Thanks Natural. Just night one for me also. Not much of a merch person myself but if I ever do the size thing is a good tip. Thoughts below. Have spoilered details relating to results and such.
I don't have kids but it's great watching wrestling with a hot crowd and an along-for-the-ride wife who flinches with every big bump (and hiptosses). Smaller venue meant good views all round. Would have had a far better view enjoying my £3 bottle of water from the bar area than in my cheap seat for the first Royal Quest. Was pleased that I could see the entrance vids this time and that I was positioned in line with a neutral corner, so no chance of my view being blocked by the Good Brothers on the apron later in the show. Wasn't pleased at the nearby body odour once sat. On the subject of corner pads, after one or two matches during an entrance the red and blue ones were switched around, suggesting that there is some significance regarding which goes where that I wasn't aware of.
Show opened with the roster coming out for a ten bell salute for Inoki. Okada and Tanahashi stood in the ring while the rest stood around the ring and up the entrance ramp. Or as it would have appeared if you were in one of the rear floor seats, Okada and Tanahashi in the ring with Hikuleo accompanying them on the side. For any members of the roster looking forward to escaping clapping crowds they were greeted with a clapgasm from a bunch of Brits fresh from being conscripted into a month of mandatory celebrity mourning. In a misinterpretation of the term Inoki-san, my OH asked if the two standing in the ring were Inoki's sons.
Gabriel Kidd vs. Dan Moloney
Dan had both the most WWE physique and the most WWE entrance of any on the show, but I can't really explain what the latter means. I could imagine it being a template for someone's CAW entrance in the Smackdown games.
Gideon Grey and The Great-O-Khan vs. Ricky Knight Jr. and Michael Oku
My OH likes her flips and thankfully the Rev Pro guests brought some to the show. Can't say I appreciate the history with Grey that was being referenced but needless to say GOK was over. I like GOK, but I'm there watching him do this badass Muta entrance before seeing him drop some Mongolian chops and shove his ass at people for the glory of the stable of wrestlers from commonwealth countries and I have no idea what the fuck he's aiming for. Presumably in five years time he's going to be a lot better at it but I cannot guess what that would look like. Turns out the OH noticed him while we were hanging around before the show and only twigged who he was when he comes out in full Okami enemy gear on account of his dinstinctive hair.
Kanji and Jazzy Gabert vs. Alex Windsor and Ava White
All new names for me. From first impressions I thought Gabert and Windsor were the ones set for the singles match tonight with the others as makeweights but turns out it will be Gabert v White. Felt bad at my initial surface judgement of White as resembling a 2006 Laurinaitis hire, but looking these names up she had only recently switched to wrestling from glamour modelling with Windsor being far more experienced so I'll forgive myself. Turns out that Kanji is actually a shortened version of her shoot surname, but it's still the worst wrestling name of all time.
Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, and Tetsuya Naito vs. DOUKI, El Desperado, and Zack Sabre Jr.
I know some hate seeing tag matches like this on the card but I was really looking forward to this one and it delivered as long as you set expectations accordingly. OH liked Time Bomb's entrance vid as we all do. Not much individual shine for anyone (we're in t-shirt Naito territory here) but naturally Zack gets his moments. Striking thing about this match for me is how much presence Zack has now that he has bulked up. Towered over everyone else in the match and carried himself to match. A flowsion-esque move (couldn't confirm from my angle) from Naito on one of the opposing juniors got the biggest audience flinch of the night.
A heckle of 'REF YOU'VE LOST CONTROL' towards the end of the match made me realise how kayfabe has eroded to the point where no one has the energy to be mad at the refs anymore.
Tomohiro Ishii and Kazuchika Okada vs. Zak Knight and Bad Dude Tito
Found out that Jonah couldn't make the card as I was on my way to the show. Was a bummer because in my mind he was compensation for Cobb not being there. Imagine there were many at the show who were unaware and received no explanation for Zak coming out behind Tito with Jonah's image behind him. Okada put in a big shift last time he was in the UK but this time we got a filler tag which was probably apropriate for the opposition. No tombstone or rainmaker. That said part of the appeal of these shows to me is seeing the crowd get the chance to show appreciation for these guys and Okada was loving the crowd. A lot of the match was Ishii as FIP and Okada working the apron like a man possessed. Everytime Bad Dude Tito's name became the focus of my thoughts I remembered Kanji with dismay.
Hikuleo, Jado, Hiroshi Tanahashi, and Tama Tonga vs. Gedo, Doc Gallows, Karl Anderson, and Jay White
Add Jay White to the list of people loving the crowd. I should have been more appreciative of the chance to see Jado and Gedo live, but all the time I was thinking about how unimpressive they would be to the OH. Today she commented that in this match she heard it announced that five minutes had passed 'but they hadn't done anything yet'. The only thing I can remember Gallows doing is his multiple elbow drop spot and making cracks from the apron. I don't hate the Good Brothers but that is ideal really. Still think it's strange for them to be flown over considering their placement in both nights, but knowing how much flights cost I don't see how most bookings make financial sense tbh. Tama had a great face response.
Will Ospreay vs. Shota Umino
Red Shoes was reffing this. Mentioned his relationship to Shota to the OH who drew my attention to how messed up that was. 2022 Will is not just bigger but expressive to an almost cartoonish degree. Not a big fan in isolation but helps him stand out. Odd that the three big non-Japanese in the company are among the chattiest. He was the OH's favourite from both Royal Quests including tonight so lucked out that he was in a singles here. The Oscutter is a much better move in person. Previously thought it a bit silly but here it's a giant dude flying through the air and a big superplex bang in the middle of the ring.
IWGP Tag Team Championship: FTR vs. Aussie Open
Confession: I'm not nuts on Aussie Open, and I also don't go quite as weak at the knees for FTR as many would on this board. But this match was mega, and this was the perfect stage for it. FTR managed to eclipse AO in popularity, with the crowd singing(!) their theme and Dax loving the chants. Cash ran the stairs next to me while I was distracted. Looked up and wondered what the crowd were reacting to and why Great O Khan was looking in my direction. Again, great work and an awesome match. Much more of an FTR fan now. They get all the little details and I like the way they prevent things looking too orchestrated. Crowd was on their feet towards the end, which is great for the wrestlers but less so if you're a non-tall spectator.
If New Japan's shows here don't grow old and continue to have the combination of hot crowds and great main events then they'll always appeal. I like the way so far with Okada/Suzuki and FTR/AO we've manage to get big matches for big titles that wouldn't necessarily get the same breathing space elsewhere. That way it feels like these shows are adding to the big picture rather than only existing because we want a slice of it.
Night 2 has wrapped up by this point. Going by intial reports: