Show Reviews

NJPW Royal Quest Review

George Geal gives his review for New Japan’s debut show in the UK, Royal Quest.

Most fans, including myself, had a bad gut feeling that Royal Quest was going to be a glorified house show.

It seems to happen quite frequently when foreign companies come to the UK but Royal Quest was different. Yes, there were some elements of a house show to it, in terms of the comedy and the results. However, it had a more serious element to it based on the in-ring performances from the competitors. The Copperbox Arena is an amazing venue and played host to the first sole NJPW show, with the fans in attendance making an impression on the competitors, and hopefully, the higher-ups meaning that we could possibly see NJPW return on a yearly basis. I didn’t predict in my previous article, but I gave some suggestive reasonings at why I thought specific people might’ve won. I got some right, and some wrong, so let’s look at those bouts and see how I did, and see how New Japan did.

Roppongi 3K (Sho, Yoh & Rocky Romero) vs Ryusuke Taguchi, Shota Umino & Ren Narita

The opening match set the scene for the whole event, with the expected favourites to win against the two upstarts and established performers. However, all six men were extremely over with the crowd, especially Taguchi and Umino. After a quick flurry by Umino, he was quickly grounded by both Sho and Yoh, with the other three members getting involved before order was restored. A great spot, which evoked a massive chant from the crowd was Taguchi going for his hip attack, only for Romero to strut out the way. Enduring a bit more from Romero, Umino got the hot tag to Taguchi who hit three hip attacks, one for each member of Roppongi, before a crossbody to the outside and a hip attack from the top rope. Another hot tag to Narita, he cleared the ring of Roppongi before double teaming Yoh alongside Umino and continued to control the match. Some more of a melee, Sho and Yoh hit a beautiful Flapjack and a Flatliner to end that, as the back and forth between Sho and Narita continued. The match ends as Sho hits a Lungblower on Narita, with the other two members of Roppongi holding their opponents and preventing them to break up the pin. A great opening match, showing off the two young lions against some established competition.

Kota Ibushi & Juice Robinson vs Bullet Club (Yujiro Takahashi & Hikuleo)

The second match began with typical Bullet Club heel tactics, Takahashi distracting Ibushi and Hikuleo attacking Juice on the apron, the faces returned the favour after they double team Hikuleo. BC regained momentum and control after Takahashi knocks Juice off the top rope, causing a distraction to Ibushi, allowing Hikuleo to clothesline him to get control. After what seemed a miscommunication between the Bullet Club members, Ibushi is whipped into the corner knocking Hikuleo off the apron, Ibushi gets the tag into Juice who takes over control of the match. Juice hits the Juice Box to gain enough space for a tag, but Hikuleo gets in the match at the same time, taking over the match. Ibushi goes for the Kamigoye but is countered into a Landslide by Hikuleo, after BC attempt a double team move, Ibushi hits a double backflip kick before hitting Hikuleo with the Kinshasa and a Kamigoye for the win. A feel-good win for the faces in this match, and a great bit of comedy following the match from both men with Juice being given a towel by a fan, wiping down Ibushi before throwing it back to the fan.

Chaos (Will Ospreay & Robbie Eagles) vs Bullet Club (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo)

My personal favourite night of the match starts with the Bullet Club attempting to get the upper hand attacking the ‘Birds of Prey’ from behind, only to be given simultaneous Hurricanrana’s and a dive from Eagles to start the match off. Eagles and Ospreay hit some beautiful tag-team strikes on Ishimori before ELP attempts to take over the match, only to be hit with a monkey flip into a swift kick as he rolls over. After a distraction from Ishimori and a cheap shot to Ospreay, ELP takes over the match dominating Eagles for a heavy portion of the match. They made sure to keep Eagles isolated, knocking Ospreay off the apron at every chance they got. Ishimori shows off his immense speed with a great little series in the corner, avoiding Eagles and hitting him with a springboard seated senton. Eagles finally gets the tag to Ospreay reversing a Back Suplex with a leg sweep and a Clothesline to the back. Ospreay comes in and hits all his greatest hits, the 619 on the top rope, a Springboard Forearm and a Moonsault to Ishimori on the outside. Ishimori and Eagles both get tags in as Ishimori takes control with his sliding German Suplex, also using ELP who hits a Moonsault on Eagles as he is laid on top of Ishimori’s knees. A brilliant sequence of tag team moves between Eagles and Ospreay, first hitting a Lungblower of sorts into a Hook Kick on Ishimori, then a Superkick and aided Shiranui, before finishing off with an assisted Oscutter onto ELP. They hit a double kick onto Ishimori in the corner, before hitting a beautiful double Spanish Fly from the top for the three count. After the match, Ospreay grabs the mic and challenges both El Phantasmo and Taiji Ishimori to a tag match for the IWGP Junior Tag Team Championship. Props to Ospreay for calling Eagles a ‘sex pig’ live on TV, as well as referencing their tag team name, ‘The Birds of Prey’. The tag match is something I would not be against seeing as this tag team match was one of the best, I’ve seen live.

Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito & Sanada) vs Bullet Club (Jay White & Chase Owens) with Gedo

The penultimate tag team match of the evening starts with some typical comedy from Naito, who teases the London fans taking his suit trousers off, which evokes a huge pop from the fans. Naito continues the mind games with White by constantly avoiding the lock-up causing Jay to tag out to Chase. Owens wants Sanada in the ring, who is tagged in, reigniting an old feud of theirs and some great chain wrestling to start. Chase attempts a sneaky handshake but is caught by Sanada who attempts the Paradise Lock, only for Chase to try and fail at his own. Some great cowardly heelwork from Chase who falls to the floor in horror as Sanada stands up, Sanada attempts again but White breaks it up with all four men heading to the outside. The Bullet Club controls the match keeping Sanada isolated from Naito, with White taunting and spitting on Naito. Naito gets the tag in and hits the signature Tranquillo pose in the ring as White looks on from the outside. Naito gets his revenge on White and spits back at him whilst he has him caught in the corner. Sanada finally gets the Paradise Lock put on Owens, but Owens quickly regains the advantage in the match. White and Naito brawl to the outside of the ring whilst Chase is defending against Sanada’s attempt to lock in the Skull End. Sanada eventually locks it in as Naito holds onto White with Owens tapping. After the match, Sanada keeps Skull End locked in, only for White to break it up and start a post-match assault on both LIJ members. Gedo slides a chair in for White to use on Naito but turns his attention to Sanada who is reeling in the corner. Naito is about to receive the same treatment, only to avoid the chair and hit an Enzuigiri and the Destino and pins White with the fans counting the three. Gedo carries Jay away from the ring as Naito invites him back in, and LIJ stand tall,

IWGP Tag Team Championship – Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga & Tanga Loa) with Jedo vs Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis)

It is crazy to think that three years ago that Tanga Loa was riding a bike around with the future Sin Cara on the back, and now he is one of the most dominant tag team competitors in the world. If you weren’t aware, he was Camacho, the bodyguard of Hunico in WWE. Aussie Open defeated Sha Samuels and Josh Bodom the previous night at Summer Sizzler to receive this title match against GOD. The match starts with extremely loud dueling chants for both teams before GOD attack and tried to gain control over the proverbial underdogs, only for Aussie Open to reverse the tag team moves and gain control themselves. GOD gains the advantage as Jedo hits Fletcher with a kendo stick as he rebounded against the ropes. Fletcher, who spent the most time in the match on Friday, is isolated away from Davis as the GOD continued the pressure. A great spot in the match, I am disappointed that it didn’t evoke a Goldberg chant, was Tanga hitting a spear and a Jackhammer. Tama gets too cocky teasing Davis only for Fletcher to hit a Superkick and a Back Drop clearing the space and allowing the tag for Davis to absolutely clean house. At this point, I genuinely thought Aussie Open were going to win the titles because Davis dominated both members of GOD. Aussie Open hit some of their signature tag team offense keeping on top of Tonga and Loa including a beautiful Double Underbook aided Spinebuster. Jedo again gets involved, hitting Davis with the kendo stick but Jedo is confronted by Davis, only to be attacked by Tanga Loa. GOD attempt to hit a Super Powerbomb but Aussie Open reverse and clean away Tanga and Jedo, to hit a combination of Tanga in the corner setting up the Fidget Spinner. Tanga hits a cutter on Fletcher to reverse the move and Tanga Loa hits a German Suplex and a Tombstone to eliminate Davis from the conversation. GOD hit a Super Powerbomb of Kyle Fletcher for the win. Brilliant showing from Aussie Open but good defense from GOD.

NEVER Openweight Championship – KENTA vs Tomohiro Ishii

It has now come out that KENTA suffered a concussion in this match so that played the massive factor in the match. This match started out with KENTA playing mind games avoiding Ishii, then turning into a ‘who can hit the hardest’ match. This was probably the reason why KENTA had a concussion, the constant slaps, and forearms to the head. Both men would shake off each other’s strikes standing up dead straight and staring the other down. Before his concussion, KENTA did control a lot of this match, being the quicker and nimbler competitor. Ishii gained some control of the match absorbing kicks to the chest and hitting a powerslam on KENTA. KENTA hits his basement dropkick and a draping DDT, similar to Randy Orton’s, continuing his control of the match. Ishii regained some momentum no selling a German to hit his own, which seems to be what causes the concussion to KENTA. KENTA goes to hit a discus forearm but barely touches him, Ishii lightly headbutts him and he falls to the floor in a heap. Didn’t help that Ishii continued to headbutt him a few times and hit a stiff clothesline. KENTA did have enough ware with all to hit a diving Foot Stomp from the top for a two count but couldn’t connect with the GTS. Ishii had KENTA up in a Stalled Suplex which must’ve exacerbated the concussion because KENTA went limp and fell straight the floor, not taking the proper bump. Eventually, both men sat on the floor cross legged slapping each other in turn, with KENTA seemingly winning the exchange. Ishii seemed to take more control, even fighting off GOD who got involved pulling the referee out the ring and double-teaming Ishii. They hit Magic Killer on Ishii and drag KENTA on top of him but only for a two count. After another striking exchange, KENTA hits the GTS for the win. Despite his concussion, he did well to continue this match because watching the match back, you can tell he was suffering, made even more obvious when he couldn’t climb to the second rope to celebrate his win.

RPW British Heavyweight Championship – Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Zack Sabre Jr.

Despite being the heel of the match and going up against the Ace of NJPW, ZSJ got a huge response from his home country crowd. The match was a typical ZSJ match with a lot of mat wrestling and submission attempts, fighting to what seemed like a stalemate. Commentary made a good point that these two competitors have gone one on one six times, three wins apiece. Zack tries to target Tanahashi’s knee in the early parts of the match, only for Tanahashi to target Zack’s leg trying to gain an advantage over the veteran. Zack eventually gained some momentum, rolling out of a somersault attempt, and began to focus on both arms of Tanahashi. A very typical couple of chants came from the British crowd after Zack has shown his displeasure with our choice of Prime Minister and our current situation in terms of Brexit in previous promo segments. Both men continued attacks on their chosen body parts, Zack going for the arms and Tanahashi going for the legs, locking in various submissions on each other, with Zack actually struggling against Tanahashi’s attempts. Zack locks in an Octopus Stretch, looking like he was going to make Tanahashi tap, only for Tana to roll into the ropes inadvertently to make the break. Tanahashi hits his three big moves, the Twist and Shout, Slingblade, both of which gave him a two count. He goes for a Frog Splash only for Zack to get his knees out and lock in a Triangle Choke. Tana tries to counter into a Powerbomb but Zack leans down and locks in a Rings of Saturn, Tana rolls out and hits a DDT on Zack’s leg. After trading European Uppercuts, Tanahashi counters a backslide with a Slingblade before hitting a Dragon Suplex and a Frog Splash for the three count. Zack played the childish heel perfectly, having an absolute tantrum on the outside of the ring, throwing around the ring steps. a great penultimate match of the night, very technical and different from what we had already seen.

IWGP Heavyweight Championship – Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki

The prequel to the match with the ring announcements is one of the reasons I love professional wrestling, Suzuki receiving a massive pop for taking his towel off his head, and Okada receiving an even bigger pop as he took off his coat and what seemed to be a battle skirt. The main event of the evening was an extremely interesting match, particularly the basis of the match. There were not that many wrestling holds, it was more about who can hit the other with the hardest forearm, as this took up about ten to fifteen minutes of the match. The match did start with some mat wrestling and holds, but that seemed to only last about five minutes.

Suzuki controlled a lot of the match, being the more aggressive and harder-hitting competitor. However, Okada was not fully dominated as he did come back and hit some hard strikes, as well as his patented Dropkick. Suzuki and Red Shoes Uno did have a confrontation as Suzuki attempted to use a chair, and threatened to use it on Red Shoes. Okada interrupted and moved towards the ramp. Suzuki hit a running kick from the top of the ramp to a prone Okada who was at the bottom, before grabbing the chair again. Not to use as a weapon, but to sit on in the middle of the ring and wait for Okada to crawl back. Both men attempted their finishers multiple times throughout the match but to no avail until Suzuki locked in a Rear Naked Choke which Okada reversed into a Rainmaker before both men crumpled to the floor. Okada held onto the arm hitting one more Rainmaker and attempting a spinning Rainmaker only to be hit with a straight right hand by Suzuki. After hitting a flurry of absolutely brutal strikes, he locks in the Rear Naked Choke again, spinning into the Gotch Piledriver only for Okada to escape and take control. Both men attempt their finishers one more time before Okada catches Suzuki with a Spinning Tombstone and a Rainmaker for the win. This match was just brutal, and for a 51-year-old competitor like Suzuki to go for 33 minutes against one of the best in the world is absolutely incredible and he fully deserves the main event spot.

Okada grabs the mic after the match and asks the fans about the event and thanks the fans, receiving a huge pop and chants of ‘please come back’. He continues to speak in Japanese to the fans, shortly joined by Sanada who challenges Okada to a match for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

A brilliant show for the first sole ran one in the UK, and I do echo the sentiments of the fans and I hope they make Royal Quest a yearly occurrence. I predicted that the results would run like a house show, I got a few right and a few wrong, mainly White and Owens losing and Tanahashi defeating ZSJ. Either way, it was a brilliant show, and I felt honoured to be in the Copperbox to watch it live.

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