New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) heads down under, as Melbourne, Australia’s legendary Festival Hall hosts Southern Showdown. The super powers of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada team up in the main event as two of the most dangerous members of the Bullet Club, as Jay White and Bad Luck Fale seek to prove why they are int he dominant faction of NJPW. Will Ospreay defends his newly won IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship against a hand-picked opponent in Australia’s own Robbie Eagles in a rematch from their phenomenal Best of the Super Juniors match up, whilst the IWGP Tag Team Champions, the Guerrillas of Destiny, defend against Mikey Nicholls and Juice Robinson. El Phantasmo and Rocky Romero will do battle for ELP’s RevPro British Cruiserweight Championship, and there will be appearances by Tomohiro Ishii, Toa Henare and Toru Yano, with English commentary provided by NJPW’s Chris Charleton and OTT Wrestling’s Don Marnell.
+ Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale & Jay White): it’s a shame NJPW was so dead set on ensuring these guys went on last, because as much as the super warriors of Okada and Tanahashi pandered to the Australian crowd, they were never going to get the same reaction Ospreay/Eagles did before them. Fale and White were great antagonists, as they not only speak the language, but those Kiwis have a bit of an inbuilt rivalry with us Aussies in the first place. The crowd enjoyed the signature moves and played into the more dramatic moments, but this was only the second best match on the show
+ Will Ospreay (c) vs Robbie Eagles (IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship): this was absolutely incredible, and definitely one of the matches of the year. Despite Eagles being the Bullet Club member, he was HEAVILY favoured by his hometown crowd over Ospreay, which forced Ospreay to act the cocky prick he has been a few times in the past. Even though eventually Ospreay wont he crowd over, I don’t think there was a single moment where the crowd wasn’t making any noise, outside of the collective holidng of breaths before either man nearly killed themselves or their opponent. This was far and away the best match Eagles has had with NJPW, and probably one of the best of his life, and this was definitely another all time classic from Ospreay
+ Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (w/ Jado) (c) vs Juice Robinson & Mikey Nicholls (IWGP Tag Team Championships): this was really good, especially because of how lacklustre a reception Nicholls got from the hometown crowd. I think event he GOD themselves were surprised at how heavily favoured they were over the babyface duo, but they played it up to perfection, and it made for a unique atmosphere. Tama Tonga has had a few chances to shine in recent years, and whilst i can’t say he seized them as much as I’d have hoped, he is still an underrated guy for my money
+ El Phantasmo (c) vs Rocky Romero (RevPro British Cruiserweight Championship): after five other matches, this was the first absolute banger. Much like their match in the Best of the Super Juniors, this was just incredible from both guys, with each man transitioning between moves so smoothly. An incredible attack near the end of the match made me literally exclaim out loud, and if these two face off on every big show for the rest of the year, I will be excited every time
+ CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI) vs Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Yujiro Takahashi): unfortunately, my NJPWWOrld stream was not doing very well for this match, so I can’t say if it was particularly good. I do know that the crowd was not particularly interested in the match until Ishii starting throwing bombs, and Ishii and Owens worked some good comedy. From what I saw this was good, but with the lag I can’t say if it was good in full
– CHAOS (Toru Yano & SHO) vs Bullet Club (Gino Gambino & Taiji Ishimori): truthfully, I got a huge kick out of Yano/Gino shenanigans, but for the most part this was not a good match. Gambino’s girth was impressive and/or horrifying, but this felt like more of a throwaway match than these preliminary rounds are usually
– Aaron Solow vs Slex: lots of fun, but not particularly good. I know Slex from the local scene, but I’ve not seen much of him, and I know Solow from a few shows around the place. Slex was crazy popular, but these two were doing the big match style of a match in front of a crowd who, frankly, were not ready to see
– Nick Berry, Shota Umino & Toa Henare vs Andrew Villalobos, Mark Tui & Michael Richards: that was very much the same old opening tag match, if not worse due to the lack of chemistry between the rookies. Umino and Henare were the standouts, even if the crowd was hugely behind Berry
> The stream on NJPWWorld was a little bit wonky for me, which is funny in that I was watching a show from a venue about an hour from my house (I know that not how the interwebz works, don’t get on my back for it)
Should you watch this event: Despite a few choppy stream moments, and the burning jealousy that I wasn’t there in person, this was a fun show. All of the preliminary matches were what you’d expect, with only Ishii getting the superstar reaction (and rightfully so), but once the final four matche scame along, the roof of Festival Hall almost came off a few times. Seek out that final quartet, but don’t bother with the rest.