NJPW Windy City Riot Report: Jon Moxley vs. Will Ospreay, Ishii vs. Suzuki
By: Bruce Lord
After the Lonestar Shootout show which featured a couple of nice matches but didn’t do much to steal the spotlight from Supercard Of Honor, surely NJPW have staked out a free and clear spot for their biggest American card since November’s Battle In The Valley? Oh, AEW is airing one of their quarterly Battle Of The Belts shows concurrent with Windy City Riot? Alas. At least, contrary to my initial understanding, they’re not running against themselves by airing a new episode of Strong in its traditional timeslot, though once again the recent taping of a dozen matches in LA which have yet to air puts some wrinkles into tonight’s show’s continuity with Strong.
Scheduling quirks aside, there’s a lot to like about Windy City Riot on paper. Following the logical booking of Strong since live touring resolved, we have the latest chapter of LA Dojo/Team Filthy hostilities, the blowoff to the FinJuice/TMDK feud (and possibly Juice Robinson’s last NJPW match ever), a traditional NJPW factional multi-man between Bullet Club and United Empire, a Yuji Nagata singles match, the continuation of the US of Jay open challenge, and pair of very exciting singles matches which could easily headline anyone’s dream G1 card. While Minoru Suzuki and Tomohiro Ishii need no impetus to fight one another and the winner scarcely matters so long as the match lives up to half of its potential, the Will Ospreay/Jon Moxley match is intriguing in terms of what it might mean for NJPW-AEW relations. While neither man is currently a champion in either company, both are incredibly well-protected. Factor in rumors about AEW talent not losing stateside being Tony Khan’s trade-off for their license to work for other companies, and you have an intriguing meta-narrative about the larger picture of the pro wrestling landscape playing out atop tonight’s card, in addition to the obvious clash of styles between Ospreay and Mox.
From the sold-out Odeum Expo Center in Villa Park, an hour west of Lake Michigan with Kevin Kelly and Matt Rehwoldt on the call, let’s see how Windy City Riot went down…
There’s no commentary audible as the show starts, with a venue camera focusing on the in-house screen which is running through the card.
Karl Fredericks, Yuya Uemura & Clark Connors vs. QT Marshall, Aaron Solo & Nick Comoroto
Marshall takes the mic before the LA Dojo trio comes out, sets this up as a match between the competing LA Dojo and Factory systems and plays for some cheap sports team heat before Fredericks’ theme cuts him off. Uemura and Solo start off as the feed is beset by some more audio hiccups. Uemura hits a nice arm drag before Fredericks tags in and demands Solo tag in QT, who of course immediately tags in the big man after playing tough. After softening Fredericks up a bit, Comoroto immediately tags in an opportunistic QT, but while Fredericks begins to get the advantage on the Factory sensei, we get the foreboding “No Signal From Venue” Fite screen.
Switching over to the NJPW PPV feed, the Factory still has Fredericks cut off from the LA Dojo corner. A missed moonsault from QT finally lets Connors tag in as the Fite feed resumes, now with Kelly’s commentary present, though Redwoldt is inaudible and there are a plethora of audio problems. Comoroto tries to hit a backdrop on all three of his opponents, but the weight of Fredericks leaping on causes him to buckle. Uemura and QT trade forearms before the former hits a nice bridging German. He dispatches Solo with a sidewalk slam and the former LA Young Lions wipe out the Factory disciples with tope suicidas, but back in the ring QT kicks Uemura with a low blow behind the ref’s back and delivers a cutter to Uemura for the win. QT Marshall defeats Yuya Uemura via pinfall.
The take-away: It was nice to see the likes of Solo get a bit more spotlight than he’s usually afforded on AEW, and Uemura continues to impress on his North American expedition, but frankly the technical problems with the broadcast made it impossible to get into this.
Fred Rosser, Chris Dickinson, Josh Alexander, Alex Coughlin & Ren Narita vs. Danny Limelight, Jorel Nelson, JR Kratos, Black Tiger & Royce Isaacs
The audio glitches seem to have been mostly sorted by the time Team Filthy makes their way to the ring. A ten-man brawl breaks out in the ring before the bell, but things start with Limelight and Rosser as the legal men. Alexander comes in and acts as a base for some quick flurries by Limelight before West Coast Wrecking Crew double team him. Coughlin comes in and grinds away at Nelson with a headlock and hits a big suplex before Narita gets his turn. He fires up against Isaacs with a flurry of strikes and an underhook suplex, then it’s Dickinson’s time. He hits lariats in the corner against both members of WCWC, but Team Filthy swarms the ring. Kratos slowly strikes away at Dickinson while Nelson sends some elementary school insults (“Four eyes!” “Big ears!”) toward the commentary team.Limelight’s trash talks Dickinson who fires up with a shoulder check and tags in Rosser. Rosser double clotheslines Limelight and Black Tiger, and hits a nice running Death Valley Driver against the latter for a two count. Alexander is in and treats WCWC to a double vertical suplex, but Kratos hits him with a powerbomb. Kratos and Coughlin come in, hearkening back to Coughlin’s graduating challenge match defeat of the big man. Coughlin gets the god of war up for a delayed brainbuster which justifiably brings the crowd to its feet. WCWC team up on Coughlin, but Narita and Dickinson quickly take them out of the ring. There’s a tornillo to the floor from Limelight, and we have a stuttering Fite feed returning just in time to obfuscate an over-the-top rope dive to the floor from Kratos. Back in the ring, Rosser gets an as of yet unnamed neck and arm submission on Black Tiger for the win. Fred Rosser defeats Black Tiger via submission.
The take-away: This was a fun enough, fast-moving multi-man which reminded me of plenty of similarly manic PWG matches. Apart from Coughlin and Kratos resuming their hostilities, there wasn’t much to take away from this but it was plenty entertaining.
As soon as the bell is rung, Tom Lawlor’s out to help his Team Filthy comrades beat down Rosser, but he’s cut off by Blue Justice’s theme. Nagata makes his way to the ring, knocking aside the members of Team Filthy and making the save for Rosser. Nagata takes the mic and challenges Lawlor to put the Strong Openweight Title on the line. Lawlor agrees, and we have a title match!
Tom Lawlor vs. Yuji Nagata – Strong Openweight Championship Match
This starts fast with loads of strikes from both men. Nagata fakes Lawlor high to dropkick out his legs, as the crowd chants “Yuji”. Lawlor gets a triangle in the ropes and pulls Nagata outside and keeps the pressure on his older opponent with more strikes. Lawlor brings Nagata back in to strut and hit some running knees and a side leg sweep to set up an armbar attempt. He’s able to apply it but Nagata makes it to the ropes. Lawlor switches over to working the leg, and as Kelly’s commentary points out, the story is that Lawlor isn’t working a focused enough game and that he’s taking Nagata lightly.
Nagata chops up Lawlor’s legs with kicks and goes for a figure four but Lawlor pulls him down for a rear-naked choke. Outside the ring, Nagata hits an exploder after Lawlor tries to lock in a dragon sleeper. Nagata catches his breath back in the ring, while Lawlor allows for the traditional New Japan nineteen count before coming back in. Nagata hits a nice butterfly and cinches in the Nagata Lock 2. Lawlor contorts to pick an ankle and hooks in a tight leglock. It takes a minute for Nagata to make it to the ropes, and after dodging a dropkick Nagata reapplies the Nagata Lock at the ten-minute mark, then a Justice Knee and a second rope exploder suplex for a two count. Lawlor tries for a choke but Nagata hits a side suplex. More forearms are exchanged as Lawlor uses a choke to set up a PK for a two count. A game Nagata fires up but Lawlor quickly has the choke reapplied. A knee to Nagata’s back from the clinch is enough for a pinfall. Tom Lawlor defeats Yuji Nagata via pinfall.
The take-away: After the scrambling speed of the preceding two matches (not to mention the scrambling feed), the clear and direct story of this one, not to mention its physical intensity, was a welcome change of pace. The story here was that Lawlor wasn’t taking Nagata seriously for the first half of the match, and it wasn’t until the combination of exploders and Nagata Locks that he smartened up and began to play to his MMA strengths, going for the choke-based win.
Karl Anderson, Doc Gallows, Chris Bey, El Phantasmo, Hikuleo & Scott Norton vs. Aaron Henare, Great O-Khan, Jeff Cobb, TJP, Kyle Fletcher & Mark Davis
O-Khan and Cobb get lots of cheers as the United Empire enters. The five standing members of Bullet Club welcome Scott Norton out, who looks like any number of biker dads from my hometown in his wraparound shades, cushioned sneakers, and leather vest. On the mic, Machine Gun introduces Norton as an official Bullet Club member. Does anyone want to take action on whether he’ll work more matches in the group than Jarrett did?
Bey and TJP start super fast with lots of crossovers, takeovers, and evasion. Henare and Hikuleo are next. Hanare escapes a chokeslam but eats a pop-up punch. Hikuleo tags Norton to a big cheer. He shoves Hanare back and demands Cobb come in, much to the delight of the crowd and all the wrestlers. Cobb hits a vertical suplex, but the sixty-year-old replies with one of his own. “Damn straight I do!” Norton says to the crowd after the expected “You still got it” chant. There’s a test of strength, TJP is tagged in and Norton hits a -very- weak clothesline Cobb has to sell like a shotgun blast. “Fuck!” Norton exclaims, tagging out.
El-P does the prolonged back rake spot to TJP, as do Anderson and Gallows. Gallows holds TJP as Hikuleo jumps from the top rope…in order to do another back rake. Norton headbutts TJP and gets him in the powerbomb position…only to do a back rake of his own. TJP’s back gets a reprieve as he finally tags out to Davis, who’s able to dispatch Bey and El-P simultaneously. Fletcher’s tagged in for an assisted cutter on Bey. The Good Brothers and Cobb/O-Khan square off, teasing a future title match. O-Khan hits Mongolian Chops. El-P breaks up a Corialus from Aussie Open, but they manage to hit Bey with their finisher on a second attempt. Mark Davis defeats Chris Bey via pinfall.
The take-away: This was a messy shmozz at times, but the Norton nostalgia spots were fun, and more importantly the face-off between O-Khan & Cobb and the Good Brothers felt exciting and important.
O-Khan does the United Empire roll call on the mic after the match. There are more audio hiccups as control truck chatter can be heard during the video package for the Street Fight. The audio has been careening between inaudible and speaker blowing all night, likely to my neighbors’ chagrin.
Six-Man Chicago Street Fight: Juice Robinson, David Finlay & Brody King vs. Jonah, Shane Haste & Bad Dude Tito
TMDK bring chairs with them to the ring, with Bad Dude Tito rocking the classic jeans, kneepads, and white tee street fight uniform. Finlay has the family shillelagh. As expected, this starts with chairs and general walk n’ brawl around the ring, and just as the cameras are having trouble keeping up with the action, so is the feed, which dies for the third (by my count) time thus far. Sigh.
Back on the Japanese feed, the action’s deep into the crowds and it’s frankly difficult to get a clear eye on anything due to the lighting and sheer distance. The English feed comes back just in time to see Juice hit TMDK with a blast from a fire extinguisher. Well, all the chemical vapor in the darkened room will surely help the visibility as the feed stutters some more! There are some shots to TMDK with garbage cans…I think. “We’re just guessing here, folks,” Kelly says. You and me both, brother.
Things make their way into the ring around the eight-minute mark as a “we want tables chant” starts up. Jonah’s triple-teamed in the corner with running clotheslines and cannonballs from FinJuice and King. A chair shot drives another chair into the big man’s crotch. Jonah’s set up on four chairs but Tito’s in for the save before Robinson can dive on him from the top rope. Back suplexes to and from Haste on the apron, and Juice brings a ladder into the ring, which is smashed into Tito’s face, but Tito pays Juice back with an exploder into the ladder. King hits a lariat and then smashes Tito into the chairs which were set up for Jonah with a running DVD. King tosses a door into the ring but Jonah’s back in and sets him up in a chair for a running cannonball. Finlay’s laid out with a cookie sheet, and Tito and Haste hit weaponized topes, leaving Jonah in the ring in control of Finlay. He bites at Finlay’s head to try to get some blood going. Haste wraps a bull rope around Juice’s neck. Finlay is getting pilloried in the ring, Tito hits a blue thunder bomb for a two count. He’s held in place for some kendo shots to the back from Jonah before Brody and Juice make the save with kendo shots of their own.
Another dozen or so chairs are tossed in as this match hits the twenty-two-minute mark as I have to remind myself that, yes, Yuji Nagata had a title match on this show about an hour ago. There are superplexes on Haste and Tito onto the chairs, and Finlay escapes an attempt at a third by Jonah to hit the big man with a sunset bomb onto the pile of chairs. Juice hits Tito with the left hand of God and spears him through the door set up by King likely ten minutes ago. A ladder’s been set up between the ring and the barricade, and Jonah sets King on it, takes to the top rope, and hits a splash to the outside, smashing King through the ladder.
In the ring, Finlay smashes Haste through a propped-up chair in the middle of the ring, but Jonah has a sledgehammer (sure, why not) and hits Finlay with it HHH style. Jonah goes to smash Finlay’s shillelagh, but Juice hits Pulp Friction. Finlay hits the Acid Drop, and tools Jonah up with the shillelagh after a nearly half-hour of chaos for the win. David Finlay defeats Jonah via pinfall.
The take-away: Kevin Kelly was invoking the Wrestlemania 13 Chicago Street Fight before this one even got started. This might have been just as chaotic as that one, but the problems actually visually tracking the match this production suffered from in the beginning, as well as how spent the fighters were in the final stretches of this due to its length, kept it from having that match’s sense of hyperkinetic fun.
After a cleaning break, Jay White comes to the ring. The lights drop, and we see a video of Moxley speaking to an unseen figure. “Go get ’em, Shooter!”, Mox says, as his former personal Young Boy stands up and heads to the ring.
Jay White vs. Shota Umino
Umino charges the ring before even taking his jacket off, pressing an early advantage with strikes and a slingshot DDT. White begins to find some openings and fight back just in time for, you guessed it, the feed to die AGAIN. After a minute or so, we return to see White chopping Umino to the outside and sending him into multiple barricades in a rapid fashion. Back inside, White hits a snug lariat and works a single crab. White is working very fast and crisp here, not so much working his laconic, reactive style given his clear advantage in experience over Umino. White works a headlock and a neckbreaker for multiple pinfall attempts.
Umino creates some space by reversing an Irish whip into a dropkick. A bridging fisherman’s suplex gets a two, but White hits a DDT in the ropes to regain the advantage at the ten-minute mark. A Blade Buster gets a two count, and White knocks the wind out of Umino with a heavy knee to the gut. “You’re a fucking embarrassment!” White barks at Umino. “Wake the fuck up!” White invites some forearms from Umino, but there’s little behind them as the young wrestler keeps selling the gut. White hits a uranage for two as the feed drops to about three frames per second. Umino rallies with a pump-handle powerslam for two, but White’s quickly back in the mix. He goes for a Blade Runner but Umino answers with a German for a two count. A running neckbreaker from Umino gets another two-count, but as Umino’s setting Jay up for a follow-up the Blade Runner is hit out of nowhere. Jay White defeats Shota Umino via pinfall.
The take-away: There have been mixed reviews of Umino’s recent work in RevPro. Here, he was working a plucky, almost cocky style which seemed to be trying to take as much in spirit from Tanahashi as his sartorial choices do. This was a decent if not outstanding showcase for him which put his offense in a solid enough light.
After the match, White takes the mic and teases speaking, only to drop it without a word, just as he did at Lonestar Shootout.
Minoru Suzuki vs. Tomohiro Ishii
The crowd gives a whole-hearted “Kaze Ni Nare” as Suzuki enters, and are immediately rewarded with what we all want – fast exchange of forearms between NJPW’s two hard men. Kicks from each man are ducked, as a “Both these guys” chant gets going. There are some open choke attempts from both men, almost daring poor Jeremy Marcus to interfere. Suzuki snags an armbar in the ropes and begins to take Ishii on a tour of the barricades. Both men grab chairs and parry each others’ shots.
Back inside, Suzuki has the advantage of having worked over Ishii’s arm which now doesn’t have much mustard on it. Ishii hits a powerslam and tries to light Suzuki up again with his injured arm. A snapmare from Suzuki sets up a PK for a lackadaisical two count, as Suzuki begins to shine Ishii on by rubbing his boot into his face. There’s another forearm exchange, leading to Ishii’s “walk into the shots” spot and Ishii dropping Suzuki with one blow. Suzuki takes some boots to the face – “What’s good for the goose is good for the Murder Grandpa”, Rehwoldt notes.
More measured forearms are dished out which have some audible, sickening impact on them. Ishii slumps to the ground after a particularly heavy combo and is dead weight as Suzuki tries to pick his opponent up. Ishii grits through a second PK. There’s a fast exchange of lariats and kicks, before a slap exchange drops both men, bringing the crowd to its feet. More forearms are traded before Suzuki fires up with a slap combination which drops Ishii again. Suzuki hits a series of headbutts, the last of which is audibly a shoot…and the feed dies again. The Fite chat room is exchanging tips on requesting refunds.
When the feed comes back, Suzuki’s going for the Gotch but is overturned by Ishii at the fifteen-minute mark. Ishii hits some big lariats and seems to be setting up for a sliding lariat before the feed dies again. Back a minute later, we have a fast series of lariats, brainbuster, and sleeper counters. Ishii fights out of another Gotch attempt and hits the brainbuster for the win. Tomohiro Ishii defeats Minoru Suzuki via pinfall.
The take-away: This match was exactly as promised: nothing more, nothing less. American crowds love both men and their cheers underscored the expected pace and rhythm of a characteristically brutal contest between both veterans – it’s just a damned shame that streaming issues disrupted the slowly building pace which led to this match’s finale.
After the match, Suzuki smashes a few ring attendants to the ground as he careens to the backstage area. As Ishii catches his breath, some familiar organ music and boom-bap beats play as Eddie Kingston makes his way to the ring. He kisses his hand and places it on the Lion Mark before taking the mic. “Ishii: amazing match! You are an amazing fighter. You are the Strong Style Pitbull. Trained by Tenryu and Ricky Choshu, two men I idolize. You are Strong Style; I live, breathe, and walk the King’s Road. I want you, May 14th in Washington.” Sounds good to me.
Jon Moxley vs. Will Ospreay
The full United Empire, now clad in formal wear, accompany Ospreay to the ring. Ospreay is ready for Mox’s through the audience entrance and is casting about looking for the Death Rider before he begins to slink his way through the thronged crowd. The two meet in the crowd and smash each other with forearms and punches before Mox lariats Ospreay over the barricade and tosses him in the ring, allowing the match to formally start.
Mox targets Ospreay’s back with knees and kicks, but a loud chop from Ospreay takes Mox outside, allowing Ospreay to hit a Phoenix Splash to the outside from the top rope! Mox sends Ospreay over the timekeeper’s table. The members of UE jaw at him a bit, giving Ospreay the time to hurl a chair square into Mox’s forehead, and we have a solid cut on Mox’s forehead already. Back in the ring, Ospreay works the wound and smears some of Mox’s vitae on his own forehead and chest. Blinded by blood, Mox can’t connect with forearms, and Ospreay capitalizes by biting at Mox’s forehead.
Ospreay hits a big spinning backbreaker for two, and Mox counters an Oscutter attempt with a release German. He dropkicks Ospreay to the outside and we’ve already had a hell of a lot of action at the five-minute mark. Ospreay returns to the ring with a forehead cut of his own, and Mox gives as good as he got by biting at Ospreay’s head and sending the Brit flying with a release suplex. A forearm sequence is broken up by the first stream interruption of the main event. Ugh.
When we come back, Moxley is countering a pip-pip-cheerio springboard with a big forearm, knocking Ospreay out of the air. Mox goes for a Death Rider attempt on the apron, but Ospreay quickly dashes up the ring post to hit an Oscutter from the top rope on the apron! Mox is tossed onto the commentary desk, and Ospreay climbs to the top to hit a massive flying elbow drop across the barricade, smashing Moxley through the table! Ospreay makes his way to the ring, and a bloodied Mox makes it back in at the ten-count. A springboard dropkick sets up a shooting star press for two. Ospreay goes for another Oscutter but Mox snatches him out of the air and hits the non-elevated Death Rider. Ospreay immediately pops up with a Hidden Blade and both men are prone at the fifteen-minute mark.
Struggling to their knees and feet, both men punch the other’s bloodied foreheads and dish out exchanges of lariats which drop them both back to the ground. Mox hits a piledriver, Ospreay counters a lariat into a carry-over powerbomb for two. Mox ducks a Hidden Blade and hammers at Ospreay’s shoulders from behind with elbows. Ospreay ducks out of a suplex attempt and hits another Oscutter for two. Ospreay pounds a grounded Mox with forearms in a replay of his stoppage with Sanada. Mox counters another Hidden Blade attempt with a big lariat and hits a curb stomp for two as the crowd gets up for both bloodied competitors. Ospreay flips out of a Death Rider and hits a Spanish Fly for two and connects with the Hidden Blade for ANOTHER two count. Mox escapes a Stormbreaker attempt, hits one Death Rider but retains his hold, and hits a MASSIVE elevated Death Rider. Ospreay seems to kick out exactly as the three-count is called and referee Jeremy Marcus calls for the bell. Jon Moxley defeats Will Ospreay via pinfall.
Mox immediately locks a choke on Ospreay who taps even as Mox’s music is being played. Amidst all of the confusion, Mox hits a Death Rider on Marcus. As Kelly is communicating on commentary, this carries forward the story of Ospreay’s disputed loss to Zack Sabre Jr in the New Japan Cup.
The take-away: If the preceding match was a classic pairing of harmonized styles, this was the old “two great tastes that taste great together” cliche come to life. Ospreay amplified his harder-hitting side to meet Moxley’s brawling, and Mox worked some fantastically smooth counters and swift sequences in to suit the pace you’d expect from a main event Ospreay match. The second consecutive singles loss suffered by Ospreay coming under suspicious circumstances dealt ably with the aforementioned political issues and like the ZSJ match the precision timing that this sort of a finish calls for was delivered perfectly by both wrestlers and the referee. An excellent match that sets the bar high for the next time these two face off.After the United Empire carries Ospreay away and the crowd has to battle “That was two”, “That was three” matches, Mox grabs the mic and says that contrary to his initial suspicions about Ospreay, “that motherfucker’s got some heart”, and that he’s willing to give Ospreay a rematch. Ospreay has guts, which is more than he can say about some people in New Japan, including Hiroshi Tanahashi. Mox says Tana’s been ducking him for three years, but he’s run out of patience and respect for the Ace. He challenges Tana to a match in Washington DC, saying they can shake hands and sign the contract or Mox can drag Tana to DC by his “stupid fucking ponytail”. As if that wasn’t enough, Mox finishes by proclaiming that “there is a new ace in New Japan Pro Wrestling, motherfucker.”
After an undercard which at times felt a bit cluttered in terms of the sheer number of competitors involved, this show was capped off by two excellent final matches which lived up to, and in the main event’s case exceeded the expectations which come with competitors of those four wrestlers’ caliber. Unfortunately, at least for North American viewers, the technical glitches suffered by Fite are likely to be the first things on paying customers’ minds. That’s a damned shame, as New Japan is finally beginning to gain some needed momentum as travel to Japan opens up and some of the Pacific crossovers the company needs are now within grasp. Two major matches have now been set up for its Captial Collision show in a month’s time; let’s just hope the streaming infrastructure can match the in-ring product on that show.