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NJPW Wrestling Hi no Kuni 2018 match recommendations: Down too long in the midnight sea

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This year’s edition of Wresting Hi no Kuni is in the history books, so without further ado aside from pointing you at full results right here, as well as my recommendations for the title matches held over the past week right here, let’s get on with breaking down the matches, shall we?

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.

Ren Narita & Yuji Nagata vs. Shota Umino & Tomoyuki Oka (2): Pretty standard young lions and veteran opening tag here, and Umino continues to stand out and has a couple of great moments bringing the fight to Nagata. Fun to check in on how the next generation is progressing, but hardly essential.

Chaos (“Switchblade” Jay White, Rocky Romero, SHO, & YOH) vs. David Finlay, Jushin Liger, Ryusuke Taguchi, & Tiger Mask IV (2): Bit of a departure from the standard undercard tag formula, with Rocky abusing Tiger Dad early and the babyfaces breaking the match down to get revenge, followed by Chaos returning the favor to isolate a freshly-tagged Liger. Hot tag from Taguchi, he runs (butt) wild on everybody, and then we settle into the normal formula, cycling through matchups until it’s time to go home. Fun stuff, and the variety is appreciated, but nothing you need to make time to watch, folks.

Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano) vs. Toa Henare & Togi Makabe (2): Yano starting for Chaos, immediately into his shenanigans but Makabe isn’t having it and he and Henare pull ahead even as Ishii relieves his stablemate. Toa left in control a bit too long, the Chaosmen get the advantage back, the tables turn once more, and we head to the finish on a mini-rematch between Tom and Henare on our way to our finish. Not bad, but again, nothing here you’re dying to see, especially not if you watched the singles.

Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi) & Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs. Suzuki-gun (Taichi, TAKA Michinoku, Takashi Iizuka, & Zack Sabre, Jr.) (3): Chaos from the bell with Suzuki-gun on the attack, the match appears in danger of settling down as Yujiro cleans house but Iizuka keeps the ball rolling, biting everyone everywhere. Finally business picks up with Golden Lovers in, big dives, ZSJ has exchanges with everybody and the match breaks down again as Suzuki-gun reassert control on our way to the finish.

There’s a lot to like about this, principally any time Ibushi, Omega, or Sabre were in doing stuff (and Zack got some really fun preview action in on a hypothetical feud with the Best Bout Machine), but slow start and the Iizuka biting nonsense (he was really intent on stopping anything interesting from happening for far too long) really drags it down. I can’t quite pan it because the fun stuff was really fun, but... watch accordingly.

Chaos (Hirooki Goto, Kazuchika Okada, Will Ospreay, & YOSHI-HASHI) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, KUSHIDA, & Michael Elgin (3): Okada and Tanahashi to start, just beating on each other, and the once and future Ace isolates the champion and passes him off to his teammates to work over for a while, but Chaos quickly break the match down and restore their own unique form of order to the proceedings. Juice plays face in peril, Okada and Tanahashi fight on the floor, and eventually we move on to a preview of our junior title match.

The final phase of the match sees Tacos take center stage and make a valiant stand against the Ace before things break down into a round of “everybody do something cool” and we get the finish. This was really enjoyable stuff-- maybe not strictly speaking necessary considering that most of what you’ll see here, you’ll see crisper and better on Wednesday and Thursday, but a good time all the same.

BUSHI vs. El Desperado (3): BUSHI starts hot with a slingshot Frankensteiner to the floor at the bell! Continuing the abuse outside and in, choking him with his t-shirt, but Desperado isn’t above an underhanded trick or two to keep himself in the match and we’ve got a fight on our hands. Despy takes things outside and up the ramp and back in, attacking BUSHI’s mask all the way. Back and forth, BUSHI fights back into it, trading bombs and waiting for the one that will finish the match.

Some good highspots here and generally enjoyable action, but a weak finish and little feeling of ever getting into gear keep me from giving this one a strong recommendation.

Hiromu Takahashi vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (3): Kanemaru in control early, attacking before the bell and brutalizing Takahashi on the floor. Inside and out, Desperado gets involved, and Hiromu is down but not out just yet. Indeed, he gets back into it with a lariat and charging strikes, willing himself to build up a head of steam to fight on. The sailing isn’t totally smooth, Kanemaru overtakes him time and again and forces him to find a new way to get back into it, but that’s the story of the match.

Very much two of a kind with the previous match, this has a stronger finish but not quite enough to push it across the line for me.

Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith, Jr. & Lance Archer) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL & SANADA) (c) (IWGP Tag Team Championship) (1): KES on the attack from the jump, taking the champions outside and beating them down. They keep SANADA isolated in the ring and work him over until EVIL gets the hot tag and bowls Archer over hard. KES regain control, a table comes into play, but with Archer and Smith in control so long, this match is lifeless and incredibly hard to care about.

Like, as a match in a vacuum, it’s fine, but Killer Elite Squad are so played out and stale and bring so little energy to the proceedings that they’ve got me sitting here yawning at a Killer Bomb through a table to the floor. EVIL and SANADA are fresh champions and I know they’re quite capable of having good to great tag matches, but this... is not one of those matches and comes off as a total dud. Pass.

Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Tetsuya Naito (IWGP Intercontinental Championship) (1): Naito tries mind games early and just raises Suzuki’s ire in the process, but he still manages to use a trip to the floor to take control on the champion. Back outside, the tide turns, Minoru hucking barricades and chairs at his challenger before taking it back in the ring to wrench and tear at the Stardust Genius, probing for any weakness. Naito puts a run together, targeting Suzuki’s neck repeatedly, and we get a back and forth run for a good while until Minoru targets the knee and finds his opening.

Tetsuya on the comeback, the match now clearly about if he can overwhelm the odds with an angry Minoru Suzuki trying to tear his leg off, and... the match starts to fall apart a little. I don’t know whether it’s injury, a bad night at the office, or what, but Naito’s been a half step off all match and the gap is widening the later we go here. Suzuki is incredibly spry for 49 but there are limits to what he can do when the wheels come off.

At one point Minoru has a sleeper on, Tetsuya fights out and goes to hit a move, and what happens is honestly just shy of the Whisper in the Wind from Jinder Mahal vs. Jeff Hardy at Greatest Royal Rumble on the “Yikes, what was that?” scale. I’m all for sloppy, gritty, realistic execution, but... this was just bad.

Honestly, this was on-track to be another must-watch “Hey look I might not have LOVED it but you should at least give it a chance and find out yourself” type New Japan main event, but it goes off the rails so hard and so completely that I can’t in good conscience recommend it at all. Pass.

There you have it, folks

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

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