NJPW Castle Attack Report: Kota Ibushi vs. Tetsuya Naito for the IC title

Mark Buckeldee reviews NJPW's Castle Attack featuring Kota Ibushi defending the Intercontinental title against Tetsuya Naito.

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report on New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Castle Attack night 2. The event took place in Osaka Jo Hall, Osaka.

  1. Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay – A good opener and another chapter in the TenKoji vs Undisputed Empire feud
  2. Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada vs Chase Owens, Jay White & EVIL – An okay match but very by the numbers
  3. IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga (c) vs YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto – A Good heel vs face tag match, of the usual standard for G.O.D
  4. NEVER Openweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Great-O-Khan – Some good elements and an interesting side story with Yota Tsuji but it will not change people’s opinions on O-Khan.
  5. IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship decision match – El Phantasmo vs El Desperado vs BUSHI – A very good match with big highflying moves, a detestable heel, and some big moments
  6. IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi (c) vs Tetsuya Naito – A great match as Naito targets the legs to control the pace, slowly building to the usual Naito vs Ibushi high action finish. Less recklessness, more drama –

Satoshi Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Jeff Cobb & Will Ospreay

The Undisputed Empire continued their feud with TenKoji in this match. They attacked TenKoji at the start, but the veterans were strong before the Empire isolated Satoshi Kojima. Both Jeff Cobb and Will Ospreay used Mongolian Chops on Hiroyoshi Tenzan, which saw him break his word and unleash a flurry of Mongolian Chops. Kojima won the match by hitting Cobb with a Lariat.

Satoshi Kojima pinned Jeff Cobb (9:56) 

This was a good, fun opener. The Empire vs TenKoji feud has been fun but it now feels like somewhere to park Ospreay until his next storyline. The action was more character-based, although Cobb looked more comfortable in his role. It was a shame to see that the “loser must stop using the Mongolian Chop” stipulation only lasted 29 days. This feud needs a blow-off that makes the Empire look strong, as this result felt like a step backward for them.

Toru Yano, Tomohiro Ishii & Kazuchika Okada vs Chase Owens, Jay White & EVIL

This match combined 3 of yesterday’s singles matches. The Bullet Club attached their opponents early, breaking up into the pairs from the previous night. Both Gedo and Dick Togo teamed up on the outside and Bullet Club isolated Tomohiro Ishii before he made the hot tag to Yano. Well, the lukewarm tag. The match broke down with everyone getting involved and Kazuchika Okada made Chase Owens tap out to the Money Clip.

Kazuchika Okada submitted Chase Owens (8:35)

This was an okay undercard tag match but nothing of any consequences happened. EVIL and Okada were kept apart but honestly there was nothing that memorable about this match.

IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Tanga Loa & Tama Tonga (c) vs YOSHI-HASHI & Hirooki Goto

Hirooki Goto and YOSHI-HASHI attacked the Guerillas of Destiny to start things off. Jado’s presence allowed the GOD to gain control and isolate YOSHI-HASHI. The crowd got behind him and he made the hot tag to Hirooki Goto to clean house. That lasted a brief amount of time and he tagged YOSHI-HASHI back in. He soon got in trouble again and was worked over by the very vocal GOD before Goto helped. Some double teams from the CHAOS team led to some near falls.

The match broke down as everyone hit some of their big moves. YOSHI-HASHI and Goto managed to overcome their opponent’s teamwork with some of their own. They looked like they had the match won before Tanga Loa ran in with a title belt. That distraction let Jado hit Goto in the back with the kendo stick and Tama Tonga hit the Sun Stun for the win.

Tama Tonga pinned Hirooki Goto (15:46)

This was a decent heel vs face tag match. It was up to the GOD’s usual standard, a fine match but nothing special in action or structure. YOSHI-HASHI was a great sympathetic face in peril as the crowd was firmly behind him here, although that was more down to his crowd connection than his in-ring work. The CHAOS team is a fun undercard tag team, and this was a decent filler title defense but once again the GOD won a match through outside interference and cheating. Which is fine but always feels a little hollow in front of the Japanese clap crowds.

NEVER Openweight Championship: Hiroshi Tanahashi (c) vs Great-O-Khan

The NEVER Openweight Championship is a hard belt to win, but an even harder belt to retain. 44% of NEVER Openweight title reigns have ended on the 1st defense, including 9 of the last 14 title reigns. They teased their big moves from the very start before Hiroshi Tanahashi dropkicked Great-O-Khan in the knee. O-Khan would go to the outside and used young lion Yota Tsuji to gain an advantage. They teased that Tsuji might turn on his mentor Tanahashi to join the Undisputed Empire.

O-Khan controlled Tanahashi early on, but a flying forearm let Tanahashi get back into the match. Tanahashi targeted the legs and applied the Texas Cloverhold, but O-Khan reached the ropes. O-Khan regained control and hit a series of big power moves while selling his injured knee. Tanahashi blocked the Eliminator and a ref bump saw O-Khan ask Tsuji to give him a chair. Tsuji instead slid the chair to Tanahashi, who hit O-Khan with a drop toe hold onto said chair. After this, the action was back and forth, with both men countering or dodging their opponent’s big moves. After a spinning Iron Claw rack, O-Khan went for the Eliminator, but the wily Tanahashi reversed it into a crucifix pin to win the match.

Hiroshi Tanahashi pinned Great-O-Khan (18:44) 

O-Khan has been slowly growing, and there were more signs of that here. His leg selling was good, and he did a good job of working Tanahashi’s match style. That said, his work is still unfocused, and he is a little aimless with his ring style and character. The elements with Tsuji were fun and made the match different to their Tokyo Dome encounter. This was a good match but nothing special, especially by Tanahashi’s standards. It will not do much to change your opinion on O-Khan, who still has a way to go before everything clicks with me. Once again, the Undisputed Empire come out of a big show with no wins.

IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship decision match – El Phantasmo vs El Desperado vs BUSHI

This was even early on as everyone hit some of their big flashy moves. The highlight was a Spaceman Plancha by Phantasmo to his opponents on the outside. The Canadian then capitalized by tearing off Desperado’s mask and hitting him with a Gotch-style Piledriver on the ramp. There was a massive gasp as Phantasmo tore off the mask.

The match was down to BUSHI vs Phantasmo, with the crowd really getting behind BUSHI after Phantasmo’s antics. Phantasmo was in control, for the most part, tearing off BUSHI’s shirt to use it as a weapon. He used a mix of cocky antics and athleticism; the latter included a Lionsault. A swinging torture rack neckbreaker earned a 2 count for Phantasmo. The Frog Splash that followed was even closer.

Desperado returned to the ring, wearing a spare mask, and speared Phantasmo. A flurry of mounted punches was followed by a clothesline to the outside and a Tope con Hilo. BUSHI returned in opportunistic fashion to complete a Tower of Doom. A BUSHI codebreaker on Desperado saw Phantasmo throw BUSHI out and steal the cover. That was not enough, and neither was the Styles Clash that followed.

A One-Winged Angel by Phantasmo was counted by a Desperado cradle for a near fall. Desperado and Phantasmo exchanged some of their bigger moves and the crowd was firmly behind Desperado. Phantasmo hit the CR2 but BUSHI grabbed the referee’s arm to stop the 3 count. A BUSHI codebreaker on Phantasmo got a near fall but the MX was countered by a loaded boot Superkick. BUSHI fell to the outside before Phantasmo could make the cover. Desperado then hit 2 consecutive Pinche Loco’s to win the match and the crowd went wild. Well, as wild as you can get using claps.

El Desperado pinned El Phantasmo (23:12) 

Three-way matches are always a struggle for me and rarely as good as the sum of their parts. This match did a great job of trying to manage the flaws of this match type and using them to get Desperado moreover. This match was centered around Phantasmo as an opportunistic and detestable heel. It was designed to make Desperado feel like a bigger deal, and it achieved that.  

The match went a little too long and there was a little bit too much stuff after Desperado’s return for my liking. Desperado looked great with the spotlight firmly on him and they did a great job of getting the crowd behind him. BUSHI was not hurt and got to look good. Honestly, no one looked weak in this match. The Superkick spot was perfect and one of the best ways that I can remember a 3-way match writing out the 3rd wrestler for the finish.  

Your enjoyment will vary depending on your opinions on Phantasmo, but it was a good match that delivered some big moments and a very satisfying finish. It was a bit spotty at times, but the crowd engagement really helped this one. I look forward to what Desperado can do as Champion.  

IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Kota Ibushi (c) vs Tetsuya Naito

The match started with grappling on the mat. Naito targeted the leg and the action started to speed up before Naito dropkicked Ibushi in the knee. That dropkick caused Ibushi a lot of trouble and Naito took advantage. The leg was so severely damaged that Ibushi collapsed when Naito tried to whip him into the barrier on the outside.

Naito was relentless, attacking the knee with strikes before applying a modified Figure Four leg lock. Ibushi tried to fight back but Naito would repeatedly cut him off by attacking the knee. Naito used the knee work to slow down the pace and started to implement his usual strategy of softening up the neck for the Destino. The leg work was less about a path to victory and more about preventing Ibushi from using his athleticism to dictate the pace.

Ibushi blocked a knee crusher attempt and that was when the match entered the closing stretch with a series of counters and big moves. They traded elbows on the mat, but when it became a standing forearm exchange Naito lashed out at the knee to regain control. A knee lock by Naito forced Ibushi to crawl to the ropes.

Naito got more aggressive, trapping Ibushi in the corner and firing away with elbows to the neck. A Diamond Dust spiked Ibushi on his head. A top rope reverse rana was blocked by Ibushi, who escaped and hit a desperate kick before crumpling to the mat. He aggressively kicked Naito onto the apron to hit the Swan dive German suplex, which only earned a 2 count. That was followed by a Boma Ye and the sit-out Last Ride for a near fall. Ibushi’s Kami-Go-Ye was countered with the Valentina.

Naito tried to control Ibushi with elbows to the neck, but the Champion fired back with a hellacious Lariat. Naito managed to hit a running Destino for 2 ½ but Ibushi blocked another Destino, countering with a high kick and a running knee. Naito tried to roll up Ibushi but Ibushi managed to hit the Kami-Go-Ye. Naito kicked out but Ibushi hit a Kami-Go-Ye with the kneepad down, collapsing on top of Naito to win the match.

After the match Desperado challenged Ibushi to a match at New Japan’s 49th Anniversary show, which takes place on Thursday. It is a recent tradition that the show is headlined by the IWGP Jr Champion vs the IWGP Heavyweight Champion.  Desperado pointed out that his 1st Jr Heavyweight title match was a loss against Kota Ibushi in Osaka back in 2014. He then challenged Ibushi to put the IWGP Double Championship on the line. Ibushi accepted, saying that he will never run away, and he will always keep his promises. 

Kota Ibushi pinned Tetsuya Naito (27:50)

This match had a more dramatic, slower pace than most of their encounters. Naito’s leg work during the 1st half was designed to let him dictate the pace and establish a way of cutting off Ibushi’s momentum. While Ibushi’s leg work was great at times, he did abandon the selling towards the end when the match hit the finishing stretch.

The match was more subdued than many of the matches between these 2, with less crazy spots, but I really enjoyed the structure and the story here. Naito had learned that he cannot “out crazy” Ibushi, so he tried to control the pace and limit his opponent. While it was an unsuccessful strategy it produced a good match, although I probably preferred their Wrestle Kingdom match. 

The finishing stretch was maybe a little too one sided towards the end, but it did take a big flurry from Ibushi to keep Naito down. I really appreciate that Ibushi’s last 2 main events have both been under 30 minutes and I would like to see this trend continue. I really look forward to seeing what he can do with Ibushi.   

Show Summary 

Overall, this show was much better than Castle Attack Night 1 and both of the New Beginning in Hiroshima shows from earlier in the month. The tag title and NEVER Openweight title matches were not much better than good but the undercard as a whole was better than any show since New Beginning in Nagoya. This show was all about the last 2 matches and they both delivered.

I did not expect the 3-way IWGP Jr Title match to go in the direction that it did, but the focus on getting over Desperado really helped the match and made it stand out. The main event may disappoint some as it was not the frantic, high-risk affair that these 2 often have but I enjoyed the story and structure. All in all, this was a good show but the New Japan Cup (and the stories coming out of it) will give a better indication of New Japan’s direction.

About Mark Buckeldee 28 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.