IWGP Tag Team Championship match
Bullet Club (Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson) (c) vs. Meiyu Tag (Hirooki Goto and Katsuyori Shibata)
As I mentioned during the Ishii-Makabe match, I spent several points during the night wondering what I had been doing all my life by not watching puroresu, especially considering that much of what I love about wrestling is highly influenced by the “strong style” that permeates nearly every crack and crevice of the sport in Japan. But this match brought me back, if not down to Earth, at least back into the warming embrace of its orbit.
It’s not because this match was bad — it was, at worst, good to pretty good — but because of the sheer enormity of Doc Gallows, who by WWE standards is considered somewhere in the vicinity of “mid-sized sedan”. The dichotomy between those two ideas helps to further delineate WWE from NJPW in ways that don’t do harm to either in my consciousness or what they are trying to accomplish, which is a fancy way of saying, guys like Gallows allow me to have my cake and enjoy the everloving bejesus out of it while I eat.
As I stated earlier, the WWE wants to create the illusion of something, not actually necessarily replicate it perfectly. Like a crossword clue, sometimes WWE works in a way that makes you think of other things fondly or with a pang of regret/despair, and that’s been their goal for a long time. NJPW, in my admittedly extremely limited exposure — I’d say outside of this show, the total hours I’ve spent watching NJPW is somewhere in the handful-to-two-handfuls range — seems to focus on letting the story come to you, to let the reality of the situation BE the story on some level. And as I also said earlier, there are pros and cons to this, most notably NJPW’s style requires significantly more talent to produce (not to mention reproduce on a nearly nightly basis the way WWE does with their product) than, and there was perhaps no better example of that during the night than this match.
While the fellows in Meiyu, Goto and Shibata, were clearly talented performers, unlike the winners from the evening’s curtain jerker — who felt like they won because they were simply the last team to have the ball, but in a good — the match felt less like they deserved to win than they happened to win because that was simply the way the match was booked and because it would tell the best story (best friends since high school making good and becoming World’s Champions.)
And while the boys from The Bullet Club certainly did their level best to make the end of their year long title reign seem believable — if you haven’t seen Karl Anderson HOSS it up, you haven’t seen Shakespeare the way it’s meant to be done — they were simply unable to do so in a way that made this match feel either worthy of that distinction or of the match that should lead us into the last hour or so of the show. This felt like a match that could have opened the show, not followed a worked-shoot fight for the ages, a hoss fight for the millenia and the ascendance of a bright young star in the business, in that order, and for that it suffered, and would likely be one of the matches you fast forward through to get to the juicy bits at closer to the end of the four hour broadcast.
Match .6 | PPV 4.7