New Japan Pro Wrestling Royal Quest: The Marathon Closer With The Stuff That Nightmares Are Made Of

IMG Credit: New Japan Pro Wrestling

Royal Quest
Date: August 31, 2019
Location: Copper Box Arena, London, England
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Gino Gambino

So this is a New Japan show and their first ever independently promoted event in the UK. That could mean a lot of things, but hopefully it means a good show. Since we already have multiple major events today with Takeover: Cardiff and All Out, I might as well just complete the trilogy. The main event here is Kazuchika Okada defending the IWGP Heavyweight Title against Minoru Suzuki with a lot of fans wanting to see a title change. Let’s get to it.

The opening video talks about the fallout from the G1 Climax and how it’s time to take over Europe.

Card rundown with the bigger matches getting the extra attention they deserve.

Roppangi 3K vs. Ryusuke Taguchi/Shoto Umino/Ren Narita

The fans are rather behind Taguchi here though unfortunately we don’t get the big zoom in shot at the opening bell. Yoh and Umino get things going for some early grappling and that’s an early standoff. Umino kicks him in the face but can’t get a slam as the fans are behind Umino, mainly due to him being associated with Jon Moxley. Everything breaks down early on with Taguchi and Romero both cleaning house. That earns Romero a song from the crowd, which sounds so out of place in a New Japan show. Sho rolls Umino up for two but Umino is right back with a suplex, setting up the hot tag to Taguchi.

A bunch of hip attacks, including one from the top, ensue but Romero comes in for the forever lariats. They’re cut off by another hip attack and it’s back to the Young Lions for some double teaming. The Boston Crab doesn’t last long on Sho and it’s time for the parade of kicks to the head. Sho and Yoh are sent into each other and Narita gets two off a victory roll. Sho’s German suplex gets two, followed by Project Ciampa to finish Umino at 8:19.

Rating: C. Perfectly fine opening match with the fans loving Romero and Taguchi as always, even if I’ve rarely (though not never) seen much in them. That’s a good way to start the show: give the fans something fun that is going to energize them for later. Tag matches, either of the four or six man variety, work just fine in that regard and the crowd is now properly energized.

Kota Ibushi/Juice Robinson vs. Yujiro Takahashi/Hikuleo

Takahashi and Hikuleo are Bullet Club and it’s Ibushi and Hikuleo starting things off. Hikuleo throws the smaller Ibushi down to start and mocks him a bit, only to have everything break down. Robinson sends Hikuleo into the corner for a Cannonball but Hikuleo is right back up with a backsplash for two on Ibushi. Takahashi comes in for a legdrop as the fans are behind Ibushi, as you probably expected.

Ibushi is right back up and brings in Robinson to pick up the pace, including a dive to take out Hikuleo. A spinebuster does the same to Takahashi but he’s right back with a fisherman’s suplex for two on Robinson. The Juice Box (Codebreaker to the chest) is enough to bring Ibushi back in but he charges into a powerslam from Hikuleo. The Club is dominating so far, which you might not have expected against a team like Ibushi and Robinson.

Ibushi’s strike rush gets him out of trouble but Hikuleo cuts him off again, this time with a Samoan driver for two. Takahashi comes back in so Ibushi hits a double Pele, followed by a victory roll for two on Hikuleo. A running knee to the face sets Kamigoye (knee to the face) for the pin on Hikuleo at 8:46.

Rating: C. This worked just fine with both teams looking good. Ibushi wasn’t about to lose so soon after winning the G1 so the Club came off more like obstacles for him to get past rather than people who were going to give him an actual run for his money. That’s perfectly fine for a match like this as it came off as a way to get Ibushi (and Robinson) on the card.

Will Ospreay/Robbie Eagles vs. Taiji Ishimori/El Phantasmo

Ishimori and Phantasmo’s (Bullet Club) IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles aren’t on the line. Phantasmo is the British Cruiserweight Champion and Ospreay is the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion. Eagles used to be in Bullet Club but Phantasmo turned on him, sending him over to Chaos. Ospreay and Eagles are part of Chaos and of course Ospreay gets a ROAR.

The Club jumps them to start but Chaos tosses them to the floor to the floor, setting up a big flip dive from Eagles. We settle down (kind of) to Phantasmo getting caught in an exchange of strikes and monkey flipped into a kick to the back. Eagles starts throwing the kicks to the chest but Ishimori comes in for the save to take over. To mess with things a bit, Phantasmo seems to twist Eagles’ nipples, setting up a springboard spinning crossbody into a Lionsault.

Ishimori comes in for the loud chops and a top rope Meteora for two. Eagles gets tied in the Tree of Woe for some running crotch standing (egads) but he’s right back with a sliding elbow to the back of the head. The hot tag brings in Ospreay for Pip Pip Cheerio and two on Phantasmo. Ospreay and Phantasmo trade kicks to the head until Ospreay’s Stundog Millionaire puts both of them down.

Ishimori and Eagles come back in with the latter nailing the springboard missile dropkick to Ishimori’s knee. Ospreay comes back in as Eagles hits a Codebreaker to Ishimori, who holds him in place for Ospreay’s moonsault to the back. Superkicks begin to abound and it’s the Oscutter to Phantasmo, followed by a double super Spanish Fly to finish Ishimori at 10:49.

Rating: B. There’s something about watching these people go insane on each other with one big spot after another until the really big one gets the pin. This all but guarantees the Tag Team Title shot for Ospreay and Eagles, which sounds quite good to me as a rematch could be quite awesome. Ospreay has been having one awesomely entertaining match after another as of late and giving him the win in his home country is the best thing they could have done. Very fun match.

Post match, Ospreay issues the challenge for the titles. At least they aren’t wasting time.

Tetsuya Naito/Sanada vs. Jay White/Chase Owens

Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Bullet Club, with Gedo. Naito (Intercontinental Champion) gets a huge reaction. White bails from Naito to start (as you might have expected) so Chase comes in and requests Sanada. An early battle over arm control goes nowhere so Owens offers a handshake. That goes badly for Owens, who tries the Paradise Lock, which Owens reverses into a failed version of his own.

White breaks up the real thing and takes Naito to the floor for some chops. The distraction lets Owens take over on Sanada and a backbreaker puts him down. White comes in for the chops in the corner but Owens charges into some boots in the corner. A suplex puts White down and it’s hot tag to Naito for the house cleaning. White gets sent to the floor and that means the TRANQUILO pose for a big reaction. Back in and Naito gets two off a pair of neckbreakers, only to have White knock him into the corner.

The Bladebuster gets two on Naito but doesn’t get very far with a choke. Naito is right back with his springboard tornado DDT and that’s enough for the double tag. Sanada gets the Paradise Lock on Owens (a recurring problem for him), setting up the big running kick. Owens puts him on top and gets two off a super snapmare (that’s a new one), followed by a running knee to the head for the same. The package piledriver is broken up though and Skull End finishes Owens at 12:53.

Rating: C+. Naito and Sanada just come off as cool no matter what they’re doing and that’s a good thing to have on your roster. It makes a lot of sense for them to be so popular everywhere else, though I can also see why White isn’t the most beloved. He just isn’t all that interesting and while I liked him elsewhere, he hasn’t been clicking for me in Japan.

Post match White gets a chair and beats down Sanada but Naito makes the save and hits Destino for a self counted three. Naito even sits in the chair because he’s cool that way.

Tag Team Titles: Guerrillas of Destiny vs. Aussie Open

Aussie Open (Kyle Fletcher/Mark Davis) are an Australian team who won a tournament to get the shot. The Guerrillas make it even worse by having Jado with them. It’s a big staredown to start as the fans are rather split. The champs get in an early cheap shot but the Aussies are right back with running clotheslines in the corner to take over. A series of kicks to the chest gets two on Loa and it’s a double flapjack into Davis’ backsplash for two more.

Loa low blows his way out of trouble and it’s Tama coming in for a corner splash. Some shots to the head keep Davis down but he gets over to Fletcher, who is taken down in a hurry with a neckbreaker. A spear cuts Fletcher down again and a rather delayed Jackhammer gets two. Tama mocks Fletcher’s crawling attempts, earning himself a backdrop so Fletcher can dive over for the tag. Davis clotheslines the champs to the floor and there’s the big dive from Fletcher.

Everything breaks down and a butterfly powerbomb into a sitout Alabama Slam gets two on Loa. Jado cheap shots Davis with the kendo stick though, drawing him outside so Tama can drop Fletcher. A Swan Dive/frog splash combination gets a very close two and the fans are back into it off the kickout.

Davis is back in with a Spanish Fly to bring Tama out of the corner, setting up Fletcher for a big flip dive to the floor. The Fidget Spinner (minus the spinner), a double pumphandle slam, drops Loa but Tama is back in with a German suplex on Davis. A sitout Tombstone plants Davis and a superbomb to Fletcher is enough to retain the titles at 14:26.

Rating: B. The more I see of Aussie Open, the more I like them and the fact that Fletcher is only twenty years old makes it all the more impressive. The Guerrillas are on another level at the moment though with very few teams in the world being able to hang with them. Aussie Open could be able to do that one day, but they’re not there just yet. Another more than solid match though with the near falls being highlights.

We recap Kenta vs. Tomohiro Ishii. Kenta recently debuted for the company and turned on Ishii in a tag match. Therefore, tonight it’s time for a fight over the NEVER Openweight Title. Kenta laid out the returning Katsuyori Shibata to make him even more evil.

NEVER Openweight Title: Kenta vs. Tomohiro Ishii

Ishii is defending and is part of Chaso while Kenta is part of Bullet Club. They go nose to nose to start with Kenta chilling in the ropes for a few seconds. A shot to Ishii’s face has Kenta bailing to the floor as the mind games are on early. Ishii is pulled to the floor and beats Kenta inside for the slugout. As you might have imagined, a guy named the Stone Pitbull is fine in a brawl and takes over on Kenta, until a tornado DDT onto the top rope gets him out of trouble.

The hard kicks to the chest put Ishii down and we hit the chinlock. The fans are all over Kenta here as some knees and the cocky kick to the face…just fire Ishii up. You had to know that was coming, just like more chops and forearms to Kenta. Ishii yells at the referee to take him down but this doesn’t seem like the kind of match where you’re going to see a DQ.

They slug it out again with Ishii staggering, allowing Kenta to blast him with a clothesline. The running dropkick in the corner corner hits Ishii and has the fans annoyed but it’s too early for the GTS. Kenta strikes away but gets caught in a German suplex….and something is wrong. Kenta falls down on what looks to be a slam attempt so Ishii headbutts the heck out of him. The referee checks on Kenta, who gets back up and is clearly gone.

He’s fine enough to knock Ishii down and hit a top rope double stomp. The GTS is countered again and Ishii loads up the brainbuster, which winds up being closer to a swinging suplex instead. The fans can tell something is wrong as Ishii slaps him in the face, meaning it’s time to sit down and slap each other a lot.

Kenta’s sleeper is broken up and Ishii takes his head off with a clothesline. Cue the Guerrillas, who are quickly dealt with by Ishii, setting up the brainbuster. The Guerrillas pull the referee though and Ishii takes a Magic Killer for a very close two. Kenta’s sleeper is broken up as well so a big shot to the face and the GTS to give Kenta the title at 20:16.

Rating: B-. It’s really hard and unfair to be overly critical here as you could see Kenta just being gone as soon as he landed on his head. The intensity went away and Kenta was a shell of himself for the next eight minutes. That makes the shots to the head all the more disturbing and the fact that he went to the hospital after the show all the less surprising. The title change makes sense to make Kenta a more established star around here, but egads it was a scary match to watch in the second half.

Post match Kenta celebrates, but is so messed up that he can’t get onto the middle rope and has to be helped up.

We recap Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Zack Sabre Jr. for Zack’s British Heavyweight Title. They’ve feuded for a good while now with Sabre not having much respect for the legend, so Tanahashi is coming to Sabre’s country to take his title. This is their seventh match and they’ve split the first six so it’s quite the rivalry.

Rev Pro British Heavyweight Title: Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Tanahashi is challenging. Sabre goes for the technical stuff to start as the fans are rather pleased with the heel champ. It’s an early standoff as the Tanahashi chants begin. Tanahashi reverses a crossarm choke into one of his own but you just don’t try to trade holds with Sabre, who is out in a hurry. They circle each other a bit more until Tanahashi takes him down by the leg for a change.

Tanahashi puts on a standing leglock but bridges back to really crank on the thing. The middle rope Swanton misses though and Sabre starts in on the arm. A seated armbar has Tanahashi in trouble and the cockiness is rolling fast. That means some cocky kicks but Sabre goes back to the arm to cut off the comeback. A dropkick to the leg gives Tanahashi a breather and a running dropkick in the corner has the champ rocked for a change.

He’s fine enough to come back with an abdominal stretch but Tanahashi is out for a pinfall reversal sequence into a double knockdown. The Cloverleaf is countered into an armbar (on the other arm) from Sabre, which he switches into a small package for two. Sabre is back up with Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than the Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness but Tanahashi rolls forward to get to the ropes.

Twist And Shout into the Sling Blade gives Tanahashi two but the High Fly Flow hits knees. That means a triangle choke from Sabre, which he switches into the modified Rings of Saturn. That’s broken up as well and it’s the European Clutch for two on Tanahashi. Another Sling Blade gives Tanahashi another two and it’s the High Fly Flow for the pin and the title at 17:20.

Rating: B+. Sabre is one of the most unique performers I have ever seen and I could watch him go from one submission to another for hours. Tanahashi on the other hand is as smooth of a performer as you’re going to find and they mesh very well together. This was my favorite match on the show so far and it’s quite the impressive display, as these two almost always do. Their styles go together perfectly and Tanahashi winning is a great feel good moment, even in defeat of the home country champion.

Tanahashi celebrates for a good bit.

We recap Minoru Suzuki vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title. Suzuki was ticked off (shocking) about being left out of the G1 and wanted to show NJPW what they missed. Then he beat Okada in a tag match and challenged him for the title shot, which you just don’t turn down. They’re billing it as the unbeatable champion vs. the angry king and it’s one of the better videos I’ve seen from NJPW.

It’s always cool to see the big montage of champions before the title match.

IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika Okada vs. Minoru Suzuki

Suzuki is challenging. They start very slowly with only a Suzuki kick to the leg in the first minute and a half. Okada works a wristlock and the dueling chants begin again. That’s reversed into a hammerlock from Suzuki as they’re taking their time to start. Suzuki stays on the arm so Okada picks the leg to take it to the mat. That goes nowhere either and we’re already five minutes in. Therefore, it’s time to strike it out in the middle until a snapmare lets Okada hit a running kick to the face.

A triangle over the ropes slows Okada down and it’s a ram into the barricade to make it worse. Okada blocks a piledriver on the ramp so Suzuki settles for a running Penalty kick instead. The referee won’t let Suzuki use a chair so Suzuki sits in one in the middle instead. Okada comes back in….and his forearms have no effect. Suzuki smirks at him and slaps on a few leglocks as the torture begins. That’s broken up and it’s time for another forearm slugout until a running elbow drops Suzuki.

They head outside with Suzuki in trouble, but he’s right back in with more kicks to the chest. The Fujiwara armbar goes on to make Okada scream some more as Suzuki is enjoying this way too much. The running boot to a seated champ gets two but the piledriver is broken up again. Okada gets in another shot to the face and they’re both down again. A slam sets up the top rope elbow for two….and Suzuki is mad. That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of so Okada forearms away, earning himself a hard shot to the face.

Suzuki even puts his arms behind his back so Okada can hit him harder. For some reason Okada agrees to do the same and is promptly knocked silly. We get a rather good tease of a piledriver with Okada kicking his feet and being picked back up twice before he reverses into White Noise onto the knee. They slug it out from their knees with Suzuki taking over off some headbutts, only to get caught with the dropkick. Okada tries his own sleeper but Suzuki throws him down and puts on one of his own.

That means the old school arm drops until Okada counters into the Rainmaker. He’s too down to cover so it’s another Rainmaker but Suzuki blocks a third. Suzuki unloads with strikes to put Okada down but he STILL can’t hit the piledriver (that’s been an awesome tease throughout the whole match). The Rainmaker is countered again so Okada slips out of the sleeper one more time (I can live with that as the piledriver is being treated as the real finisher) and hits the Tombstone. The Rainmaker finally finishes Suzuki at 33:56.

Rating: A. Oh yeah that was awesome with Okada being completely outmatched physically but managing to avoid the big weapon until he could wear Suzuki down enough. Suzuki is a great dragon that has to be slayed and showing him so furious about being left out of the tournament was a fine story with the champ being the only one who could stop him. Okada gets to pass another test as we wait for the next big challenge at whatever the next big show is before Wrestle Kingdom. Great match and I don’t remember liking a New Japan match much more than this one.

Post match Okada thanks the fans but cue Sanada, who beat Okada in the G1, to challenge for the title match. Sanada leaves and Okada seems to accept. He throws in some English for the crowd, who certainly seem to appreciate it to end the show.

Overall Rating: A-. While Takeover had a better main event (and not by much), this was the best show of the weekend with nothing bad (some of the tag matches were fine but skippable) and two excellent top matches. It also found that sweet spot in the middle of the times where it was long but not long enough that I was wanting the show to end. While I think it would lose some of the appeal if I watched it full time, it’s always a blast to watch and this was another awesome show. Check out the main event for sure and Tanahashi vs. Sabre if you have time.


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4 Responses

  1. TEW says:

    Okada Vs Ibushi is gonna be the match that finally offs Dave Meltzer’s stars ratings (Again).

  2. Stormy says:

    A serious question. I know one of your biggest pet peeves is the champions being pinned to set up a title match (understandable as it is lazy booking). Will Osprey and Robbie Eagles did just that, and you seem to not be disturbed by it. Is it not as big a problem for New Japan titles?

    • TEW says:

      Its such a different product

    • Thomas Hall says:

      Pretty much. My problem with WWE is it’s done A, multiple times a month on occasion or B, a win over a champion goes absolutely nowhere, such as Ali pinning Shinsuke Nakamura on Smackdown and it never being mentioned again.

      The other good thing here was they did the challenge immediately. There was none of this “a win over the champions may put them into the title hunt”. It makes the titles look worthless, so having Ospreay and Eagles look like they have a shot at something valuable made it seem important.

      I don’t know how often this is used in NJPW but if it’s a rare thing that sets up something immediately, I can live with it a lot more.

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