Thursday, December 24, 2015

EthanPWT Watches/Reviews NJPW 2015

It's here. Follow along as I truck through the entire calendar year of New Japan Pro Wrestling. I don't review every single match on every single show. That'd be almost impossible for one person and a ton of work. However, I tried my best to review every match that I could get my hands on as well as all the biggest/best matches of the year. I've started doing these mass review posts so everything can be found in one place for future reference. Instead of having to read through a bunch of different show review posts, you can find all the matches I reviewed for a particular promotion in a particular year all in one place. I think it's a cool concept and something different so here goes.

The year obviously kicked off with WK9 and I reviewed it as it happened so I won't make you read through that again, I'll just post the match ratings below.

ReDragon (c) vs. The Young Bucks vs. Forever Hooligans vs. Timesplitters - IWGP Junior Tag Team Title Match - ***1/2

Jeff Jarrett, Bad Luck Fale, & Yujiro Takahashi vs. Tomoaki Honma, Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Satoshi Kojima - **

Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuki, Davey Boy Smith Jr, & Lance Archer vs. Naomichi Marufuji, Toru Yano, Shane Haste, & Mikey Nicholls - **1/2

Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazushi Sakuraba - ***1/4

Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Togi Makabe - NEVER Open Weight Championship Match - ***3/4

Ryusuke Taguchi (c) vs. Kenny Omega - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match - ***

Karl Anderson & Luke Gallows vs. Katsuyori Shibata & Hirooki Goto - IWGP Heavyweight Tag Title Match - ***1/2

AJ Styles vs. Testsuya Naito - ***3/4

Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match - *****

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada - IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match - ****3/4

- POST WK9 -

NOW, onto everything after Wrestle Kingdom 9, starting with the New Beginning In Osaka! I was unable to catch any of the NJ/CMLL matches which bums me out, but Ibushi & Honma are up first in my reviews so it's okay!

Kota Ibushi vs. Tomoaki Honma - The New Beginning In Osaka - 2/11/15

Honma is beloved and Ibushi is coming off the Nakamura classic so this is most likely going to be a joy. The story early on becomes Honma hitting the stalling head butt. He misses it in the first sequence, just as Ibushi misses the penalty kick he tried to follow up the counter with. Nice stalemate early. Honma finally hits it a few minutes in and the crowd pops. Ibushi bumped extremely well this entire match including taking one of the best brainbusters I've ever seen. The crowd was really into this as both men are fan favorites so this was entertaining the whole way through. They did several near falls off big moves including Honma's piledriver and back drop suplex off the rope. Ibushi hit a sit out powerbomb for two. When all was said and done, the trusty Phoenix Splash brings Ibushi the victory after a very fun match.

Match rating - ***1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs. AJ Styles - IWGP Heavyweight Championship Match - The New Beginning In Osaka - 2/11/15

Every rivalry typically has that one match that isn't quite on the level on the others and between Styles & Tanahashi, I'd definitely see this was that match. It wasn't bad by ANY means however it wasn't that blow away NJPW main event that these two men would typically deliver. It started off slow. Tana misses a running flip off the apron. BC interferes on the outside. Styles controls for a bit. Tana starts firing back and high fly flows onto Bullet Club. This ends up costing him as he butts heads with Matt Jackson and develops a nasty cut on his head. Typically this would put a match over the top, but with it being so impromptu they weren't really able to capitalize on it. It didn't really get me into the match for the first time, though. None the less, AJ ends up winning with a flurry of big offense. Piledriver, bloody sunday, Styles Clash - talk about a lethal combination. Styles wins his second IWGP Heavyweight Title.

Match rating - ***1/4

Kota Ibushi & Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazushi Sakuraba & Toru Yano - The New Beginning in Sendai - 2/14/15 

Surprisingly enough, this was a ton of fun. The exchanges between Ibushi & Sakuraba alone make this worth watching. I'd love a singles match between them after seeing this. Yano did his usual shenanigans and used a chair to hit Naito with behind the ref's back. With that in mind, Naito got isolated for a bit before breaking free and giving Ibushi the hot tag. We got more Ibushi/Sakuraba exchanges here including Ibushi attempting a standing moonsault only to get caught in a triangle choke. Cool sequences like that combined with one or two nearfalls gave this match a solid finish. Ibushi & Naito pick up the W.

Match rating - **3/4

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Katsuyori Shibata, & Hirooki Goto vs. Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, & Tama Tonga - New Beginning in Sendai - 2/14/15
At New Beginning in Osaka just days before this, every member of the babyface team lost their respective titles to members of the Bullet Club. Tanahashi lost the IWGP Title to AJ Styles and Shibata & Goto lost the tag titles to Gallows n Gun. That leads us to this six man match up. It's decent for what it is. Gallows mocks Shibata early by doing his signature elbows in the corner. It comes back to bite him once the trio of Tanahashi & Meiyu Tag began firing back. The faces busted out a few combo manuevers of their own to match the Bullet Club's cohesiveness. Tana got the hot tag and finished off Tama Tonga with a high fly flow at 12 minutes & 7 seconds.

Match rating - **1/4

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoaki Honma - NEVER Openweight Title Match - The New Beginning In Sendai - 2/14/15
This was for the NEVER Openweight Championship which was vacated by Togi Makabe soon after WK9 due to injury. You have the Stone Pitbull and resident badass Tomohiro Ishii against the adored veteran Tomoaki Honma. It's the perfect match up on paper and it translated into just that in the ring as well. These two plain and simple beat the living hell out of each other for the right to be called the NEVER Openweight Champion. It was pretty back & forth the entire match with neither man get a truly decisive advantage. They traded momentum throughout the bout although Ishii almost gained control after nailing a big suplex off the top turnbuckle and began nailing Honma with lariats only to get reversed into a vicious DDT that spiked his head into the mat. Ishii began showing signs of injury in his shoulder/neck area after this and Honma went to work. DIVING HEADBUTT OFF THE TOP TURNBUCKLE ONTO ISHII ON THE FLOOR! I didn't see that coming whatsoever! It looked like Honma would take control here, but they got back in the ring and the back & forth action began again. Honma nails a sick piledriver that made me mark out for a nearfall. They then began trading headbutts that made me cringe, you could literally hear their skulls smacking each other. Thankfully that only lasted a few seconds because I don't know how many more of those I could take, much less the competitors themselves. In the end, Ishii wins this battle and takes the crown as the NEVER Openweight Champion. This was given five stars by Dave Meltzer and while I won't go that far, I'll say that this definitely lived up to the hype as it was an awesome match. Without a doubt one of the best of the year.

Match rating - ****3/4

Kota Ibushi vs. Hirooki Goto - NJ Cup Finals - 3/10/15

Ibushi is headed into arguably the biggest match of his NJPW career. Goto is looking for his second NJ Cup victory. The stakes are pretty high, I'd say. Just as Ibushi has done during his entire tenure in the heavyweight division, he delivered a fantastic match here. That's one thing Iove about Ibushi, he's never not entertaining to watch however some of his matches do get repetitive. This could be viewed as that if you've watched as many matches of his lately as I have, but I still enjoyed this. Great counters, big moves, near falls. Your vintage Ibushi performance against a brute like Goto. Not to mention a moment that every fan of his needs to see.

Mach rating - ****

AJ Styles (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - Invasion Attack 2015 - 4/5/15

This is a dream match for me. I'm a longtime AJ Styles mark and a newly christened Ibushi mark so this was hype. Before I begin I have to mention the mixed reviews I've seen for this one. Meltzer went 4 3/4 while others said this one shit the bed. This must be why when I originally wrote a piece about this match, I mentioned how I thought this one was underrated and I stand by that statement because I enjoyed just about everything about this bout. One thing I heard a few people point out was that they didn't care for Ibushi's selling while I found no problem with it. Styles worked the leg a little once he got control after catching Ibushi with a german suplex on the floor. Ibushi sold it for a few minutes then kept moving which was completely fine from my perspective, it's not like he had been worked over in various vicious ways for five minutes. I'm not a harsh critic of wrestling then again I am. I don't just hand out high ratings. I feel like wrestling is taken too serious somtimes and hinders others from enjoying it. I personally loved this match. From beginning to end, Styles & Ibushi had my attention. The action was thrilling and the story of Styles being cocky and under estimating Ibushi early on soon to realize that he had more on his hands than he thought was awesome to watch unfold. On top of that, when it comes to storytelling, nothing hit me harder in this match than when Kota Ibushi climbed to the top rope for the phoenix splash and came face to face with Kenny Omega on the ring apron. Omega couldn't bring himself to knock his former partner off the top turnbuckle, but the momentary staredown was enough of a distraction to allow Styles to get up and CATCH IBUSHI IN MID AIR IN THE PHOENIX SPLASH and nail him with a Styles Clash. Omega's face as he realized that he just cost his former best friend & partner the IWGP Heavyweight Title was as emotional as it gets. I'm really shocked I didn't here more about that when reading things about this match. I probably sound like I'm saying that this match got hated on which isn't my intention. It got praise, I just remember not getting anywhere near the buzz I expected it to. It almost made me decided to just pass up on checking this out, but I'm glad I didn't because this was an awesome contest.

Match rating - ****1/2

hinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Hirooki Goto - IWGP Intercontinental Championship Match - Wrestling Dontaku - 5/3/15

After his WK9 classic against Kota Ibushi, Shinsuke Nakamura went on a bit of a sleeper in his career. He didn't have ANY noteworthy contests until now. On May 3rd, he defended his IWGP IC Title against Hirooki Goto in a extremely hard fought contest. When I heard nothing big about any of Nakamura's matches in the months after WK9, I was just waiting for him to have an awesome match that everyone raved about and this turned out to be it. The King of Strong Style came out and took control of this bout right from the get go. Not without some struggle from Goto however as he continued trying to fight back only to be shut down again. After an extensive period of being worked over by Nakamura, Goto began making an effective comeback that resulted in both men fighting on the top rope. Goto looks like he's going for a powerbomb and I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what's going to happen BUT NAKAMURA REVERSES IT INTO A BACKBODY DROP! Phew! Turns out this was simply a teaser of what was to come in the form of an intense series of nearfalls. Nakamura with a boma knee off the second rope and then a shining wizard. Goto kicks out! Both men are up and trading shots. Headbutt from Goto, LARIATOOOO TURNS NAKAMURA INSIDE OUT! Goto covers Nakamura for another nearfall! Goto lifts Nakamura onto his shoulders and places him on the top rope. He lifts onto hi shoulders as he stands on the second rope, NECKBREAKER ONTO HIS KNEE OFF THE SECOND ROPE!! 1..2..NAKAMURA KICKS OUT! Another neckbreaker variation earns Goto the victory and the Intercontinental Championship. Really good match.

Match rating - ****

KUSHIDA vs. Kyle O'Reilly - Best of the Super Juniors Finals - 6/7/15

And we close out this list of epic matches with one that took place less than a week ago. A match that is easily one of my favorites of the year. A match that saw one of my top favorites ascend to a new level and a competitor that has long deserved that BOSJ trophy get just that. When Kyle O'Reilly had to stop competing for PWG this year due to his ROH contract, I was bummed because of the lack of singles matches we'd get from him as he's a tag team competitor in ROH. Well, NJPW came to save the day by placing him in the Best of Super Juniors tournament and boy, did it pay off! Great matches with Beretta, Gedo, & Liger and now THIS, the finals of the most prestigious junior heavyweight tournament in pro wrestling. As for KUSHIDA, he was one of the first people I really became a fan of in NJPW after his BOSJ final last year against Ricochet. Alot of people feel like he's been misused and snubbed in the past so nearly everyone was behind him although they weren't necessarily against O'Reilly. The two start feeling each other out and produce a fantastic exchange on the mat that felt more like real grappling than pro wrestling. From that point, I knew this would be something special and it quickly turned into just that - something VERY special. Both men have finishing holds that target the arm so there was some extensive arm work here. O'Reilly dropped KUSHIDA arm/shoulder first off the turnbuckle in one of the most brutal manners possible. So gruesome that the ref had to check to see if he was legit hurt, by the looks of it. Things really took to another level here as the crowd in attendance garnered even more sympathy towards KUSHIDA. The limb work wasn't even the best part of this though. KUSHIDA & O'Reilly put forth a number of vicious striking exchanges that will bring you to your feet in excitement. You got the vibe that these two men were giving everything they had because it's exactly what they were doing. There were a few cool spots here as well including O'Reilly locking KUSHIDA in a guillotine choke on the apron only for KUSHIDA reverse it into a brainbuster/suplex ON THE RING APRON! Oh, and how could I forget KUSHIDA ascending to the top rope and going for a moonsault only for O'Reilly to catch him in a triangle choke - it was unbelievable! Plain and simple, this was one of the best matches of the year thus far in ANY promotion and easily in the Top 3 Best NJPW matches of the year. Post match, KUSHIDA and O'Reilly embrace as they both nurse their injuries and show each other respect. This was a spectacle. Both men took their respective careers to a new level in this one single match/tournament.

Match rating - ****3/4

AJ Styles (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - Dominion - 7/5/15 

In the month that the G1 Climax was set to begin, AJ Styles & Kazuchika Okada faced off on more time for the IWGP Title. The Bullet Club accompanied the champion to the ring only to get kicked out after taking every chance they could to lay in the boots to Okada on the outside. Red Shoes told them to suck it and sent them to the back. This left AJ & Okada to do their thing in the ring for a good 15 minutes. When you let two athletes of this caliber work for that length of time, you know it's going to be awesome, and it was. Okada fought back as soon as BC left and continued to do so through the last half of the match. AJ kept going for the springboard flying punch only to get caught with that one of a kind dropkick from the Rainmaker. Styles wouldn't let it phase him though as he would finally hit the punch and even nail Okada with his own signature piledriver at one point. This was the high drama match you'd expect from this two. It's not a classic, but a damn good match well worth your time.

Match rating - ****1/4


Togi Makabe vs. Toru Yano - G1 Climax 25 Day 1 - 7/20/15
I have no clue how/why I took the time to watch this. I was originally gonna try to watch everything on the shows, but changed to the format I detailed above. I watched this prior to getting recommendations and boy, this was pretty much a waste. Chair & ref bumps and some brawling in the crowd. It went under 10 minutes and wasn't anything to talk about. While this felt like crap to me, someone going back trying to watch the good stuff, I feel like this would've been a nice change of pace for someone watching the show as a whole. Makabe came out on top here.

Match rating - **

AJ Styles vs. Katsuyori Shibata - G1 Climax 25 Day 1 - 7/20/15
When the top matches were announced for this year's G1, this one truly stood out. Based off how awesome of a match AJ Styles had with Minoru Suzuki last year, I felt like this could be just as good. From the get go, things felt pretty epic. Styles is on the run of his career and Shibata is someone I've been high on lately. Those two things made for a super enjoyable contest. There were several things I loved about this, the first being Styles having Shibata in the corner only for him to raise up and get right in his face. Styles struck him with an elbow and Shibata jumped right back into his face. They began talking trash and Styles threw another strike. It's still crazy to me how AJ has adapted from junior heavyweight to throwing down with the toughest dudes in Japan and not seeming out of place. They also did some good limb work here with the leg of Shibata being targeted a bit after he went for a kick and nailed the post. Styles would go back to it a few times including going for the calf killer when Shibata got himself out of a Styles Clash attempt. This one only lasted just over 10 minutes, but it was great while it lasted and made me want a rematch between the two. I feel like they could tear the house completely down in a main event slot. In the end, AJ gets the win with a Bloody Sunday followed by a Styles Clash.

Match rating - ***1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kota Ibushi - G1 Climax 25 Day 1 - 7/20/15
DUDE! This was so awesome. I heard these guys went all out, but damn. They did just that and then more, in my opinion. The crowd just gradually got more and more into this as the bout went on. By the time I knew it, we were in the midst of a HOT ass sequence featuring big moves and nearfalls that had me nearly jumping out of my seat. I have to mention some things that took place before that though because the early going wasn't dull by any means. No one got a real advantage early on despite Tanahashi doing a bit of damage to Ibushi's right leg. I had to take the time to mention this because it comes back into play later in the match. There were several notable exchanges in the early going, most notably Ibushi knocking Tanahashi off the top turnbuckle and then nailing his signature inside out moonsault. I don't even know when these two kicked into high gear, it just sort of happened and that's how it should be because that's a sign that this entire flowed perfectly together. In some matches, guys will take it slow then BAM! BIG MOVE, NEARFALL, BIG MOVE NEARFALL. Here, they kept a good pace so much so that when they went into the big stuff, it felt natural and was therefore more enjoyable. I thought this one was done and finished after all those false finishes however they were just getting started delivering the goods. Ibushi goes for a paylay kick, Tanahashi catches leg and WRENCHES IT IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION AND SLAMS IT TO THE MAT! Back to the leg! That was so brutal! Tanahashi lifts him up and IBUSHI STARTS FIRING AT HIM WITH SLAPS AND STRIKES! Tanahashi fires back and DRAGON SUPLEX!!! 1...2...IBUSHI KICKS OUT! Finally, a high fly flow frog splash puts Ibushi away and Tanahashi advances. What a fucking match. Some other highlights that I didn't mention including a hurricanrana off the top rope by Ibushi, a phoenix splash attempt, and Ibushi german suplexing Tanahashi from the apron back into the ring and dropping him on his head. This is a must see match.

Match rating - ****1/2

Tomohiro Ishii vs. Satoshi Kojima - G1 Climax 25 Day 2 - 7/23/15
I wasn't really expecting much out of this one despite liking Ishii and knowing that Kojima has the abilty to produce good matches. This ended up being a pretty solid little contest. They trade shots for literally like a minute to start things off. After a bit, the fight heads to the outside where something happens that I can't make out due to the hard camera set up for this night of action. The final few minutes featured some nice action and even a few close nearfalls. Decent little match albeit nothing special. Ishii takes the win.

Match rating - ***

Kazuchika Okada vs. Michael Elgin - G1 Climax 25 Day 2 - 7/23/15
This was the co-main event and essentially what Styles/Shibata was on Night 1 as the two put on a good match for the slot it was in although they didn't go all out. Elgin made a nice first impression in singles action though, I'd say. The crowd was receptive to his roars and feats of strength. There was an extremely believable nearfall after Elgin hit a top rope inside out falcon arrow where you could tell the crowd thought he was gonna pull the upset on the IWGP Champion. Elgin dominated a decent portion of the contest thanks to the size advantage however he would miss a moonsault off the top rope which allowed Okada to mount some offense back together. I also have to mention a cool exchange where Elgin hit the buckle bomb and went for a powerbomb out of it like usual only for Okada to reverse and hit an air raid crash like maneuver. In the end, the tombstone piledriver and rainmaker lariat in succession would allow Okada to pick up the three count over the beast. Good match.

Match rating - ***1/2

Tetsuya Naito vs. Katsuyori Shibata - G1 Climax Day 3 - 7/24/15
This happened and I, for the life of me, can't find my original review of it. The 2015 G1 Climax saw Naito transform into an entirely different facet of his character than we'd ever seen before and this match is one of the first examples. Naito wore a suit to the ring and acted very cowardish. As said before, I lost my original review of this so all I have is my rating and my memory which is blanking out. This wasn't anything special though.

Match rating - ***

AJ Styles vs. Kota Ibushi - G1 Climax Day 5 - 7/26/15
It's AJ Styles. It's Kota Ibushi. It's 2015 and it's the G1 Climax. You know this was awesome. Their first encounter earlier this year was slower paced and mainly story based. That's not to say it didn't deliver though because it ruled. This match, however, saw Styles & Ibushi lay it ALL out on the line when it comes to in-ring action. If you were let down from a dream match aspect by their match at Invasion Attack, I implore you to watch this because they more than redeemed themselves. An absolute barnburner.

Match rating - ****1/2

Kota Ibushi vs. Katsuyori Shibata - G1 Climax 25 Day 7 - 7/29/15
The match I was most looking forward to in the entire 2015 G1 Climax, folks. The fact that it fell on one of the shows without commentary sucks, but hey. It's happening in front of a great crowd so I won't complain. The strike exchanges were a highlight as you may or may not expect. Stiff kicks, stiff jabs. Ibushi was great fighting from underneath of such an intimidating competitor like Shibata. This match was all around good, but I struggled to find it as *AMAZING* as many people did. That's coming from a mark from both guys. I thought this was just a teaser of what these two could together and thats not a bad thing because it was hella fun to watch unfold. When's the rematch?!

Match rating - ****

Tomoaki Honma vs. Michael Elgin - G1 Climax 25 Day 8 - 8/1/15
I was pleasantly surprised with this match. I like both guys. They're great at what they do, but this is particularly a match that you'd think would click as well as it did. The crowd didn't really know what to think at first considering Honma is adored and Elgin is the new favorite since debuting in the G1 & making quite the impression. Elgin began doing a few taunts and that's all it took for the "Honma" chants to erupt. This match was under 10 minutes yet they packed in a ton during that time making this quite the sprint. A number of mark out worthy counters and even several near falls that left the crowd gasping. Very fun match.

Match rating - ***3/4

Kazuchika Okada vs. Hirooki Goto - G1 Climax 25 Day 8 - 8/1/15
It's Champion vs Champion with points in the G1 Climax tournament on the line. To quote good ol' Jim Ross, it don't get no bigger than this! The IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP IC Champion collided here in the main event of Day 8 of the 25th Annual G1 Climax in a one hell of a match if I may say so myself. Okada & Goto have a few stalemates early before Goto begins dogging the champion. The battle is taken to the outside and shockingly, Okada earns the advantage with a gutsy dive over the railing onto Goto followed by a stalling DDT to the floor. Okada starts wearing down Goto from this point forward, but he should know it wouldn't be easy. Goto fights back and he & Okada have quite the dramatic finishing run. Goto first blocks the rainmaker by catching him in a fireman's carry and dropping him neck first onto his knee. Later when Okada goes for it again, Goto resorts to straight up fucking head butting him. I marked hard for that moment. The atmosphere became pretty electric at this point and made the final few moments very easy to get into. Great, great match here in which Goto gets a surprising victory over the ace of the company.

Match rating - ****1/4

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Katsuyori Shibata - G1 Climax 25 Day 13 - 8/8/15
This intense rivalry that began nearly a decade ago sees another chapter in the 25th annual G1 Climax. Tanahashi & Shibata begin on the mat and spend the first few minutes there. With some people this sort of feeling out process could come across with boring, but with them, I'm interested the entire time. Partially because I know how quick Shibata can strike. Both men seemed to target the legs of their opponent with Shibata locking Tanahashi in a figure four and torturing him for a few minutes. Once Tanahahsi got the ropes, he began gaining some steam and started taunting Shibata with some of his own signature moves. As you can guess, the strikes began flying at this point. Tanahashi drop kicked Shibata in the railing on the outside then went for the elbows in the corner of the ring. In Shibata fashion, he goes to follow this up with a running dropkick and SHIBATA COUNTERS OUT WITH A DOUBLE STOMP! UN BE LIEVABLE! This would turn into a physically intense match up as time went on. I expected nothing less from these two, though. Tanahashi hit the sling blade and high fly flow. He went up top for a second and recieved two knees to the gut. The heated exchange that started the match began again following this as both men struggled for a pin. Tanahashi got lucky and was able to win this exchange by rolling up Shibata and bridging back. Tana is victorious.

Match rating - ****

Michael Elgin vs. Karl Anderson - G1 Climax Day 13 - 8/9/15
I heard these two put on a hot match and they did, indeed. Elgin flurried from the bell by using his strength only for Anderson to drop him on his throat across the top rope then slam him against the turnbuckle to gain the advantage. After a short control segment for Anderson, Elgin began firing back and a huge exchange of momentum began. Anderson pulled a shocker and decided to trade strikes with Elgin at one point. Elgin went for the spinning lariat and caught an uppercut for his troubles, but would retaliate when Anderson hit the ropes only to recieve a brutal lariat that floored him. Elgin got a good pop for knocking Gallows & Tama Tonga on their ass. To top that off, he power bombed Anderson over the top rope to the floor onto his Bullet Club brethren. The finish was amazing with Elgin going for a powerbomb and Anderson countering out into the gun stun.

Match rating - ***3/4

Hirooki Goto vs. Tomohiro Ishii - G1 Climax Day 14 - 8/9/15
This was war. I've seen matches like this from Ishii, and even Goto in some cases, before, but they never seem to get old. It just felt like a real fight from the beginning. The action and the atmosphere. Everything meshed together to create an epic enviroment as these two slugged it out for a good 15 minutes. Awesome stuff, loads of fun to watch and definitely one of my favorite matches of the tournament this year.

Match rating - ****1/4

Hirooki Goto vs. Michael Elgin - G1 Climax 25 Day 15 - 8/12/15
What a hoss fest! Goto & Elgin went right into high gear from the get go in a match in which the intensity never slowed. From the trading of lariats to the death valley driver on the ring apron to the suplex variations, this was an all around fight. The crowd was on fire which was just the icing on the cake. Elgin dominated most of the match and surprisingly enough, the crowd was behind him the entire time. The audience bit on all the near falls. Elgin hit most of his stuff here including the inside out falcon arrow, repeated germans with a bridge, etc yet Goto kicked out of it all. In the end, a unique roll up pinning combination where Goto had Elgin's legs tied up, earned him the victory. One hell of a sprint.

Match rating - ***3/4

AJ Styles vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi - G1 Climax 25 Day 17 - 8/14/15
Earlier this year, Styles & Tanahashi had what some deemed a lackluster chapter in their series of matches. While I agreed, it was far from a bad match. I hoped they could produce something better here and even had some excitment for it. Hell, they're two of the best in the world today, how can you not be excited. Right off the bat, I can say that this was better than their meeting in February. However, it still wasn't on the level of their encounters in 2014, in my opinion. The match was good-great, but it dragged in some parts despite having some fantastic moments as well. They built up well to Styles' springboard punch by teasing it multiple times only for Tanahashi to block it. Styles got his legged work over quite well and they went back to it during the finishing run which I liked. It was a pretty exhausting contest, looking back on it. After battling for around 20 minutes, two High Fly Flows from Tanahashi puts Styles away. Tanahashi is headed to the finals to fight for a spot in the main event of WK10!

Match rating - ***3/4

Michael Elgin vs. Tomohiro Ishii - G1 Climax 25 Day 17 - 8/14/15
When Elgin was announced for the G1, this was one of my top dream matches for him and boy oh boy, it was everything I had hoped for. Ishii matches tend to fall under the same pattern, but it's always done right and when in front of the correct crowd, it's awesome. That was the case here because the crowd was hot for this fresh match up. Elgin floored Ishii in this fight early on and proved himself to the crowd, as if he hadn't already. There was even a little chant for him at one point. In short, these two really just beat the shit out of each other. Elbows, head drops, suplexes. Elgin gave Ishii a death valley driver on the ring apron then followed it up with a fucking running powerbomb into the railing/onto the floor. It was BRUTAL even though the camera angle was bad. This deadly combination wasn't finished because Elgin rolled Ishii into the ring and hit my favorite move of his, the inside out FALCON ARROW FROM THE TOP ROPE! AND HE ONLY GETS A TWO COUNT! Epic battle from start to finish here.

Match rating - ****1/4

Kazuchika Okada vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - G1 Climax 25 Day 17 - 8/14/15
Here we have a rematch from last year's G1 finals. The stakes aren't quite as high as then however this IS a semi-final match in the G1 so it's definitely a big contest. With that being said, I'm sure you already know this delivered considering that Okada & Nakamura rarely ever don't deliver in big match situations. From the time they went from feeling out to throwing it all out there in an opening sequence that saw Nakamura go for a Boma Ye and Okada go for the rainmaker, I knew this would be another fantastic showing. It was quality work from start to finish with Nakamura somewhat targeting the arm of Okada which would come back into play in the finish of the match. This wasn't one sided by any means, though. Okada had the King of Strong Style reeling at many points, including after hitting a tombstone piledriver on the outside of the ring. The finishing run really put this one over the top. Okada countered the Boma Ye with a dropkick, Nakamura went for the cross arm breaker and got caught in another piledriver, Okada didn't go for the pin, though and it cost him. He pulls Nakamura up for the rainmaker lariat and NAKAMURA CATCHES THE ARM! CROSS ARM BREAKER IS LOCKED IN! Okada fights and tries to pull him up in powerbomb position, but NO! NAKAMURA TURNS IT INTO A TRIANGLE CHOKE! Okada keeps fighting, but is ultimately forced to tap out. Nakamura to the finals to fight for a spot in the main event of WK9! Awesome match although it didn't quite reach the level of their match last year, in my opinion.

Match rating - ****1/2

G1 Climax 25 Finals - August 16th, 2015

The most prestigious tournament in pro wres today comes to a close with Tanahashi & Nakamura in the main event to decide the winner plus a loaded undercard of junior heavyweight title bouts!

The Young Bucks (c) (w/ Cody Hall) vs. ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match - 8/16/15
These four have produced some of the best tag matches in the past two years so there's hype for this on that alone. The son of Scott Hall, Cody, carries Nick to the ring on his shoulders as The Bucks are their usual cocky selves. The chemistry The Bucks & ReDragon have is undeniable and shows as soon as the bell rings. Everything here is done with the utmost ease and precision, it's a joy to watch. They did a few of the same spots from their MOTY candidate at ROH earlier in the year, but also busted out some new ones. My favorite is one that didn't even come to fruition as Matt caught Kyle off the rebound lariat and pulled him out of the ring into position for the Meltzer Driver on the floor before Fish broke it up. That was SWEET. They did a thing where Cody Hall ran O'Reilly to the back which made for a nice run in return for him where he ducked a clothesline from Hall and got the hot tag. So, there were some shenanigans, but they didn't over do it despite the Bucks bringing the belts in to hit Kyle & Bobby whilst the ref had his back turned. Another super entertaining match between the two best duos in wrestling today that sees ReDragon regain the titles after a falcon arrow off the top rope and Chasing the Dragon in the ring AND on the floor.

Match rating - ***1/2

Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Shinsuke Nakamura - G1 Climax 25 Finals - 8/16/15
Oh man. This was amazing. It took me some time to finally get around to watching it, but when I did it was more than worth the wait. The atmosphere, the action, the everything. If you've seen an epic NJPW match involving either of these two, then you know what to expect here. If you haven't, then just prepare yourself for a rollercoaster ride. Well, for you, that is. For the men involved, it was a war to the very end. Tanahashi & Nakamura threw literally everything they had at each other and the fans ate up every bit of it. I can't say much else, but to watch this match now. It takes a lot for me to give a match five stars, but this did it. I've only given one other match five stars this year and that was Nakamura/Ibushi so this is Shinsuke's second classic this year. Nakamura may take it easy in certain situations through the year, but in big matches like this, he never fails to deliver and he doesn't just deliver. He nails it in the most precise way possible. This was the PERFECT finale for another classic edition of the G1 Climax. Tanahashi takes the crown and will be heading to Wrestle Kingdom 10.

Match rating - *****

Hiroshi Tanahashi & Matt Sydal vs. Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale - Destruction In Okayama - 9/23/15
It's Matt Sydal's debut in NJPW so you KNOW I had to watch this. It's been a long time coming for a guy who's torn it up all over America and even in Japan with Dragon Gate. He starts things out which surprised me. He & Tanahashi flurry and hit a double springboard crossbody to the outside onto the Bullet Club's Fale & Tama Tonga. The BC boys take control soon after though and work over Tanahashi. A body slam out of nowhere allows Tanahashi to create separation and get the tag to Sydal. Decently fun final few minutes with a cool finish as Sydal hits his signature SSP on Tama Tonga and Tanahashi follows it up with a High Fly Flow. The babyfaces get the win.

Match rating - **1/2

Togi Makabe (c) vs. Kota Ibushi - Destruction In Okayama - 9/23/15
On paper, this is an odd looking match. Then you notice that it's 2015, a main event match, and Kota Ibushi is involved so you know it's going to rule. And... it did. I didn't have a lot of enthusiasm heading into this match. It was more of, Ibushi is one of my favorites and Makabe is good at what he does so let's see what happens. By about the half-way point though, this really started developing into a match way better than I expected. Makabe dominates early after a brief strike exchange mid-ring that has become a signature of Makabe & Ishii matches. Ibushi clearly loses this first exchange, but later in the contest he'd come back and win the striking battle at one point. That's one of the things I really liked about this. However, I'm jumping ahead so back to where we were. After being beaten down for a while, Ibushi is thrown into the ropes for what looks to be another lariat. Instead of taking it, Ibushi goes on the offense and nails Makabe with a kick. This begins Ibushi's comeback that sees them brawl to the outside and Ibushi hit a double stomp off the top turnbuckle onto Makabe on a table. Everything from here on out is fantastic. They threw in a number of callbacks like the one I mentioned before and hit several jaw dropping moves/counters. Ibushi flipping out of the top rope suplex from Makabe was epic, but Makabe changing things up on his second attempt and hitting a DRAGON suplex while hanging from the top rope on Ibushi was even crazier. That move leads Makabe to victory as he hits his knee drop off the top rope on Ibushi afterwards and got the pin. Pretty great match here.

Match rating - ****

ReDragon (Kyle O'Reilly & Bobby Fish) (c) vs. Timesplitters (Alex Shelley & KUSHIDA) - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match - Destruction in Kobe - 9/27/15
OOOOH daddy. Dream matches all over the place here. I'm having flashbacks to the classic BOSJ Final Round Match from earlier this year just thinking about it. Beyond that, O'Reilly/Shelley is a dream pairing for me so this was a must watch and after watching, I'd say it's something you should undoubtedly check out as well. Just great, crisp junior heavyweight tag wrestling and one of the best junior tags in NJPW this year. KUSHIDA & O'Reilly's chemistry and history made this what it was with their counterparts, Shelley & Fish being able to more than hold their own. One thing I really loved about this was that they didn't go the sprint route. They started slow and built to the fast paced final half. To top that off, the blow out final few minutes wasn't too much. It was just enough and I loved it. ReDragon retain after a highly entertaining match up.

Match rating - ****

I didn't watch anything else from the Destruction shows due to lack of time and nothing sticking out as being must see. However, during this time, several interesting developments took place as you had Shinsuke Nakamura regain the Intercontinental Championship from Hirooki Goto and Kenny Omega regained the Junior Heavyweight title from KUSHIDA.

Kenny Omega (c) vs. Matt Sydal - IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title Match - King of Pro Wrestling - 10/12/15
Rematch from a first time meeting that took place in PWG's BOLA tournament last year. I'll say right off the bat that this topped that match. Sydal was just warming back up to the scene in 2014, here, he's at his finest so it's no surprise that they were able to put on a match that was better than their first encounter. There were some BC shenanigans, but they weren't overbearing. Sydal fought back and produced several breathtaking exchanges. No one hits a reverse rana like he does! Hell, no one hits half the stuff that he hits as smoothly as he does. Really enjoyable match between these two. Omega retains after he sits Sydal on his shoulders and spikes his head down into the mat.

Match rating - ***3/4

Kazuchika Okada (c) vs. AJ Styles - IWGP Heavyweight Title Match - King of Pro Wrestling - 10/12/15
The series continues. The stakes here are high with the winner basically being guaranteed a slot in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 10 as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. It's something that AJ has never done despite holding the title twice in the past two years. The winner of this match faces Tanahashi who we all know has history with Okada, so beyond retaining his title, getting a chance to redeem himself after the WK9 fiasco has to be an extra motivating factor on the mind of the champion. AJ & Okada put together a pretty great match here. I seem to say it in every match that invovles a member of BC, but yes, there were some shenanigans from them here. Anderson powerbombed Okada on the ring apron early on however the champion would get him back later as he hit a huge plancha over the top rope onto both Anderson & Gallows. This came after Anderson pulled Okada off Styles in the midst of what looked to be a three count as the rainmaker had just been delivered. The drama really took into effect from this point forward with AJ locking in the calf killer and the crowd biting for it as Okada looked to be in complete agony in the center of the ring. A huge gasp was let out by the entire audience as he made a huge leap to reach the ropes, thus breaking the hold. Okada was on the ropes, literally and figuratively at multiple points here. Despite that, there's nothing a few rainmaker lariats can't fix. Three of them would be the undoing of the Phenomenal One in this particular instance. Okada retains after another fantastic match in their series. As you can tell by the fourth of a star difference, I DID enjoy their encounter at Dominion in June slightly more than this one.

Match rating - ****

Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero & Trent Beretta) vs. Ricochet & Matt Sydal - Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Tournament Finals - Power Struggle - 11/7/15
I'm so bummed I couldn't find any of the other matches from the Junior Tag Tourney online, I guess it's time to fork out the dough for NJ World. None the less, this is a pretty unique final considering both teams are in their first year of work in NJPW. It's also a well booked one when you look at the outcome. RPG Vice is the home team however Ricochet & Sydal have previous history teaming together in Japan over in Dragon Gate. So them winning here shocked me at first, but after some thought, I see the logic. The reasoning point that I stated above and the fact that they are just fucking awesome being my consensus. So, yeah, this was a very fun finals match. Momentum exchanged a lot early on. Ricochet shows off. Sydal shows off. Fancy showcases get them the advantage. Aggressiveness gives control back to RPG Vice. Then they go into the action packed final half which features a must see spring board shooting star to the outside from Ricochet. Dear LORD, the height he got on that thing! The move proved to pay off as Sydal & Ricochet would hit their signature double SSP just minutes later to gain the victory. Big win for those dudes, I'm excited for what they will bring to the Junior division on seemingly a full time basis in 2016.

Match rating - ***1/2

Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. Tomoaki Honma - NEVER Open Weight Title Match - Power Struggle - 11/7/15
My body is not ready. I repeat, my body is not ready. If you haven't seen the February match between Ishii & Honma for the NEVER Title, stop reading and go watch it now. It. Was. BAWNKERS. With that in mind, the crowd was lit and so was I headed into this. Plus, it's Honma and they love him so you know they were fired up. Ishii gets the upperhand early on after Honma misses the Kokeshi. This sets up Honma trying to comeback and does he ever! KOKESHI STALLING NO HANDS DIVING HEADBUTT TO THE FLOOR OFF THE TURNBUCKLE! I gasped. The battle is taken back in the ring and THEY START EXCHANGING HEADBUTTS! NO THEY AREN'T! STAHP! This was brutal and unexpected. There was a moment here where it felt like Honma was going to win. The fans believed it, but it just wasn't meant to be. Ishii drops the legend once again despite a valiant effort. We still got an amazing match, though so I don't think anyone will complain!

Match rating - ****1/4

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