July 4th. You know, backyard barbeques, fireworks, “welcome to earf”, the usual stuff. But what about waking up at 5:30 AM to watch some wrestling live from Japan? The WWE network made it happen this year with their Beast from the East special, and it was pretty cool. True, I didn’t set my alarm clock to watch the show live but when my lazy ass finally rolled out of bed I was happy to have it available for streaming. Essentially a Japanese house show (that’s a show that wouldn’t normally be broadcast on TV, like the one here in Philly we’ll be attending on Friday) that WWE decided to broadcast live worldwide for whatever reason, Beast was a thoroughly entertaining two hours, proving that WWE can still put on a great show, even when many of its top talents (Rollins, Wyatt, Ambrose, Ryback, Reigns…) were left stateside.
The show opened with an absolute classic match, WWE’s high flying future taking on its “cruiserweight” past in Neville vs. Chris Jericho in an increasingly rare in-ring appearance. Y2J can still go, keeping up with “the man that gravity forgot” admirably, but finally finishing him with a Lion Tamer for the tap-out win. A great match overall but curious that Jericho wouldn’t put Neville over. If Cena can job to the NXT guys then why can’t Y2J? Curious…
A perfectly serviceable Diva’s 3 way between Nikki Bella, Paige and Tamina and a highly entertaining tag main event between Cena, Ziggler, Barett and Kane rounded out the show, and while those matches were nothing to sneeze at, this show was really about two things: The Demon, and of course The Beast.
As indicated by the name of the show itself, Brock Lesnar made his in-ring return in Tokyo, his first match since his post-Wrestlemania “suspension”, against New Day’s Kofi Kingston. Yes, that Kofi Kingston, who probably weighs about as much as one of Brock’s legs. Needless to say it was a squash all the way, with Kofi able to mount some modicum of early offense before Lesnar began to no-sell multiple drop kicks from the New Day member and finally take him to Suplex City, followed by two F-5s. When Kingston’s partners Big E Langston and Xavier Woods tried to come to Kofi’s aid, it went about as expected, Brock effortlessly picking up the 300+ pound Langston like he was a little kid and dropping him back down hard onto the mat with an F-5 of his own. Again, a squash through and through, but it’s always a treat to see the reclusive Lesnar in action, and a nice taste of what’s in store for Seth Rollins at the upcoming Battleground PPV in a few weeks.
And then it was finally time for the match of the night, Kevin Owens’ NXT title defense against Finn Balor, New Japan’s Prince Devitt in all his “Carnage-and-Predator-had-a-baby” Demonic glory. The traditional Japanese fanfare accompanying the title match, giant bouquets handed to the participants, streamers engulfing the ring, were hilarious to see through Owens’ current super-asshole-heel eyes. The ‘fight” itself was a clinic from both men, KO hitting his rolling senton and John Cena aping 5 knuckle shuffle and an attempted AA, Balor nailing his NJPW finisher Bloody Sunday and also his current Coup de Grace double foot stomp off the top rope twice for the win. The Japanese crowd absolutely devoured it, with more streamers flowing in and Kevin Owens storming out of the ring after refusing a handshake from Finn, the master heel on his way to bigger and better things in the main roster.
Similarly to last month’s Elimination Chamber special, this was presumably originally going just to be an untelevised house show, and if not for the existence of the WWE Network we might not be privy to such wrestling action on the day Jeff Goldblum killed the aliens with a computer virus, or, you know, whatever reason it is that July 4th is a holiday. I was skeptical of the WWE Network at first (mostly because I was trying to run it on an old garbage super slim PS3, it runs much smoother on Xbox One), but as long as they keep privileging subscribers with unique and special content like this, I’ll keep giving them my $9.99 a month with no complaints.