Invasion Attack Review

At the end of a looooong and busy week of professional wrestling, New Japan put the feather in the cap with Invasion Attack. New Japan proved that you can have a major show that not only provides excellent wrestling matches, but also has compelling stories and satisfying resolutions. In a card with every title on the line, Invasion Attack lit a fire under New Japan, starting several rivalries and bringing one wrestler’s career long quest to conclusion.

The normally sedate Japanese crowd was electric this night, Sumo Hall in full support of Tetsuya Naito and his faction, Los Ingobernables de Japon. Naito, who spent years as a generic babyface who never got the crowd support he thought he deserved, spent a few months in Mexico last year and came back a changed man. He adopted a “give-no-fucks” attitude, wearing suits to the ring, lounging about at ringside, and mocking the seriousness of his competitors. He brought others into his circle, forming the Japanese branch of the CMLL faction Los Ingobernables. Two years ago, he challenged Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title at WrestleKingdom, but they were pushed out of the main event by fan vote. Now, they would have their main event, a new Naito looking to claim his Destiny…

Ryusuke Taguchi & Juice Robinson vs Bad Luck Fale & Yujiro Takahashi (Bullet Club)

This match was nothing, a short opener intended to make Bad Luck Fale look strong. And it served that purpose, with Fale putting away the former CJ Paker after a few minutes with the Bad Luck Fall (Crucifix Powerbomb). Keep the winner in mind, as it will be important later. Rating: **

Yuji Nagata & Satoshi Kojima & Jushin Thunder Liger vs Toru Yano & YOSHI-HASHI & Kazushi Sakuraba (CHAOS)

The older guys have been busy fighting Shibata for the NEVER title, but here they team together to fight Yano’s latest trio team. Yano seems to go through a lot of these. Nagata got the win with a Backdrop Driver. Keep the winners in mind, as it will be important later. Rating **1/2

Tomohiro Ishii & Hirooki Goto (CHAOS) vs EVIL & BUSHI (Los Ingobernables)

Goto is one of the newest members of CHAOS, having unsuccessfully challenged Okada, and then losing to Naito in the New Japan Cup. Ishii and Goto make a hard hitting team, and EVIL would do well to pattern himself off them. BUSHI is a Jr Heavyweight, but out of all the Jr’s that are in these tag matches (YOSHI-HASHI, Taguchi, KUSHIDA, etc), BUSHI seems like he hangs with the heavyweights the best. It’s not enough though, as he is pinned by Ishii after a brutal neckbreaker/clotheline combo. It’s worth noting that the crowd was firmly behind Los Ingobernables, booing Goto loudly and even booing the usual fan favorite Ishii. Also, keep the winner in mind, as it will be important later. Rating ***

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Ricochet & Matt Sydal (champions) vs Roppangi Vice

It’s hard to have a bad Jr Tag match. Unfortunately, it’s also hard for any of these matches to stand out. They fly around the ring and entertain, but there’s rarely a story or anything else to tie things together. The tag divisions in New Japan are the weakest part of the company, and this illustrates that perfectly. Ricochet & Sydal won the Jr Tag League tournament last year, but had to share their title match with two other teams. They then won the titles at a later event, and never defended them until challenged by RPG Vice, who hadn’t been seen in months. It’s just matches to have matches, and the fact that RPG Vice won for [i]another[/i] title change, just makes me weary with the division in general. It was still a fun match, but I wouldn’t mind something different next time. What’s that, the next shows have a rematch? *sigh* Rating: ***1/2

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Title
KUSHIDA (champion) vs Will Ospreay (CHAOS)

KUSHIDA is taking on all comers as Jr Heavyweight champion, and that’s great. A lot of people really like KUSHIDA. I’m more ambivalent. His last title defense against BUSHI was great, but that had a lot to do with the story behind it then KUSHIDA himself. Will Ospreay is the newest member of CHAOS, having impressed Okada during a tour of England. Ospreay is respected as one of the best high fliers in the world right now, and had a stellar WrestleMania weekend at the EVOLVE shows. He showed off why he’s so highly acclaimed in this match, flying around the ring and contorting his body in all manner of flips and dives. He sold well too, as KUSHIDA attacked his arm. In one notable spot, Ospreay attempted a springboard handspring, only for the arm to give out. So he just did the move next time without using his hands. A handsring. Without hands. Insane. KUSHIDA winning with the Hoverboard Lock (kimura) was certainly impressive, but after the match, Jr legend Jushin Thunder Liger would come out and challenge him. The winner of a previous match challenging for a title? Crazy. Beating Liger will cement KUSHIDA as the ACe of the Jr’s, and Ospreay will probably help out his CHAOS friends against Los Ingobernables. Rating: ****

NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Titles
Kenny Omega & The Young Bucks (Bullet Club Elite)(champions) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, Michael Elgin, & Yoshitatsu

The big story here was this was Yoshitatsu’s return match after having his neck broken by AJ Styles 18 months ago. AJ is gone, but Tatsu has patterned himself the Bullet Club Killer. Omega shows his heel tendencies immediately, trying to take Tatsu out with the Styles Clash, the move that broke his neck. He tried several times, but was unable to hit it. This was a fun, chaotic mess where everyone got to show off. The Elite brought all their tricks, but they were used against them to let thew New Japan loyalists get the win, ending with a super Elgin Bomb. It was a great feel good moment for Tatsu, and was a solid match besides. Rating: ***1/2

NEVER Openweight Title
Katsuyori Shibata (champion) vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan

Shibata vs The Old Guys has been a leading story this spring. He defeated Kojima last month, and now he has has Tenzan. Tenzan’s best years are behind him, but he was the face of New Japan in the early 00’s, and once or twice a year he can still bring it. This was a fine match, but there was no chance Shibata was losing, bringing the drama down. I did enjoy Shibata trying to headbutt him, only to knock himself down. Tenzan doesn’t wear a bull on his shirt for nothing. Shibata won with the Penalty Kick, but the real fun was after the match. The old generation came in to help Tenzan recover. Shibata bowed to Tenzan, but kicked Nagata in the face, setting up the probable finale to this story. The winner of a previous match challenging for a title? Crazy. Rating: ***1/2

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma (champions) vs Tama Tonga & Tonga Loa

Everything I said about the state of the Jr tag division applies to the heavyweights as well. Except for the fun, high-flying wrestling. This match was a bore, and went too long. The heavyweights have been dominated by big gaijin tag teams, and having Makabe and Honma as champs actually provided some fresh air. But they lost, and get a rematch, so maybe the next one will be better? I don’t know, this plodded, and not even Honma was able to draw a lot of interest. The only bad thing on this show. Rating: *1/2

IWGP Heavyweight Title
Kazuchika Okada (champion) vs Tetsuya Naito

The crowd was red hot for this match, firmly on the side of the heelish Naito. They had a great match, both men bringing their A game in nearly everything they did. The only thing that held this back from being a really great match was the interference from Los Ingobernables. Having some interference for a heel is fine, but they probably went a bit overboard. Okada looked like a beast fighting off EVIL and BUSHI, only falling to a debuting Sanada, formerly of All Japan Wrestling, now the newest member of Los Ingobernables. Naito countered the Rainmaker clotheline with Destino, and became the new IWGP Heavyweight champion. Los Ingoberbales proceeded to beat down Okada before Ishii and Goto made the save. Ishii got in the face of Naito, setting up his first challenge. Huh, the winner of a previous match challenging for a title. Crazy. The ring work of the main event would normally be 4 stars, but they get an extra half for the hot crowd who was delighted to see Naito win. Rating: ****1/2

Invasion Attack was a great show, and the four hours just flew by. What was most notable, especially after a pointless WrestleMania, was that everything felt important. Stories reached a climax, and new stories were started. It just felt very refreshing to get a major show that didn’t feel like a waste of time.

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