By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
New Japan Pro Wrestling 46th Anniversary Show
March 6 in Tokyo, Japan at Ota City General Gymnasium
Broadcast live on New Japan World
The English broadcast team was Kevin Kelly and Don Callis… A video package with a Japanese narrator opened the show and focussed on the history of the company for the anniversary event…
During the ring entrances, Kelly noted that the ring announcer told the crowd in Japanese that the Katsuya Kitamura vs. Manabu Nakanishi had been postponed due to Kitamura dealing with an injury…
1. Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Kushida, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Yuji Nagata, Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi, and Ren Narita. Callis said it’s easy for veterans to scout the young lions because they are only allowed to do the same four or five moves. Late in the match, Kushida applied the Hoverboard Lock on Umino, who rolled into a pin for a two count, but eventually tapped out.
Jushin Thunder Liger, Tiger Mask, Kushida, Ryusuke Taguchi, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan defeated Yuji Nagata, Tomoyuki Oka, Shota Umino, Tetsuhiro Yagi, and Ren Narita.
Powell’s POV: No surprises here. The broadcast team discussing what the young wrestlers go through and are allowed to do during the matches was interesting. Kelly framed it well by saying that it’s possible that one of them was the next mega star like Kazuchika Okada. Callis went over the top by joking about how Nagata would abuse the young lions for losing and they would be bruised when they came out to ringside later in the show.
2. David Finlay, Juice Robinson, and Toa Henare vs. Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Hirooki Goto. Robinson had new gear and shades that made him look like the love child of Brutus Beefcake and Double J. Kelly spoke about the confidence building in Henare. Yano did his usual bit by removing a turnbuckle pad. He whipped Finlay into the metal barricade at ringside and then into the exposed corner early on. Later, Ishii no-sold a series of forearms by Henare, but then ate a lariat and rolled to ringside. Henare went up top and ended up diving onto Goto in the ring for a two count. A short time later, Goto performed the GTR on Henare and then pinned him…
Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano, and Hirooki Goto defeated David Finlay, Juice Robinson, and Toa Henare.
Powell’s POV: A good six-man tag match with the losing team getting in plenty of offense and looking good despite taking the loss. There were some cuts between the matches and Kelly noted that they had commercial breaks during the live broadcast.
3. “Roppongi 3K” Sho and Yoh (w/Rocky Romero) vs. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi in a three-way for the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles. Kelly said there was controversy that Desperado and Kanemaru deserved a straight up tag title match since they beat 3k recently. Kelly noted that Takahashi and Bushi also scored a recent non-televised win over the tag champions. Sho sold his ongoing back injury and struggled to reach the ropes when Kanemaru had him in a Boston crab. Takahashi performed an apron bomb on Desperado. Yoh performed a great flip dive onto Takahashi. A short time later, 3k went for their finisher, but it was blocked. Takahashi held the referee in the corner while Bushi sprayed mist into the face of Sho. However, Kanemaru returned the favor on Bushi and then Desperado pinned Sho.
El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Roppongi 3K and Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi to win the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles.
Powell’s POV: A good match, though even Kelly was thrown off by the rules of the match in terms of when the wrestlers had to tag and when they did not. It feels like they are playing hot potato with the IWGP Jr. Tag Titles by having the titles change hands three times already this year and four times in five months.
4. Yoshi-Hashi vs. Sanada. This was originally billed as a tag team match, but Kelly noted that the injury bug had bitten NJPW and Sanada’s partner Evil was out with a fractured orbital bone. Kelly also noted that Hashi and Sanada tried out at the NJPW Dojo on the same day. Hashi had his right shoulder taped. Sanada applied the Skull End early on at ringside and eventually released the hold and then rolled Hashi back inside the ring rather than go for a count-out win. After a slow stretch, Sanada performed a nice dropkick and then dove onto Hashi on the floor. Back in the ring, Sanada performed a nice springboard dropkick. The wrestlers fought for position in the ring. Sanada applied the Skull End, but Hashi rolled over and ended up performing a lung blower/Backstabber. Hashi went for a swanton, but Sanada put his knees up. Hashi then avoided a moonsault attempt by Sanada. Later, Sanada applied Skull End, but Hashi countered into an inside cradle for a good near fall. Sanada followed up with a lariat for another two count. Rinse and repeat with a sit-out powerbomb. Hashi applied a butterfly lock. Sanada teased passing out before coming to life and reaching the ropes. Sanada came back with Skull End. Once Hashi was worn down, Sanada released the hold and performed a moonsault for the win…
Sanada defeated Yoshi-Hashi.
Powell’s POV: A good match. It was slow and plodding at times early on, but those moments were typically followed by nice bursts of offense by Sanada and the action down the stretch was entertaining and suspenseful. Hashi still doesn’t do much for me from a personality standpoint and it started in this case with his ring entrance and how he showed all the enthusiasm of Jay Cutler in the fourth quarter of a blowout loss. On the flip side, Sanada is terrific and I enjoy him more as a singles wrestler than I do when he teams with Evil.
5. Tetsuya Naito vs. Taichi. Taichi is moving into the heavyweight division starting with this match. Kelly said the issue between the wrestlers started when Naito worked the main event of an independent show booked by Taichi and Taka Michinoku. Kelly said Naito beat Taichi in the main event and then had nothing good to say about the booking. Kelly noted that Michinoku was at ringside. Taichi attacked Naito and they ended up on the stage where Taichi performed a powerbomb. Taichi returned to the ring and struck a Naito pose while Naito struggled to get back to the ring and barely beat the 20 count.
Naito bounced back and ran Taichi into the ringside barricade a few times. Callis said it seemed like Naito was uncharacteristically losing his temper. Naito spat at Taichi in the ring while stomping him in the corner. Taichi came back and had a good run of offense including a Last Ride style powerbomb for a two count. Naito came back with a reverse huracanrana and picked up some near falls of his own. Taichi avoided Destino and then bumped the referee before kicking Naito below the belt. Taichi immediately went for a pin and the ref popped right up and counted the good near fall.
Taichi grabbed the microphone stand he used as part of his entrance while Michinoku distracted the referee. Naito ducked the mic stand and ended up with it. The referee scolded him even though he hadn’t used it. Naito threw the referee down. Taichi caught Naito with a kick, but then Naito caught him with a low blow and then broke the clip off the mic stand while slamming it over the head of Taichi. Naito followed up with Destino and scored the pin. Kelly said people expected the match to be a five minute route, but Taichi proved he could hang despite taking the loss…
Tetsuya Naito defeated Taichi.
After the match, Michinoku took the mic and spoke in Japanese to Naito about facing Zack Sabre Jr. Michinoku said something about Naito tapping out. Naito smirked at him and headed backstage…
Powell’s POV: A good match. Kelly framed Naito well during the entrances by saying that he has a love/hate relationship with the office. They hate when they put a mic in his hand because he says what’s on his mind, but he brings in so much money that it’s hard to argue with him. Kelly noted that Naito was critical of the New Japan Cup having too many wrestlers and asked when the last time was that some of the entrants actually won a match. Hilarious. It was weird to hear the broadcast team talk about Taichi and Michinoku booking the independent show with Callis endorsing the idea of promoters putting themselves over in the main event while Kelly said in this case Taichi did not take that approach. Even so, they helped tell the story of the feud and this turned out to be an entertaining match.
A video aired with Rey Mysterio Jr. hyping his match against Jushin Thunder Liger for the March 25 event in Long Beach, California. After the video, Kelly noted the reports of Mysterio potentially suffering a biceps injury at an independent event. He said they didn’t know any more than fans do at this point…
6. Minoru Suzuki vs. Togi Makabe for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. The wrestlers traded blows and jawed at one another early. Makabe threw a forearm as Suzuki was talking and Suzuki sold it by falling to the mat. They went to ringside where Makabe ran Suzuki into the barricade. Suzuki came back and wrapped Makabe’s leg around the post. Suzuki grabbed a chair. Referee Red Shoes tried to pull the chair away, but Suzuki flung him down in the process and then struck Makabe with the chair. Suzuki continued to target the knee back inside the ring. Makabe slammed his hand on the mat while in a submission hold, but he then reached and grabbed the rope to break it.
Suzuki taunted Makabe with light kicks to the head. He also laughed when Makabe kicked him in the gut. Makabe followed up with a powerslam. Makabe performed a Northern Lights suplex into a bridge for a two count. They ended up trading shots in the middle of the ring with Suzuki laughing at Makage and then blasting him with a forearm. Makabe got up and threw one of his own, which made Suzuki smile before knocking him down again. Suzuki continued to throw forearms and then put his foot on the fallen Makabe while playing to the crowd. Makabe came back with a Death Valley Driver.
Later, Makabe tried to perform a German suplex off the ropes. Suzuki held onto the ropes. Makabe slammed Suzuki’s head into the ring post and then performed the move. Makabe tried to follow up with the King Kong kneedrop, but Suzuki moved. Kelly noted Makabe landed on the knee that Suzuki targeted throughout the match. Suzuki applied a heel hook again. Makabe reached the ropes again. They traded shots in the ring and Suzuki got the better of it. Makabe blocked Suzuki’s attempt to apply the leg lock again. Makabe performed a German suplex for a two count. Suzuki kicked free of a Dragon suplex attempt, then Makabe hit a lariat for a two count. Makabe ran the ropes and Suzuki followed and crushed Makabe with a dropkick.
Suzuki went for the Gotch piledriver. Kelly said the only knock on Suzuki is that he falls in love with the move. Makabe stuffed it and hit a series of chops before Suzuki came back with several hard slaps to the face. Makabe landed a forearm, but Suzuki kicked his knee out. Suzuki ducked a punch and applied a sleeper, then went right back to the Gotch piledriver and scored the pin. Suzuki spoke on the mic in Japanese after the match, apparently about his faction earning more gold. He also roughed up one of the young boys at ringside…
Minoru Suzuki defeated Togi Makabe to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
Powell’s POV: A very good match. It was a pretty standard Suzuki style match, which is a good thing in that they always stand out as being different than everything else on the card. Callis does a phenomenal job of putting over Suzuki as a psychopath by acting downright petrified whenever he comes anywhere near their broadcast table.
7. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada vs. IWGP Jr. Hvt. Champion Will Ospreay in a non-title match. Kelly noted that Ospreay was introduced to NJPW in a video two years ago to the day. Gedo was on Japanese commentary for the match. The wrestlers shook hands prior to the match and Ospreay bowed while doing so. Callis claimed early on that Okada was upset that Gedo was not in his corner for the match.
Later, Ospreay hit a Robinson special and set up for his finisher, but Okada applied a Cobra Clutch while targeting the injured neck of Ospreay. He followed up shortly thereafter with a neckbreaker onto his knee. Okada performed a cool diving uppercut and then performed a half hearted cover while Kelly said they believed he wanted the match to continue. Ospreay fired back with a series of strikes and then ran into Okada’s great dropkick. Okada performed a top rope elbow drop and then signaled for the Rainmaker. Ospreay elbowed his way free and Okada knocked him down with a few forearms.
Okada toyed with Ospreay by throwing some soft kicks and then Ospreay fired up and exchanged forearms. Ospreay performed a Spanish Fly for a near fall. Ospreay threw a Rainmaker Clothesline for a good near fall. Ospreay went up top and performed an Implosion 450 for another good near fall. Ospreay blasted Okada with an elbow to the back of the head and went for the OsCutter, but Okada caught him and performed a Tombstone piledriver. Okada went for the Rainmaker, but Ospreay countered into a powerbomb for a great near fall. Ospreay went for the OsCutter again, but was caught with a dropkick. Okada performed a bridging German suplex for a two count.
Okada performed back to back clotheslines and then picked up Ospreay for the Rainmaker. Ospreay avoided it and went for the OsCutter, but Okada caught him again and performed a spinning Tombstone. Okada picked up Ospreay and performed the Rainmaker clothesline and covered him for the 1-2-3. Callis called it a fascinating matchup, but he and Kelly agreed that it was a rather dominating performance by Okada…
Kazuchika Okada defeated Will Ospreay in a champion vs. champion match.
After the match, Okada looked down at Ospreay and motioned for the crowd, which eventually chanted for Ospreay, who then pulled himself to his feet. Okada offered a handshake. Ospreay hugged Okada instead. Kelly spoke about the dominance of Okada and said he doesn’t know who can beat him, though he conceded that man will eventually come along. Okada spoke to the crowd in Japanese and did a Gedo impression for some laughs. Okada played to the crowd while Kelly spoke about how Okada knows that the winner of the New Japan Cup tournament will be coming for him.
Kelly noted that Callis was leaving Japan and coming back. Callis cracked that he’s on the Young Bucks schedule. Kelly said he would be auditioning color commentators. Callis wished him luck and said that’s like putting ketchup on a filet mignon. Okada was shown celebrating his win with Gedo at the broadcast table. Kelly said Callis would return for the finals of the New Japan Cup and they signed off for the English feed of the broadcast…
Powell’s POV: A good main event. Okada was portrayed as being superior, but Ospreay had some excellent hope spots and near falls. The broadcast team did a good job of framing it in a way that made it clear that there was no shame in Ospreay losing to the dominant heavyweight champion. Still, I was hoping that Ospreay would be made to look a little stronger than he did as it felt like Okada was toying with him for so much of the match. Overall, this was a good show that peaked nicely with the last two matches, and really the last four matches of the card were very entertaining.
The next NJPW show will take place on Friday and it will have English commentary, though I’m not sure who will team with Kelly since Callis will be absent. There will not be English commentary for the shows held between March 10-14, but it will return for the other six events in March beginning with the March 16 show.
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The Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features Kenny Herzog discussing his journalism career, his new Outside Interference podcast, doing a feature story on CM Punk, pro wrestling in the pandemic, WWE talk on Retribution, The Hurt Business, Roman Reigns as a heel, and much more...