Kevin’s NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis Review 4.4.17
NJPW Road to Sakura Genesis
April 4th, 2017 | Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 1,633
Like all “Road to” shows, this is meant to build the bigger upcoming PPV. However, this is one of those “Road to” events featuring a title match in the main event.
Hirai Kawato, Jushin Thunder Liger and Manabu Nakanishi vs. Suzuki-Gun (El Desperado, TAKA Michinoku and Takashi Iizuka)
As has become the standard for Kawato, he charged the ring to start a fight and promptly got his ass handed to him. Suzuki-Gun brought all their typical tricks and tropes, cheating and brawling outside. Kawato took the heat, sold well and brought energy to the match in his hope spots. I like angry Liger coming in and beating some sense into Kawato to fire him up. Great stuff. Pissed Liger even used a chair at one point. Kawato nearly surprised everyone with a backslide win but only got two. TAKA then put him away with a crossface at 9:52. This had no business being as fun as it was. Suzuki-Gun has bene a drag since returning but credit to the babyface team for bringing a lot of fire and making this fun. Kawato’s wild man act is a joy to watch. [**¾]
Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoyuki Oka and Yuji Nagata
It’s the Bullet Club “C” Team. Though Oka is a young lion, I think he’s better than both Yujiro and Owens. Yujiro took him lightly, toying with him, so Oka responded by fighting back. Yujiro was forced to resort to his pimp cane. Seriously, if my gimmick could involve any weapon, I think I’d want it to be a pimp cane. As expected, Oka took the heat and, like Liger earlier, Nagata slapped him around to get him fired up. Nagata’s hot tag was eaten up by the crowd. Unfortunately, when Oka came back in he had the Boston Crab broken up by Yujiro. That allowed Owens to beat him with the Package Piledriver at 7:18. Like Kawato, Oka is fun to watch but for different reasons. He and Nagata work well together and made up for the lackluster team opposite them. [**]
David Finlay and War Machine vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions TenKoji and Tiger Mask IV
This was here to build the upcoming IWGP Tag Team Title match between TenKoji and War Machine. Those teams got into a shoving match and brawled. I’m so ready for a hoss tag match at Sakura Genesis. When that was done, it allowed Tiger Mask and David Finlay to have a decent back and forth. I could see that being a BOTSJ match this year. The crowd, and me, were into the tag teams much more. Hanson ran wild and the fans loved him running back and forth with splashes on the champions. I fully expected Tiger Mask or Finlay to take the pin. Instead, War Machine hit Fallout on Kojima at 8:29 to pick up a win over the champions. I’m digging the War Machine/Finlay unit and the interactions between the teams set for Sakura Genesis was the best part. This was fun and succeeded in making me more excited for Sakura Genesis. [***]
After the match, War Machine beat down on TenKoji and posed with the titles. HEELS!
CHAOS (Gedo, NEVER Openweight Champion Hirooki Goto, Jado and Toru Yano) vs. Suzuki-Gun (Minoru Suzuki, IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions Taichi and Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Zack Sabre Jr.)
Sabre had his three titles with him. It might end up looking more boring but I think Sabre should switch to black and white gear in NJPW. His blue sticks out in Suzuki-Gun. Gedo and Jado get a Jr. Tag Title shot at Sakura Genesis, while Sabre goes after the NEVER Title. Suzuki-Gun attacked during introductions because they’re dicks like that and Gedo books all heel stables the same. Speaking of Gedo, he was attacked with the ring bell hammer and worked over for a while. Things weren’t too interesting until we got Sabre against Goto. Their back and forth was top notch and made their upcoming match more intriguing. Taichi’s attempts at cheating down the stretch cost him as Yano turned it around on him. A low blow and rollup later gave CHAOS the win in 10:06. This was about what you’d expect. Suzuki took the night off, Yano did his antics and the Jr. Tag Title guys were boring. Sabre and Goto saved this and their stuff is the only reason to watch. [**¼]
Bad Luck Fale and Kenny Omega vs. Beretta and Tomohiro Ishii
It was clear how this match would play out. Fale, Ishii and especially Omega are protected guys, while Beretta is a junior tag wrestler. Props to him though because he showed no fear and slapped Fale at the start. Beretta took a beating until tagging in Ishii. Though overmatched in size, he kicked Fale’s ass a bit. Then we got a reminder of how good Omega/Ishii was during the New Japan Cup as they interacted inside. Beretta got in trouble but fought free from the Bad Luck Fall. He also kicked out of a splash but fell to the Grenade at 6:48. Though this was the shortest match on the card, it was fun while it lasted. [**½]
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Hiromu Takahashi and IWGP Intercontinental Champion Tetsuya Naito vs. Juice Robinson and KUSHIDA
Naito remains the most over guy in NJPW. I know Okada’s been on top for a long time but there’s just a different energy when Naito arrives. This built KUSHIDA/Takahashi, while also teasing more Juice/Naito. I’d love an IC Title between them. KUSHIDA started by diving out onto Takahashi, setting up a brawl outside. Once things calmed down inside, Juice absolutely rocked Naito with a right hand. This math moved at a crazy pace, with all four guys going nuts. Takahashi and KUSHIDA especially had some great interactions. In the end, Juice had Pulp Friction cut off before Naito hit a low blow and Destino to win at 8:12. A great match that made the most of the short runtime. Though we’ve seen this combination of guys go at it often, it was nice to see just these four and nobody else. [***½]
Post-match, Naito and Takahashi continued the beating on KUSHIDA and Juice.
Katsuyori Shibata and Togi Makabe vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada and YOSHI-HASHI
Ah, so Shibata keeps getting tough old guys to tag with him, while Okada sticks with Tacos. Shibata continued to act like a dude who is always pissed off. He kicked Okada almost immediately and Okada’s attempts at fighting back saw him get his ass kicked. I LOVE IT. Togi and YOSHI didn’t matter here. It was all about Okada and Shibata. They traded forearms in the middle of the ring at one point with intensity. Okada went into his signature stuff on Makabe, only for Shibata to interrupt. He was taken out with a neckbreaker before being sent outside with a dropkick. Okada delivered the Rainmaker to Makabe, earning the win at 11:08. This was another good match. Like I said, Makabe and YOSHI were non-factors. It, like the other stuff on the show so far, made me more excited for the upcoming PPV match. Worth a view for the Shibata/Okada interactions. [***¼]
Shibata attempted to attack after the match but Okada planted him with a tombstone.
NEVER Openweight Six Man Tag Team Championship: Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, EVIL and SANADA) (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ricochet and Ryusuke Taguchi
Headlining shows like this are kind of the perfect place for these titles. Tanahashi dared EVIL to start against him, still wanting revenge for the New Japan Cup. He got SANADA instead. They had two awesome matches last year. The Korakuen faithful were WAY into Ricochet. He got worked over a bit before making the tag to Taguchi. In a funny moment, his hot tag was kind of wasted because SANADA and EVIL were already down. Unsure of what to do, Taguchi stood around until they stirred and brought the ass based offense. Eventually, Tanahashi finally got his hands on EVIL and went after the leg. Ricochet ended up with the real hot tag and shined. I can’t believe he never got a Jr. Heavyweight Title run. With that thought, I now wanna see Ricochet/Takahashi. The finishing run saw Ricochet kill it during a frantic run. BUSHI surprisingly survived the Benadryller but fell to a Flatliner and we’ve got new champions after 17:38. It’s pointless to complain about the titles changing at this point. Gedo’s just gonna do it. At the very least, 2017 has seen entertaining matches for the titles and this was the best. In fact, this was the best match for these titles since their inception. Everyone brought something, it was action packed and had a hot crowd. [***¾]