Last night I attended the New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW) show in Melbourne held at Festival Hall. This was the first time NJPW have toured Australia and they didn’t hold back. It was a fantastic night and I’m sure anyone who went can tell you the same.
This was the second live wrestling event I’ve been to, the first being the WWE NXT show in Melbourne, so I’ve been pretty spoiled when it comes to the shows I’ve attend so far. Shout outs to my good friend and house mate who booked some kick ass seats in the fifth row from the ring.
I liked how NJPW utilised some Australia talent in their matches to give it a bit more of a homely feeling. I’ve never attended any shows put on by the Australian wrestling promotions, so it was nice to see we’ve got some good talent.
Let’s break it down.
Match 1: Lance Archer def. Elliot Sexton. Good opening match with Lance getting his cheap heat by telling us Melbourne sucks. One highlight came from when Lance nailed Sexton in the middle of the ring with a brutal uranage slam. It was that good, one of the Festival Hall staff shut her eyes and cringed!
Match 2: Yuji Nagata def. Chase Owens. Another good match with one of the NJPW legends. Nagata is 49 years old, but age hasn’t slowed him down. He keeps up very well with guys 20 years younger than him. At one-point Nataga locked in his armbar but I wasn’t sure if he rolled his eyes back like he normally does (the back of his head was facing me).
Match 3: Sanada & EVIL vs. “Mr Juicy” Gino Gambino & Bad Luck Fale. Entertaining and fun match with not a lot of wrestling involved. Disappointingly EVIL didn’t come out with his gigantic scythe. I’m guessing customs wouldn’t allow it. Mr Juicy is a Melbourne boy who the crowd loves. There was a funny spot where Sanada and EVIL took turns trying to bodyslam Bad Luck Fale (a near 2-meter, 156 kilo Tongan) but couldn’t. Mr Juicy, Fale’s tag team partner, ends up giving it a shot… and fails as well. Fale then proceeds to bodyslam all three men with ease.
Match 4: The Young Bucks & Cody def. Juice Robinson, Kushida & Toa Henare. Matt & Nick Jackson AKA The Young Bucks were insanely popular with the Melbourne crowd. Great match between the six. Lots of cool spots and more teasing of the tension going on in Bullet Club. At one-point Cody got on his hands and knees to do Kenny Omega’s Rise of the Terminator with the Young Bucks. They were reluctant at first but ended up joining in.
Post-match Cody got on the microphone and talked about how his dad, the legendary Dusty Rhodes, wrestled in Festival Hall which got a lot of cheers from the crowd. Sadly, this will probably be the last time Cody, or any wrestler for that matter, will be competing there as it’s scheduled to be demolished for an apartment complex.
Cody stayed on the microphone to assure us that Bullet Club is fine. For those new reading this, Bullet Club are a group of cool bad guys who are having issues, particularly between Cody and their leader, Kenny Omega. The microphone was handed over to Matt Jackson, who called out Cody’s crap and assured everyone Bullet Club was NOT fine. The segment ended with Matt getting the crowd to shout “F*CK THE REVIVAL”. Before this happened though, Nick pointed out there were a few young kids in the crowd so they couldn’t, which prompted Cody to hop over to the outside and cover their ears. Funny stuff.
After that we had ourselves a fifteen-minute intermission.
Match 5: Marcus Pitt & Damien Slater def. Robbie Eagles & Mick Moretti. The two Aussie tag teams put on a decent match. At first the crowd wasn’t that into it due to people returning from intermission as well as being burnt out from the 6-man tag prior. Towards the end the crowd got into it a bit more.
Match 6: “Switchblade” Jay White def. Slex. Honestly, I was disappointed in this match. Jay White was popular and Slex is a pretty good wrestler from Melbourne, but for some reason these two didn’t click. It wasn’t a bad match, but it wasn’t good either. At this point the crowd wasn’t cooling off from the 6-man tag still, they were charging up for the next match of the night…
Match 7: Minoru Suzuki def. Jonah Rock. Jonah Rock is a tough Australian-Samoan. Minoru Suzuki is a bad ass who started off as a wrestler, had an impressive MMA record, then returned to wrestling. This guy made Ken Shamrock tap out… twice. I didn’t know who Jonah Rock was but after this match was announced, I read comments like “Dear God, someone please think of the children” and “NJPW must’ve gotten word Festival Hall’s scheduled to be demolished”. Naturally, I was expecting a very hard-hitting match. I wasn’t disappointed.
Suzuki was insanely popular with the crowd and this showed when we delivered a deafening “KAZE NE NARE!!!” during his entrance. Suzuki was very impressed by this, which is good as we were all dreading him kicking us around as if we were Young Lions. Throughout the match Suzuki attempted to hit his Gotch Piledriver a few times. Jonah Rock is 180cm and weighs around 138 kilos. Suzuki ended up nailing the piledriver (to which the crowd collective lost their sh*t) and picked up the win.
With the crowd still pumped from the last match, it was time for the main event of the evening…
Match 8: Kenny Omega, Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa def. Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii & Rocky Romero. Match of the night, by far. Kenny Omega got a massive pop from the crowd during his entrance which was slightly outdone when Okada came out. A great match that started off fun when the much shorter Rocky tried to take on the much taller Tanga Loa. Eventually the match spills out into the crowd with the six brawling all over the place. My section had the honour of seeing Tama Tonga brawl with Okada.
The action eventually returns to the ring where Okada vs Omega was teased nicely. For those who don’t know, Okada and Omega have had three, fantastic matches against one another. Seriously if you haven’t seen these two in the ring, check it out. They’re amazing. At one point of the match, Kenny gets tagged in and the crowd starts going crazy when Rocky goes to tag in Okada. However, Kenny knocked Okada off the ring apron much to our disapproval. Kenny jokingly looked around at us, confused as to what he did wrong. Okada eventually got tagged in and we all proceeded to lose our sh*t once more. For a few minutes, we got to see Omega vs Okada IV (something Kenny teased on the microphone afterwards) and it was awesome.
The tension in Bullet Club was teased again when Kenny hit Rocky with Cody’s finisher, the Cross Rhodes. The match ends with Kenny picking up the win for his team with the One Winged Angel. In a match that gave us one of the greatest moments of the night, the segment following produced probably the lowest point of the night.
So there was a competition prior to the event where the winner would be randomly picked by their ticket. They would then get in the ring and present a gift to the winners of the main event. A young fan, I’m guessing in their teens, was lucky enough to win. Pretty good right?
Well, tell that to the grown adults at ringside who proceeded to boo the living hell out of the poor kid. I thought it was pretty crap for them to do that, as did most of the people seating in our area. Not only did it piss us off, it also pissed Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa off to the point where Tama yelled at them. Seriously, when you piss off a few guys who look like this:
It might be time for you to consider taking out a good death insurance policy. Even Kenny Omega told people to stop booing because the kid won the contest fair and square.
Anyway, Kenny loved his stuffed kangaroo (which he named Kenny) and his stuff koala (which he named Kota). Kenny went on to say how much he’s loving Australia and was happy to finally see a kangaroo and a koala (at the zoo, not the toys). Kenny then addresses Cody’s comments from earlier on. He says yes, Bullet Club is fine but only when it refers to him, Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa. He told us he’d deal with Cody later. After that he sends us home by telling us “Goodbye, and (blows a kiss) Good Night… BANG!!!”
And with that the night came to an end. I can’t tell you just how much of an excellent show this was. A funny theme throughout the night was when a wrestler would shout “BRAIN BUSTER!!!” and attempted to do the move, only to have it countered each time. This happened about six times in various matches and it didn’t get old.
I can’t wait for NJPW to come out again… or I may just have to go to Tokyo and watch Wrestle Kingdom next year. For all you wrestling fans in Melbourne, the next time they’re in town I highly encourage you to go see them! Sydney and Perth, you guys are up next! If you don’t have tickets, get them and fill up those venues!
That’s all I’ve got to say about NJPW’s Melbourne show. It’s been a bit of a busy week for me, so expect a much shorter Weekly Rassling Rundown from me later tonight.