New Japan Pro-Wrestling: NJPW Invasion Attack 2016 Review
Location: Sumida, Tokyo, Japan inside Ryogoku Kokugikan (Sumo Hall)
Due to being out of town for the past couple of weeks, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to keep up with what’s been happening on the Road-To shows. So, I’m just going to take things from here.
Invasion Attack is a fairly recent addition to the New Japan calendar, as it has only been around since 2013. It’s mainly been used as a way to give the New Japan Cup winner a big show for his title shot, much like the Kota Ibushi and AJ Styles encounter last year or the Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura contest the year before.
This year’s show features New Japan Cup Winner Tetsuya Naito putting up his title shot against current champion Kazuchika Okada in the main event, along with five other title matches, which include Hiroshi Tanahashi and Michael Elgin teaming with a returning Yoshitatsu to challenge The Elite for the NEVER Openweight Six Man Titles. KUSHIDA defends the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title against Will Ospreay and so much more.
Match 1: Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club) vs. Juice Robinson & Ryusuke Taguchi
Winners: Bullet Club (After a Bad Luck Fall on Juice)
This was basically an elongated squash match. The difference between how much the crowd cares about Taguchi compared to Yujiro is hilarious to watch in this one. Talk about no reaction when Yujiro does anything. Then the crowd reacts loudly when Taguchi does his Hip Attacks. Juice got in a little offense, Taguchi made the save when Fale hit Juice with The Grenade, and then Fale hit the Bad Luck Fall shortly after that. Fale wasn’t in the mood to mess around and the match exemplified that. Juice keeps improving and it is a great sign that he’s learning and adapting it to his work. **
Match 2: 6-Man Tag Match: Toru Yano, Kazushi Sakuraba, & YOSHI-HASHI (CHAOS) vs. Yuji Nagata, Satoshi Kojima, & Jushin Thunder Liger
Winners: Liger, Kojima, & Nagata (After a Backdrop Pin by Nagata on YOSHI-HASHI)
The third generation has been on a mission for a while to prove they can still contribute to New Japan. Last month, Kojima challenged Shibata for the NEVER Title and now later on in this show, we will see his longtime partner do the same. Although the lesser members of Team CHAOS all had a few fun moments, this was all about making the older guys look strong. Kojima and Sakuraba had some funny interactions, Yano and Liger went at it, but it was mainly YOSHI-HASHI who got the brunt of the work. Yoshi continues to put on a strong year and he had the crowd biting on the near fall where he reverses Nagata’s suplex attempt into a cradle. Nagata would eventually put him away to get his team the win, as I’m sure he’s next on the docket to face Shibata. The match was kept on the shorter side, but still told the story that was needed. ** and ½ *
Match 3: EVIL & BUSHI (Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Hirooki Goto & Tomohiro Ishii (CHAOS)
Winners: Goto & Ishii (After a Urushi-Goroshi & Sliding D Double Team move on BUSHI)
If you love hard hitting brawls, look no further than seeing a tag team of Ishii and Goto together. Goto was booed for a large part of the match, but by the end, the crowd was sort of cheering him because they loved what he was doing. Naito’s strategy to let his comrades shine in the 6 man tags has paid off in a huge way, as the whole trio are over and are cheered by the fans. It also helps a lot that BUSHI and EVIL have both delivered in a huge way when they’ve had singles matches as well.
The match was in large part a Goto vs. EVIL singles match, as their interaction went on the longest and they also had a pull apart brawl two different times after the match as well. So, it looks like those two are headed for something in the near future. The spot that led to a double tag personifies everything about why this could be great. Goto and EVIL essentially Double Lariated each other, while Goto got his off clean, EVIL got just enough on Goto to see him slowly fall down. BUSHI held his own in there for a little bit against Ishii and although he would be the one pinned, he didn’t look out of place being the sole Junior in there with Heavyweights. EVIL is becoming more comfortable in his gimmick and in the ring with every match and this one is no exception. If his bouts with Ishii are anything like the ones he can have with Goto, we are totally in for a treat. A good match with action that doesn’t stop and doesn’t over extend itself either. *** and ¼ *
Match 4: IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championship Match: (Champion) Ricochet & Matt Sydal vs. Roppongi Vice (CHAOS)
Winners AND NEW IWGP Jr. Tag Champions: Roppongi Vice (After Strong Zero on Ricochet)
Now you see why everyone keeps clamoring for 2 on 2 matches featuring these Junior Tag Teams. This was fantastic, everything was smooth, everyone had a moment to shine, and we also have new champions. If this is truly the end of Ricochet, he went out in style just absolutely owning this match with flash and flips galore, he sold wonderfully, and the sequence leading to the finish with Romero was sublime. Berretta looked very good here and I loved his whole sequence with Sydal. The crowd was into this from the word go and it just built as the match moved along. Rocky is so underrated at not only providing laughs in his match, having this great charisma, and always delivering solid work along with that as well. I hope this means we get more of these 2 on 2 Jr. Tag Title matches in the future, as this might be the best tag team match that’s happened so far this year in New Japan. ****
Match 5: IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship Match: (Champion) KUSHIDA vs. Will Ospreay (CHAOS)
Winner AND STILL IWGP Jr. Champion: KUSHIDA (After making Ospreay TAP OUT to Hoverboard Lock)
One of the MVP’s of Wrestlemania Weekend was certainly Will Ospreay and here he is, a week later, making his debut in New Japan. If this is your first time seeing him, you definitely got a much different match then any of his matches at the EVOLVE shows. Ospreay is only 22 years old, but you certainly wouldn’t know it with how clean he is in-ring. Ospreay is a super athlete and he’s known for being a typical flip guy, but this match showed he can work a slower pace and more of a Japanese style if need be. This is probably the most I’ve ever seen KUSHIDA go after the arm in one match, as he continually tried ways to attack the limb. He did simple stuff like kicks and arm wrenches to the more elaborate Super Armbar and other things. This felt like KUSHIDA using the Tanahashi tactic of being the face with a hard edge that is only concerned with doing what he can to get the win. This resulted in Ospreay being cheered and getting chants at certain times during the match as well. Ospreay did everything he could to sell the arm, even a no hands back handspring, after he fell under his own weight trying to use the hand a minute earlier. Ospreay did do some of his flying as well. A few notable ones are the no hands running Moonsault to the outside, similar to what Neville does in WWE, a Corkscrew Back Splash, which was amazing and an almost Red Arrow looking move, which KUSHIDA blocked with his knees and got a near fall from as well. The finish was great with KUSHIDA having to turn Ospreay away from the ropes two different times, before flipping him over and locking the Hoverboard in the center of the ring. Another terrific match here that solidifies KUSHIDA as the ACE of the Juniors and also serves as a star making performance for Ospreay. **** and ½ *
After the Match: Jushin Thunder Liger came out to challenge KUSHIDA for the IWGP Jr. Title, basically as a “one last time” sort of thing, KUSHIDA graciously accepted and now we know KUSHIDA’s next opponent just like that.
The intermission was a video showing the length and all of the locations for the G1 Climax 26 tournament, which will run from 7/18-8/14, which means you know what I’ll be doing during that month.
Match 6: NEVER Openweight Six Man Championship Match: (Champions) Kenny Omega & Young Bucks (The Elite, Bullet Club) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, & Yoshitatsu
Winners AND NEW NEVER Six Man Champs: Tana, Elgin, & Yoshitatsu (After a Super Powerbomb by Elgin on Nick Jackson)
This wasn’t great like the one on the ROH show, but this was still a damn good match that was super wacky and fun. This was a total tornado tag match, as there weren’t any tags and the first part of the match went to the outside with Nick Jackson doing a Tope Con Hilo off a balcony and landing completely on Cody Hall. Hall looked like he could have legit injured his neck, but the Young Bucks said he was ok on twitter. The Bucks also superkicked Elgin while he was placed on a moving cart. Omega kept teasing that he was going to do the Styles Clash on Yoshitatsu, (the move which broke Yoshitatsu’s neck in 2014.) When that wasn’t going on, Tanahashi was taking out everyone, although The Elite prevented him from tagging his partners so many times that they eventually were able to beat him down. Yoshitatsu did have one flurry and was fine in his return, but offensively he was almost an afterthought. When the action wasn’t on Tanahashi, Elgin took control with all of his power stuff including a great Super Falcon Arrow on Nick and a Powerbomb to the outside, which happened much earlier in the match. The Elite had this funny spot where they used the Freeze Spray on everyone, but Tana and Elgin came back to use it on them later on in the match. Overall, I enjoyed this, it had a good mix of comedy, action, high spots, and you got the icing on the cake of the good guys winning the belts too. You could see it all meant a lot to Yoshitatsu afterwards, especially once Tana and Elgin hoisted Yoshitatsu up on their shoulders, as if he were this conquering hero. *** and ½ *
After the Match: Omega came into the ring and held up the IC Belt to the face of Michael Elgin. Then made the Bullet Club pose and declared that Elgin was next. Elgin and Yoshitatsu walked away and Bad Luck Fale in street clothes came in and attacked Tanahashi. He was able to get away with a Grenade on Tana before Elgin came in for the save. So, there ya go folks, two more feuds either started or progressed on this show.
Match 7: NEVER Openweight Championship Match: (Champion) Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan
Winner AND STILL NEVER Champion: Katsuyori Shibata (After a Penalty Kick)
You knew this wouldn’t be as good as the Kojima match that Shibata had for the NEVER Title, but at least we got a game Tenzan. Shibata pummeled Tenzan early, but Tenzan with a few well-placed Headbutts just rocked Shibata and it was on with the hard hitting affair you would expect. The best part is that Tenzan didn’t get out of who he is, to try to do things he can’t do anymore. Shibata accepted the heel role for this and it allowed the crowd to get behind Tenzan. Some of the headbutts from Tenzan here were nuts, but ultimately, Shibata didn’t take long to put Tenzan away. This whole story sort of started from Nagata’s proclamation that the “Third Generation still had a lot left to give,” which screams that the story doesn’t end until Shibata faces Nagata. So, you kind of knew that Tenzan had no chance here, so it this match from an emotional investment standpoint. It was still very good in its own right though. *** and ½ *
Match 8: IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship Match: (Champions) Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma vs. Tama Tonga & Tanga Roa (Guerrilas of Destiny, Bullet Club)
Winners AND NEW IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champs: Guerrilas of Destiny (After)
Bless this crowd for being into this match a heck of a lot more than I was. I really enjoy Tama Tonga, but his brother didn’t help him here and it brought down the team as a whole. I’ll give them credit for having some cool double team moves and for using the MNM Snapshot as their finish, which I always thought was underrated. However, the problem here is this went rather long, there was no reason for Honma and Makabe to lose to them the first time, and much of the match was rather boring as well. I don’t know how you can get a Honma heat segment wrong, but G.O.D. did that. Tama Tonga gets his second championship in a few months and this one feels more anticlimactic than the first one did. The only truly bad match on this show. The crowd also did not care at all when the count hit 3 and the title change happened.* and ½ *
Match 9: MAIN EVENT: (Champion) Kazuchika Okada (CHAOS) w/ Gedo vs. (2016 New Japan Cup Winner) Tetsuya Naito w/ BUSHI & EVIL (Los Ingobernables de Japon)
Winner AND NEW IWGP Heavyweight Champion: Tetsuya Naito (After)
This is a match that has more meaning outside of the ring and for the future of New Japan, then what happened in the near 30 minutes inside of it. Naito is no stranger to Okada and to failure in matches against him either. Naito studied Okada, he knew his movements, what he was going to do and had a counter for a lot of his trademark stuff. Naito also had the help of his buddies in Los Ingobernables as well. However, like I said, this match was more about the moments, the build, and the ultimate culmination of this possibly being a new era for NJPW. The part in the match where Naito attacks Gedo and then rolls him into the ring to attack him some more, while EVIL does his chair spot on Okada, is absolutely telling because the fans were cheering Naito and embracing this change of the guard. The crowd was pretty much pro-Naito the whole way and at times even booed Okada, but it wasn’t the outright boos like with Goto earlier in the show. The counter by Okada of the Destino into his Neckbreaker was great, the build up to the big interference by Los Ingobernables with the Coast to Coast Dropkick was also a terrific moment as well.
Okada fought off EVIL and BUSHI, but couldn’t beat the mysterious fourth member, who turned out to be Seiya Sanada, much more beefed up and serious than during his TNA run I might add, taking out Okada. This is the first time in a longtime that New Japan has taken a native from another company (he was toiling in the mid-card in Big Japan, and was also in WRESTLE-1 and All Japan before this) and brought him directly into this big feud. Sanada is a Great Muta protégé and brings a lot of promise with him to the company and is finally in a place where he can live up to that potential as well.
Naito still had the Destino countered one more time, but it was Naito at the end getting the last laugh and winning the IWGP Championship for the first time. ****
As I stated before, this basically went along with the theme of the show either promoting newer talents or title changes, but it put a stamp on this date that we may be looking at New Japan differently going forward. The fans were super hot for Naito, the whole Los Ingobernables clan, and even booed when Ishii and Goto appeared after the match to stop Sanada from attacking Okada. The crowd sang along with Naito’s catchphrase at the end of his promo and you could clearly see his merchandise throughout the arena.
It’s so crazy how far Naito has come from a few years ago when his push failed and the fans voted for Nakamura vs. Tanahashi to main event Wrestle Kingdom 8. I think many, myself included, certainly loved Naito’s change at last year’s G1, but I don’t think anyone imagined how the crowd would take to Naito less than a year later. Los Ingobernables de Japon are certainly already a bigger deal than Bullet Club and I think the sky’s the limit as to how far they can go in New Japan.
OVERALL RATING: 9.0: This is another terrific show from New Japan Pro-Wrestling and perhaps after Wrestle Kingdom, this might be their best outing so far in 2016. Aside from the stinker of a semi-main event, which leaves you with a terrible feeling for the Heavyweight Tag Title scene, everything else on the show is good to great. Four new champions were crowned, Yoshitatsu made his return, KUSHIDA has been established as the ACE of the Juniors, Will Ospreay made one heck of a debut, we have a new Los Ingobernables member in Seiya Sanada, and lots of feuds already set for the future shows of Wrestling Hinokuni at the end of the month and Wrestling Dontaku in early May. This was another four hour show, but it certainly did not feel at all like it took that long to sit through. Skip the match before the main event, but everything else is worth checking out and if you have to watch one thing from this show, it is certainly KUSHIDA vs. Ospreay. New Japan is still working to fill the slots of those big names that left in January, but this show may have pushed them closer to a full gauge by the time it was over. This one is well worth your viewing time. The next time New Japan has a show we can actually watch is the Road-To Wrestling Dontaku show on April 23.