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Csonka’s NJPW on AXS TV Review 6.16.17 (Ep. 3)

June 17, 2017 | Posted by Larry Csonka
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Csonka’s NJPW on AXS TV Review 6.16.17 (Ep. 3)  

Csonka’s NJPW on AXS TV Review 6.16.17 (Ep. 3)

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Champion Hiromu Takahashi defeated KUSHIDA @ 1:56 via pin [AWESOME]: KUSHIDA kills Takahashi with a dive as he makes his entrance and then posts him. KUSHIDA sets him in a chair and then hits a shotgun dropkick. They work into the ring and KUSHIDA locks in the hover board lock, but Takahashi escaped and followed with a sunset bomb to the floor. Back in and Takahashi hits the time bomb, and then the DVD to the buckles. Another time bomb follows and KUSHIDA is not only done but is FUCKING WRECKED. Even knowing what happened, this still feels like such a shocking result, obviously done to solidify Hiromu Takahashi as THE MAN in the junior division. This was a hell of little sprint here; it’s so rare that NJPW does something like this, but I appreciate it. I do not want to see this all the time, but decisive victories like this over stars on occasion is a powerful storytelling device; this was a brave and refreshing piece of booking. The match was used to emotionally crush KUSHIDA, and sending him on his journey through the BOTSJ to redeem himself. Takahashi’s entire goal in coming back to NJPW was to destroy KUSHIDA, and that’s what happened here.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match: Champion Kazuchika Okada defeated Katsuyori Shibata @ 38:05 via pin [*****]: They stalled a bit, doing a long-range stare down and soaking in the crowd’s reaction. Shibata looked to take it to the mat and grapple early. Shibata transitions to mount and looks to grapplefuck Okada. Okada got the ropes, so Shibata laid on his back and dared Okada to come into his guard like an overconfident BJJ practitioner. Shibata then took control, taking the back of Okada, and then transitioning for an arm bar, which he got, but Okada made the ropes and took a powder to the floor. Back in and Shibata targeted the arm once again, but Okada escaped, scoring a single leg takedown. Shibata goes World of Sport for the escape, and the grapplefuck shall continue. Some really slick work here early, I am sure some will hate it, but I like it. It’s clean, has a nice pace to it, and feels different than most Okada matches. The early story is that “The Wrestler,” Shibata, is one step ahead and playing his game to control the over confident and dominant champion. Okada finally fired up, laying in forearms in the corner after refusing the clean break, gaining some jeers from the crowd. This just pissed off Shibata, they traded strikes with Shibata getting the better of things. Shibata then starts to slap the bitch out of Okada, lays in some kicks and then works the figure four. Okada tries to fight it off, but Shibata locks it in and pulls Okada center ring. Shibata then works an Indian death lock, and then a bow and arrow, but Okada makes the ropes. Okada counters the corner boot and sends Shibata to the floor with a dropkick. Okada follows and whips v to the barricade, and the running boot sends Shibata over the barricade. Okada then hits the draping DDT on the floor. Shibata manages to beat the count, but walks into a neck breaker for an Okada near fall. Okada then rolls into a modified cravat, but held on after the rope break, showing more heelish tendencies. The sliding dropkick follows, and Okada lays in elbow strikes in the corner. Shibata is pissed and starts to walk through strikes and dares Okada to keep firing away and then drops Okada with a right. The corner kick follows, and then another followed by rapid-fire strikes. The hesitation dropkick follows, and Okada rolls to the floor. Shibata whips him to the barricade, lays in forearms and then hits a running dropkick. Back in and Shibata covers for 2, and then works the octopus hold, but Okada makes the ropes. Shibata then lays in kicks to the arm, but Okada scores with a big boot. The DDT follows, and then the running uppercut for a near fall. Okada up top, but Shibata avoids the elbow drop and fights off the tombstone, but Okada hits the flapjack. Back up top, and Okada hits the elbow drop and rainmaker pose to a mixed reaction. Shibata counters the rainmaker with an STO. The crowd is behind Shibata now, and they trade strikes from their knees, just beating the hell out of each other. They continue to trade on their feet, throwing bombs now and Okada drops to a knee. But he fires back with uppercuts, and hits the neck breaker across the knee. Okada up top and hits a missile dropkick to a sitting Shibata, and that gets a near fall, but Shibata transitions into an arm bar. Okada struggles and makes the ropes. Shibata then kicks away at the arm of Okada, slaps Okada and then Okada drops and so does Shibata, they sit cross legged, trading strikes and slaps. Okada then fires up and lays the boots to Shibata in the corner. The dropkick follows after the ref pulled him off. Okada chokes him out with the boot, but Shibata fires up with strikes and hits a dropkick. Shibata then lays in repeated boots in the corner as the crowd is into him even more, but Okada stops the PK with a dropkick. Both men are down and have to struggle to their feet, Okada hits a basement dropkick but Shibata sits up and dares him to do it again, hits a German but Okada hits a dropkick and a German. Okada hangs on, pulls Shibata up, rainmaker but Shibata kicks him in the head and arm. Okada hit the clothesline, but Shibata no sells and head butts him and busts himself open (and that’s where the injury happened). Shibata back to the octopus hold, Okada struggles, but Shibata pulls him to the mat and maintains the hold. Okada struggles again to escape, tries for the ropes and finally gets them with his boot. Shibata hits the PK, locks in the choke and sinks it in deep, but Okada works to his feet, only to be pulled back down. Okada to his feet with Shibata on his back, but Shibata destroys him with a sleeper suplex! BIG SLAP by Shibata as he teased the rainmaker, and then lays in kicks to Okada while holding onto the wrist. Shibata pulls him up, lays in more kicks and Okada is down, but Shibata keeps holding onto the wrist. Okada hits a desperation rainmaker, hangs onto the wrist, pulls Shibata up and lays in kicks to the face and Shibata is down to his knees. Okada pulls him up, the rainmaker connects again and Shibata is finally done. The one thing that really stood out to me here is the obsession of the Okada character, not only wanting to be the very best, but almost willing to do that instead of beating his opponent. That character trait will eventually be his downfall; there are cracks in the armor, the defense is weakening and it will only be a matter of time before someone figures out the puzzle. Okada’s defenses keep getting longer and longer, and the new Ace is having to dig deeper than ever before, has to go longer and has to resort to some nefarious tactics to get the job done. This was an absolutely beautiful match, one where the fans were not only behind Shibata, but at times turning on Okada; Amazing work from both men, leading to a very dramatic home stretch, when the wrestling is great, the wresting is great. This is a top tier MOTY contender for sure.

This is of course the match that Shibata threw the shoot head butt, which left him hospitalized and his career in jeopardy. I’ve had people ask if I am going to change my rating of the match due to that, and the answer is no. It’s extremely unfortunate, but I will not change my mind about loving the match due to that. Shibata made the decision to throw a real head butt, something he’s done repeatedly, and something that pops the crowd and I will not lie, a spot I popped for as well. I still feel that it told an amazing story with beautiful drama, and was easily one of the best things I watched all year; unfortunately as the days go on and the updates come in, it appears that unless something major changes, that this will be Shibata’s final wrestling match.

With the shows being expedited to play catch up and now being produced in house by AXS TV, it appears that the sit down interviews have been dropped, since that was produced by the Japanese TV that previously produced the shows.

– End scene.

– Thanks for reading.

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“Byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye Felicia!”

The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
If you haven’t seen the matches, this is a must-see hour of TV, with Ross & Barnett adding great commentary onto some already great matches; Okada & Shibata comes off, even more epic here, than on the first viewing.