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NJPW Invasion Attack 2016: The Official Smark Henry Review




New Japan’s second major event of the year, Invasion Attack 2016, has come and gone. As the first major show since the high-profile departures of their major stars, the company is bent on shaking things up with an event that will practically change the landscape of the company for the foreseeable future. Did their effort pay off in a big way? Let’s get right on it!


Bullet Club (Bad Luck Fale and Yujiro Takahashi) def. the team of Ryusuke Taguchi and Juice Robinson by pinfall


Consider this your standard fare warmup match to get the crowd ready for the rest of the event, with the focus on a gutsy effort by the former CJ Parker, proving that he can capitalize on a changed company landscape. Everyone got to show their stuff, but by the end of the match it was all Bad Luck Fale, who practically dominated with his size and ended up beating Robinson with the Bad Luck Fall for the pinfall victory. It was refreshing to see a dominating opener to an event instead of a Jr. Tag Title match, which should take place later in the card. And for a match that went the way it is supposed to be and would serve its purpose later in the night, everything fell right in place.

Rating: 2.5/5



The team of Satoshi Kojima, Jushin Thunder Liger, and Yuji Nagata def. the team of YOSHI-HASHI, Kazushi Sakuraba, and Toru Yano by pinfall


The second of two warmup matches placed the focus on the Third Generation, with the intend of them proving that they can still hang with the Okadas and Tanahashis of the world. As such, this was an exhibition for the trio to show that they can hang in any match while sending a message to Katsuyori Shibata and KUSHIDA, which will come to play with varying scenarios later in the night. An academic finish was made with Nagata finishing off Tacos with the Backdrop Hold. Kudos to Tacos, however, for making the most with the legends in the match... and Toru Yano (simple because he’s still considered part of the current generation).

Rating: 3/5



CHAOS (Tomohiro Ishii and Hirooki Goto) vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon (BUSHI and EVIL)


In the first of two CHAOS vs. LIJ battles, the top guns of CHAOS took on LIJ’s heavyweight-junior combination of EVIL and BUSHI, and as expected, it became a heated encounter between the best bruisers in the company today and one of the most enthralling juniors in the company. EVIL looked impressive when faced against his heavyweight counterparts, while BUSHI, despite the size difference, managed to hang with the boys in a truly unique encounter. But it wasn’t a night for LIJ’s enforcers as BUSHI got absolutely destroyed with the CHAOS Ushigoroshi (thank you based Mauro) and Sliding Lariat combo to win the bout. The most important point from this is that there is still a lot of hatred between EVIL and Goto, to the point that they wanted to destroy each other even after the match.

EVIL is a fantastic worker when given the chance. It was a golden opportunity for him to be aligned with LIJ, where he can fully demonstrate his talents against tough stars like Ishii and Goto. Despite the seemingly out-there gimmick (I personally love it, though), the former Takaaki Watanabe will do just fine as long as his momentum won’t stop.

Rating: 3.5/5


Roppongi Vice (Rocky Romero and Barreta) def. Aerial Dogfight © (Matt Sydal and Ricochet) via Strong Zero to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships


One common criticism in the realm of New Japan as of late is the fact that their junior tag division was not given the same sense of priority in the past years, being considered for opening matches and mere spotfest marathons among others. In essence, it felt akin to how the WWE treated the Divas prior to the Women’s Division revamp. But here’s the thing: when you give these junior tag stars a chance to shine, they will in a big way.

RPG Vice gave fans a stellar performance against the high-flying dynamos, which drove home the feeling of desire and passion back to the division. It is a significant change in a time New Japan should not be resting of their laurels. And in many ways, this emphasized how the company should not be putting their eggs in one basket, and that the junior tag division has a ton to offer.

Both teams were as impressive as ever, no question. But it was a perfectly timed Strong Zero on Ricochet that spelled the end for the champions’ reign. While this bout was assumed to be Ricochet’s final NJPW match, a look at his Twitter account will say he’s staying in Japan for a little while longer.

Rating: 4/5



KUSHIDA © def. Will Ospreay via submission with the Hoverboard Lock to retain the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship


If there was any doubt about KUSHIDA being the face of the division, you can throw that out of the window right now. And if there was any doubt about Ospreay’s amazing performance, what were you thinking?

The champion and challenger exceeded all expectations and may have crafted the best Junior Heavyweight Championship match this year so far, a benchmark that the division’s competitors need to take note of if they want to outdo their performance. The match was expertly done, with KUSHIDA focusing on the arm while the Aerial Assassin made use of his unparalleled high-flying offense to one-up the champ.

It was the amazing piece of psychology that helped legitimize the match further. Put it this way: Ospreay performed a no-hand handspring kick without any arm support as to not damage the arm further, a little piece of detail that should be commended. But alas, KUSHIDA managed to lock in his submission for the win, cementing the Time Splitter’s championship run even further. Will may have lost, but for a 22-year old talent, he has all the time in the world to make an impact with the company.

After the match, Liger came out and sent a message to KUSHIDA about a future title shot, reminding him that he previously said about getting dibs when he won the title. This continues the veteran vs. new generation story that's already in Shibata and the NEVER Title, and it should make for a fun encounter.

And as if that was not enough, KUSHIDA came to the ROH English commentary booth and demanded that he wants to face Jay Lethal for the ROH World Title! Will this have implications with New Japan’s upcoming US tour? Only time will tell.

Rating: 4/5

Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, and Yoshitatsu def. The Elite © (IWGP IC Champ Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks) following a rope-assisted Elgin Bomb on Nick Jackson to win the NEVER Six-Man Tag Team Championships


Consider this match the “chill out of the window” Ryogoku match, as all six men went bananas on one another with major spots and close calls all throughout. The story was not only about TanaElgin wanting revenge on The Elite, but for Yoshitatsu to get his career back on track after the Clash that injured his neck. It was an all around crazy match that was all kinds of fun. This kind of match is something that is not so characteristic to Tanahashi, but it ended up being a exciting bout that he adapted with and kept the fans going. A Super Elgin Bomb finally ended The Elite’s run, and with that, the crowning of new trios champions and vindication for Tatsu. Elgin eventually challenged Omega for the IC Championship, and the match will be all sorts of awesome. Fale also attacked Tanahashi later on, and hopefully their rivalry will be better for the Underboss.

And as a reminder for fans all around the world, wrestling is a dangerous sport, and it’s a good thing that Cody Hall is fine after the scary mishap that took place during the match. Hospitalized, but otherwise fine for the young gun with a bright future ahead of him.

Rating: 3.5/5



Katsuyori Shibata © def. Hiroyoshi Tenzan via pinfall with the PK to retain the NEVER Openweight Championship


Honestly, the result was evident from the get-go. It was a Shibata match that involved pain and punishment, something that Tenzan, to his credit, managed to return in kind for a big match situation like this. But in the end of the ten minute bout, a PK was all she wrote as Shibata continued to one-up the Third Generation.

Shibata then physically taunted Nagata, arguably the most physically outstanding competitor among the four, after the match, which should lead to the eventual championship bout that would be fun for everyone to see, especially for those who love a stiff bout overall.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Guerrillas of Destiny (Tama Tonga and Tanga Roa) def. GBH (Togi Makabe and Tomoaki Honma) via pinfall following the Guerrilla Warfare on Honma to win the IWGP Tag Team Championships


This is a match that is hard to judge, with the newly formed Guerrillas of Destiny attempting to take over the spot Anderson and Gallows left following their exit. Anderson mastered the art of the tag team, and while Tonga has the potential to help fire up the tag team division, it did not show here.

It might be because Roa, Tonga’s brother, is still adjusting to the style and was immediately put in a high-profile position as the semi-final of a major event. It could be because of the matches that preceded it, making it a tough challenge to top their bouts. Or maybe their match should have been positioned differently in the card, especially when you have KUSHIDA vs. Ospreay in the card. In any case, the match never had the chance to fully get into the gear expected in a semi-final. A Guerilla Warfare (positioned in the same way as the Magic Killer) later on Honma, and new tag team champs were crowned. Hopefully they will be able to pick up momentum and help with the struggling tag team division. And if this means a singles title run for Honma in the future, that would be fantastic.

Rating: 2.5/5




Tetsuya Naito def. Kazuchika Okada via pinfall following the Destino preceded by interference from Seiya Sanada to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship


Heading into Invasion Attack, there were many questions that needed answering. Will New Japan remain on a roll after the mini-talent raid by WWE? Will the main event exceed expectations? Will Naito finally avenge his embarrassing string of bad luck from years back and win the company’s top title?

All these questions only had one definitive answer: an absolutely resounding yes!

On paper, it is a Wrestle Kingdom 8 rematch, but this time, the roles were reversed. Now, it is Naito who is getting the wholehearted support of the fans, who are all in for El Ingobernable. The match had a big match feel all throughout with an energy that the two are able to deliver and easily surpassing their previous bout two years ago in spades. The Ingobernable gimmick helped win fans over, to the point that this whole reversal of roles became as evident, like Triple H being cheered over Roman Reigns at WrestleMania—but the difference is that during the bout, Okada managed to win back some of the fans, who remain supportive of deserving talent.

Interference became commonplace in Ingobernables matches, and this one was no exception. But people will be talking about the well-deserved debut of former AJPW standout and X Division Champion Seiya Sanada the most, attacking Okada in the process and allowing his new pareja, Naito, to secure the win following the Destino and become the new IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

This was the ideal scenario for the company right now: a new top (and deserving) heel with a ton of fan support (as evident with LIJ merchandise from the Naito-supportive fans), and a surprise debut of a man who truly deserved all the success in the world but limited by the options presented to him at the time. To know more about Seiya, it is best for you to check out the recent #MWM entry about the newest freelancer in the company and why it is such a big deal.

But as for Naito, this was vindication and validation for the man that should have been champion a long time ago, becoming the first refreshing new title-holder in the company since 2011, dominated by the likes of Tanahashi, Styles, and Okada. It was a welcome change fans needed as well as it will open up new possibilities and rivalries, reinforcing the fact that the talent raid was a blessing to the wealth of talent the company had all along. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the fans who are behind Naito and LIJ throughout the night.

This also allowed Ishii to come in the ring and immediately challenge the champion to his first singles heavyweight title match in his career, which will now take place in Wrestling Dontaku 2016, which will be part of the preview that will take place next week!

Rating: 5/5

Overall, Invasion Attack had a tremendous showing, with a landscape that has significantly changed for the better. While the loss of various talent had its effect, to say that they are in deep trouble is a statement farther from the truth as shown by a fully packed Ryogoku crowd wanting to see Naito and Okada go at it. Here’s to an exciting 2016, and let’s see where it goes!

Photos from NJPW

*****

Lance Tan Ong has been a banking guy for the past few years but a wrestling guy for most of his life. And after checking out matches of Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto at an early age, he's also pretty much a puro guy as well. Currently checking out WWE (mostly NXT), NJPW, DDT, and other promotions that catch and demand attention. He currently handles NJPW news and coverage for Smark Henry.

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