Editor's note: Anna Bauert attended NJPW's Perth show Monday as a member of the media on behalf of Fightful.com. You'll see a collection of videos, interviews, reviews, photos and more that she did while on assignment on the site throughout the week.
JUICE ROBINSON & TOA HENARE VS THE YOUNG BUCKS (Matt & Nick Jackson)
Juice Robinson is someone I’d never really gotten into before, but after watching him live, I have seen the light. Robinson, swapped out from his usual Care Bear-looking trunks to nice velvety-looking ones (I suspect he shares a gear designer with EVIL), looked like he was having the time of his life. This was the first time I’ve seen Toa Henare, a young lion from New Zealand, and I can pretty confidently say this won’t be the last. The dude is crazy in the best, most entertaining way. Thanks to Henare, any unknowing parents quickly realized this wasn’t your stock-standard WWE show when Henare yelled over to Robinson, “Tag me in, ...-sucker!” And the missing word ain’t “lollipop”.
It was refreshing.
Click to reveal the magic word
As for The Young Bucks, well, they’re the g-d- Young Bucks, son. These legends, as I learned before the show, were first on the card so they could catch the red-eye to Brisbane to then jump on a plane to LAX so they could spend 18 hrs with their families before heading back to Japan. I suspect they were already exhausted, but hats off to them for still putting on a highly entertaining match. These guys know how to draw in a crowd and then some. A lot of comedy, a lot of fan favourite spots. And the Bucks selling Henare’s crazy was excellent.
The crowd was pretty even on both sides; The Bucks had everyone from the go, but Robinson & Henare very quickly won them over. All in all, I think the majority of people were just having a great time enjoying the antics of both sides. Matt Jackson pinned Henare for the win after the brothers delivered a sweet Meltzer Driver for the finish.
ELLIOT SEXTON VS LANCE ARCHER
Elliot Sexton deserved more love. The crowd quickly jumped on his side after a proper introduction to Lance Archer, but that man deserved a welcome fit for a king. Or a Trophy wife. ...Life. Trophy Life. Watch now on YouTube.
Archer decided against a formal entrance and entered the arena through the crowd, spraying everyone with water. Out of his mouth. And at one point, right into my right eye.
After a nice little back and forth about Sexton’s mother (side note: is it possible to get an article demonetized? Asking for a friend), “Shit Jack Sparrow”, as dubbed by the crowd, was quick to draw blood from Sexton with thunderous chops. The match was highly entertaining, with Sexton telling his best underdog story against a man who, well, at one point a fan in the crowd actually yelled, “Kill him! Literally, kill him!”. You get the picture.
In good Aussie spirit, the crowd were on point with their chants all night, including a Sean Waltman one to which Archer proceeded to crotch-chop the audience before remarking, “He’s a little f---er anyway”.
Giant behemoth Sexton threatened to go for a flippy off the top rope, only to be suplexed off the middle by Archer. Archer soon won with the pin after a low-blow and a Blackout to finish.
YUJI NAGATA & MAREKO VS G.O.D. (The Guerillas of Destiny – Tama Tonga & Tama Loa)
You know in the latest episode of Being the Elite how a big fight breaks out, and we see Tama just sitting in his shades, chilling in the background? That wasn’t acting. That wasn’t shtick. G.O.D. is just that cool. At one point, someone yelled from the crowd “Roman Reigns wishes he was Tama Tonga”, and I’d believe it. Even when Mareko wouldn’t budge an inch each time Tama attempted a shoulder block, Tama walked it off like the OG Arthur Fonzarelli.
This was apparently Mareko’s first NJPW match, having come up through Fale’s dojo in New Zealand. He did a great job. There was one missed chop by ringside, but Tama Loa worked it into an entertaining spot and Mareko quickly recovered, so no love lost. Also, being paired with Yuji Nagata for your first big match can help a lot.
Nagata received a massive pop as soon as he was tagged in. He was so over that despite cheering for G.O.D. the majority of the match, the crowd showered Tama with boos as soon as he laid a finger on Nagata.
G.O.D. won with a Stun Gun by Tama Tonga, pinning Mareko for the win.
TMDK (Damian Slater, Jonah Rock, Slex, & Marcius Pitt) VS BULLET CLUB (Chase Owens, Gino Gambino, Fale, & Kenny Omega)
So... that Kenny Omega.
Yep yep yep...
Big TMDK chants from the Perth boys’ home crowd, which were eventually quietened by Omega so he could attempt to start his own, more ‘fun’ chant of “Chase on the Case!”.
Surprisingly, it didn’t quite get over.
It was a fun match with lots of carnage and bodies strewn all over the place. Damian Slater (formerly of the Cruiserweight Class) faced off against Gino Gambino under the premise he was now rocking a heavyweight build at 206lbs. There was also a great spot between Jonah Rock and Fale which ended with the latter being clotheslined over the top rope.
Omega looked like he was having a blast, jumping up and down on the apron and reacting to everything going on in the ring. Similarly (and not surprisingly) to the Bucks, Omega is excellent at drawing in and playing with the crowd. He insisted on another moment of silence as he chopped a hole into Pitt’s chest, and his late reaction to Chase’s comeback to a troll’s remark was hilarious.
Chase Owens was the main player for the Bullet Club, but MVP of the match has to go to TMDK’s Marcius Pitt. Pitt was in the ring for a good portion of the match, being thrown around like a crash-test dummy. He had the crap beaten out of him—a strut & cut, followed by a parade of chops from Owens, he was sat on by Fale, and endured multiple Wishbones from various BC members. The assault aside, Pitt also managed to hold and show his own, proving he, like the other members of TMDK, can not only hang with the Bullet Club but deserve to be in the company of NJPW.
Omega hit a One-Winged Angel on Slex before pinning him for the win. Chase Owens closed the set by crotch-chopping Jonah Rock as he left ringside.
DAVIS STORM VS MINORU SUZUKI
Admittedly, I watched this match a bit differently to the others. Davis Storm is known as ‘the Godfather of EPW’ – a pro wrestling company here in Perth which I proudly work for. I don’t know Storm very well, but I do know how hard he has worked to get this kind of an opportunity. To see him up there facing Hard As F--- Minoru Suzuki (his official title), was a moment of awe and a moment of pride. As for Minoru Suzuki... well, I ran into him briefly backstage and all of a sudden I didn’t know what to do with my hands or remember how to breathe. I equally love and am frightened of him. It was quite the thrill.
The match itself was some good ol’ fashioned wrasslin’. Strong mat-based grappling which soon turned into a chop battle that I would only wish on my worst enemies. ‘Manically laughing’ is the best way to describe the absolute joy and pleasure that plastered Suzuki’s face as Storm winced in pain.
Storm came back with some stiff offense, almost pinning Suzuki off a freeze-frame quality horizontal dropkick. However, Suzuki quickly fought back, choking Storm before hitting him with his signature tribute Gotch-Style Piledriver for the win.
MICK MORETTI & KUSHIDA VS TOMOHIRO ISHII & ‘SWITCHBLADE’ JAY WHITE
Mick Moretti and Kushida are a weirdly great tag team.
Kushida stole my heart the second I realized his entire being was based on Marty McFly, and every time I’ve seen him in ring only confirms that. I was familiar with Mick Moretti before this match but had never seen him. The combination of his extravagant personality and solid skill makes it easy to understand why he was chosen for this tour.
Ishii is another hard-as-nails competitor, matching up with the newly returned Jay White. I’m a big fan of White, but seeing him live only further cemented the thought he might be better suited in a different role than ‘the Switchblade’. It’s like a good pair of jeans—you need the right fit to properly accentuate the goods.
...okay, bad analogy and I’m also getting sidetracked. This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks, and given the length of this review already from one night’s consideration, you’d be right to guess I could turn it into a final-year thesis if I kept going.
Kushida is a damn delight. After White attempted to start the match by getting the crowd to clap them on, Kushida quickly shut down the applause to start his own clap for them to follow. At one point, Kushida breakdanced on White before delivering a “You can’t see me”. Of course, the crowd instantly booed at any mention of John Cena, and that was only aggravated when White threw one back.
Moretti tagged in and called for Ishii, to chants of “You f---ed up!” starting around the arena. Moretti was quick to agree as Ishii stepped in, but apparently, the regret wasn’t intense enough to stop him from ‘boop-ing’ Ishii on the nose. This man is wonderful, crazy, and seemingly has a death wish.
Kushida almost won with a pin, but White eventually came in with the Blade Runner on Moretti to take the W for his team. Something interesting went down after the match with Kushida rolling back in the ring to face off against Ishii and White. To be continued?
ROBBIE EAGLES VS WILL OSPREAY VS CODY
Match of the Night.
Magic happened for several reasons in that ring. First up, the gift of a crowd split literally down the middle. In this three-minute pre-match clip, you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a dynamic Cody quickly capitalized on, and Ospreay’s delight could only add to the excellence. Eagles then decided to test out the crowd, and it only escalates from there.
Look, I’m not even going to go into the spots. The videos, as shitty a quality as they are, speak for themselves.
I will say this, though: I have seen Robbie Eagles live once before a few years ago, and he was impressive. Seeing Robbie Eagles NOW? Oh my god, how are more people not talking about him? Go. Now. YouTube this guy. Catch up so you can say, “oh yeah, I know all about Eagles, you numpty.” Don’t miss out. Don’t be that guy.
This was my first time seeing Will Ospreay live, and though I have seen him many times on video, I think my brain has only just been able to process the skill of this man. It is like time somehow manages to stop when he is in the air. He is unreal, and if this were another time and place, he would legitimately be an actual Aerial Assassin. And side note, he is also nice as hell. A shout out to both Ospreay and White for being so lovely when I handed them flyers to Progress x EPW. Initially confused, but very lovely.
As for Cody Rhodes... leaving the WWE was the best thing that could’ve happened for Cody, for independent wrestling, and for us the audience. I do not say that lightly. Cody has the charisma, the personality, the talent, and the brains to turn the pro wrestling scene into, once again, mainstream territory. Specifically, for ADULTS. The leaps he has taken since leaving Stardust behind is not something even the biggest of haters can ignore. And if they are, they’re living in ignorance. Yes. Yes, you are.
Ospreay hit the Oscutter on Eagles before Cody swooped in, threw Ospreay out of the ring, and covering Eagles for the pin. He won with the same methodology as hiding behind Fale in the BTE locker room fight: like a true champion.
EVIL & SANADA) VS ROCKY ROMERO & KAZUCHIKA OKADA
Again, an entertaining match, but unfortunately this was the one of the night that didn’t quite hit.
Don’t get me wrong, the guys were great. For starters, it’s Okada. Enough said. Romero played his part very well, including a very amusing sell a tie-up by Sanada. Sanada and EVIL did their thing, and they do it so well. By all means, this should’ve challenged the three-way for MOTN given the players involved.
So, here’s where things started to unravel. I’m not entirely sure what instigated Ref-Gate 2018, but I believe I caught two moments of exasperation in action.
Minor things and I’m still not sure EVIL & Sanada weren’t just selling the leg hold, but the accumulation of problems seemed to overwhelm the crowd. Unfortunately, that’s where the majority of their attention was focused. It got so bad that at one point a lone voice yelled from the audience, “Did your family die from a three-count?”. Hilarious, but very unfortunate.
To make things even stranger, while Sanada prevented Okada from entering the ring, EVIL pinned Romero for the win. No Rainmaker, no CHAOS return. Not even an LIJ post-match chase-out or a closing speech from Okada. I only realized when reviewing the footage back that at the end of the match, EVIL was holding his left eye as Sanada alerted the ref. NJPW later announced EVIL had suffered a fractured left orbital bone.
All in all, NJPW delivered and I can’t wait until they come back. So much so, I am actually considering changing my holiday plans just so I can catch a few shows in Japan. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but I hear love and passion can get a person far.
In summation: 10/10 would go again. 10/10 would recommend any pro wrestling fan currently dissatisfied with the main product to look in this direction. Don’t let a foreign language put you off (there are English options on the site & commentary). This is world-class standard, and this is the perfect time to jump onboard.