NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed review: Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii, Juice Robinson vs. Cody for the IWGP U.S. Championship, Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll in an IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title tournament

By Jason Powell, Prowrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)

New Japan Pro Wrestling Fighting Spirit Unleashed
September 30, 2018 in Long Beach, California at Walter Pyramid
Streamed live on on New Japan World (airs Friday on AXS TV)

A video package opened the show and then the narrator ran through the advertised matches… The broadcast team of Jim Ross and Kevin Kelly checked in. Kelly noted that he was filling in for Josh Barnett…

1. ACH, Jushin Liger, and Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Sho, Yoh, and Rocky Romero. Kelly said it’s been 19 years since he and Ross called a match together. Taguchi wore a rugby outfit. Kelly noted that the rugby championship is coming to Japan. ACH, Liger, and Taguchi applied simultaneous ankle locks early on.

Taguchi did his ass slams on all three opponents for a big pop. ACH took out Roppogungi 3K with a suicide dive. In the ring, Taghuchi performed the Dodon move on Romero that they only showed the tail end of pinned him…

ACH, Jushin Liger, and Ryusuke Taguchi defeated Sho, Yoh, and Rocky Romero in 9:00.

Powell’s POV: There are some empty seats, but the crowd is mic’d well and the fans were loud and really hot for the fun opener.

2. Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels vs. Hangman Page and Chase Owens. Kelly pointed out that Kazarian had sutures from the cut he suffered on the back of his head at Friday’s ROH Death Before Dishonor event. Page dropkicked Daniels and performed an immediate standing moonsault onto Kazarian in a nice early spot. At 7:30, Page performed his moonsault off he apron onto Kazarian, who put his knees up. Daniels and Kazarian teamed up for their Best Meltzer Ever finisher on Owens and pinned him…

Frankie Kazarian and Christopher Daniels defeated Hangman Page and Chase Owens in 8:05.

Powell’s POV: A nice tag match. I’m not a big fan of all of the tag and six-man tag matches on the NJPW undercards, but I like the early pacing so far with brief and action packed matches. The crowd remained hot during the match.

3. Flip Gordon, Chris Sabin, and Jeff Cobb vs. Chuckie T, Beretta, and Hirooki Goto. Cobb brought his newly won ROH TV Title to the ring with him. Gordon performed an early standing shooting star press. Best Friends did their usual hugging spot for a solid reaction. Ross called it a Hallmark Moment.

At 7:50, Beretta caught Gordon with a running knee. This led to both men tagging in the big men Cobb and Goto. Cobb stuffed a GTR and countered into a suplex. Cobb went for a standing moonsault only to have Goto roll out of the way. Goto blasted Cobb with a nice clothesline. Goto tagged in Chuckie, who failed to suplex Cobb. Beretta ran in and helped him for a double suplex.

Cobb responded by picking up both men and suplexing them. Chuckie came back with a piledriver and went for a cover that was broken up by one of Cobb’s partners. Chuckie went up top for a moonsault, but Cobb moved and performed a lariat and an impressive twisting slam for the win.

Flip Gordon, Chris Sabin, and Jeff Cobb defeaed Chuckie T, Beretta, and Hirooki Goto in 12:00.

After the match, Cobb and Goto had to be held apart by the referee, who eventually backed off. Goto rolled out of the ring to boos…

Powell’s POV: This is an example of one of NJPW’s good six-man tag matches. While some of their undercard six-man tags feel random, this one served a purpose by spotlighting Goto and Cobb to build toward a singles match between them. The show is off to a really good start. That said, I was hoping that more of the empty seats would fill up with late arriving fans. At this point, NJPW officials only have themselves to blame since they haven’t been aggressive in promoting their product in the U.S. host cities thus far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good sized and loud crowd, but I don’t understand why the company doesn’t go the extra mile to sell out these venues.

4. Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Evil vs. Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, and Zack Sabre Jr. Naito was the last man to enter the ring. Once he did, the Suzuki-gun trio attacked the Los Ingobernobles team from behind to start the match. Smith drew good heat while working over the knee of Sanada early on. Smith went for three German suplexes on Sanada, who landed on his feet the third time. Naito tagged in moments later for the first time and worked over Smith for a stretch before being double teamed by the Killer Elite Squad pair. Naito caught Archer with a DDT and tagged out. Evil and Sabre checked in. Sabre applied submission hold that Evil powered out of with a suplex. Rinse and repeat with Evil powering out of another submission hold. Sabre came back and bridged into a pin for the three count.

Davey Boy Smith Jr., Lance Archer, and Zack Sabre Jr. defeated Tetsuya Naito, Sanada, and Evil in 10:00.

After the match, Evil held his head down while kneeling in the first while Kelly told the story that Evil doesn’t seem to have an answer for Sabre at this point. Evil kept his head down while Smith powerslammed one of the young lions at ringside. After the Suzuki-gun trio left, Naito approached Evil and then Sanada joined them in the ring. Evil got to his feet and the fans chanted his name. Kelly said Sabre is the biggest test of Evil’s career thus far…

Powell’s POV: My concerns about the undercard has been ill founded thus far. None of the matches have overstayed their welcome and I like the storytelling in the last two matches. Kelly is doing a terrific job of conveying those stories to the audience through his color commentary work.

5. Kushida and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White and Gedo. Kelly told the story of Gedo stabbing Kazuchika Okada in the back by aligning with White. Gedo checked in after White had worked over Tanahashi. The fans booed Gedo, who didn’t stay in long before tagging White back into the match. Kushida tagged into the match for the first time over five minutes into the match and went for a Hoverboard Lock on Gedo, but White ran in and broke it up.

Later, Tanahashi went up top for the High Fly Flow on White, who grabbed the referee and distracted him. Gedo hit Tanahashi with brass knuckles, then took out Kushida. White performed a Blade Runner on Tanahashi and pinned him…

Jay White and Gedo defeated Kushida and Hiroshi Tanahashi in roughly 9:00.

After the match, Gedo grabbed Tanahashi’s briefcase that contains his contract for a title shot at Wrestle Kingdom. Gedo handed the briefcase to White, who got great heat to the point that he had to yell over the fans. White looked down at Tanahashi, who was still out from the brass knuckles shot. The fans chanted “F— you, Switchblade” at White, who blew them kisses. White said he’s beaten Tanahashi and that gives him the right to the briefcase. White asked what Tanahashi and NJPW are waiting for. White said he beat Tanahashi before and NJPW is scared at the thought of not having Tanahashi in the main event at Wrestle Kingdom. Tanahashi was eventually helped to the back as he carried his briefcase…

The ring announcer said they were having a 15-minute intermission…

Powell’s POV: More good storytelling on the undercard. It’s been really cool to watch White emerge this year. The Switchblade gimmick got off to a rocky start, but he’s really grown as a performer and has been assisted by some top notch booking at times. I can’t say enough good things about the way he’s progressed. Obviously, my coverage will resume after the intermission.

6. Will Ospreay vs. Marty Scurll in an IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title tournament match. The winner of this match will face Kushida for the title that was vacated due to Hiromu Takahashi’s injury. Ross wished Takahashi well. The bell rang and Ospreay ran over and a Spanish Fly for a two count. Scurll rolled to ringside. Ospreay did a handspring flip onto Scurll a ringside, then rolled him back inside the ring and performed a shooting star press for a near fall. Ospreay set up for the OsCutter, but Scurll rolled to the floor. Ospreay dove onto him.

Scurll came back with some forewarms that sent Ospreay to the floor, then Scurll caught him with a kick from the apron. A loud “Marty” chant broke out. Ospreay came back with a handspring into the ropes and then a kick to Scurll’s head. There were dueling chants for the wrestlers and the Marty chants were a bit louder. Ospreay went over the top rope to perform a 619 on Scurll at 6:15. Scurll stuffed a springboard move and kicked Ospreay to the floor where he ran him into the barricade. Both wrestlers got back to the apron where Scurll threw chops and Ospreay came back with kicks.

At 8:00, Ospreay performed a sunset bomb from the ring to the floor for a “holy shit” chant. Ospreay rolled Scurll back inside the ring. Kelly explained that Ospreay could have taken the count-out win, but he wants to beat Scurll inside the ring. Scurll came back with a kick to the face of Ospreay. At 11:10, Ospreay set up Scurll for a move on the top rope, which resulted in Ospreay being crotched on the top rope. Scurll performed a top rope huracanrana and then connected with a clothesline for a two count. Scrull threw chops. Ospreay sold them while also firing up and then trading chops with Scurll. Ospreay caught Scurll with a kick, but Scurll came right back and applied his chicken wing hold. Ospreay rolled onto Scurll for a two count to break the hold. Scurll rolled up Ospreay for two. The exchange ended with Ospreay throwing a kick that knocked Scurll down around 14:00.

Ospreay went for a double underhook. Scurll powered Ospreay to the ropes, but Ospreay slid under him and then kicked him. Ospreay went up top, but Scurll recovered and stopped him there. The wrestlers fought on the ropes. Scurll performed a wicked suplex from the chicken wing position from the ropes and got a two count. Scurll followed up with a clothesline that turned Ospreay inside out. Scurll performed a package piledriver and then hit the Graduation for the win…

Marty Scurll defeated Will Ospreay in 16:45 to advance to the finals of the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title tournament.

Powell’s POV: A very good match with really good action from bell to bell. Scurll and Ospreay work so well together. This was easily the best match of the night. The undercard was entertaining, but they matches were brief enough that you wouldn’t expect any of them to compete for best match of the night. Scurll will now face Kushida in a week for the vacant IWGP Jr. Hvt. Title.

A video package set up the IWGP Tag Title match…

7. “The Young Bucks” Matt Jackson and Nick Jackson vs. “Guerrillas of Destiny” Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa (w/Haku) for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles. The Bucks went for early handsprings into dropkicks, but Matt sold back pain. GOD targeted his back and worked him over at ringside. Loa set up a table and wanted to suplex Mat through it, but Nick broke it up and then dove from the ring onto Loa on the floor around 6:00.

Matt went up top for a move on Tonga, but Loa shoved him off the top rope and back first through the table on the floor. The GOD duo worked over Nick while Matt sold at ringside. Around 11:00, Nick went to his corner, but Matt was still at ringside selling his back. The crowd chanted for the Young Bucks as Matt got back onto the apron. Nick finally tagged in Matt around 10:45 and he performed a clothesline that knocked down both GOD members. Matt applied a Sharpshooter on Tonga, but Loa broke it up.

Matt tagged in and caught Loa with a superkick, then the Bucks performed a double superkick on Loa. Matt covered Loa for a two count. Matt tried and failed to hoist up Loa for More Bang For Your Buck. Nick helped and hit his part of the move. Matt struggled to get up top and then performed his moonsault for a two count on Loa around 18:00. The Bucks set up for a move when Tonga returned with a Gun Stun out of mid-air on Nick. Loa hit his finisher on Matt for a good near fall. Matt avoided the GOD finisher and then hit both opponents with superkicks only to run the ropes into the Gun Stun. Tonga covered and pinned Matt…

The Guerrillas of Destiny defeated The Young Bucks in 19:50 to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Titles.

Powell’s POV: A good match with an outcome that surprised me. Perhaps even more surprising is that there were a lot of cheers when the GOD were named the winners afterward. The match was good. It wasn’t a Bucks style classic by any means, but it it was entertaining and the outcome was newsworthy. Is this Tama’s punishment for some of his behavior during the G1 Climax Tournament? Not so much.

A video package set up the IWGP U.S. Championship match…

8. Juice Robinson vs. Cody (w/Brandi Rhodes) for the IWGP U.S. Championship match. Cody wore the NWA Title to the ring. Ross said he liked that Cody wore the belt around his waist and not over his arm. The broadcast team plugged the NWA Title match between Cody and Nick Aldis for the 70th Anniversary event and said he heard that Tony Schiavone and Jim Cornette would call it. Cody had red and blue face paint strips by one eye. Ross noted that Cody’s boots read 6:05 (the start time of WCW Saturday Night and the NWA pay-per-view). Kelly said he takes exception to Cody labeling him a cheerleader for Robinson.

Later, Robinson had the advantage on the floor. Brandi grabbed his hair from behind. Juice swung instinctively and she fell down. Cody hit Robinson from behind. Brandi popped right as Kelly noted that she was just fine. Robinson took offensive control in the ring and then went to ringside to jaw at Brandi. Cody regained offensive control once Robinson returned to the ring. Cody set up for CrossRhodes. Robinson countered into a Pulp Friction attempt. Cody stuffed that. Robinson got the better of the exchange and had Cody down in the corner when he performed a cannonball. Robinson went for a powerbomb. Cody countered into a huracanrana. Cody barked at the ref while Brandi raked the eyes of Robinson.

Robinson came back with a top rope cross body block for a two count. Kelly noted that Brandi took his water. Juice set up for his finisher only to have Cody counter into a figure four. Cody reached the ropes to break the hold at 10:35. Cody got a drink of water from Brandi and removed his weight lifting belt. While referee Red Shoes cleared the belt from the ring, Cody spat the water at Robinson. Cody flipped off someone (presumably Kelly). The wrestlers jockeyed for position as they both wanted to hit their finishers. Robinson hit Pulp Friction. Brandi pulled Cody to the floor. Robinson went to the floor to bring Cody back to the ring, but Cody hit him with CrossRhodes on the floor.

Back in the ring, the wrestlers traded punches and Robinson got the better of it until Cody thumbed his eye and superkicked him. Cody picked up Robinson on his back and dropped him onto his shoulders and then covered him for two at 15:40. Kelly noted the same move resulted in Cody beating Robinson in a tag match on the last night of the G1 Tournament. Cody went up top and was crotched by Robinson. Juice superplexed Cody, but Cody immediately hooked Robinson’s leg with his own and got the pin. The broadcast team questioned who beat who. Cody was named the winner. Ross said the fans were in an uproar because they thought both men had their shoulders down.

Cody defeated Juice Robinson in 16:50 to win the IWGP U.S. Championship.

Cody celebrated at ringside with the IWGP U.S. Championship and the NWA Championship belts. Cody and Brandi headed to the back while Robinson sold the loss in the ring before heading backstage…

Powell’s POV: Another good match. Cody and Brandi played the heel roles and did so well. There was no controversy as far as the pin was concerned. Cody’s shoulders were not down. They really should have showed a replay to make that clear since JR seemed to be telling a story that the wrestlers were not trying to tell.

They went right to the ring entrances for the main event with Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii coming out first. Okada brought out his balloons and gave one with money symbols drawn on it to Ross. Kelly spoke about the long friendship and the bond between Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi as they made their entrance together…

9. “The Golden Lovers” Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi vs. Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii. Ross noted it was the first time that Omega and Okada had been in the ring together at the same time on U.S. soil. Ross said he attempted to say hello to Ishii earlier in the day and got a growl in response. Ibushi and Okada started. After a brief exchange, Okada and Ibushi checked in. Ibushi no sold several forearm shots from Omega. Ibushi entered the ring and kicked Ibushi and performed a double team move on Ishii. Ibushi tagged in and traded kicks with Ishii, who eventually knocked him over with a shoulder block.

Okada tagged himself into the match. Okada slammed Ibushi and then mocked Omega and smirked at him around 6:00. Ishii ran Omega into the barricade and then put the boots to him on he floor. Ishii returned to the ring. Ibushi went for a tag, but Omega was down at ringside. Ibushi fought back and Omega returned to the corner and was there to take the tag. At 10:40, Okada tagged in to face Omega. Ibushi caught Okada with a missile dropkick. With Okada and Ishii down at ringside, Omega and Ibushi performed moonsaults off the middle rope onto both opponents on the floor at 11:30.

Omega rolled Okada back inside the ring and performed a rolling senton. Ibushi performed a standing shooting star press, then Omega and Ibushi performed moonsaults onto Okada. Omega and Ibushi both covered Okada, who kicked out. Okada came back with a dropkick on Ibushi. The crowd popped as Omega and Okada were the last two standing at 13:15. They traded forearms to the head. Okada went for a dropkick, but Omega held the ropes. They took turns avoiding signature moves and then Omega performed a snap dragon suplex. Ishii went after Omega, who put him down with a Death Valley Driver. Omega ran the ropes and took a dropkick. Okada set up for a Rainmaker, but Ibushi was there to stop it and ended up suplexing Okada.

Omega caught Okada with a V-Trigger knee at 15:10. Omega went for the One Winged Angel, which was stuffed by Okada. They jockeyed for position on a tombstone. Ibushi wanted to springboard, but Ishii stopped him. Okada performed a tombstone piledriver on Omega. At 17:00, Ibushi and Ishii exchanged forearms to the face. Ibushi ended up performed a standing moonsault and landed on his knees on Ishii for a two count. Omega performed a powerbomb on Ishii, who was caught with a bridging German suplex in the air by Ibushi. Okada returned to break up Ibushi’s pin attempt.

All four men were down at 18:50 and the fans applauded their efforts and then chanted “New Japan”. Ibushi and Ishii traded slaps that grew faster and faster. Ibushi got the better of it with a big clothesline for a near fall. At 21:40, Ishii powerbombed Ibushi for a near fall of his own. Ibushi came back with kicks and then performed a straight jacket German suplex for a near fall. Omega returned to the ring and traded blows with Ishii, who then ran into kicks from Omega and Ibushi. Omega and Ibushi lowered their kneepads and performed the Golden Trigger on Ishii. Ibushi covered Ishii with Okada still at ringside and got the win…

Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi defeated Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii in 23:10.

Kelly said he and Ross shouldn’t wait 19 years to get together again. Ross laughed and said Kelly did a hell of a job. Meanwhile, the Young Bucks, Marty Scurll, and Adam Page entered the ring to join the celebration. Ross asked if they are friends or foes. Kelly said their bond was cemented by the Samoans attacking them in San Francisco.

Omega took the mic and said it wasn’t a perfect record for the Bullet Club. He told the Young Bucks that he was very sorry. Omega said he saw a few yellow (empty) seats when he looked out during the dark match, but he sees many happy and familiar faces. He said the worldwide movement is only part of the plan. Omega said they have a big show in less than a week, then said more than a week. Omega spoke about his ten-year promise with Ibushi and said it left the office disappointed because people want to see the singles match and the rematch. Omega spoke in Japanese to Ibushi, then said he was just translating what he was saying.

Cody was shown at ringside. Omega said they should have the rematch in one week. Cody entered the ring and took the mic before Ibushi could respond. Cody said he wanted to take the burden from both of them. He asked the fans if they wanted to see the rematch. Cody said he and Omega are friends now. “We’re… we’re getting there,” Cody said to Ibushi. Cody proposed Omega vs. Ibushi vs. Cody and then left the ring. Omega called him back. Omega said the mastermind behind All In has a solution for every problem. Omega said they want to rewrite history and there has been one Triple Threat match for the championship. Omega signed off on the Triple Threat. He said it’s not personal or because he hates them or wants to break his promise with Ibushi, he wants to show the beauty and originality of wrestling. He repeated a word and said that’s what happens when he tries to stick to a script. Omega closed out the show with his signature sign off line.

Omega and Ibushi hugged. Ross said Cody just booked himself into the main event and got himself more money, but he also has a plan. Kelly plugged the King of Wrestling event and the Triple Threat main event and noted that it would be available on New Japan World and on AXS a week later. Ibushi and the Bullet Club members slapped hands as they headed to the back to end the night.

Powell’s POV: The main event was exactly what you would expect from those four in terms of effort, physicality, and execution. It was highly entertaining and the crowd was with them from start to finish. The post match angle sets the stage for a strong Triple Threat match. We’ll worry about that later. As for this overall show, it was very good and it’s definitely worth going out of your way to watch if you missed it. The entire event will air Friday night on AXS TV. I will be by later tonight or tomorrow morning with my audio review of this event. Thanks for watching along with me.


Readers Comments (1)

  1. “The match was good. It wasn’t a Bucks style classic by any means”

    Bucks style sucks so that explains why it was good.

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