The subtitle is a bit of a joke, but this really did feel like a live special, with no interviews or promos, just the straightforward presentation of five matches in a non-Full Sail setting... this time the Dec. 3 house show in Osaka, Japan.
Of course, there were no video packages hyping up us regulars or catching up casual viewers on feuds, because there either wasn’t much of an angle coming into the bout or we were already very familiar the issues - and Corey Graves & Tom Phillips filled in the gaps for in their usual competent, entertaining fashion.
We’ve got almost two hours of action to cover, so like the episode itself, let’s get to it.
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Oney Lorcan
The big news item from this one is that Almas, a guy Japanese fans are familiar with thanks to his old promotion, CMLL, having a partnership with New Japan, came out in a mask. He took it off along with the rest of his heel outfit, but it raised some eyebrows. Similarly, Phillips casually mentioning his win in this country (as La Sombra) over Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental title was interesting.
Lorcan followed custom and offered his hand, but Andrade kicked it away. Almas controls the action at the outset up to his signature - and also familiar here due to Tetsuya Naito using them - Tranquilo taunts. Oney fights back with strikes, eventually scoring a nearfall with a running blockbuster. An inverted exploder suplex is blocked and, after some jockeying for position, Andrade hits Destino for a two-count of his own.
Oney fires away with loud chops and Almas answers with elbows to the face. After a big knee, Lorcan ducks a punch and hits the inverted exploder. He charges in with two leaping elbows, but Andrade counters a third and tosses him into the corner. The running double knees connect, but when ACA sets him up on the ropes, Oney reverses and lands a superplex, then covers for a big win at the ten minute mark.
Aliyah & Liv Morgan vs. Billie Kay & Peyton Royce
Billie & Liv start, with Kay taunting Morgan but getting tripped up, leading to the rolling covers gimmick both these babyfaces use for what feels like a minute. Morgan manages to tag in Aliyah, leading to a double clothesline spot and another cover. Billie makes a tag her opponent doesn’t see, and Peyton nails Aliyah from behind.
The heels isolate and work over Aliyah for most of the match, including some tandem moves like double kicks and a delayed suplex. At one point, Kay delivers a headbutt to her opponet, followed by big forearm to knock Morgan from the apron. Eventually, Liv gets the hot tag and cleans house with clotheslines and a bulldog. Aliyah tries to take out Royce after she disrupts a cover, but ends up getting kicked off the apron herself. Another blind tag sets up the finisher where Peyton spikes Morgan head first on Billie’s knee, and the Aussies pick up another win in about eight and a half minutes.
- Suprising result in the opener and, I know it’s just a house show, but maybe it leads to something for Oney? He gets crowds on his side everywhere he goes simply because he appears to care about the outcome, and his every move makes sense as either helping him win or showing why he’s losing.
- Returns on the Almas heel turn have been good so far, but I think we’ve gone about as far as we can on swagger and Los Ingobernables schtick. They could have got more heat on him if Cedric Alexander wasn’t transitioning to Raw and 205 Live during their feud, but what he needs now is some wins over a face fans care about (can you imagine if he’d actually been a rudo while beating Tye Dillinger?).
- That’s the main reason this episode - fun as a house show is - annoys me. They knew they were going to have to film while on tour. Why not write some stuff that moved things along toward San Antonio? Maybe they’ll retroactively incorporate some of these bouts into angles at the next taping... but I’m not holding my breath.
- This was probably my favorite Kay/Royce vs. Morgan/Aliyah match I’ve seen, but it feels like we’ve seen A LOT of them. In each, someone different looks greener than everyone else. Tonight was Aliyah’s turn, but Liv’s “early Carmella” offense isn’t a whole lot better.
- Billie performed better than she has in her last couple televised outings, but Peyton is still the one of whom I’m most interested in seeing more. At some point, someone in this program other than Liv should get a title shot, because having the announcers talk about how William Regal can’t find anyone to face Asuka while we watch these ladies every week is sending a message - and it’s not one that helps them later.
#DIY vs. Akira Tozawa & Tajiri for the tag titles
Great response for all four men, who then all shake hands before the bell. Johnny Gargano starts with Tozawa, and they work fast to a stand-off before tagging in their partners. Tajiri spews the green mist early to pop the crowd and psych out his opponent, and then he and Tommaso Ciampa both focus on arm work with numerous counters and reversals resulting in another stand-off.
A bit of a slower pace as Akira faces both of the champs in a sequence culminating in their stereo corner kicks and a two count after a Ciampa wristlock suplex. The Sicilian Psychopath continues to target the arm/wrist until a stiff strike creates separation and Tozawa makes the tag. Tajiri takes Tommaso down and works several pinfall variants, eventually getting two as we head to commercial.
Ciampa is eating kicks from Tozawa but not backing down when we return. He eventually lands a shot of his own and makes a tag to Gargano, who stretches out the challenger and connects with some strikes before trying to set Akira up on the ropes, where Johnny ends up taking a gutbuster. Both men get tags, and Tajiri lights Tommaso up with his signature kicks and handspring manuevers - including a kick to both members of #DIY that sends them to the floor where they receive a pair of suicide dives from Tozawa. Ciampa continues to fight but take offense, with a suplex from the cruiserweight scoring another nearfall.
Blind tag to Gargano sets up his spear between the ropes on Tozawa. Tajiri gets a tag and the pair trade offense but Johnny ends up in the Tarantula for a five count from the official. Akira is back in for more strikes, and Ciampa comes in to save Johnny from a German suplex and hit a few of his own, but Tozawa eventually snaps a couple off on the champs and gets Tommaso up for his signature deadlift one.
Things get hectic at the finish, with a great sequence where Ciampa answers kicks from Tozawa with a big clothesline, setting up the pop-up lungblower. Tajiri breaks up the pinfall, but after his partner tries to roll-up the other half of the champs, Gargano makes a tag and hits a kick on Akira while Tommaso knocks Tajiri to the floor. #DIY connect with their superkick/running knee combo and retain in a seventeen minute match.
All four men again show respect by shaking hands at the end.
- So, this is the match you want to punch this episode up on the old Network to see.
- It would fit in on any TakeOver as an “indie dream match” kind of deal, but as part of a feud with an actual story behind it? As my grandfather would have said, fuhgedaboudit.
- And you may want to keep it queued up for after San Antonio in the not-out-of-the-question scenario where you need to clear your proverbial palate of the taste of #DIY vs. Authors of Pain.
- It’s lazy of me to tell you to just go watch it, but just go watch it. All four guys get opportunities to drive the action and sell for their opponent, we see their signature spots and some improvisation... it’s great. Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of all four men (and, unpopular opinion alert, Gargano’s probably my least favorite guy - and I like Johnny a lot), but I don’t think that’s making me say a bad match is good or anything. I’m pretty confident you’ll find it worth your time.
- They’re all over with the crowd, too. I enjoyed Osaka the most during this one, since their reserved respect fit the face vs. face dynamic, but it was also fun to see the match drive them to emulate Western audiences, with “Johnny Wrestling” and even a “This is Awesome” chant.
- NXT needs #DIY now, but it’s a bit of a bummer they’re not working with the 205 Live crew, because they could be having killer matches like this one with all those boys
Asuka vs. Nia Jax for the Women’s championship
Nia is trying to intimidate the champ even before the bell, and while Asuka flinches, she never backs down. The champ evades and lands leg kicks at the start, but Jax answers with a headbutt that sends her flying across the ring. Asuka tries for submissions but gets flipped around by the challenger and slammed down with a Spinebuster... Nia is in complete control as we head to break.
The champ continues to try to fight only to be flung around with slams and kept down with headbutts. After asking the referee to see if Asuka yields, Nia catches her breath while wearing her opponent down with a knee to the back, but it’s only momentary before the assault continues. The Empress of Tomorrow eventually sees an opening and goes for a kneebar. Jax gets to her feet, but Asuka brings her right back down with kicks to the wounded knee and forearms to the head. After slamming the champ down by her leg, a hip attack sends Nia to the floor. But when Asuka follows, she ends up getting hurled into the apron. This sets up a weird few moments where Jax is in the ring while the champ is almost counted out and Graves talks about the Raw star’s inexperience in not knowing that she can’t win the title on a countout. She even goes back out to inflict more punishment without sending Asuka back in at one point.
Once Asuka is back in the ring, strikes and another hip attack lowers Jax to where the champ can try for a triangle, but Nia turns it around into a powerbomb set-up she can’t finish. Asuka looks for her submission finisher but can’t get that locked in either, and this time Nia does follow through on a power slam for a two count. Another vicious spinning backfist connects, and the champ lifts Jax for an impressive German. They then re-create the finish from their match at The End with Nia screaming for more before being silenced for good with a head kick after fifteen and a half minutes.
She celebrates with her hometown crowd while Phillips runs down next week’s show from Melbourne where we’ll get Elias Samson & Bobby Roode vs. Buddy Murphy & Tye Dillinger, Liv Morgan vs. Ember Moon vs. Billie Kay and #DIY vs TM-61.
Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the NXT title
We get more than the eleven minutes we were shown on Dec. 7, but I didn’t recap the whole thing (sorry). The added footage is a sequence with Joe in control after the then-champ chokes or rakes Nakamura’s eyes when he has the referee pinned in between them. All together it’s about nineteen minutes long, and flows better as a complete match, but the finish is the same as what was recapped on its initial broadcast (find that here).
- What a weird match the women’s title was. I mean, I dug it, but it was a strange bird.
- In addition to the unique vibe a Japanese audience gives, working in front of Asuka’s hometown made this feel special. It also got more time than most of the matches during her year-plus undefeated streak, and I think any Nia match ever, get... certainly more than their The End contest.
- Not sure that was a good thing. The weird countout psychology struck me as Jax needing a breather and not knowing any other way to get one. And the sloppiness in the closing minutes worked to sell this as a real fight in the same way the less crisp moments of Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte matches did for that rivalry, but there was a pretty sharp contrast in execution from the beginning to the end.
- The opening minutes were dynamite, though! Just teeth-rattling hits from both ladies, with Asuka connecting on closed fist strikes to Nia’s jaw, and Jax ragdolling the champ like she was Braun Strowman and the Empress of Tomorrow was James Ellsworth. They got more audible “DAMN”s out of me than any other match on the show, and probably in the last couple weeks.
- Sure do hope they have more finishes in mind for Nia on the main roster, because “defiant scream cut off by lethal kick” won’t work as well with anyone other than Asuka, and Bayley’s already done the “choke out to survive” deal.
- This and Monday’s Scarlett beatdown have me excited to see longer matches from Jax though, but probably not this long.
- Pretty sure I’ve said everything I have to say about Joe vs. Nak. Oh, there is one more thing... I’m glad we aren’t getting another version of the cage match next week.
While I think they could have used the week to better purpose, this was a fun show with one great match (men’s tag) and another we’ll want people to watch so we can talk about it (women’s title).
If it had been a TakeOver, it’d likely be toward the middle or back of the bunch in most people’s rankings, if elevated by a novel venue (kind of like London). As it is, it’s a pleasant diversion, but probably something that gets lost in the sea of content WWE and others are streaming our way on a weekly basis.
Who watched? What did you think? Do you want more shows like this?
Sound off below, Cagesiders?