As always, I've got a very simple five point scale laid out where a 1 is total skip, 2 you can probably skip unless you love one of the folks in it, 3 is a match that's worth watching but not necessarily worth making time for, a 4 is a solid recommendation to make time for if you can, and a 5 is a must-watch.
Mind you, these are not star ratings. They're not meant to be absolute ratings in any sense, but rather a simple (and hopefully sensible) way to determine if a match is worth your time. A one is not necessarily a bad match, but rather just one I feel like you're best off skipping. I have my biases, of course, but hopefully I can make it easy for you to adjust for them.
Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale, Marty Scurll, Matt Jackson, Nick Jackson, & Yujiro Takahashi) vs. Chaos (Beretta, Jay Briscoe, Mark Briscoe, Rocky Romero, & Will Ospreay) (3)
Ospreay and Scurll lead things off, light mat grappling, the Villain cuts an advantage off with a poke to the eyes, shortly to Mark and Fale, both Briscoes work him over, and things break down a little. Blockbuster on Yujiro on the outside, Bucks and RPG Vice get into it, the champs pulling an advantage that doesn't last.
Bucks take RPG Vice out, working with Scurll to wipe Mark Briscoe out, dives, Will knocks Marty off the apron, double jump shooting star press to the outside! Mark looking to take to the Villain, he gets his fingers wishboned for his trouble and Scurll loses his mind calling for the chickenwing, giving Mark enough time to get an enzuigiri off.
Fast times, in and out, everybody does something cool, Rocky runs into a superkick, Jay Briscoe snaps off a Frankensteiner, step-up tornado DDT from Beretta, Marty lays him out with the fakeout superkick but runs into a spanish fly from Ospreay! Back to Vice on Bucks violence, "Forever!" lariats from Romero, trying to chop Bad Luck down and failing.
Goozle, Trent pulls him off, chops and forearms, tandem knees can't take the big man out and he wipes both juniors out with a double lariat. Beretta up... BAD LUCK FALL TO THE OUTSIDE! Briscoes trying to chop Fale down now, succeeding with a back elbow / rolling elbow combo only to have the Bucks come in on them as the big man rolls out.
Powerbomb / enzuigiri on Rocky, Ospreay blocks an Indytaker, Rocky thinks quick...
Chaos win by pinfall with a victory roll pin from Rocky Romero on Nick Jackson.
A fair bit better than your average opening tag just because of the sheer amount of men in the ring and the constant flow of doing stuff, not essential but worth your time if you have the time. Plus I really liked the finish, felt abrupt but in a good way.
Dragon Lee, Jushin Liger, Titan, & Volador, Jr. vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL, Hiromu Takahashi, & SANADA) (3)
Volador and BUSHI starting, grappling quickly giving way to a bit of light lucha flying and BUSHI takes a breather. Shift to Liger on SANADA, the legend accepting a handshake but it's a ruse and EVIL blasts him from behind! Jushin fighting 'em two-on-one, taking Cold Skull outside but EVIL stops the dive and the match breaks down into a brawl.
SANADA tearing at Liger's mask, Titan comes in, Cold Skull ties him up in a ball, dropkick to the butt, tag to EVIL. BUSHI in with a dropkick and he and the King of Darkness go to work Jushin over but again he fights them off gamely, tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a shotei get him a tag and it's Dragon and Hiromu going at it!
Strike exchange, snap German suplex from Lee, he fights SANADA off with a knee, tandem dives from Volador and Titan wipe LIJ out! Titan tags in, springboard crossbody, big spinning headscissors, tuning up the band but he runs right into an overhead belly-to-belly from Takahashi!
Triple dropkick from LIJ, the match breaks down and Hiromu pulls the ref into the corner to distract him from EVIL and SANADA teeing off on a chair wrapped around Titan's head! Takahashi gets him up...
Los Ingobernables de Japon win by pinfall with Time Bomb from Hiromu on Titan.
Bit disappointed by not having as much Lee/Takahashi content as would be ideal, but another solid somewhat above-average undercard tag.
Hangman Page vs. Jay Lethal (IWGP United States Championship Tournament First Round Match) (1)
Page attacks Lethal before the bell! Lethal turns it around on him, putting him into the barricade before taking him in the ring, hip toss into a handspring dropkick, continuing the punishment with chops in the corner. Hangman turns it around, hanging him on the top rope, Jay bails, shooting star press shoulder block off the apron!
Going after the ribs, pumphandle fallaway slam! Lethal gets an opening, goes for Lethal Injection but he's caught in an octopus hold! Escape, going for a lariat, Page traps him right back in the octopus, grinding his elbow into his ribs. Jay out again, boot and an a step-up kick, rolling elbow, Ace Crusher, putting a rally together.
Climbing up top, Hail to the King but he can't capitalize soon enough and Hangman kicks out! Lethal keeps the leg, going for a figure four, reversed to a small package! Lethal Injection attempted again, countered with a back body drop, Page in with a lariat, only a nearfall. Trying the figure four again, no dice, Lethal Combination connects, Lethal Injection but he doesn't get all of it and can't make a cover.
Going punch for punch, Jay with an enzuigiri, another, handspring...
Jay Lethal wins by pinfall with Lethal Injection.
This one just didn't come together. Bad night, bad chemistry, I don't know, but you can pretty safely pass on this one.
Juice Robinson vs. Zack Sabre, Jr. (IWGP United States Championship Tournament First Round Match) (5)
Feeling out, a bit of grappling and Juice is smart enough to not try and go hold-for-hold with the Evolve World Champion, going right for the break. Kick to the gut on a potential test of strength, Robinson puts Sabre corner to corner and throws a jab, backbreaker and a Russian legsweep into a senton, looking or a suplex but ZSJ slips out and hits the Pele kick to the arm!
Chop lights Zack up, he is returned with the inverted stomp armbreaker into the twisting armscissors, stepping on his head, stomping and wrenching the arm. Juice gets away, fighting one-handed, he walks into a shoulder armbreaker, Sabre with a modified octopus hold, wrenching Robinson's hair.
Takedown to the stomp to the elbow, Jim Breaks Special, wrenching it in, Juice counters into a fireman's carry and drops him into the double knee gutbuster! Sabre gets the Kimura lock on, Robinson reverses to a Jackhammer! Cannonball in the corner, Juice goes for a powerbomb but slips and ZSJ pastes him with a kick and an uppercut, charging in, Pulp Fristction denied, European Clutch... NO GOOD!
Zack catches a boot, wheel trip, Penalty Kick connects! Stepping on the arm, stomping the upper arm, kick to the back, standing kicks to the arm but Robinson's getting fired up and wants more! Throwing slaps, Juice back into it with chops and forearms, big slap to the neck from Sabre but Robinson catches him with the leg lariat in return.
Off the ropes, ZSJ with the flying armbar but Juice has his hands locked! He breaks the grip, and wrenches back but Robinson is able to roll with it and force him to shift to a triangle choke! Juice looking for the deadlift but Sabre bridges back with the arm! Clasping his hands, he gets Sabre up... FALLING POWERBOMB!
Pump kick to the arm from Zack, Juice recovers, looking for Pulp Friction, reversed to an octopus hold! Wrenching the arm back, denying Robinson the ropes even as he steps closer! Juice goes to use the other arm, it's the Hurrah! BOTH ARMS ARE TRAPPED! IT'S OVER!
Zack Sabre, Jr. wins by submission with Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness.
So, going in this was the match I was most looking forward to, and it did not disappoint. ZSJ just grinding plucky Juice down bit by bit until there's no give left and he had no choice but to call it despite his heart. I am probably a little high on it because it’s my favorite style of wrestling performed at a high level, but watch this match!
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White, & KUSHIDA vs. Billy Gunn, Tempura Boyz (Sho Tanaka & Yohei Komatsu), & YOSHITATSU (2)
Komatsu and KUSHIDA starting, bit of mat grappling, the Time Splitter blocks a sunset flip with a hip swivel and a crotch chop at Gunn before trying for the Hoverboard lock. He can't get it, tag to Finlay, up and over, fast exchanges, wiping Yohei out and fending a run-in from Tanaka off, KUSHIDA tags back in.
Action spills outside, Tempura Boyz running wild on the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion, standing moonsault, Sho tags in, locking KUSHIDA down with a bodyscissors, looking for a cross armbar, but the ropes are close enough for the break. Billy tags in, punishing the champ in the corner, crotch chopping away and telling him to suck it.
Straight right into a cover, only a nearfall and Gunn stares Tanahashi down. Tempura Boyz clear house but KUSHIDA fights them off, handstand to a dropkick, he wants the tag but Billy comes back and blocks it. Handspring elbow, Hiroshi tags in! Clearing the apron, dropkick, flying forearm, the 1/100 Dude is fired up!
Body blows, back elbow, springboard crossbody goes too low and Gunn is able to capitalize with a fallaway slam. Crotch chop, he runs into a clothesline. Tags made, White in on TATSU, running hard, uppercut to a back suplex, only good for a nearfall. Trading strikes, spinning wheel kick from the Bullet Club Hunter, Jay with a half-halch suplex into the turnbuckles!
Match breaks down, into the "everybody do something cool" bit, tilt-a-whirl slam from Billy, Sling Blade from Tanahashi, hip toss lift into a knee to the ace from YOSHI, Irish Curse from Finlay into a Rock Bottom from White, a cover and the match breaks right back down. From the chaos, Jay White finds order...
David Finlay, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Jay White, & KUSHIDA win by pinfall with a reverse STO from White on YOSHITATSU.
That just made me sad. Like, the action was mostly fine, but whenever Tanahashi was in it's just painfully clear that he needs to take some time off. When Billy Gunn is the better man in the year of our lord 2017, maybe give in and have that surgery and take a breath, my man.
Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa) (c) vs. War Machine (Hanson & Ray Rowe) (IWGP Tag Team Championship No Disqualification Match) (3)
Ray Rowe cuts a promo saying that in Osaka War Machine chose to fight with honor and GoD brought weapons into it, so he wants to bring weapons into it tonight! He asks the chairman to make it no disqualification! Tama decks him with the mic and we're off!
Roa loving taking shots from Hanson, they get him back in the ring for a second before running him off, Rowe in, headbutts, kicks, backfist connects but Tanga waffles him with a trash can lid! Hanson with a clothesline that tags Roa outside, thinking dive but he gets clobbered with a trash can!
Tanga beating on Rowe against the ropes, trash can lid across the back, hammer whip, corner avalanche from Tonga, cover only gets one. Ray fighting back with punches but the brothers put a string off offense together that nearly puts him away. Warbeard in, throwing hands and kicks, he gets both sons of Meng in opposite corners and charges lariat after lariat on each of them!
Stacking 'em up in the corner, Stinger Splash, looking for a bronco buster but the brothers get out the way! Gun Stun takes Hanson out, Rowe in, he gets clobbered, huge dropkick from Roa on the Warbeard. All four men jawing at each other, stereo Frye/Takayama, Hanson throws Tama into Rowe, setting up a Hart Attack but Tanga has other thoughts and Tama hits the rolling cutter!
Diving headbutt from Roa into a frog splash from Tonga... ROWE LIVES! Charge puts him in the corner but he catches Tama and slams him into Tanga! Whip sets up the pop-up powerslam... NOPE! Chase Owens runs down with a chair and waffles Hanson off the corner! Roa hits Ray with the trash can and Chase hands them some chairs to set up in the ring... POWERBOMB INTO THE CHAIRS! NOT ENOUGH!
Table set up, War Machine put it together and run Owens off with a sliding knee from Rowe! Hanson with a suicide dive, Ray peppers Roa with a knee to the face but it just fires him up, suplex, another knee, and Tanga fades. They set him up over the table, Hanson climbs...
War Machine win by pinfall with Fallout on Tanga Roa through a table, winning the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Well, that wasn't quite as much better as I was hoping when they made a big deal of making it no DQ, but it was still pretty fun. Act accordingly.
Tetsuya Naito vs. Tomohiro Ishii (IWGP United States Championship Tournament First Round Match) (5)
Naito blasts Ishii off the apron before the bell rings and takes his customary nap after. Tetsuya taking a good long breather before coming back in to beat on the Stone Pitbull, clubbing blows and kicks give way to disdainful slaps and Ishii blasts him with a shoulder block in return.
Chopping away, Naito returning them, overhand but Tomohiro is unmoved and drops him with a single chop in return. Backing the Ingobernable man in the corner, chops on chops, thinking back suplex, Tetsuya backs out, boots up in the corner, swinging neckbreaker connects! Stardust Genius throwing lariats into a hip toss, off the ropes for a basement dropkick, snapmare to a Sick Kick and he poses for the crowd.
Forearm for forearm, slugging it out in the middle of the ring, Naito pulls ahead with a fakeout into a kick but gets dropped by a back suplex! Chops and forearms in the corner, charging lariat, whip reversed, Naito trying to put something together but he gets caught with the snap scoop powerslam for a nearfall.
Looking for the folding powerbomb, Tetsuya escapes, Manhattan Drop, he gets Ishii in the ropes and drops him with a neckbreaker. Up top, missile dropkick on the button, looking for the corner dropkick combo but the Stone Pitbull knocks him down onto the apron with a lariat!
Deadlifting him back in for a suplex, Naito counters with a brainbuster! Jockeying for position, the Stardust Genius continues targeting the back of the neck, inverted facelock neckbreaker, low dropkick, a German suplex, leaving Ishii gasping and crawling by the ropes. Setting Tomohiro up top... AVALANCHE FRANKENSTEINER CONNECTS! NOT ENOUGH!
Looking for Gloria, Ishii fights him off and gets some clubbing blows in return! Naito spits in his face, forearms flying but the Stone Pitbull is unmoved and drops him with a wicked headbutt! Tenryu powerbomb connects... NO GOOD! Off the ropes, lariat blocked, enzuigiri thrown aside!
Ishii gets a nearfall, going for the brainbuster, denied, Naito gets a pin, no dice, denies the brainbuster, trying for the tornado DDT, Stone Pitbull blocking best he can but third time's the charm! Missile dropkick to the back of the neck, Gloria follows but Ishii finds the will to kick out!
Destino hook begets a full nelson, Ishii with a headbutt, Tetsuya back at him with a forearm, again Destino escaped, Tomohiro off the ropes with a sliding lariat... NOPE! Big slap, Tenryu enzuigiri in return, brainbuster attempt but Ishii's neck gives out on him! Dragon suplex with the bridge... ISHII LIVES! Hooking the arm, Destino blocked and returned by a lariat!
Another... NO DICE! Up for the brainbuster...
Tomohiro Ishii wins by pinfall with the vertical drop brainbuster.
Well that was certainly a pro wrestling contest! Naito just going after the head and neck unmerciful but Ishii proving that all he needed was one good shot to pull ahead, great stuff, make the time for it for sure.
Kenny Omega vs. Michael Elgin (IWGP United States Championship Tournament First Round Match) (5)
Feeling out, Omega clubbing away but Elgin's strength and size keep him from flagging. Catching Kenny into a fireman's carry, he slips out, waistlock, BIG MIKE knocks him off and pins him against the ropes with a huge chop. Military press slam, big forearm, body slam, slingshot plancha from the apron back in, delayed vertical suplex, Elgin goes one-handed before dropping him!
Omega snaps off a Frankensteiner that sends BIG MIKE outside for a breather and follows it up with the Terminator dive, or tries to, but Elgin comes in and cuts him off with a pump kick! Diving shoulder block connects, the action goes outside, struggling over a powerbomb, Omega moonsaults and Elgin catches him, running him up the ramp for a lawn dart but Kenny slips out... KOTARO KRUSHER!
Content to take the countout until Elgin gets halfway to the ring, slam into the apron, BIG MIKE breaks the count. Omega trying to lock him down, he fights out, but the Cleaner gets right on his back with a sleeper hold. Elgin backs him in the corner, sidesteps a back elbow and throws chops to work himself back into the fight.
Whip denied, fireman's carry, Elgin flailing but the Finlay Roll connects, followup moonsault but the knees are up! Charging in, boot up, BIG MIKE with the rolling German suplexes, third stopped by a break, big roundhouse, another German but Kenny lands on his feet! Back body drop to the apron, slingshot catch powerslam... NOPE!
Short lariats with right and left, Omega wobbling on his feet as Elgin keeps throwing, jockeying for position, snap Dragon suplex and BIG MIKE has to head outside to get his bearings! Off the ropes, Terminator tope con giro, he gets Elgin back in the ring, missile dropkick connects, no good!
Suplex denied, trading strikes, V-Trigger, Kenny hits Aoi Shoudou! Off the ropes, BIG MIKE wipes him out with a lariat! Looking for the deadlift avalanche Falcon Arrow, Omega trips him up and hooks a powerbomb clutch on the apron. Lifting him up, Elgin reverses, forearms from Kenny, thinking Poison Frankensteiner but BIG MIKE pops him off...GERMAN SUPLEX ON THE APRON!
Setting him up top, back to back, Elgin gets him up... AVALANCHE SPLASH MOUNTAIN! NOT ENOUGH?! Buckle bomb, looking for the Elgin Bomb, Omega reverses to a small package for a nearfall! A decapitation lariat... KENNY OMEGA LIVES! V-TRIGGER! BIG MIKE FIRED UP! ANOTHER V-TRIGGER! OFF THE ROPES, DUCKING LARIATS, V-TRIGGER! POISON FRANKENSTEINER! BIG MIKE WILL NOT DIE!
BIG MIKE CATCHES THE GUN FINGER AND ASKS FOR MORE! V-TRIGGER! ANOTHER! ELECTRIC CHAIR, MIKE SLIPS OUT! WHEELBARROW TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER... STILL NOT ENOUGH! V-TRIGGER! ELECTRIC CHAIR...
Kenny Omega wins by pinfall with One-Winged Angel.
Perhaps the most classically New Japan match of the night thus far, in that kind of slow and steady beginnings (although, to be fair, none of the usual limbwork that never gets paid off) gave way to an absolute fever pitch by the end. And you can kind of tell how invested I got in the last bit from how much ALLCAPs I ended up doing, so... watch it.
Cody Rhodes vs. Kazuchika Okada (c) (IWGP Heavyweight Championship) (4)
Feeling out early, jockeying for position with some light mat grappling before Cody decides he'd rather head out and kiss his wife again. Back in, drop-down slap, Disaster Kick dodged, Rainmaker dodged, and we have a stalemate. Snapmare into a pinpoint dropkick, Okada pulls ahead and Rhodes takes things outside.
Cody off into the aisle for a breather, he walks back into a forearm and hops back over the barricade, inviting the champ to do the crossbody over the barricade! Club to the back takes it back in the ring but Rhodes is ready with a kick and a reverse STO out of the ropes. Quick pins, trying to put Okada away and failing, short-arm knee, clubbing blows, working the leg over to set American Nightmare up.
Up and over into a snap scoop powerslam gets Cody a tight nearfall and he follows it up with slingshot stomps, choking the Rainmaker. Taunting at the crowd, gourdbuster connects, Rhodes putting offense together but when it fails he grows cranky, spitting at the champion. Full nelson applied from a kneeling position, Okada getting to his feet, fighting out with back elbows.
Whip reversed, boot up, duck a lariat, swinging neckbreaker, charging blows, a back elbow wipes Rhodes out! Another in the corner, kick to the gut, snap DDT, basement uppercut, Cody kicks out of the cover. Duck the elbow on another try, Okada sets him up top and knocks him off with the dropkick!
Thinking Tombstone piledriver outside but Rhodes counters with a back body drop. Clutching his shoulder, limping, thinking about a DDT off the apron but the Rainmaker counters with one of his own! Taking it back in the ring, Okada climbs... CODY COUNTERS WITH A HIP TOSS OFF THE TOP! Disaster Kick connects this time and gets a tight nearfall!
Mounted punches, licking his hand and making finger guns at the champion, thinking a second kick but he gets caught with a flapjack. Kazuchika taking a breather, Rhodes charges in, caught by the Reverse Neckbreaker, elbow drop connects... and production screws up the Rainmaker pose snap zoom.
Cody is wise to it and catches him with the American Nightmare! In agony, the champion crawls for the ropes and gets the break but Rhodes sets back on the attack, stomping the leg before drawing him up, slapping and spitting. Okada grabs the hair and throws elbows to back him in the corner before stomping the proverbial mudhole!
More elbows, disdainful stomps to the back of the head and referee Red Shoes Unno warns the Rainmaker to back off. Dropkick to the back of the head, Tombstone piledriver, wristlock, going for the ripcord, Cody stops him short by spitting in his face! The lariat connects after a delay, Okada keeps the wristlock and lands another short-arm lariat.
Kenny Omega makes his way to ringside with a white towel, echoing Cody at Dominion. He argues with Brandi Rhodes about it, the Young Bucks come downand they all bicker back and forth. He shifts to trying to get Brandi to do it herself as Okada gets him up for another Rainmaker, counters on counters, the champion connects with another dropkick!
Rainmaker ducked, Rhodes hits his own... NO GOOD! Cody wipes the towel on himself and throws it out of the ring before returning to Kazuchika, drawing him up, inverted facelock, a knee blocks it, Okada hits a Cross Rhodes of his own... NOT ENOUGH! Both men spent, forehead to forehead as they rise to their feet and begin trading forearms.
Okada with an uppercut, another, Cody gets the inverted facelock again, the champion fighting with knees but he keeps it, up and down with the inverted implant DDT! Kick to the cut, drop-down slap, Okada is hung up on the ropes and Rhodes is lying in wait. Electric chair, thinking One-Winged Angel, the Rainmaker counters with a German suplex!
Wristlock, ripcord, ducked, thinking Cross Rhodes, step-up escape, Okada spins him around, spinning Tombstone piledriver! Wristlock...
Kazuchika Okada wins by pinfall with the Rainmaker, retaining the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.
Credit where it's due, Okada isn't always a guy I like, but he really brought it here. Add in some solid storytelling echoes from the last Omega match, and it's... very good. Not great, but also not the kind of signature match that is gonna change anybody's mind. Watch accordingly.
Kenny Omega cuts a promo about how he's not going to take this moment from Okada because they have a rematch in the G1 Climax and this is Okada's night. Gedo introduces Okada, and he promises (in English) to make it rain, strong style, all over the world.
In the end, a good debut for New Japan in the USA. The first half was a bit shallow outside of Sabre/Robinson, but the second half of the show kicked it up a notch in a big way with two absolute stone cold must-watch matches in Naito/Ishii and Omega/Elgin, and Rhodes/Okada was about as good as it was capable of being besides.
The main down point of the show, rather than any of the matches (although Lethal/Page just did not come together, but hey, that happens), was the commentary. I like Jim Ross as much as anybody, but he was out of his element, getting people mixed up and not knowing move names, and Josh Barnett, while good at calling the technical aspects of the matches, largely just went along with the errors. It got better once we got out of the big multi-man tags and into the singles matches, but even there were significant mistakes that hurt the viewing experience of the show, like repeatedly calling Zack Sabre, Jr. Will Ospreay.
Production, as well, was weaker than the New Japan standard, with missed and poorly chosen camera angles left and right. How you mess up the Rainmaker pose snap zoom I have no idea, but they did it.
But tomorrow promises to be a load of fun even if these issues continue, with Ishii/Sabre and Omega/Lethal in the title tournament as well as Tanahashi/Gunn and RPG Vice/Young Bucks for their respective titles.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.