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NJPW Sakura Genesis Review – 04.08.23

1 year ago
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NJPW Sakura Genesis Review – 04.08.23

NJPW Sakura Genesis Review – 04.08.23

By: Sonal Lad 

After the New Japan Cup in March, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s next big show was Sakura Genesis, which marked the biggest event since Wrestle Kingdom. With nine matches, including five high-profile title bouts, the show was packed with all of New Japan’s best and most-loved wrestlers.

Here’s a full review of NJPW’s Sakura Genesis show.

1st Match: Hiroshi Tanahashi, YOH & El Desperado v Toru Yano, Minoru Suzuki & Great O-Khan – Shinnichi Champion Grand Prix Celebration

Out of all the matches, the opening match of the card was the most unexpected. The participants and teams were announced as the bout started. It was already a surprise when YOH and Hiroshi Tanahashi had to team up with El Desperado. Even more shocking was that Toru Yano had his worst nightmare teaming with Great O-Khan and Minoru Suzuki.

It was a battle of faction mates as Suzuki and Desperado started the match. Considering their friendship and past, the fight was even more intense, showing the mat-based offense Suzuki Gun was known for. Despite his reluctance, Suzuki eventually tagged Yano to tag out to O-Khan, to ensure he doesn’t have to wrestle fellow CHAOS member YOH.

Although it wasn’t a wrestling spectacular, it was a way to excite the crowds with unexpected interactions between “Rivals. It created moments of pure comedy. At one moment, Yano was almost pinned after being distracted by his teammates’ bickering. Tahanashi even called some tag team offense with YOH and Desperado. In the end, the match ended just as shockingly when Yano managed to pin The Ace with a rollup.

2nd Match: Francesco Akira, Aaron Henare & Jeff Cobb v SHO, Yujiro Takahashi & EVIL

As expected with any House of Torture match, there was always an unfair advantage for their opponents The Empire. Francesco Akira started, and while it began with just the IWGP Jr tag champion and SHO, chaos quickly ensued as the Bullet Club faction blatantly disregarded the rules.

Luckily, it wasn’t long before Akira tagged in Aaron Henare, who has a lot of momentum, despite his recent loss to Shingo Takagi. Even with the cheating, Henare used his strength to combat the two-on-one disadvantage, and Jeff Cobb was just as successful in beating up the House of Torture. This power had Jeff Cobb hit a “Tour of the Islands” on both SHO and Dick Togo before pinning SHO for the win.

3rd Match – BUSHI, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito v DOUKI, Yoshinonu Kanemaru & TAICHI

The match between Los Ingobernables de Japon and Just 5 Guys didn’t have any title implications, but it created some exciting feuds to expect and showcased the crowd’s loyalty.

From the beginning, one of the most shocking moments was in the match’s opening minutes when DOUKI was in the ring. He was the firm favorite. Whenever the LIJ trio hit any offensive, especially aggressively, the crowds would boo three wrestlers who have always been fan favorites. Even when TAICHI was tagged in, the crowds were vocal about the wrestler compared to the likes of Tetsuya Naito, BUSHI, or Shingo Takagi.

With the rising popularity of Just 5 Guys, it seemed like the match made crowds even more vocal. In the end, all three members of Just 5 Guys were in the center of the ring with submissions on the LIJ members. It eventually led to Kanemaru tapping out BUSHI. Even more surprising was that DOUKI continued choking out Naito even after the match ended.

4th Match – Master Wato, Hiku Leo & Tama Tonga v El Phantasmo, KENTA & David Finlay

The final non-title match of the card saw members of Hontai facing Bullet Club. Along with the feud between Tama Tonga and David Finlay for the NEVER Openweight title, there was a lot of tension between El Phantasmo and Finlay. In the end, El Phantasmo pinned Master Wato with a CR2.

But it was post-match that changed the complexion of the faction. After the match ended, David Finlay continued beating Tama Tonga. Considering ELP’s change in heart in recent months and his hatred towards Finlay, it wasn’t surprising that the Bullet Club member went to help Tama Tonga.

The rest of the faction then showcased their view on ELP’s change of heart when KENTA suddenly hit the Go2Sleep on ELP and was joined by Ishimori to beat up their former faction member. With his shillelagh, David Finlay hit the now-former Bullet Club member with his prized possession, with the rest of the faction members holding a humiliated El Phantasmo. While it wasn’t surprising, it makes Phantasmo’s future less certain, especially after Jay White’s AEW debut and claiming he’s still part of Bullet Club.

5th Match: Mercedes Mone (c) v AZM v Hazuki – IWGP Women’s Championship

The landscape shifted fast when Mercedes arrived on the IWGP Women’s title scene. Defeating KAIRI at Battle in the Valley to win the newly established and historic belt, it didn’t take long for the CEO to find her next challenger, naming AZM (or A-Z-M to her) as a potential challenger. AZM accepted and was joined by Hazuki to create a triple-threat match for Sakura Genesis.

Mercedes came out with gear inspired by the Star Wars spin-off show The Mandalorian that she acted in. AZM entered with her High-Speed title, and Hazuki was seconded by her STARS stablemates Mayu Iwatani and Momo Kohgo. It started with a typical high-speed sequence. There were running the ropes and quick pinfall attempts as the three looked to feel each other out.

If there was any doubt after the KAIRI match on whether Mercedes would fit in STARDOM, then it vanished during this match. She dominated by getting the challengers in a double “Bank statement,” but it was reversed by AZM getting both into an armbar. There was never anyone who had majority control of the matchup. The three evenly traded inventive moves, grapples, and reversals where they either teamed or attacked both opponents.

As the match came to the final moments, Hazuki was about to hit her signature brainbuster. However, AZM came from behind and tried to roll up Hazuki. Mercedes picked up AZM to hit her Moneymaker on top of Hazuki, pinning AZM to retain. Post-match, the Icon of STARDOM Mayu Iwatani entered the ring to challenge for the title on April 23rd. Mercedes didn’t care about that and slapped her next challenger before leaving with the championship.

6th Match: Zack Sabre Jr (c) v Shota Umino – NJPW WORLD TV Championship

After the shocking win over Zack Sabre Jr during the New Japan Cup, Shota Umino earned his first title shot for the NJPW WORLD TV title. In the lead-up to the match, both wrestlers had a lot of meetings to get fans excited about the match. Zack even joked that he would retire if Umino beat him in less than ten minutes.

Like all matches for this title, the 15-minute time limit dictated the match’s pace. While Shota tried to showcase his submission skills to rival the Submission Specialist ZSJ, neither wrestler could hold on for too long. This meant there was a quick change of strategy from both men. It ranged from submissions, strikes, and more high-speed offense.

As the match reached the time limit, both wrestlers were more desperate to win. While Shota Umino reverted to his Young Lion offense, ZSJ tried to get the win with the rollup as the speed quickened. With only a minute left and a failed attempt to win with a Deathrider from Umino, ZSJ hit a jackknife pin to beat Shota Umino.

7th Match: Bishamon (c) v Aussie Open – IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship

After winning the titles at Wrestle Kingdom, Hirooki Goto, and YOSHI HASHI have proudly worn the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belts. With a successful defense against Okada and Tanahashi, their next opponents were long-time rivals Aussie Open, Kyle Fletcher and Mark Davis.

Unsurprisingly, the match started fast and dangerous as soon as the bell rang. It wasn’t long before Kyle sustained a head injury and had blood gushing out. It was so bad that he needed immediate medical attention. Yet, it served to make the young Aussie wrestler even more determined.

After Kyle’s injury, it seemed like Bishamon had the advantage. No matter what Aussie Open threw at the CHAOS members, YOSHI HASHI and Hirooki Goto kept fighting. Even after Fletcher and Davis flew out of the ring, Bishamon found a way to keep the momentum going. Throughout the bout, they showcased their tag team chemistry. The match never paused and was full of action from when the bell rang.

While it seemed like Kyle’s injury impacted Aussie Open’s chances of winning, his determination changed the tide of the match. After the 15-minute mark, with YOSHI HASHI outside the ring, Aussie Open hit the Coriolis to become IWGP Heavyweight Tag Champions. The match was quick, dynamic, and perfectly showcased the prestige of the tag division in recent years.

8th Match: Hiromu Takahashi (c) v Robbie Eagles – IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship

After Hiromu Takahashi successfully defended his IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship at the New Japan Cup final, his next opponent was revealed on screen as TMDK’s newest member Robbie Eagles. The two have fought many times. Robbie’s new alliance with TMDK brought out a new side to the Aussie star.

The opening moments of the match saw Robbie Eagles at a considerable advantage. With Hiromu’s knee already damaged, Eagles focused his offense on further inflicting pain on the ligament. With Robbie’s submission and strike skills, it wasn’t surprising to see Hiromu scream in pain only minutes into the match.

At the ten-minute mark, Hiromu tried to get the advantage with a leg up to stop the impact from Robbie but seemingly damaged his knee more than his opponent. Yet, it was enough to give Hiromu some adrenaline to try and inflict pain on Robbie. It allowed Hiromu to get some prolonged offense and even hit the Time Bomb, despite his opponent kicking out.

With both men injured, it would have been assumed that the pace would slow, but the opposite was true. Going high risk, Hiromu got caught in a Ron Miller Special that worsened his already damaged knee, but he continued fighting. The speed quickly picked up pace as both wrestlers knew their damaged bodies couldn’t take much more. In the end, Hiromu’s adrenaline and passion were more than enough to fight through as he hit the Time Bomb II to win.

9th Match: Kazuchika Okada (c) v SANADA – IWGP World Heavyweight Championship

After winning the New Japan Cup and joining Just Five Guys, it was time for SANADA to face his long-time rival Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight title. Okada’s meaner side showed from the minute the bell rang as he played on the crowd’s love of SANADA. Taking the fight outside, the crowds continued to cheer for SANADA as he hit a Magic Screw on Okada from the barricade.

Within the first five minutes, both men had shown fans a new aggression. Yet, transformations don’t happen overnight, and SANADA showed this. A brief hesitation gave Okada an advantage as he returned a favor from Korakuen Hall. He hit SANADA with a dangerous DDT on the hard concrete floor. With both men sustaining an injury early on, it was a matter of who wanted it more as both men lay in the center of the ring.

The match saw both men gain an advantage at different times. It felt like Okada still underestimated his opponent, even trying to win with the Money Clip. Whether through submissions, strikes, or their patented offense, both wrestlers put their best foot forward. They had the crowd at the edge of their seats.

Crowds had seemingly given up as Okada kept teasing the Rainmaker. yet SANADA had the support of the fans in the arena. In the end, in the same place he helped Naito win the title, SANADA pinned Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship for the first time.

While the match was phenomenal and showcased a new side to the wrestlers, Hiromu Takahashi surprised fans. He came out to challenge his former LIJ member to a title match. Before Hiromu’s chance to wrestle SANADA, Yoshinobu Kanemaru challenged him for the IWGP Jr title. As the show ended, the future of NJPW is going to be interesting, with new feuds and storylines created.