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Pantoja’s NJPW x Stardom Historic X-Over Review

November 29, 2022 | Posted by Kevin Pantoja
NJPW x STARDOM Historic X-Over KAIRI Image Credit: NJPW
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Pantoja’s NJPW x Stardom Historic X-Over Review  

NJPW/Stardom Historic X-Over

November 20th, 2022 | Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan | Attendance: 7,102

This is the most excited/interested I’ve been in a show in Japan in a long time. I recently got back into Stardom and have been making my way through the 5 Star Grand Prix. Though I’m still not totally familiar with the entire roster, I’m already more invested in them than I am in a lot of NJPW guys.

Also, I ended up putting this off by a day since I got hooked watching Wednesday on Netflix.

Alex Coughlin, Clark Connors, Gabriel Kidd & Kevin Knight vs. Kosei Fujita, Oskar Leube, Ryohei Oiwa and Yuto Nakashima

Having two pre-show matches makes this feel like Wrestle Kingdom. This is our pre-show Young Lions match. I’m not familiar with many of the non-LA Dojo guys. You know exactly what you’re going to get from these dudes. The Lions always bring the energy and make the most out of having limited movesets. This felt like two teams trying to prove that they were tougher than their counterparts from trading forearms to trying to run over one another. The big moment came when Oskar entered as the dude is way tall. He worked wXw during the pandemic apparently, which is good for him. Oskar took the loss, eating a tandem Muscle Buster in 9:39. That was exactly what I wanted from them. [***]

Stardom Rumble

Lke with the New Japan RAMBO, I’m not going to recap everyone who is in. I will note that MIRAI and Ami Sorei kicked things off. Some of these women I wasn’t too familiar with because they aren’t part of the Grand Prix I’ve been watching. Natsuko Taura is an imposing woman who kind of changed the tide when she entered. We also got Hanan and Hina coming in back to back and they’re apparently siblings. Watching them work together was cool. Oh, apparently the next entrance Rina is also a sister, though they’re in different factions. I kind of like that. Charlton did a decent job of explaining who everyone was though I think he could’ve gone deeper. It felt like Kevin Kelly didn’t know much about Stardom. Waka Tsukiyama was Charlton’s pick to win. The final entrant was the Super Strong Stardom Machine and it was someone in a mask. The pins in the ring were done in really quick succession as SSSM headed to the action, leaving it down to them and MIRAI, who started. SSSM also showed no personality traits or anything that would give away their identity, only for them to lose to a MIRAI powerbomb in 23:06. Like the RAMBO, a mess but a mildly fun one. I didn’t get the SSSM thing. [**¼]

Time for the main card.

Dick Togo, EVIL, SHO and Yujiro Takahashi vs. Lio Rush, Tomohiro Ishii, YOH and YOSHI-HASHI

I really only care about the Stardom matches though this having Lio and YOH in it makes things a little better. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the House of Torture quarter attacked before the bell. The CHAOS boys withstood that because they’re likely used to it at this point. Ishii dominated when he was in there, looking to get ready for his ROH Title match with Chris Jericho a few days afterward. The rest of this was standard stuff for these teams other than Lio Rush being there to make it more fun as he’s someone new. Rush and YOH won with 4K on Togo, setting the stage for their Jr. Tag League run. It went 7:05 and was fine. [**½]

AZM, Lady C and Saya Kamitani vs. Himeka, Mai Sakurai and Thekla

This is more I like it. The AZM team is Queen’s Quest, while the other trio are from the Donna del Mondo stable. Lady C is impressively tall and busted out a Claudio like big swing. Thekla is someone I don’t know about but she did some fun stuff like the Bray Wyatt spider walk and a modified Tarantula. She ran the spider thing hard and I respect that. She leaves a lasting impact and did stuff that people will remember. Himeka also had a standout double Samoan Drop. I liked a lot of Kamitani’s offense as well, with my favorite being the School Boy Suplex. How has nobody thought of doing that before? Kamitani scored the win with a sweet 450 splash after 9:20. A really good match that feels like a step up for the show. Just a ton of action and each woman got a moment or two to show what they’re made of. [***¼]

Giulia and Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Syuri and Tom Lawlor

Easily my second most anticipated match on the show besides the main event. Giulia has impressed me a ton during the Grand Prix, I enjoyed Lawlor in his recent G1 run, and ZSJ is someone I always like. Giulia won the Grand Prix and now has a shot at Syuri and the World of Stardom Title set for the future, adding more intrigue here. Giulia feels like a major star once she steps out of the curtain. ZSJ got annoyed by Lawlor’s pre-match antics and smack talk sparked a brawl. I popped for ZSJ and Lawlor getting each other in leg locks and being too stubborn to let go so they rolled outside and kept hold. The women even came over and stomped on them but things weren’t broken until Giulia was slammed onto them. That established that this was going to be a fun, entertaining match. They did a really good job of incorporating tandem spots despite these not being consistent tag teams. Sabre secured the win by using the European Clutch at the 10:29 mark. I love that Lawlor didn’t get saved because Syuri and Giulia were too busy fighting each other outside to get involved. That was creative and fun as hell. [***¾]

DOUKI, El Desperado, Momo Watanabe and Starlight Kid vs. Natsupoi, Taichi, Tam Nakano and Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Tam Nakano is another wrestler who has stood out for me in Stardom. Her and Natsupoi coming out with Taichi was 10/10. Also, I love that this was Suzuki-Gun vs. Suzuki-Gun. This had a lot of intensity from the ladies while the guys were mostly having friendly rivalry interactions. That made for something unique as it was as if two matches were going on at once, yet it worked cohesively. Some of these crossovers even felt like the kind of thing you’d get in a big movie crossover. I really dug the trio of submissions spot. I’m a sucker for that kind of shit. Nakano’s Twilight Dream suplex looked SICK. There was also a mist spot thrown in there. Taichi put down DOUKI with Black Mephisto in 12:01. Another absolute blast of a match. I want Taichi with Nakano and Natsupoi all day. [***½]

Hirooki Goto and Maika vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi and Utami Hayashishita

Utami gets a GOAT while Maika gets some guy. That said, Maika and Goto are like a perfect duo. I loved that the women immediately went after the men at the bell. It showed that this wasn’t going to be like every other match on the card. Tanahashi even did some “non-Ace” actions like jumping Maika with his partner. The women hit each other hard while the men did the same, calling back to their G1 Climax banger. I also dug people pulling out each other’s moves like Utami dishing out a Slingblade. Tanahashi even threw in a slap at one point. Maika got the win over Utami with a pretty sweet Razor’s Edge style move in 9:36. Three straight high quality matches with the Stardom ladies being impressive. [***½]

BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs. Aussie Open, Catch 22 and Gideon Grey

Um, excuse me? What the hell is this? Where are my Stardom wrestlers? I didn’t come here for typical New Japan multi-man tags. Who invited these men? Alas, given who was involved, it should be no surprise that what we got was pretty enjoyable and really worked as a way to showcase Aussie Open ahead of World Tag League. They are the clear favorites there. Shingo also stood out because he’s Shingo and he’s awesome. I really dug the spot where he and Mark Davis traded shoulder blocks and neither could get the advantage. Soon after that, Aussie Open beat BUSHI with Korealis at the 9:55 mark. This was god but not what I want on this show. [***]

Aaron Henare, The Great-O-Khan and Jeff Cobb vs. The Great Muta, Kazuchika Okada and Toru Yano

Why are the men still here? At least I get Muta. There’s a bit of backstory here since Muta spit mist at O-Khan a while back which allowed Yano to beat him. Commentary note that this wouldn’t be a technical affair and would be more of a brawl. That was indeed what happened in a fine enough way. Okada was clearly not bringing his best effort and neither was anyone else but that was okay because this was about having a solid little match with Muta in there. Muta even popped for the Rainmaker pose. He spit the mist and we got the Rainmaker as the finish in a fine 9:48. I can’t ask for much more from this as Muta ended his New Japan career with a victory. [**½]

IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship: Will Ospreay [c] vs. Shota Umino

I’m a sucker for Shooter. Watching him work here was really cool because I haven’t seen him in a major singles match in a while and you could quickly see his improvement as he was able to hang with Willy. I liked how much they were trading offense and you got the sense that Will wasn’t expecting Shota to be on his level. I particularly loved when Shota hit a powerbomb only for Will to respond by catching him with a Liger Bomb that looked great. It felt like he did it out of desperation, which worked. Ospreay continued to be stunned by Shota’s resilience, especially after he kicked out of the Oscutter. I know that hasn’t been a finisher lately but it still worked. Will went into the forearm smashes to the back of the head that caused a stoppage last time, especially with Shota’s dad as the referee. Shota told his dad not to call it despite him being in a dire situation. He rallied to get some near falls though I don’t think anyone believed the outcome was in doubt. Will ultimately won with Stormbreaker in 23:30. That was really good though I wish it was more about the story of Shota not quitting and less of the stuff Will has kind of done in a lot of his big matches. Some of the counters and such were way similar to other matches. The best parts were when Shota was on the verge of death. [***¾]

Post-match, we got the big Kenny Omega video to set up his Wrestle kingdom match with Kenny Omega. Commentary was all “no matter where it is on the card, Ospreay’s match is THE main event that night.” That’s not how main events works (or so anti-WWE fans have told me).

IWGP Women’s Championship Tournament Finals: KAIRI vs. Mayu Iwatani

KAIRI was a pillar of Stardom but obviously left to WWE for a while. Iwatani has held down the fort as a staple and top star for the past decade or so. Mayu also beat KAIRI for the World of Stardom Title before she departed to WWE. That helped give this a big fight feel. You could tell this was going to get time given how they started with a slow feeling out process. It made sense within the story of the match though as this was important and neither wanted to give ground to the other. I appreciated commentary noting that Mayu had issues with how KAIRI left the company for WWE. It added to whenever she threw out a stiff shot or something like that. KAIRI would level her with backfists and such but Mayu gave her nothing, even laughing in her face afterward. It’s like she was defiant to the end and didn’t want KAIRI to know that she was hurting. Mayu put a target on KAIRI’s arm to slow those down and possibly prevent the big elbow drop. As this neared the third act, both women started throwing bigger offensive moves like suplexes and frog splashes. On a half Tiger Suplex, KAIRI’s arm was too damaged to hook it for a pin, which may have cost her. Both women came close late, with a great near fall seeing KAIRI get her feet on the ropes to break a Dragon Suplex pin. KAIRI followed that with another back fist and the big elbow to win in 25:28. The epic main event that I wanted. They kept building to something bigger and added layers to almost everything they did before culminating in exciting fashion. [****¼]

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
One of my favorite New Japan shows this year, mostly due to the Stardom talents. When they weren’t around, I wasn’t enjoying this as much. The mixed tags were a blast, the Stardom tag matches were fun, and that main event ruled.