This post is coming a few days late because we’ve been swamped with WrestleMania coverage all week. But we never forget to show some love to our Asian friends across the way. On Friday, there was another all new episode of New Japan Pro Wrestling on AXS TV. Let’s review.
The show kicks off with Kushida discussing what we’re about to see. The episode was taped on June 7th, 2015, and shows The Best of the Super Jr. Heavyweight XXII from Yoyogi National Gynasium in Tokyo. Kushida is shown again being interviewed about his thoughts on the tournament and his matches in a shoot style Q&A.
Good Ole JR and Josh Barnett work commentary as Kyle O’Reilly, of Ring of Honor fame, makes his way out to the ring. His opponent will be none other than Kushida, who has a really cool entrance video on the big screen. It shows photos and clips of him as he grew up, eventually becoming one of the biggest wrestling stars in Japan.
Red Shoes to referee this one. Crowd is into it, cheering for Kushida, the hometown favorite. Slow grappling to start this match as O’Reilly pins Kushida against the ropes. A leg take down by O’Reilly puts both men on the mat to do some ground work. Both men trade submissions and reversals and so far this match is very reminiscent of Angle/Benoit at WM 17. When they finally get back to their feet, neither man has the upper hand. Crowd applauding the technical skill of each wrestler.
Kushida finally gets on top as he hits a good group of kick combos to put O’Reilly down. Kushida joins him on the mat and locks in his left arm. O’Reilly gets his foot to the rope and Red Shoes breaks the hold. Kushida gives O’Reilly some chops in the corner. O’Reilly scores some offense with a few sharp kicks and knees to the face. He goes for the pin but Kushida kicks out. Back breaker on Kushida and another pin attempt. O’Reilly can’t keep him down. O’Reilly goes to work on Kushida’s shoulder and then plants him with a hammerlock takedown. Kushida screams, clutching his arm.
On the mat, O’Reilly elbows and knees Kushida’s arm and shoulder over and over. Crowd is stunned into silence as O’Reilly twists Kushida’s wrist and the local boy writhes in pain. O’Reilly has taken full control of this match. O’Reilly hits two absolutely devastating double under-hook suplexes capped off with a DDT. Kushida narrowly kicks out at two and three-fourths. Kushida lands a springboard off the top rope and pumps some energy into a comeback. Kushida gets a few holds in down on the mat but O’Reilly quickly reverses and takes control again locking in a hanging reversed sleeper hold. Kushida reverses it into a double wristlock. O’Reilly reaches the rope and Red Shoes separates them.
Kushida sits O’Reilly in the corner on the top rope. O’Reilly punches him in the ribs a few times and dives off, pounding Kushida’s head and neck into the mat. O’Reilly locks in an arm submission. Kushida counters and lands a German suplex. And another into a pin, but O’Reilly kicks out at two. Kushida lands a kick, knocking O’Reilly out of the ring. The chemistry of these two is excellent. Kushida hits the top rope and flips off, landing hard on O’Reilly and the bare floor. Kushida slides back into the ring. Red Shoes starts the twenty count against O’Reilly. He manages to get back in the ring and Kushida flips off the top rope again but this time gets caught into a triangle lock submission when he lands! Kushida somehow manages to reach the ropes.
O’Reilly puts Kushida on the top rope but Kushida attacks his arm and puts O’Reilly down. He recovers and slams into Kushida, who falls crotch first into the ring post. O’Reilly sets him up and executes a belly to belly suplex. O’Reilly crawls to Kushida and covers him, but another kick out. The crowd is really getting their money’s worth in this one. O’Reilly lands several kicks, Kushida catches his foot on the last and then hits him with a barrage of punches. O’Reilly ducks under and suplexes Kushida. Both men panting on the mat, drenched in sweat.
O’Reilly is the first one up. When Kushida gets up he smashes O’Reilly in the face with a closed fist. O’Reilly wipes Kushida out with a clothesline, kick out at two. O’Reilly hits a brain buster, kick out at one. Crowd is audible now trying to rally their hero. O’Reilly attacks Kushida’s left arm again. Red Shoes asks if he wants to quit. Kushida makes the ropes and breaks the hold. Crowd applauds. Outside on the ring apron, O’Reilly continues working on the left arm. Kushida shoves him away and again O’Reilly jumps up to lock in a front hold choke. Kushida reverses it into a brain buster right on the apron. O’Reilly falls to the floor and Kushida collapses near him. Red Shoes starts a twenty count.
At nineteen both men scramble into the ring. Jim Ross calls this one a, “legitimate wrestling classic,” and he’s not wrong. Exhausted, neither man can get to their feet so Red Shoes starts a double count out. Both men sit up onto their knees and trade forearm punches. Both men get up on their feet and pull each other’s hair as they trade punches, both face and body shots. O’Reilly knocks Kushida to the mat.
Kushida throws O’Reilly into the corner, then slams him down but O’Reilly kicks out a two. Kushida climbs the ropes again and performs a corkscrew moonsault. It only partially lands and O’Reilly kicks out at two. They trade counters, then Kushida locks his arm in again. O’Reilly tries for the ropes but Kushida rolls him back, still holding the submission in place. O’Reilly taps after 30 minutes and 45 seconds.
Wow! What a match. This had it all. Technical ability, high flying maneuvers, devastating attacks, storytelling, exciting commentary, and a vocal crowd that got to witness one hell of a match. Kushida is the winner of Best of the Super Junior Heavyweight Tournament. After the match, both men bow to each other showing respect as the crowd cheers them on. O’Reilly holds up Kushida’s arm in victory.
In an interview after, O’Reilly swears that next year he is going to win the tournament and prove that he is the best of the super juniors. Back in the ring, Kushida wins a big, shiny trophy. He says he plans to bring a brighter future to NJPW. He thanks the crowd for their support. He climbs the corner and holds the trophy high as confetti falls. One of the best episodes of NJPW so far this year. Epic performances and an exhilarating match. See ya again on Friday, NJPW fans.
Article by Jamie Curtis Baker