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Pantoja’s NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam In MetLife Dome Night 1 Review

September 5, 2021 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam
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Pantoja’s NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam In MetLife Dome Night 1 Review  

NJPW Wrestle Grand Slam In MetLife Dome
September 4th, 2021 | MetLife Dome in Tokorozawa-shi, Saitama | Attendance: 2,095

It’s a busy weekend, so I’m going to do my best to cover these shows and see how it goes.

Lady C and Maika vs. Momo Watanabe and Saya Kamitani
Hell yeah, more STARDOM please. I was way into that promotion a few years ago but with less free time to watch wrestling, it’s one of the companies I had to cut back on. Right off the bat, it was clear that Watanabe was a star. In fact, she might have impressed me more than anyone else on the entire card. She was that good. Everything she did came off well and looked great. Maika spent a lot of time on the defensive, with Watanabe kicking her ass and Kamitani hitting some fast-paced stuff. Lady C getting the hot tag was interesting since commentary noted that she was still looking for her first victory. Like a Young Lion, she gave a spirited run before falling to an absolutely GORGEOUS Phoenix Splash from Kamitani in 12:02. Great pre-show stuff that showcased some talented ladies. [***½]

BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi vs. Robbie Eagles and Tiger Mask IV
There’s potential here as well in our official opener. It’s our obligatory preview for something on the next show, giving us a taste of Eagles/Hiromu while letting other guys eat the pin. This was a really basic tag match in that the BUSHI/Tiger Mask exchanges were largely fine, while Hiromu and Eagles did some great stuff together. There just wasn’t enough of the latter to make this really good, though it makes sense to not give away too much of what they’ll do. Hiromu and BUSHI worked a bit better as a team, which lines up given their history. BUSHI lost to the Ron Miller Special in a match that was entertaining and served its purpose. The whole thing went 11:41. [***]

LOADS of potential in this one as YOH is very good and SHO is really only behind Hiromu and Shingo in terms of great junior heavyweights of the past three or four years. Since it was SHO who left YOH high and dry, he played the heel and was the more aggressive one. That included slamming his former partner into the guardrail to the beat of the referee’s 20 count. He also made sure to add some extra sting to his kicks, feeling like someone who hated his opponent rather than someone who was so recently his friend. YOH worked as the fiery underdog and it all led to a good closing stretch. The way Shock Arrow was countered into a submission was arguably the spot of the night. A chair was brought into play but YOH couldn’t pull the trigger on using it. SHO used it and pulled YOH up on a pin, before applying an omoplata that led to a ref stoppage finish in 24:41. It had some really good storytelling points to it, though did feature a couple of moments that missed for me. Still, very good stuff. [***¾]

Post-match, EVIL, Dick Togo and Yujiro Takahashi showed up to induct SHO into the Bullet Club. They’re the “House of Torture” section, which is basically the nWo B-Team if they had a talented dude like SHO there. The Bullet Club has been lame since like 2015 but they’re beyond a joke at this point. Poor SHO.

KOPW I Quit Match: Chase Owens [c] vs. Toru Yano
Yano dyed his hair blonde in a throwback. Look, we all know what stands out about this. It has a ridiculous 28:03 runtime. That’s wild for Owens on his own but with Yano, it’s just nuts. I say this as a massive Yano fan but part of why I like him is because he’s so different from the rest of NJPW. While everyone else is wasting time with overly long matches, he gets in and out in like, 5-10 minutes, and makes it fun. This wasn’t that. It had some interesting and violent ideas like the use of handcuffs and ladders being used as weapons. It’s just hard to keep that interesting with these two in this environment. Some stuff, like the kendo stick shots, seemed brutal but others, like hilariously bad trash can lid shots, were goofy. The whole thing added up to something pretty lame that would’ve liked been a blast had it been 10 wild minutes rather than 30 of them trying too hard. Yano won by attempting to jab scissors into Owens’ eyes, causing him to quit. I don’t even know what this was. [*½]

Jeff Cobb vs. Kazuchika Okada
This is a rematch from the 7/25 show (***¾) and I’m hoping Cobb gets that win over Okada. Okada is certainly not the guy he was in 2013 (his best year) and his matches aren’t getting the praise they did in 2016-2018 but he might be smarter than ever. The veteran aspect of his game is clear as he seemed to be leading this match and playing to Cobb’s strengths. That included selling and bumping big on Cobb’s offense, which looks so much better now than it did during his early uninspired G1 runs. Going heel suited him and his offense. Each guy took time after their moves, not to rest but to let them sink in. It’s something that many would overlook but it was welcome here. Okada’s Money Clip continues to suck but he also couldn’t fully hit the Rainmaker as Cobb had it scouted. The final stretch was good but felt a bit winded and Cobb finally got the win with the Tour of the Islands in 27:41. This had Okada formula written all over it. It wasn’t as blatant as the past but it was weak early before picking up for a hot back third. Good win for Cobb too. [***½]

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi [c] vs. Kota Ibushi
Can you believe that it has been like two months since Ibushi wrestled? There’s a long history here. They met in the G1 25 (****¼), G1 27 (****¼), Power Struggle 2017 (****½), the G1 28 Finals (****½), and G1 29 (****¼). They were also Tag Champions together and Ibushi sees Tanahashi as something of an idol. Ibushi, who recovered from pneumonia, was in tears during introductions and instead of mentioning the moment or letting it play out, commentary was busy mentioning the lineage of this mediocre title. Ibushi wanted some mat work early but Tanahashi had him scouted and worked the leg in response. Tanahashi been doing that leg work stuff for YEARS and he still makes it interesting. Ibushi got going and hit the Golden Triangle moonsault in the midst of a sustained run. He also managed to turn a High Fly Flow attempt into a triangle choke of sorts. Like in the past, Tanahashi knew just how to prevent himself from falling victim to the Kamigoye. Even if it meant taking pump knees instead, he constantly blocked the strike and even countered it into a Sling Blade that saw Ibushi land on his neck, as always. Tanahashi only got a one count there but added High Fly Flow to retain in a brisk 17:47. Hell yeah! I love me a short main event. Get in, tell your story, and go home. I do wish this would’ve had a slightly better closing stretch but it was a banger and Tanahashi is an ageless wonder. [****]

The final score: review Good
The 411
That was an enjoyable wrestling show. The Yano match was a clear swing and miss but everything else was good. You had a really good STARDOM tag, Cobb/Okada was strong, and I really liked SHO/YOH. The main event was great and it made up for the bad Owens match and the goofy Bullet Club stuff.