May 7, 2021

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku 2021 Night 2 (May 4) Results & Review

Watch: NJPW World

New Japan has been teetering on the brink for a while now. They are as precariously balanced on the line of irredeemable Western apathy as they have been in over a decade. More immediately, they have managed to elude the dispassionate, funereal grip of this global catastrophe without significant problems or complications. There’s been a few cancellations, and that’s the extent of it.

Sure, their strategy for dealing with the pandemic, a dense barrage of shows with painfully diffused scheduling leaving most shows equally bereft of meaningful consequence, has swiftly eroded Western confidence. Consequently, engagement has plummeted. That strategy has also left the company drawing Korakuen houses the size of two-tone ska bands. But New Japan has not been forced to adjust as other companies have, and certainly not to the same degree when they have found themselves in inextricable situations.

That changed today. New Japan has been playing with fire with the merciless volume of Road Tos, and by stubbornly continuing with the passé-before-the-pandemic splitting of major shows. This particular two-night split, and the 24-hour intermission in between, gave enough time for something detrimental to happen, and it finally did happen: they lost their Junior Heavyweight Championship semi-main event for this night, another impediment to the Junior division. Presumably, Taiji Ishimori would have come out after EL Desperado vanquished YOH and challenge Despy to one of the Dome shows or the Dominion show next month. Now they’re stuck.

Happy Greenery Day, Everybody.

The discourse over New Japan’s current state is a perpetual cycle of parry and riposte and counter-parry. New Japan’s booking has shown clear corrosion, but there are still bright spots. But those bright spots are still mitigated due to the contraction of the roster. Yes, it is unfair to conflate a few things with the whole company, but when those few things that are intolerable are in the main events, then yes, it is somewhat fair to conflate them with the company. That conflation works positively, as well, though, which is certainly a thought after today’s main event.

Because of their intransigence, New Japan also finds themselves totally flat-footed leading into the Yokohama show on May 15th. The third State of Emergency wiped out the three Korakuen shows scheduled for the interlude between Dontaku and Yokohama. A rational person would have deduced that the Satsuma no Kuni shows and these Dontaku should would have to absorb some of the storytelling so that they could naturally progress to the stadium. Instead, they chose not to present anything on these Dontaku shows to make up for it. Beyond Cobb vs. Ibushi, the fabled Monster Mantaza Cueto vs. Tiger Mask W showdown, the Wrestle Grand Slam I card is arctic cold, a perfect microcosm for the company…

OR IS IT?!

More than anything, what this company needed was the main event on this show to remind everyone that, despite appearances, this company can still deliver. What may appear to be a frigid corpse is really just an eyes-open hibernation.

It also reveals that they do, indeed, recall how to schedule things, as this might be one of the all-time perfunctory title defenses. In a promotion that is saturated in monotony and stagnation, they still had this reliable match-up, which still seems fresh.

For comparison, Hiroshi Tanahashi and Jay White, incredibly, had only engaged in 6 singles matches since the Switchblade debut in 2018. When they had faced each other in the New Japan Cup this year, it had been nearly two years since their last match-up. And yet, it feels like we’ve watched them have daily 40-minute conceptual exhibitions between these two the last two years. Maybe that’s because of this alarming item: while they only had six singles matches, they had met in the ring 85 times in some fashion.

Likewise, another somewhat weary match-up, Naito and Ibushi, has also seen relatively few singles matches in the last three years. Six in total, with three coming in the Spring 2019 IC feud that had people calling the Red Cross in protest.

By contrast, Shingo and Will have only been in a New Japan ring across from one another 21 times, 17 of which came on this tour. It’s a fresh match-up, they delivered a classic, and, conceivably, provide the galvanizing spark the company hasn’t truly seen since Kenta sat on top of Naito 16 months ago.

That, indeed, is more important right now than establishing a card for a pandemic stadium show.

Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Zack Sabre Jr., and Taichi) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa)

  1. December 15, 2020 – Fujisan Messe, Fuji, Shizuoka: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:01.
  2. December 16, 2020 – Aimesse Yamanashi, Kofu, Yamanashi: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:53.
  3. December 18, 2020 – Sendai Sunplaza Hall, Sendai, Miyagi: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 11:15.
  4. December 20, 2020 – Wing Hat Kasukabe, Kasukabe, Saitama: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 11:18.
  5. February 8, 2021 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 09:58.
  6. April 4, 2021 – Ryugoku Kokugikan, Tokyo: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:10.
  7. April 10, 2021 – Yokohama Budokan, Yokohama, Kanagawa: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 11:56.
  8. April 11, 2021 – Act City Hamamatsu in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka: -gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 12:10.
  9. April 13, 2021 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) in 08:40.
  10. April 15, 2021 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) in 09:21.
  11. April 16, 2021 – New Sunpia Tochigi, Kanuma, Tochigi: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) in 09:30.
  12. April 18, 2021 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:38.
  13. April 20, 2021 – Korakuen Hall, Tokyo: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) in 12:33.
  14. April 22, 2021 – EDION Arena Osaka, Osaka: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 08:03.
  15. April 23, 2021 – Kochi Prefectural Gymnasium, Kochi: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 09:39.
  16. April 24, 2021 – Takamatsu City Gymnasium, Takamatsu, Kagawa: Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:04.
  17. April 26, 2021 – Hiroshima Sun Plaza, Hiroshima: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) by DQ in 06:53.
  18. April 28, 2021 – Kagoshima Arena, Kagoshima: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) def. Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) by DQ in 07:53.
  19. April 29, 2021 – Kagoshima Arena, Kagoshima: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) and Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) – No Contest after 05:22.
  20. April 30, 2021 – Grand Messe Kumamoto, Mashiki, Kumamoto: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) and Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) – No Contest after 05:03.
  21. May 1, 2021 – Beppu B-Con Plaza, Beppu, Oita: BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) and Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) – No Contest after 05:47.
  22. May 4, 2021 – Fukuoka Convention Center, Fukuoka – Suzuki-gun (DOUKI, Taichi, and Zack Sabre Jr.) def. BULLET CLUB (Jado, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa) in 10:00.

DOUKI rules. ***

BULLET CLUB (Taiji Ishimori and Yujiro Takahashi) def. Master Wato and Hiroyoshi Tenzan

If I see another goddamn Evony commercial, where that dope with his adult Butters voice fucks up phone game puzzles a 1st grader would find insulting, I’m going to blow a fucking gasket. If you’ve managed to escape these things, here’s what I could gather from the searing antipathy I feel when I watch the ads: it’s some dopey mobile game where you pull keys and open doors or floors and release stuff. You have to figure out the proper order. So you can drop a pile of lava onto some demon with a battle axe, or a pile of gold coins someone foolishly placed above a trap door. The commercial finds some Long Island-looking imbecile managing to fuck up simple three-stage puzzles, somehow deducing that a logical sequence would be to release water, and then release the lava into the water. Every time he loses he sounds like a Dobey Gillis extra: “Oh drats! I forgot about the orc (that took up a quarter of the screen. A phone screen, by the way)!” Hey buddy, fuck you.

I only bring this up because Master Wato has returned. One may think the purpose of this impertinent anecdote is to compare  Wato to that lamentably stupid birdbrain they show grimacing in the advertisement as he pounds away at his smartphone in impotent frustration. But that is not the case; that would be too simple.

The more appropriate comparison is that my feelings towards that numbskull in the ad are remarkably similar to the feelings stipulation recanter Hiroyoshi Tenzan has towards Wato. If it was base contempt, this would be easy analysis. But it goes much deeper than that. It’s a profound mistrust of Wato’s capabilities and complete disregard for Wato’s agency.

For instance, the return of Wato has also resulted in the return of the wonderfully awkward, painfully disjointed interplay between dishonorable lying fuckface Tenzan and Wato in the backstage comments. As shown in the clip below, Wato can adequately deliver a backstage promo. It might not be as linguistically sophisticated as Great-O-Khan, or replete with exquisite diction like Desperado, or the fluidity of Jay White, or the legitimate genius of Surefire Best on Interviews 2021 KENTA… but they are commendably adequate.

It’s when agreement defaulting prevaricator Tenzan shows up that things become dire, hilariously. Evidenced here:

We are now a full year into this arranged marriage, and these two have actually regressed in their on-screen chemistry. How is that possible?

And thus, there’s really nothing to say about this match. Wato is a geek, for sure, but at least he’s not an absolute loser like Yujiro. For those that skipped this endless, aeonian tour, here’s the recap:

  1. Tomohiro Ishii offered several backstage comments in which he called Yujiro a worthless loser
  2. Tomohiro Ishii defeated Yujiro in a singles match and confirmed that he is a worthless loser in his backstage comment
  3. Tomohiro Ishii’s Six-man team retains their titles against Yujiro’s team.
  4. Ishii took the rest of the tour off.

If anything, one wishes this match was just a singles contest between Wato and Ishimori, who has been spectacular all tour, all year, and since the return from hiatus. Wato does two things very well: his flippy finisher and all the kicks. As it turns out, Kota Ibushi trained him in both.

Ibushi couldn’t train Wato how to avoid Ishimori’s finisher, though, and that was how this one ended. Ishimori has grown increasingly peremptory in backstage comments recently, aware that he is stuck with the “Keep Warm” button on, having to endure this draconian scheduling until Despy is done with the R3K gravure boys. He once again looked sharp here. His challenge of Despy will be worth the wait. **3/4

United Empire (Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, and Aaron Henare) def. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI, Naito, and SANADA)

This was one match unaffected by the re-scheduling, on paper. In actuality, this match suffered greatly. Without a proper semi-main event, Wrestling Dontaku 2021 Night 2 became a one-match show, and this amplified a historically disillusioning element of these two-night cards: the insipid, uninspiring afterword matches, the odious multi-man tags that take place days, sometimes weeks after a program has organically ended.

The two feuds found in this six-man tag between LIJ and the United Empire were presumably culminated a week ago. And while it is possible that there are further plans for these feuds, that option is not conspicuously discernible right now. And so, we are left with the typical New Japan epilogue match. These codicils are only tolerable when the top of the card is strong. This one ended up having a main event strong enough to make up for ten lost semi-main events, but in real-time, this one was a drag. Even outside of the live context, it’s a drag.

Of course, the work was predictably admirable, with an equally predictable ending. BUSHI has taken so many Tours of the Islands on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku that he can probably give the tour himself at this point. Or maybe he can go on Bear Grylls’ “Let’s repel down this treacherous façade; that way you can’t escape when I ask you awkward questions about your childhood” talk show disguised as nature show. It does require some active suspension of disbelief when SANADA tags BUSHI in, as is the case in these multi-man tags when anyone dexterous and capable tags in someone like BUSHI (sucks).

The highlights of the match, as has been the case all tour, were the interactions between Naito and O-Khan. There was a great shot from behind O-Khan as Naito walked down the entrance path, followed by some remarkably stubborn posturing, even by wrestling standards. Naito turns his back to O-Khan and mimics O-Khan’s pre-match pose; O-Khan does not acknowledge Naito’s existence for even an instant.

But Naito’s annoying, vexing habits all serve a purpose, which was exhibited fully here as Naito spent a large portion of the match working underneath and eating a lot of offense. In fact, the odd thing about this match was the two most relevant people in the match, Naito and Cobb (as Ibushi’s post-title loss opponent), spent a lot of the match feeding and selling. As has been the case all tour, BUSHI put up a robust fight against Cobb, which I theorize is an attempt to allow BUSHI to retain a little extra integrity, being one of roughly 6.5 active, credible Juniors.

This one ended emphatically: Cobb debuted his Cobbigoye, and then drilled BUSHI with a Tour of the Islands that drew an audible response from the crowd (the first of many on this night). Afterward, O-Khan and Naito had yet another cavalier vs. condescension conversation, and it’s pretty obvious how amusing Naito finds the kid. ***1/4

Ryusuke Taguchi, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Toru Yano def. BULLET CLUB (Dick Togo, Jay White and EVIL)

This ended up being the semi-main event. Alongside Kenny Omega vs. Tomohiro Ishii, or Will Ospreay vs KUSHIDA in the history books. If that’s the history New Japan is offering, I think I’d actively choose to read A World Lit Only By Fire again instead.

When Jay White went on brief hiatus after Wrestle Kingdom, the methods by which White and New Japan handled and publicized that hiatus fomented fervent intrigue in the potential of White’s 2021. That rapidly transformed into bewildered antipathy, as White has seemingly spun his wheels, downgrading title belts and displaying little evidence of a BULLET CLUB schism.

In several reviews, I advocated patience on this front, as the initial pairings between White and EVIL showed subtle hints of wariness intermingled with gleeful callousness to their opponents. Three months later, they have tagged in 15 matches together but only one of them was a straight-up EVIL-White tag team. My general thesis, back in February: White and EVIL have had sparse interactions, so it would be better to establish a relationship so that the rupture has more resonance.

That’s a hard theory to cling to after this match, in which the two of them barely engaged with each other, and when they did it was so anodyne that the delicately woven tension of G1 Climax 30 seems like something on a wax cylinder in a fucking museum, it’s so removed from where we are now with these two.

The main event of Night 1 was divisive; I agree with Jeri’s 4-star rating, though I disagree with the many that effusively griped about the match length. I felt that the vulnerability shown by both men, especially Jay White, necessitated a prolonged contest. Certainly, the position that the bout was egregiously long is valid, but a shorter match would not have incited the impact felt when both guys willfully let go of firmly grasped leg holds and then fell back, incapable of standing.

Considering that both are opportunistically selfish bastards, I found that spot enthralling. It was a unique moment, one fermenting the nascent stages of the match, when each wrestler decided that they would work on both of their opponent’s legs.

I am now ready to tack on an extra quarter star, as White and Tanahashi sold their legs, both their legs, for this entire match, hobbling around and generally cursing the other one for administering such amoral limb brutality. Just a testament to how phenomenal and intrinsically gifted those two are.

Too bad it was surrounded by a match permeated with a lot of comedy drivel. I can’t really fault the match, or be too captious about it; this was the only comedic segment of the show, a harmless interregnum. If you find yourself with an intent stance on this, you might be too utilitarian for any kind of wrestling.

My favorite part of any of these matches is when Takagi gets his opponent draped on the bottom rope, slides to the floor, an attempts to do a leaping grundle strike against them. Whenever he slides down and sizes them up, I think, “Well, an Olympic high jumper couldn’t make this leap, I don’t think I like this soft-bellied pervert’s chances.” **3/4

IWGP World Heavyweight Championship
Will Ospreay (C) def. Shingo Takagi

How much is worth sacrificing for a match of this order of magnitude?

Many things can be sacrificed for great matches… cards, booking, schedules, pushes, etc.

How about a New Japan Cup Final?

Sacrifice #1: The New Japan Cup Final

Because it was the New Japan Cup Final, that peculiar match with the curiously asymmetrical imbalance of offense, with Will Ospreay increasingly thwarting Shingo’s momentum and landing significantly more spectacular moves, that allowed this match to attain such preternatural crescendos. It was the abnormalities of that match that cultivated the florets of this one. It was the suggestions of that match, the extinguished implications of an ascendant Shingo, itself a subversion of the Super Juniors Final, that adumbrated the transcendent final act of this (pandemic conditions) masterpiece.

Ospreay was audacious and ebullient in the Cup Final, a fastuous virtuoso simply too proficient, too malleable, too brazen, too zealously self-confident… the combination of these elements were too much for Shingo, but too much for the good of the match, as well. The New Japan Cup Final did not the transcendent denouement that the Super Juniors match presented and this match magnified. Simply put, Will had caught up to Shino in the power game, and his relentless offense wore Shingo down.

The ending was not a fait accompli, but when Shingo went stone-faced, the notion of a mind-boggling closing stretch was shut down with a series of spinning elbows and a Stormbreaker. . All the things Shingo had been promising, back to the Super Junior Final, were left unfulfilled. Of course, now the reason why is self-evident.

Sacrifice # 2: The Home Base

Certainly, there were layers upon layers of hindrances to overcome for this to work. For one, this is Wrestling Dontaku. This event usually offers excellent main events (on Night 2, at least), but, as John Carroll pointed out this week’s Wrestling Omakase, Wrestling Dontaku is always one of the dead periods of the year for the company. Let alone in pandemic conditions. Let alone with an entrance that looks like ECW on TNN from Villa Park. Or a match that took place a mere six weeks ago, one that had a definitive ending and underwhelming structure.

But, in modern tradition, Wrestling Dontaku takes place in Fukuoka, in this Convention Center, and the novelty of that alone was worth something. In fact, it was worth more than was expected. There was a fervid buzz around the rapidity with which Night 2 sold out: 2,367 was the reported number. Night 1, which received far less attention regarding sales? 2,211.

The saturation of shows run in the last few weeks, the last few months, since the world inherited a leviathan that obliterated normalcy, sedated us with its soporific tedium. If this match was scheduled for Tokyo, this match might not have happened. If this match was scheduled in Tokyo even without a State of Emergency, perhaps substantially fewer attend, after all this scorched Earth scheduling. Unintentional or not, New Japan cultivated a dispassionate sentiment, and this match could not have taken place there.

Sacrifice #3: Static History

History does not progress, it expands, and it is those that make the connections between points that strengthen and undergird it.

The intricate nature of this match is astounding. Take, for instance, the prominent spot of the match: Shingo delivering a thunderous Made in Japan off the apron and through two tables. Obviously, that spot alludes to the New Japan Cup Final, in which Shingo initially tried to accomplish that very feat (itself a reference to his “ON THE FLOOR” attempt in the Super Juniors Final), but eventually Ospreay executed a devastating 450 splash from the top rope onto Shingo, prone on the table. More subtly, it is also a reference to Night 1 of this tour, several lifetimes ago, when Shingo won the elimination rules main event by hiptossing Will off the apron to the floor. One of them, perhaps both of them, were too zealous; Will ended up landing right on his goddamn tailbone.

By the way, Will became vulnerable to a Made in Japan off the apron because Shingo pushed him off-balance as Will went for an Oscutter. Will hit his face on the turnbuckle and instantly grabbed his nose. You may recall, Will spent the entire New Japan Cup complaining about a broken nose. You may also recall, that apron Oscutter was a move he did hit at the Super Junior FinalAfter the Table Made in Japan, Shingo could barely capitalize because Will could not remain upright… just like Shingo after he went through the table in their last match.  These sinews, these microscopic fibers, thread together to make STARS, dammit.

A difference: Ospreay was unable to back body drop Shingo onto the guardrail. That was the move that halted Shingo’s initial torrent of offense in the NJC Final and provided the blueprint for Ospreay in the match: target the back. This time, Shingo squirmed out, got a headlock takeover, and then hit a drop toe hold to send Will into the fence this time. It happened quickly and they did not exploit the moment. The only indication of the crucial nature of this spot was how quickly Ospreay sprinted over to Shingo when he realized the moment was propitious for him to replicate that spot from the Cup Final.

Here’s another: the roll-through of the Pumping Bomber, a spot they did in the Super Juniors Final and replicated for the Cup Final. This sequence has gone through a few mutations since then. I documented one in step-by-step detail on the April 26 show, in which Shingo countered the counter with another Pumping Bomber. In this case, things started with Will avoiding the sliding lariat. Eventually, they ran through the sequence described above, but Will anticipated the second intention Pumping Bomber, so he hit the ropes for the handspring spinning flippy kick thing he does. He started pumping his fists, too self-impressed to realize he had returned to a perfect position to take a sliding lariat, and he fucking ate one until his plate was clean here.

Sacrifice #4: God

It is the combination and amalgamation of speed plus impact. Past a certain point, the crowd was audibly reacting to multiple things in the match. The very idea of Ospreay administering a Hidden Blade invited a distinct murmur. The repugnant thud of Shingo’s short lariats bludgeoning Ospreay’s chest drew groans. The replay of the table spot evoked gasps.

Perhaps that is what separates this 40+ minute Homeric journey to the previous night’s. The share a critical similarity they both sold the accumulation of punishment as literally debilitating. With Jay White vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, both men assaulted the legs, plural, of the other until neither could stand. In this one, they just beat the fuck out of each other. That took care of the ambulation equally well.

But the impact of Shingo and Ospreay’s arsenal…. the barbarous strikes and truculent moves, amplified by an insane velocity, that is the difference. It’s funny that both of these men currently have residual animus with Kota Ibushi, the human zenith of impact + speed in wrestling. This match paid homage to him with emulation, another testament to the brilliance of these two.

Akin to the New Japan Cup, and in confluence with the burnout associated with Korakuen, and the disquiet of the belt unification and static history, Kota Ibushi was a sacrifice to this match. He was the engine for the latter two, scorned and excoriated for two concepts beyond his control. The animus towards Ospreay’s unfathomably stupidity is enough to sublimate; he could not have absorbed the burden of unifying these titles. Shingo does not have the standing nor position that Ibushi has refined; he could not have absorbed this burden, either.

And yet, I suggest that there was a subtle enhancement to this match by the concept that it was a new belt on the line. Despite the age of one of the competitors, this match symbolized another step towards a new era of New Japan, and the belt in a corporeal token of that notion.

Sacrifice #5: Restraint

Admittedly, this one is cheating a bit; these two fuckers have been defined, for a generation in Shingo’s case, by a lack of restraint. But, like some Nietzschean Eternal Recurrence, we find ourselves returning to sacrifice #1. The New Japan Cup Final had exquisite sequences, but nothing on the level of the BOSJ Final. Honestly, they had more captivating, breakneck aced sequences on some of the Road To shows. I wondered whether they might, in fact, be wasting such grandiose segments on such meaningless shows.

But then, this affirmation of indulgence happened:

  1. Attempted Last of the Dragon by Shingo
  2. Poison Rana by Ospreay
  3. Poison Rana by Shingo
  4. Hidden Blade by Ospreay
  5. Death selling

In the review I linked above, a sequence went nearly 20 steps, and yet in these four they exhibited majestically self-gratifying palatial superficiality that, when flawlessly timed, takes a match straight to apotheosization.

There were fixed points scattered throughout the match, each one a catalyst for augmenting the emotional density of the match and the sanguinary magnificence of the action. The key element was escalation.

In the last few moments, the proceedings had devolved into slaps and elbows, save for two key elements. Shingo hit a GTR (Goto), which was an excellent set-up for Ospreay to hit a running thrust knee (Ibushi, Omega) and a Rainmaker (Okada). The night before this match, Ospreay vowed to do “some research on an old enemy of mine” to nullify Shingo’s strengths. It took over 40 minutes for the revelation, and when that Rainmaker hit, it allowed Ospreay to draw upon the past to send a message to the future.

Hindsight, foresight, and anticipation. These are the attributes that ameliorate this nonsense and conduct it to attain supremacy. Despite all the detriments around this match, the sacrifices paid off. *****

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are any number of reasons to call a card a “one-match show,” and this one fits just about every type. It had one relevant match, and that match was so demonstrably better than everything else on the card, it is like two entirely different mediums. There could not be a wider discrepancy between one match on a card that is inarguably essential viewing and the rest of the card, which not only can be avoided, but should be actively ignored.