Recap from David Arthur:
The IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions, Apollo 55, defend against TAKA Michinoku and Taichi (If they have a moniker, I know not what it is).
Prince Devitt and Taichi start out the match. Taichi avoids locking up with Devitt at first. Either he is attempting some sort of mind games or he just really doesn’t want a piece of Devitt. Taichi suckers Devitt with a handshake and cheapshots him with a boot to the gut. Taichi arrogantly showboats for the crowds, but Devitt fires back with chops. He tags in his partner Ryusuke Taguchi and they perform some impressive double team work on both Taichi and TAKA Michinoku. Upon faking a dive Taguchi tweaks his knee, and Taichi takes advantage by blasting him with a chair, and then proceeds to work over his leg outside the ring with said chair.
Taichi and TAKA begin quick tags and double team offense on Taguchi. Focusing on his bad leg and keeping him from making the much needed tag to Devitt. Their attack on Taguchi is particularly vicious and dastardly. But Taguchi refuses to just lay down and die, and after some unexpected reversal of fortune, he makes the tag to Devitt who proceeds to tear ass on both TAKA and Taichi. After a breathtaking dive over the top rope, followed by a “Let’s go Devitt!” chant from the audience (in English suprisingly enough), Devitt actually makes TAKA hit a DDT on his own partner. It’s around the 15:45 mark and it must be seen to be believed.
TAKA and Taichi eventually cut Devitt off and take control of the match back. Devitt manages to make the tag to Taguchi, but despite his tenacity he is quickly taken down by TAKA due to his bad leg. TAKA puts Taguchi in the Figure 4 Leg Lock for what seems like forever while Taichi keeps Devitt from helping his partner. But there is no surrender in Taguchi as he valiantly fights through and reaches the ropes for the break. TAKA tags Taichi and neutralizes Devitt while Taichi tries to finish off Taguchi with a series of moves and strikes, but Taguchi refuses to stay down. After a fast back and forth and exchange of pin attempts, Taguchi ties Taichi up in a La Magistral cradle for the pinfall victory. He and Devitt retain the IWGP Jr. Tag Team Championships.
I freakin’ loved this match. I’ve noticed while watching recent matches from New Japan that things are, for lack of a better term, taking a more Americanized approach here and there. New Japan has never been at a loss for action, athleticism, or smart wrestling, but lately it seems there have been more unique characters taking center stage and some performers have started to stand out as individual entities with charisma and appeal all their own, as opposed to just the classic stone faced, black trunks and boots (or kickpads) wearing guys. With the exception of the likes of The Great Muta, or Jushin Thunder Liger, these types of characters were rare back in the 80′s, 90′s, and even part of the 2000′s. Someone like Taichi would have stuck out like a sore thumb shouldered next to Otani, Fujinami, Kanemoto, or Koshinaka back in the day. I am quite pleased with what’s going on over there lately.
Prince Devitt is one of the most spectacular athletes and performers I’ve seen in a long time. TAKA Michinoku, who was rather stoic during his run in WWF(E), was full of life in this match. As a wrestler he’s still very quick, agile, and solid. Maybe he’s just more comfortable at home. Taichi reminds me of some aristocrat-type anime villain. He a great heel and plays a great comedic coward. Ryusuke Taguchi impressed me the most in this match. There were no visible holes in his game, so to speak. Everything from his athleticism to his body language to his facial expressions and emotions were totally on point.
Everyone should watch this match. Everyone. ICHIBAN!
Thoughts from Murray Peterson:
This match is to be contested for the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship. If you look in the dictionary beside face, you’d see Apollo 55, and beside heel would be Taichi. It is pretty cut and dry on this one.
We kick of this match with Taichi mocking the gimmicks of Apollo 55. Taichi is the epitome of the over confident heel, and I love him. Taichi takes a moment to grab the ref’s ass and we are off with Devitt and him starting the match. Taichi, as he usually does, spends the first while avoiding Devitt by stepping between the ropes. He then suckers him in with the ole hand shake kick to the stomach. The heel tactics continue for awhile, Devitt gets in a few chops, and Taguchi is tagged in for the first time. He hits the ropes immediately and sends Taichi spinning with a step-up rana. Some tag offence comes in and both Taka and Taichi end up outside the ring. You think we are going to get the Apollo 55 stereo topes but instead they swerve and have a little dance moment. Unamused Taichi his Taguchi in the leg with a chair, which was pretty funny actually. Heel tactics ensue until we are back in the ring with Taguchi having his leg worked over by Taichi. There are several quick tags between Taka and Taichi as they continue to work over Taguchi’s leg for several minutes. There is almost a tag but Devitt isn’t in his corner, he is off tussling with Michinoku. Taguchi is kept in the ring for a long time, and again we think we may get a tag when Devitt takes out Taichi from the apron, but Taka runs across the ring to cut off the tag. Some heavy strikes land but Taguchi is able to kick out of the first pinning attempt of the match. Devitt tries to break up a leg submission that has Taguchi tied up, but gets put into a cross face by Taka. Finally Taguchi gets to the ropes and breaks the hold. After several more minutes of leg work, Taguchi finally flips Taichi over with a reversed vertical suplex and makes the hot tag to Devitt. It is about damn time. Feet and fists fly, and so does Devitt as he hits a huge tope con hilo on both Michinoku and Taichi. Devitt gets in some fast offence on the heel side, but is finally overcome by their numbers. He eats a dual super-kick and kicks out of a pinning attempt. Taguchi breaks up a tandem air raid crash that might have been three. Taka comes in only to get booted in the head and have Devitt tag out. Taguchi tries for a springboard drop kick but lands on his face. Taka quickly slaps on a figure-four leg lock. No “Woooo” chants go up, we are in Japan fokes. The hold is broken and Taka tags out. Taichi hits a monster super-kick but only can get a two count. The tear away pants are off and Taichi means business! Sit out power bomb and he still can only get two on the exhausted Taguchi. Pinning attempts are traded for awhile and Taguchi catches Taichi in a modified Oklahoma roll for the 1-2-3!
While watching this match you will keep thinking to yourself “here comes the pay off” but it never comes. All the work done on Taguchi’s leg turned out to be for nothing, as it never played a significant role in the match. As soon as he needed to be mobile, he was. There was almost a none existent factor of Devitt in this match which was a real shame. Devitt is such a phenomenal talent and he was completely underutilized here. The most entertaining aspect of the match is how Taka walks around like he is the most brilliant wrestler known to man. Real missed opportunity by New Japan to have a title match that meant something. If you are a fan of watching a man get kicked in the leg for twenty minutes then this match is for you. If not then watch it solely to see Taguchi get kicked in the face by Taichi.