Wrestling Review: NJPW Sakura Genesis (2017)

When Katsuyori Shibata won the New Japan Cup earlier this year, he chose to face IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada for the top title in New Japan Pro Wrestling. His title shot would come tonight at Sakura Genesis, live from Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, Japan. In front of a completely sold out crowd of over ten-thousand fans, would the stiff, hard hitting Shibata win his first ever IWGP Championship, or would the Rainmaker, Kazuchika Okada, extend his reign into the realm of the promotions greatest champions? A handful of other titles were on the line, both tags and singles, and super stars such as Minoru Suzuki, Kenny Omega and Hirooki Goto will all be in action.

+ Kazuchika Okada (c) (w/ Gedo) vs Katsuyori Shibata: first off, I admit I am biased towards Shibata in every respect, but Okada has had one of the best quarters I have ever seen, and Shibata has been building himself up as a challenge against anyone. This was stiff, violent, bloody and incredible, but most importantly it never felt like it was dragging the way I though Okada/Suzuki was. I loved this match
+ Hiromu Takahashi (c) vs KUSHIDA (w/ Ryusuke Taguchi) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): the result was far less important then the way it came about here. This will be divisive, I’m sure, but I really, really enjoyed what happened here
+ Hirooki Goto (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (NEVER Openweight Championship): it is still strange to see ZSJ in New Japan, but this was a really good, aggressively technical match. Maybe it was just Sabre playing the bad guy, but his constant switching of submissions seemed to make some more sense than usual. I really enjoyed the commentary line about the referee knowing the various submissions holds, as it added a new layer to the match. Post match shenanigans are very interesting to say the least
+ Tencozy (Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima) (c) vs War Machine (Hanson and Raymond Rowe) (IWGP Tag Team Championship): outside of a handful of impressive athletic spots from the massive War Machine boys, this match did nothing for me until the final few minutes. I can’t say whether it was intentionally building to a stunning final sequence of events, but this went from bad to good, and in the wrestling world it’s last impressions that mean the most
+ Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Kenny Omega) vs CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano): Omega/Ishii had one of the standout matches in the New Japan Cup, so this was a continutation of their story. Yano did much of the same comedy stuff, here running away from the imposing Bad Luck Fale, and Omega even got into the comedy styling with a few spots against Yano. It was up to Fale to mostly keep this serious, and his massive form did at least make it believable, and generally made for a watchable if not overly important tag match-up. I really just want more of Ishii/Omega
+ Taguchi Japan (Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Ricochet & Ryusuke Taguchi) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (Bushi, EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito): another New Japan Cup follow up after EVIL and Tahanashi’s fantastic match up, this was a fast paced and wild battle. LIJ are just so cool: all four members exude such a swagger about them, but I still believe SANADA will be a huge star one day. Ricochet was on fire in this match, and EVIL came across as such a bad guy, but it was Robinson who came out lookinng incredibly strong

njpw_sakuragenesis_2017_2.png
Champion Kazuchika Okada (left) and challenger Katsuyori Shibata trade some of the hardest forearms you will ever see.

– Bullet Club (Chase Owens, Yujiro Takahashi & Guerillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tonga Roa)) (w/ Pieter) vs Tiger Mask, Tiger Mask W, Togi Makabe & Yuji Nagata): I’m not really sure what to make of this; it was about as you’d expect any NJPW eight man tag to be. Good guys did good things, bad guys did bad things, and then it ended. It was not a bad match, but in the end it didn’t really accomplish anything
– Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) (c) (w/ El Desperado and Miho Abe) vs Jado & Gedo  (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships): much like the eight-man tag, this was kind of “not bad but not good”. I don’t entirely understand the appeal of Jado and Gedo as competitors, but Taichi has such an air of importance about him it still made for a good entrance, match and result
– Hirai Kawato, Katsuya Kitamura & Tomoyuki Oka vs David Finlay, Jushin Thunder Liger & Manabu Nakanishi: this was the pre show match up, and saw the Kawato/Kitamura/Oka team of young lions versus the veterans. This was a bit sloppy from the newcomers, but the old guard were composed enough to make it not-horrible. Liger is still simply incredible, and I expect Finlay will only get better, too
– Suzuki-gun (El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki & Taka Michinoku) vs CHAOS (Beretta, Rocky Romero & Yoshi-Hashi): the crowd was into this one, but it was short and kind of bland. I’m not entirely sure what I am meant to be thinking of Suzuki himself here, coming off his title match with Okada into a throwaway tag match
– Don Callis, the new colour commentator for the show alongside Kevin Kelly, was absolutely insufferable. I understand he was playing the bad guy (I hope…), but his getting names of moves, performers and groups wrong made him seem like an idiot, rather than just simply the bad guy. It made the show come across as somewhat amateur, if the commentators didn’t even know the facts

> it has finally occurred to me who Taichi reminds me of: a Dynasty Warriors character, perhaps either Jiang Wei or Ma Dai
> sweet merciful god, Pieter. Me no can even think good when she on screen

Should you watch this event: Like most New Japan events, the further the show went, the better it seemed. The final four matches were the highlights, and you could almost pinpoint the second the show turned around (aka, right in the middle of the War Machine/TenKoji tag match). Goto/ZSJ, KUSHIDA/Takahashi and especially the main event of Okada/Shibata were all fantastic. Sell your soul to see the Okada/Shibata masterpiece.

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