I’d like to start off this week’s review by addressing the elephant in the room – namely, why I didn’t give the honours to Kazuchika Okada vs. Kenny Omega from the same show, a match which many are claiming to be one of (if not THE) greatest of all time. The reason for this is that it wasn’t just simply a match. It was an absolute masterpiece, involving the two best wrestlers in the world battling it out in a 2-out-of-3 falls match for the most prestigious title in professional wrestling, culminating a 2-year long storyline in the process. I firmly believe that any review of the match that I’d hash out would not do it justice, and there have been several articles already written about the match and the stories surrounding it that will be much better than what I come up. If you have not for some reason watched the match yet, you owe it to yourself to stop what you’re doing, free yourself up for an hour, crack open a cold one and watch pure genius unfold right in front of you.
Owing to the above, I’ve decided to give my review attention to another match that was great from that event, but was somewhat overshadowed by the main event. As I mentioned in my entry a few weeks ago, The Young Bucks are one of the hottest acts in all wrestling at the moment, a team that has been around for a while but are now hitting their peak. Last Saturday at Osaka-jo Hall, they added another barn burner to their already stacked list, when they challenged Los Ingobernables de Japon’s EVIL and SANADA for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. After spending their first few years in NJPW in the junior tag division (racking up a record 7 junior tag title reigns in the process), the Bucks have just made the step up to the heavyweight division to challenge for the belts, their hard work in the gym having paid off. Their tranquilo opponents are no slouches, however, having both put their respective solid singles runs aside to carve out a pretty decent tag title reign of their own.
All 4 men were immensely popular with the capacity crowd, with both teams getting equally loud chants as the match got underway. It was the Bucks who got the upper hand in the early proceedings, with Nick Jackson hitting a springboard arm drag to top off the preliminary back-and-forth between him and SANADA. EVIL subsequently tagged in, only to get hit with a leg drop from the top rope by Matt Jackson, which the Bucks followed up with a simultaneous dropkick on SANADA. The Bucks then hit another dropkick soon after, with Matt launching his brother into both their opponents, sending them tumbling to the outside. Not letting up on their opponents, Nick quickly hit a corkscrew moonsault on both men, proudly proclaiming himself as “the best” after almost sticking the landing.
The LIJ lads swung momentum in their favour soon after, with EVIL hitting a sidewalk slam on Matt, followed by a dropkick on Nick by SANADA. EVIL then took proceedings to the outside, throwing Matt into the guardrail to work on the back that had been troubling Matt since Wrestle Kingdom (all the way back in January). Back in the ring, SANADA got a 2 count after hitting a standing moonsault on Matt. The pressure on the elder Jackson continued until he dodged out of the way of an EVIL senton attempt, as well as a SANADA plancha attempt. Just before Matt got to his younger brother, however, EVIL managed to knock Nick off the apron. Nick propped himself back up right after, and hit a rope-assisted bicycle kick on EVIL.
This allowed Nick to finally tag into the match, where he connected with a flurry of strikes on both of his opponents, followed by a bulldog/clothesline combination. As both men rolled to the outside, Nick attempted another kick on EVIL from the apron. EVIL just about managed to duck out of the way, however, causing Nick to plant a stiff kick on the unforgiving ring post. EVIL immediately capitalised, hitting a chop block on Nick’s newly injured leg, after which he wrapped and kicked that leg on the guard rail. Although Nick managed to hold off EVIL long enough for a superkick attempt by Matt, EVIL again managed to dodge out of the way, with Nick eating his brother’s superkick instead. SANADA quickly capitalised, sending Matt to the outside to allow them to capitalise on their 2-on-1 advantage. Nick valiantly tried to fight off both men, but the pain in his leg was too much, allowing EVIL to hit a lariat on him for the 2 count.
Matt came to the save soon after, willing his injured brother on to get to the top rope for a double superplex. The momentary delay, however, allowed EVIL to powerbomb both Bucks, sending SANADA crashing to the mat in the process. Despite this, Nick kept on fighting, reversing a fisherman gutbuster attempt by EVIL into a bicycle kick. Matt and SANADA then tagged in, with a back-and-forth between both men leading to Matt setting up SANADA in position for the Indytaker. As Nick prepared to spring himself off the ropes, however, EVIL yanked him off the apron, allowing SANADA to counter into the Skull End, which Matt in turn fought out of to set up for a sharpshooter. As EVIL came in to break the hold, Matt promptly swiped his opponent’s legs, and locked in the sharpshooter on EVIL instead. Realising that Matt was easy for the pickings, SANADA gripped Matt’s head and neck for the Skull End, all the while Matt still had the sharpshooter locked in on EVIL. With all 3 men occupied with submission holds, Nick had all the time in the world to hop to the top rope, and hit a missile dropkick on SANADA, breaking both holds in the process.
Once all 4 men were done writhing in pain on the floor, LIJ took advantage once again, with EVIL hitting the Darkness Falls spinebuster for the 2 count. Not letting up, he set up for his Everything is Evil STO finisher. Matt, however, once again countered to set up for the Indytaker. If Nick could get himself to springboard off the ropes, it would be all over. Unfortunately for the Bucks, however, the pain in Nick’s leg was just too strong, causing him to stumble off the ropes and crash to the mat. EVIL promptly pivoted over so that he now had Matt in the piledriver position, after which SANADA himself catapulted himself for an Indytaker of the LIJ lads’ own, spiking Matt’s head on the canvas. It looked like it was over, but Nick just about found enough will power to break up the pinfall at the count of 2. He repeated his heroics mere seconds later, once again breaking up a 2 count after LIJ hit a Magic Killer on Matt. SANADA looked to make sure Nick did not do it a third time by hitting a plancha on him after sending him tumbling out of the ring.
Back in the ring, EVIL set up for the Everything is Evil. Matt, however, quickly rolled him up with a backslide for a 2 count. EVIL then bounced off the ropes, only to be hit by a huge lariat from Matt. As Matt was distracted, SANADA took advantage and hit a huge dropkick on both him and Nick, sending the latter tumbling to the outside once again. SANADA looked to finish things once and for all, locking in the Skull End on Matt, then swinging him and driving him to the mat to set up for the moonsault. Matt promptly dodged out of the moonsault, however, and hit a spear on SANADA, only to be met by a lariat from EVIL. Nick got back in the ring and attempted a superkick, but EVIL caught his leg and contorted it enough for Nick to let out a shriek of agony. He then went for the Everything is Evil again, only for Matt to help Nick flip out of it, after which the Bucks hit stereo superkicks on both of their opponents. With SANADA the legal man, and knowing they would not manage to hit the Indytaker, they decided to bring an old one out of the bag to finish things off. More Bang For Your Buck, 1-2-3, Bucks new champions.
A fantastic tag match, and definitely one of the best tag matches I’ve seen from New Japan Pro Wrestling. The Young Bucks are firing on all cylinders right now, and this match provided evidence of that in full view. They had excellent chemistry with EVIL & SANADA, two great wrestlers in their own right, and I’m very excited to see whether they can top this effort in their rematch when NJPW head over to the Cow Palace for the G1 Special on 7 July.