On this past July 4th, wrestling fanatics everywhere could wake up at the crack of 5:30AM Eastern time (or 4:30 for this Chicago-based writer) and watch the first ever live WWE broadcast from Tokyo, Japan. Now, professional wrestling (Not just WWE) has been a global phenomenon for decades. Japan has its own vast array of wrestling organizations, complete with their own unique style. On Independence day, Vince McMahon’s coporate entity invaded the East and brought its own special attraction with it: Brock Lesnar.
The beast in “Beast in the East,” Lesnar sells tickets wherever he’s billed. He’s a limited engagement wrestler, so when you see him, it’s an exciting moment. WWE was banking on that and the love of Finn Balor (formerly Fergal Devitt / Prince Devitt), who spent eight years making a name for himself across Japan to sell this live event. Let’s take a look at what we saw on the Network on Saturday. (Late Saturday, though. I did NOT wake up at 4:30AM to watch this.) To go along with the no-frills presentation (no annoying graphics, no constant in-match replay, no overwhelming pyro, no microphones), Beast in the East delivered some entertaining matches. Mostly.
Cesaro vs Diego
Lucha Dragons vs New Day (Big E & Xavier Woods)
These two matches did not appear on the two-hour live event, which is a common occurrence at most televised WWE shows. While it would have been fun to see the Lucha Dragons, I’m assuming we didn’t miss much. Dropping these two bouts off the Network presentation’s card means we started the show with a bang.
Chris Jericho vs Adrian Neville
Yep. Already worth the price. I had almost forgotten Jericho was billed for this show when his music broke through my speakers. Jericho’s been wrestling non-televised events on a sporadic schedule since he last appeared on a screen so he’s in-shape and can still carry a match. He played up the heel role against the underdog Neville, which just shows that Chris will come in and do whatever’s necessary to put someone over. But he won! He whipped out the WCW Lion Tamer for the win.
Nikki Bella vs Tamina vs Paige: Diva’s Championship
THIS is the kind of Divas match we need to be seeing weekly, not just for special occasions. You’d think on the 65 hours of programming WWE manages to put out in a seven day period, you could fit a 15 minute women’s match on RAW. Nikki Bella is reportedly working through a separated shoulder, which just adds to her legitimacy as a wrestler (a legitimacy that is hampered by her booty-popping entrance). Paige is always welcome, even if she’s over-booked. Tamina got some solid work in, but I still don’t buy that a forearm from a Bella puts her on her ass for a three-count. Regardless of the mediocre finish, this is right up there with one of the best main-roster matches I’ve seen in recent memory. (It’s still no NXT Women’s Division, though.)
Brock Lesnar vs Kofi Kingston
Despite its brevity and uh… nonsensical pairing, we at least got a Lesnar Stampede and this fun (still brief) gem of a post-match interview for the WWE Youtube channel.
BROCK USE WORDS.
As we discussed, Lesnar was heavily promoted for this show… this show in which he did about five minutes worth of work. He basically had an abbreviated version of his typical match (Bounce. Jump. Bounce. Suplex. Suplex. F5. Leave.) Kofi was an odd choice of sacrificial lamb, but he was probably picked due to his built-in stablemates that could be fed to Lesnar post-match without many storyline-related consequences. New Day isn’t about to feud with Brock Lesnar. (Ever.) As anticipated, this was a squash match. You don’t advertise the hell out of Brock just to make him lose. And without Paul Heyman at this side, Brock was on his own to sell this match. And sell he did! Unlike Kofi’s moves.
Kevin Owens vs Finn Balor: NXT Championship
Similar to Lesnar, you don’t advertise the hell out of a local hero just to make him lose. Finn Balor has been promoted 24/7 lately, with in-depth looks into his background on the three episodes of NXT prior to Saturday’s event. This was a helluva match, with several near finishes and outside-the-ring action. The only real match of consequence, the landscape in NXT has changed as a result of this finish, with Balor the champion and Owens likely on the move to the main WWE roster full-time. (Though are we not getting a proper NXT Owens-Samoa Joe showdown? Or are we saving that for a main run?) Whatever. FINN BALOR FTW.
John Cena & Dolph Ziggler vs Kane & King Bad News Crap Gimmick Barrrett
This main event is the issue with house shows. They usually end with some “crowd-pleaser” finish, sending everyone home with a happy vibe. Problem is, this wasn’t a typical house show. This main event isn’t even RAW-worthy. (Maybe Smackdown.) I mean, Kane and Barrett? That’s a combination of “Who Gives a Fuck” and “Are You Shitting Me?” As if there was any doubt about the ending of this match. It was a bit of a snoozer, with a slow pace and some typical spots. Meh.
It was two hours of mostly legitimate wrestling (no promos), but it was arranged terribly. The main event fell extremely short. Finn Balor winning the NXT Championship should have closed out this show, not the Cena-Ziggler bro-fest. But WWE house shows are different animals, so it’s not supposed to be anything like what you see on TV three times a week. If you just want some “classic look” wrestling, this is your bag. And at only two hours, it’s worth the watch.