While in Nashville for a conference weekend, I somehow scammed my wife into letting us stay late to attend the NJPW Nashville show in exchange for driving the 5 hours home afterward alone. The New Beginning USA tour was meant to be a step forward in a new and solid house show schedule for the US apart from the big shows like G1 Special. Nashville was an extra date added for who knows why but it just so happened we were in town that weekend. Certified fuckboy and rapist-president Donald Trump’s government shutdown over the useless border wall put a kibosh to New Japan’s plans to bring in Nagata and Ishii, but they assembled some of their finest gaijin to do the best show they could possibly put together on short notice.
Despite the lack of serious New Japan talent, the crowd was red hot and very open to being excited about the show. The L.A. dojo has heavily factored in to these US house shows, providing a role very similar to the Japanese Young Lions. Katsuyori Shibata came out to an extended standing ovation prior to the matches to apologize for the lack of Japanese talent but to assure that the dojo boys and the other wrestlers carried with them the spirit of New Japan. If the crowd was disappointed, they didn’t show it. They had long known what had occurred in booking and while the place wasn’t near sold out (specifically very few in the 2nd tier balcony), they were hyped as much as they possibly could be for the event.
It also turned out that the reports in the dirtsheets were correct and that this was the final appearance of Greg and Dustin in a New Japan ring. Maybe the weird gaijin-only show was an unfortunate unceremonious end to a promising and successful run (especially for Greg, who was a longtime tag star in the Junior ranks), but business is business. The boys were in Vegas a few days later to announce they had joined All Elite Wrestling, which was probably the least surprising thing ever. They always felt underused there despite Greg’s looming singles push, and Chuck should have been brought it much more on the English commentary. All-in-all the boys had to consider it a successful run. Who could have possibly imagined that Chuck Taylor, of all people, would headline a show for a major tournament (New Japan Cup 2018 night 4)?
As weird as the entire card was, it was honestly great. The matches were well done, wrestlers went out of their way to make it a cool show, and the dojo boys acquitted themselves marvelously. Alex Coughlin, in particular, looks like a potential superstar, but I want to make clear that everyone looked great. L.A. Dojo is not a vanity project, they are training guys who will truly be able to step into the mix at NJPW someday. If Shibata never enters a ring competitively again, and it’s likely he won’t, he’s doing work out there that actually may be vastly more important long term than competing in a ring or hanging around the Japanese Dojo.
Overall, there wasn’t a bad match on the bill. The 2nd and 3rd were fairly pedestrian but it was nice to get a live taste of the Great-O-Kharn (Tomoyuki Oka), who is developing a really cool martial arts/American heel brawler style that should immediately set him apart when he leaves excursion. The matches involving the Young Lions were standouts and the Cobb/King and CHAOS/Lifeblood eliminations were highly recommended if they ever put this show out on NJPW World. There was even an appearance by the legendary Tiger Hattori reffing the main event, which may have been the single biggest pop of the night.
It would be impossible not to think what might have been if this wasn’t basically an ROH show with the L.A. Dojo’s help, but they got by with a lot of help from their friends and delivered a really solid show with some nice appearances for a decent value over normal NJPW ticket prices. You can complain about the cards but if you buy tickets blind you’re kind of a mark anyway and I don’t really feel bad for you. I didn’t die on the solitary and foggy journey through rural Kentucky and Illinois, got a chance to say goodbye to the best boys and snap a photo with Deathmatch Dustin, eat some really shitty pizza in the rapidly gentrifying hellscape of Nashville, hold a four year old while she slept for three hours, and enjoy a fine night of almost-New Japan wrestling instead of being pissed off for having my weekend wasted.
Show Rating: B
Alex Coughlin v Karl Fredericks – 1+
Lance Archer & Shane Taylor v Colt Cabana & Jonathan Gresham – 1
Great-O-Kharn v Harlem Bravado – 1
Clark Connors v Marty Scurll – 1+
Jeff Cobb v Brody King – 2
CHAOS (Beretta, Chuckie T, & Rocky Romero) v Lifeblood (David Finlay, Juice Robinson, & Tracy Williams) – Elimination match – 2