New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV - Episode 2 Review
My first full experience watching New Japan came on January 4th with their debut on American PPV in the form of Wrestle Kingdom 9. After seeing Shinsuke Nakamura & Kota Ibushi and Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada tear the house down, I was hooked. So when it was announced that NJPW would have a series on AXS TV in the following weeks, I got pumped.
That leads us to this review of the second episode of NJPW on AXS. For those wondering, I did indeed see the debut episode however I didn't get the time to review it so I will offer a few short thoughts on it in these opening paragraphs.
I watched Tanahashi and Okada tear the house down at WK9 and was simply blown away. Thanks to the informative commentary from Striker & JR and a bit of research that I did on my own, I soon realized how important the match was as well as the history between the two. Last week on the first episode of NJPW on AXS, I had the pleasure of seeing one of the famed matches in the series between Okada and Tanahashi which took place at Wrestle Kingdom 7 in 2013.
Before Episode 1 began, I did a bit of research and found that many people considered that match the weakest in their series. After watching, I could see why. I may have only seen of their other bouts however the WK7 match was a big step down from the WK9 encounter so I can see why it's considered as such. Regardless, it was still a very good match, it just felt like dragged in a few parts which is what kept it from breaking past four stars for me. I may give it another watch to see if my opinion changes on it. Considering how good their WK9 encounter was, it's probably what hindered my enjoyment of this one since I was expecting something just as good or better.
It was a great choice for the debut episode though because it gave new fans a look at the most important rivalry in recent years. Another thing I liked about the first episode was the commentary. I had no clue what to expect from Josh Barnett & Mauro Ranallo and they totally exceeded any expectations I had. Their commentary definitely added to the match.
None the less, let's move onward to the second episode of New Japan on AXS TV which is headlined by the finals of the 2013 New Japan Cup between Hirooki Goto and Kazuchika Okada.
1) Suzukigun (Minoru Suzuki, Taka Michinoku, & Lance Archer) vs. CHAOS (Shinsuke Nakamura, Tomohiro Ishii, & Jado)
We got an unexpected six man tag to start out the show which is something I'm not complaining about. These are the two top stables in New Japan and it was a good way to introduce them to new fans. I had heard alot about Suzukigun considering their recent invasion of NOAH so I was stoked to see what they were all about. Unfortunately, they clipped this match a good bit although it's something I can overlook considering they only have an hour time slot. The action here was fast paced & fun and introduced fans to the top two stables in New Japan. Nice way to get the show going and showcase some new characters!
Match rating - N/R because it was clipped
2) Hirooki Goto vs. Kazuchika Okada - 2013 New Japan Cup Finals
The NJ Cup is a single elimination tournament that typically takes place in March. It doesn't have the prestige of the G1 however it has began to reach higher importance in recent years with names like Goto winning the cup twice in a row. As a whole, this match was very competitive. The two men traded momentum for a good portion of the bout and did a solid job of keeping me interested. There were a few dull moments, but once the final stretch hit, they really took things up a notch and delivered an awesome final 10 minutes. Great match that serves as the perfect lead-in to Episode 3 as Okada picked up the victory thus earning a shot at Tanahashi's IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
Match rating - ****
Overall thoughts: I enjoyed this show more than I did last week's. I liked how they added the six man tag in at the beginning to add some new characters in the mix. The main event was much more enjoyable for me than last week's Okada/Tanahashi match. I hadn't heard much about Goto/Okada so it was a pleasant surprise. If you missed this episode, it's something I'd recommend checking out. Especially if you plan to watch Episode 3.
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