By Anish Vishwakoti, Prowrestling.net Staffer, (@AVX_9001)
New Japan Pro Wrestling “Wrestling Hi No Kuni”
April 29, 2018 in Kumamoto, Japan
Broadcast live on New Japan World
This was NJPW’s show in Kumamoto on the Road to Wrestling Dontaku 2018. “Hi No Kuni” translates to “Fire Country” which is the nickname for Kumamoto, with the main event being the heavily built up IWGP Intercontinental Title Match between Tetsuya Naito and Minoru Suzuki.
1. Yuji Nagata and Ren Narita vs. Tomoyuki Oka and Shota Umino. To kick things off, Narita and Oka exchanged holds very quickly and fought for control of their opponents back. Oka used his superior strength to throw Narita around and smack him to the ground with some shoulder blocks. He tagged in Umino, who took over and continued the assault on the smaller Narita to continue extracting sympathy for Nagata and Narita. However, Nagata tagged in and used his striking to keep both Oka and Umino at bay, turning the tables in the match.
Narita tagged back in used a series of elbows to try and maintain control, although Umino managed to hit a dropkick and get the tag to Oka. Oka used his strength to dominate his opponents for a while, although he and Nagata slugged it out for a little while. Nagata eventually even wrestled Oka to the ground and locked in an armbar which was broken up by Umino. Oka and Umino then double teamed Nagata, standing him up for a missile dropkick, followed up by some strikes and another dropkick from Umino. However, Nagata’s resilience and striking proved too hardy for the young lions and the veteran used open palm strikes and a chest kick to incapacitate Umino before using the Nagata lock 2 to get the submission victory..
Ren Narita and Yuji Nagata defeated Tomoyuki Oka and Shota Umino.
Anish’s Take: Strong opening match. The crowd was definitely in to it, especially by virtue of Nagata being a very over veteran. All three young lions got to show their fire, and Narita especially got to gain sympathy from the crowd by selling so much.
2. David Finlay, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jay White, Rocky Romero, Sho, and Yoh. Rocky Romero and Tiger Mask started this match off, with the simple spot of Rocky almost unmasking the veteran. However, Tiger Mask recovered, managed to hit Rocky with a corkscrew kick and tagged in Liger. Fittingly enough, Liger locked Rocky in a Romero special submission, which the Japanese commentators did not miss.
This was broken up by White and 3K, and they cleared the ring. The IWGP US Champ Jay White then took control of the match, using quick tags between himself and Roppongi 3K to keep Liger down. Liger got a lot of sympathy from the crowd for this, leading to a large pop for when he tagged in Taguchi who threw out a bombardment of hip attacks.
Taguchi then tagged in David Finlay who charged at White, before having his momentum halted as White tagged in Romero, and Roppongi 3K stomped on White. Eventually only Romero and Finlay were in the ring. Romero hit a series of corner clotheslines and an enzuigiri, but when going for one more clothesline, Finlay hit his Prima Nocta (Stunner) finishing maneuver and pinned Romero for the victory…
David Finlay, Jushin Liger, Tiger Mask, and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Jay White, Rocky Romero, Sho, and Yoh.
Anish’s Take: This was an unusually short match, kind of felt like it had no real purpose, except that all of the wrestlers were present in the arena and wanted to get a short workout in. The legends popped the crowd, Finlay looked strong, and Romero was the workhorse of the match. It had no real use, but there was no harm in having it there I guess.
3. Togi Makabe and Toa Henare vs. Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano. Yano and Makabe started in the ring, Yano got up to his antics quickly, attempting to undo the turnbuckle pads. He tried to hit Makabe with it, but Makabe knocked it away and they started going at it. In a very unique spot, they exchanged Irish whips, with both of them throwing each other to the ropes and hanging on. Makabe then hit a shoulder blocked and tagged in Henare.
Henare showed some fire, before getting tripped and hit by Ishii from the outside, as Yano used the turnbuckle pads to wallop Makabe. From here, Yano and Ishii tagged in repeatedly wailed on Henare, before Henare eventually escaped and hit Yano with a suplex. Makabe then stormed the ring and started exchanging strikes with Yano. After Yano hit a hair pull, both lay on the ground and Ishii and Henare took over, going toe to toe with forearms. Henare got the better of Ishii and attempted a running strike to take Ishii down, however he was tripped by Yano from the outside.
Yano and Ishii hit a double team atomic drop and back suplex combo on Henare, which he kicked out of. Makabe then assisted Henare, and they hit a number of clotheslines on Ishii, although when going for the pin, Yano broke up Henares attempt. It was left down to Ishii and Henare who exchanged lariats, which Ishii won out on before hitting Henare with a brainbuster and getting the pinfall victory…
Tomohiro Ishii and Toru Yano defeated Toa Henare and Togi Makabe.
Anish’s Take: Quite a fun tag match, the purpose of which was to get Toa Henare and Tomohiro Ishii over, which it did effectively. The commentators continually mentioned how Henare is savage and relentless, and played up his standing up to Ishii.
4. Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Yujiro Takahashi, and Chase Owens vs. Zack Sabre Jr., Iizuka, Taichi, and Taka Michinoku. Before the match started, Michinoku got on the mic and started berating Bullet Club. He said that it was Zack Sabre time and asked who is better between Suzuki Gun and Bullet Club, to a mixed response from the crowd. He then stated that ZSJ has the best submissions out there and would make everyone tap out, to a great response from the crowd, before asking Bullet Club to get over here.
In typical Suzuki Gun style, before the match even started they cleared the ring and jumped Bullet Club and Ibushi. Takahashi tried to mount some defense in the ring, however his efforts were thwarted, and Michinoku started to attack him, switching out with Iizuka, who started biting all of the opposing team, retaining control for Suzuki Gun. In between repeated tags, Takahashi bit Iizuka and tagged in Ibushi. Alongside Omega and Owens, he cleared the ring, executing a number of double team maneuvers ending in a cross slash and simultaneous suicide dives on the opponents.
Ibushi and ZSJ then got into it in the ring, before they both went down and Ibushi tagged in Owens. Owens and Omega took ZSJ down and all three members of Bullet Club and Ibushi laid down a number of team maneuvers on ZSJ. The action returned to ZSJ and Owens however as Omega and Ibushi focused on distracting Suzuki Gun. This allowed ZSJ to lock in an Octopus Stretch and tap out Chase Owens.
Chase Owens, Zack Sabre Jr., Iizuka, Taichi, and Taka Michinoku defeated Kenny Omega, Kota Ibushi, Yujiro Takahashi, and Chase Owens.
Anish’s Take: Another really short match, with no real goal in sight. Suzuki Gun ended up looking good, however this did no favors to Bullet Club, especially to Chase Owens, who has been taking a lot of falls lately either in the whole Bullet Club civil war story, or for random New Japan tag matches like this.
A promo played hyping the return of Bone Soldier before the next tag match.
5. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, and KUSHIDA vs. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, and YOSHI-HASHI. Okada and Tanahashi started this match to a huge “Oooh” from the crowd. Tanahashi quickly takes control and tags in Juice, who alongside Elgin, took Okada down. However, CHAOS stormed the ring and took control of the match, even posing with Juice for a second. They then started using quick tags to beat down Juice, garnering a lot of sympathy from the crowd.
The action spilled to the outside, with Okada attempting a Tombstone on Tanahashi, although it was reversed into a sling blade. In the midst of the action, KUSHIDA and Ospreay started exchanging kicks and a really fun high flying sequence, with both men getting in some offense and going blow for blow. Ospreay eventually broke the action with a Spanish Fly and tagged in HASHI.
KUSHIDA managed to take down HASHI and tag in Tanahashi. He and Elgin tried to execute an Alabama slam type double team on HASHI, however HASHI reversed it, and this led into all the members of the match storming the ring and going at it.
In the chaos, Ospreay picked up KUSHIDA and hit a devastating looking Yokosuka cutter from a Tiger hold position. This allowed Tanahashi to get in the ring and undistracted, hit a high fly flow on HASHI for the victory…
Hiroshi Tanahashi, Juice Robinson, Michael Elgin, and KUSHIDA defeated. Kazuchika Okada, Hirooki Goto, Will Ospreay, and YOSHI-HASHI.
Anish’s Take: A very fun tag match with a lot of fast paced action. Definitely left the match with everyone looking good, very simple and very clear.
After the match, there were two angles enacted, first TAICHI entered and hit an injured Goto with his staff. Very confusingly, this was followed by Okada charging at Tanahashi and resulting in a pull apart, as Gedo restrained him from going at the ace. Good build up to their upcoming Title match.
BUSHI vs. Desperado
BUSHI jumped El Desperado before the match started, leading to him taking advantage at the beginning as he used his shirt to strangle El Desperado. The match stayed on the outside for a while, with both competitors ramming into the rails and trying to get each other’s masks off.
When in the ring, El Desperado got BUSHI on the top rope and tried to unmask him again, allowing him to take control and BUSHI struggled with his mask. The two exchanged a series of strikes and aerial maneuvers, resulting in BUSHI getting a two count from a Fisherman Suplex.
They continued exchanging moves, with BUSHI eventually hitting El Desperado with a rope hung Frankensteiner. It was to no avail, as El Desperado quickly recovered and attempted a kneebar submission maneuver. When this didn’t work he tried a powerbomb, which BUSHI reversed into a destroyer. BUSHI then headed to the top rope however he was attacked by Kanemaru, resulting in a disqualification.
BUSHI defeated Desperado via DQ.
Anish’s Take: Short match. It was fun while it lasted, although its real purpose was to set up the impromptu match between Kanemaru and Hiromu Takahashi, as Takahashi stormed the ring in aid of BUSHI resulting in a brawl and the start of a match between the two interfering wrestlers on the spot.
6. Hiromu Takahashi vs Yoshinobu Kanemaru. Kanemaru kept control for most of the early stages of the match, only losing control a couple of minutes in when Takahashi ramped things up and caught Kanemaru with a number of strikes. Here, Takahashi tried to mount some offense, although it took a while, as Kanemaru continually reversed his attempts, hitting a tilt-a-whirl DDT and a powerbomb, before locking in a Boston Crab.
After Takahashi got to the ropes, a frustrated Kanemaru tried for a Moonsault, which missed. Takahashi tried to capitalize on the miss from Kanemaru, however El Desperado interfered, leading to BUSHI having to clear the ring, leaving only Takahashi and Kanemaru.
Takahashi hit two Time-Bombs on Kanemaru, allowing him to finally get the pin.
Hiromu Takahashi defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru.
Anish’s Take: Strong match, that highlighted both Takahashi and Kanemaru’s strengths. It was definitely surprising that Kanemaru kicked out of one Time Bomb. He looked strong in defeat and Takahashi definitely looked strong, so close to the 2018 Best of The Super Juniors tournament. Takahashi looked into the camera and challenged all the Junior Heavyweights to a fight at BOSJ 2018.
7. EVIL and SANADA vs. Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr for the IWGP Tag Team Championships. Smith and Archer took control of the match early on, throwing LIJ to the corner and wailing on them there. They then moved the action to the outside, and used the rails to gain an advantage. They even pulled out a table and attempted to put SANADA through it, although EVIL foiled this attempt. The crowd were heavily behind LIJ here, and the wrestlers played to this beautifully, with Smit and Archer using repeated tags, and threatening the referee to beat SANADA down, slowly and brutally. Archer noticeably hit SANADA with a painful looking lariat off the top rope.
SANADA hit a dropkick to try and get out, and when Smith tried to stop him tagging EVIL, hit a dropkick to the knee and tagged EVIL in. EVIL and SANADA then started double teaming Archer, hitting him with a double brainbuster, and then attempted a Magic Killer. Archer and SANADA then started brawling on the apron, eventually leading to Davey Boy Smith jumping in and slamming SANADA through the table on the outside.
Smith then started beating down EVIL, locking in a sharpshooter, grabbing EVIL’s hair to gain an advantage. When EVIL made it to the ropes, Archer dragged him out and hit a Fallaway slam on the outside before throwing him back into the ring. Archer and Smith then continued to beat the hell out of EVIL, using running cross bodies into the corner and a top rope Oklahoma slam to try and pin him, although EVIL managed to kick out.
They even managed to hit EVIL with a Magic Killer, although this too was unsuccessful. SANADA eventually ran into the ring and started turning the tides. SANADA and EVIL isolated Smith, hitting a Magic Killer of their own, and only being thwarted by Archer pulling the referee out of the ring during the count. Archer then introduced a chair into the corner, and as that old wrestling adage goes, be careful what you wish for, as EVIL and SANADA threw him right at the chair, rendering him defenseless. EVIL then locked another chair around Smith’s head and used a third chair to bat it like a baseball bat. EVIL then picked Smith up and hit his signature STO to pick up the victory and retain the titles.
EVIL and SANADA defeated Lance Archer and Davey Boy Smith Jr to retain the IWGP Tag Team Championship.
Anish’s Take: Very fun tag match, definitely the best tag match of the night. Suzuki Gun looked savage, and extremely dangerous here and the commentators sold this well, sounding concerned for LIJ’s well being throughout the match. EVIL and SANADA got a lot of sympathy going through the match, and they very slowly and surely fought back with the crowd on their side, and used the circumstances to their favor to retain the titles.
Before the main event, a really well done promo played hyping up this IWGP IC Title match. Minoru Suzuki was described as Wrestling royalty and the “King” of Pro Wrestling. Naito was hyped up as a young challenger with little respect for either Suzuki or the IWGP IC Title itself. Suzuki and Naito’s promos from previous shows played, with Suzuki saying that Naito being IC Champion was just a dream, and Naito saying that it was time for the old man of NJPW to release the IWGP IC title. Suzuki was depicted as a no nonsense pure wrestler, and Naito as an unpredictable challenger with no regard for the consequences of his actions, perfectly setting the stage for their match here.
8. Minoru Suzuki vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Naito took his time taking his suit off, and while the crowd cheered him on, Suzuki kept a bloodthirsty stone-faced gaze. Suzuki didn’t allow Naito to indulge in his normal antics, engaging him immediately and responding to Naito’s signature taunt with one of his own. Naito got primary control of the match, by dragging Suzuki out of the ring and throwing him to the rails, before dragging him back in and using a head scissors lock followed by some strikes to try and wear the Intercontinental Champion down.
Suzuki was unfazed by Naito’s initial assault, asking for more, to which Naito responded with a series of corner clotheslines although Suzuki managed to lock in a rope hung armbar and then throw Naito to the outside. Suzuki then lobbed Naito into the crowd and piled chairs onto Naito to gain an advantage. Suzuki and Naito then brawled on the outside, with both men barely breaking the count. Suzuki continued to kick Naito around inside the ring, while the crowd cried for Naito, a clear favorite so early into the match.
Suzuki then used a chin lock and some kicks to keep Naito on the back foot. He also continuously barbed with the crowd, garnering even more support for Naito. Naito managed to mount some offense after a couple of minutes of Suzuki slowly wearing him down, hitting Suzuki with some Neckbreakers and then stomping on his head. However, Suzuki stood up as if they had no effect and unrelentingly hounded Naito with more kicks and strikes. At this point, Naito managed to hit a tornado DDT, resulting in Suzuki starting to sell his head and neck, showing that Naito indeed managed to do some damage. The commentators noted this, and also noticed that Naito was selling a hurt elbow. Naito and Suzuki then started exchanging wild elbows and palm strikes, ending with Naito hitting a running shoulder block and then his signature trip and corner dropkick.
Naito then hauled Suzuki on to the top rope, where Suzuki reversed the hold and initiated a single leg Boston Crab while hung up on the ropes, sliding the cards back into his favor. The referee started to check on Naito, teasing a stoppage, but Suzuki wouldn’t let it end like that and continued to stomp on Naito, now targeting his knee by locking in a painful looking kneebar. Naito managed to get to the ropes, but Suzuki just dragged him to the center and locked in a variant of the Figure Four to continue the assault on Naito’s knee. Naito got to the ropes again, leading to a frustrated Suzuki returning to striking, which allowed Naito to take advantage and hit a DDT and an Enzuigiri limp to the top rope.
Naito hit another DDT and started to use the crowd to hype himself up. It was short lived however as a failed Destino led to Suzuki locking in another kneebar in the center of the ring. Naito managed to resist the submission for a number of minutes, the commentators put over how tough he is that he didn’t tap out to Suzuki the submission specialist. Suzuki grew increasingly frustrated, and locked in a sleeper to try and get submit Naito another way, this ended up being a mistake as Naito got some rest for his knee, and managed to trip Suzuki and get himself some breathing room.
Naito hit Suzuki with a discombobulating headbutt and a barrage of wild forearms, busting Suzuki open, and allowing Naito to hit a single Destino to pin the veteran and win the Intercontinental Championship once more.
Tetsuya Naito defeated Minoru Suzuki for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship.
After the match, Naito hobbled to his feet and got on the mic. Naito thanked the fans in the arena for supporting Los Ingobernables De Japon and allowing them to put on an exciting show. Naito stated that two years ago the show in Kumamoto was cancelled due to an earthquake, and he was sad to not have performed. However he says that Kumamoto got stronger since then just like he did, and now he and LIJ are grateful for being able to perform here. Naito ended the show being cheered and saying that LIJ had fun and to remain “Tranquillo.” He falls to knees in pain, selling his effort even more and disregards the IC Title like always…
Anish’s Take: If you can’t watch everything from this show, then definitely catch that main event. It was really a fantastic match with Suzuki and Naito telling a great story with a very sudden and shocking ending. The endgame was that Naito didn’t beat Suzuki as much as he outlasted him and capitalized on a single devastating strike. Suzuki sold that headbutt and Destino like a serious concussion and the commentators played it as such, suggesting that Suzuki could be seriously injured. This also leaves the door open for a rematch that doesn’t end so suddenly, as it was implied that Suzuki might have only lost due to a single injury rather than a grueling match.
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