The show instantly feels different. Tiny stage, smaller arena with a different structure than most that WWE runs. Feels more like an ECW show.
Chris Jericho vs. Neville
Perfect choice for the opener, love this as a special attraction match. Got to appreciate Jericho coming back just to work house shows. And even if his last few runs have been weak, I’m still happy to see him here.
The commentary here is worlds better than normal. Was Vince not on this trip? Or did he just not care what they were saying because it’s 5:30 AM? But Cole and Saxton are talking about the match and running through each man’s history in Japan. No forced banter or canned one-liners. Refreshing.
I was expecting Jericho to fall into the role of cocky veteran here and play the heel, and though it took awhile he did start to towards the end of the match. Fans were mostly still cheering him though. Jericho’s huge in Japan. They really turned things up in the ending sequence here with Neville rolling through the Red Arrow, Jericho catching Neville in the Walls, Neville’s Somersault Plancha, Jericho scoring with the Lionsault, ect.
The finish was jaw-dropping. Don’t really agree with having Jericho win, but having him break out the Lion Tamer was tremendous.
Rating: ***¼. Great opener. Both guys busted their asses. Loved a lot of the counters here.
I’m a fan of the production style here too. More minimalist, fewer lights, no big stage, different camera angles than normal. The venue is set-up differently than most WWE arenas too. Like I said before, feels more like an ECW show.
Diva’s Championship: Nikki Bella vs. Paige vs. Tamina
Seems clear to me that Nikki’s reign is only continuing so that she can beat AJ’s record. Petty and stupid, but WWE can be both of those things at times. I feel like this match is how a Triple Threat is taught in wrestling school. One person knocked down out of the ring so the other two can wrestle each other, a few double-team moves to break it up. They did make Tamina look strong, which I liked (got to get someone other than Nikki and Paige over).
This match came and went without much of note happening. Nikki wins again.
Rating: *. Not much there. This division needs a shot in the arm. Time to start bringing up the NXT girls.
Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston
Brock deciding to work this show so that he could write his trip to Japan off his taxes is the most Brock move ever. Kofi seemed like a sacrificial lamb, and even more so when he came out alone. I was wondering about the response Brock would get in Japan after the IWGP Championship fiasco all those years ago, but sounded like that’s water under the bridge now.
This was a total squash, and I loved it. Brock murdered Kofi. That’s exactly what should have happened. Kofi got a few shots in, but was totally overwhelmed by the monster. No complaints about that at all.
Rating: *¼. Yes, I enjoyed this more than the women’s match.
NXT Championship: Kevin Owens (c) vs. Finn Balor
Feel like this should have gone on last. Much bigger match than the Cena tag. Kevins Owens vs. John Cena is the best thing going in WWE right now, and John Cena is probably the only guy doing better than Owens at this point. Never doubted his talent, but I never thought they’d push Owens this far this fast. He’s been a highlight in a pretty boring stretch for WWE the last few months.
The flowers and girls are a great touch for championship matches in Japan. And Owens throwing the flowers away made me laugh out loud. Owens makes such a great dick heel. Damn, Cole just made a Prince Devitt reference. And now mentioning his Japanese accomplishments. How is this show so much better than Raw?
Shouldn’t be a surprise that this match was tremendous. These guys are both going to be big stars, and this is far from the last time we’ll see them fight on the big stage. They had me on the first Coup de Grace from Balor. I was sure that was the finish, and wish it had been. I’m getting tired of finisher kickouts. Man, this referee counted faster than any I’ve ever seen. This is the guy they should have had referee Starrcade 1997 instead of Nick Patrick.
Kevin Owens does ridiculous things in the ring. A man that size doing a Swanton Bomb is unfathomable. It seems like the guy taking it should be dead, even if he gets his knees up like Balor did. I legit popped for Balor winning. Loved the match, great moment. Perfect all-around.
Rating: ****. Loved it. No surprise that NXT stole the show. Can’t wait for Takeover in Brooklyn.
King Barrett and Kane vs. John Cena and Dolph Ziggler
I’m actually disappointed we didn’t get to see the other two matches. Cesaro vs. Diego and Lucha Dragons vs. New Day both sounded fun.
I couldn’t summon the desire to watch this match. Super generic tag match featuring Kane and King Barrett the Jobber. And apparently they went 25 minutes and it wasn’t very good. So yeah, passing on this one.
Overall: I enjoyed this show. Ding it for the main event being lame and women’s match, but the rest of it was fun and different from the usual WWE stuff. The atmosphere, presentation, and matches were relatively fresh and that’s something WWE desperately needs right now. Their product is extremely stale, so mixing things up is an imperative. I hope we get to see more of these kinds of shows on the Network. I appreciated the low-key nature of it but also that we got a quality show.