New Japan Southern Showdown review live from Festival Hall

Now. It takes a lot for me to miss a Pies game, but wrestling at Festival Hall? And New Japan? I couldn/t say no. I aint been to a wrestling show in ages, as the only international company that tours in recent years is WWE, and aside from the odd episode of NXT and Revival matches, ive been clean and sober of that rubbish for a few years. Ring of Honor I was big on for a while but lost interest a year ago, Major League Wrestling and New Japan are now the only promotions I go out of my way to watch. As a kid trading tapes with fellow fans New Japan and All Japan always had the best rosters and in ring action and booking that made sense. The Japanese treat wrestling like a ligament sport, the way it should be presented. I missed their show last year, no way was I going to miss this. My mate Amy has been fascinated by my love of the sport so I took her with me, hoping she would see some quality rassling and can show her why his sport is so special to me. The main event for me is the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship match between UK icon Will Ospreay and hometown hero Robbie Eagles. Hands down the most common wrestling shirt I see these days is the Bullet Club, a heel (bad guy) stable of non Japanese wrestlers. Their popularity is one of the key reasons for NJ to tour. Anyway, lets go to the ring

Toa Henare, Shota Umino, & Nick Bury vs. Mark Tui, Andrew Villalobos, & Michael Richards

We walked in a bit late so missed the first few minutes of the opening bout. Solid start. Im not big on six man tags unless it/s a blow off to a feud. i like the heels keeping Nick Bury in the corner taking turns tagging in and kicking the shit out of him. Eventually he breaks free and tags Umino. He puts one of the heels in a Boston Crab, a move that hasn/t been a finisher for 30 years but the crowd eat it up thinking this will finish it. It doesn/t of course. At one point Villalobos and Henare trade blows. When Henare lands a blow the fans pop and boo when Villalobos nails one. I didn/t care for it one of em should ave just kept landing punches as opposed to playing up to the crowd. Anyway Henare pins Villalobos to end it. Nice start everyone got in to do something, good way to kick things off.

Slex vs. Aaron Solow

Slex is getting an Aussie Aussie Aussie chant, the fella behind me demands to know if he actually is Australian. He is. Slex is a part of Melbourne City Wrestling and great to see hes on a big stage like this. He nails an impressive tornado DDT. Slex lands a suicide dive, a move that I love but is done to death these days. This was one of two for the night, and they both had the excitement of will they land it or not. Great crowd reaction. He nails a springboard and a superkick which I say to Amy thats gotta be it. But only a 2 count. It was the first of many times I told her that which didn/t lead to the match ending. Anyway Solow hits a double stop I again tells Amy thats all, but no. Slex hits the trouble in paradise to go home. Another solid ten minute match, both guts got plenty in and put on a good show. Slex made the most of his exposure here and I certainly wanted to see more of him after watching this.

Toru Yano & Yoh vs. Taiji Ishimori & Gino Gambino

Great mix here. Each team consists of a heavyweight and light heavyweight. Good back and forward battle. At one point Gambino and Yano fight with the buckle pads. The bloke behind me screamed sword fight. I said don/t you dare! That is the kind of comedy I hate in wrestling. Thankfully they exchange blows with the pads. If you told me the pads would be used as weapons I would ave said get outta here but the noise those pads made you could hear all round the building. Gambino does a number on Yano, throws him into the exposed turnbuckle, followed by a low blow and its 1 2 3. This was fine, nothing wrong with it. Some horseplay from Yano but not ridiculously silly. Also liked the padding as a weapon.

Big Tom Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI vs. Yujiro Takahashi & Chase Owens

Bullet Club jumps before the bell. I loved the brainbuster finishing the match. A great finisher that is sadly underused these days. This match went under ten minutes but these guys didn/t waste a second. Really well constructed a good brawl with some moves a rarely see any more, such as a Russian legsweap. Best match so far.

RevPro British Cruiserweight Champion El Phantasmo vs. Rocky Romero

I had to take a piss as the wrestlers entered so Im not sure if this is a title match or not. At one point Phantamso gives Rocky a nipples cripple. Amy asks if thats the comedy I hate? It is. Just silliness that adds nothing to the match. Do you see such nonsense in UFC or boxing? I did like Phantamso getting Rocky upside down in the corner and just slapping him. Good heel heat. Rocky had the best spot of the night when he walked the ropes, and I mean all four corners of the ring. An amazing feat of strength right these. A ref bump takes place, which is usually hate. Rocky gets Phantasmo in an arm bar, of course he taps but  with the ref down the match continues. An amazing spot where Rocky converts a tombstone into an inverted destroyer. Phantasmo ends it by using the belt to knock Rocky out, which leads to a you tapped out chant. Great match, could ave done without the comedy spot and the ref bump but the in ring action is enough to ignore that other nonsense.

IWGP Tag Team Champions Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa vs. Juice Robinson & Mikey Nicholls

Jado is at ringside with the Bullet Club.. The champs leave before the bell, good cheap heel tactic to get the fans angry, but then the challengers do a similar play, going under the ropes so the other team cant touch me. Im thinking who am I meant to boo here? Not much to say. Was fine, they almost teased a second ref bump and the belt again being used as a weapon which im glad they didn/t go down that road. Nothing really wrong with it, just seemed slow and standard Bullet Club title defence.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion Will Ospreay vs. Robbie Eagles:

Alright this is what I came to see. Pre match a nice video package is shown, showing the back story between these two. Ospreay is one of the most important figures in the business in the last few years. His work in New Japan and Ring of Honor has been off the chart and he rightful has won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter best flying wrestler Award three years in a row and won the inaugural best non heavyweight MVP. People ave accused Ospreay of being all flash and no story, a guy that does a lot of flash moves but has no grip on how to tell a story. The perfect example is his New Japan match between Ricochet. Some called it match of the year, some, including in my opinion the wrestler of the 90s, Vader, claimed it was a bunch of gymnastics moves that led to nothing and told no story. I was on the fence about this. While I admired the moves these too put on, it was a bit to much. These a gif going round of the two of them doing cartwheels but they din/t touch each other. While impressive what is the point of they no one makes a wrestling move? But I am a huge Ospreay fan. But he does put his body on the line, to the point I wish he would slow down, hes only 26 and I feel if he continues going at this high pace he may only ave another five years left in him, id hate for his body top break down before hes 30 because hes so important to wrestling.

Phantasmo, wearing a Ned Kelly helmet accompanies Robbie. Despite the Bullet Club rub the crowd is behind him and shit all over Ospreay, with chants of fuck off Ospreay and Ospreays a wanker. For what Ospreay has done for the sport I find this massively disrespectful. Im all for rowdiness and booing but these chants are too much.  Robbie sends Phantasmo to the back, he wants to win of his own accord. These guys go to fifth gear straightaway. Robbie works the knee on the turnbuckle, great heel play, and Robbie works that injured knee throughout the match with Ospreay selling it. Amazing tornado DDT from Robbie, while Ospreay does an amazing moonsault to the floor. Great Pele kick from Robbie. Phantasmo returns and gives Robbie the belt, the crowd chants not to do it, he throws it out and the two come face to face. At over 30 minutes its hard to cover the whole match but Ospreay wins with the storm breaker.

This was simply amazing, and sums up why I love this sport. Both guys left nothing in the tank. I mentioned above im not big on high spot after high spot, but this is a title match and the second last match of the night at a big event, not the first match on the card at some indie show. There past encounters played in the storyline, and while Robbie had the Bullet Club association he wanted to win clean. It told a story and had brilliant in ring action. I can find no faults on this. This for me this a five star match and proves why Ospreay should be in anyones top five wrestlers in the world right now and why Robbie Eagles is a star in the making. Both men received a standing ovation from the crowd, and when Robbie left the crowd stayed standing to pay tribute to Will.

Kazuchika Okada & Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White & Bad Luck Fale:

Gedo accompanies the Bullet Club. After witnessing a match of the year contender this was a letdown. Again nothing really wrong with it, it was just too hard an act to follow. It was odd aving Okada, the New Japan Heavyweight champion reduced to a tag match with no real story. Gedo was bumped and got no crowd reaction. I did appreciate how Okada and Tanahashi had to work together to slam Fale. Some idiot tried to start a this is wrestling chant which got no response which is what it deserved. Kinda a flattener to send the crowd home.

This was one hell of a show. Amy was impressed and so glad I could take a mate and show em just how good this sport is when it/s presented the right way.  Ospreay vs. Eagles was the clear highlight. The rest of the card could ave been dog shit and this still would ave been worth the price of addition. This was a near sell out, as good as Festival Hall was I hope they come back to a bigger venue next time and consider Australia a regular stop.

Hopefully next week we/ll back to the normal broadcast.


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