Sun. May 26th, 2024

By Chris Vetter, Contributor (@chrisvetter73)

NJPW “Fighting Spirit Unleashed”
October 28, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada at Sam’s Town Live
Streamed on New Japan World

I attended an ROH pay-per-view in this venue in 2016 and it is a full five miles east of the Vegas Strip, so it’s fairly remote. Production is good. The lighting and sound are what I’d expect. Lights are low and the crowd is maybe 800. Walker Stewart and Veda Scott provided live commentary.

NJPW Fighting Spirit Unleashed Pre-show

1. Matt Vandagriff defeated Buck Skynr at 5:37. Vandagriff is a good talent from California/Nevada who I’ve seen just a few times on FSW and GCW events. I’ve seen the taller Skynr just once on an NJPW student showcase event; he has curly hair like a young Chuck Palumbo. Vandagriff hit a missile dropkick and a running Shooting Star Press for a nearfall. Skynr grounded Matt. Matt hit a Buckle Bomb at 3:30. Matt hit a dive to the floor, then in the ring, he hit a top-rope 450 Splash for the pin. Solid showcase.

2. Danny Limelight and “West Coast Wrecking Crew” Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs defeated Baliyan Akki and Titus Alexander and Jakob Austin Young at 6:53. I am least familiar with Young, although he did a handful of NJ Strong matches; he’s a mat wrestler with a thick beard and he’s comparable to Drew Gulak. Titus is the Ethan Page clone and he’s a far better heel than babyface. Titus and Jorel started, and Titus hit a dropkick. Akki and Danny entered at 1:00, with Akki hitting a flying huracanrana. Young entered and hit a tornado DDT on Danny. Royce entered and nailed a backbreaker over his knee on Jakob at 3:00.

Danny nailed a Pounce on Jakob and the heels posed and got booed. Young hit a Flatliner. Titus made the hot tag and he hit a flying forearm on Danny and a Lethal Injection for a nearfall at 5:00. Akki hit a coast-to-coast missile dropkick. Titus nailed the Chaos Theory rolling German Suplex. Danny hit a running penalty kick on Titus, then he dove to the floor on the other two opponents. Royce hit a German Suplex on Titus. Jorel hit a springboard stunner, and Royce covered Titus for the pin. Fun while it lasted; a lot of talent in the ring that we barely got to see.

* The camera panned to Walker and Veda so they could run down the card.

NJPW “Fighting Spirit Unleashed” Main Show

1. Satoshi Kojima defeated Alex Coughlin, Fred Rosser, and Jeff Cobb in a four-way to become No. 1 contender for the NJ Strong Title at 9:50. Coughlin and Kojima immediately brawled to the floor, while Rosser and Cobb fought in the ring. Rosser hit a powerslam. Rosser and Coughlin traded punches, and Coughlin hit a Black Hole Slam at 1:30. Kojima hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner on Alex. Cobb hit rapid-fire chops on Kojima and was booed. Cobb hit a Samoan Drop on Satoshi for a nearfall at 3:00. Veda wondered if the winner would rather face Eddie Kingston or Henare as the champion. Cobb and Coughlin hit stereo delayed vertical suplexes, then they traded forearms after dropping their opponents.

Cobb threw a dropkick at Kojima, but he missed a standing moonsault. Coughlin hit a German Suplex on Cobb. Kojima hit a clothesline on Rosser and suddenly everyone was down at 5:30 and a “this is awesome!” chant began. They all stood in a circle and chopped the man to their right. Kojima put everyone in the same corner and hit his rapid-fire chops on everyone. Fun. Coughlin hit a standing powerbomb on Kojima for a nearfall at 8:00. Rosser and Coughlin traded forearms. Rosser got a rollup for a nearfall on Kojima, then a Bulldog Powerslam for a believable nearfall. Rosser went for a crossface-chickenwing, bt Kojima escaped and hit a brainbuster for a nearfall. Kojima then nailed a clothesline to pin Rosser! Good match.

2. Stephanie Vaquer and Zeuxis defeated Johnnie Robbie and Lluvia at 7:40. Veda said all four were competing in Mexico a day ago. I’ve seen a lot of Robbie in recent months in West Coast promotions. Stephanie (no mask) opened against the masked Lluvia, dressed in green. (Spanish language it is pronounced ‘Yuvia’). I recall the masked Zeuxis competed in WWE’s second Mae Young Classic and that may be the only time I’ve seen her before. Robbie and Zeuxis entered at 2:00. Veda called Johnnie a “super rookie” for doing so well everywhere she goes, and she hit a springboard DDT for a nearfall. Stephanie repeated slammed Johnnie’s face into the mat.

Robbie and Lluvia hit stereo cannonballs in opposite corners. Lluvia hit a basement dropkick for a nearfall at 4:30. Johnnie hit a kneestrike on Stephanie for a nearfall, then a German Suplex on Zeuxis for a nearfall. Zeuxis hit a hard dropkick that sent Lluvia to the floor. Stephanie hit an impressive, impressive springboard crossbody block over the guardrail and onto Lluvia in the crowd at 7:00, earning a “holy shit!” chant. (This was quite a distance for a woman to cover.) In the ring, Zeuxis hit a top-rope Spanish Fly on Robbie. Stephanie immediately hit a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker over her knee to pin Robbie. Really good action.

* Stephanie Vaquer showed off her CMLL title belts. She got on the mic and spoke briefly in Spanish and referenced Mayu Iwatani. She spoke in English that she wants a shot at Mayu’s title. I came away very impressed with Vaquer.

3. Gabe Kidd defeated Tom Lawlor at 12:30. Kidd held a belt; Veda it’s from a small promotion and he stole it. Lawlor wore his tiny jean shorts. An intense lockup and they quickly switched to forearm strikes. Lawlor hit a T-Bone Suplex; Kidd hit a back suplex. They hit simultaneous clotheslines at 1:00 and both went down. They rolled to the floor and traded forearm strikes, and they went over the guardrail and traded blows in front of the fans. Lawlor ran around the floor and hit a penalty kick at 3:30. Kidd suplexed Lawlor onto the thin mat on the floor at ringside; Lawlor barely got back into the ring at the 19-count at 5:30.

However, Kidd hit a shoulder tackle and was in charge. He did crotch-chops directed at the fans. They traded forearm shots, but Lawlor was still selling the effects of that suplex on the floor. Lawlor fired up and hit some forearm shots. Lawlor nailed his leaping spear into the corner at 8:00. Kidd applied a front guillotine choke as he sat on the top turnbuckle, with Lawlor’s feet dangling and kicking. Kidd did a Castagnoli-style Giant Swing, then he applied a half-crab, but Lawlor eventually reached the ropes at 9:30. Lawlor hit an enzuigiri in the corner, and he hit another leaping spear in the corner. He nailed a spin kick to Kidd’s head for a believable nearfall.

Kidd blocked the kneestrike to the collarbone, and Kidd hit a brainbuster for a nearfall at 12:00. Kidd grabbed the title belt; as the ref was out of position, Kidd hit a low blow mule kick, then he hit Lawlor in the head with the belt. Kidd nailed a piledriver for the pin. Good match.

* Emily May interviewed Hyan, who is facing Giulia later. Hyan said she’s excited to be here. She said Giulia has had an incredible run, but she’s confident she can win.

4. Hiroshi Tanahashi, Mistico, Atlantis, and Atlantis Jr. defeated Rocky Romero, Tiger Mask, Soberano Jr., and Adrian Quest at 10:25. We are celebrating Atlantis’ 40th anniversary in wrestling. Romero wore his MLW Middleweight Title belt he won at “Slaughterhouse” on Oct. 14 from Akira. Romero’s team came out together to Rocky’s song, while the babyfaces each got their own separate entrance. (Walker Stewart said this is Tanahashi’s first match in this building since the ROH show in 2016 I attended and mentioned above!) Roses were given to Atlantis, but the heels jumped from behind and were loudly booed. There were rose petals all over the ring. I start my stopwatch at first contact; Walker pointed out the bell hadn’t sounded yet.

The heels each hit clotheslines in the corner on Hiroshi. Quest hit a running Shooting Star Press. Mistico and Romero fought, and Walker talked about their recent AEW match. Soberano Jr. hit a Lionsault on Mistico at 3:00. (We never did hear a bell but Walker didn’t mention it again.) Rocky accidentally hit Tiger Mask. Quest and Soberano Jr. accidentally hit Rocky. Atlanstis hit threef backbreakers over his knee. Atlantis Jr. hit a dive over the top rope onto the heels at 5:00, and he celebrated in the ring with his 61-year-old father. In the ring, Tiger Mask and Tanahashi traded offense, with Hiroshi hitting a Dragonscrew Legwhip. He hit the move on all the heels, and he teased doing it on the ref, before setting the ref’s leg down. Funny.

Atlantis Jr. hit a powerslam on Quest at 7:00. Romero again accidentally hit Soberano and they argued. Atlantis Jr. hit a superkick on Soberano, then an incredible monkey flip that sent Soberano all the way across the ring. We once again had just Mistico and Romero in the ring and they traded forearm strikes. Quest jumped in to help Romero. Mistico hit a huracanrana on each man. Atlantis Jr. hit a dive through the ropes at 9:30. In the ring, Mistico hit another huracanrana on Romero, then a dive through the ropes on him. Tanahashi hit a sling blade clothesline on Tiger Mask, then a plancha to the floor. In the ring, Atlantis hit a standing powerbomb and jackknife cover to pin Quest. That was fun and I don’t mind Atlantis’ role in this match; he wasn’t asked to do too much. Tanahashi posed for a lot of photos with fans. Cool.

* A very cinematic video of a man drinking at a bar, then throwing darts at a picture of Toru Yano. The camera pulled back and it is Joey Janela! He’s coming to the NJPW show in Texas.

* We went to a video package of Giulia hitting some impressive moves. She is such a star. We then see a woman playing poker, and it pulls back, and it is Hyan, making the challenge to Giulia.

5. Giulia defeated Hyan to retain the New Japan Strong Women’s Title at 12:03. I’ve said this before, but Hyan is a Latina version of Deonna Purrazzo in looks, in-ring style, and her ring gear. If you haven’t seen Giulia, she is of Japanese and Italian heritage and has a unique look and just carries herself like a star. An intense lockup to open and Hyan has a clear weight advantage. Hyan hit a shoulder tackle that dropped Giulia at 1:30. Giulia hit a basement dropkick to the back, and she applied a mid-ring Octopus. Hyan hit another shoulder tackle, then a back suplex for a nearfall at 3:30. Giulia hit a top-rope missile dropkick for a nearfall.

They traded forearm strikes. Hyan hit a headbutt and she went for a suplex but Giulia turned it into a DDT for a nearfall. Giulia applied an STF at 6:00 but Hyan reached the ropes. Hyan hit a dive through the ropes onto Giulia. They fought on the top rope, where Giulia hit a headbutt, then an impressive butterfly suplex! However, Hyan rolled through and hit a Falcon Arrow at 8:30 and they were both down. They traded open-hand slaps. Hyan hit a backbreaker over her knee, then a powerbomb for a nearfall at 10:00. Giulia hit a German Suplex. Hyan nailed a spear for a nearfall at 11:30. Giulia hit a Saito Suplex and a kneestrike to the forehead for a nearfall, then a Northern Lights Bomb for the pin. Excellent match but the winner was never in doubt. They shook hands and hugged.

6. El Phantasmo and Hikuleo defeated “Monster Sauce” Alex Zayne and Lance Archer to retain the NJ Strong Tag Titles at 9:35. Yes, Zayne and Archer have teamed before. Archer beat up the Young Lions at ringside. ELP and Hikuleo didn’t have their belts… but then Bert and Ernie characters brought them out to the champs. Silliness. “What is going on? It is Halloween weekend,” Veda said. They brawled on the floor. ELP and Zayne opened in the ring with Alex hitting a huracanrana. Archer and Hikuleo entered at 1:30; they charged at each other with shoulder tackles and neither going down. Walker said they are both 6’8″. They traded forearm strikes. Archer finally hit a Thesz Press to drop Hikuleo at 3:00.

Archer tossed Zayne onto Hikuleo. Hikuleo hit a chop that caved in Zayne’s chest. Alex hit an enzuigiri. Hikuleo hit a backbody drop that sent Zayne flying. ELP entered and hit a springboard crossbody block, then a senton, then a Lionsault for a nearfall on Zayne. ELP hit a sit-out powerbomb for a nearfall at 5:00. Archer and ELP did old-school tightrope walks and traded blows. Zayne hit his flipping axe kck on ELP. Hikuleo clotheslined Archer to the floor at 7:30. ELP put Zayne on his shoulders, spun him, and hit a neckbreaker for a nearfall.

Archer hit a jumping kneestrike in the corner on Phantasmo. Zayne immediately hit his jump-up Frankensteiner on ELP. Archer slammed Zayne onto Phantasmo for a nearfall. Hikuleo hit a powerslam on Archer, then a chokeslam! Zayne avoided a chokeslam and he hit an enzuigiri. However, Hikuleo nailed the chokeslam. ELP then hit a springboard frogsplash to pin Zayne. Good action; I like the big man/little man teams, particularly Archer seemingly having no concern about hurting his teammate.

* Jorel Nelson and Royce Isaacs jumped in the ring and attacked Phantasmo and Hikuleo. In their match earlier in the show, Walker and Veda had talked about how they have never won the Strong Tag Titles. Jorel got on the mic and said they were the foundation that built Strong, and they are the best tag team here. Royce then spoke, saying he is sick of seeing “thrown-together tag teams” getting a title shot that belongs to them. They said they will win the tag titles in Texas. Good post-match segment, and the commentators planted the seeds for this attack earlier in the show. Bravo all around.

* A video package showed Eddie Kingston winning the New Japan Strong title from Kenta. Then we saw footage of Henare attacking Kingston.

7. Eddie Kingston defeated Henare to retain the New Japan Strong Openweight Title at 12:16. A feeling-out process to open with an intense lockup. Henare hit a Mafia Kick and a spin kick. They brawled to the floor. Henare whipped Eddie into the guardrail, but Eddie bounced off and hit a clothesline at 3:00. Back in the ring, Henare was in charge; he hit a headbutt that dropped Eddie, then a senton for a nearfall at 5:30. Henare hit some Yes Kicks to the chest. Eddie hit his rapid-fire chops in the corner and a T-Bone Suplex. They got up and traded chops, and Eddie peeled down his straps, and they traded more chops.

Henare hit a kneestrike to the face at 8:30, and he applied a Full Nelson, and he slammed Eddie to the mat. Henare hit a kneestrike to the face in the corner, then the Rampage football tackle for a nearfall, then a penalty kick for a nearfall. Eddie hit a spinning backfist at 10:30 and he collapsed onto Henare as they both fell for a nearfall. They traded chops while on their knees, then while standing. Eddie hit another spinning back fist and a back suplex, then a half nelson suplex, then two more spinning back fists for the pin. Good, hard-hitting match but like many matches here, the winner was never in doubt.

* Satoshi Kojima got in the ring. “Congratulations Mr. Eddie Kingston. You are very strong,” he said in English. “Next time in Dallas, Texas, I will kick your ass.” Eddie got on the mic and said, “I’ll see you in Texas, motherf–ker” and that popped the crowd.

* A commercial aired for “Lonestar Shootout” on Nov. 10, noting that David Finlay and Kenta will be there.

* For those unfamiliar with NJPW storylines, Sanada is the champion and he will be defending his belt at Wrestle Kingdom on Jan. 4 against his former teammate, Tetsuya Naito. When Sanada left the “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” faction, he just quit and told them to leave him alone; he wasn’t kicked out, nor did they really fight about it… yet. 

8. “Just 5 Guys” Sanada and Yuya Uemura vs. “Los Ingobernobles de Japon” Tetsuya Naito and Hiroshi Takahashi went to a time-limit draw at 20:00. Hiromu has the 24/7 title belt he recently won; as I noted last week, while I hate 24/7 belts, his manic character is a good fit for someone holding one. Veda and Walker talked about Yuya recently joining J5G. Sanada and Naito opened with an intense lockup but then Naito spit in his face. Yuya entered at 2:00 and he hit a deep armdrag on Naito. Hiromu hit a basement dropkick on Yuya’s knee, then one to his face, and LIJ worked over Uemura in their corner. Naito applied a leglock around the head but Uemura reached the ropes at 5:00. Uemura hit a back suplex and they were both down.

Sanada finally got the hot tag and hit a dropkick on Naito, then a huracanrana, and he tied Naito in the Paradise Lock at 7:00. Naito hit a standing neckbreaker. Sanada hit a Russian Legsweep on Hiromu at 8:30. Yuya hit a Bulldog on Hiromu. Uemura hit a flying crossbody block for a nearfall. Naito and Hiromu hit stereo dropkicks on Yuya, and Hiromu hit a Falcon Arrow for a nearfall at 10:30. they traded forearm strikes. Hiromu hit a headbutt and a superkick; Yuya hit a dropkick and they were both down. Naito and Sanada tagged back in and they traded forearm strikes. Sanada hit a high back suplex at 13:30. J5G hit stereo dropkicks. Sanada placed Naito’s feet on the top rope and hit a twisting neckbreaker for a nearfall.

Sanada applied a front guillotine choke and he swung Naito, and he applied a Skull End dragon sleeper on the mat. Naito spit in Sanada’s face again; that was the third time. Naito hit a Diamond Dust stunner. Hiromu entered and hit a decapitating clothesline on Yuya, then a superkick on Sanada. At 18:00, we got a two-minute warning. Sanada hit a Shining Wizard on Naito, and everyone was down. Sanada and Naito traded forearm strikes with a one-minute warning. Sanada hit a TKO stunner for a nearfall. Sanada again applied the Skull End on the mat and it appeared Naito was passing out, but then the bell went off, right at 20:00 even on my stopwatch.

* As Takahashi was about to walk through the curtain, Danny Limelight grabbed him and rolled him up for a nearfall, and Hiromu scampered to the back with his 24/7 belt.

* Quick back story: Tama Tonga and Shingo Takagi had a 20-minute draw during the G1 Climax tournament, each earning one point. Since then, Tama Tonga has pinned David Finlay to win the NEVER Openweight Title. 

9. Shingo Takagi defeated Tama Tonga to win the NEVER Openweight Title at 26:58. An intense lockup to open; Walker wondered if these two could go to the 60-minute time limit as they traded basic mat reversals. Tama dropped him with a shoulder tackle at 3:00. Shingo clotheslined Tama to the floor. They fought on the floor, where Shingo hit a DDT onto the thin mat at 5:30. In the ring, Shingo applied a body scissors lock around the wait. Shingo hit a senton; this is a very deliberate pace so far. Tama hit a dropkick and they were both down at 8:30. Tama ripped off his vest and was fired up and he hit some forearm strikes, and he tied Shingo in a Sharpshooter, but Shingo eventually reached the ropes at 12:00.

Shingo nailed a DDT and they were both down. Tama hit a sliding clothesline and they were both down. Tama nailed an Exploder Suplex; Shingo hit one, so Tama hit one, so Shingo hit a back suplex. Nice sequence. Tama hit a DDT; Shingo hit a twisting neckbrekaer and they were both down at 16:00. They got up and traded forearms. Tama hit his rolling Death Valley Driver, then frogsplash for a beleivable nearfall at 17:30. Tama set up for Stun Gun and pounded the mat, but Shingo caught him and turned it into a Gory Bomb and they were both down again.

Shingo hit a hard clothesline and the Made In Japan flipping powerbomb for a believable nearfall at 19:00. Tama hit the Tongan Twist faceplant right as the announcer said we reached 20 minutes. Tama nailed a jumping DDT for a believable nearfall. Shingo hit a powerbomb for a nearfall. Shingo hit some Moxley-style elbow strikes to the side of the head, and he tied up Tama on the mat and cranked on his head, but Tama reached the ropes at 23:00. Shingo nailed a decapitating clothesline but Tama kicked out at one! Shingo hit a series of forearm strikes, but Tama hit a Gun Stun for a nearfall at 24:30, and they were both down again.

Tama set up for the Jay Driller, but Shingo flipped Tama over. Shingo hit a straight punch to the jaw and they traded headbutts. Tama set up for a Jay Driller but Shingo escaped. Shingo nailed his own Gun Stun, then the Pumping Bomber clothesline for a believable nearfall at 26:30. Shingo nailed the Last of the Dragon modified powerbomb for the pin! New champion. Wow that was good.

* Shingo got on the mic with his new belt over his shoulder. “My time!” he shouted. He said it’s his third time as NEVER Openweight Champion, and the crowd responded with a “you deserve it!” chant. He asked who is next. “Somebody come out!” he shouted. He said he promises to come back here. It appeared the show as over when the lights went out. When they came back on, Trent Beretta appeared on the screen, and he said he wants a title shot on Nov. 10. Shingo seemingly accepted.

Final Thoughts: A thrilling main event. Unlike the rest of the show, this was the match where the winner was very much in doubt. You could sense by the methodical pace early on they were going long, and it built nicely with them throwing everything at each other. The rumors are out there that Tama could be leaving New Japan and I hope that isn’t the case. Giulia and Hyan put together a very good match and earns second place, with Eddie-Henare taking third, just ahead of the 20-minute draw.

I admittedly didn’t stare at the lineup too closely. I was surprised when I realized that Kazuchika Okada didn’t wrestle on this show, being as he was in AEW on Wednesday. When Shingo made the open challenge, I thought maybe it would be Okada coming out. A good job by Walker and Veda, although it was clear that Walker wasn’t quite as familiar with the product. For instance, when Tama set up for the Jay Driller and it was blocked, he wondered what Tama was going for, but it should be obvious to anyone who has watched Tama wrestle since Jay Briscoe died January 17.

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The post NJPW “Fighting Spirit Unleashed” results (10/28): Vetter’s review of Tama Tonga vs. Shingo Takagi for the Never Openweight Title, Eddie Kingston vs. Henare for the New Japan Strong Openweight Title – Pro Wrestling Dot Net appeared first on WorldNewsEra.


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