New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) presents its annual April show, Sakura Genesis where the winner of the New Japan Cup will earn their chosen title match. The winner, Zack Sabre Jr., has made his choice, and will go one on one with the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Kazuchika Okada, in what is sure to be a tremendous clash of styles. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight title is also on the line, as champion Will Ospreay defends against the constant thorn-in-his-side Marty Scurll, and the NEVER Openweight Six-Man Tag Team Championships are up for grabs as the Bullet Club team of Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Bad Luck Fale defend against Togi Makabe, Michael Elgin and Ryusuke Taguchi. The IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships are on the line in a three way tag team battle, as the champion team of El Desperado and Yoshinobu Kanemaru of Suzuki-gun defend against both the teams of Roppongi 3K (SHO and YOH) and BUSHI and Hiromu Takahashi of Los Ingobernables de Japon. The penultimate match will also see Cody and Hangman Page of the Bullet Club team up to take on the reformed team of the Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, in what will certainly go down as a battle for the ages. All of this and more, including Minoru Suzuki, Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Tanahashi at NJPW Sakura Genesis 2018.
+ Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Zack Sabre Jr. (IWGP Heavyweight Championship): I’ve written before that Sabre can be divisive, but this last month has proven that he can be damned entertaining as well. This was another incredible outing in the near record-tying run of Okada’s title defenses, and perhaps the most technical match since Okada versus Minoru Suzuki. Sabre’s incredible submission transitions and Okada’s attempt to keep up made for a fantatic match. I admit, it did not go exactly as I had penciled in, but it was so damned entertaining that I don’t even mind. This was great
+ Golden Lovers (Kenny Omega & Kota Ibushi) vs Bullet Club (Cody & Hangman Page): good Lord Cody got busted up badly here. I can’t say this was overly different from the Cody/Scurll vs Lovers match from Honor Rising Day 2, though I do prefer Scurll to Page. The Lovers were back on the same page after their small hiccup in Long Beach, and Cody is still so unbelievably hated that this did have the crowd in a frenzy eary, and kept them there. This was a great match, with lots of good story telling, and some phenomenal athleticism
+ Will Ospreay (c) vs Marty Scurll (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): to describe this match, I’d say “fantastic, but unnecessarily dangerous”. Scurll’s eyebrow was cut early, and Ospreay’s forehead was gushing late. These two legitimately nearly died far too often (trying to one up Shibata from last year?), and as much as I loved watching this, it was because I was convinced that someone was going to be paralyzed for life on my screen. This time, it gets a positive mark. But these sort of matches need to stop
+ Suzuki-gun (Yoshinobu Kanemaru & El Desperado) (c) vs Roppongi 3K (SHO & YOH) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI & Hiromu Takahashi) (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships): this was almost a complete redux of their match from the Anniversary show. Suzuki-gun fought dirty throughout, R3K were the underdog good guys and LIJ were the beloved cheaters. This was everything you’d expect, but it was still really good
+ Suzuki-gun (Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Minoru Suzuki) vs Los Ingobernables de Japon (EVIL, SANADA & Tetsuya Naito): yeah boi, EVIL is back! I’ve missed him, althought I am more of a fan of his than his team with SANADA. All of Suzuki-gun were on fire as the scumbags they are, and I thoroughly enjoyed the LIJ shenanigans througout. This match had big title implications for both teams, and it made for a really good match to watch. And, dammit, I love watching Archer scare little kids
+ Bullet Club (Matt & Nick Jackson) vs Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens): this was really good as an opener (and not just because Pieter was there). The Bullet Club infighting story was advanced really cleverly, with still unclear battle lines, but the in ring action was fast and furious as you’d expect. I don’t know how much longer they are going to milk the idea that Matt has a bad back, though
– CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Jay White & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Taguchi Japan (David Finlay, Juice Robinson & Hiroshi Tanahashi): especially after Strong Style Evolved, I can’t believe that Goto/Juice are not battling for the title. This match was mostly to build up Juice/Goto and Finlay/White for somewhere down the line, and that did leave YOSHI-HASHI and Tanahashi looking out of place – not that Tana needs a reason to be anywhere at this point. Again, following the NEVER Openweight six man title match, this was good, but never great, despite everyone doing their best
– Bullet Club (Tanga Lao, Tama Tonga & Bad Luck Fale) (c) vs Togi Makabe & Taguchi Japan (Michael Elgin & Ryusuke Taguchi) (NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Championships): this was a perfectly fine match, but never felt like anything special. Taguchi felt out of place on the team of Makabe and Elgin, especially agianst the Bullet Club trio. This was good, but never great, and in some ways I did expect it to be better
– Suzuki-gun (Taichi & Takashi Iizuka) vs CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & Toru Yano): to use a phrase I am becoming far too frustrated at using: this was a waste of Ishii. Ishii is just so much better than the comedy of Yano, the “wildman” shtick of Iizuka or Taichi in general, and this match just never clicked with me for that reason
Should you watch this event: This Bullet Club civil war is the best thing that Cody has done in years, if not his whole career. Scurll/Ospreay was one of the best matches of the year so far, but easily also the scariest, and Sabre/Okada, Lovers/Cody and Page and the Suzuki-gun versus LIJ matches were all great in their own right.