Wrestle Kingdom XI: Just Yell at Me Already

Wrestle Kingdom 11
Date: January 4, 2017
Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 26,192
Commentators: Steve Corino, Kevin Kelly

This is one of those shows that I do every year as I pretty much have no other option. While I only kind of follow New Japan, I almost always enjoy this show, even if I have no desire to watch the show all the time. If nothing else it’s nice to have English commentary, even though I’m not wild on the idea of listening to Corino shout SUPERKICK whenever the Young Bucks are on. Let’s get to it.

As is always the case, since I barely follow New Japan, I’m going to miss a lot of details or not understand a few things. Please bear with me as I’ll keep up as well as I can.

Pre-Show: New Japan Rumble

Basically an annual Royal Rumble to get everyone on the card with regular timed intervals. Michael Elgin (returning from a broken orbital bone) is in at #1 and at #2 it’s…..Billy Gunn? Seriously? Well he’s no Haku but ok then. It’s rather odd that the crowd is quiet (as well as far away from the ring) so you can really hear what they’re saying. Billy’s shoulders have no effect so Elgin tells him to try it some more. They shove each other a bit and the one minute (or so) clock runs down with Bone Soldier (of the Bullet Club and formerly known as Captain New Japan) in at #3.

The Soldier very slowly hammers away until Gunn and Elgin easily take him down. That allows the announcers to do their stupid inside jokes about Corino in Roppongi. Cheeseburger is in at #4 and the announcers freak out. Cheeseburger actually low bridges Soldier out so Gunn punches both guys down. The referee (actually in the ring) tells Gunn to stop with the hair pulling. Are there DQ’s in battle royals?

Jushin Thunder Liger (who just happens to be Cheeseburger’s mentor) is in at #5 and it turns into a tag match for, what, a good forty five seconds or so? It’s actually even shorter as Elgin tells Gunn to suck it and clotheslines him out. Kuniaki Kobayashi, a 60 year old legend who had a big feud with Tiger Mask is in at #6. He takes his sweet time getting to the ring and the camera stays on him the entire way because he’s a legend and all that jazz. A fisherman’s suplex on Liger…..gets two, because you can be eliminated by pin. That doesn’t answer my DQ question but it makes things a bit more interesting.

Tiger Mask (IV) is in at #7 and he grabs a crucifix for the pin on Kobayashi. It’s good to get rid of him as he looked about 90 years old out there. Manabu Nakanishi, a former IWGP World Champion, is in at #8 to clean house with ax handles. Elgin no sells his so Manabu spears him down instead. A double clothesline puts both guys down instead and it’s Ryusuke Taguchi, a comedy guy, is in at #9.

Everyone goes after Nakanishi and it’s a dog pile for the elimination. Liger puts on the surfboard but Tiger Mask dives in for a cover and an elimination. That’s rather creative, assuming you ignore Liger’s shoulders being up. Taguchi rolls Tiger Mask up for another elimination about ten seconds later as Yoshitatsu (one word for some reason) is in at #10.

In case you’ve lost track, we have Elgin, Cheeseburger, Taguchi and Yoshitatsu as the announcers do even more inside jokes. Yuji Nagata is in at #11 and grabs a quick seated armbar on Taguchi. Yoshitatsu makes the save and is immediately the most hated man in the building. Hiroshi Tenzan is in at #12 as Nagata suplexes Yoshitatsu for the elimination. Tenzan and Nagata slug it out and Corino says he missed Yoshitatsu’s elimination due to being on Twitter. Taguchi’s hip attack misses and….well I’m not sure what happens as Hiro Saito is in at #13.

The old guys get in a three way fight and Nagata is pinned, much to Corino’s chagrin. Scott Norton (a MUCH bigger deal in Japan) is in at #14 to give us a final field of Elgin (who has basically disappeared), Cheeseburger, Taguchi, Tenzan, Saito and Norton. A quick powerbomb eliminated Taguchi and everyone decides to go after Elgin….one at a time. That goes as badly as you would expect and Saito is taken out by an Elgin clothesline. Norton is eliminated a few seconds later, leaving Tenzan, Elgin and Cheeseburger.

Elgin throws Cheeseburger at Tenzan before putting Tenzan out to get us down to two. Cheeseburger hammers away and actually scores with a superkick. For some reason, Cheeseburger tries a sunset flip on a guy whose finisher is a powerbomb. The Elgin Bomb gives, uh, Elgin, the win at 25:13.

Rating: D+. The announcers made it very clear that this was about having fun instead of being a serious match and there’s nothing wrong with that. Elgin getting a win is the best option as it’s not like there were many choices here other than a bunch of legends or comedy guys. Give the win to someone who could use it and have some fun in the process. This was fine for a pre-show battle royal and that’s all it was supposed to be.

The opening video runs down the card in order, which I think I kind of like.

Tiger Mask W vs. Tiger the Dark

The announcers flat out say this is for the sake of promoting an anime, though this has potential with Kota Ibushi and ACH donning the masks respectively. Feeling out process to start and it’s a double dropkick to give us a stalemate. Back up and we get to hear the announcers explain some of the anime. Dark backflips out of the corner and hits a dropkick to set up a big flip dive out to the floor. A running discus lariat only seems to wake W up, meaning a dropkick puts Dark back on the floor.

One heck of a moonsault to the floor drops Dark but he comes right back with something like an Octopus Hold back inside. Dark gets two off a tombstone and the kickout shocks him. That snap German suplex lets you know it’s Ibushi and a tiger suplex (fitting finisher) gets two. The sitout Last Ride gives W the pin at 6:34.

Rating: C. For a match between two talented guys who are having this match to promote an anime that I have no interest in watching….I guess I’ve seen worse. Both guys are good enough and the match was fine for an opener, though it felt more like a dark match. I guess they would rather do this here than get on the crowd’s nerves by doing something less serious later and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Roppongi Vice vs. Young Bucks

The Bucks are defending and along with Matt Sydal/Ricochet and ReDRagon, these teams have traded the titles since November 2014. As a bonus, the champs come to the ring with the IWGP, PWG and ROH Tag Team Titles plus custom made Superkick Party titles. They even call the Hardys out on the way to the ring as the angle continues despite them never showing up in TNA. I love that for some reason.

The challengers clean house to start and put the Bucks on the floor, sending them bailing up the ramp. That doesn’t happen in Japan though and Vice follows, only to eat double superkicks. It’s nearly a countout but we get the WWE DIVE UNDER THE ROPES AT WHAT SHOULD BE THE COUNTOUT BUT THE REFEREE IS KIND OF SLOW spot.

With a lot of trash talking, the Bucks knock them outside again as Kelly says the Bucks should be thanked for a lot of the fans here. I’m not sure I’d go that far Kevin. Rocky is told to suck it over and over (dude chill with that) before a superkick puts him down on the floor. Nick kicks Matt by mistake though and a superkick takes down a young boy. The hot tag brings in Romeo to clean house and it’s a double knee to take Matt down.

Trent puts him up in a fireman’s carry but flips him into a rack (cool spot) so Romero can hit a top rope stomp for two. Strong Zero is broken up though and it’s time for even more kicks from the Bucks. You know, because that’s what they do. Nick takes too much time on top though, allowing Trent to run the corner for a German superplex. Corino tries to talk about how this is Chaos vs. Bullet Club but of course doesn’t bother to explain what any of that means (Yes I know what it means but if you’re a new fan, that means nothing to you. That always bugs me.).

Trent misses a flip dive and lands back first on the floor in a bad looking crash, leaving Rocky to hurricanrana both Bucks at the same time. That means nothing though so let’s throw another superkick. The elevated 450 gets two on Rocky and the fans really wake up off the kickout. Four straight superkicks get two as Trent is still down. That means More Bang For Your Buck but Romero rolls Matt up as he tries the rolling fireman’s carry and Trent grabs Nick so Rocky can get the pin and the titles at 12:46.

Rating: C+. I liked the match as much as I can like a Young Bucks match with the loss making it a little bit better. Then again I have no reason to believe that the Bucks won’t get the belts back like, tomorrow, as these guys are given titles almost every single week because they get to be faces and heels at the same time for reasons that continue to elude me.

The Bucks say it doesn’t matter because they still have the rest of their titles. DO THESE GUYS EVER SELL ANYTHING???

Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles: David Finlay/Ricochet/Satoshi Kojima vs. Los Ingobernables de Japon vs. Bullet Club vs. Chaos

That’s the longest title I’ve ever written for a match. Finlay and company are defending and this is a gauntlet match. For some reason (which I’m sure you can understand), Bullet Club brings out some women to dance before the match. Bullet Club (Hangman Page/Yujiro Takahashi/Bad Luck Fale) vs. Chaos (Jado/Will Ospreay/Yoshi-Hashi) start things off with the Club jumping them as you would expect heels to do.

We settle down to a banged up Yoshi getting beaten down in the ring with Takahashi throwing kicks and Page getting two off a jumping DDT. A neckbreaker allows for the hot tag to Ospreay as things speed up in a hurry. Ospreay starts fast with a cartwheel moonsault over the top to take out all three members followed by a middle rope corkscrew moonsault for two on Page.

Adam’s front flip into a clothesline gets the same but a moonsault kick to the head is enough for the hot tag to Jado as things speed way up. Everything breaks down and Fale starts hurting people, which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re that size. Takahashi gets in a quick DDT for the pin on Jado at 7:36.

Los Ingobernables (Bushi/Evil/Sanada) are in next and their entrance takes forever, allowing the Club to recover. That’s not the brightest move in the world and Fale crushes Sanada for two. Takahashi gets in a good looking kick to the face in the corner but Bushi dives through the ropes to take out Page. We get something like a Conchairto with the second chair wrapped around Takahashi’s head and since that should likely kill him, a dragon sleeper makes him tap a few seconds later at 12:38.

We’re down to Los Ingobernables vs. the champs so let’s have another very long entrance. Thankfully the champs start fast with Ricochet and Finlay (Fit’s son) hitting stereo flip dives to take down some Ingobernables. We settle down to Bushi choking Finlay with a shirt but it’s off to Ricochet for one heck of a series of smooth transitions into a kick to Sanada’s face and a DDT to Bushi.

Evil comes in but gets chopped by Kojima as everything breaks down again (as it should). We get a bit of a botch with Ricochet being thrown into a Codebreaker but Bushi can’t quite get it straight. To be fair that’s almost impossible to do if you’re not the Revival. Kojima starts busting out brainbusters until Evil grabs the referee, allowing Bushi to mist Kojima for two. An STO puts Kojima away a few seconds later and we have new champs at 21:02 (total time including entrances).

Rating: B-. I’m very, very glad that they made this a gauntlet match instead of having all twelve in the ring at the same time which just didn’t need to happen. Los Ingobernables seem to be the rising stars of the company and it’s a good idea to give them some titles. That being said, the announcers basically flat out said that the titles change hands all the time and they actually would do so again the very next day. In other words, this means nothing but at least it was the right choice here.

Juice Robinson vs. Cody

Robinson used to be known as CJ Parker and Cody is of course Cody Rhodes. There’s no real story to this one other than Cody needs an opponent for his Japanese debut. Cody is part of the Bullet Club but he’s not rocking the shirt here. Eh the Bucks can superkick him later. Something I’ve always liked about this show: every time a match starts the camera zooms in on the ring. It’s just a cool visual.

A hiptoss puts Juice on the floor to start but Juice counters his dive into a belly to belly. As we look at the replay, Juice cannonballs into the Cody against the barricade for a painful looking crash. Back in and Cody grabs an Alabama Slam to take over before stopping to pose by leaning on his fist.

Corino points out that Cody has been at Wrestlemania, Final Battle and Wrestle Kingdom in the same year. That’s not bad but Cody points the Bullet Club gun at Corino, who had a big feud with his dad in ECW. A side kick drops Cody but bangs up the knee which was tweaked on the cannonball.

Juice keeps showing some great fire as he comes back with a fireman’s carry into a gutbuster (or at least some knees in the vicinity of the chest), only to have a chop block take out the knee again. That means a modified Indian Deathlock until Juice grabs a rope. Why does it always take so long for them to realize they’re right next to the ropes? Cody keeps talking trash to Corino and gets two off an elevated DDT. Juice gets in a clothesline and tries a powerbomb but the knee gives out. Cross Rhodes is good for the pin at 9:37.

Rating: C+. I liked this way more than I was expecting to and it actually worked as a debut instead of just a regular squash. I’m not sure where they’re going with Cody vs. Corino (in this company at least) and Robinson looked WAY better than he did during any of his NXT matches. This was a lot better than I was expecting and I had fun with it. If nothing else, maybe Cody can finally live up to some of his hype.

ROH World Title: Adam Cole vs. Kyle O’Reilly

Cole is challenging in a Final Battle rematch and is another member of Bullet Club. They shake hands and Cole spits in his face because that’s how heels are supposed to act. Kyle has the cross armbreaker on in less than twenty seconds before grabbing a quickly broken rear naked choke. A shove off the top is enough to set up ADAM COLE BABY and the champ is down on the floor.

Kyle comes up holding his shoulder and Cole rushes it with a chair to really take over. Back in and O’Reilly fights with his legs in a smart move, though I’m not sure how long that’s going to last. It’s time to go after Cole’s leg as Corino breaks down the champ’s psychology: he has a way to beat you by working on any body part so he’ll switch around for what works at the moment.

Normally I would get annoyed at a style like that and say PICK A BODY PART but the commentary explaining the wrestler’s mindset (which we are only going to know if we’re told) is a good thing. Cole gets in a bicycle kick and they do the ROH forearm slugout before a double kick puts both guys down.

The champ easily wins a strike off and scores with a brainbuster but can’t get the cross armbreaker. Instead Adam kicks him in the head and hits back to back Last Shots (that suplex into a neckbreaker onto the knee) for two. Another kick to the shoulder sets up three straight superkicks, followed by a fourth to the back of the head. A third Last Shot gives us a new champion at 10:18, making Cole the first three time champion in ROH history.

Rating: B-. This is a situation where the backstage issues make the story a bit more logical. Apparently Kyle turned down a contract extension with ROH shortly before this show and would have been a free agent. Obviously you can’t keep the title on someone who isn’t a guarantee to be around so they did the title switch. There’s nothing wrong with that and it really was their only viable option.

As for the match itself, they did what they could in this setting but there’s a limit to how effective they can be with ten minutes. The shoulder was a fine story and played into the finish so I have no problem there. They just didn’t have the time to make this work but they did well with what they had.

Ads for upcoming shows, including two shows in California, which I believe are the first ever stand alone New Japan shows on US soil.

Tag Team Titles: Chaos vs. Guerillas of Destiny vs. G.B.H.

Chaos (Tomohiro Ishii/Toru Yano) and G.B.H. (Great Bash Heel, comprised of Tomoaki Honma/Togi Makabe) are challenging the Guerrillas (Tama Tonga/Tanga Loa), who are part of the Bullet Club. Also Yano, a comedy guy, has stolen the World Tag League trophies (owned by G.B.H.) and the title belts and maybe Corino’s wallet. Got all that? In a logical move, the Guerillas beat the heck out of Yano for stealing their belts. Where’s Repo Man when you need him?

Honma slams Loa but misses a headbutt (a trend for him), allowing Yano to unhook the corner pad and whip Honma in. It’s off to Ishii for the monster power in the form of a suplex, followed by Yano coming in and immediately tagging Tama in instead. Makabe comes in as everything breaks down with Makabe clotheslining someone in every corner. Corino talks about the high amount of F Bombs (but thankfully his only jab at WWE is someone tweeting him to say this isn’t PG) and GBH gets in ten right hands to the Guerillas’ heads.

With everyone else on the floor, Tama slides around (very slick) and jumps into a DDT on Makabe. Honma comes in and SWEARS A LOT (with Corino laughing so much he has to turn his mic off) before dropping a headbutt on Loa. Everything breaks down again with the Guerillas sending Yano outside and swearing even more. We lose Corino again thanks to four F bombs during a powerbomb on Honma for two.

Makabe powerbombs Tama to set up Honma’s top rope falling headbutt for another near fall with Ishii remembering he’s in the match and diving in for the save. Guerilla Warfare (an upside down Magic Killer) drops Makabe but Yano tags himself in from behind. Ishii gets to have the time of his life by fighting both Guerillas at the same time, only to have Yano low blow them both, setting up a rollup for the pin and the titles at 12:27.

Rating: B. I liked this a lot more than I was expecting to as the comedy was nowhere near as big of a deal as I was worried about it being. Once they gave up on the tagging (as they should have done) it got a lot more entertaining and I got into the match by the end. Above all else though, this was a great example of why English commentary helps. I would have had no idea what was up with the champions not having the belts and the trophies in general had it not been for Corino and Kelly and those are important details. That helps so much and it’s made the show that much more entertaining.

Junior Heavyweight Title: Hiromu Takahashi vs. Kushida

Takahashi, part of Los Ingobernables, is challenging and was known as Kamaitachi in ROH. He came in as part of a ticking time bomb countdown so his entrance consists of a bunch of big pink balls. Yeah I’m not sure I get it either. Kushida spends a bit too much time posing and gets knocked off the corner, only to come back with a kick to the face and a HUGE flip dive off the top to the floor.

We actually get things going with the champ working on the left arm (to set up his Hoverboard Lock arm hold) but getting caught in a very fast sunset bomb. That warrants a check from the referee and thankfully Kushida is able to continue. Those head shots are always scary so it’s a relief when the people get up. A downward spiral into the middle buckle stuns Takahashi though and a Tajiri handspring elbow keeps him in trouble.

Takahashi grabs a release German suplex though and Kushida comes down on the head again, followed by what looked to be a bit of a botch off a top rope hurricanrana, which came off as more of a top rope seated senton. The champ falls outside for a top rope…..something that looked like a backsplash to a standing Kushida though it barely made contact.

Back in and Kushida opts for a kick to the head to put both guys down for a well earned breather. Another sunset bomb doesn’t work and Kushida pulls him out of the air into a cross armbreaker on the floor. I’m liking the fire from Kushida here and he stays full on face by throwing Takahashi back in instead of taking what would have been an easy countout win. Back in and some hard kicks to the arm set up the Hoverboard Lock but Takahashi guts his way out and turns it into a fireman’s carry, only to have Kushida counter into a rollup for two.

A weaker Hoverboard Lock doesn’t work so they just punch each other in the face really hard. Kushida heads up top (probably not the best plan) and grabs another Hoverboard Lock, only to be countered into a super victory roll for a close near fall. Takahashi sends him head first into the corner and grabs a fireman’s carry into something like a spinning Emerald Flowsion for the pin and the title at 16:53.

Rating: B+. Here’s the thing: really don’t like either guy and I was dreading this match more than almost anything else. That being said, it’s still the match of the night so far as I was getting into the idea of Kushida wanting it to be a fair wrestling match and Takahashi going for the head for the sake of the title. It told a good story, though the ending felt a bit out of nowhere. Still though, really good stuff.

Never Openweight Title: Katsuyori Shibata vs. Hirooki Goto

Shibata is defending. If the previous match was one I was almost dreading the most, this was the one I was certainly dreading the most. The Never style is one I really don’t care for, though I understand what they’re going for with it. The announcers push the idea that Goto, who is a two time Intercontinental Champion, a three time New Japan Cup winner and a G1 Climax winner, has never won the big one. Uh, right.

Shibata slaps him in the chest to start so Goto grabs a headlock. That earns him a trip to the mat in a top wristlock as Shibata wants to make up for his own taped shoulder. Now the announcers aren’t sure how to define success because it might be something other than winning. So they’re ripping off the Dolph Ziggler story? And this is supposed to be the best in the world?

A shortarm scissors keeps Goto down but he powers out and starts with some YES Kicks. As tends to be to my annoyance, Shibata no sells and forearms Goto in the face. Yes we know he’s tough. Find something new to do. Shibata no sells a suplex but finally stays down when his bad neck is rammed into Goto’s knee.

Goto actually scores with some clotheslines but runs into an STO to put both guys down. Back up and Shibata gets in his rear naked choke to pull Goto right back down to the mat. You can feel the audience getting worried here and a BIG sigh of relief when Goto makes the bottom rope.

More hard strikes don’t get us anywhere but Goto’s suplex into a Side Effect gets two. Goto starts unloading on Shibata with even more strikes, followed by back to back GTR’s (Nightmare on Helms Street with Shibata’s head going into Goto’s knee) for the pin and the title at 16:23.

Rating: B-. Ignoring the story not making sense given Goto’s title history, I’m still not a fan of this tough man style. I know it’s a throwback to the old school strong style and all that jazz but I just don’t care for it. This is a case of me really just not being the audience for a style though it’s entertaining enough. Not bad at all but nothing I’m ever going to want to watch again.

Long video on Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Tetsuya Naito without a translation so I’m kind of guessing here. From what I can tell, Naito (defending here) has been corrupted and doesn’t care about tradition and honor but is awesome enough that it doesn’t matter. Tanahashi is all about the company and being great in the past but time is catching up with him. He’s beaten Naito is a lot better now, meaning this is a huge challenge. Assuming that’s the case, I’ve heard far worse.

Intercontinental Title: Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Naito is defending and is the leader of Los Ingobernables. Tanahashi debuts new music here and it really doesn’t sound great. I can barely remember his old song but I’d bet it was better than this. There’s no contact in the first minute as Naito isn’t interested in a lockup. They lock up over a minute and a half in and it’s Tanahashi being sent to the floor, leaving Naito to pose on the mat as is his custom.

Back in and Tanahashi actually pulls hair before dropkicking the champ down. HIT THAT AIR GUITAR BABY! Naito starts in on the leg like a heel should, including throwing the boot to the referee the champ can get in a dropkick to the knee. That’s a new one. A reverse Figure Four doesn’t last long and Tanahashi fights back, including a middle rope flipping splash for two. This has been a fast ten minutes so far and I’m kind of surprised by that. It’s too early for the Texas Cloverleaf but Tanahashi is cool with a dragon screw leg whip over the middle rope.

A Sling Blade on the apron (which may or may not be the hardest part of the ring) sets up a high crossbody to the floor with Tanahashi landing on Naito’s head for a NASTY looking landing. Back in and Naito basically falls into the ropes to crotch Tanahashi, setting up a high angle side slam for two more.

We hit a leglock on Tanahashi for a long time but he’s finally able to turn it over into a deep Texas Cloverleaf. Another rope is grabbed so Tanahashi goes with back to back Sling Blades, only to miss the High Fly Flow. Destino is countered into a rolling neckbreaker to put both guys down again. Back up (again) and they kick at the knees with Tanahashi getting the better of it off a dragon suplex.

The High Fly Flow (What knee?) hits Naito’s back but the second attempt (No really, what knee?) hits Naito’s knees. Thankfully the champ holds his knees and can’t follow up. After a bit of time on the mat it’s a reverse tornado DDT followed by Destino to give Naito the completely clean pin at 25:43.

Rating: A-. I could have gone for a bit more of the knees playing into the finish but this was a great back and forth match with the leg work building up throughout. The idea of both guys working the same body part was interesting and Naito winning completely clean is the EXACTLY right call. Tanahashi is forty years old and has more titles than he knows what to do with so this isn’t a career breaker. Also as a bonus, the match never felt long. That can get old in a hurry but it wasn’t a problem here.

Kelly plays up the idea that the ace of the era (Tanahashi) might be out of gas. That could be an interesting story as it’s what we’re seeing with Cena over in WWE.

We hit the recap video for the main event and they actually put in subtitles. Basically Okada is the defending champion and the new ace of the promotion while Kenny Omega (leader of the Bullet Club) shocked New Japan by winning the G1 Climax. Okada says he’s the man entrusted with New Japan and wrestling’s futures and he’s not going to let someone like Omega mess with those responsibilities for his own gain. As a sidenote: it’s really weird to hear English in these things.

Ok before we get to this thing, let’s pause for a minute. As you probably know, this match has gotten INSANE praise online with Meltzer calling it possibly the best match of all time. While I’ve learned a long time ago to take everything Meltzer says with a ten gallon bag of salt, I’m going to go out of my way to be as impartial as I can on this one. I know it’s big and I know it’s important but I’m curious to see how much of the hype it deserves. Like, I haven’t heard a match this hyped up since……oh since the last Wrestle Kingdom.

IWGP World Title: Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada

Okada is defending but Omega gets a big Terminator style entrance, complete with Omega acting out the scene where the Terminator beats people up and steals their clothes. Omega comes in with the half mask and shotgun but NO SUNGLASSES THAT HE PUT ON IN THE VIDEO. Well that’s minus half a star right there. Seriously does no one care about continuity? Also I don’t believe you clean with a gun so minus another half star for that.

They lock up at just under a minute in before hitting the mat for the opening wrestling sequence. Omega takes him down with a headlock and they’re definitely taking their time with this one (as they should). Okada comes back with an armdrag into an armbar and we hear about a cultural difference as Okada is making his second defense of a title he won in JUNE. I know the argument is that you don’t hot potato New Japan titles around between the same people (other than almost every other title) but that’s getting into UFC territory.

Both guys escape finishers and Omega spits in Okada’s face (WAY too common a thing tonight) before taking a breather on the floor. Back in and a big boot drops Omega, who is sent right back outside. An Orton elevated DDT makes things even worse for Kenny and….it’s table time, though the announcers point out that Omega put Okada through a table at one point.

Omega is sent over the barricade and Okada adds in a running crossbody as we hear that more foreign fans are watching live than ever before. No sarcasm: that’s awesome for both NJPW and wrestling in general. Back in and we actually hit a chinlock for a bit before Kenny pops up for something like a running Fameasser. A running knee to the ribs and a hurricanrana put Okada to the floor.

That means the rise of the Terminator pose and a big (very big) flip dive to take the champion out. We hit a one arm camel clutch until Okada grabs the rope and hits a high angle AA to get a breather. A modified STF sends Omega to the ropes and Okada is getting frustrated. As the champ gets back up, I need to point out Corino being great on commentary by trying to explain the wrestler’s mindset here. You NEVER get that enough in most wrestling companies but it’s incredibly valuable.

Omega gets in a backbreaker and baseball slides Okada over the barricade to keep working on the back. A springboard moonsault over the top almost overshoots Okada in a rather impressive display of athleticism. It didn’t make great contact but it looked awesome. We crank up the violence a bit with Omega putting the table on top of Okada for a running double stomp from the apron.

Kenny gets two off a powerbomb and it’s time to get frustrated. A Regal Roll followed by a middle rope moonsault gets two and there’s a large cut on Okada’s back. Okada puts him on the top for a dropkick out to the floor as the champ keeps staying in there, waiting on Omega’s mistake. Neither guy can hit a finisher from the apron through the table (that thing better break) and before I can finish typing that, Omega is backdropped over the top and through said table.

After we make sure Omega isn’t dead, Okada hits one heck of a missile dropkick for two. With some warning from the Bucks, Kenny blocks the Rainmaker and grabs the big spot of the match with a dragon superplex. Looked painful but it’s hardly this amazing move that will never be topped. Omega scores with a knee, only to walk into that gorgeous dropkick from the champ. A running knee to Okada’s head looks to set up the One Winged Angel but Okada reverses into a tombstone for a delayed two.

The crowd is WAY into this (which makes me wonder what the difference is between this and an opening match where “they’re showing respect to the athletes”) and you can hear them gasp when the Rainmaker gets a near fall. One heck of a shotgun dropkick sends Omega into the corner where the Bucks tell him that he can’t be beaten. Ignore him laying on his back with his eyes closed.

Kenny pops up and reverses a tombstone into a modified version of his own and both guys are down long enough to look at the crowd for a bit. They slug it out again until Omega snaps off a dragon suplex, followed by a Shining Wizard for a VERY close two. Kenny STILL can’t hit the One Winged Angel as Okada escapes and hits a hard clothesline. Oh wait: the RAINMAKER (Does capitalizing it mean it’s something other than a hard clothesline?).

Omega makes the mistake of grabbing his hand while kneeing Omega in the head, setting up a third Rainmaker. Another tombstone is countered into a jumping knee to the face but Okada counters the Angel AGAIN into the jumping tombstone. The fourth Rainmaker (if I EVER hear a New Japan fan complain about WWE wrestlers repeating finishers, I’m going to have a very hearty laugh) finally ends Omega at 46:17.

Rating: A. It’s too long and the Rainmaker was used too much. Those are my only criticisms of it, unless you count New Japan fans over hyping ANOTHER Okada match at Wrestle Kingdom. Yes it’s great and a classic but six stars and the greatest match of all time? Really? If you cut off about six to seven minutes here and there, it probably goes up to a higher rating but at the moment, it’s just excellent and one of the best matches I’ve seen in a long time.

I’m interested in the fact that they didn’t have Omega hit the One Winged Angel. That sounds like they’re setting something up for the future and I’m interested in seeing if that’s the way they’re going down the line. Okada winning doesn’t seem like the best idea as it doesn’t fit the last year of storytelling but if they’re setting up something for WAY down the line (and NJPW loves to do that), I’m not sure I get this one. Great match though.

Gedo (Okada’s manager) and Okada talk about taking New Japan global in a speech that I don’t understand (though Corino translates part of it).

The English commentary ends and we get some shots of the Japanese announcers wrapping it up.

Overall Rating: A-. Let’s get this out of the way: this show is long. Like it’s almost Wrestlemania long. Unfortunately, that makes it a bit hard to sit through and leaves you wanting to pick out things that could have been cut. In this case, it’s probably part of the main event and maybe make the Six Man Title match a regular one fall match, though I like the gauntlet style better than having a bunch of people out there at once and no one being able to do anything.

As for the good, there really isn’t a bad match on this show and that doesn’t happen. There are however a bunch of matches that are just ok or slightly above average and that brings it down a bit. The show isn’t something I’m ever going to watch again and it’s probably going to be gone from my head in about three days, as is the case with most of these shows. That’s true because of one point and it’s the reason I don’t watch more New Japan: I don’t have a connection to it.

For me, wrestling is a long form story. There are characters I’ve watched for years and I care about what happens to them. New Japan, partially just due to the language barrier (which again, was GREATLY reduced thanks to Corino and Kelly, who weren’t great but did exactly what they were supposed to do), doesn’t offer me that, at least not without a long time being spent watching them.

That’s the difference between WWE and New Japan: one is based on storytelling and character development and the other is based on in ring work. What people so often overlook, and what might get on my nerves most about wrestling fans (and people in general) is that they so often feel the need to bash you over the head for not knowing what REAL wrestling (or anything for that matter) is because it’s not the style they like.

It’s the same reason I take Meltzer’s ratings with a grain of salt: he likes Japanese wrestling a lot and isn’t big on the WWE style. Why people think that’s a bad thing isn’t clear but any reviewer does it. I’m a bigger fan of the simple stories that you get on NXT and Smackdown and I care more about advancing those stories than having a great match (though that’s important too). You can like both and still be a wrestling fan, which is the case here. I liked a lot of this show but there’s no emotional connection for me because it’s just not my style.

The show, as usual, was a lot of fun and very entertaining but I’m not likely going to watch more of it until next year. Wrestle Kingdom is easily the biggest non-WWE show of the year and it’s certainly bigger than a lot of WWE shows. I’ll be watching it every year because it deserves the attention for offering some of the best wrestling in the world and entertaining me every time I watch it, even if I don’t find it as great as some people.

 

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6 comments

  1. Prophet says:

    Finally!

    Scrolls straight down to the main event.

  2. Bloodbuzz Bunk says:

    So I agree with most of your ratings( would have given the Jr title and Never title a tick up and the IC title a tick down due to Tanahashi’s no selling the legs again).

    Kushida and Takahashi put on a great show and if they don’t botch so much that’s an easy A of a match. Takahashi’s story is a great example of storytelling in NJPW as they sent this guy away after graduating from being a young lion and he goes to North America and finds a rockstar swagger that fits in with the booming popularity of LIJ and gets a Jericho style surprise return. It was nice to see them pull this off from several months out.

    The opener also had a fair bit of story that was relayed at Power Struggle in November. Roppogi Vice were essentially going break up because Rocky cost them matches or Barretta did all the work but they rallied won the Super J Tag Cup and finished it off with Rocky doing the heavy lifting after Barretta missed the big dive. Again better long term storytelling.

    Both Shibata( who I like way more than you as he is the Japanese Benoit imo) v Goto and Naito v Tanahashi are more or less long term rivalries that play two completely different type of people against each other.

    The main event was to long( actually lose the Trios titles, Cody’s squash, and ROH match and this is a much better show time wise). I see your complaints about the match and agree that 6 stars is overboard but that is likely the best singles match between two guys since Undertaker v HBK at Wrestlemania 25 IMO. That was the craziest last 10 minutes( when Omega kicks out of the first Rainmaker on) I have seen since that match at least. Also that main event was truly about whether NJPW trusts Okada to continue its slow and steady global expansion or wants to try to skyrocket in the States with Omega. I think once a State side weekly TV show, more tours/show, and a big LA ppv become realistic for NJPW is when Omega will get the big win over Okada at a WK. Probably next year tbh because NJPW will take its time pushing Omega, Okada, and Naito as the shining stars of the future for a good long while.

  3. Anon de Ymous says:

    As a fan of New Japan, and knowing that you aren’t, I want to say that I think that your review here is pretty fair. Still, if I may, I’d like to offer some thoughts of my own (which I won’t claim are right or wrong). I apologize if this ends up taking a ton of space.

    What you call the “Never style” is more like the “Shibata style”. The guy is basically a machine, and has a lot of fans convinced he could beat the holy hell out of Brock Lesnar. I wouldn’t go quite that far, but the punishment he’s willing to take (and dish out) means I watch him from the edge of my seat… all the while wincing at least half a dozen times per match.

    The Naito/Tanahashi story actually goes back a few years, when Naito won the G1 but had his main event match at the Dome “stolen” from him by Tanahashi via fan vote (Naito still wrestled Okada in the title match, but Tana/Nakamura’s IC Title match main-evented the show). Since Naito has been red-hot for most of the past year, and because of Tanahashi’s status, a lot of people were calling for their match to main event this show over Okada and Kenny. Naito basically said, “No. He (Tanahashi) stole my main event years ago, so I’m not allowing him to main event with me. He’s old and doesn’t deserve it.” That sounds crazy, but Naito is the only guy who could pull it off, and it fits his character perfectly

    After the match, Naito actually gave a subtle bow to Tanahashi in a sign of respect. Considering Naito’s character, this was HUGE. What’s unfortunate is that this was lost in all of the hype surrounding the Okada/Kenny match (as was the Kushida/Hiromu match).

    As for the storytelling itself, I feel like it’s there if you look for it, though it’s very subtle. For me personally, it’s a refreshing contrast to the WWE-style of bashing something over your head to the point of no longer being able to stand it, or having a McMahon come out to open every show to make us feel like idiots for liking wrestling. It probably helps that I only watch NJPW a couple of times per month, whereas WWE has WAY too many hours of programming per week. That is also a factor in why this show didn’t feel long to me, while some WWE PPVs feel like I’m serving a prison sentence. Heck, even when Lucha Underground or NXT have bad shows, it’s a lot easier to shrug off than the main WWE shows because it doesn’t take that much time to sit through each week.

    Anyway, don’t take any of this personally (I know a lot of NJPW fans are very defensive), because I do feel that you, as a non-NJPW fan, were fair in your review of this show… just as you are in reviewing WWE when they stink up the joint. Most of the time, reading the reviews of those stinky shows actually help to cope with suffering through them.

    Lastly, fuck the Young Bucks.

    Good day.

    klunderbunker Reply:

    I never take it personally when someone tells me something I don’t know about wrestling.

    Much appreciated.

  4. Jay H (the real one) says:

    As someone who hardly watches New Japan and saw the Main Event last weekend I liked the Match of Okada & Kenny Omega. However I think people need to slow down calling it the greatest thing ever.

  5. M.R. says:

    I’m six months late to this party but can we just take a moment to laugh at Meltzer giving a match six stars on a five star system? The guy’s such a fuckin mark for himself.