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NJPW Sakura Genesis review: New staffer Anish Vishwakoti reviews the event featuring Kazuchika Okada vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, and Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship

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

New Japan Pro Wrestling “Sakura Genesis”
April 1, 2018 in Tokyo, Japan at Ryogoku Kokugikan
Broadcast live on New Japan World

The show kicked off with an opening promo package, running down all the matches on the card. It was quite well done, the promo had special graphics for each of the title matches making them feel special. One thing that was odd however, was that when talking about the six-man tag between LIJ and Suzuki-Gun, the promo only referenced Tetsuya Naito and Suzuki themselves, as well a referencing the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. This might have been confusing to English fans as without translation, it made it seem like there was a singles bout for the IWGP IC Title going on tonight. I don’t know whether Kevin Kelly and Don Callis explained this, as I was watching the Japanese feed…

1. “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson vs. Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi. Before this match even got underway, all four men kept the Bullet Club’s internal rivalry story going. After some tense staring, Owens and Takahashi threw up their hands for a too sweet. However, the Young Bucks extended their hands for a shake and all four men released the tension and shook hands, making it seem like a dignified contest between friends was about to take place rather than a civil war type feel.

However, right after this, Owens and Takahashi attacked both Bucks from behind, solidifying themselves as the heels in this tag match. The Young Bucks fought back quickly and took control of the action with a couple of dropkicks and a dive to the outside. After a few more synchronous tag team maneuvers, Owens and Takahashi managed to reverse the tides and take control of Nick Jackson, keeping him on their side of the ring.

Nick reversed a double team maneuver by himself and tried to mount a comeback. Nick hit a shining wizard knee in the corner and attempted a bulldog much in the style of CM Punk. I haven’t seen the Bucks do something like that often, so it was interesting to note.
Nick tagged Matt who gets control of the match. Right as the Bucks were looking to hit Owens with a Meltzer Driver, Takahashi pulled Matt off the apron. The Bucks bounced back and Matt caught Owens in a Sharpshooter, Nick hit him with a facecrusher while he was in the hold, and Owens tapped out…

The Young Bucks beat Chase Owens and Yujiro Takahashi.

Anish’s Take: This was a solid match between two sections of Bullet Club. It wasn’t spectacular or anything, and the Bucks didn’t hit all their usual crazy spots, however the storytelling was there. They managed to add another small chapter into the ongoing Bullet Club Saga. The Bucks shaking hands with Owens and Takahashi after the match also indicated that Bullet Club is not completely at war with itself.

2. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano vs. Takashi Iizuka and Taichi. Iizuka attacked Yano before the bell rang here, starting the match a little prematurely. This left Taichi to battle Ishii in the ring. Taichi attempted wear him down with kicks, and while Ishii sold the kicks, he almost immediately bounced back and hit a suplex. On the outside, Iizuka used a chair to wail on Yano. Kushida was on commentary here, although it isn’t clear why as this isn’t a junior match.

When the action spilled back into the ring, Suzuki-Gun were in control as Iizuka used a rope to choke Ishii with. They tagged in and out quickly keeping Ishii at bay for a while, however when Iizuka tried to bite Ishii’s arm, Ishii reverses It and bit the back of his head. Ishii tagged in Yano, who is by far the most over here, and Yano tried to use a turnbuckle pad as a weapon. It didn’t work. Iizuka tried biting Yano a lot here, and at a point brought out the iron glove to use on Yano’s throat. Yano ducked and tried to roll up Iizuka, but it was broken up. Iizuka tried again with Taichi’s help, but Ishii stormed the ring, took out Taichi and allowed Yano to hit a low blow and roll up Iizuka for the win…

Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano defeated Takashi Iizuka and Taichi.

Anish’s Take: Short and sweet tag match. Yano and Iizuka’s antics were very amusing all throughout, and Yano maintains credibility as a sneaky, and cheating wrestler by getting a cheap pinfall like that. It doesn’t hurt Suzuki-Gun’s credibility at all. It was still weird that KUSHIDA was on commentary, he was rather unnoticeable. He wasn’t on the card, so maybe NJPW just wanted to give him something to do.

3. Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa vs. Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, and Ryusuke Taguchi for the Never Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles. Loa and Elgin started this match off in the ring, with some relatively fast paced action. Elgin hit a dropkick early to take control of the match. However just as this happened, Bullet Club used their tactics to separate the members of the opposing team and halt their momentum. All of the members of this match started brawling on the outside, Fale even used a mic cord to choke Elgin.

When the action returned to the ring, Makabe and Fale started going at it. Both of them tired out pretty quickly allowing Taguchi to get the tag. Loa and Tonga tried double teaming him, but Taguchi reversed it and hit them both with a series of hip attacks. He also caught Tonga with a hip attack on the apron, reminiscent of Roman Reigns’ drive by kick.

Makabe and Elgin then started ramming Tonga with clotheslines and cross bodies in the corner as Taguchi directed traffic. Eventually, Fale and Loa took out Elgin and Makabe unbeknownst to Taguchi, and then threw Taguchi into the corner. While Bullet Club were going ham on Taguchi, he managed to reverse it and hit Fale and Loa with hip attacks, Makabe and Elgin then rushed the ring and hit hip attacks of their own. An overconfident Taguchi tried to hit Tonga with a springboard hip attack, however Tonga reversed it, hit a Gun Stun and got the pin.

Bad Luck Fale, Tama Tonga, and Tanga Loa defeated Michael Elgin, Togi Makabe, and Ryusuke Taguchi to retain the Never Openweight Six-Man Tag Titles.

Anish’s Take: This was a really fun six-man tag match. All six men made the stakes feel high, and while Bullet Club came out on top, the real star of this match was Taguchi. He had the majority of the in-ring time, and his chemistry with Tonga especially made this match fun to watch. Everyone seems credible as Bullet Club keep their titles and Taguchi seems like he was just one hip attack away from a championship.

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson vs. Jay White, Hirooki Goto, and Yoshi-Hashi. The match started hard and fast with White and Finlay laying into each other with forearms. After a really athletic exchange, Hashi and Goto stormed the ring and started brawling with Tanahashi and Juice on the outside. For a little while after, the CHAOS members tagged in and out, keeping Finlay from tagging anyone. Finlay got the tag to Robinson however and he came in extremely over, as the fans chanted “Juice” with every punch he threw.

Juice and Goto battle for a short while before they both go down. They managed to tag in Tanahashi and Hashi respectively who also do battle for a while. At some point Jay White took Finlay out to the floor and Juice came in and hit Goto with Pulp Friction. This left Tanahashi and Hashi in the ring to continue wrestling. Tanahashi hit Hashi with a Slingblade and the High-Fly-Flow to get the pinfall victory…

Hiroshi Tanahashi, David Finlay, and Juice Robinson defeated Jay White, Hirooki Goto, and Yoshi-Hashi.

Anish’s Take: This match wasn’t extraordinary by any means, but it was here to get Tanahashi over, which it managed to do. It was still a fun match to watch with really solid wrestling, especially by Jay White and David Finlay at the beginning.

5. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Evil vs. Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr. and Lance Archer. To kick off the match, Naito and Suzuki started wrestling each other first. Naito and the rest of LIJ managed to isolate Suzuki and drag him to their corner of the ring. For a while LIJ looked in control, with Suzuki-Gun unable to get to their leader. When Naito tried to go over the ropes and attack Suzuki from the apron, Suzuki caught him in an armbar, allowing Suzuki-Gun to storm the ring and attack EVIL and SANADA.

The action then spilled to the outside, including the first few rows of the audience, where LIJ and Suzuki-Gun started going to war. Gaining control, Suzuki forced Naito back to the ring where he applied a leg lock. Davey Boy Smith jr tagged in and tried to keep Naito down, however Naito was having none of it, and quickly hit a tornado DDT to reverse the tides.

He got the tag to SANADA who started doing battle with Smith, before a wild brawl ensued, leaving Archer and EVIL in the ring as the legal men. SANADA returned and started double teaming Archer with EVIL, however when Naito tried to help them, Suzuki kept him down with a leg lock on the outside. Smith saved Archer from getting pinned and managed to hit SANADA with a Killer Bomb. EVIL struggled valiantly against the two men, but Archer caught him and threw him to Smith for a Killer bomb, allowing Suzuki-Gun to get the victory…

Minoru Suzuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr., and Lance Archer defeated Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Evil.

After the match, Naito grabbed a mic and started mocking Suzuki, calling him grandpa, and the old man of pro wrestling. Naito said that while Suzuki has the Intercontinental Title, he just doesn’t see Suzuki as a champion. Naito laid down in the ring and challenged Suzuki to get in the ring and share his thoughts on what he just said. Suzuki got in the ring and grabbed a mic. He replied by asking who the hell Naito thinks he is. He said Naito should use his eyes to see that he is pro wrestling’s Minoru Suzuki. He proclaimed that Suzuki-Gun is number one and left Naito still laying in the ring cockily. Naito grabbed a mic again, mocking Suzuki, asking him not to get upset and to stay “Tranquilo.” This frustrated Suzuki who then threw a chair at Naito, and used a char to beat up a young boy. After Naito left, there is a promo package hyping up the G1 Climax 2018…

Anish’s Take: This match was interesting to watch, as the six men tried to squeeze in an epic war in the space of 10 minutes. They did their best with it and definitely told a compelling story where Suzuki isolated Naito to the extent that he couldn’t help out his allies, leaving them to be beaten by the Killer Elite Squad.

6. El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Roppongi 3k (w/Rocky Romero) vs. Hiroumo Takahashi and Bushi in a three-way for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles. This match started off wild, with all six men in the ring doing battle. El Desperado and Kanemaru took control of the match early. They got a hold of Sho and kept him at bay using a number of Tag Team combos. Yoh Eventually tagged in and fought them off, however he was then taken down by Takahashi and Bushi. Sho and Yoh then managed to get in the ring together and isolate Takahashi and Bushi for a while, hitting them with some tag team maneuvers.

Takahashi and Bushi reversed the tides by pulling Romero into the mix and stomping on him. Yoh tried to shield Rocky but Takahashi simply stomped on him as well. The two teams started brawling and Bushi took out Sho, and dove to the outside, leaving Takahashi to wrestle Yoh in the ring. Takahashi hit a Time Bomb, looking like he was going to get the pin, however Kanemaru pulled the ref out in the middle of the count. This allowed El Desperado to hit the Pinche Loco, get the pin and retain the titles…

El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Roppongi 3k and Hiroumo Takahashi and Bushi in a three-way to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Tag Titles.

Anish’s Take: The in-ring action in and of itself was fun to watch. However, the story seemed a little disconnected at times, especially with the champions simply not being present for a large part of the match. This could be attributed to the fact that NJPW doesn’t do triple threats very often, although they are most common in the junior tag division, so it isn’t that much of an excuse. The sides of the ring that teams were supposed to be on was a little confusing as well, but overall it was not a bad match by any means.

7. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship. Scurll and Ospreay began the match with a very entertaining grappling exchange, most notably including an impressive spot where Ospreay balanced himself on his knees on Scurll’s shoulders. It was very clear that both of these competitors know each other very well, even the commentators brought up the fact that they have had many matches with each other before in ROH and other promotions. For a long time at the start of this match, neither of them could get an advantage over the other.

Ospreay seemed to get ahead for a second, throwing Scurll to the outside, however when he tried to follow up with a handspring maneuver, Scurll caught his hand as it bounced off the bottom rope and tried to trap and snap his fingers. Ospreay kicked Scurll away and finally hit a handspring cross body to the outside. As Ospreay tried to get Scurll back into the ring, Scurll hit a neckbreaker on the ropes, and gained control of the match with a superkick from the apron. Scurll continued to beat up Ospreay using the guard rails first and then getting him back into the ring.

Ospreay tried to mount some offense a few times, but Scurll thwarted these attempts swiftly. Eventually Scurll tried to catch Ospreay in a submission, but Ospreay tumbled out of it and attempted to hit the OsCutter. He missed, however he still hit Scurll with a springboard kick, allowing him to catch a break. Ospreay then managed to hit a 619 with Scurll’s head hung on the top rope, followed by a crossbody and a standing shooting star press. Ospreay then hit an outstanding Cheeky Nando’s Kick and German Suplex Combo. Scurll seemed to reverse his fortunes and hit a tornado DDT, however Ospreay followed up by reversing Scurll’s Suplex into a stunner.

Ospreay then feigned an OsCutter, forcing Scurll to drop, allowing him to go for a bridge pin. Scurll powered out and attempted a Chicken Wing unsuccessfully. However Scurll did manage to hit a move reminiscent of Adam Cole’s Last Shot, although it wasn’t enough to keep Ospreay down for three. Ospreay managed to find some space and tried to throw Scurll to the outside, however Scurll caught him in the ropes in a tombstone position, transitioned to the floor, still in tombstone position and hit Ospreay with a jumping Tombstone Piledriver.

Scurll started selling his knees, and Ospreay his neck. The action spilled back into the ring and Ospreay and Scurll started trading strikes, Scurll feigned a Superkick and instead kicked Ospreay’s shins, although he couldn’t capitalize as Ospreay subsequently hit an enzuigiri and a powerbomb for a two count. Ospreay went for an OsCutter, however Scurll pushed him to the outside. The two battled on the apron, culminating in Ospreay hitting a botched Spanish fly on the apron, resulting in what looked to be a really bad landing. Ospreay made the best of this however, selling it like Frankenstein and getting some colour as well. This resulted in an audible gasp from the crowd as he lifted his head up.

Ospreay threw Scurll back in the ring, and still selling his neck hit a Red Arrow like corkscrew Shooting Star Press, although it only garnered a two count. Ospreay tried to hang Scurll on the ropes and hit a Shooting Star Press, but Scurll juked him and hit a superkick to the back of Ospreay’s head. When this didn’t put Ospreay down, Scurll tried to go for another, which Ospreay caught. Ospreay then tried a suplex, but it was reversed into a Chicken Wing, and then into a series of pin attempts, and finally a successful OsCutter. Ospreay couldn’t make the cover however, allowing Scurll to recover and hit Ospreay with a piledriver. Scurll captured Ospreay in a Chicken Wing, however Ospreay got to the ropes. Scurll attempted another Tombstone, however Ospreay countered this into a stunner and that allowed him to hit a final OsCutter and get the victory.

Will Ospreay defeated Marty Scurll to retain the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship.

After the match, Ospreay grabbed a mic and said that before going to see a doctor he needs to say one thing. He shouted for Kushida and said that he had beaten Hiromu Takahashi and now Scurll. He said that he needs to prove that his victory over Kushida was nota fluke. Ospreay asked for Kushida vs. Ospreay one more time. Kushida, who is on commentary, noded and gave a thumbs up while saying, “of course”…

Anish’s Take: This match was fantastic. Both of these guys have wrestled so much that it’s hard to put them together and not expect gold, which they regularly deliver. The story was easy to follow, with Ospreay’s neck clearly being targeted by Scurll. While Scurll didn’t do anything extremely villainous, he did use his signature moves such as manipulating fingers and such, making it feel like Scurll does have a level of respect for Ospreay.

8. “The Golden Lovers” Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi vs. Cody and Hangman Page. Kenny and Cody started things off, but before they could get going, Cody took a swing at Ibushi and ducked to the outside. Cody got back in and tagged Page. Omega and Page engaged in a fast-paced sequence that was broken up sporadically by Cody distracting from the apron. Omega threw Cody and Page into the ring, where he tagged Ibushi. The two repeatedly chopped Cody, much to the delight of the crowd.

Page tried to rescue Cody from a Golden Trigger, but this just turned the Lovers attention to him. Omega hit a Kotaro Crusher and threw Page to the outside. The Lovers attempted a Cross Slash but Cody and Page blocked it. Cody and Page then took control of Ibushi in the ring, tagging in and out to keep him down. Ibushi got the tag to Omega who showed some fire, however Cody and Page quickly got Omega under control as well. Cody and Page took Omega to the outside where they introduced a table into the match. Before they could set it up however, Omega reversed a suplex by Cody, forcing Page to come in and quickly scoop slam Omega onto the grounded table. Page set the table up and placed Omega on it for Cody to splash, however as Cody mounted the turnbuckle, the Young Bucks appeared through the crowd.

With the Bucks discouraging Cody and Page from using a table, they brought Omega back into the ring and continued to work on him there. Omega managed to roll out of Cody’s grasp and tag in Ibushi, who dropkicked Cody. At some point, Cody started bleeding profusely above his left eye. Omega and Ibushi then hit Cody with a Steamroller and double moonsault combination, although it didn’t keep Cody down. The Lovers managed to hit a Cross Slash and get Cody back into the ring. The two teams exchanged control a few times before Page hit a Dropsault combination on Omega and Ibushi, although it only kept Ibushi down for two. All four men then hit a series of their signature moves on each other ending with them all being down.

After some more dueling, Omega attempted to send Cody through the table with a One Winged Angel from the apron. Page blocked it, caught Ibushi in an electric chair position, from where Cody dropkicked him. Although this didn’t get the victory, it gave Page enough time to kick Omega off the apron into the table. Cody tried to keep Ibushi in position for a clothesline. Ibushi reversed it and hit a double Pele kick. Ibushi then tried to hit a V-trigger but got distracted by Page, allowing Cody to roll him up for the three count.

Cody and Hangman Page defeated Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi.

After the match, Cody and Page tried to use a chair to bash in Ibushi’s skull, but Omega stopped them…

Anish’s Take: This was really great. The wrestling was solid, but more than that, the dynamic between Kenny and Cody was really prevalent in this match. The presence of the Bucks added another dimension to this match, and the roll up victory allowed both teams to retain credibility, and didn’t diminish Ibushi at all.

A video package played to hype main event. There was a lot of focus on ZSJ’s submission ability and the idea that ZSJ could make Okada tap out. There is also focus on the fact that Okada is one defense away from tying Tanahashi’s record of 11 defenses in a single reign…

9. Kazuchika Okada (w/Gedo) vs. Zack Sabre Jr. (w/Taka Michinoku) for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Okada and ZSJ get into it straight away, exchanging holds and grappling techniques for a solid ten minutes. This was really gripping stuff, as Okada seemed to be stronger, however ZSJ managed to inch ahead of Okada with each exchange. ZSJ especially focused on the champ’s legs, capturing him in leg locks multiple times, as well as a bow and arrow hold that targeted Okada’s spine.

ZSJ manipulated Okada into a painful looking Octopus stretch, with the difference being that ZSJ stretched Okada’s own arm across his neck adding a choke element to the hold. Okada managed to get to the ropes, frustrating ZSJ, therefore he threw Okada to the corner and hit him with a few uppercuts before going back to Okada’s legs.
Okada powered back to his feet and started hitting ZSJ with some forearms, to which ZSJ responded in kind. Okada threw ZSJ to the ropes to attempt his signature dropkick, however ZSJ caught him and locked Okada in an STF. Okada managed to get to the ropes. ZSJ started to hit Okada with some strikes and Okada begged for more, even though he was clearly being affected by them.

Okada managed to get himself some space and catch a frustrated ZSJ with a flapjack. The Champ then mounted some offense, hitting a couple of strikes and a DDT before sending ZSJ to the apron. However, here ZSJ reversed it and once again caught Okada in an Octopus Stretch and an arm lock. Okada managed to escape and kicked ZSJ to the floor. Okada then threw ZSJ over the guard rail and hit him with a flying cross body into the audience. He then got ZSJ back into the ring and attempted his signature knee-piledriver, however ZSJ once again captured him in an Octopus Stretch here, and then forced Okada into a reverse triangle position on the ground. Okada got to the ropes again, frustrating ZSJ even more.

ZSJ dragged Okada to the middle of the ring and snapped his forearm by trapping it between his legs and twisting violently. ZSJ attempted to catch Okada in a standing guillotine, however Okada reversed this into his signature Knee-Piledriver. Okada tried to capitalize on this with a scoop slam and then a top rope elbow drop, but ZSJ caught him in an armbar, forcing him to crawl to the ropes once more. ZSJ and Okada then went to the center of the ring and started trading strikes, culminating in ZSJ attempting a standing leg lock but Okada jolting out of it and hitting a dropkick. This resulted in a fast-paced exchange of strikes, submission and pin attempts and then finally Okada hitting two dropkicks on ZSJ, and a Tombstone. However ZSJ no sold this tombstone and immediately trapped Okada in an Omoplata while Okada was celebrating.

Okada broke out and attempted another Tombstone, but this was reversed into ZSJ’s signature roll-up, with his arms crossed and back arched pinning maneuver. After Okada barely kicked out, ZSJ hit a penalty kick. They exchanged kicks before ZSJ caught Okada in a triangle hold. Just as Okada seemed to be fading, he picked up ZSJ with one arm, escaped the triangle and hit a Rainmaker. Okada held on to the arm and attempted another Rainmaker, however ZSJ reversed it into another Octopus Stretch, which Okada subsequently reversed into a jumping, spinning Tombstone. Okada then forced ZSJ up and hit one final, tired Rainmaker and then covered ZSJ for the win…

Kazuchika Okada defeated Zack Sabre Jr. to retain the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

After the match, Gedo got on the mic and berated ZSJ, saying that he couldn’t make the Rainmaker tap out, and proclaiming that Okada is on another level. He then asked if the crowd want to hear Okada speak. They replied resoundingly with yes. Just as Okada was about to get into his usual post-match spiel of saying three things, Hiroshi Tanahashi interrupted him, which also played to the sound of overwhelming audience approval. Tanahashi got on the mic and thanked Okada for being a great champion, but stated that before Okada there was Tanahashi. He then stated that you could look around the world to find someone like him, but you could never find someone like him. The crowd chanted “Go Ace” approvingly.

Tanahashi left and Okada got on the mic to continue his three item list. He started by saying that ZSJ had great moves and says that by fighting Zack, he became stronger. He stated that Tanahashi has come back from injury a few times, failed to become champion, and lost the New Japan Cup. He poked a little fun at The Ace, stating that he’s sorry for what’s happened to him. Okada claims this isn’t the same Tanahashi.

Okada thanked the crowd and said that no one can beat him. He stated that he is glad to have 11 defenses like Tanahashi, and that after he gets 12 defenses he will even get to 100 defenses. He said that in order to get break Tanahashi’s record he needs to beat Tanahashi himself to do it…

Anish’s Take: This match was fantastic, Okada and ZSJ have really great chemistry in a very different way to Okada’s chemistry with his other opponents. They told a really compelling story, keeping ZSJ’s submission game deadly, but showing that Okada managed to beat him not by outwrestling ZSJ but by outlasting him. This allowed Okada to tie Tanahashi for number of defenses in a single reign, and keep a dangerous opponent in Zack Sabre Jr. away from the IWGP Heavyweight Title.

This was a really fun show to watch. It had a lot of great wrestling on it, even if some of the matches felt a little disjointed and lacked a grander story. If you don’t have time to catch the whole show, I suggest checking out the last three matches, starting with Ospreay vs. Scurll, which was a great, brutal, high flying showcase. Check out the Golden Lovers vs. Cody and Page match if you are invested in the Bullet Club angle like I am. Those four wrestlers told a fantastic story, and even if you’re not that invested it was a great 25 minutes of wrestling. If you can only check out one match, definitely make it the main event, as this wasn’t just your everyday great Okada main event. Sabre Jr. brought something different out of Okada in this match and told a very clear and entertaining story.

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