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    Tuesday, August 17, 2021

    #CafePuro: NJPW Resurgence Review

    Hiroshi Tanahashi celebrates his championship victory to become the second NJPW Grand Slam Winner. (Photo from NJPW1972)

    The first NJPW America show with a crowd in almost a year did not disappoint. The crowd was energetic, and almost all of the matches were great. The pacing was a little off at times, but I'm glad I watched NJPW Resurgence because, my goodness, did NJPW need that resurgence of energy.

    As you may already know, the Japan shows do not have chanting because of their COVID-19 safety protocols. With the U.S. still allowing live events and mass gatherings as of press time, NJPW of America fans found themselves in a position where they could chant their hearts out. Too bad the show was mired by so many technical issues, including a cameraman who had to be asked multiple times to move to the side so wrestlers could pose on one corner of the ring.

    Epic Title Matches

    Two title matches headlined the event: David Finlay vs. Jay White for the NEVER Openweight Championship and Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Lance Archer for the IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship.

    Brawling to Victory

    Finlay and White unleashed a flurry of energy by basically brawling the entire match. Their training together as Young Lions definitely helped make the match look more realistic without injuring one another. 

    I wish there was more emphasis on the backstory surrounding Finlay and White's time as Young Lions together, explaining how they know each other very well. The FITE TV Promo, in particular, could have been better. Overall, the match was fun and brutal to the point that I thought Finlay would win. Sadly, a Blade Runner counter would end the night for him.

    Now I know there have been rumors of Finlay leaving for NXT, and I don't blame him. I would not be surprised if the crowd started to boo Finlay because of those rumors. The travel between the U.S. and Japan is intense, but after WWE let go of a considerable portion of its NXT roster, I hope Finlay reconsiders his options.

    Jay White relishes his successful NEVER Openweight title defense in the shadow of the LA Memorial Coliseum.
    (Photo from NJPW1972)

    After White pinned Finlay, he was about to do a promo when Tomohiro Ishii came out to challenge Jay and possibly face him in NJPW's upcoming West Coast tour. I just don't know what that means for the G1 Climax this October.

    A Return to Form

    The main event between Hiroshi Tanahashi and Lance Archer was nothing short of amazing. Maybe the energy of the crowd helped. I mean, hearing people chant for Tanahashi instead of just clapping for him was such a rare image in this pandemic era that I could not help but reminisce of the good old days of pre-pandemic NJPW.

    Japanese crowds are a different breed of followers, and I hope we get to hear their chants again soon. The American fans were wonderful, too! I only wish the FITE TV production team picked up on the fans more because everyone seemed to really get into Tanahashi and Archer.

    Tanahashi's relentless hero against Archer's diabolical "Murderhawk Monster" was the perfect contrast for a main event match. These days, we're so used to the anti-hero character that seeing a classic match between a traditional face and a traditional heel was a refreshing sight.

    The ending of the match was insane, with New Japan's "Ace" having to hit three High Fly Flows to defeat Archer. I was scared that Archer would kick out from one of them, but Tanahashi hit it three times just to be sure. Like Jay White, Tanahashi is now a Grand Slam Champion, having won every singles title available in New Japan as of this writing. 

    The post-match was quite surprising as Archer gave a speech that felt like a goodbye to New Japan. I hope this isn't the last we see of the "Murderhawk Monster." After all, we just got a taste of Archer as if he were in Suzuki-Gun again when he was taking out Lions and staff. It was the best!

    He also extended an invitation to Tanahashi to drop by AEW, which was a huge surprise. The AEW crowds are going to love him. 

    BIG MEATY MEN SLAPPING MEAT

    Tomohiro Ishii is one of the baddest men in wrestling. If you want a hard-hitting contest, you need to see an Ishii match. The same thing can be said about Moose. The former NFL player is humongous and is chiseled like a statue. He, too, can hit harder than most wrestlers. When you watch both of their wrestling styles, you realize that these two could make magic. Put these two together, and you're getting nothing short of an impressive hoss battle. 

    Moose hits a humongous dropkick on Tomohiro Ishii (Photo from NJPW1972)

    Ishii vs. Moose was one of the last matches to be announced, and it was quite a surprise because that meant one-third of the current NEVER Six-Man Tag Team Champions would be away from Japan for a while. Moose was a surprising addition to the card just because he had never been in any NJPW show previously. 

    These two big, meaty men definitely gave the fans their money's worth as the respective company's horses. Both wrestlers' styles were hard-hitting, so we already had a set of expectations heading into the match. I was not expecting the match to steal the whole damn show. Yes, the previous undercard matches were fun, but the Ishii/Moose match was insane. Moose would hit back harder every time the smaller Ishii hit him, making every moment in the match must-see.

    I already want to see a rematch on IMPACT or another big wrestling show if possible. Out of all the matches on the card, you have to watch Ishii vs. Moose first just because of how surprising the whole thing was.

    Surprise, Surprise!

    Well then, I was not expecting Will Ospreay, of all people, to appear in the U.S. He came out to claim that IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi is just an interim champion and that Ospreay was still the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion. Sadly, his first challenger was... TJP. Nobody wanted that. Come on. I would much rather have watched Clark Connors or Karl Fredericks take on Ospreay.

    To be fair, though, Will Ospreay got my attention by acting like a cocky jerk a la Conor McGregor, and the thing is... the strategy worked. I used to think of Ospreay as this clear-cut babyface, but his turn as a jerk has turned him into a wonderful villain to hate.

    Will Ospreay brought out his own version of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. (Photo from NJPW1972)

    The Assassin wasn't the only surprise of the night. We also saw Yuji Nagata appear once again on American soil to be Jon Moxley's mystery partner. I liked the selection because Moxley earned Blue Justice's respect after a fun feud that started on NJPW Strong and concluded in AEW. Sadly, the tag match against the Good Brothers just wasn't working for me. Karl Anderson needs to go solo, and Doc Gallows should go the Fale Route and be the big guy who only pops up once in a while.

    Yuji Nagata serves some Blue Justice on Doc Gallows. (Photo from NJPW1972)

    One of the most surprising appearances was what happened after the special tag match. The Good Brothers had been teasing a feud against Guerrillas of Destiny (G.O.D) on Twitter for a while now, and the company chose to start the feud at Resurgence. I can't wait to see what happens. I know. People find both teams boring, but at least Tama and Loa can modify their style to suit different opponents. 

    On the other hand, Karl Anderson and Doc Gallows have been a stagnant tag team for several years now. They were fun as a tag unit in New Japan, but their run in WWE has left a sad impression on me. And then the thought came up. I realized that Karl Anderson has been held back by Doc Gallows.

    I know Anderson's run in the G1 has been considered a joke at this point, but he has already shown that he can take the ball and run with it if given the opportunity. Anderson honestly should have become IWGP Intercontinental Champion when that title still existed. Sadly, Anderson is stuck in a tag team with Doc Gallows. Yes, I'll still accept them as a tag team on IMPACT, but he needs to go solo when competing in NJPW. 

    Even one of the G.O.A.T.S in Kazuchika Okada occasionally teams up with fellow Young Lion YOSHI-HASHI to add a little twist to NJPW shows. I think Anderson and Gallows as a team are good together once in a while. I just don't see them going anywhere as a tag team anymore.

    They can still be The Good Brothers, but they just both need to do their own things.

    One Filthy Matchup!

    Tom Lawlor poses with the rest of Team Filthy during their 10-Man Tag match. (From NJPW1972)

    The undercard had quite a number of matches, so I won't cover them all. Instead, I'll be focusing on two matches: Team Filthy (Tom Lawlor, JR Kratos, Danny Limelight, Jorel Nelson, and Royce Isaacs) vs. the team of Yuya Uemura, Adrian Quest, Fred Yehi, Chris Dickinson and Lio Rush, and the other match being the six-man match between Ren Narita, Clark Connors, and TJP and the team of Wheeler Yuta, Fred Rosser, and Rocky Romero.

    These two matches stood out the most for me because you could hear so many chants despite the terrible microphone pickup. It felt like a cathartic release of a whole year not being able to do wrestling chants unleashed. 

    I'm not too familiar with NJPW Strong, but I'm becoming a fan of Team Filthy. Their grouping as a stable feels like the Nakamura days of CHAOS when they were so united and not just mixed in with the main unit. Meanwhile, the six-man tag was crazy just because it featured the key to the "Forbidden Door" of wrestling in Rocky Romero. Fred Rosser was there as well, and he had an excellent faceoff sequence against Ren Narita. I can't wait to see future matchups between the two. 

    Yuya Uemura Joins the L.A. Dojo

    Katsuyori Shibata accepts Yuya Uemura's request to join the LA Dojo. (Photo from NJPW1972)

    After pinning Danny Limelight, Yuya Uemura asked for the mic, called out Katsuyori Shibata, and requested to join the L.A. Dojo. Shibata only had to say three words to get people hyped: "Come with me."

    I guess the L.A. Dojo now counts as an excursion with the pandemic making travel even more challenging these days. I can't wait to see Uemura adapt his wrestling style to become an even better wrestler.

    Too Many Technical Issues

    I can't tell you how many times I had to connect and reconnect my feed during the broadcast. The audio for the show was all over the place, and you couldn't hear anything the wrestlers said on the mic. I'm sure it was entertaining because, man, the wrestlers were sassy during the show. 

    There was also that one cameraman who always had to move to the side so that Tanahashi, Jay, and Finlay could do their poses. His positioning was so frustrating because it happened three times during the entire show. It must've been an issue of the camera operator not being familiar with shooting a wrestling event. I can excuse it happening once but three times? Come on. I really wish NJPW used their own crew to cover the event instead of having FITE TV handle everything.

    One of my biggest peeves from the event was that NJPW just took the FITE TV stream and dubbed their commentary over it. This isn't the fault of Hiromu Takahashi, Miki Motoi, or the play-by-play commentator. Using the FITE TV feed felt like a minor-league move for what is supposed to be the second-largest wrestling company in the world.

    I do understand that sending in a camera crew from Japan would have been costly. What I don't understand is that the previous AXS TV crew who conducted the live recordings before did better than this. The audio then was audible, and you could actually hear the crowd roaring and jeering for every move. Everything was crystal clear.

    This Resurgence show had none of that. I hope the FITE TV crew will do a test run before the actual show, or NJPW finds a more competent crew for the rest of their upcoming U.S. tours. 

    A Great Show with Technical Difficulties

    Overall, NJPW Resurgence was a great welcome back to form. The entire show was great from top to bottom, and I really enjoyed how the differences between faces and heels were bright as day. The surprises were a wonderful addition to an already huge show, and I'm just glad to hear crowds at an NJPW show again. If it wasn't for the technical issues, I would have enjoyed the show even more.

    The crowd made a humongous difference, and the visual of the L.A. Memorial Coliseum was beautiful. I hope we get more unique venues like this for future shows. 

    Must-Watch Matches: Ishii vs. Moose and Archer vs. Tanahashi

    What did you think of NJPW Resurgence? Share your thoughts below! 

    Images from NJPW
    *****

    Steven Tan (@steviesaidyup) works for an e-commerce company by day and operates The Geeky Juans podcast and blog by night. He's a fan of the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, comic books, and the Moomin franchise. You can find more of his geeky thoughts on Twitter.

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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro: NJPW Resurgence Review Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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