10 Observations From Sakura Genesis

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Warriors. Photo Credit: NJPW

There was a very real danger that Sakura Genesis would get lost in the shuffle. The week after WrestleMania most of us are suffering from wrestling fatigue and it would be easy to decide this was a show you could miss. If that’s a decision you made, then I’m here to tell you to sort your life out. Sakura Genesis put everything WWE did to shame, and New Japan continued to prove themselves the best wrestling company in the world. While this card was far from perfect there wasn’t a true dud to be found and here are ten things that we noticed during this brilliant night of wrestling.

Bring Back Ibushi

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He’s not even trying to hide it’s him. Photo Credit: NJPW

Tiger Mask W has got to go. I’m sorry if you are a fan of the anime but what was originally a mildly amusing way to get Kota Ibushi onto the show has become an annoyance. You have a ridiculously entertaining wrestler pissing around under that mask, and it’s time to take it off him. At the end of the opening match, Tama Tonga made a comment about there being too many Tiger Masks, and we can only cross our fingers and hope that this is the beginning of the end for this anime character come to life.

Suzuki-gun Don’t Know How To Use A Hammer

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At least we got Rocky’s joyous smile. Photo Credit: NJPW

I’m going to talk more about Suzuki-gun’s antics in a bit, but can we all take a moment to point out how bad they are at the antics? These guys regularly get their hands on the bell hammer and rather than smacking folk in the head with it, they choose to poke people with the handle. It’s not only boring, but it looks fucking stupid. It’s up there with Abyss’s nail covered club and Triple H cupping his hand around the sledgehammer for daft weapons in wrestling, and I’m ready for it to stop.

Omega Wears A Shirt

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This Omega’s fun, but he’s not incredible. Photo Credit: NJPW

There are two Kenny Omegas. The one that gives us 6-star matches with Okada and the one that keeps his t-shirt on and pisses about with Toru Yano. Sadly, since Wrestle Kingdom we’ve been getting more of the later. I don’t blame Omega for taking it easy in these matches, and he had a couple of nice sequences with Ishii, but he could do so much more. The Cleaner is better than this and having him kicking his heels in the mid-card after that incredible match is a  massive waste. Plus, I’m seeing him wrestle in Edinburgh tomorrow, and I’d like at least a taste of shirtless Omega.

LIJ Vs. Taguchi Japan Still Entertains

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He looks like a man carrying an injury… Photo Credit: NJPW

I started watched New Japan Pro Wrestling this year and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that every show I have watched has featured a version of Taguchi Japan vs. LIJ. The wrestlers involved have rotated a bit – sometimes it is Kushida, and sometimes it is Michael Elgin – but the match stays roughly the same. Yet, somehow it’s still entertaining. If anything, this was the best one so far. Ricochet was an essential part of that and considering the guy is apparently working injured after coming off a mental WrestleMania weekend it’s amazing that he’s still as good as he is. Do I want to keep seeing this match? Probably not, but it’s better than a lot of other things.

Juice Robinson, The Best Story In Wrestling?

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Naito sold Pulp Friction like a champ. Photo Credit: NJPW

The other key part of the latest LIJ vs. Taguchi Japan confrontation was Juice Robinson picking up the win. This in itself is no longer a particularly big deal but the fact he did it be pinning Naito is. Robinson is currently making a claim to be the best story in wrestling. Having walked away from WWE where he was treated as little more than a jobber, he has come to New Japan, connected with the crowd and been given the opportunity to make something of himself. Do I think he’ll beat Naito? No. But Juice has had the rockets strapped to his back, and if he keeps hurdling the challenges put in front of him, then the sky is the limit.

War Machine Take Japan

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He is too big to be flying that high. Photo Credit: NJPW

War Machine are one of my favourite tag teams at the moment. Considering how hairy they are, the two men are ridiculously smooth in the ring and can move like guys half their size. They’ve also built up quite a reputation in Japan. It’s no secret that Japanese fans like big white blokes who can chuck their heroes around and War Machine do it better than anyone not called Michael Elgin. The fact they managed to get an excellent match out of Tencozy – who have a combined age of 394 – says it all. The belts being on these men is a good move, and now New Japan just needs to find some decent challengers to put against them.

Sabre Jr. Impresses But Is Cut Off By Antics

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Zacky Three Belts gets twisty. Photo Credit: NJPW

Zack Sabre Jr and Goto were on their way to putting on a show stealing match in ZSJ’s second New Japan appearance. They were crafting an interesting story as the smaller man used his speed and technical excellence to ground the hard hitter. Then Suzuki-gun charged the ring and what could have been a classic dissolved into shenanigans. I get it, they want to have Suzuki and Goto face-off but could they not have done it another way? Surely Goto picking up the win over Suzuki’s latest protege would have been enough to get the scariest man in wrestling involved without this crap? ZSJ is one hell of a talent, but if all his matches are going to end in this shit, he might as well give up now.

Takahashi Goes All Brock Lesnar

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This spot terrifies me every time. Photo Credit: NJPW

Takahashi and Kushida going for an hour would have been less surprising than them going for under five minutes. Yet, it worked. For all the hype thrown in the direction of Goldberg and Lesnar for their short matches, this blew them out of the water. It was under two minutes of high octane insanity, and I could watch it twenty times today and never once get bored. New Japan dropping a booking decision like this was a stroke of genius because we never see it from the company. It doesn’t even happen on the undercard that often. It also establishes Takahashi as a total beast, and I can’t wait to see what he and Ricochet serve up.

Shibata Proves He’s The Man

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How cool does he look here? Photo Credit: NJPW

If there was any doubt that Shibata was capable of stepping up the main event, I think it’s fair to say that he headbutted it. This was an incredible performance, and I honestly don’t know where to start. Shibata went out there and did exactly what he does at every show he is a part of, but he ramped it up. He told the story of throwing everything he had at Okada and it not being enough and the moment where he stayed on his feet after the Rainmaker is already iconic. There’s some confusion as to whether his trip to the hospital after the match was a work or not but I’m going to err on the side of caution and wish him the best. As incredible as this performance was his health comes first, and I’d happily never see the headbutt spot again if it meant him staying healthy.

Okada Is The MVP

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The foundations are shaking, but the Ace stands tall. Photo Credit: NJPW

As brilliant as Shibata was it is impossible to talk about that main event and not pay tribute to Okada. In four months the man has had four matches which at the very least deserve four stars, and an argument could be made for them all being five-star matches. Not only that, each one had been a unique and beautiful entity. Whether he is exchanging incredible moves with Omega, mat wrestling with Suzuki, taking risks with Tiger Mask W or trading strikes with Shibata, Okada is one of the best (if not the best) wrestlers on the planet. Even more interesting, is the story being told with him. Each match sees him come closer to losing that belt and the cracks are very much there in the Rainmaker’s reign. The moment when someone finally gets the three-count will be something special indeed.

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