NJPW New Japan Brave 2011
April 19th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
April 19th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
Hot off the heels of a great event in the "New Dimension" show a few weeks prior to this, New Japan comes back to Korakuen for a three hour Battle Station special. No titles on the line tonight, but there is a match to determine the next contenders for Bad Intention's IWGP Tag Team titles and there's a stacked super junior six man tag match on here, so let's jump right into it.
TAKA Michinoku/Taichi vs. Kyosuke Mikami/Hiromu Takahashi
I feel like I've just seen this match recently. Taichi, how I long for thy badass cape. This is just a gimme match for TAKA and Taichi here against two of the young recent students of the New Japan dojo, so they don't take their opponents very seriously. It's just a delight to watch TAKA and Taichi disrespect the young kids and take them to school while they do their best to try and mount some offense of their own, they have their roles as slimy heels down pat. Takahashi sends the heels to the floor momentarily and tries for a pescado but botches it horribly and winds up tumbling to the floor as the crowd quietly dies. Ouch. The heels continue to work over Takahashi in their corner, trading tags. Takahashi tags out to Mikami eventually and he suplexes Taka for a two count before tagging Takahashi back in. TAKA pokes him in the eye and tags out to Taichi, who then applies a deep Boston crab to Hiromu. Takahashi gets the rope break but winds up falling right back into the Boston crab again. Taichi transitions it into an old school Jericho-like Liontamer and Takahashi has no choice but to tap out at 9:26. Decent squash-ish match for Taichi and TAKA, but the botch hurt it obviously. Taichi looked great again though. *3/4
Jado/Gedo vs. Tiger Mask IV/King Fale
Though this looks like a decent match-up on paper, it winds up being one of those matches where you can just tell everyone is kind of half-assing it just to hurry up and get it over with. Hey, if you're not going to put much effort into the match guys, I won't put much effort into reviewing it. Lots of headlocks and not much fire from anyone really. Tiger does a half-assed dive towards the end and Jado locks in the crossface onto Fale, forcing him to tap out at 7:44. Poor effort all around honestly, the less said about this match the better. 1/2*
Manabu Nakanishi/Jushin Liger vs. Mascara Dorada/Tama Tonga
Hm, another random pairing but an intriguing one. This winds up being more fun then you'd expect with Dorada zipping all over the place and Tonga hooting and hollering like a coked up James Brown (in other words his normal behavior). Liger, god bless him, still has a way with his feet. Nakanishi has fun ripping into Tonga for a bit and then tags Liger back in to stretch the kid out with a surfboard. Do not upset Grandpa Liger! Dorada hops in and he and Liger do some fun lucha stuff with Dorada taking him out with a nice tope. Liger responds with a big cross body off the top to the floor. It's miraculous Liger can still bump like that after all these years of working so hard. Tonga hits a corkscrew moonsault for a near fall, but Nakanishi gives him a towering German suplex right on his neck. Dorada takes out Liger on the floor with a moonsault while Nakanishi finishes Tonga off with the Argentine backbreaker (torture rack) at 9:43. Fun little match here, they kept it light and fast-paced and that was the right choice. Dorada and Liger worked well together, Tonga did his usual fun antics, and this was just an entertaining if forgettable little tag match. **1/2
Giant Bernard/Karl Anderson/Tomoaki Honma vs. Takashi Iizuka/Toru Yano/Tomohiro Ishii
Interesting match-up of a trio from the CHAOS stable taking on the tag champs and hanger-on Honma. This one is wild from the start with everyone brawling around ringside and into the crowd, choking each other with anything they can get their hands on. Honma is great at crowd-brawling thanks to his many years in Big Japan in this same building among others, but CHAOS ain't half bad either. Eventually they make their way back to the ring where Honma takes it to Ishii with great crowd support. They go off into a big strike exchange and then trade nasty headbutts like butting rams. Honma gets taken out of the ring again and has a chair smashed over his back by the heels. They do the same thing to Bernard while tossing Honma into the rails. Back in the ring they keep the focus on Honma, Iizuka choking him out with his wrist-tape behind the ref's back. Bernard hops in and gives Iizuka a taste of his own medicine by choking him with his own wrist-tape in a cool moment. Honma fires off a brainbuster with the last of his energy and gets the hot tag to Anderson, who's fresh as a daisy and hasn't been in the entire match. He and Yano trade uppercuts and Anderson gets a two count off of a leg lariat. Bad Intentions teams up on Ishii now, double-teaming him behind his partner's back and they wind up finishing Ishii off with the Magic Killer to win at 9:49. Pretty fun little brawl and the finish was good as well, so this wound up being better than expected. ***
After the match Iizuka drags an announcer out from backstage to beat on to vent his frustrations. Dude, get a stress ball or something!
Bad Intentions cut a promo back stage promising that 2011 is their year, and that they don't care what team steps up to face them at Fukuoka for the titles shot, they don't give a shit. Great promo.
Super Jr. Special Six Man Tag Match
Kota Ibushi/Kenny Omega/Daisuke Sasaki vs. Prince Devitt/Ryusuke Taguchi/KUSHIDA
Interesting to see Devitt team up with KUSHIDA after defending the title against him last month, but what's even more interesting is the inclusion of young Daisuke Sasaki, one of the best young juniors on the indies on loan from the DDT promotion. Gotta love New Japan recognizing these indy talents and bringing them up, it's how they discovered guys like Ibushi and Omega here ironically enough. Omega and Devitt start us off with some swank basic hold exchanges before Taguchi and Ibushi hop in to do their own acrobatic rendition of the same exchange, with the added bonus of dueling missing dropkicks. Sasaki and KUSHIDA tag in and we've got ourselves a fresh little match up of hot young talents here. KUSHIDA gets sent to the floor with a hurricanrana but the Golden Lovers and Apollo 55 tag teams both hop in to do some trademark counter spots. Omega, Ibushi, and Sasaki do a slightly over-choreographed triple dive spot on their opponents that makes for a great visual. The "other" faces start working over KUSHIDA in their corner, with Sasaki in particular taking it to him with a pesky sleeper. KUSHIDA blocks a rana attempt and doesn't quite hit a sloppy superkick before both men tag out and let the Golden Lovers and Apollo 55 teams do their thing again. No complaints here, these two teams know each other well and always put on excellent work, and KUSHIDA and Sasaki bring a fun added element to the mix. Apollo 55 and KUSHIDA get their chance to hit their own triple dive spot on their opponents outside before this thing breaks down into utter madness in the ring with guys trading huge strikes back and forth and then getting out of the way so the next two guys can work a great spot. Taguchi and Omega have a badass segment, trading suplex attempts before Omega snaps off a rana and tags out to Sasaki. Sasaki dropkicks Taguchi while he's hanging on the top rope for a near fall so Taguchi responds with a big release German suplex before they both tag out to Ibushi and KUSHIDA. Ibushi catches KUSHIDA in mid-air in the middle of a back handspring attempt and German suplexes him for another close near fall. Ibushi has quasi-Nagata like look on his face now of anger, and he delivers a crazy roll-through bridging German suplex for another near fall. He hits a phoenix splash and that's enough to pin KUSHIDA at 14:55. Give this another ten minutes and it could have been a classic, but instead they just worked a really fun quick little 15 minute sprint that had several fun triple and double exchanges thrown in with the usual great juniors spots from these six talents. Very fun stuff. ***1/2
IWGP Tag Team Title #1 Contenders Match
Tetsuya Niato/Yujiro Takahashi vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan/Wataru Inoue
The winner gets a shot at Bad Intentions titles at the Dontaku PPV in May. Speaking of Bad Intentions, they're watching in the front row. Tenzan probably shouldn't be competing for the tag titles at this stage, but I suppose there are worse candidates. Takahashi continues to develop as a nasty CHAOS heel underling, but he spends most of the match bumping for Tenzan. After a bit of this Inoue tags in and the pace thankfully picks up a bit as he and Takahashi do some nice spots. Of course Tenzan just tags right back in though and we're back to our snail's pace. Naito and Inoue hop back in and things pick up again for the finishing stretch as Naito rips off his shirt to show he means business and then delivers the Stardust Press to put Inoue away at 14:53. Pretty dull match here, there wasn't much structure or flow to the thing and Tenzan seemed even slower than usual. Doesn't exactly get me all excited to see them wrestle Bad Intentions for the title. **
Special Tag Match
Shinsuke Nakamura/Masato Tanaka vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi/Yuji Nagata
Now this looks like a fun match-up on paper. Longtime rivals Tanahashi and Nakamura are set to square off for Tanahashi's IWGP Heavyweight title roughly two or three weeks after this show here on the big Dontaku PPV in May, so this is obviously a teaser for that, and a very good one at that. Throw in longtime rivals Tanaka and Nagata and you've got yourself a main-event level tag team match here. Nakamura and Tanahashi of course steal the show during their segments like they always do. Nakamura seems nonplussed about the whole thing until Tanahashi slaps him in the face and he awakens with a fiery flurry of sickening kicks and knee strikes. Tanaka and Nagata hop in and immediately start shooting for submissions on one another, with Nagata focusing on Tanaka's leg and then tagging out to Tanahashi again. They both get sent to the floor moments later and sent into the rails while Tanaka chokes Nagata with a kendo stick. Where does he get that damned thing every time? Someone needs to stop bringing all of these canes to these shows! Nagata and Tanaka do some rock-solid matwork back inside before Nakamura and Tanaka start trading quick tags and working Nagata over in their corner. Tanahashi says fuck that though and jumps in to brawl with Nakamura, hitting a nice somersault senton off the top for a two count. They go into a stiff slap and kick exchange before Tana hits the sling blade for another near fall while Nagata and Tanaka brawl to the floor. Tana gets caught up on the top rope and Nakamura gives him the old Boma Ye knee in the chest before putting him into a deep flying armbar. Tana manages to fight both him and Tanaka off though and tag out to old man Nagata, who by now has got his wind back and is pissed. Yakuza kick/exploder suplex combo from Nagata, but Tanaka kicks out. They trade brainbusters before Nagata locks Tanaka into the crossface. Nakamura breaks it up with a Boma Ye knee though. Nagata hits a sick step up enziguri followed by a towering Saito suplex, but Nakamura again breaks it up and then cold-clocks him with a knee to the jaw. He does the same thing to Tana on the ground while Tanaka hits Nagata with the Sliding D for a two count. He hits another one to Nagata's back and then another one to his front and pins him at 16:42. One hell of a tag team match here as well as this was almost like two singles matches at the same time, pairing Nakamura/Tanahashi and Nagata/Tanaka, two pairings that have wrestled each other a hundred times and know each other so well at this point that the only thing they're capable of doing is producing a hard-hitting, fast paced effort every time out. This was no exception to that rule. ***1/2
Special Singles Match
Togi Makabe vs. Satoshi Kojima
This is being labelled almost like a grudge match, and these two do have bad blood as of the last few shows. Crowd doesn't seem as hot as they usually would for a match like this, but that doesn't stop these guys from putting on a good show. Kojima dominates early with several suplexes and a DDT on the ring apron before choking Makabe against the second rope for a bit, grinding him down with a sleeper as well. The beatdown continues outside the ring where he just blasts Makabe with a steel chair that falls to pieces from the contact. Korakuen doesn't seem quite as alive and heated as usual tonight unfortunately, but they still give Makabe some support during the segment and they get louder once Makabe starts making his comeback, lariating Kojima out of his boots. He doesn't get much offense in before Kojima cuts him off with an ace crusher though. He delivers another ace crusher to him, this time off of the top rope and follows it with a suplex, but Makabe kicks out at two and starts his real comeback with a crazy German suplex off the top rope. He tries for the King Kong kneedrop but Kojima moves out of the way. They trade a waistlock and Kojima nails him with a lariat as the ref accidentally gets bumped as well. So of course out of the crowd with a steel chair comes the dastardly Taichi. Makabe blocks his chair shot but winds up getting a lariat to the back of the head from Kojima anyways. He responds with a judo chop and then waffles Kojima with the chair in a sort of reprisal for the chairshot Kojima gave him earlier in the match before hitting the King Kong knee-drop off the top rope to pick up the win at 17:17. This one could have used a bit more heat from the unusually quiet Korakuen crowd, but otherwise this was a fine main event and a fun match between the two rivals here with some karmic payback thrown in for good measure. It's impossible not to root for Makabe when he's getting beaten down by someone as conniving as Kojima, it's like watching your favorite childhood teddy bear get beat up or something. Anyways, a very good main event that could have been great with a bit more planning and heat. ***1/4
We close out the show with several different music video packages for some of the major main event wrestlers in the company, including Togi Makabe, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Shinsuke Nakamura, and the NO LIMIT faction.
Bottom Line: This was actually a pretty enjoyable show that snuck up on me. I wasn't expecting much, but we got several really fun tag matches sprinkled through out the card along with a fun main event, and it sets things up a bit more for the Dontaku PPV in a few weeks, so if you've got the time to kill it's probably worth checking out before jumping into the PPV. We'll go with a mild recommendation and a Thumbs Up.