July 04, 2015
Tokyo, Japan was the host for a WWE show on America’s day of independence. Go figure. Ryougoku Sumo Hall was the site of one of the more unique WWE presentations of late, and showcased some really tremendous matches. If you awoke in time to catch the show, you weren’t disappointed. If you slept in, I highly suggest you catch the replay on demand on the WWE Network.
A two-hour show with only Michael Cole and Byron Saxton on commentary absolutely helped this show, as well. Less is more, WWE.
Let’s check out what happened in the Land of the Rising Sun:
Chris Jericho vs. Neville
If WWE wanted to set the tone for this event right from the beginning, they may have picked the best possible opening match. Jericho, who is on a WWE contract that permits him to wrestle only live events and not appear on television unless he wants to, absolutely looked like he hasn’t lost a step in competing against the up and coming superstar, Neville.
The two had a fantastic match, with near falls and some great spots. As much as I thought Neville should have won the match, the ending sequence to me was fantastically put together and had Neville tap to Jericho’s Liontamer after a failed Red Arrow attempt. This was an amazing opener, and really set the tone for the rest of the card. Even in his losses, Neville comes out looking strong every week.
Your winner: Chris Jericho
Nikki Bella (c) vs. Paige vs. Tamina Snuka
I really enjoyed the story of this match – Nikki and Paige teaming up to keep Tamina at bay. For all intents and purposes, Tamina is the Brock Lesnar of the Divas division, and can honestly handle any of the Divas pretty easily.
It made absolute sense for rivals Nikki and Paige to make sure Tamina wouldn’t get a chance to win the match, but she would come back and take control. Tamina missed a Superfly splash attempt from the top rope and Nikki capitalized while Paige was on the outside and hit a forearm on Tamina for the win.
Your winner and STILL Divas Champion: Nikki Bella
Michael Cole said after the match that Nikki has been one of the greatest all-time Divas champions. Excuse me for a second…
Brock Lesnar vs. Kofi Kingston
Lesnar didn’t exactly need this squash, but he barely had to work and made a live event appearance for WWE, so everybody wins. Except us, maybe. While Kingston’s avoiding Lesnar and the commentator’s ability to make him seem like a legit contender to Lesnar made it seem like, “Hey, maybe they’re trying,” Lesnar finished off Kingston with a series of suplexes and then an F5.
Your winner: Brock Lesnar
After the match, Lesnar did his best heel impression by suplexing Kingston over and over before The New Day tried to help. Both Xavier Woods and Big E received an F5.
Kevin Owens (c) vs. Finn Balor
It’s kind of funny. Every time I have certain expectations for a match involving Owens, the end product always leaves me blown away.
This match was no different. In fact, Balor’s entrance is so fantastic; I can’t get enough of it.
If you’ve seen Balor on NXT week after week, you already know he’s capable of putting together quality top-notch matches. If you’ve seen either of the Owens-Cena matches, Owens has likely already shattered your expectations.
The streamers came flying from the crowd before the match started, a tradition in Japan for title matches or a match involving individuals whom the crowd respects. Balor, in his signature body paint, looks ready to take the next step of his illustrious career. Owens has already taken that step.
There were tons of near falls in this fast-paced match that it left my jaw wide open. These boys had done it again. Crisp, smooth maneuvers and great storytelling in the match itself absolutely justified my picking this match as the best match on the card on Thursday night during my and Philly.com’s Vaughn Johnson’s Beast in the East preview on Wildfire Radio.
Sure, Jericho and Neville in the opener was a great match, too.
Some critics will say there were too many near falls. Some will say it was unrealistic and painted an untrue story during the course of the match. And my response to that is this – some people will absolutely complain about anything. Sometimes it becomes inane. If anyone has anything other than great things to say about this match, you know they’re just looking for attention. There’s no chance this match was anything but great.
The ending sequence, while almost predictable in a sense, was a perfect way to have Balor defeat Owens and become the new NXT Champion. After a series of close and near falls, Balor hit Owens with his second Coup de Grace of the match and was able to pin the hottest act in WWE and NXT today.
Your winner and NEW NXT Champion: Finn Balor
The cameras showed Hideo Itami, who started his excellent wrestling career in Japan as KENTA. Originally the number one contender for the NXT Championship, Itami suffered a serious shoulder injury and required surgery, so he’ll be out of action for the next 6-8 months. I felt like WWE missed a good opportunity here to build towards the eventual Balor-Itami NXT Championship match when Itami is healthy. Even just a face-to-face would have been a great sight to see.
WWE Hall of Famer, Tatsumi Fujinami, came down to the ring during Balor’s celebration and raised his hand in victory and promptly left the ring while Owens and Balor had a staredown. Balor extended his hand in a sign of respect, but Owens refused and left the ring.
I’m kind of surprised this match didn’t headline the show after the fact, but I have no problems with match placement on this card. An NXT match should not headline an event under the WWE banner, regardless of how great the match was. Owens will now likely be on the main roster full-time, and should win the United States Championship from Cena at Battleground.
John Cena (c-US) and Dolph Ziggler vs. Kane and King Barrett
I was kind of surprised this match was the main event, but the fact that it features Cena, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to begin with. But WWE knows its business in Japan better than I do, so I’m sure having Cena in the main event was a no-brainer for them.
I mean, it wasn’t exactly a bad tag team match. It was a good match for television or a live event, but it was also predictable. Nothing of note really happened, despite being a good 20+ minute main event. Cena hit Barrett with the Attitude Adjustment, after a superkick by Ziggler, to get the win for his team.
Your winners: John Cena and Dolph Ziggler
Beast in the East was so unique in its presentation, and it didn’t really further any storylines, which I didn’t think it would. I’m happy they didn’t have any Owens-Cena interaction after Owens lost the NXT Championship so it could give Balor his moment in front of the crowd that made him famous. Honestly, this show made WWE proud.
Check back here next week for your Raw roundup and SmackDown rundown, including a WWE Battleground preview in a couple weeks. It’s an exciting time to be a wrestling fan, and if WWE starts putting on more shows like this, we’re in for a great summer.
Happy fourth of July, everybody!