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Kevin’s NJPW Sengoku Lord Review

April 20, 2019 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
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Kevin’s NJPW Sengoku Lord Review  

NJPW Sengoku Lord
April 20th, 2019 | Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium in Nagoya, Aichi | Attendance: 4,731

NJPW and their oddly named shows. This one seems to be taking on the role that Wrestling Toyonokuni and Wrestling Hi No Kuni had last year. It’s just before Wrestling Dontaku and features a few marquee matchups. Most of 2019 NJPW has kind of just been there. We’ve got a few great matches, but I’ve never been less engrossed in the stuff they’re doing. Let’s see if this show is a turning point.

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Ren Narita and Shota Umino vs. Yota Tsuji and Yuya Uemura
From what I’ve seen, this is a solid group of Young Lions. Not on the level of some previous groups, though Umino feels like the biggest potential star of the bunch. He’s had the big matches against established guys. He and Narita are the most advanced duo and it showed. Though their offense wasn’t much different, things looked more crisp and smooth when they were in control. Tsuji and Uemura brought the fire and played the underdogs that they usually would against the rest of the roster. I popped for the finish as Narita busted out a great bridging underhook suplex to win in 7:37. A solid way to start the show. [**¾]

El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jushin Thunder Liger, Satoshi Kojima, Toa Henare, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata
Still not a fan of the new version of “Kaze Ni Nare.” Is Honma a New Japan Dad yet? If not, that team is Toa Henare, his dads, and that one uncle with the raspy voice. I got to see Liger get into a strike exchange with Suzuki and that was all I needed in this one. Liger played the face in peril and those dastardly Suzuki-Gun members tried unmasking him. The hot tags led to the usual fun offense from Nagata and Kojima. I love those guys. Still among the best in the company. Eventually, the match broke down into something of a brawl. Taichi picked up the win after a superkick and Stretch Plum on Henare in 12:15. Another pretty good tag. It was mostly here to give Taichi a win heading into his upcoming NEVER Openweight Title match. As much as I dig Jeff Cobb, that match doesn’t sound appealing. [**¾]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Champion Dragon Lee, Togi Makabe and Toru Yano vs. IWGP Tag Team Champions The Guerrillas of Destiny and Taiji Ishimori
If you’re wondering why I’m so down on NJPW, one of the reasons is the Guerrillas of Destiny. I don’t ever recall a team being so consistently lame and being such a prominent force. They’ve had years to impress and always cap out at mediocre at best. And that’s me being nice to them. Anyway, this built towards some upcoming title matches. This was another one of the wildly average matches you can expect from these guys. When it was Lee against Ishimori, things were fun. The tag team stuff never worked. Yano had a few highlights, but it was nothing we hadn’t seen before. Yano won with a sneaky rollup in 8:13. I yawned. That tag division is atrocious. [**]

Chase Owens vs. Mikey Nicholls
I’ve seen a lot of people praise Chase Owens for his undercard work. I think he has definitely improved, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s anything special. Mikey Nicholls came over during the New Japan Cup and hasn’t done much to impress. Jado attacked Nicholls with a kendo stick before the bell. These attacks and Bullet Club shenanigans were old in 2015, so imagine now. At least the attack set up a target for Owens, who focused on the back throughout. He used submissions on it and threw him into the guardrail a few times. Mikey made the babyface comeback and won with the Mikey Bomb in 8:56. A decent little match that told a fine story. It just felt a lot like Nicholls right now. Bland. [**½]

HIKULEO and Jay White vs. Hirooki Goto and Ryusuke Taguchi
Disappointing but not at all surprising that Jay no longer has the title. Also, his next feud is Hirooki Goto? Talk about falling off a cliff. Goto’s good, but he stopped mattering after Okada wrecked his life in 2016. HIKUELO is big. That’s about it. The fact that Jay White is calling Goto a failure is one of those funny because it’s true things. Anyway, the match followed the formula you’d expect. HIKUELO was too big to knock down easily. Taguchi brought his wacky antics. White was cunning. Goto was there. Goto beat HIKULEO with USHIGOROSHI and the GTR in 10:57. I’d say this was a match that happened. That’s about all that’s worth pointing out. Nothing outwardly bad, but lacked any kind of energy. [**¼]

BUSHI, EVIL, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Roppongi 3K, Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI
Cold blooded commentary hypes the Jr. LIJ team as SHINGO TAKAGI…and also BUSHI. Poor BUSHI. These tag matches are always fun and these guys were here to save this show. This was exactly what it needed to be. Shingo had some great exchanges with Roppongi 3K. Ishii and EVIL came across like they wanted to kill each other. Naito and HASHI existed. Okada and SANADA built towards their upcoming match with some solid exchanges. I like the stuff between Okada and SANADA, but it never translates to anything more than a good match. They haven’t even sniffed greatness together. The match actually lost energy when Naito was in there with HASHI. That should be impossible and would be if Naito was booked properly. Naito ultimately picked up the win with Destino on HASHI in 16:31. YOSHI sucks so hard, it only took one Destino to beat him. As expected, this was the best thing on the show to this point. A lot of fun and it did well to hype upcoming matches.[***½]

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Juice Robinson [c] vs. Bad Luck Fale
I really like Juice and I don’t think Fale is as bad as most people consider. He did had a terrible G1 run, though. Fale spent the early portions slamming Juice all around the ringside area, into chairs, and beating him up in the crowd. Kevin Kelly had an over the top Michael Cole style moment where he exclaimed, “JUICE’S BACK COULD BE BROKEN!” It did set the stage for Juice’s back to be a major problem here. He did wrestle like a moron, continually trying to body slam Fale despite the injury. I get the idea of building a match around the body slam spot, but it would make more sense if Juice was just struggling because of Fale’s size. Doing it with the back injury made him seem like an idiot. Juice survived the Grenade, escaped the Bad Luck Fall, and won via Pulp Friction in 17:25. What worked in this match worked because Fale is a good bully and Juice is great at the fiery underdog role. I expressed my issues with the back/body slam stuff. [***]

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi [c] vs. Zack Sabre Jr.
I love when these guys wrestle, even if their recent New Japan Cup match was the one I thought was worst (***¾) and that was still very good. With so much history, it made sense that they took time to fully get going. They don’t want to make the first mistake and know each other’s strengths. I loved how Sabre continued his vicious streak. He applied submissions while Ibushi was on the guardrail and put the focus on Ibushi’s neck. Ibushi has had problems there in the past. From there, Sabre dominated by bending and twisting Ibushi in unusual ways. Even when Ibushi would get an opening, Sabre found a way to turn his offense into a submission. I liked how Sabre would get cocky and try to kick/strike, only for that to be when Ibushi got going. That’s Ibushi’s wheelhouse. Once that happened, it set up a great closing stretch filled with close calls and dynamite exchanges. Ibushi won with the Kamigoye in 28:58. A great main event. Their G1 27 match is still my favorite, but this is probably third. Everything Zack did was smooth and brutal, while Ibushi brought a ton of fire to the match. I liked the story of working the neck and Ibushi paying homage to the IC Champions he looked up to in the past. [****¼]

Post-match, Tetsuya Naito came out and challenged Kota Ibushi for the title. That match will be great, as always between them, but it’s yet another in a long line of NJPW rematches. Imagine if they had a weekly TV show to book. Yikes. Also, Naito continues his role as the Nakamura of the company, focusing solely on the IC Title despite being the most popular. I see predictions that he’s the one to beat Okada this time, but that shipped sailed for me at WK12. Still, Naito vs. Ibushi will rule.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Typical New Japan show. People wonder why they don’t appear on my “Show of the Year” list and it’s because most of their events are like this. An undercard that is decent with nothing special happening, before giving us a few notable moments. There’s only one match you need to check out, which is the main event. Skip the rest. Although, at least it isn’t one of those 4.5 hour B shows from NJPW. They kept this one much tighter.

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NJPW Sengoku Lord, Kevin Pantoja