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NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed match recommendations: Golden spirit

NJPW World

For full results for NJPW’s return to the United States you can check right here, but otherwise, on with the show!

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.

ACH, Jushin Liger, & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) (3): Starting with YOH and Liger, the match breaking down into triple submissions when the vet has the young man on the back foot, but the tide soon turns and Chaos have Jushin isolated. ACH and Taguchi rally in turn, the temperature heats up but Annoying Butt Man only has so much capability to hold the tide against an entire trio of Chaosmen and we head into the finishing stretch with them well in charge.

This is a fun, high energy opener-- not a classic that anyone’s likely to rave about for years to come, but good solid fun to kick the show off. Watch accordingly!

Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Hangman Page) vs. SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian) (2): Kazarian and Page to start, testing strength like superheavyweights before their partners tag in to save them from themselves. SCU pull ahead working Owens’ neck but the momentum shift doesn’t stick and the Bullet Club team end up working Frankie over at length. Daniels with the comeback (including an absolutely sick inverted DDT / Rock Bottom combo on both guys), but again Bullet Club are unafraid to bend the rules to come out ahead and we head to the finish asking if the vets can pull out of their tailspin.

So this match was in need of some real structure, a bit too “back and forth wasting time until it’s time to do the finish” for me, but the highlights were absolutely there. Not a strong recommendation to watch the whole match, but a strong recommendation to go seek out gifs of things like the combination I shouted out above and Kazarian’s counter to Page’s shooting star press off the apron.

Chaos (Beretta, Chuckie T, & Hirooki Goto) vs. Chris Sabin, Flip Gordon, & Jeff Cobb (3): Taylor and Sabin to start, a bit of mat grappling, a bit of lucha libre, and soon enough the ROH team have Chuck isolated. Chaos refuse to take that laying down, the match breaks down, slick inverted crucifix powerbomb into an Ace Crusher from Best Friends! When the dust clears, Sabin’s taking the abuse but he refuses to back down and eventually gets the hot tag to Gordon.

The young flyer comes in hot, tag to Cobb, he and Goto go at it in earnest, strength for strength, but the former NEVER Champion has Jeff’s flying ability scouted and they stalemate. Cobb takes Best Friends on two for one, and we head steadily on towards the finish from there.

This has a leg up on your average New Japan undercard tag and only that it basically stays in second gear the entire time without much in the way of real escalation keeps me from giving it a strong recommendation.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) vs. Suzuki-gun (Davey Boy Smith, Jr., Lance Archer, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) (2): Suzuki-gun on the attack from the jump in their inimitable style but in the ring EVIL brings his strength to bear on Sabre and prevents a rout. SANADA in, ZSJ’s grappling gets him the tag to Davey Boy and KES get Cold Skull isolated, working him over. Naito saves the day, Killer Elite Squad bring their force to bear on him as well and we end up with tags to Sabre and EVIL to put us back where we started.

The match breaks down but it’s still all about Zack and the King of Darkness going at it as we head to the finish. This was solid but still very much in the same vein as all the LIJ/SZKG tags from the Destruction tour. Grappling DBS is worth a look if you’ve never seen him in any role but power/brawling guy, but overall there’s just not much worth going out of your way for here.

Chaos (Gedo & “Switchblade” Jay White) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi & KUSHIDA (3): Tanahashi hot out the gates, beating the holy hell out of Switchblade! Some interference with Gedo puts the shoe on the other foot, the Chaos men working the 1/100 Ace over at length. But Gedo proves to be the weak link and gives Hiroshi the opportunity to tag KUSHIDA in. The Time Splitter running hot, bringing his athleticism to bear, but White isn’t afraid to cut corners when it looks like he’s gonna get the win by way of the Hoverboard Lock.

Tanahashi gets in and rallies, Gedo runs interference with a pair of brass knuckles, and we head inexorably towards a finish. A fighting mad Ace and a slimy, dirty alliance between White and Gedo makes for a good match that gives us a solid glimpse of how the Gedo/Switchblade pairing will work going forward, but it’s not quite enough to make it to a strong recommendation.

Marty Scurll vs. Will Ospreay (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Tournament Semifinal Match) (5): Ospreay kicks this one off hot, trying for the early win, but Scurll turns the tide and works him over at length with heavy strikes and big moves. Will creates opening after opening, gets cut off, things continue to escalate, and this is a great match as a result. Not quite my favorite of their series over the last year, I think that’s still the Sakura Genesis match, but a step above Power Struggle 2017 for sure.

Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) vs. Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (5): Guerrillas taking control in the early goings, reaggravating Matt Jackson’s bad back and punishing him further on the floor. And that’s the story here, GoD wrecking the Bucks over and over. With Matt out on the floor after a bodyslam off the top through a table, Nick finds himself isolated but still able to rally and things spiral out of control, bigger and better through to the finish.

I’ve found the Bucks’ heavyweight tag stuff to be in general a smidge below their best junior work, but this was right in line with those classics against Roppongi Vice. Watch it!

Cody Rhodes vs. Juice Robinson (c) (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship) (4): Trading heavy chops early, Juice moves things along by taking it to the floor where of course Brandi Rhodes gets involved and her interference continues giving Cody unearned opportunities to take charge and dominate the champ even as Robinson’s wherewithal keeps him fighting. Rhodes soon begins targeting the leg in earnest, they trade finishers, and it all builds up to a (somewhat abrupt) finish.

This is quite good and full of drama, but never quite reached a fever pitch. Definitely worth watching all the same, however.

Chaos (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) (5): So the story here is that things constantly conspire to deny the American crowd a taste of Omega vs. Okada. First the match breaks down into a brawl on the floor when it looks like they’re going to get into it, then Ibushi knocks the Rainmaker out of the way with a dropkick leading to a face in peril segment instead of a proper set of high-octane exchanges.

Of course, they do finally eventually get to those exchanges, and they’re every bit as electric as you might hope, even with (or perhaps because of) their tag partners’ constant presence and interference. But it’s not just Omega/Okada that’s the hot stuff here, every matchup gets time to shine and this is just a fantastic tag team match. It might not mean a whole lot in the long run, but if you’re just catching up on this show and want a good time, it’s absolutely a must-watch.

There you have it, folks

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to toss in your two cents below, Cagesiders.

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