NJPW TAMASHII IV – Melbourne
If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that New Japan Pro Wrestling opened its Oceanian TAMASHII brand in November 2022 with shows in Sydney and Christchurch. This time around it was Sydney on Friday 3 February and Melbourne on Saturday 4 February.
It was an interesting lead up to these shows, which were announced during the WrestleKingdom broadcast on 4 January, leading a lot of people to be really hyped for these shows. Unfortunately it soon became evident that they clashed with the NJPW New Beginning shows, and as such there would be no Japanese talent on the show. There appeared to be some backlash and disappointment on social media once the talent line-ups were announced.
This is a combination live/stream review, cos I desperately needed/wanted to re-watch the phenomenal Robbie Eagles vs Kyle Fletcher match before I wrote about it.
The Croxton in Thornbury is looking outstanding on New Japan World, and we’re welcomed by two-thirds of the New Japan A-team in Chris Charlton and Gino Gambino, which is a great surprise!
Ring Announcer Lord Andy Coyne provides the Acknowledgement of Country, which is how all Australian wrestling shows should begin, and we’re underway.
Tag team match: Nikolai Anton Bell & Shep Alexander vs Jake Andrewartha and Gore
Bell & Alexander are two of the New Zealand Dojo products that are being emphasised as part of the TAMASHII project. “The Final Boss” Jake Andrewartha and “The Snuff King” Gore are both mainstays of Melbourne wrestling, particularly since the pandemic, and are wrestling here as “The Final Snuff.” Both of them are looking enormous!
Shep had quite a bit of support from an excited live crowd, although the first impression of the stream is that the audio doesn’t reflect the hot crowd that was there on the night.
We get plenty of Gore & Andrewartha brutalising the Young Lions, with Andrewartha showing off his devastating spinning heel kick.
As an opener, this seemed a weird choice on the night, as it was a fairly slow, plodding mismatch of a contest. The team of Alexander Bell are able to telephone some offence, but it doesn’t last long with Andrewartha hitting a powerbomb to Alexander, Gore hitting Bell with a Dominator on top of Alexander, and that being enough for the win.
Winners: “The Final Snuff” Jake Andrewartha and Gore
Richard Mulu vs Jarvis
I was a big fan of this contest when Jarvis was announced as a last minute replacement. He is a tremendous young Melbourne talent who is going to spend 2023 making himself into a big deal. And Mulu, another NZ Dojo student, is a unit, built like a really athletic fridge.
Mulu overpowers Jarvis with a couple of slams before bailing to the outside. He returns to the ring trying to mouth off at Mulu, before Mulu slaps him down with a couple of savage chops. Jarvis gets in a shot before celebrating, which Mulu makes him pay for, but Jaris manages to get some momentum with a chop block and leg kicks.
Jarvis puts some work into Mulu’s leg before Mulu hits a choke bomb. He immediately goes back to selling the leg, which Jarvis keeps working away at. Another “Sky High” choke bomb results in another nearfall, before Jarvis rakes the eyes and hits a handspring stunner off the ropes for a two-count. Jarvis goes to the top rope, and he’s the first of many on this show to risk putting his head through the roof.
He leaps off the top, but Mulu catches him, into the powerslam for the 3-count. This was short, and it probably didn’t come through that well on the stream, but this match got over on the night, and I hope we’ll see more of both men in TAMASHII’s future. A really fun little match from two really enjoyable wrestlers.
Winner: Richard Mulu
Tag Team Match: Rogue Army (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza) vs Andrew Villalobos and MIchael Richards
Bonza turned on his PWA Nations faction in September last year, joining original Bullet Club member Bad Luck Fale to form TAMASHII’s sub-sect of Bullet Club, the Rogue Army. They are facing Villalobos and Richards, who to date are the star graduates of the NZ Dojo, and who both look like they could be stars of Australian and New Zealand wrestling. Both men have particularly impressive size.
Before the match Bonza cuts a promo saying Rogue Army are recruiting, but he “doesn’t think there is a single wrestler in this shitty state” good enough for the Rogue Army, naming Slex, Mitch Waterman and Caveman Ugg.
Remember those names for later on!
Bonza wishes Villalobos and Richards luck, and Bonza and Villalobos kick us off with the Dojo representative towering over Bonza. It breaks down quickly with all four men pairing off and brawling on the outside.
As referee Edwin regains control, Bonza is dominating Villalobos, with Fale taking out Richards as the Young Lions neared the tag. Fale continues to dominate Villalobos, and on the night this extremely long, slow heat spot really sucked the life out of the crowd. We were pretty deep into it by the time Richards was tagged in, and sadly for him the crowd was ready for this match to be over.
We get a nearfall from Villalobos on Bonza, and another reversal with Bonza taking over. He hits Villalobos with a clothesline to the back of the neck, followed by an STF, and Villalobos taps out with Fale beating up Richards on the outside.
Winner: Rogue Army (Bad Luck Fale & Jack Bonza)
Tag Team Match: Jake Taylor & Jordan Allan Wright vs The Natural Classics (Stevie & Tome Filip)
Taylor and Wright are two more Dojo projects, taking on the Natural Classics who are rightly referred to as tag team royalty in Australia. Mainstays of Australian wrestling, the Natural Classics have won a bunch of Australian tag titles and have toured overseas. I’m glad they’re getting some New Japan eyes on them, because they are two of Australia’s best, most deserving wrestlers.
And a random congratulations to Stevie Filip, who publicly proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Connie at a Harry Styles gig in Melbourne last week. (She obviously said yes!)
Taylor is one of those Young Lions who don’t appear to have “earned” their gear yet – he’s wearing black tights and white wrist tape, but doesn’t have knee pads or anything on his elbows.
Taylor and Wright start off better than the dojo prospects in earlier matches, with Taylor showing some power and Wright showing great speed between the ropes. But when the Classics take over, both from a work and from a shoot perspective, they control the ring and everything they do looks incredible. Despite being the bad guys in this match, they still get the crowd back into the show after the previous match took them out of it.
It’s a long, slow, methodical beatdown on Wright, who eventually gets a tag to Taylor who hits the Classics with an impressive double vertical suplex. Wright eventually gets Tome into a Boston Crab, which is broken up by Stevie. Stevie then fights Taylor into the crowd as Tome slams Wright for the 3-count.
Winners: The Natural Classics
At this stage the live show went to intermission, and as I spoke to people at the bar and the smoking area, I was a bit concerned. Given the pre-show backlash regarding talent, and given the extremely house show-style fare we’d seen to date, there was very little excitement coming from the intermission.
But then we got into the second half…
Mitch Waterman vs Lyrebird Luchi
At the time of this show, Mitch Waterman was the reigning Melbourne City Champion, and is one of the top stars in Melbourne.
Lyrebird Luchi is one of the top stars in Sydney/PWA Black Label, but hasn’t appeared very much in Melbourne. Luchi was already playing a heel in PWA – and an extremely good one at that – when he joined the Rogue Army during the January PWA show. It seemed a bit of a random fit, but I’m a huge fan of Luchi, and if being in the Bullet Club sub-sect puts more eyes on him, gets him to Melbourne more often, and opens up more opportunities, then I’m really happy for him.
Unfortunately we have that pretty regular New Japan World issue where they just silence the music and the crowd where there is entrance music they don’t want to pay for, which was the case with Waterman’s entrance.
We get a “boo/yeah!” spot with both men posing on the turnbuckles, then an enraged Luchi gets us started. The action remains back and forth for the opening minutes before Luchi seizes some momentum. A lot of what he does is what I would usually refer to as “heel 101”, but Luchi is so good at all the heel tropes that calling it heel 101 is a massive disservice to him.
Waterman turns it around with some brutal overhand chops, and they go into a really fun sequence of reversals and just beating eachother up. Waterman gets a nearfall with the slingblade, then hits a Gory-bomb into the corner. Luchi however reverses the back suplex for a nearfall before burying his thumbs into Waterman’s eyes. Mitch returns the favour before the ref breaks it up. Waterman hits two superkicks sending Luchi to the outside, he hits a suicide dive, then a stunner into the nearfall.
Waterman then hits his version of the Hidden Blade, Luchi breaks the count by getting his foot on the rope, and he bails to the outside and gets himself disqualified hitting Mitch with a chair.
Winner by disqualification: Mitch Waterman
This was a good, though not great match between two of Australia’s best talents. This was a disappointing finish, but in hindsight it was probably predictable – having the local champ vs the new Rogue Army member kind of booked themselves into a corner.
Slex vs Aaron Solo
Representing QT Marshall’s “The Factory”, and working with AEW and NJPW’s American “Strong” brand, Solo is the first major international that we see on this show.
Slex is obviously one of Australia’s best wrestlers, and has been for a long time. He was signed to Ring of Honor in late 2019 and made a few appearances before the pandemic hit, but COVID sadly ruined that opportunity for him. Slex is another guy that I hope TAMASHII is built for, putting more eyes on an amazing talent who has one of the best resumes of opponents in independent wrestling.
The match starts slowly with the two men feeling each other out. Early in the match we have Slex holding Solo up for a 30-second delayed vertical suplex, with the lights hanging low enough that Solo’s flailing legs threaten to bring them down.
Solo goes on to take the advantage with an awkward looking leg kick that forces Slex into the turnbuckle, followed by some ground and pound and an extended heat spot. As Slex regains some steam the two men start trading again before a mid-ring cross-body collision. Slex manages to follow this up with his Slexecution finisher, but Solo rolls to the outside. Slex rewards him with a tope suicida, he rolls Solo back into the ring, but he kicks out at 2.
Slex also attempts his Slexbomb finisher, but this is blocked, Solo kicks out of a roll up at 2, and this time Slex hits the Slexbomb. Solo kicks out at 2, then manages to kick Slex out of midair during another Slexecution attempt. Solo goes up top and genuinely headbutts the roof, before going on to hit the Pedigree and pinning Slex in a finish that surprised the crowd. This was a big win for Solo in Australia, and this was a really good match – the show had noticeably lifted in the previous two matches since intermission.
Robbie Eagles vs Kyle Fletcher
Both Kyle and Robbie were telling the “teacher vs student” story on social media ahead of the event, with Robbie being one of Kyle’s trainers at the PWA Academy. Robbie has also been telling his “Openweight Bob” story, racking up wins and trying to get into contention for the New Japan NEVER Openweight title.
Both men have history with NJPW, with Eagles representing CHAOS and Fletcher representing United Empire.
The crowd is hot from the start for this – this match is the reason that many, including myself, are here. It’s also worth noting that Charlton and Gino again promote the upcoming Oceania Cup to be held in Wagga, which is probably the third time they’ve mentioned it.
They face off, and Fletcher has a big size advantage. We start off slow with some chain wrestling before Robbie hits some typically crisp stuff to get the crowd involved. Kyle goes into some stomps, taunts, and cocky pin with the United Empire crown up, trying to get himself over as the heel – which is interesting in the context of this match as it progresses, but also interesting in the context of what’s to come later in the show.
As Fletcher takes control, he utilises a lot of mat based offence interchanged with stomps, and our commentators put over Fletcher’s lack of strategy and his apparent preference to instead hurt Robbie Eagles. As we hear that there are 10 minutes passed, Robbie manages to wrest control, resulting in a tope con hiro where Robbie landed in the second row. He returns Fletcher to the ring and commences more rapid fire offence before working on Fletcher’s knee to set up for his Ron Miller Special submission finisher. Fletcher climbs to the top rope where he is momentarily intercepted by Eagles, but ends up hitting Eagles with a Michunoku Driver from the top rope, almost taking some lights with him. Eagles avoids the 3-count by putting his foot on the bottom rope and rolling to the outside. As Fletcher lays in the ring allowing his knee to recover, the referee’s count makes it to 19 before Eagles makes it back into the ring.
He’s rewarded with another neck-first slam and a boot to the face from Fletcher before Robbie manages to get Fletcher into the Ron Miller Special. Fletcher quickly makes the bottom rope to break the hold, and Robbie goes on to kick the stuffing out of him until Fletcher catches the leg – and we’re back trading heavy shots as Lord Andy Coyne tells us over the house mic that 20 minutes have expired.
Robbie blocks a hidden blade attempt, is met with a kick, avoids a German suplex, then reverses a slam attempt into a poisonrana. Robbie follows that up with the standing sliced bread for two, followed by a Turbo Backpack for 2, and the crowd is electric at this stage.
Straight into the Ron Miller Special as the crowd screams for Fletcher to tap. He threatens to tap but eventually crawls his way to the bottom rope. Robbie goes to the top, assessing the roof and considering whether there’s enough room for his 450 splash. He attempts it, but Fletcher moves and hits Robbie with the Grimstone Piledriver (a spinning Tombstone Piledriver.) Robbie kicks out at 2.9, to the crowd’s disbelief, and the world’s most justified “this is awesome” chant fires up.
They rise, Robbie cops another boot to the face and another Grimstone Piledriver, and this time it’s over, with the crowd spontaneously rising to their feet for an extremely warranted standing ovation.
Despite the crowd heat on the night not really coming through on the stream, this was a fire match, and I expect we’ll be talking about it as an Australian match of the year contender come December.
Kyle invites Robbie to stand and meet him in the middle of the ring, Robbie instead rolls to the outside and leaves.
Winner: Kyle Fletcher
Caveman Ugg vs Aaron Henare
The main event sees the second big international of the night, with United Empire’s Aaron Henare facing off with Australian wrestling stalwart Caveman Ugg. Ugg has an interesting history, having made a name for himself in PWA, being a longterm champion, and then moving to Melbourne, essentially making himself a permanent bad guy in PWA.
Henare is showing great respect to the Traditional Owners, draping himself in the Aboriginal flag for his ring entrance, and also draping himself in one of the great wrestling moustaches.
A couple of solid guys here, we’re expecting a hoss fight, but it starts off with some mat wrestling as Chris and Gino again remind us of the upcoming Oceania Cup – this is clearly something that NJPW is determined to push hard.
It descends into beating each other up, with Ugg having a nipple chopped off before bailing to the outside. Henare follows him, and now we’re fighting in the front row chopping the hell out of each other, and then turning on security. Ugg sits Henare on a fan’s lap as he chops him, with Henare then returning the favour.
As they return to the correct side of the barricades, Henare falls through one, which lands in the lap of the front row but fortunately doesn’t hurt anyone.
We return to the ring, and we’re back to two big meaty men slapping meat before Henare hits Ugg with his Maori Slam for a two-count. Ugg reverses an Irish whip attempt and the big man hits his athletic chest stomp to Henare.
The two hosses keep hossing, and Ugg hits a splash for a two-count. Chops and punches follow, as Ugg monkey flips Henare out of the corner and the 10-minute mark elapses. They stand in the middle and start trading forearms followed by chops, followed by duelling Kobashi-style machine gun chops. Henare hits Ugg with a roundhouse kick and both men collapse to the mat.
As the 15-minute mark passes, Ugg hits his deadlift gutwrench powerbomb, which is an incredible feat of strength, but Henare kicks out and starts delivering headbutts and a Bezerker bomb for a two-count.
As Henare lines up Ugg in the corner, Bad Luck Fale enters the stage, distracting Henare, Luchi climbs on the apron distracting the ref, and Jack Bonza’s interference leads to Caveman Ugg winning with the pile driver – Caveman Ugg who, remember, was alluded to earlier in the night by Jack Bonza as not being good enough for the Rogue Army.
I really loved this match too. Ugg and Henare had a really difficult task following Fletcher vs Eagles, but they were up to the challenge, doing what Fletcher and Eagles can’t do – a hoss fight. Whereas the semi-main was athletic and fast, Ugg and Henare just beat the hell out of each other. And it ruled!
Winner: Caveman Ugg
Postmatch, Bad Luck Fale takes the mic and says they’re recruiting, and he wants to speak to the “sexiest beast there is.” Fale asks Ugg if this is what he wants, Bonza asks if he wants to join Rogue Army, and Caveman Ugg responds by joining the Rogue Army “Too Sweet.”
New Japan World also includes post-match interviews from a number of stars:
- Mitch Waterman congratulates Luchi for being a big deal now he’s in Bullet Club, but says he won’t get far taking the easy way out. Waterman says he got the W, and says Luchi’s chair shot won’t be forgotten.
- Luchi says it’s too easy, and asks whether the amazing wrestlers across Australia are sleeping. He says Rogue Army are taking over, so where is everyone?
- Robbie Eagles says matches like tonight are those that he dreamed of having when the TAMASHII brand was announced. He said that despite the path that Kyle took with United Empire, he’s proud of the wrestler and the man that he became. He says if they meet again, maybe it won’t end the same way.
- Kyle Fletcher says TAMASHII is something he could’ve only dreamed about when he started wrestling. He says NJPW’s investment in Australia and New Zealand is special to him, and his match against Robbie meant a lot to him. He says he’s surpassed Robbie, and he now has confidence to move forward in New Japan. He says he’ll be watching Bishamon vs TMDK at New Beginning and maybe he’ll see the winner soon.
- Aaron Henare says that Fale has been planning tonight, he’s the general in the back scheming, and choosing pawns to push forward. He says he should’ve known that Rogue Army would come for him tonight. He says United Empire is conquering the world, and TAMASHII is the last place they have to conquer. He says next time United Empire will be here to claim Australia.
- Rogue Army speak as a group. Bonza laughs that he knew he would get Henare. Fale says Henare should shove his crown up his arse, and invites him to bring United Empire to Australia, because he is still recruiting. Ugg says Henare was tough, but his power now has direction, and United Empire don’t have a chance. Bonza is surprised Ugg speaks English! Luchi says no one is touching Rogue Army, they’re going to run through everyone, and they’re sexy beasts. Fale tells New Japan he’s having so much fun that he’s not sure he wants to come back, and he’s sick and tired of being looked down upon. So he’s going to build Rogue Army and take over Japan.
This was absolutely a show of two halves. The first half came across as a house show for trainees, despite the enjoyable match between Mulu and Jarvis.
The second half was outstanding though, with those last two matches ensuring that a lot of sceptical attendees will be back for more TAMASHII in the future. Robbie vs Kyle was a genuine MOTY contender, and I can’t get enough of those hoss fights like we saw with Ugg vs Henare.
It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of the Rogue Army going forward, and whether it creates any linkages to New Japan and the Bullet Club for Ugg, Luchi, or whoever else they recruit. I certainly hope so, cos there are some amazing talent here that deserve that opportunity.
I’m really looking forward to what’s next. Despite Kyle wrestling as a heel against Robbie, and despite United Empire predominantly being bad guys across the globe, I think Rogue Army vs whatever version of United Empire we get is going to be amazing. Even just having regular Aussie Open appearances would be outstanding, but if you’re then also adding Henare, Cobb, Great O-Khan – and maybe even Will Ospreay – to take on the Rogue Army and potentially some visiting Bullet Club members, that’s a world class show that I want to see.
Go out of your way to watch the second half of this show, your match of the year list probably won’t be complete without it.
How to watch it:
I recommend following @NJTAMASHII on Twitter to see when and where their shows are going to be. So far all four TAMASHII shows have been made available on njpwworld.com around a month after the event.