– The 30-Man Honor Rambo: Kenny King – I can imagine this preshow match being so much better in person due to the surprises and the legends — Haku! Liger! MUTA! — yet being terrible on the Honor Club due to running 42-minutes, seeing lots of tag teams entering the Rumble immediately after their partners (weird; as if they put zero thought and effort into the shuffling), and the fact Kenny fucKing won. Well, it did come down to Great Muta and Jushin Liger (the entire reason why myself and many others have a love for New Japan Pro Wrestling in the first place), albeit briefly. And Muta mists King after his cheese victory anyway. In the end, you knew a Ring of Honor dude had to win. I hate rating this match since I had so much fun watching it.. but here’s a score.. – 2.5/5
– IWGP NEVER Championship vs. ROH TV Championship (Winner Takes All): Jeff Cobb v Will Ospreay – No matter what you thought of the Rambo, this was absolute terrific opener and one of Cobb’s matches ever. Between this, his efforts at BOLA, his last PWG title defense (against Bandido), and surprise great match against Shane Taylor, Cobb’s been on a high roll. Of course it didn’t hurt going against one of the BITW in the Aerial Assassin. This was a great contrast of styles with Cobb often keeping up in the speed and agility department too. The big man — who did tons of stuff in the match — takes both straps with a Super Tour of the Islands and another huge one in the center of the ring. Loved it. – 4/5
– Rush v Dalton Castle – Over in 19 seconds. Perfect! The CMLL superstar destroys Castle with two running “bullhorn” corner dropkicks and flattens Castle. Nobody wanted to see this match. And, best of all, Castle finally turns heel and destroys the boys. Ole! – N/A
– Women of Honor Championship: Kelly Klein v Mayu Iwatani – This was terrible and completely died out there. Iwatani and a super talent from STARDOM and Klein still couldn’t do anything with her. Then they plop on an old school TNA Jerry Springer-meets-Mean Girlsesque angle with Angelina Love, Velvet Sky and Mandy Leon, making Klein a face in the process. Trash. – 1.25/5
– New York Street Fight: Flip Gordon, Mark Haskins, & Juice Robinson v Bully Ray, Silas Young, & Shane Taylor – To ROH’s credit they finally found an opponent for Bully people care about in Flip, and him (perhaps?) joining Lifeblood is an interesting scenario, especially if you remember all the times he attempted to join Bullet Club. With the 6-man, ROH found a way to return Flip, use Juice, use Silas (who complained about not being on the proper card), and build Lifeblood up even more than just a band of guys who intend to bring “Honor” back to ROH. That said, the same Megaran/Bully bullshit from the Anniversary show went on way too long .. like 20-fucking-minutes and the crowd destroyed it. This, along with Juice’s no selling tempered Flip’s return and what an otherwise fairly solid 6-man trash match that should have been saved for tape. – 2.25/5
– IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship: Dragon Lee v Bandido v Taiji Ishimori – This is arguably the best 9-minute match you’ll see all year, it not.. ever. Sprinting to the finish, all three Super Juniors lit up The Garden; Dragon Lee was at his best, Ishimori and Bandido continued their great chemistry from PWG. Just a taste of what the live crowd went goo-goo for: super rana’s off the top to the floor, reverse ranas, high handspring kicks, flying knees, lungblowers, bombs, destroyers, cradle drivers and cutters. Spot of the night, if not the show: Bandido hits his signature moonsault fallway slam ON BOTH MEN to the center of the ring! Fucking bonkers. Lee would eventually hit his suplex corkscrew bomb for the win. – 4.25/5
– ROH & IWGP Tag Team Championship (Both on The Line): Guerrillas of Destiny v PCO & Brody King v The Briscoes, v SANADA & EVIL – You gotta love how Tiger Itori is typically the guy when it comes to reffing these mayhem matches, which makes sense in a sadistic, old world Japanese way. And no one was a bigger sicko on this card than Frankenstein’s Monster himself, PCO. Following a giant cannonball on everyone to get shit started, PCO’s partner King was even more impressive. Brody’s made huge strides in the past year and his athleticism is severely overlooked. Of course the Briscoes excel in this type of match, Bullet Club’s G.O.D. were the most over with the New York crowd, and L-I-J, while great in limited spots, sadly sorta got lost in the shuffle. Following another insane dive by PCO, an apron senton, the monster took arguably the worst bump of the night when the Guerillas double powertossed him to the floor. Cue Joey Styles, kids! O-M-G.O.D!! After a Tama stungun the Firing Squad follow with another bomb, this time on Brody for the win. Not a super tag match, but a fun one that never dragged. – 3.5/5
But, wait, there’s more… During G.O.D.’s win celebration, none other than mothafuckin’ ENZO leaps the guardrail and jumps Mark Briscoe! To my surprise Enzo holds his own with Mark, as they exchange wild rights until Bully Ray sprints down the ramp and chucks Zo into the barricade. (Note: I assumed this whole thing was a shoot until eventually seeing fan vids that showed the cleader picture.) Despite taking Bully’s best, Enzo kept on swinging and eventually — and nearly — choked the big guy out. But little did I know that Enzo frees up due to Big fuckin’ Cass pummeling Bully from behind. Yeah, back punches.. in a real fight. This is when I knew what I assumed was a wild fucking shoot was no more than a way to draw more eyes for ROH TV. Eventually, MSG security walked the matching t-shirt and wrestling geared-up Enzo & Cass to the back. No cops, no tackling, no cuffs. And no one noticed them in the arena earlier? Yeah, questionable! Whatever you think of the two, ROH created one of the wildest faux shoots ever and are clearly desperate for big names. The AEW signing was clearly a hoax. Brilliant? Maybe..
– RevPro British Heavyweight Championship: Zack Sabre Jr. v Hiroshi Tanahashi – Sadly, that huge distraction — no matter how great you, like I, may have found it — hurt the opening minutes of this next match, as many in the audience raced to Twitter to figure out just what the fuck happened. What they also discovered on social media was that, just minutes before, a crazed fan (some amateur MMA fighter/pissed-off internet troll) attacked Bret Hart during WWE’s Hall of Fame ceremony. Yeah, poor Tana and Sabre… Thankfully MSG settled in and supported their admirable efforts, a supreme technical contest that carried from their New Japan Cup match. ZSJ worked the arm; he’d slap Tana in several terrific armbar submissions, including a pair draping over the apron and second rope. Tanahashi worked the leg, dropkicking the knee, going with high angle cloverleafs and hitting numerous dragonscrews. Sabre eventually locked the Ace in a Napalm twist for the tap. – 3.75-4/5
– IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi v Tetsuya Naito – This was the best pure wrestling match of the weekend. While Gargano/Cole told a better story and had a bigger reaction, the workrate here was HIGH. I mean, yeah, we all knew a Naito/Ibushi match would be incredible if given the time. To New Japan’s credit, they gave it the G1 Climax treatment: 20-minutes of fast and furious action, as both guys executed an array of danger spots with snuff hitting and splendid in-ring chemistry. It was everything American fans have been wanting from a NJPW show on their soil, joining the likes of Ishii/Omega from the first Long Beach show and Golden Lovers/Young Bucks from the second. Your love for the match will depend on how concerned you are for the safety of the two combatants. While I absolutely hated seeing Ibushi land on his neck from a dropkick for no reason (other than maybe an errant slip) and Naito taking a scary bump on his head from an elevated German (the same spot Riddle hit on Dream from Friday), they both gave it their all with awesome dives, creative drivers and suplexes, exciting reversals and nearfalls. Ibushi kicking out after Destino and Naito kicking out from Bom A Ye were two of the best false finishes I’ve ever seen witnessed in person. After an Ibushi Bomb, the Kamigoye brings everyone to their feet following the 3. Amazing match. – 4.75/5
– ROH Championship – Ladder Match: Matt Taven v Champion Jay Lethal v Marty Scurll – A death spot (literally) for ROH, which seems to be the theme of the night. This was easily a New Japan crowd (or WWE/NXT crowd choosing to see a big time wrestling show over the HOF), and the sometimes tacky, overbooked ROH stuff (think Impact at their worst) wasn’t over as much as the pure wrestling of New Japan. Shocker, right? Despite these mixed reactions, Lethal, Scurll and Taven busted their ass and had perhaps the best possible match for the spot. If you don’t care for Ring of Honor, the 30-minute duration was obv too long. Even so, this had a great and creative layout, with lots of cool stuff and (mostly) safe yet scary-looking spots to keep the crowd interested. People hated Taven, and he played his roll as the ultimate dickface admirably. Lethal got himself in shape to take bumps like Taven’s running powerbomb onto a ladder onto the ramp. Taven also speared Scurll through the ropes onto a table. Lethal also took a fucked-up ladder fall onto a ladder hanging on the ropes. Since there were two horizontal ladders on both sides of the center ladder, you had no idea which wrestler was gonna take the fall. Nice touch. Not surprisingly, Scurll lit up the crowd whenever he got close to snatching the strap or executing a chickenwing; I abso adored Marty’s top of the ladder finger-dislocating spot that would eventually prevent Taven from grabbing the belt. Best of all, Lethal hit his signature flying Macho elbow two steps from the top of a HUGE ladder onto an outside table. Ooo yeahh!! In the end, I had fun watching the madness and understood the direction of the booking. Marty might be going to AEW, Lethal as champ isn’t exactly drawing big crowds, and Taven has been built up for over a year as their next top dog. Cut out 8-10 minutes or so and this was a blast. – 3.5/5
– IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada v Jay White – This match went down not unlike the Gargano/Cole greatness from TakeOver — minus the best of 3 fall stipulation, as both wrestlers opened with mind games and methodical tactics. White took a few powders, Gedo butted in a couple times and Okada smerked in Jay’s face with a clean break. They said White could never main event MSG, but he was indeed over as a big time heel. While the Garden audience at this 5+ hour duration — and from everything else they dove this wild WrestleMania weekend — were drained, White was harshly booed everytime he cut off Okada or pressed the heat. While Switchblade may not have earned this spot the more traditional way, he kept up with Okada every step of the way. The reversals in this match from front to end were spectacular– and you already know how great The Rainmaker is. The match went into second gear once Okada hit a pair of John Woo’s (including a shotgun dropkick from the top) and a gorgeous, high-elevated elbow from the top. The next several minutes saw more mindgames and a superior suplex game from White. He’d tease his signature sleeper suplex a few times before eventually dropping Okada on his backside with one much later on. The champ also had the best knife-edge chops of the night. Third gear arrived on Okada’s third dropkick, the most well-timed and gorgeous one you’ll likely see all year, followed by a Rainmaker that led to a two. Quickly, Jay reversed the tombstone and hit Blade Runner but couldn’t attempt a pin. Even with Gedo jumping on the apron twice, it never hurt the match and only elevated the drama (think U.E.’s ref bump from TakeOver). Enter dropkick #4, a blocked ‘Maker that Okada fought through and eventually nailed. White got stiffed by a second short-arm clothesline, a spinning tombstone and the best and final Rainmaker of all for the finish. Tremendous! Although this title match wasn’t up to the level of the Okada/Omega’s or Omega/Tanahashi from WK, the last 10-minutes certainly had the feeling of a 6-star match, and Okada winning the big one in front of an adoring MSG audience was the true icing on the cake. – 4.5-4.75/5
NJPW matches = 4.25/5
ROH matches = 2.5/5
Overall = 3.5/5 Bibles.
Despite attempts to create high drama for their brand, Ring of Honor clearly looked like second-class citizens out there. Maybe they don’t have a choice. But huge kudos to NJPW’s management for finally giving fans in the States a show that rivals (and even surpasses) the many great big shows in Japan. Just about everything New Japan offered last night was excellent and felt like a true G1. While I’m sad ROH is going the way of ECW/IMPACT, I get it; but even the many questionable booking decisions they made at MSG couldn’t ruin an otherwise special experience for this critic. Those lucky to attend, like yours truly, witnessed true pro wrestling history, much in thanks to a New Japan brand that has seemingly survived some serious and elite departures. Arigatō, New Japan!