wrestling / TV Reports

Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Soul Review 7.05.24

July 7, 2024 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Soul 2024 - El Desperado vs. Douki Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW New Japan Soul Review 7.05.24  

NJPW New Japan Soul

July 5th, 2024 | Tokyo Budokan in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 2,423

NOTE: For anyone following all of my reviews, my WrestleMania Series is still ongoing. It’s something I’m doing in my free time though so reviews from 2024 (like this one) take precedence. Also, I’m up to the Manias that are like, 7 hours long so it takes a while.

We’ve got a decent-sized crowd for the NJPW New Japan Soul event as we find out who the final two G1 competitors will be, there’s a Jr. Heavyweight Title match on tap, and LIJ collide in a rare six-man tag.

Gedo and KENTA vs. Kosei Fujita and Zack Sabre Jr.

Most people I’ve talked to seem to agree that ZSJ should win the G1 this year. The fact that he hasn’t won anything of note with this company outside of two New Japan Cups so he could job to Okada and the TV Title is bad business. The Bullet Club jumped them before the bell though they didn’t have control for long. Gedo used his shirt to choke Fujita which was indicative of the entire match. KENTA did alright, the TMDK guys were good, and Gedo remains someone I don’t need to ever see wrestle again. Fujita made the mild tag to ZSJ who traded shots with KENTA, reminding me of their great G1 bout a while back. It came down to Fujita and Gedo, with the former hitting Abandon Hope (a suplex into a cutter) to win after 6:20. Fine enough. [**]

Catch-22 and The Great-O-Khan vs. SANADA, TAKA Michinoku and Yuya Uemura

Yuya with this haircut gives me young SANADA vibes. The jury is out on whether or not that’s a good thing. Him, SANADA, and TAKA looked like a son, father, and grandfather. Okay, maybe SANADA is more like a young uncle than a dad. Anyway, this was one of those mostly bland New Japan multi-man tags. It happened, was solid enough, and was forgettable. The one thing that stood out was the exchange between Yuya and O-Khan. I also got a kick out of how SANADA used the Paradise Lock to kind of embarrass Catch-22. You knew TAKA was in there to take the fall, which is just what he did when Akira hit him with Fireball in 9:18. Again, fine enough. [**¼]

EVIL, Ren Narita, SHO, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tiger Mask, Tomoaki Honma & Yuji Nagata

The House of Torture against the Dads. Yes, Tanahashi and Taguchi have officially moved into Dad territory. Man, it is painful to watch SHO these days. They’ve massacred my boy. The match started traditionally but quickly devolved into a brawl involving everyone on the outside. Typical House of Torture stuff, you know? They even did a fake bell ring as if the referee would believe an outcome happened that he didn’t call for. The Dads did their thing and even if they do it at a slow pace, the crowd still eats it up. Taguchi did the armbar with Nagata, eye roll included, which was funny. EVIL put down Honma with Everything is EVIL after 11:31. It was about what you’d expect given who was involved. [**]

G1 Climax Qualifying Tournament A Block Finals: Callum Newman vs. YOSHI-HASHI

Strong performances by both men on the previous show have led us here. I think this would’ve been more interesting with Ishii in there over YOSHI-HASHI. Not just because he’s better but because I could buy Ishii getting in over Newman. I couldn’t imagine them putting HASHI in at this point, so that took away some of the desired drama. It lacked the energy from HASHI/Ishii. Maybe that match took too much out of HASHI. What they did was solid throughout but at no point did it blow me away. I think Newman works best right now as an underdog like he was against KENTA and that wasn’t the case here. I did like him being a jerk, spitting at HASHI, and being as defiant as ever. He ate every chop from the veteran and kept coming back for more which is likely to be a theme for his G1 run. HASHI avoided the Oscutter and hit some Blockbusters but again, Newman got up. Just when it looked like Newman was taking too much offense, he countered Karma into a Stunner and rolled HASHI up to qualify for the G1 in 11:59. A good match and nothing more. Glad to see Newman getting this opportunity. [***]

 

G1 Climax Qualifying Tournament B Block Finals: Boltin Oleg vs. Taichi

Oleg is a beefy boy. I feel like he can be a big deal in this company. That said, his offense is rather limited right now which showed at points here. I think his G1 will be best suited with matches that don’t go past the 12-15 mark unless he’s out there with someone who can carry that. Taichi opted for some kicks to the leg early to try and wear/chop him down. Oleg overpowered him until Taichi laid him out with an enziguri. It sounded BRUTAL. That turned the tide and we got a section of Oleg selling the damage from a barrage of kicks. Of course, he used his strength to get going and his running splash looks impressive as hell, as does his swinging gutwrench gimmick. Taichi hit a superkick that kept Oleg down for a long time. The referee was even checking on him throughout. He survived several submission attempts and won after hitting the F5 and Kamikaze in 16:27. A bit long given Oleg’s skill level at this point but I do think it worked well enough. [***]

BUSHI, Shingo Takagi and Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiromu Takahashi, Titán and Yota Tsuji

I don’t remember seeing something like this on a New Japan show. STARDOM has done it but an inter-faction match is rad, especially when they’re this good. Poor Shingo has to carry his squad though given Naito being broken down and BUSHI being BUSHI. That said, they both seemed pretty motivated here and based on the pre-match video package, this venue seems to be important to them so that makes sense. While every interaction here was pretty solid, the focal point seemed to be teasing Hiromu vs. Naito, which further establishes that Hiromu should be in the G1. That match is a few years too late but whatever. Yota/Shingo ruled as the powerhouses of the faction. I don’t remember what the G1 blocks look like so I don’t know if we’ll get it but a Yota/Shingo singles match sounds fire. As you’d expect, the pace picked up as we neared the finish with everybody busting out their best moves and nobody holding anything back despite facing their buddies. The biggest moment came right at the end, with Hiromu stepping up to Naito and countering Destino into Time Bomb just before time expired at 30:00. This was fun and about as good as you can expect from these guys in 2024. [***½]

IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: El Desperado [c] vs. DOUKI

Desperado finally won the BOSJ and got the title in a big steel cage main event. This is his first defense and DOUKI is someone who has built himself up from being an afterthought in the BOSJ to a legitimately good junior heavyweight. Right off the bat, I appreciated how this felt different from a lot of title matches in this division. They kept this technical, working at a slower pace. We also didn’t get shenanigans here, so that’s totally different from when SHO had the title. The champion put the focus on the knee, looking to set things up for the Stretch Muffler. DOUKI did a good job selling the damage as he was on the defensive for a long time. He survived the Stretch Muffler and got his biggest move with a tope suicida into a tornado DDT. Now it was Despy’s turn to survive the DOUKI CHOUKI, which brought us into the closing stretch. DOUKI won out with a wheelbarrow dragon suplex in 21:47, giving us a surprising title change. On one hand, I like the shock of it and am all for a new guy with the title but it also felt weird to do this big build-up for Desperado just to have him drop the belt here. That said, a very good main event. [***½]

5.0
The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
After the semifinals were very good, the finals mostly disappointed with matches that were just solid enough. The show is pretty forgettable though the last two matches are good.
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