[Please note: I watched this live, but due to the severe technical issues, I opted to wait and download another copy to try and sync up the audio-video myself, and I am thankful I did. Some of those Ishii/KENTA strikes need to be synced properly to be seen to be believed.]
New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) heads to the Copper Box in London, England as it presents Royal Quest. Kazuchika Okada will defend his IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event against the man who pinned him on the final night of the G1 Climax tournament, Minoru Suzuki in the IWGP Heavyweight Championship’s first ever defence in the UK. Suzuki’s stable mate and tag team partner, England’s own Zack Sabre Jr. will defend his RevPro Britich Heavyweight Championship against Hiroshi Tanahashi in the rubber match of their 3:3 rivalry against each other. Tomohiro Ishii will put his NEVER Openweight Championship on the line against the Bullet Club’s newest member, KENTA, in a sure-fire slugfest, while the Bullet Club’s pre-eminent tag team, the Guerrillas of Destiny, will defend the IWGP Tag Team Championships against the underdog team of Aussie Open, Kyle Feltcher and Mark Davis. All of these title defences and four huge tag team contests at NJPW Royal Quest.
+ Kazuchika Okada (c) vs Minoru Suzuki (IWGP Heavyweight Championship): this was not the best Okada title match in history, but something about Suzuki brings out my favourite Okada. The live crowd was bonkers for everything, ‘shh’ing each other for every Suzuki forearm and losing their minds for every big move, whether it was hit or just teased. I really enjoyed this match
+ Zack Sabre Jr. (c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi (RevPro British Heavyweight Championship): these two have pretty good chemistry (off the top of my head I’ve gone 1-1 with like/dislike in their previous two matches – I liked the New Japan Cup, but I didn’t like their G1 match) and I liked this one. The crowd really helped the atmosphere, as they cheered and booed pretty much every part of the match for or against both guys, but the winner was decisive and the match was good, so I got what I wanted. This was one of the better Tanahashi matches I’ve seen in a while
+ Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs KENTA (NEVER Openweight Championship): to say I was thrilled that KENTA turned on Ishii to join BC would be an understatement, entirely because of this match being possible. First and foremost, KENTA did suffer a pretty serious concussion off a hard german suplex, but the match didn’t stop there, and for better or worse (spoiler: definitely worse for real like person Kenta’s health) the match only got more hard hitting following it. This was easily my favourite match on the show, even with the slugging middle section, and I pray to the wrestling gods that we get a rematch in the future and nobody gets hurt half way through
+ Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) (c) vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis) (IWGP Tag Team Championships): I’ve seen a fair bit of Aussie Open in my day, and this was a really, really good match for them with the underappreciated GoD. This was a relatively safe, good guy versus bad guy tag team match, but the good guys were the clear fan favourites, and the Champs were the (slightly) bigger bullies they should be. I really enjoyed this match, and I hope it means good things for Aussie Open in the future
+ CHAOS (Robbie Eagles & Will Ospreay) vs Bullet Club (El Phantasmo & Taiji Ishimori): after the first two predictable, opening tags, this was absolutely incredible. All four guys are insanely talented in one way or another, and Phantasmo was able to draw such nuclear hatred from the crowd, with both Eagles and Ospreay being so beloved they could do no wrong. The speed at which all four men, particularly Ishimori, were able to hit offence and string of tag team moves was almost like a dance, but it never come across as too choreographed. This was great
– Los Ingobernables de Japon (SANADA & Tetsuya Naito) vs Bullet Club (Chase Owens & Jay White): surprisingly, this didn’t really do it for me. SANADA/Owens’ comedy stylings were fun, and there is some intensity for a future Naito/White match, but overall this felt like both teams just going through the motions, knowing they were between the junior tag match and the impending Tag Titles
– Juice Robinson & Kota Ibushi vs Bullet Club (HIKULEO & Yujiro Takahashi): it was clear the crowd was hoping to see Pieter accompany Takahashi, so the BC duo were instantly hated. Juice and Ibushi (but especially Ibushi) were absolute mega stars here, and everything they did got a huge reaction. HIKULEO is improving in leaps, but truthfully I don’t know if anybody is at the skill level Ibushi is. Another above-standard, but still as expected opening tag
– Ryusuke Taguchi, Ren Narita & Shota Umino vs Roppongi 3K (Rocky Romero, SHO & YOH): the crowd was HUGELY behind Taguchi, Umino (aka Moxley’s friend, Shooter) and Rocky, but for the most part this was as standard an opening tag team match you could ask for. There was no commentary for this match, but frankly that added to it
> there were a lot of technical problems throughout the show, including no commentary for the first match, horribly balanced audio once the commentary did work, and frequent stream drops from fite.tv throughout the show. I don’t know the rights/TV deal issues that prevent the regular NJPW crew from streaming some shows, but fite.tv needs to sort its shit out ASAP.
Should you watch this event: While the majority of the undercard was take it or leave it, those final four championship bouts were great, with Ishii/KENTA in particular being one of my favourite matches, even with the injury to KENTA. You’ll definitely enjoy this show, if you can look past the technical issues.