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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam Review

July 25, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam
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Kevin’s NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam Review  

NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam
July 25th, 2021 | Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 5,389

I’m intrigued by a summer show in the Tokyo Dome. I have seen the Summer Struggle events leading up to this but didn’t have time to review. So, I’ll at least post the ratings for the key matches on those cards.

Naito/Taichi – ***½
SANADA/Taichi – ***¼
Naito/ZSJ – ***¼
EVIL/Ishii – ***
KENTA/Tanahashi – ***¼

KOPW Trophy: New Japan RANBO
I love me a good New Japan RANBO. The participants weren’t known other than Toru Yano, the KOPW trophy holder, and Chase Owens who tweeted about it. Hilariously, eliminations can come via over the top, pinfall, submission, or getting handcuffed to the corner. Owens drew #1 and The Great-O-Khan was #2. Nothing of note happened with the first few entrants before Makabe was the first person eliminated. I chuckled at DOUKI doing the DOUKI Chokey for obvious reasons. Honma was eliminated via handcuffing. He stayed there outside of the ring and could mess with dudes while there. Not much happened until Nagata showed up and fought with Suzuki on the apron before Roppongi 3K superkicked Nagata off to eliminate him. Suzuki might murder them soon. Of note, Dick Togo came out to EVIL’s music, apparently replacing him. O-Khan dominated, even eliminating DOUKI and Master Wato at the same time. KENTA entered at #21 and Yano was #22 to round things out. As soon as Yano arrived, he handcuffed O-Khan to the railing to eliminate him. That left it down to Bullet Club vs. CHAOS (stop me if you’ve heard that one before) and KENTA got cuffed. The final four were Owens, Yano, Yujiro, and YOSHI-HASHI. Yano was able to low bridge Yujiro out after YOSHI got cuffed but a cuffed KENTA was able to interfere and hit Yano a bunch. That combined with Yujiro’s walking stick and powder in the eyes helped lead to Owens winning with the Package Piledriver in 35:36. Goofy stuff and not as entertaining as the more fun RANBOS. [**]

Before the main show began, Hiromu Takahashi got the crowd hype.

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori [c] vs. Rocky Romero & Ryusuke Taguchi
Reminder that Rocky and Ryusuke are the “Mega Coaches.” Combined they have a TON of Jr. Tag Title reigns. There were a lot of antics from the champs early as they’d do offense and mock the challengers, while also doing underhanded things like back rakes. Romero was the one to get isolated, reliving his classic with El Phantasmo that even included him getting hit with the Styles Clash. I dug Rocky countering the One Winged Angel into the armbar just before Taguchi put the Ankle Lock on Ishimori. After Taguchi got the tag, the challengers came close on a few occasions, especially when Taguchi did Prince Devitt’s old finisher. Taguchi removed the loaded boot from ELP but Ishimori took it from the referee before he could confirm what was in there. While that happened, ELP hit a low blow and CR2 to retain in 20:56. A quality Jr. Tag that might’ve gone a bit too long for what it was but had entertaining spots and some payoff for the boot gimmick. [***¼]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado [c] vs. Robbie Eagles
I came into this show PUMPED for this. Desperado beat Eagles in the BOSJ last year (***½) but the last nine Jr. Title matches in Tokyo Dome saw a new champion get crowned. Early on, I appreciated that the leg issues in the buildup mattered as Eagles went for a dive and his knee gave out but he still kept his confidence despite that. Eagles sold the hell out of his leg throughout and then applied his own Ron Miller Special to turn the tables on Desperado. I love that the leg work played into everything they did. Even basic kicks to those legs had more meaning because of that. Each guy would counter the other’s signature stuff and try for their main submissions. The way Eagles countered the Stretch Muffler was one of my favorite spots of the year. The end saw Despy survive the Turbo Backpack but then Eagles hit the 450 splash on the leg and the Ron Miller Special gave us a new champion in 19:56. Hell yes, give us more sub-20 minute matches. An emotional win and a great match built around fantastic leg work and selling. An unexpected title change but one I dg since Eagles/Hiromu will be dope and it likely preserves Hiromu/Despy IV for the Tokyo Dome in January or something. [****]

Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
These two met in last year’s G1 (***). I like midcard Okada. There was a lot of standard stuff early on as the two exchanged stuff. Things really got going when Cobb turned an Okada plancha into a stalling suplex on the outside. From that point on, Cobb kind of dominated and spent the match throwing Okada around. Other things I like in Okada matches are when he gets his ass beat. He stopped the Tour of the Islands with a dropkick but then Cobb avoided the Rainmaker and hit one of his own. That became the theme of the final few moments as both guys countered or blocked the finisher of the other, clearly having each other scouted properly. In a fun finish, Okada countered into a pin to steal this after 19:23. Another sub-20 minute match that told a good story? Yes, please. Cobb doesn’t look bad in defeat as he kicked ass but Okada still pulled this one out. Good booking, good wrestling. [***¾]

IWGP Tag Team Championship: SANADA and Tetsuya Naito [c] vs. The Dangerous Tekkers
Their match in Sapporo where the titles changed hands went just shy of 37-minutes and was good (***½) but too long. Honestly, I’m not going to go into too much detail here because you already know what I’m going to say. This was a hell of a 15-20 minute tag match that was dragged out to last a ridiculous 37:58 because there’s this false narrative going around that matches are better when they’re longer. It makes no sense. The action throughout was smooth as you’d expect given these guys but it just keep going and going when it peaked way before the finish. Also, WWE often gets crapped on for not caring about the tag division but Gedo REALLY doesn’t give a damn about it. He just changes titles for the sake of it. A solid match that was absurdly long. [***]

Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI came out to suggest they want the next shot.

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship: Shingo Takagi [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi
Their NEVER Title match in February was phenomenal (****½). Tanahashi stepped in for Kota Ibushi at the last minute due to injury and it’s his 11th Tokyo Dome main event. Considering Tanahashi just worked 25 minutes last night, he’s a trooper for this. Early on, it seemed to be a case of Tanahashi working the leg with his trademark dragon screws while Shingo could just overwhelm him with his power advantage. That was a smart way to build this match and it worked because both guys excel at that stuff. Shingo survived in the Texas Cloverleaf for a long time, giving us some mid-match drama. Shingo looked to respond by returning the favor and targeting Tanahashi’s knee, which has a history of injuries. When Shingo took over, it was Tanahashi’s turn to survive things like Last of the Dragon. They went into a big strike exchange and started throwing offensive bombs at one another for close calls and near falls. In the end, Shingo nailed Last of the Dragon to retain in 37:26. See, THAT is how you use 37 minutes. A match that felt epic and like two warriors competing for the biggest prize. Tanahashi is so the GOAT that he had this banger after last night despite his age and made me believe he’d score the win despite being a last minute replacement. Shingo continues to be the top of the class too. [****½]

Post-match, Shingo suggested a rubber match with Tanahashi and promised to give Kota Ibushi his shot when he’s recovered. Of course, New Japan HAS to put a damper on my day by bringing out EVIL with a video and attack to set him up as the next challenger even though he’s been a big loser lately.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Obviously, the circumstances weren’t great but we mostly got a good show out of it. The RANBO was what it was and every other match felt like it had meaning. The Jr. Tag Title was really good, while the heavyweight stuff was fine but too long. You get a very good Cobb/Okada match and a great Jr. Title match before a phenomenal main event.