by Flip Gordon, Great diving corkscrew off the top rope to the outside by Flip. Springblade by Flip gets Baretta into the drop zone for the 450. Baretta dodges and lays Flip out with a running knee. 
  • Tags made to Goto and Cobb, it’s big boi time. Double Lariat sequence, Goto knocks down Cobb first. Saito suplex by Goto, near fall. 
  • Deadlift Vertical Suplex by Cobb followed but by a standing moonsault that misses. Great mini-sequence between Cobb and Goto. 
  • The Best Friends suplex Cobb together, Cobb Saito suplexes both of them.
  • Taylor hits a great deadlift piledriver on Cobb, near fall save by Sabin. 
  • Diving Moonsault by Taylor misses, lariat by Cobb into the Wrath of the Gods.

Winners: Jeff Cobb, Flip Gordon, and Chris Sabin

Rating: ****, this was as close as perfection an NJPW opening tag match can get. Everybody performed great especially Jeff Cobb and put on a great tag match. The dynamic of comedy spots from the Best Friends, high spots from Flip Gordon, hard-hitting action from Cobb and Goto and the underdog Sabin mixed greatly to make one of the best opening tag matches I’ve ever seen in New Japan. 

Zack Sabre Jr. and Killer Elite Squad vs. Los Ignobernables:

  • Suzuki Gun attacks early. 
  • Pop-Up powerslam by K.E.S to Sanada. Davey Boy goes to attack Evil ringside.
  • Davey Boy works the leg of Sanada. Series of German suplexes by Davey Boy but Sanada flips over the 3rd one and goes for a tag but Lance Archer tries to stop it, after a huricanrana by Sanada to Archer, Naito tags in. Hot tag by Naito. 
  • Sidewalk Splash by K.E.S on Naito, near fall. 
  • Naito fights out of a Killer Bomb attempt by K.E.S and hits a Tornado DDT on Archer. Evil and ZSJ tag in. 
  • Strikefest between ZSJ and Evil. Double Wristlock by ZSJ, Evil powers into a fisherman’s buster.
  • One-Arm Plancha by Sanada knocks out K.E.S, in-ring, Evil hits Darkness Falls, near fall. 
  • Victory Roll with the middle fingers up by ZSJ closes Evil. 

Winner: Suzuki Gun

Rating: **1/2, a very mediocre Suzuki Gun match with them doing heel Suzuki Gun things. L.I.J never got in a groove and this match was heel work then it was done. 

Jay White and Gedo vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kushida:

  • Set up at Destruction in Kobe when Jay White attacked Okada and Tana post-match, the only G1 match that Hiroshi Tanahashi lost was to Jay too. 
  • Tanahashi went straight to attacking White having them start the match.
  • Tana popped up on the post and White pushes him to ringside, White tries to choke out Tana with his boot against the barricade. 
  • Saito Suplex by White on Tana, first near fall.
  • Tanahashi being isolated by White and Gedo, Tana looks pretty hurt. Limp Crossbody by Tana takes down Gedo, Tana finally makes the tag. 
  • Hot tag by Kushida. Jumping DDT into a Cross Armbreaker by Kushida on Gedo, White breaks the hold. 
  • Handspring Elbow by Kushida knocks White down and opens the tag to Tana.
  • Hot tag by Tanahashi on White. Blade Runner attempt countered into a Twist and Shout by Tanahashi.
  • Slingblade by Tana, near fall. 
  • White grabs Tiger Hattori to distract him, Gedo lays out Tana with Brass Knuckles. Blade Runner by White closes the match.

Winner: Jay White and Gedo

Rating: **1/2, this follows the trend of Gedo (NJPW’s secret booker) trying to turn New Japan Pro Wrestling into a better in-ring, Attitude Era WWE with the brass knuckle finish. This was a very story-based match and rightfully so not only is the whole Gedo and White vs. Okada and Tana story great it’s also the biggest story right now in NJPW. White seems to be strapped as the next golden boy of NJPW. This match, however, was too story focused to be anything other than mediocre and that’s not a complaint but it had some great talent in it and if it wanted to be great it could’ve been. I’m excited for the future of this feud. 

  • Post-match promo by Jay White, White says NJPW doesn’t want him to be in the Main Event of WrestleKingdom but he will bring on a new era. 

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Marty Scurrl vs. Will Ospreay IWGP Jr Championship Tournament:

  • These guys have my current favorite rivalry of all time in term of match quality, I gave their match at Power Struggle last year 4.75 * and their match at Sakura Genesis this year 5*. Their matches always manage to impress me a bit more than Kenny vs. Okada’s even though I like those matches better. 
  • Immediate Spanish Fly by Ospreay into a near fall.
  • Space Flying Tiger Drop into a Shooting Star Press early by Ospreay, near fall. Awesome opening sequence by Ospreay. 
  • Flying Forearm by Ospreay, Will slows his offense down.
  • Winner faces Kushida at King of Pro Wrestling for the Jr Title. 
  • Uppercuts by Scurrl knock Ospreay ringside, stiff apron superkick by Scurrl lands. 
  • Stomp on the head of Ospreay by Scurrl followed up by a sequence of stiff chops by Scurrl. Marty gains firm control.
  • Scurrl drapes Ospreay over the middle rope and stomps him over it torquing his neck.
  • Handspring Enzugiri by Ospreay gives Will much-needed space. 
  • Top Rope 619 by Ospreay followed by a failed springboard, Scurrl knocks Ospreay ringside. Scurrl chops Ospreay into the barricade. They go on the apron and strike-off. 
  • Attempt at the Spanish Fly on the apron by Ospreay, the move that crushed Will’s neck at Sakura Genesis. 
  • Amazing Sunset Bomb by Ospreay to ringside with Scurrl on the apron. Tribute to Hiromu Takahashi.
  • Great Robinson Special by Ospreay, Oscutter caught by Scurrl into a backslide rolled into a knee by Scurrl. 
  • Stormbreaker attempt by Ospreay but Scurrl gets out, mini-strikefest into a huge lariat by Ospreay. 
  • Top Rope Fighting led to Ospreay falling and low blowing himself on the top rope, awesome springboard supercanrana by Scurrl. Scurrl follows it up with a huge lariat, near fall. 
  • Stiff chops by Scurrl but Ospreay refuses to go down. Welts grow on the chest of Ospreay. Ospreay starts to strike back. Mid-air counter into the Chicken Wing by Scurrl, roll up by Ospreay near fall, roll up by Scurrl near fall. Sequence including a powerbomb near fall by Scurrl, graduation attempt by Scurrl but Ospreay hits an enzugiri putting both down.
  • Stormbreaker attempt but Scurrl carries Ospreay on his shoulders to the top rope, Ospreay fights out and hits the Cheeky Nandos kick. Scurrl takes Ospreay down off standing on the top rope, Chicken Wing attempt on the top by Scurrl transitions into an Underhook superplex by Scurrl, near fall. 
  •  Package Piledriver into the Graduation by Scurrl closes the match. 

Winner: Marty Scurrl advances!

Rating: ****1/2, this was a great sprint and a good addition to the Scurrl vs. Ospreay story. The spots were great and the starting opening offense by Ospreay got the crowd really hot. These 2 have natural chemistry and played off of it the entire match. However, it lacked the urgency that the Sakura Genesis match had. It was a great match for the IWGP Jr Tourney but is their first encounter in the past 2 years in NJPW that hasn’t been a MOTY contender. I’m not complaining though, they didn’t need to put on an absolute classic and what was here was a very high-quality Junior Heavyweight match. It was jarring to see Ospreay as a dastardly heel in Progress and ROH but be the underdog in this match. Also, Scurrl put Ospreay away with relative ease compared to what it normally takes to beat Ospreay but I’m over-thinking it. 

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The Young Bucks(c) vs. The Firing Squad IWGP Tag Titles:

  • The Elite vs OG storyline has been great so far. 
  • Big fight feel.
  • Nick Jackson and Tama Tonga start the match. 
  • Great speed showdown from Nick and Tama. Double strikefest with everyone in the match. 
  • Haku accompanies Firing Squad. 
  • Pop-up Double Dropkick by the Bucks starts a solid tandem sequence of moves by Matt and Nick. 
  • Matt’s back went out on him, this is going to play majorly into the story of the match.
  • Tonga Loa bodyslams Matt ringside targeting the back.
  • Loa tries to superplex Matt off the apron onto a table but Nick saves him. Nick hits a great suicide dive driving Loa into the barricade.
  • Great mini-sequence of offense by Nick on the OGs, Loa flattens it with a stiff lariat. Matt climbs to the top, Loa throws him off the top rope through the table ringside. Great spot, Matt will be out of the match for a while isolating Nick.
  • Diving Headbutt by Loa, Frog Splash by Tama on Nick, near fall. 
  • Long-Holding vertical suplex by Loa on Nick, very near fall.
  • Great Springboard Facebuster by Nick on Tama followed by an apron moonsault by Nick to Loa ringside.
  • Nick goes to make a tag but Matt is still on the floor, Tonga Twist by Tama on Nick, near fall. 
  • Tama Twist countered by Nick handstanding, superkick by Nicks takes both out.
  • Matt makes the hot tag successfully, Cease and Desist Sharpshooter by Matt on Tama, Loa takes a shot at the back of Matt to stop the submission. 
  • Fire up spear by Matt takes both Tama and him down, tags are made.
  • Superkick Party by the Bucks on Loa, great near fall.
  • Nick helps Matt get Loa up for the More Bang for Your Buck, Nick hits the 450 but Matt hesitates on the Moonsault, Matt finally hits the moonsault on Loa, near fall. 
  • Meltzer Driver stopped by Tama hitting an awesome Mid-air gun stun on Nick, Tombstone by Loa on Matt, awesome near fall. 
  • Matt fights out of the Magic Killer attempt by the Og’s but they get him back in on a pop-up Gun Stun closing the match. 

Winners: Firing Squad New Champions!

Rating: ****1/4, The story behind this match was great. This is the first huge match behind the Firing Squad vs. Bullet Club Elite feud. In this match, Matt Jackson brought back his back injuries which added a lot more urgency and story to an already story-packed match. The match started really hot and continued hot with some great spots. Everyone in this match contributed to something great but my only complaint is the section with Firing Squad on top was too long and got boring. The comeback for the Bucks was great and the ending sequence was pretty good. 

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Juice Robinson(c) vs. Cody for the IWGP US Title:

  • After All In as a face, Cody turns the heel on tonight.
  • Stiff chops by Cody fire up Juice and they start the momentum 3 minutes in. 
  • Dive off the top rope to ringside by Cody is caught into an overhead suplex by Juice.
  • Brandi flops after Juice barely touched her, distracting Juice into an inverted DDT by Cody ringside.
  • Brandi grabs Juice’s foot distracting him, Juice comes ringside. On his way back in, Cody hits a flatliner in between the ropes, near fall. 
  • Pulp Friction attempt by Juice, Backslide roll up by Cody, near fall. Pile roll up by Juice, near fall. 
  • Cannonball into the corner by Juice into a powerbomb attempt, Cody hits a huricanrana to Juice sending him into the corner, cheap shot by Brandi on Juice. 
  • Juice ducks a disaster kick and hits a diving crossbody to Cody, Juice hurts his ribs and is unable to make the pin. 
  • Pulp Friction attempt by Juice reversed into a Figure Four by Cody, Juice flips the hold after a while in the lock. 
  • Cody takes off the weightlifting belt, distracting Red Shoes. With Red Shoes distracted, Cody spits water at Juice and hits a Disaster Kick, near fall. 
  • Pulp Friction hits for Juice finally but Brandi pulls Cody ringside so Juice is unable to capitalize. 
  • The count starts but Juice doesn’t want to accept the win via countout.
  • Cross Rhodes ringside by Cody both back in at 19. 
  • Strikefest ensues but Cody wins with a superkick after a thumb to the eye. Cody goes for the Vertebreaker.
  • Cody hits a great Vertebreaker, great near fall. 
  • Superplex by Juice, Cody holds onto Juice in a small package getting a roll-up victory.

Winner: Cody New Champion!

Rating: ****1/4, Cody used his shenanigans again to win but that didn’t take too much away from the match. Juice is raw talent and emotion and delivered an amazing performance in this match. Cody is my favorite wrestler currently and used his great character to perfection in this match. This is my favorite NJPW Cody match since his match against Kota Ibushi at WK12. I feel like the win was unneeded for Cody and I felt bad for Juice because he’s just such a likable guy but that’s not a complaint with the match. 

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Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii vs. The Golden Lovers:

  • Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi start the match. 
  • Kenny Omega and Tomohiro Ishii face-off. These 2 strike-off for a little bit.
  • Kitaro Crusher by Omega on Ishii, near fall. 
  • Stiff strikes from Ibushi and Ishii to each other, a shoulder block by Ishii trucks over Ibushi. 
  • Neckbreaker by Okada on Ibushi, near fall.
  • Ishii and Omega brawl at each other again. Ishii takes Omega ringside and runs him into the barricades. 
  • The match has been building up to Omega’s face off with Okada. I’m excited. 
  • Hot tag by Omega to Ishii, Ishii and Omega strike off again but Omega gets the upper hand with a Tornado DDT and Omega lands awkwardly on his knee. 
  • Okada and Omega are finally both tagged in at 11 minutes in but don’t face off immediately. 
  • Cross Slash Moonsault Dives by the Golden Lovers. 
  • You Can’t Escape into Double Team Moonsaults by the GL, near fall on Okada. 
  • Great vertical suplex by Ibushi to Ishii, a powerful shotgun dropkick by Okada knocks Ibushi into the corner. Omega and Okada finally face off.
  • Omega and Okada strike-off, stiff chop by Omega, Omega dodges the dropkick by Okada. The first rainmaker fails, One Winged Angel attempt by Omega fails, Another Rainmaker attempt by Okada fails, Dragon Suplex by Omega hits. 
  • Great Dropkick by Okada to Omega.
  • Ibushi saves Omega from a Rainmaker, V-Trigger/German Suplex combo by GL, Ibushi dives down Ishii allowing Omega and Okada to face off. 
  • Tombstone/Running clothesline by Okada and Ishii, near fall save by Ishii. 
  • Rainmaker by Okada countered into a stiff uranage by Omega.
  • “This is Awesome” chants. 
  • Ibushi and Ishii strikefest again, mid kick by Ibushi takes Ishii down. Knee Drop moonsault by Ibushi, near fall. 
  • Powerbomb/German Suplex combo by GL, near fall save by Okada. 
  • Okada saves Ishii from the Golden Trigger. 
  • Dropkick by Okada into an amazing mid-air powerbomb counter by Omega, Backflip kick by Ibushi to Ishii puts all 4 down. The crowd gives a standing ovation. 
  • Ibushi and Ishii strike off yet again, Ibushi hits a huge lariat taking down Ishii, near fall. 
  • Kamegoye by Ibushi dodged by Ishii, huge lariat by Ishii flips Ibushi, very near fall. 
  • Okada Dropkick sends Ibushi into a powerbomb by Ishii, great near fall.
  • German Suplex Bridge by Ibushi to Ishii, very near fall.
  • Enzugiri/V-Trigger combo by GL takes Ishii down. Omega kicks Okada off the apron into the barricade. Golden Trigger by GL pins Ishii closing the match. 

Winners: Golden Lovers

Rating: *****, while Golden Lovers Vs. The Young Bucks was better due to the mix of storyline drama and huge spots, this comes a close second as my favorite tag match of the year and maybe all time. This match focused all on in-ring work and it was between 4 guys who couldn’t have a bad match if they tried. I absolutely loved every second of this match. The hard-hitting Ibushi and Ishii parts of the match especially towards the end was fantastic, the Omega vs. Okada part was fantastic as well and the sheer creativeness of some of the moves in this match made it something special. While the big showdown of Tanahashi vs. Okada was amazing it was something we had already seen before. This match because of the tag elements was incredibly refreshing and had some of the best in-ring work I’ve seen all year so it becomes my Match of the Month for September. 

Grade: A+

Last Word: This is easily the best wrestling show since Dominion this year and even though Dominion was better this showed a lot as well too. The flow of this show was fantastic starting with good opening tag matches and starting the second half with an electric Jr. Title match in Scurrl vs. Ospreay, The IWGP Tag Title match was really good and so was Juice vs. Cody but the Main Event Tag was amazing and one of my favorite matches of the year. I don’t think it’s quite MOTY but it’s in my top ten. NJPW delivered again and this is their best show in America yet. 

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