Live Review: NJPW TAMASHII – Melbourne, 16 April

Sunday, 16 April saw the 7th edition of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s TAMASHII brand at Melbourne’s Croxton Theatre. This was the second show in Melbourne after February’s event, and was the third show of the weekend following TAMASHII’s Adelaide debut on Friday night and its third Sydney show on Saturday.

I was wildly excited for this event, with Shingo Takagi and Hiroki Goto visiting from Japan, and with four really exciting matches announced.

Unfortunately we got off to a late start, with TAMASHII announcing on social media hours before the show that a flight from Sydney had been delayed and the meet-and-greet would subsequently be delayed. It meant that, despite a door time of 7.30pm, it wasn’t until 7.55pm that they started ushering people inside in batches. I don’t know how you handle that better, but I think you’re already asking a lot of people to attend an 8pm show on Sunday night in the suburbs, so I think it’s really important to be punctual.

Crowd-wise, it was a very good turn-out, especially considering it was a Sunday, but there were noticeably fewer people there than there was at the February show.

The Parea (Gabriel Aeros & Eli Theseus) vs The Velocities (Jude London & Paris de Silva)

What better way to kick off any card than with the best two tag teams in Australia?

We get a really good, competitive match with The Parea dominating early and mouthing off at the crowd, before their hubris gets the best of them and The Velocities turn it around.

The match ends with Aeros hitting a huge double stomp for a great near fall. He gets frustrated and bumped to the outside where de Silva dives on him, as London delivers a hook kick to the back of Theseus’ head for the three count.

The biggest story of the match, as I saw it, was getting The Parea over as savages, though they ended up losing. This perhaps wasn’t surprising as, if NJPW are paying any attention to TAMASHII, The Velocities should be in this year’s World Junior Tag League.

It was a good, not great match – it was pretty standard opening match fare. But you can’t go wrong with these two teams, it was a great way to start the show.

Winners: The Velocities (Jude London & Paris de Silva)

Jake Taylor vs Richard Mulu

Both of these guys are products of the New Zealand Dojo, the only dojo students on this card. I remember commenting after February’s show that Jake Taylor looked like your stereotypical young boy who hadn’t “earned” his gear yet – this time he came out in a jacket and camo pants that he wrestled in, and I thought he looked great. He looked cool, he looked big, he looked fast. 

Richard Mulu is just a hoss who is going to get over with most indy crowds I think.

And get over is exactly what they did. Two dojo students just embarked on a fairly basic hoss fight, that was kind of sloppy in parts, but got over like gangbusters with the crowd. Even a dueling shoulder charge spot had the crowd popping.

A really competitive match ends when Mulu hits a powerslam to Taylor, who bails to the outside and takes a 9-count. He’s rewarded with stomps for his trouble. Taylor manages to cut Mulu off with a slightly rough-looking body slam of his own for two, but when he goes to repeat the move Mulu manages to catch him with a Samoan Drop and a World’s Strongest Splash for the three.

This was a really fun little match that combined both wrestlers’ strengths with a style that is generally pretty easy to get over in a quick match on a local show. I really like Mulu, I’d love to see him booked outside of TAMASHII; Taylor still has work to do in the ring, but he looks great.

Winner: Richard Mulu

Jarvis vs “The Golden Boy” Emman Azman

Comrades in Renegades of Wrestling’s “The Ambush”, and opponents as recently as last week in Melbourne City Wrestling, this was a great opportunity for two of Melbourne’s best younger wrestler’s to show out. This is Emman’s TAMASHII debut, while Jarvis debuted as a replacement on the February show and was really impressive.

I really like Jarvis, I think he’s a great smarmy heel, and I think his strike-based offence looks savage at times. He starts out being super cocky and arrogant in this match, working the character side more-so than the mat-based side, and early in the match a “F**k you Jarvis” chant starts – he turns around and looks at the crowd, and momentarily looks so hurt, so dejected. Those little smirks that give a character their motivation – it was such a tiny thing, but I loved it so much.

This was another match that was good, without it being great – but it wasn’t really supposed to be. As the card was structured, this was just supposed to be more entertaining house show fare introducing people to the characters.

As Jarvis is seemingly dominating down the stretch he hits a double stomp to Emman’s back for a two-count, and Jarvis loses his mind. He hits kind of a rolling cutter over the top rope but Emman recovers and plants Jarvis on his neck. Emman hits his top rope-assisted tornado DDT followed by a lariat for the three-count.

A really fun match, but I didn’t love the finish – I’m not sure a guy of Emman’s size can get away with a lariat as a finisher, and given there were some bigger names using lariats in bigger spots later on, they perhaps should’ve gone a different way with the finish here.

Winner: “The Golden Boy” Emman Azman

The Natural Classics (Stevie & Tome Filip) vs Rogue Army (Bad Luck Fale & Jack J Bonza)

The Filips are announced as “The Natural” Stevie and “The Classic” Tome, which I don’t remember hearing before (or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.) Rogue Army are out to the Bullet Club music, and there’s still no address of how Rogue Army fits within NJPW/Bullet Club canon (if at all.)

We get a pretty short match which The Natural Classics start out dominating until Rogue Army bails to the floor and takes the advantage. As they re-enter the ring Bonza eye-gouges Stevie and rolls him up – at two Bonza tries to put his foot on the rope, but it’s too far away and , as he reaches for it, Stevie’s shoulder rolls off the mat. The ref counts three anyway and we’re done.

Winners: Rogue Army

The short match was a prelude to the one storyline that exists in TAMASHII, which is the ongoing Rogue Army recruitment (although it’s noteworthy that Caveman Ugg, who was recruited in February, did not appear on this show.)

Bonza takes the mic and tells The Classics that they are pretty but dumb. He tells them that they almost got the best of them, but they’ve been losers for a long time now. Fale asks Tome & Stevie if this is what they want, and the Natural Classics are Too Sweet.

My feelings on this are dependent on what happens next. The Natural Classics are an immensely talented tag team who are great in the ring, great as a tandem, and have an incredible look. All of this, combined with “ho-hum” mic skills makes Japan a great potential market for them. So if joining Rogue Army leads to an opportunity in Japan to join Bullet Club canon – and maybe even enter World Tag League later this year – then it’s an amazing call to have them join.

If none of this is going to happen? If Rogue Army is just a local offshoot that will never be acknowledged in Japan? I might’ve preferred the Natural Classics to be wrestling against them, they have the size and the talent to get good performances out of Fale.

Edward Dusk vs “The Business” Slex

I was super excited for this, Slex is at the long-term upper echelon of Melbourne wrestling, and Dusk is on a tear over the last year that has seen him join that upper echelon. Slex is announced as representing TMDK, which is interesting from that perspective of how TAMASHII fits into NJPW canon – while Slex is obviously part of the Australian version of TMDK, he has no connection to the current Japanese version.

I really enjoyed this match because, while Dusk has this really strong heel character, he won’t always rely on it. In this case I think one of the major elements of the match is that Dusk absolutely hung with Melbourne’s best without having to resort to overt heel tactics.

The finishing stretch of this match was great, as both avoid each other’s finishers before Dusk escapes to the outside. Slex hits him with a tope suicida, throws him in the ring, and hits a Business Bomb for a looong two. 

As Dusk recovers they trade heavy shots before Dusk hits a German suplex into a rolling neckbreaker for two. Dusk then hits a kind-of rolling facebuster for another looong two, and he loses it.

Dusk goes for The Wicked End, but Slex reverses it into a poison rana and a boot to the back of the head for three – a somewhat anticlimactic finish to a really enjoyable match that continues to push Dusk. I think we’ll see this again in the not-to-distant future, and at some point these two will have an amazing match.

Winner: Slex

“The Rapscallion” Mick Moretti vs Horoki Goto

Moretti, arguably the top wrestler in Australia over the last 18 months, is announced as being from The Nations, which is interesting in the TAMASHII context – he wasn’t even announced as “Green Nation.”

Goto represents CHAOS, he was half of the IWGP World Heavyweight Tag Team Champions BISHAMON until Aussie Open beat them a little over a week ago, and next weekend NJPW is holding a 20th Anniversary event in his honour.

An obvious ‘pen down’ match, the story they told was Moretti realising from the very start that he needed to outsmart Goto, so he was pandering and annoying Goto as soon as the bell rang.

We got a really excellent match here, with Mick even looking like he might get the ring with a looong, deeep dragon sleeper that Goto only broke up when he made it to the ropes. Goto ends up winning with his GTR, but Mick looked a million bucks.

Winner: Hiroki Goto

“The Sniper of the Skies” Robbie Eagles vs “The Dragon” SHINGO Takagi

Even having seen it, it’s still mind-blowing to me that I got to see two of the very best wrestlers in the world go at it just down the road from my home.

We have Australian legend Robbie Eagles, now representing TMDK, who has just come off an unsuccessful IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title challenge against Hiromu Takahashi, taking on SHINGO, representing LIJ, who is KOPW Champion and is coming off a recent unsuccessful IWGP World Heavyweight Title challenge against Okada.

The story of the match is SHINGO’s ungodly strength, and Robbie’s initial failed attempts to match with him. As SHINGO continues to dominate strength battles, Robbie gets bursts of offence when he changes tactics and goes to his quickness and athleticism.

Robbie gets to play all the hits, including the tope where he lands in the crowd, a real nice Frankensteiner, a couple of 450 splashes – Robbie was the only one who really took on the low roof at the Croxton all night – and he managed to lock in a couple of Ron Miller specials, including a real deep one that looked like it could earn a tap out.

SHINGO also broke out the hits including the pop-up Death Valley Driver and a Made in Japan that looked horrific! Then a quick burst of lariats ends it in SHINGO’s favour.

This was amazing. I can’t really do this match any justice writing about it, and having only had the one opportunity to see it live – prioritise watching it on NJPW World when they upload it. It was an incredible, competitive match between two phenomenal wrestlers who evidently have amazing chemistry. This match needs to happen again for a New Japan Cup or G1 audience!

I’m not sure whether it was better than the Robbie Eagles vs Kyle Fletcher match from the February TAMASHII show, but I’ll be watching it again as soon as it’s available, and it’s gone to the top of the list of MOTY contenders to rewatch in December.

Winner: SHINGO Takagi

Final Thoughts: This was a really great show. Eagles vs SHINGO was incredible, and Moretti vs Goto was great. Slex vs Dusk and Parea vs Velocities both really delivered, and as I said, Taylor vs Mulu got over big time with the crowd.

We did get the storyline development with Rogue Army and the Natural Classics, and I’d love for that to lead to an opportunity for the Filip brothers, but I do feel that we need some more storyline to 1) link the shows together, and 2) make them feel a bit less like a house show. I do acknowledge though that this is only the third tour, and only the 7th event, so there’s plenty of time for that to happen.

In terms of the card that was delivered in Melbourne, I think this is almost the template – 2 good internationals (or two great ones in this case), 2-4 dojo trainees, then the best Australian talent you can book. I am a bit envious that the Adelaide and Sydney shows both featured women’s matches, which is a big deal in New Japan – I think there are so many talented women in Melbourne, and I think this show could’ve accommodated an 8th match.

Go out of your way to see a TAMASHII show, particularly a Melbourne one. Melbourne seems as though it’s going to have the best, most reliable audience, and the crowd has reacted strongly to incredible main and semi-main events on both shows so far. From a selfish perspective I’d love Melbourne to continue being the last show on the tour that gets the big match/es – even if that does mean venturing out to wrestling on a Sunday night.

How to watch: All three TAMASHII shows will become available on in the coming weeks – the previous tours have aired around 3-4 weeks after the event.

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