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NJPW Strong Style Evolved match recommendations: What’s so civil about war, anyway?

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AXS TV

New Japan Pro Wrestling’s return to the United States is in the history books and you know what that means! For full results, you can check right here, but in the meantime, 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.

Chaos (Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) vs. SoCal Uncensored (Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, & Scorpio Sky) (3): Roppongi 3K run hot after some initial feeling out, breaking up the usual “cycle through the matchups” undercard tag formula a little. SCU pull ahead and work YOH over something fierce and the match comes to resemble more of a traditional southern tag team match and they work quick tags and whatnot. The heat isn’t super extended, though, hot tag to Romero, and from there the match escalates and escalates, high spots ahoy, generally a good time and a darn fine way to open a pro wrestling show.

Chaos (Gedo & Hirooki Goto) vs. David Finlay & Juice Robinson (4): All about Juice taking it to Goto early on, trying to solidify his claim at a NEVER Openweight Championship title match at Sakura Genesis, hitting the champion hard and keeping him off balance. Busted open at the mouth and tasting his own blood in quantity, Hirooki takes control and he and Gedo start working Robinson over. Dueling eyepokes lead to a hot tag and the pace intensifies on our way to the finish.

This was really, really good. One part New Japan undercard tag, one part Memphis, one part Juice just beating Goto’s ass to try and earn a title shot... worth a watch!

Chaos (Chuckie T & Toru Yano) vs. Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) (1): KES in control early, keeping Chuck isolated and Yano (as well as Yano’s shenanigans) out of the match while they work him over. Eventually the Sublime Master Thief gets the hot tag and shenanigans are go! Business picks up, from there but I dunno. This started too slow for me and didn’t really capitalize on what I would have hoped for out of the team of Chuck Taylor and Toru Yano. Pass.

Bullet Club (Cody Rhodes & Marty Scurll) vs. Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (2): A hot start with Cody suckerpunching Loa and Tonga taking it right to him in return! The pace cools a bit but not by that much, back and forth, Brandi trying to get involved, all the tropes you’d expect come into play, including Rhodes needling Omega by going to steal his Terminator dive. This isn’t exactly must-see, but it’s a solid little brawl and if you’re really invested in any of these folks you’ll probably enjoy it more than I did.

Dragon Lee, Hiroshi Tanahashi, KUSHIDA, & Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, & Tetsuya Naito) (3): Cycling through the matchups, we get to Dragon Lee vs. Hiromu Takahashi in short order and they do the thing they do best. The match breaks down a little, back and forth, trading advantages, this is all very standard undercard tag stuff, although quite enjoyable due to who’s involved. Nothing essential, but you won’t regret putting it on if you do.

Jushin Liger vs. Will Ospreay (5): Slow early and building to a crescendo, the story here is that young, eager Will finds himself working with a bum wheel against a cool, confident veteran and has to adapt his high-flying onslaught to work on one leg. It’s not perfect, but it’s a classic story well-told, it’s hard-hitting, has all the highspots you’d expect and it’s worth your attention, is this one.

Chaos (Kazuchika Okada & Tomohiro Ishii) vs. Suzuki-gun (Minoru Suzuki & Zack Sabre, Jr.) (3): Right into Sabre/Okada with no pussyfooting, mat grappling abounds. That gives way to Suzuki and Ishii just clubbing the hell out of each other and then that in turn gives way to Suzuki-gun’s traditional breakdown on the floor. Tom gets worked over, it’s pretty standard fare. The preview we get of Sabre/Okada is neat, and the action heats up nicely towards the end, but while enjoyable enough I can’t give this one a strong recommendation.

Hangman Page vs. Jay White (c) (IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship) (1): This is an interesting one because it’s not a terribly New Japan style match and starts off feeling more like a main event in an indie like Hangman’s old stomping ground PWX before moving onto some crazy ridiculous spots to the floor right out of the early NOAH playbook. That’s not a bad thing at all, in fact I would argue it’s a good thing to a certain degree, to try and give the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship its own unique style.

The NEVER Openweight Championship, after all, is generally held by hard strikers and aggressive grapplers, so creating a similar atmosphere for the US title seems like a great idea.

BUT... this match was not great. Overlong and understructured, the first German suplex off the apron is thrilling but eventually the headdrops lose their luster and it’s just like... why is this match still going? The promos sold me on the match well enough and I was actually pretty into the first part but this one fell off a cliff for me. Pass.

Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs. Young Bucks (Matt & Nick Jackson) (5): Bit of stalling out the gates but eventually we get going and trade back and forth a bit before the Bucks have the initiative only for Nick to seemingly have second thoughts about fighting their pal Kenny. Matt spurs him on and they work Ibushi over instead as a bit of a compromise for a while. Matt’s not without problems of his own, however, as his long-suffering back is still bugging him and so the stage is set.

And so this match is everything you expected it would be. High drama, back damage, crazy highspots, stablemates not wanting to hurt each other too bad, Jim Ross being inappropriate on commentary and talking about golden showers in a way that suggests that maybe he wasn’t trying to call the stereo 450 splash, a belt whipping... Okay, so not all of that is great, but this is still a hell of a match that is very much worth watching. Do it!

There you have it, folks

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