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NJPW Road To Sakura Genesis 2018 review: New staffer Anish Vishwakoti reviews the event headlined by Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi-Hashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi

By Anish Vishwakoti, Prowrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Road To Sakura Genesis 2018”
March 30, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall
Broadcast live on New Japan World

Anish’s Take: My name is Anish Vishwakoti, I am a student at the University of California Los Angeles and have been a fan and admirer of professional wrestling for as long as I can remember. I started watching New Japan Pro Wrestling sporadically in 2011 after CM Punk threatened to take the WWE Title to NJPW in his infamous pipe bomb promo, and I really started getting into NJPW around 2015 after watching Wrestle Kingdom 9 and deciding that I need to follow this full time. I have since learned Japanese as a result of wanting to understand NJPW better and that certainly has been the case. I have previously written about professional wrestling for Sportskeeda, and am currently an on-air broadcaster for UCLA Radio covering sports, as well as sports entertainment.

1. Ren Narita vs. Yagi Tetsuhiro. They started with a grappling exchange allowing both wrestlers to show their technique. While this was happening, the commentators talked about the LA Dojo, exploring the idea that the next generation of young lions could come out of there. Neither of the two were really playing up either a face or heel character, which was evident in their chop exchange later in the match as they both aimed to get over their aggression and their heart. Tetsuhiro took control of the latter half of the match, catching Narita in a boston crab. Narita barely escaped, and just as he caught Tetsuhiro in a crab of his own, the bell rang for a time limit draw. This allowed both lions to look like they gave their all, and set up for a rematch down the road…

Ren Narita and Yagi Tetsuhiro battled to a 15-minute time limit draw.

Anish’s Take: A very technical young lion match. Narita and Tetsuhiro both built this match from the ground up. A solid way to start the show. It didn’t hurt at all that there wasn’t a definitive finish as both talents looked quite strong.

2. Yuji Nagata vs. Shota Umino. Because Nagata is a veteran, and Umino is just a young lion, the commentators kept emphasizing that Nagata is the huge favorite in the match. This allowed Umino to seem impressive with any offense that he got in. Umino started aggressively, chopping Nagata and hitting with dropkicks, although Nagata regained control after every exchange. Both Nagata and Umino no-sold moves at times to get over their resiliency. Nagata quickly locked in the Nagata Lock II and tapped out Umino…

Yuji Nagata defeated Shota Umino via submission.

Anish’s Take: Nagata stayed a credible legend, and Umino got the pat on the back from Nagata, which is the best he could have hoped for. Nothing much to say here as the match was so short.

3. Ryusuke Taguchi, Michael Elgin, and Togi Makabe vs. Tomoyuki Oka, Manabu Nakanishi, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. Taguchi and Nakanishi started off, Taguchi feigned an injury to get a close small package 2 count, allowing the commentators to emphasize his cunning. Oka, Nakanishi and Tenzan took control quickly, and got heat on Taguchi. Later, Taguchi made the hot tag to Makabe, who cleared house for a while. Tenzan hit him with a Northern Lights Suplex and made the tag to Oka as Makabe tagged in Elgin. The usual 6-man antics ensued as everyone piled into the ring and back out again. Oka got some fire, he even hit Elgin with a belly to belly making him look strong. In the end, Elgin hit an Elgin bomb to get the pinfall victory…

Rysuke Taguchi, Michael Elgin, and Togi Makabe defeated Tomoyuki Oka, Manabu Nakanishi, and Hiroyoshi Tenzan.

Anish’s Take: Essentially a primer match for Taguchi, Elgin, and Makabe, who will be challenging for the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles on Sunday. A very standard six-man tag, that accomplished it’s goals in the simplest way. At the end of the match, Makabe and Tenzan had to be pulled apart, furthering their longstanding rivalry.

4. Toa Henare, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson vs. “CHAOS” Jay White, Hirooki Goto, and Tomohiro Ishii. Finlay and White started the match off with a very fast paced exchange. Finlay tagged Henare, but Henare and White never got the chance to really get going, as Goto and Ishii stormed the ring and pulled everyone to the floor very quickly. Once again, New Japan seemed to be trying to get Henare over in this match and he played his warrior savage gimmick very well. He looked eager and vicious even after taking a lot of offense. He made the tag to Robinson, who is extremely over here. Robinson and Goto went at it for a short while before everyone stormed the ring again. The match was left up to Henare and Ishii. Henare hit a solid spear before being clotheslined and hit with a brainbuster by Ishii for the win…

Jay White, Hiroki Goto, and Tomohiro Ishii defeated Toa Henare, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson.

David Finlay attacked Jay White after the match, although White managed to fend him off and shout into the camera “You’re not getting this, ever!”…

Anish’s Take: A standard, entertaining New Japan six-man tag match. Nothing to complain about here, although nothing extraordinary either. The post-match attack by Finlay picks up where he left off when he told White he wanted a title match.

5. Tiger Mask, KUSHIDA, and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Roppongi 3K and Toru Yano. The match started with everyone tagging in and out quickly, allowing everyone to get their stuff in. Sho and Yoh especially looked in sync as a tag team, a lot of this match was about getting them over for their triple threat tag team match tomorrow. Tanahashi got the hot tag while Sho and Yoh were dominating. He came in and took them both down, really showcasing how talented the ace is. The action then shifted to an encounter between Yano and Tiger Mask. Everyone piled into the ring, and in the chaos, Yano hit both Tanahashi and Tiger Mask with low blows. He then rolled up Tiger Mask for the win…

Roppongi 3K and Toru Yano defeated Tiger Mask, KUSHIDA, and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

Anish’s Take: A high flying, and fast paced six-man tag. While it does get tiring on these sorts of shows to have so many tag matches, New Japan definitely tries to vary the style from match to match. It’s this sort of booking that allows Yano to remain a credible part of the New Japan machine. A very solid match that put the shine on everyone, with the exception of KUSHIDA, who had very little in-ring time.

6. “Los Ingobernables de Japon” BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Tetsuya Naito, and EVIL vs. “Suzuki-gun” El Desperado, Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr, Lance Archer, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Takahashi started, but tagged in EVIL very quickly for the big pop from the crowd. LIJ tagged each other in and out rapidly for a while before Suzuki stormed the ring and took out Naito. A chaotic war broke out and Suzuki wailed on Naito with a chair. Suzuki then threw Naito back into the ring where Davey Boy Smith took control of the match. The rest of Suzuki Gun wavered between attacking Naito from the outside and keeping LIJ at bay.

Smith kept Naito under his heel for a while and then tossed him to the corner where Suzuki Gun kept him using repeated tags. Minoru Suzuki himself then entered the ring and captured Naito in a heel hook submission. After countering a piledriver attempt, Naito hit Suzuki with a forearm and made the tag to SANADA, who then went at it toe to toe with Lance Archer. After this, BUSHI and Kanemaru got the tag and exchanged chops reversals and kicks. Naito and Suzuki were seen brawling down the stairs to the backstage area while EVIL got the tag. SANADA and EVIL cleared house and EVIL hit Kanemaru with his “Everything is EVIL” STO for the win…

Los Ingobernables de Japon defeated Suzuki Gun.

After the match, Archer grabbed a mic and stated that it was only a matter of time before they took EVIL & SANADA’s tag titles…

Anish’s Take: I definitely thought the crowd would be tired of these tag matches by now, but the fact that they weren’t is testament to how over LIJ is specifically. Being that this was EVIL’s return match from injury, he was extremely over with this crowd. His entrance garnered a huge amount of cheers, on par with what Naito received.

7. “CHAOS” Yoshi Hashi and Kazuchika Okada vs. “Suzuki Gun” Zack Sabre Jr. and Taichi. Before the match, Taka Michinoku got on the mic and asked if anyone can beat ZSJ. Michinoku claimed that no one who has ever stepped into the Ryogoku Hall has better submission maneuvers than ZSJ, and stated the names of all those who ZSJ beat to win the 2018 New Japan Cup. He hypes up that ZSJ’s submissions make everyone “Just tap out” and that he is the submission master.

Okada and Hashi came out with Gedo, who got on the mic as soon as he stepped into the ring.  Gedo asked the crowd who is the best, who is the IWGP Champion, and they mostly replied with cries of “Okada.” Gedo claims that Zack will never make Okada tap and that the rainmaker will keep ZSJ down. ZSJ and Okada started things off, with ZSJ getting the better of the champion in the opening technical exchange. Okada however did get some technical holds and submissions in, the commentators explained that Okada is no slouch when it comes to grappling.

Taichi and Hashi got into it for a little bit before the action spilled to the outside and ZSJ manipulated Okada’s joints and used the guard rail and concrete to gain an advantage. The match spilled back into the ring and all four athletes managed to get a hold of each other at some point. Eventually, ZSJ caught Hashi in a painful looking arm torturing submission. While Hashi tapped out, Taichi forced Okada to watch…

Zack Sabre Jr and Taichi defeated Kazuchika Okada and Yoshi Hashi.

Michinoku got on the mic again and stated that while Okada is a strong champion, ZSJ will make him “Just tap out.” ZSJ messed with Okada’s arm for a bit before going and grabbing the IWGP title belt, as Michinoku further hyped up that no one can beat ZSJ. The show closed with ZSJ holding up the IWGP Heavyweight Title belt and Michinoku proclaiming Zack Sabre Jr as the next champion…

Anish’s Take: This was a very grappling oriented tag match to close the show. The main event tag match had special meaning as it was a clear and entertaining build up for Zack Sabre Jr’s title challenge against Okada, which will headline Sunday’s event. The exchanges between the two are foreshadowing that they will put on a classic match that I can’t wait to see.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole show and want a couple of specific matches to watch, I would say definitely check out the main event tag match including Taka Michinoku and Gedo’s promos. This match was really unique and definitely got me in the mood to watch ZSJ and Okada go at it one on one. If you have a little more time then check out that 10-man tag match between LIJ & Suzuki Gun. EVIL’s return to the ring was great and the crowd definitely made this match fun to watch, especially as Minoru Suzuki and Tetsuya Naito are building to a one on one feud for the IWGP Intercontinental Title, this match highlights both of their characters in a great way.

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