Circuit 2008 New Japan Brave
review by Kevin Wilson

Date: April 27th, 2008
Location: Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium
Attendance: 6,000

This event will probably go down as the most significant of 2008, as the great Keiji Mutoh returned to win back the IWGP Heavyweight Championship over six years after he had left his home promotion. Even if you look beyond that though on the card the top three titles are defended, and we have Zero-One MAX invading in a feud that would last for much of the year. But I am not going to lie to you, this is all about Mutoh, and if you think the crowd was behind their new young star and not the invading wrestler... well, you may be in for surprise. Here is the full card:

- Jado, Gedo, and Karl Anderson vs. Yujiro, Mitsuhide Hirasawa, and Kazuchika Okada
- Milano Collection AT and Minoru vs. Shiro Koshinaka and AKIRA
- Hirooki Goto and Giant Bernard vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma
- New Japan vs. ZERO1-MAX: Koji Kanemoto and Taguchi vs. Masato Tanaka and Otani
- Riki Choshu, Chono, and Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask, and Naito
- IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Wataru Inoue vs. Christopher Daniels
- IWGP Tag Team Championship: Togi Makabe and Toru Yano vs. Tenzan and Takashi Iizuka
- IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Keiji Mutoh

This will be fun, lets get started.

Jado, Gedo, and Karl Anderson vs. Yujiro, Mitsuhide Hirasawa, and Kazuchika Okada
Jado and Yujiro start things off. They jockey for position but neither wrestler can get the clear advantage. Tie-up, Yujiro pushes Jado back into his corner and tags in Hirasawa. Stomps by Hirasawa in the corner but Jado returns with punches. Chop by Jado and he tags in Gedo. Arm wringer by Gedo into a side headlock, Hirasawa Irish whips out of it and shoulderblocks Gedo to the mat. Hirasawa picks up Gedo and hits a body slam, cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, headbutts by Gedo and he tags in Anderson. Front facelock by Anderson but Hirasawa drives him back and tags in Okada. Stomps by Okada in the corner and he connects with a few chops. Side headlock by Anderson but Okada Irish whips out of it and delivers a dropkick. Okada picks up Anderson and goes off the ropes, but Anderson hits a jumping heel kick. Anderson knocks Okada's teammates off the apron and makes the tag to Gedo. Eye rake by Gedo and he tags in Jado. Jado and Okada trade chops, Jado picks up Okada and chops him back into the corner before tagging in Anderson. Scoop slam by Anderson, he picks up Okada and hits a second one. Jado and Gedo run in and all three stomp on Okada, but this brings in Yujiro and Hirasawa and the teams brawl until the referee gets them back. Anderson picks up Okada, Irish whip from the corner but Okada flips over Anderson and delivers a dropkick. Jado and Gedo run in but Hirasawa and Yujiro intercept them and Yujiro hits a lariat onto both of them. Yujiro then hits a spear onto Anderson, double Irish whip by Hirasawa and Okada onto Anderson, Hirasawa picks up Anderson at the waist and Okada delivers a dropkick. Cover by Okada but it gets a two count. Back up, Okada goes off the ropes but Anderson catches him with a spinebuster. Anderson waits for Okada to get up and nails the Stun Gun, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Jado, Gedo, and Karl Anderson

Match Thoughts: A fine opener, although it was a little short for a six man tag. One of the things I like about New Japan is you can clearly see the pecking order in each match so even if you don't know a lot about the promotion you know who the underdogs are and who to root for. Okada was overmatched against Anderson and was able to get the upper hand with Yujiro and Hirasawa's help, but once he was in there by himself it was only a matter of time before he got caught. That was pretty much the only story they were able to tell in such a short match, but for an opener it was acceptable. Score: 4.0

Milano Collection AT and Minoru vs. Shiro Koshinaka and AKIRA
Koshinaka attacks Milano to start the match and we are under way. Koshinaka battles Milano outside the ring before getting up onto the apron and returning to the ring. Milano rolls back in, Koshinaka grabs him and clubs him in the back. They trade chops, but Milano dropkicks Koshinaka in the knee. Milano drags Koshinaka over to the ropes, ties his legs up in the bottom rope and delivers a running dropkick to the leg. Koshinaka rolls out of the ring but Milano goes out to the apron. He goes for a hip attack, but Koshinaka moves out of the way. Koshinaka then goes up to the apron and delivers a hip attack onto Milano who was still standing on the floor. Back in the ring, Koshinaka hits a few quick hip attacks and tags in AKIRA. Milano tags in Minoru, tie-up, waistlock by Minoru, reversed by AKIRA but Minoru applies a wrist lock. AKIRA reverses it but Minoru gets out of it and delivers a dropkick. AKIRA rolls out of the ring but returns after a moment, kick by Minoru, Irish whip by AKIRA but Minoru shoulderblocks him down. Minoru goes off the ropes but AKIRA delivers a dropkick. Minoru rolls out of the ring, AKIRA goes to do a dive but rebounds back into the ring when Minoru retreats. Minoru gets back into the ring at 18 and AKIRA tags in Koshinaka. Punches by Koshinaka into the corner but Minoru rakes him in the eyes, Irish whip, reversed, and Koshinaka delivers a hip attack. Koshinaka goes up onto the top turnbuckle and delivers a diving hip attack, he goes off the ropes but Minoru catches him with a dropkick. Both wrestlers tag out, dropkick by AKIRA onto Milano, Irish whip, reversed, and AKIRA hits a diving lariat. Back up, waistlock by Milano, reversed, and AKIRA delivers a DDT. Cover, but it gets a two count. Koshinaka comes into help and goes for a hip attack onto Milano, but Milano moves and Koshinaka accidentally hits AKIRA. Cover by Milano but it gets a two count. Milano picks up AKIRA, AKIRA fights out of it but Milano hits a step-up enzigieri. Victoria Milanese by Milano, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Milano Collection AT and Minoru

Match Thoughts: Decent match, again a little short but matches this early on the card aren't supposed to steal the show. The crowd was solidly behind Koshinaka as he still manages to be one of the most popular wrestlers in Japan, and the rest of the wrestlers looked fine. I used to be annoyed that Koshinaka only did one move, but that one move is so over that its hard to argue with it. The match had the emotion, it just didn't have the substance. Score: 5.0

Hirooki Goto and Giant Bernard vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Tomoaki Honma
Goto and Honma start things off. Clubs to the back by Honma and he tags in Ishii. Ishii and Honma stomp on Goto, Goto gets back to his feet and trades blows with Ishii. Side headlock by Goto, Ishii Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. A second collision sees no winner, but the third one stuns Ishii and Goto clotheslines him out of the ring. Goto tags in Bernard and Ishii tags in Honma. Tie-up, and Bernard pushes Honma to the mat. Tie-up again, Bernard pushes Honma back into the corner and goes to give a clean break, but Honma chokes him. Bernard throws Honma back in the corner but Honma connects with a series of punches. Honma goes for a vertical suplex but Bernard reverses it into one of his own. Waistlock by Honma but Bernard shakes him off and clubs him to the mat. Bernard tags in Goto, clubs to the back by Goto but Honma elbows him in the stomach and tags in Ishii. Headbutts by Ishii and he trades slaps with Goto, but Ishii gets the better of it and chokes Goto in the ropes. Ishii picks up Goto and elbows him in the back of the head before tagging in Honma. Double Irish whip by Goto and they hit a double shoulderblock. Honma picks up Goto and knocks him against the ropes, Irish whip, and Honma chokes Goto against the mat. The referee has to kick Honma to get him to break the hold, Honma picks up Goto and tags in Ishii. Mounted punches by Ishii and they trade slaps before Ishii chokes Goto in the corner. Ishii throws Goto into a different corner, Irish whip, and he delivers a lariat. Goto fires back with punches, Irish whip, and Goto delivers a lariat. Goto goes up to the top turnbuckle but Ishii joins him and hits the superplex. Ishii goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, but Goto doesn't go down. He goes off the ropes again but this time both wrestlers lariat each other, Goto goes off the ropes and he knocks Ishii off his feet with a lariat. Goto picks up Ishii and goes for a suplex but Ishii reverses it with a brainbuster. Both wrestlers are slow to get up but both make the tag to their partners. Irish whip by Bernard onto Honma and he hits an elbow followed by a body press for a two count. Baldo Bomb by Bernard, cover, but Ishii breaks it up. Double Irish whip by Honma and Ishii to Bernard and they both dropkick Bernard in the knee. With Bernard in the corner Ishii charges in but Bernard moves out of the way. Honma gets Bernard in a waistlock however, Ishii elbows Bernard and Honma delivers a backdrop suplex. Honma goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving body press, but it only gets a two count. Honma goes off the ropes but Bernard kicks him in the stomach. He goes for a powerbomb but Ishii breaks it up and they both hit a lariat onto Bernard. They go off the ropes again but Goto grabs Ishii from the outside. Kick to the stomach by Bernard onto Honma and he nails the Bernard Driver, cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Hirooki Goto and Giant Bernard

Match Thoughts: What an odd little match. Bernard and Goto in theory out gunned their opponents, but for 90% of the match they got their asses kicked. Even little Honma was knocking around Bernard until Bernard finally got the best of him at the end. It completely wasn't what I was expecting... I know that GBH is more of a heel team then RISE but I didn't know that Goto was going to play the Ricky Morton role. Then at the end Honma is hardly hurt, but Bernard is able to quickly put him away as if 30 seconds earlier Bernard wasn't being dominated. It wasn't bad per se, it was just head scratching in execution. Score: 4.5

Koji Kanemoto and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Masato Tanaka and Shinji Otani
This is a New Japan vs. ZERO1-MAX match. They brawl to start the match as they take it outside the ring. Kanemoto and Tanaka get into the ring, snapmare by Kanemoto and he kicks Tanaka in the back. Kanemoto is distracted by Otani which gives Tanaka time to attack him from behind. Irish whip by Tanaka and he hits Kanemoto with a lariat. Tanaka stomps on Kanemoto before ramming him into Otani's boot. Tanaka tags in Otani, and Otani trades chops with Kanemoto. Otani gets the better of it, scoop slam by Otani but Kanemoto hits a series of kicks. Kanemoto tags in Taguchi, elbows by Taguchi, Irish whip, and he delivers a dropkick. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Stomps by Taguchi, Otani gets up as Taguchi goes off the ropes, but Tanaka kicks him from the apron. Otani throws Taguchi into the corner and rakes him in the eyes. Otani puts Taguchi into the tree of woe before connecting with a dropkick. A second dropkick by Otani, double Irish whip to Taguchi and they hit a double shoulderblock. Cover by Tanaka but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Tanaka to Taguchi from the corner and he delivers a jumping elbow strike. Kanemoto runs in but Tanaka throws him out of the ring. Kanemoto comes right back but again Tanaka pushes him down and goes back to Taguchi. Finally Kanemoto manages to knock Tanaka off his feet but Otani comes in and stomps on Taguchi in the corner. Tanaka recovers, double Irish whip to Taguchi and they hit a combination on Taguchi ending with a dropkick by Otani. Cover by Tanaka but it only gets a two count. Tanaka tags in Otani and Otani chokes Taguchi against the second rope. Single leg crab hold by Otani but Kanemoto breaks it up with a kick to the back. More kicks by Kanemoto but Otani picks up Taguchi and slams him to the mat. Otani runs over to knock Kanemoto off the apron before going back to Taguchi. Otani picks up Taguchi and throws him into the corner before tagging in Tanaka. Tanaka picks up Taguchi and throws him into the corner, Irish whip, but Taguchi kicks him as he charges in and hits a missile dropkick. Taguchi tags in Kanemoto, kick by Kanemoto and he knees Tanaka down in the corner. Facewash by Kanemoto (while he looks at Otani) and he delivers a running kick to the face. Kanemoto gives Tanaka a second one, he picks him up off the mat, Irish whip, reversed, and the two wrestlers trade kicks and elbows.

Tanaka goes off the ropes but Kanemoto kicks him, then Kanemoto goes off the ropes but Tanaka hits a lariat. Both wrestlers go off the ropes a final time but Tanaka hit a spear and tags in Otani. Otani throws Kanemoto into the corner and now he gives Kanemoto the facewash followed by a running kick. Otani goes for a second one but Kanemoto catches his leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Kanemoto apples a grapevined ankle lock but Tanaka breaks it up. Kanemoto tags in Taguchi, Taguchi goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a missile dropkick onto Otani. Irish whip by Taguchi, reversed, but Taguchi hits a rebound missile dropkick for a two count. Taguchi picks up Otani and goes for a suplex, Otani elbows out of it and goes off the ropes, but Taguchi hits a fisherman suplex hold for a two count. Irish whip by Taguchi to the corner and he hits a jumping elbow, he goes off the ropes but Otani delivers a heel kick. Otani tags in Tanaka, and Tanaka trades elbows with Taguchi. Tanaka gets the better of it but Taguchi delivers a release German suplex. Tanaka comes back with an elbow strike, cover, but it gets a two count. Tanaka puts Taguchi onto the top turnbuckle and joins him for a superplex, he quickly follows with a brainbuster but Kanemoto breaks up the pinfall attempt. Otani comes in the ring and hits a powerbomb onto Taguchi, Tanaka then comes off the top turnbuckle with a diving body press but Taguchi kicks out at two. Tanaka sets up Taguchi for the Sliding D but Kanemoto runs in and kicks him before he can hit the move. Taguchi slowly gets up, he picks up Tanaka and goes for the Dodon, Tanaka blocks it, so Taguchi hits a Tiger Suplex hold instead for a two count. Taguchi picks up Tanaka and nails the Dodon, cover, but Otani breaks it up. Kanemoto runs in and kicks Otani out of the ring, Taguchi picks up Tanaka but Otani comes off the top turnbuckle with a missile dropkick onto Taguchi. Kanemoto runs in and kicks Otani but Otani drops him with an overhead German suplex. Brainbuster by Tanaka onto Taguchi, cover, but it only gets a two count. Taguchi slowly gets up, but Tanaka goes off the ropes and levels him with the Sliding D! Your winners: Masato Tanaka and Shinji Otani

Match Thoughts: The heated rivalry is certainly there and I liked the brawl chaos style they used, but really this was a mismatch which took out a little of the suspense. Kanemoto and Taguchi aren't slouches, but they are up against two of the best heavyweights in Zero-One, including Tanaka who hadn't been pinned in recent memory. The crowd stayed really into it though and I liked that they didn't do a mat-based match at any point as these two teams hate each other too much for that. The rivalry will get better though as the big guns start going after each other instead of getting token wins to make the score even. Score: 6.0

Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono, and Liger vs. Manabu Nakanishi, Tiger Mask, and Naito
Liger and Tiger Mask start things off. Side headlock by Liger, Tiger Mask Irish whips out of it but Liger shoulderblocks him down. Liger goes off the ropes but Tiger Mask hits a monkey flip followed by a dropkick. Pescado attempt by Tiger Mask, Liger rolls back into the ring to avoid it but Tiger Mask lands on his feet. Liger kicks Tiger Mask back and goes off the far ropes, but Liger rebounds himself back into the ring. Naito flies in with a dropkick on Liger and he then knocks Chono and Choshu off the apron. Nakanishi then goes to the ropes and sails out onto Liger with a pescado. Naito stays in the ring as the legal man and waits for Liger, he throws him into the corner and Liger tags in Choshu. Naito kicks Choshu back into the corner, Irish whip, and he delivers a jumping elbow. Missile dropkick by Naito and he goes for the Scorpion Deathlock, but Chono runs in and breaks it up. Stomps by Chono onto Naito, Choshu picks him up and hits a vertical suplex. Choshu tags in Chono, kicks and elbows by Chono and he throws Naito into the corner. Kicks by Chono in the corner, he picks up Naito and elbows him back down. Naito returns fire and they trade elbows, and Naito makes the tag to Nakanishi. Kick by Nakanishi in the corner but Chono punches him back before delivering a piledriver. Cover by Chono but Tiger Mask breaks it up. Chono picks up Nakanishi and punches him into the corner, Irish whip, and Chono applies the Cobra Twist. Choshu then comes off the top turnbuckle with an elbow, Chono Irish whips Nakanishi into the corner but Nakanishi hits him with a lariat. Nakanishi and Chono trade elbows, eye rake by Chono but Nakanishi catches him with the Polish Hammer. Nakanishi waits for Chono to get up and hits a lariat, cover, but Liger breaks it up. Nakanishi gets rid of Liger and goes off the ropes, but Chono catches him with a kick and tags in Choshu. Choshu waits for Nakanishi to get up and goes for a lariat, but Nakanishi catches him with a spear. Nakanishi knocks Choshu back into the corner, Irish whip, and Nakanishi delivers a lariat. Argentine Backbreaker by Nakanishi, Liger breaks it up, but Nakanishi hits Liger with a spear. Lariat by Choshu onto Nakanishi and he tags in Liger while Nakanishi tags in Tiger Mask. Irish whip by Tiger Mask, reversed, but Tiger Mask connects with a back kick. 619 by Tiger Mask, he goes up to the top turnbuckle but Liger catches him up there and joins him up top. Superplex by Liger, he waits for Tiger Mask to get up and delivers a shotei. Cover, but Nakanishi breaks it up. Liger goes for a powerbomb onto Tiger Mask but Tiger Mask gets out of it and tags in Naito. Naito goes off the ropes but Liger catches him with a shotei. Irish whip by Liger but Naito delivers a jumping elbow strike, cover, but it gets a two count. Naito goes off the ropes and hits a second one, cover, but Choshu breaks it up. Naito goes up to the top turnbuckle and connects with a diving elbow strike, cover, but this time Chono breaks it up. Waistlock by Naito, reversed, Naito low blows out of it but Liger hits a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker. Liger tags in Chono, and Chono nails a Shining Yakuza Kick. Irish whip by Chono to the corner, Liger hits a shotei, Choshu follows with a lariat, and Chono finishes with a Shining Yakuza Kick. Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners: Riki Choshu, Masahiro Chono, and Jushin Thunder Liger

Match Thoughts: Way too many big stars for a short multi-man match, although it was nice that Naito was the one that they allowed to shine. He got in some good offense against his elders, but aside from a little Nakanishi/Liger friction there really didn't seem to be any heat or emotion in the match. It didn't reach NOAH levels of pointlessness but even though it was faction vs. faction they didn't give off any vibe that they didn't like each other. Chono looked pretty rough, I know he is no young pup but they were almost treating him with kid gloves like they did with Baba in the 90s, which certainly isn't a good sign for his overall health. Not enough going on but Naito looked great and was given a good boost by putting up a fight and taking all three's finishers before being pinned. Score: 5.5

(c) Wataru Inoue vs. Christopher Daniels
This match is for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. They circle each other to start, tie-up, waistlock by Inoue but Daniels reverses it with a wristlock. Inoue reverses it back, leg lock by Daniels but Inoue rolls him over and goes for the cross armbreaker. Daniels gets out of it but Inoue applies a hammerlock. Inoue picks up Daniels while keeping the hold on but Daniels pushes him off. Armdrag by Daniels and he hits a second one while keeping the arm in an armbar. Inoue struggles to his feet, Daniels flips him back down but Inoue applies a headscissors. Daniels gets out of it, armdrag by Inoue and he applies an armbar on the mat. Elbows to the arm by Inoue, Irish whip from the corner, Daniels tries to flip over him but Inoue catches him and drops him to the mat. Spear by Inoue, cover, but it gets a two count. Daniels gets up, elbows by Inoue and Daniels falls back down. Inoue goes towards Daniels but Daniels quickly throws him out of the ring. Daniels goes for a pescado but Inoue moves out of the way and gets back into the ring. Baseball slide by Inoue and he joins him outside the ring, chop by Inoue and Daniels returns fire. Daniels goes for a powerbomb but Inoue back bodydrops out of it. Elbow to the back by Inoue and he slides Daniels back into the ring. Stomp by Inoue, he picks up Daniels and elbows him in the arm. Another elbow to the arm by Inoue and he applies a keylock. Inoue picks up Daniels and goes for a slam, but Daniels slides down his back. Inoue goes off the ropes but Daniels connects with a knee to the stomach. Stomps by Daniels, he picks up Inoue and knees him in the stomach again. Daniels pushes Inoue into the corner and hits a series of shoulder tackles. Daniels picks up Inoue and suplexes him onto the top rope, and with Inoue hanging there he hits a running knee to the back. Cover by Daniels but it gets a one count. Clubs to the face by Daniels, he picks up Inoue and punches him in the ribs. Cover, but it barely gets a two count. Daniels picks up Inoue and puts him back into the corner, Irish whip, and he delivers a jumping knee. Daniels puts Inoue on his shoulders but Inoue hits a sunset flip for a two count. Inoue goes off the ropes but Daniels catches him with a Complete Shot into the Koji Clutch. Inoue eventually gets a foot on the ropes and Daniels has to break the hold. Daniels picks up Inoue and puts him in the corner, he puts Inoue onto the top turnbuckle and hits an uppercut. Fall From Grace attempt by Daniels but Inoue forearms him in the back of the head and gets off the top rope.

Inoue charges Daniels but Daniels back bodydrops him over the top rope to the floor. Inoue goes off the ropes and goes for a tope suicida, but Daniels holds up a chair and Inoue hits the chair before falling hard into the guard rail. Daniels gets back into the ring, but when Inoue doesn't make it back Daniels goes out and slides him into the ring. Cover, but it gets a two count. Daniels picks up Inoue and goes off the ropes before hitting a jumping elbow strike. Cover, but it gets a two count. Daniels drags Inoue to his feet and throw him into the corner, hitting a punch combination to chest and head. Irish whip by Daniels, reversed, Daniels avoids Inoue's attack but both wrestlers clothesline each other to the mat. Daniels is up first but Inoue soon follows, Daniels charges Inoue but Inoue delivers a backbreaker. Chops by Inoue, Irish whip from the corner and he hits a jumping elbow. Another Irish whip, reversed, but Inoue kicks Daniels when he charges in and hits a missile dropkick. Inoue charges Daniels but Daniels moves, sending Inoue flying out of the ring. Daniels goes out as well and grabs a chair, but Inoue kicks it back into his face. Inoue then grabs the chair but the referee grabs it from him as Daniels escapes into the ring. Inoue follows him inside and goes off the ropes, but Daniels immediately throws him back outside the ring, clipping the referee in the process. Daniels goes outside the ring, grabs the chair and hits Inoue in the back with it. Daniels rolls Inoue into the ring, cover, but the referee is out and can't make the count. Daniels picks up Inoue and goes for the Angel's Wings, but Inoue back bodydrops out of it. Triangle Lancer by Inoue, Daniels taps but the referee is still dead. Inoue goes to wake up the referee, allowing Daniels to hit a step-up enzigieri. Blue Thunder by Daniels, cover, but it gets a two count. Daniels calls for the BME, he goes up to top turnbuckle but Inoue rolls out of the way. Inoue picks up Daniels and goes for the Staggerin' Blow, but Daniels reverses it and hits a Staggerin' Blow of his own. Daniels goes for a Lionsault but Inoue gets his knees him, and Inoue hits an Angel's Wings onto Daniels. Both wrestlers slowly get up with Inoue up first, he charges Daniels in the corner but Daniels kicks him when he charges in. Daniels goes off the ropes but Inoue hits him with a spear Cover, but it gets a two count. Inoue picks up Daniels and puts him up onto the top turnbuckle. Inoue joins him, but Daniels punches out of it and goes for an Avalanche Angel's Wings. Inoue fights out of it and goes for a superplex, but Daniels again gets out of it and pushes Inoue to the mat. Avalanche sunset flip by Daniels but Inoue rolls through it and hits a spear. Inoue picks up Daniels and nails the Oracion Flame, cover, and he gets the three count. Your winner and still champion: Wataru Inoue

Match Thoughts: This match had everything, except anything to make the crowd get into the match. Here is the problem. Daniels is a very good wrestler, borderline great, but he doesn't have the charisma to get a crowd into a match. Inoue is also a very good wrestler, borderline great, but he doesn't have the charisma to get a crowd into a match. See the problem? The action was crisp, they were focused, and even though there were small problems here and there (such as some body work that went no where) in general I have no major complaints. Daniels had the sense of urgency that he didn't have in January, and while I didn't like the ref bump I have accepted that as part of TNA wrestling at this point. But aside from a few moments like the tope of death the crowd wasn't reacting to the wrestlers, who to their credit were really trying to get the crowd to make a noise. Since the crowd was very loud for the match previous and the two after, it wasn't that it was a dead crowd, they just didn't know Daniels well enough and since he was a newcomer there didn't really seem to be any belief he had any chance of winning the title. Solid action though. Score: 6.5

(c) Togi Makabe and Toru Yano vs. Tenzan and Takashi Iizuka
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Makabe and Tenzan start things off. Chops by Tenzan and Makabe falls to the mat. Tenzan hits a Mongolian Chop, side headlock by Makabe, Tenzan Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. Tenzan goes off the ropes but again neither wrestler goes down. They trade elbows, Mongolian Chops by Tenzan and he gets the better of the exchange. Yano runs in, which also brings in Iizuka and GBH gets their opponents in to the corner and choke them. Double Irish whip but Iizuka and Tenzan both reverse it and their opponents are sent into each other. All four continue brawling in the ring, and Tenzan hits the Mountain Bomb onto Makabe. Yano and Makabe get out of the ring, with Makabe grabbing a chair. But he eventually drops it and returns to the ring, clubs to the back by Makabe but Tenzan returns fire. Tenzan goes off the ropes but he is tripped up at ringside by Yano. This brings in Iizuka, but Makabe hits him with a scoop slam. He goes to hit Iizuka with a chair, but Tenzan dives in to protect his friend, taking the shot instead. Makabe tosses Iizuka out of the ring while Yano grabs Tenzan and throws him into the railing. Makabe finds his chain and hits Tenzan in the head with it before going back to Iizuka and throwing him into the guard rail. Yano continues hitting Tenzan with the chair and chokes him with it, while Tenzan bleeds onto the floor. Tenzan slowly crawls back into the ring, and Makabe stomps him in the chest. Makabe picks up Tenzan and throws him into the exposed corner before tagging in Yano. Yano chokes Tenzan and stomps him down to the mat. Yano tags in Makabe, punches by Makabe but Tenzan fires back with his own punches and a Mongolian Chop. Irish whip by Tenzan, reversed, but Tenzan delivers a lariat. Yano runs in to knock down Tenzan, Makabe picks up Tenzan and scoop slams him to the mat. Choke by Makabe but the referee finally gets him off. Makabe tags in Yano, Yano picks up Tenzan and hits him in the head with the ring bell (Iizuka keeps trying to get into the ring, distracting the referee). Yano gets Tenzan up and goes for a vertical suplex, but Tenzan reverses it into one of his own. Tenzan crawls towards his corner but Iizuka is outside the ring jawing with Makabe. Yano recovers and throws Tenzan into the corner, tagging in Makabe. Makabe punches Tenzan in the corner but Iizuka fires up and comes back with headbutts. Makabe rakes Tenzan in the eyes and hits an elbow drop, cover, but it gets a two count. Single leg crab hold by Makabe but Iizuka breaks it up. Yano and Makabe double team Tenzan in the corner, double Irish whip, but Tenzan moves out of the way and hits a lariat on both of them. He slowly crawls to his corner, but Iizuka jumps down before he can get there, refusing to tag him. Yano and Makabe recover, Makabe picks up Tenzan and hits an elbow, with Makabe following with a lariat. Lariat/Backdrop combination by GBH, cover, but it gets a two count. Double Irish whip to Tenzan, but Tenzan lariats both of them to the mat. Another pair of lariats to his opponents, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a diving headbutt. Heel kick to Makabe, Tenzan picks him up and plants him with a TTD. As Tenzan celebrates, Iizuka comes in the ring and from behind puts Tenzan into a sleeper hold! After a moment he releases the hold, Yano slams Tenzan in front of the corner, Makabe goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers the King Kong Kneedrop. Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winners and still champions: Togi Makabe and Toru Yano

Match Thoughts: One of the best angles New Japan did in 2008. Iizuka has always been a good guy, and he had helped Tenzan transition from leader of GBH to a member of the New Japan Army. They had been best friends, even getting gay little matching shirts with "Friends" on it. So no one saw this coming, and since New Japan doesn't do betrayal storylines very often it came across as very fresh. It was done very well, with Iizuka rarely getting any offense done on him as Tenzan was the legal man the entire match. The crowd went from stunned, to booing, back to stunned again. Great angle that led to a great feud between Iizuka and Tenzan. Score: 7.5

(c) Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Keiji Mutoh
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. This is also their first ever singles match, for those keeping track. They start the feeling out process, waistlock by Mutoh but Nakamura gets out of it and goes for the arm. Wristlock by Nakamura but Mutoh flips out of it and applies a leg lock. Nakamura gets out of it and goes for the ankle, Mutoh gets out of it and Nakamura applies a front facelock. Waistlock by Nakamura and he applies a wristlock, pushing Mutoh down to the mat and keeping an armbar applied. Mutoh quickly armdrags out of the hold and rolls out of the ring, trying to shake the feeling back into his arm as the crowd chants his name. Mutoh rolls back in and Nakamura immediately kicks him in the arm. Hammerlock takedown by Nakamura and he keeps a submission applied, but Mutoh makes it to the ropes. Takedown by Nakamura and again Mutoh rolls out of the ring to recover from Nakamura's attacks. Mutoh gets onto the apron but Nakamura dropkicks him down to the floor. Nakamura goes for a pescado, Mutoh moves, Nakamura lands on his feet but Mutoh dropkicks him in the knee. Mutoh Irish whips Nakamura into the guard rail and hits a Shining Wizard, knocking Nakamura over the railing to the other side. Mutoh grabs Nakamura's leg over the railing and hits a dragon screw leg whip, sending Nakamura's leg into the rail. Mutoh gets back into the ring, and Nakamura eventually follows. As Nakamura gets into the ropes Mutoh hits a Shining Wizard, he then grabs Nakamura's leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip back into the ring. Mutoh gets up onto the second turnbuckle and dropkicks Nakamura in the leg while he is still on the mat. Mutoh then hits another dragon screw leg whip and slaps on the figure four leglock. After fighting it for a minute Nakamura makes it to the ropes, but Mutoh dropkicks him in the leg again. Another dropkick to the leg by Mutoh, he grabs Nakamura's leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Mutoh goes for the figure four again but this time Nakamura reverses it into a cross armbreaker attempt. Mutoh blocks him from locking in the hold, so Nakamura reverts it into a modified armbar choke. Mutoh rolls to the ropes however and gets a foot on the ropes to break the hold. Back up they trade blows, but Mutoh dropkicks Nakamura in the knee. Nakamura comes back with kicks and knees, but Mutoh catches one and hits a dragon screw leg whip.

Mutoh grabs Nakamura's leg but Nakamura jumps up and re-applies the choke. Again Mutoh struggles to the ropes and he is able to force the break. Nakamura picks up Mutoh, Irish whip from the corner, reversed, but Nakamura shoulderblocks Mutoh to the mat. Nakamura goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, cover, but it gets a two count. Nakamura picks up Mutoh, scoop slam in front of the corner and he hits a moonsault! Nakamura goes up top again and goes for a second one, but this time Mutoh rolls out of the way and dropkicks Nakamura in the knee. Another dropkick to the knee by Mutoh and he hits a dragon screw leg whip. Figure four leglock by Mutoh but Nakamura makes it to the ropes. Both wrestlers slowly get up, Mutoh grabs the leg but Nakamura hits an enzigieri. Spinning kick by Nakamura and he hits a trio of German suplexes for a two count. Nakamura picks up Mutoh and goes for the dragon suplex, but Mutoh gets out of it. Mutoh goes off the ropes but Nakamura gets him up on his shoulders and hits the Landslide. Cover, but Mutoh kicks out at two. Mutoh picks up Nakamura and goes for the double armed piledriver, but Mutoh backdrops out of it. Nakamura goes off the ropes but Mutoh dropkicks him in the leg and hits a Shining Wizard in the corner. Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh but Nakamura blocks the Shining Wizard. Nakamura applies the cross armbreaker but Mutoh manages to lock his hands. Loud Mutoh chant starts as Nakamura gets the hold re-applied, but Mutoh manages to re-lock his hands. Mutoh finally wiggles close enough to the ropes to get a foot on them, forcing a break. Nakamura picks up Mutoh and goes for the Landslide, but Mutoh knees out of it and dropkicks Nakamura in the face as he slides to the mat. Nakamura gets back up on the apron, but Mutoh grabs him, drags his head into the ring with his feet on the top rope, and nails a dragon screw neckbreaker! Shining Wizard by Mutoh, he hits one from behind and a final one from the front. Cover, but Nakamura kicks out! Mutoh gets up and waits for Nakamura, Nakamura quickly tries to applies a cross armbreaker but Mutoh powerbombs him to the mat. Shining Wizard by Mutoh, cover, but it only gets a two count. Backbreaker by Mutoh, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault. Cover, and he gets the three count! Your winner and new champion: Keiji Mutoh

Match Thoughts: A masterful performance by Mutoh. He was completely focused on the leg, which was only dragged down by the fact that Nakamura never sold it when a move wasn't being applied. Mutoh sold the arm and did everything he could to the leg, but Nakamura I don't think ever sold it on his own when he wasn't in a hold. But Mutoh threw everything at him, even pulling out a wicked dragon screw neckbreaker. To his credit Nakamura did well besides the leg selling, as he also tried a few different moves and seemed to understand that the cross armbreaker was his key to victory and had he managed to keep it locked in he would have won. The surprising thing for me was the crowd.... obviously I know that Mutoh was a trueborn, but so is Nakamura, and Mutoh was the "invading" wrestler. But the crowd was solidly behind Mutoh from start to finish, popping for a few of Nakamura's moves but in general chanting "Mutoh" and jumping to their feet when Mutoh picked up the win. A big moment in Mutoh's career and also for New Japan, as it gives them fresh matchups for the rest of the year and an attendance boost when Mutoh graces New Japan with his presence. Score: 8.0

Final Thoughts:

This was a big event for New Japan, setting the stage for the rest of the year. Instead of seeing Nakamura/Nagata or Nakamura/Nakanishi for the 10th time, instead New Japan set it up so they will have fresh title matches until Mutoh drops the title to one of their younger stars. Mutoh really stepped up in the match, as even though by the end he was limping around he kept the pace up and put on one of his best performances in years. The rest of the card was solid, with a big angle being set up in the match before. I wish that the mid-card was better and that the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship match didn't have an obvious outcome, but the main event alone makes it worth watching and nothing on the event was bad. Pick this up.

Recommended


Back to New Japan Event Reviews