Welcome to KB’s Old School (and New School) Reviews. I’ve been reviewing wrestling shows for over ten years now and have reviewed over 5,000 shows. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I’ll be posting a new review here on Wrestlingrumors.net, starting today. It could be anything from modern WWE to old school to indies to anything in between. Note that I rate using letters instead of stars and I don’t rate matches under three minutes as really, how good or bad can something that short be?

 

New Japan On AXS
Date: August 3, 2019
Location: Osaka Prefectural Gym, Osaka, Japan
Attendance: 5,555
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Rocky Romero, Chris Charlton

First of all, no I’m not doing this show regularly, just for the sake of time. Someone asked me to do a show though and since I can’t say no, here we are. This is from night 13 of the G1 Climax Tournament and that means we’re likely in for a bunch of big matches with some matches that earn some high praise. Let’s get to it.

The opening recap looks at Kazuchika Okada and Kota Ibushi’s success throughout the tournament. The star power is sounding very high for this one.

All matches are from the A Block and a win is good for two points.

Bad Luck Fale (2 points) vs. Kenta (8 points)

Chase Owens is on commentary, Kenta would be Hideo Itami and Fale has Jado with him. The much bigger Fale grabs Kenta by the throat for the early choking, plus a Jado kendo stick from the floor. A trip to the floor means a whip into the barricade for Kenta and it’s Fale starting in on the back. Some shots to the head put Kenta down again but he’s back up with the tornado DDT across the top rope. The top rope clothesline drops the monster and a DDT gets two.

The springboard missile dropkick looked to come up short but Fale is knocked into the corner anyway. That means some running kicks to the face to keep Fale down and a top rope double stomp gets two. Fale is back up with a clothesline but Kenta reverses what looked to be a chokeslam into the triangle choke. Game Over (YES Lock) makes Owens tap but Owens has the referee. Jado comes in with the kendo stick but the distraction lets Fale get a rollup pin at 7:21.

Rating: C-. Not much to see here with Kenta having to fight against the odds and coming up shoot against Fale, who didn’t seem to be the greatest in-ring worker here. The big monster certainly looks different in New Japan but that doesn’t mean they’re the most viable option around. Kenta looked more comfortable here, though I’m still not seeing the superstar in him that we were promised for so long.

Lance Archer (4 points) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (4 points)

Both are part of Suzuki-Gun. Archer, a rather big guy at about 6’8, is a bit insane and runs/knocks over a bunch of people on the way to the ring. Sabre starts dodging the big boot attempts to start and the early frustrations might be setting in for Archer. A headlock is countered with Sabre’s signature twists but Archer nips up out of a top wristlock and throws him down. Sabre gets stomped and choked near the ropes as the big vs. small formula is in full swing so far.

Archer slams him down but misses a knee drop out of the corner, allowing Sabre go take him down into a grapevined ankle lock. Since Archer is rather tall he can reach the rope, which had to be a full eight inches away from him. We go to the sleeper on the giant’s back, but it feels a bit more dangerous since it’s Sabre putting it on. Archer slams him down and takes it to the floor, only to have Sabre grab the leg as Archer gets back inside. A guillotine choke is thrown off as well as Sabre just can’t find a way around the power.

Old School is countered with a crotching so Sabre tries a guillotine on top, which is thrown down again. Archer goes aerial with a crossbody but the chokeslam is countered into a triangle choke. The threat of a weird cousin of the Rings of Saturn is broken up with a long leg on the rope. A powerbomb gives Archer two but he has to power out of an armbar. Sabre starts kicking at the arms so Archer goes with a Black Hole Slam for two. The chokeslam connects and the Blackout (looks like a reverse Razor’s Edge) is loaded up, only to have Sabre roll him up for the pin at 10:41.

Rating: C+. I liked this a good bit. Archer is said to have had a career resurgence in this tournament and I can see why with a performance like this. Being his size in New Japan is going to keep him busy as they don’t have too many giants. The rope walk and some of the raw power are going to keep him relevant and this was a good David vs. Goliath story, which is one of the easiest ways to go about doing something. Even if David is a cocky pest that you want to see get kicked in the face.

Evil (6 points) vs. Will Ospreay (4 points)

Ospreay’s IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title isn’t on the line. Ospreay goes for the wristlock to start and sends Evil outside. The teased big dive doesn’t launch as Ospreay flips back into the superhero pose as only he (and Ricochet) can do. Evil finds a chair and throws it in but Ospreay is ready for it and they go with the rapid fire shots to the head. Ospreay gets kicked down and a big clothesline puts him on the floor. The chair is wrapped around Ospreay’s neck and the other chair knocks the first one off for a spot that has to be a big scary to take.

Back in and Evil stays on the back and neck before grabbing the chinlock (nothing wrong with some basic psychology). Ospreay fights up and gets a Stunner for the breaker, followed by the running forearm to put Evil in the corner. Pip Pip Cheerio (Phenomenal Forearm) gets two but Evil suplexes him into the corner to bang the neck up again. Ospreay is right back with a running kick to the face to send Evil outside.

You know what that means and it’s a cartwheel into the no hands moonsault to the floor for the double knockdown. Back in and something close to Coast to Coast (Evil was on the apron with his head sticking in and close enough to the corner) connects for two. Stormbreaker is blocked (Kelly: “That’s a big a**.” It might have been “ask” but it’s a funny line otherwise.) and it’s an exchange of forearms for the double knockdown.

They slug it out from their knees until Evil hits Darkness Falls (a fireman’s carry into a sitout spinebuster) for two. Ospreay is right back with a spinning sitout powerbomb and he’s ready to pull his hair out on the kickout. Back up and Evil headbutts him but runs into a running Spanish Fly for another near fall.

The Oscutter (always cool) gets two more and you could tell the fans bought that as the finish. Stormbreaker is countered again so Ospreay hits the 630 kick to the head (Robinson Special) but the top rope Oscutter is countered into a half and half suplex. A second one knocks Ospreay silly and a huge lariat gives Evil two more. Everything Is Evil (STO) finally puts Ospreay down at 17:08.

Rating: A-. The near falls were awesome in this one and they built up the neck damage throughout the match. Ospreay is a great high flier and his size makes him that much more fun to watch. Evil has gone from what seems to be a gimmick character into a much more complete performer so I can more than live with watching these two again. Awesome match here with that near fall off the Oscutter stealing the show.

Kota Ibushi (8 points) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi (8 points)

Yeah this works. They go to the mat for an exchange of headlocks to start until Ibushi dropkicks him in the face. Tanahashi takes the leg and puts it back on the mat for a good old fashioned leglock. Ibushi finally makes it over to the rope and is right back up with a running kick to the face. A standing moonsault gives Ibushi two but Tanahashi is right back with a pair of dragon screw legwhips.

The Cloverleaf goes on until Ibushi makes the rope as Tanahashi is going with a pretty simple (yet intelligent) strategy here. The leg is wrenched around the ropes and Tanahashi goes up, only to get caught with a super hurricanrana for a pretty close two. Back up and Tanahashi tries a dropkick to the knee but Ibushi jumps over it and lands on Tanahashi’s chest for a double stomp in a sweet counter.

A lawn dart into the corner knocks Tanahashi silly and it’s a deadlift German superplex to make it even worse for two. Tanahashi throws a left hand and Ibushi gets VERY serious. That means more slaps, with these staggering Ibushi a bit. Some more almost put him down but Ibushi blasts him with a clothesline for the double knockdown.

The sitout powerbomb gives Ibushi two but the big knee strike is countered into a trio of Twist and Shouts (swinging neckbreaker). A Sling Blade gives Tanahashi two, only to have the High Fly Flow miss for the big crash. The Boom Ye (Daniel Bryan knee) connects for two so Ibushi kicks him in the head a few times, setting up the big knee strike for the pin at 15:56.

Rating: B+. Ibushi is one of those guys who has grown a lot over the years as he has gone from a guy who is best known for a lot of flips to someone who can pin Tanahashi clean without it being a shocking upset. You can tell Tanahashi is nowhere near what he used to be, but even a fairly damaged Tanahashi is still better than almost anyone in the world. Very good match here, though I liked Ospreay vs. Evil just a bit better.

Post match they’re both down with Tanahashi saying something to Ibushi.

Sanada (4 points) vs. Kazuchika Okada (12 points)

Okada’s IWGP Heavyweight Title isn’t on the line and he’s undefeated so far. They stand around for a good while to start with no significant contact for the first minute. Sanada takes him down into an early armbar which is reversed just as fast. The headlock keeps things slow as they seem to be killing some time (thirty minute time limit here so the draw is an actual possibility).

The legsweeps into the covers for less than one each give us another standoff and things reset. Back up and commentary suggests that Okada isn’t taking Sanada as seriously as he should, just as Sanada hits a basement dropkick to the head. Okada blocks the Paradise Lock so Sanada elbows him in the face for two. The chinlock doesn’t last long and it’s Okada up with an elbow of his own, followed by a DDT for two more.

Sanada gets knocked outside and a running kick sends him over the barricade. Another DDT plants him on the floor so Okada can chill in the corner for a bit. Okada hits a running kick to the face as the fans don’t seem pleased with him. Then we get an OKADA chant as the fans seem a bit confused here. Sanada comes back with his own dropkick to the floor and the slingshot dive takes Okada down again. Now it’s a SANADA chant, meaning I probably misheard the previous one.

Back in and the Paradise Lock works this time, allowing Sanada to hit the running dropkick for two more. One heck of a flapjack (always love that move) drops Sanada and we get a breather. It’s Okada slowly getting up and looking more serious as the strike off begins. Sanada takes him down and hits a basement dropkick, followed by a hard belly to back for two. Sanada’s springboard is countered into White Noise onto the knee and the top rope elbow makes it even worse.

The Rainmaker is loaded up, giving us the always cool zoom out shot. That’s broken up so Okada settles for the Tombstone but the Rainmaker is countered again. A hanging twisting neckbreaker drops Okada but Sanada is too banged up. The slow motion slugout from their knees goes on until they get up, with Okada telling him to throw the forearms at the neck. The uppercuts go to Sanada and Okada actually drops to a knee.

Back up and the Rainmaker is countered again but so is the Tombstone this time, with Sanada switching to something like a dragon sleeper. A tiger suplex gives Sanada two and a TKO gets the same. The moonsault misses but Sanada lands on his feet like a pro. Okada grabs the arm and hits the Rainmaker (which is still…..oh never mind), followed by another for no cover. A third Rainmaker is countered into one from Sanada, who goes back to the dragon sleeper.

This time though he swings Okada around by the neck (egads) before going into the full version with the bodyscissors. Okada fights up but Sanada pulls him back down to get it on again. The fans are WAY into this (as they should be) and Okada reverses into a rollup for two but Sanada grabs it for the third time with three minutes left.

Sanada finally lets go with two minutes left but the moonsault hits raised….legs. Not quite as impactful as knees but Okada just had his head cranked back for three minutes so his accuracy is a bit off. There’s less than a minute left and Okada hits the dropkick but the Rainmaker is countered into a pop up cutter. Back to back moonsaults finish Okada at 29:48.

Rating: A. Oh yeah this was awesome (killing off the dragon sleeper aside) with Sanada throwing everything he had at Okada to FINALLY beat him. This felt very similar to Roderick Strong trying and trying to beat Jay Lethal for the ROH World Title but always coming up short until he did everything he could to finish Lethal in the end. It was the same story here and again it’s one of those that is always going to work. Great main event with Sanada getting the biggest win of his career.

Post match Sanada talks about finally beating his rival (thank goodness for subtitles for a change) and even gets a spotlight to make it feel cooler. He lost to Okada in this building a year ago and it made him hate Okada. Now Osaka is his favorite place in Japan because he finally did it. Sanada says he’ll see us next time and he falls to the mat in happiness.

At the post match press conference, Sanada says that was his gift to the people at home.

A look at the updated standings wraps us up.

Overall Rating: A-. As usual, I can see why this is such a popular show and the action more than lived up to the hype. All three of the big matches felt like instant classics and while they might not mean anything for everyone involved at the moment, you got some great matches with commentary selling the whole thing all the way. Great show here and worth seeing if you get the chance.

Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the History Of In Your House.

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