New Japan Pro Wrestling invaded New York City for the second night of their tour this past Saturday. The evening’s battle ground is known as Basketball City and is really just a large abandoned warehouse. The attendance was announced at approximately 1,200 people. These shows might have been a once in a lifetime opportunity for fans to see their favorite NJPW stars live in person. Hopefully, the shows were perceived as being good enough so they will come back in the future.
I obtained a gold ticket which gave us fans the option to attend an exclusive meet and greet scheduled to start at 5:30 pm. Due to issues with the fire code, we were not allowed in until 6:30 p.m. I walked in the building and was greeted by a line of wrestlers from New Japan and three little girls holding donation boxes to support the relief efforts back home. To my right was the merchandise table full of NJPW merchandise. They accepted debit and credit card for payment, which I really appreciated, and is rare to see. The most popular item at the merchandise table was a NJPW Backpack with two DVD’s and a New Japan T-Shirt inside for $20.00. I was a little bummed to find out fans in New York were not treated to the commemorative ticket and DVD gift like the New Jersey and Philadelphia fans were. I spoke to a very nice gentleman from Jersey All Pro who hooked me up with the DVD gift that contains some great matches involving wrestlers on the tour.
The meet and greet had a great set up. The wrestlers came out in groups of four every half-hour to sign autographs and take pictures with the fans. The wrestlers who were part of the meet and greet were Kenny Omega, Jado and Gedo, Giant Bernard, Karl Anderson (who was letting fans hold his title belt while they took pictures) Rhino, Kazuchika Okada, Ryusuke Taguchi, Tetsuya Naito, Hideo Saito, Yujiro Takahashi, and Shinsuke Nakamura. I’m not sure if Nakamura meant to come out for the meet and greet as a bunch of fans just ran over to him as soon as they saw him.
In true indy fashion, the show started at 8:20 pm instead of the advertised 8:00 pm bell time. The ring used was an American style ring with a red canvas with black ropes instead of the ring they use in Japan with the long padding in each corner instead of turnbuckles. The wrestlers were announced in the ring as being in the blue corner or red corner with the appropriate color towel in each corner. Wrestlers had to the count of 20 to get back into the ring which is normal for matches in New Japan. The show opened with the singing of the national anthem. After dealing with some technical difficulties with his microphone, ring announcer Stephen DeAngelis introduced the first match of the evening.
Here is an outline of the evening’s matches:
- Kenny Omega defeated Josh Daniels with a roll-up into a bridge after hitting the electric chair. I have heard a lot about Omega and this was my first time seeing either of them in the ring. There were a lot of stiff chops in this one. The fans in my area were disappointed because the match did not involve New Japan talent, however, both men worked very hard to provide a great match.
Jushin “Thunder” Liger, Tiger Mask IV, & Dan Maff defeated Shinsuke Nakamura, Gedo & Jado when Tiger Mask delivered a jumping tombstone piledrived to Jado followed by a German Suplex: The place exploded the moment Liger’s entrance music started but Nakamura had his fans as well. This match had the fans into it from beginning to end. It was cool to see Liger and Gedo in the ring together for a little bit considering they were in the finals on the 1995 J-Cup. When I saw that Dan Maff was going to be in this match I thought “one of these things is not like the others”. In the end, I believe Maff held his own and added to this match in a positive way.
Giant Bernard & Karl Anderson defeated Satoshi Kojima & Hideo Saito in a non-title match when Bernard pinned Saito with the Bernard driver (sitdown tombstone): It was great to see Giant Bernard in the ring since his WWE run. Anderson was over with the fans who were shouting tons of “Bad Intentions” chants, but Kojima was over with the fans as well. I never knew he was such a great heel. He has great facials when he was backing away from Bernard during the hot tag.
Rhino & Davey Richards & Homicide defeated Togi Makabe & Ryusuke Taguchi & Kazuchika Okada when Rhino pinned Taguchi with the Gore. Richards was pretty over with the crowd. It was fun to see Okada in his element instead of TNA. This was a fun match with nothing to complain about.
The longest “brief” intermission of all time occurred as Jersey All Pro and New Japan were making money hand over fist with food and merchandise tables. Fans didn’t seem to mind since the lines to the port-a-potties were long at times. Fans were able to get Polaroids in the ring with Liger and Tiger Mask for $15.00 a pop. The line was insane for this, and understandably so. I have run shows with the same Polaroid set up and the promoter in me is curious to find out how much they made! Charlie Hass, Karl Anderson, and Giant Bernard were out on the floor, talking to fans. Hass appeared to be really approachable.
- Prince Devitt over Low-Ki with the Bloody Sunday to retain the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title: This was the match of the night. This match had bell-to-bell action and the fans loved every second. The dueling chants of “let’s go Low-Ki” and “Let’s go Devitt” were deafening. Ki and Devitt hugged and shook hands at the end as they were received by thunderous applause.
Yoru Yano defeated Yujiro Takahashi via pinfall, advancing to the finals of the Intercontinental title tournament. In my opinion, this was the weakest match on the card. It was nothing to complain about by any means. Yano is a punch, kick, and get heat type of worker as opposed to someone who is going to impress you with chain wrestling or innovative moves. Before his match he got on the mic and said “New York sucks” which the fans enjoyed considering who he is. The finish came when Yano slammed Takahashi after throwing him into a chair that was wedged in the corner.
MVP defeated Tetsuya Naito by submission after hitting the Playmaker and then put a submission move on Naito for the tap out. Yoru Yano came out after the match and laid out MVP with an umbrella to set up their match the next night to determine the first IWGP Intercontinental champion. It was interesting to watch MVP wrestle a long match instead of the 5 minute matches on Raw and Smackdown. He seems to have adapted well and will only get better. Naito took the microphone and yelled “I love New York” in order to gain some fan support.
Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Charlie Hass to retain the IWGP Heavyweight title with the High Fly Low (Frog Splash). Some of the people I spoke with felt this was better than Ki vs. Devitt. It was a great match no matter how you slice it. I was wondering if the fans would get into this match since we all knew Hass was not going to win the title. Hass got the majority of the offense which I found interesting. After some near falls, Hass used the Angle Slam followed by the Hass of Pain. Tanahashi sold it as if he might tap out which I thought was great. The sequence of moves going into the Hass of Pain along with the amount of offense he had made you think Hass might actually win the title and drop it the next night in Philly. This was solid booking all around.
It was refreshing to watch a show where wrestling really matters because it is what those of us who were in attendance find entertaining. Every match was fun to watch and the atmosphere in the building was electric. I had some minor complaints as well, but the good extremely outweighs the bad. I haven’t had this much fun at a wrestling show in a long time. It was truly an experience I will never forget.