NJPW Wrestle Kingdom VII: Merry Christmas. Have Some Tanahashi vs. Okada

Wrestle Kingdom 7
Date: January 4, 2013
Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 29,000

Yes I’m doing my puro for the year now to get it over with. This is the biggest show of the year for NJPW, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about for the last year or two. The main event here is IWGP World Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi defending against Kazuchika Okada, which I’ve been told is the mother of all awesome feuds. Given my experience with puro, I have a feeling I’ll find it overrated. Let’s get to it.

Before I get into this, keep in mind that I’ve seen maybe five NJPW shows in my life and I don’t follow it. I likely won’t know any stories save for what quick searches give me and I’ll probably get some names wrong. Please bear with me.

Captain New Japan/Tama Tonga/Wataru Inoue vs. Jado/Tomohiro Ishii/Yoshi-Hashi

Dark match and I’ve only heard of Inoue, Jado and Tonga, who is Meng’s son and one half of the CMLL (Mexico) tag team champions here. The second team is part of Chaos, a big heel stable which doesn’t seem to be evil all the time. They also have a huge roster and this is just part of the team. I believe we’re starting with Jado chopping Inoue into the corner and even doing his own WOO’s. Those really are universal. Inoue comes back with some shoulders to the ribs and puts Jado in the Tree of Woe for a running dropkick to the face.

The other heels come in to jump Inoue and it’s off to Hashi for some kicks to Wataru’s chest. Off to Ishii who no sells forearms to the head and kicks Inoue in the ribs. A suplex gets two on Wataru before Jado and Hashi double team Inoue in the corner. Inoue comes back with even more forearms and tags in Tonga who comes in with a cross body to Hashi and Jado.

Everything breaks down with Tonga hitting Jimmy Snuka’s reverse leapfrog into a chop to the chest. It makes sense as Tonga has the long hair and leopard print trunks just like Snuka. It looks like we’ve got a tribute character here. A dropkick puts Jado and Ishii down but Jado comes back with a terrible looking rolling neckbreaker (Cross Rhodes if Tonga was facting up).

The heels all hit running clotheslines in the corner followed by a neckbreaker from Hashi for two. Everything breaks down again and Captain New Japan cleans house, leaving Jado alone 3-1. Tonga hits a double arm DDT with a body scissors (Drew McInty’re Future Shock) for the pin.

Rating: D+. Ok to be fair it’s a dark match but this was just six guys doing moves to each other for about six minutes. Captain New Japan never came in legally and was really more of a distraction for his superhero costume on the apron. Nothing to see here for the most part but this felt like it was supposed to be more fun than serious.

We go to a wide shot of the arena to fill in some time.

Bushi/Kushida/Ryusuke Taguchi vs. Jushin Thunder Liger/Tiger Mask IV/Hiromu Takahashi

Also a dark match. I know Liger and Tiger Mask and the rest are all new, though Bushi is in a mask. Liger’s team appears to be faces here but I think everyone here is a crowd favorite. Takahashi starts with I think Kushida, who rides Takahashi in a wrestling sequence and cranks on the arm. Takahashi grabs Kushida’s arm before they head back to the mat for more technical stuff and a standoff.

Off to Bushi vs. Liger with Jushin being sent into the corner and headscissored out to the floor. Bushi teases a dive but rolls to the mat instead before ripping off his mask to reveal another one underneath. A fan gets a souvenir so it’s pretty safe to say everyone here is a face. Tiger Mask comes in to face Taguchi, whose trunks say Funky Weapon. Tiger gets armdragged down a few times but comes back with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker and a tag off to Liger.

A release Liger Bomb sets up the Surfboard (signature move) before it’s back to Takahashi. Some forearms get two on Taguchi and the tag brings in Tiger for a spin kick to the chest and a Boston crab. I’m sorry for all the play by play here but I have no idea if there’s a story here, nor who most of these people are so there isn’t much else I can talk about. Liger comes back in but gets caught by a DDT, allowing Taguchi to bring Bushi back in.

Bushi gets triple teamed and a Tiger Bomb lays him out. Takahashi gets two off a fisherman’s suplex as everything breaks down. Kushida takes over on Takahashi with a springboard chop and a standing moonsault to give Bushi another near fall. Taguchi and Kushida hit stereo dives to take out Liger and Tiger Mask, allowing Bushi to hit a 450 on Takahashi for the pin.

Rating: C. I liked it better than the first match but it still wasn’t all that great. I’d assume either Liger or Tiger Mask is the biggest star here but the match was focused on everyone else out there. Maybe this was a passing of the torch moment or something, but you would think that would be on the main show instead of in a dark match.

Everyone shakes hands post match.

Back to the wide shot as the PPV should be beginning next. This one lasts a bit longer, though to be fair this wasn’t on the PPV broadcast so I can’t complain. A countdown clock says we’re under five minutes before showtime. We go to some guys in tuxedos and a short young woman in a dress who is very excited about something. I’m pretty sure this is just saying it’s almost time to get started and a final push.

The countdown ends and we go to an opening video which runs down the card and thankfully shows a graphic for every match with names attached. That’s REALLY helpful for first time viewers and a good way to get some basic information. They also hype the matches but I have no idea what’s being said. This video eats up nearly ten minutes, meaning we’ve gone nearly twenty minutes since the ending of the second dark match.

We go right to the first match.

Akebono/Manabu Nakanishi/MVP/Strong Man vs. Bob Sapp/Takashi Iizuka/Toru Yano/Yujiro Takahashi

The second team is again part of Chaos. Sapp gets his own entrance and has a pretty swank white feather robe. Before the match, Takahashi cuts what sounds like a maniacal heel promo. Manabu makes an announcer do the entrance as the good guys come down the aisle but Chaos charges up the ramp for a brawl. The fight heads to the ring with Strong Man slamming two Chaos members down to set up Ballin from MVP.

Sapp comes in and runs both guys into the corner, only to bring in former Sumo wrestler Akebono (he was at Wrestlemania 21 against Big Show) for the showdown. They collide a few times until Sapp is knocked into the corner for splashes from all four of his opponents. The good guys all start stomping their feet to fire up Manabu who racks Sapp in a nice power display. Yano makes the save with a chair to the back and Iizuka gets in one of his own.

After a quick trip to the floor it’s off to Takahashi for a chop off and a rake to Manabu’s eyes. Yano and Iizuka both wrap chairs around Manabu’s neck and pull for a bit before Iizuka stays in for some right hands. Manabu comes back with a clothesline but the other three members of Chaos break up the tag attempt. Everything breaks down and Chaos is sent into the same corner for splashes from all four good guys (popular move). Manabu racks Iizuka for the submission.

Rating: C. This seemed like a big deal and the ending was fine. Manabu racking people seemed to be a big deal so I’m assuming he’s a popular guy. This was treated as an important win so I’m guessing the winners are at odds with Chaos. I still don’t get the love people have for MVP. The guy is fine but I don’t see the star power people insist is there.

The announcer comes in to celebrate with the winners and clothesline Iizuka to the floor. I’ guessing they’re feuding and this was the announcer’s vengeance?

Never Openweight Title: Masato Tanaka vs. Shelton Benjamin

The Never (it’s an acronym and usually capitalized which annoys me as always) Title is part of an offshoot of NJPW for newcomers and outsiders with Tanaka defending. You might remember him from his wars with Mike Awesome back in ECW. I’m sure you know Shelton. Tanaka comes to the ring with a kendo stick which I guess is a signature prop. Feeling out process to start until Shelton speeds things up with a northern lights suplex for two. A release German suplex sends Tanaka bailing to the floor and things slow down.

Shelton will have none of this standing around and hits a BIG flip dive over the top to take out Tanaka and some other guy who was standing next to him. Back in and Tanaka comes back with a forearm in the corner to drop Benjamin and we hit the chinlock. Shelton fights up and they fight over a suplex with Tanaka getting the better of it. They chop it out and whip each other across the ring until Tanaka hits a SCREAMING CLOTHESLINE to take over. Shelton avoids a diving clothesline and comes back with the Dragon Whip to drop the champion.

A Stinger Splash keeps Tanaka in trouble and a bad looking Blockbuster gets two on the champion. Paydirt (Little Jimmy) is blocked by Tanaka but Shelton kicks his head off for two as the announcers talk about ECW. The same guy that Shelton dove on earlier trips Shelton up and blasts him in the head with a kendo stick (Checkov’s Gun works in Japan too) to give Tanaka a two count. Benjamin comes back with an ankle lock but has to take out the interfering guy with a belly to belly superplex. Tanaka uses the distraction to hit a sliding elbow to the head of a seated Shelton to retain the title. That’s a pretty weak finisher.

Rating: C. This wasn’t much to see as it didn’t have time to go anywhere, making it feel like a TV match rather than a PPV title defense. I’ve always been a Shelton fan and it’s nice to see that he’s still in great shape. Tanaka seems to be a heel here which makes sense when you have him facing a guy that can fly like Shelton.

We recap the tag title match. The Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr., aka David Hart Smith and Lance Archer) are the heel champions. Swords and Guns (Hirooki Goto and Karl Anderson) beat them in the World Tag League finals and now want a title shot. Simple yet effective.

Tag Titles: Killer Elite Squad vs. Swords and Guns

Anderson is a guy I’ve heard a lot about but only seen a few of his matches. His nickname is Machine Gun and Goto is carrying a sword. One of the champions comes in through a different entrance on a motorcycle, showing off a BIG section of empty seats. The Squad is part of a big heel stable called Suzuki’s Army and has Taka Michinoku with them. It’s a brawl to start with the much bigger Squad cleaning house. Anderson is down on the floor and holding his ribs, leaving Goto to chop in vain at the huge Archer.

Lance hits Old School on Goto and knocks Anderson off the apron again, likely setting up a big hot tag later. A double shoulder puts Goto down and sets up a splash/legdrop combo (imagine Warrior and Hogan using that back in 1990. The world would have ended) for two. Goto finally gets in some offense with a suplex to Smith, allowing for the hot tag off to Anderson. Karl speeds things WAY up and avoids a kick in the corner before kicking Smith in the face twice in a row.

Smith avoids a running backsplash and hooks a tiger suplex for two. Back to Archer for a wicked chokeslam for two but Anderson breaks up a second Old School attempt. Lance blocks a superplex but Anderson busts out a SWEET middle rope TKO for two. The hot tag brings in Goto to clean house and a reverse 3D (belly to back into a neckbreaker) drops Smith. Goto gets two off a German suplex but Archer makes the save. The champions load up a double team move but Smith is kicked away.

Archer is still able to lay Anderson out with a full nelson slam for two as the Squad takes over again. Lance lifts Karl up for a reverse Razor’s Edge but flips him forward into a big slam for no cover. Goto comes back in and lifts Archer up for a suplex. Instead of dropping him back though he flips Lance forward for what was supposed to be something like a sitout Rock Bottom the landing gets botched with Archer just falling to the side.

Smith comes back in with a sitout powerbomb but Anderson sneaks up on him with a Diamond Cutter to put everyone down. Goto fights out of another sitout powerbomb attempt but gets caught in the attempted double team from earlier: a full nelson slam/sitout powerbomb combo but Anderson breaks up the pin again. The same move lays Karl out and a second one for Goto is enough for the pin to retain the belts.

Rating: C+. Definitely the best match of the night so far with Goto being the only guy that didn’t impress me all that much. Smith is a good example of a guy with talent who was limited by the WWE system. There’s only so much you can do when you’re in the ring with Tyson Kidd every night and get stuck as a generic power guy. Archer is a guy who I liked when he was Dallas in TNA and he looked good as a monster here as well. Nice and fun match.

The girl in the dress from earlier poses with Suzuki’s Army but doesn’t seem thrilled to do so.

Minoru Suzuki vs. Yuji Nagata

I remember watching Nagata in WCW and being bored out of my mind. I’ve heard that he’s WAY better in Japan and hopefully those stories are true. Suzuki is a big time heel but gets his entrance played here in a cool spectacle. The fans sing along with a long part, making it a weird choice for a heel entrance. Nagata has an unidentified second with him. They go at it before the bell and fight over a lockup with both guys firing off forearms to the jaw. A hard kick to Nagata’s back is no sold and they trade more no sold forearms. It’s going to be one of those matches isn’t it?

Nagata doesn’t go down from a boot to the face so he knocks Suzuki to the apron with a big boot of his own. Yuji goes after the arm, snapping it over the top rope and sending Minoru out to the floor. Nagata stops to yell at someone we can’t see and gets sent into and over the barricade. Some guy, presumably part of Suzuki’s Army, goes after Yuji with a chair, allowing Minoru to attack Yuji’s second. A chair shot to Nagata’s back lays him out again and Minoru chokes with the edge of the chair for good measure.

Back in and Suzuki headbutts Nagata down to a big reaction from the announcers and it’s off to a leg bar. Nagata finally makes the rope so here’s a front facelock to keep the slow pace rolling. Yuji shoves him off and kicks him in the face again before snapping off some kicks to the chest. A Rock Bottom is countered into another front facelock but Nagata suplexes his way to freedom. There’s a bad looking Crossface on Minoru but he counters into an ankle lock. Well channeling Angle vs. Benoit is better than what we’ve been seeing so far.

Suzuki kicks him in the face again so Nagata does the Undertaker sit up twice in a row. Back up and Minoru scores with a running dropkick before firing off a bunch of slaps. They’re actually enough to put Nagata down a few times and there’s a sleeper from Suzuki. He keeps the hold on for a few arm drops before letting it go and loading up his cradle piledriver finisher which is countered with a backdrop.

Nagata goes back to the arm by snapping it over his shoulder but has to break up an armbar by kicking the other Army guy from the apron. They slap it out again for a good thirty seconds until Yuji finally kicks him in the arm to take over again. More slapping, more arm kicking. Nagata cranks on the armbar again with his eyes rolling back into his head (apparently a trademark) and we cut to a crowd shot. The referee asks Minoru if he wants to tap out while looking at his face instead of his hand. Suzuki finally gets his feet in the ropes but walks into a Saito suplex for the pin.

Rating: C. Maybe it’s because I’m not a puro fan, maybe it’s because I’m used to WWE style, maybe it’s because I’m old, but I do not get the appeal of this style. Why is watching two guys stand in the middle of the ring slapping each other for 40 seconds supposed to interest me? This wasn’t horrible but Nagata still does nothing for me at all. I’m pretty sure this was supposed to be a big showdown and a rubber match for these two at the Tokyo Dome but it didn’t work for me.

Junior Heavyweight Title: Prince Devitt vs. Kota Ibushi vs. Low Ki

This is the Cruiserweight/X-Division Title. Devitt is an Irish wrestler and defending. These three are the only men to hold the title since June of 2010 with Devitt holding it far longer than either of the other two. He’s held it the second most combined days in the title’s history, but is still about three years behind Liger’s total. Low Ki, a member of Chaos, comes to the ring in a suit with two handguns, looking like Agent 47 from the Hitman video game series. Apparently he’s going to be wrestling in the suit.

Kota is taken out as soon as the bell rings and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those matches I can barely keep up with and can do little more than play by play. Low Ki and Devitt run the ropes as fast as I’ve ever seen with Ki running the champ over. Kota comes back with a running shot to Ki before backflipping over Devitt and ducking a kick from Ki, giving us a standoff. Kota hits a pair of kicks to Ki’s chest, sending him to the floor and giving us a showdown. Devitt and Ibushi shake hands and we’re ready to go.

Kota drops to the mat as they run the ropes but Devitt hits a dropkick to his ribs, knocking Ibushi to the floor. Ki comes back in to jump the champion but Kota follows him in and sends Ki back outside, setting up a springboard moonsault to take him down. Back in and Kota fires off kicks to the chest for two on Devitt before hooking a chinlock. A back elbow gets two on Devitt but the Prince goes to the apron for an enziguri, only to be pulled to the floor by Ki.

Back in and Low chokes away on Kota for two before they slug it out. Ki uses kicks (shocking) for two but Devitt is back in. Low Ki kicks him in the chest for two and slaps on an abdominal stretch. The champ’s sunset flip is blocked but Kota comes back with a springboard missile dropkick to send Low Ki to the outside again. Devitt follows up by sending Ibushi to the floor before taking both of them out with a nice flip dive. All three guys are back in now and Devitt hits running clotheslines and dropkicks on both challengers. A top rope Boom Drop gets two on Ibushi as the crowd is WAY into this.

Devitt hits a spinning enziguri on Low Ki but Ki jumps out of a reverse suplex attempt. Prince kicks Kota in the head but Ki hits a rolling Liger Kick to send Devitt to the floor. Kota and Low Ki trade what look to be suplex attempts until Kota dropkicks him out to the floor again. Ibushi hits a HUGE springboard corkscrew moonsault to take everyone down and pop the crowd something fierce.

The challengers slug it out on the ramp with Kota kicking Ki in the head. Back inside and Ibushi tries a top rope moonsault but has to land on his feet, only to immediately hit a standing moonsault for two on Devitt. The pin was somewhat botched as Devitt didn’t kick out fast enough and the referee had to slow down on the count. A half nelson suplex gets the same on Prince and Kota follows up with a sitout Last Ride for two more with Ki making the save.

Low Ki escapes a snap German suplex and stomps Ibushi’s chest for another near fall before finally taking off the suit jacket. The Ki Krusher (modified Muscle Buster) gets another two count with Devitt making the save. He was late again though and the referee had to pretend to dive out of the way as Prince came off the top. Devitt loads up what looked to be a top rope hurricanrana but gets crotched into the Tree of Woe.

Before Ki can stomp on his face, Kota springboards up to the top for a hurricanrana on Ki for a VERY close two. Ibushi misses a Phoenix Splash and rolls into a top rope double stomp to the back from Devitt, but Ki hits a hard running dropkick to send Prince into the corner for two. Ki loads up a top rope Ki Crusher on Devitt but gets kicked to the floor. Kota goes up for something as well but gets DDTed from the top by Devitt to retain the title in a sweet looking finish.

Rating: B. Take three guys, have them fly all over the place for fifteen minutes, listen to the crowd going nuts. It’s nothing but a collection of spots and near falls but it wasn’t supposed to be anything more than that. Low Ki was slightly more interesting than usual and Ibushi was fine as the high spot guy. Devitt’s timing seemed a bit off but the match was still very entertaining and the most fun all night.

Oh and one more awesome thing about Devitt: his theme song is You’re The Best Around from The Karate Kid. How can you not love the guy for that alone?

We get a 20 minute intermission with a lot of talking, crowd shots and interviews/video packages that I can’t understand. There isn’t much to talk about in this so entertaining yourselves in the least violent way possible.

Ten-Koji vs. Keiji Mutoh/Shinjiro Otani

Ten-Koji is the team of Hiryoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima, one of the most successful tag teams in Japanese history. Otani is a big shot in a Japanese promotion called Zero-1 and is here for one night only, filling in for an injured Daichi Hashimoto. Mutoh is the non-gimmicked AJPW President Great Muta, making this a pretty stacked tag match. I’m assuming it was supposed to be one of those dream matches with Hashimoto, who is at ringside, getting a big rub from the legends. If his name sounds familiar, you’re probably thinking of his father: Shinya Hashimoto.

We get the big match intros and we’re ready to go. Kojima and Mutoh go to the mat to start for a wrestling sequence with Mutoh getting an early advantage. Both guys tag to a big reaction and it’s time for the chop off. Well at least they’re not slapping. Tenzan takes over with a clothesline before Kojima joins him in the ring to get in some forearms of his own. Satoshi goes back to the apron so Tenzan can have his chops no sold. Otani is intentionally walking into the chops and doesn’t mind the pain so Tenzan goes down into the neck.

Mutoh comes back in and immediately takes over with an STF to Tenzan. Kojima makes a save and it’s back to Otani for even more chopping. Thankfully for his team it’s quickly back to Muta for a dragon screw leg whip and a Figure Four. Kojima whips Otani into the barricade and slides back in to break up the hold, allowing Tenzan to score with a spinwheel kick. Satoshi comes in for the taps to the chest called rapid fire chops followed by a middle rope elbow for two.

A discus forearm puts Mutoh down again but he comes back with a dropkick and a tag brings in Otani. Shinjiro gives Kojima a facewash in the corner to a BIG reaction and sweeps Kojima’s legs out to put him down. Everything breaks down and it’s Otani with a Koquina Clutch on Kojima and Mutoh with a Figure Four on Tenzan. The referee breaks the holds up and Kojima grabs a Diamond Cutter on Otani.

Tenzan comes back in with chops and clotheslines to Otani, followed up by going to the top and driving Otani down with a knee to the back. Kojima comes in for a sitout spinebuster to set up a Swan Dive from Tenzan for no cover. Otani comes back again with chops and everything breaks down one more time. Mutoh kicks Tenzan in the chest a few times with Otani adding a missile dropkick. The Shining Wizard from Mutoh sets up a helicopter bomb (love that move) from Otani but Kojima comes back in with a lariat to Mutoh. Ten-Koji hits a quick 3D to Otani, setting up a moonsault from Tenzan for the pin.

Rating: C+. This was good enough for the most part with a good ending to bring it up a lot. At the end of the day though there’s no story no matter what language you speak, as Otani and Mutoh work for different companies and are just legends teaming up to fight a top team. That doesn’t do it for me most of the time though the match certainly wasn’t bad.

Hashimoto almost gets into it with Ten-Koji post match but the old guys hold him back.

Video recapping Togi Makabe vs. Katsuyori Shibata. I have no idea what’s going on here but it looks like a grudge match. From what I can find, this started as a tag team feud and

Togi Makabe vs. Katsuyori Shibata

Apparently Shibata, the heel here, used to be an MMA fighter and has only been back in wrestling for a few months. Makabe models himself after Bruiser Brody so this should be interesting. The fight is on as soon as Makabe gets in the ring as they trade forearms but Shibata takes him down MMA style. They’re quickly on the floor and firing off more forearms before sending each other into the barricade. Both guys agree to head back inside to keep up the forearm fest until Shibata takes over with kicks in the corner.

Makabe is dropped by some hard forearms and a seated dropkick, forcing the referee to check on him. A hard kick to Makabe’s back puts him down again and Shibata kicks him in the face. Katsuyori keeps up the striking but Makabe says bring it. They trade Saito Suplexes before Shibata kicks him in the face to take over again. A sleeper has Makabe in trouble but he still won’t quit. Shibata lets go but Makabe catches an incoming kick to the chest and clotheslines Shibata down.

They head outside again with Katsuyori being sent into the post. Makabe steals a table and blasts Shibata in the head with it before setting it up at the end of the ramp. A powerbomb puts Shibata through the table in a huge crash, leaving him looking like a corpse. Back in and Makabe takes too long setting up a clothesline and gets caught in another sleeper. He easily slams Shibata down though and drops a top rope knee (Brody finisher) for the pin.

Rating: C+. They kept this short and energetic and that’s the right idea for a match like this. I liked the story of a polished MMA fighter against a wild brawler with Makabe never quitting. He looked good as the crazy man and fits the role quite well. Shibata is decent enough but didn’t look like anything I’ll remember in a few days.

Video recapping Kazushi Sakuraba (Shibata’s partner and also freshly back in the company) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura for the Intercontinental Title. If you’re an MMA guy you might recognize Kazushi as the Gracie Killer for his success against the Gracie Family. He’s portrayed as an MMA guy here with a lot of still shots from his fights. Nakamura is the champion and looks like a much more charismatic guy.

Intercontinental Title: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Shinsuke Nakamura

Nakamura is defending. Japanese legend Stan Hansen comes out for a quick cameo before we get started. Sakuraba comes out in a mask with a few guys behind him. Nakamura is a heel here due to being in Chaos but they shake hands before the match to make things a little vague. I can’t quite describe Nakamura’s gimmick but I’ve seen it called an “art-school weirdo with real world MMA credibility.” Works for me I guess.

They start tentatively and feel their way into a collar and elbow before the champion grabs the arm. Ropes are quickly grabbed though and we get a clean break. A leg dive doesn’t work for Nakumura and it’s another clean break. They head to the mat again for more MMA/amateur stuff as the challenger controls until Nakamura rolls to the floor. Back inside and they trade some kicks as we’re still barely out of first gear. A slap to Sakuraba’s face changes all that though as he goes nuts with strikes and a leg trip to take Nakamura down.

Sakuraba grabs a quick choke but gets sent into the corner and hit with some HARD knees. Nakamura misses a charge and gets caught in the choke again before Sakuraba fires off more strikes and a German suplex. A running kick to the champion’s head knocks him silly and the referee checks to see what planet he’s on. There’s a triangle choke from the challenger but Nakamura escapes and hits a knee to the back of the head.

A second attempt is countered and Nakamura gets caught in a cross armbreaker. That goes nowhere so Sakuraba just punches him in the face before going back to the arm. More face shots look to set up another armbare but Nakumara makes the rope. The champion comes back with a Death Valley Driver but gets caught in a kimura in the middle of the ring. For some reason he lets go though and Nakamura hits two straight knees to the face for the pin to retain.

Rating: B. This was a VERY entertaining match though I have no idea where the match of the year talk is coming from. The biggest problem for the match is it barely breaks 11 minutes and a lot of that is spent in the feeling out period. After about five minutes they turn it up several notches but I need more than six minutes of great action to call it a masterpiece. The other thing this does is show the problem with all the MMA stuff. Yeah it’s cool once in awhile, but when half the matches are doing it, you have what crippled ECW. Well one of the things at least.

They shake hands and hug post match. Nakamura says something which I believe is praising Sakuraba for the match.

After a slideshow of every IWGP World Champion, we go into a package on Tanahashi vs. Okada. These two have been feuding for the better part of a year at this point and are the only two to have held the title since 2010, save for the first four days of 2011. Tanahashi is basically the John Cena of New Japan, having won the title multiple times and held it virtually longer than anyone (he has the most reigns and is a single day behind Great Muta for total days as champion). Okada challenged him at the end of last year’s show and won the title about a month later. Tanahashi won it back four months later so we’ve got a rubber match.

IWGP World Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Kazuchika Okada

Tanahashi is defending. This is a feud that I’ve heard so much praise for that I’m genuinely curious to see how good they can be. I’ve seen some Tanahashi stuff before but wasn’t blown away. I did however like the little of Okada that I’ve seen so far. Some band called Breakerz performs a pretty catchy rock song. Okada, with Gedo, lowers down on a platform above the stage which kind of fits his Rainmaker nickname (also the name of his big lariat finisher). Money raining down from the ceiling fits the name a little better. Tanahashi comes down from the same platform but he plays an air guitar to one up Okada.

After some big match intros we’re ready to go. They’ve nailed the big fight feel for this one and the fans are way into it. Feeling out process to start with Okada giving a clean break against the ropes before doing his Rainmaker pose. Tanahashi shoves him up against the ropes and mocks the pose in a cute bit. A shoulder block puts the champion down and gives him a look of frustration. Tanahashi counters a headlock into a top wristlock and a headlock of his own in a basic but well done sequence. They’re doing the slow build quite well.

Okada grabs a wristlock but Tanahashi takes him to the mat to pull on the leg. The counter wrestling continues with Okada escaping into a hammerlock. That’s countered into a headlock by the champion but Okada sends him into the corner. Tanahashi comes out with a middle rope cross body but gets crotched on the top and DDTed down to give us our first real advantage.

They head outside with Okada shoving Tanahashi’s head through the barricade and bending his neck against the steel. Back in and a running knee to the head gets two for Okada before he hooks a freaky looking submission. Okada pulls on Tanahashi’s arm and puts his own arm over Tanahashi’s neck like a clothesline without following through. That’s a new one on me but I’m not sure how painful it would have been.

Tanahashi gets a mudhole stomped into him in the corner and sent over the top but he skins the cat to surprise Okada. That’s fine with the challenger though as he takes Tanahashi down with a nice flapjack before checking his hair. Off to a cravate with a crucifix on Okada (whose shoulders are on the mat for part of it) but Tanahashi rolls enough to get into the ropes. Okada misses a backsplash though and gets caught with a running forearm to put both guys down.

It’s Tanahashi up first with forearms in the corner and a chop block to take Okada down. They slug it out some more until Tanahashi catches a kick and sends Okada to the floor with a dragon screw leg whip. The champion hits a HUGE high cross body to put both guys down on the floor again and fire the crowd up a bit more. Back in and Tanahashi can’t get the Texas Cloverleaf so he kicks Okada in the knee even more. Okada comes back with a dragon screw of his own but Tanahashi grabs the Okada’s knee. The challenger blocks it with a cravate and takes over again.

Okada, bad knee and all, goes up for an elbow but only hits Tanahashi’s knees as momentum changes for about the fifth time. Tanahashi gets crotched again but fights out of what looked like a fallaway slam off the top. Instead Okada dropkicks him down to the floor before taking Tanahashi up the ramp. He can’t hit a tombstone and walks into a running sleeper drop to put both guys down again.

Back in the ring and Tanahashi gets caught in a Samoan drop but completely no sells it, popping up to hit a Hail Sabin. Okada gets his knees up to block a frog splash but it aggravates the injury again. He comes back with something resembling Sheamus’ White Noise but he drops Tanahashi’s back onto his knee for two. An AA into a suplex gets the same result and it’s Rainmaker time. Tanahashi counters into a German suplex followed by a dragon suplex (frog splash, Texas Cloverleaf, German suplex, dragon suplex. He’s a one man Radicalz) for two.

Another running sleeper drop puts Okada down and the frog splash connects for a VERY near fall. Tanahashi hits another leg whip (with Okada never leaving the mat) before putting on the Cloverleaf one more time. Okada FINALLY makes the rope and Tanahashi is exhausted. Back up and Okada hits Tanahashi in the hands with a gorgeous dropkick but can’t cover. They use each other to pull themselves up and Tanahashi has to duck a quick Rainmaker attempt.

Okada comes back with a dropkick to the back and a tombstone but doesn’t cover. Instead the Rainmaker is countered into another one arm sleeper drop. Tanahashi counters another tombstone attempt and dropkicks the bad knee. A tombstone puts Okada down and a high cross body sets up another frog splash to retain Tanahashi’s title.

Rating: A-. It was indeed very good but I wasn’t blown away. The big thing that was missing here was a feeling that Tanahashi was in real danger. Okada hit that White Noise move but other than that it was a bunch of missed Rainmaker attempts. I never felt that the title was in jeopardy and that took a lot away from the match. To be fair though I’ve heard this called their worst match so you could say it lived up to expectations.

Tanahashi is given flowers and a trophy before giving I’d assume an acceptance speech. He even treats us to an air guitar performance.

The commentators talk for about eight minutes to end the show.

Overall Rating: A-. This was indeed an entertaining show, but it’s not as good as some people have made it out to be (best show of all time? Seriously?). It put me in mind of Wrestlemania 19: some very good stuff, but it’s a LONG show (over five hours counting dark matches and intermission, about four hours of regular PPV) that gets tiring after awhile. Yes there are three very good matches, but at the same time there are six that are average or just a step above. There weren’t any terrible matches on the show but a lot of them did nothing for me with the Nagata match in particular.

The other thing missing was the big moment. Nothing on here felt like a biggest show of the year event and nothing seems to have changed, including any titles. Tanahashi vs. Okada is a good match but there’s a lack of a spark when the champion pins the challenger clean. It’s definitely a great show but it’s not the be all and end all of wrestling that it was hyped up to be.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up my new book of on the History of In Your House at Amazon for just $4 at:

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3 comments

  1. ted says:

    “Maybe it’s because I’m not a puro fan, maybe it’s because I’m used to WWE style, maybe it’s because I’m old”

    How old are you?

    klunderbunker Reply:

    An old 25.

  2. ted says:

    Ah Grizzled and wise lol.

    Happy new year.