EVIL vs. Hiromu Takahashi (NJPW Sengoku Lord in Nagoya 7/25/20)

Match Reviews

I didn’t hate it. That’s progress, I guess?

I made the effort to actually try to see this with fresh eyes. Easy as it is to write off EVIL as a total nonstarter as a top champion (which he is), perhaps there’s something to the idea that he might blossom and rise to the occasion (he didn’t). I very much tried not to hate this match from the word go.

And like I said, I didn’t hate it.

Was it any good? Not really.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t any good in it at all. I think Hiromu definitely tried and for the most part, succeeded in his role. He went for the attack on the jump, stayed aggressive, and certainly seemed far more motivated and invested than Naito. Hiromu actually seemed upset by everything that’s happened, unlike Naito who seems content to sleepwalk his way through the rest of his career now that he’s gotten his big moment. And hey, I also bit on Hiromu’s final comeback. Stringing together all his big finishers made me hope just for a moment and as someone who’s very much soured on New Japan, that’s quite a feat.

Then we get to EVIL.

The more I see of Main Event Heel EVIL, the more I cease to see him as an actual character with thoughts and motivations. Instead, he’s a curious puzzle instead. EVIL’s main event matches aren’t worth writing about because there’s any real human investment that I have for them but because they’re such interesting mental exercises. How does one go about wrestling a main event New Japan title match against someone whose entire presentation and offensive arsenal is so grossly confused?

I can’t get a handle on what EVIL wants to convey in the ring whatsoever. He’s not particularly sadistic with how he goes after Hiromu. His control segments are littered with cheap tactics like pulling down the turnbuckle pad, relying on Dick Togo at ringside, and his patented (and very stupid) baseball chairs spot. But for the life of me, I can’t really understand why he needs to cheat. Is the actual metatext of EVIL being an inferior wrestler simply text now? He’s still presented to be menacing and dangerous in spite of being entirely unable to dispatch a junior heavyweight with any kind of emphasis. It feels like all the bad faith complaints about Jay White were released prematurely when all those problems actually exist for EVIL.

EVIL seems, by the logic of the match, to be an ineffective wrestler. Those horrible assisted moves returned except this time, he does it with Dick Togo’s help in a damning display of EVIL being unable to get it done on his own. I just don’t get it. Is he supposed to be a pitiful coward like Jay? Or a cruel sadist like everything else in his aesthetic suggests? He fails at both miserably.

I don’t really think there’s anyone currently on the New Japan roster with the ability to solve this particular puzzle. Perhaps Ishii, Suzuki, or Tana within the confines of something like the G1. But as long as EVIL has those belts, I don’t see him getting any better.

Skip this one. It’s an exercise in futility in the end.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *