Wrestle Kingdom XII: Aww Here It Goes

Wrestle Kingdom XII
Date: January 4, 2018
Location: Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 34,995
Commentators: Kevin Kelly, Don Callis

It’s that that day of the year (not even time for this show) as we’re at New Japan’s biggest show of the year. The main event is IWGP World Champion Kazuchika Okada defending against former champion Tetsuya Naito in what should be a pretty obvious ending, but the match that has gotten almost all of the attention is a dream match between Kenny Omega vs. Chris Jericho. Not only have they set the match up but they’ve actually done some rather hot angles to help build the thing. Let’s get to it.

Please note that I don’t watch much New Japan. I have a decent idea of what’s going on and do follow the stories and developments, but there’s a good chance that I’m going to miss a thing or two.

Pre-Show: New Japan Rumble

This is a Royal Rumble with one minute intervals and pin/submission/over the top eliminations. Katsuya Kitamura (the reigning Young Lions Cup winner who is in crazy shape) is in at #1 and Bushi is in at #2. Kitamura shakes the ropes to start and is quickly choked in the corner with a shirt. Delirious is in at #3 and comes in after a quick lap around the ring. Some chops have no effect on Kitamura so grunting ensues and Delirious is dropped in the corner. Leo Tonga, a 6’10 monster and the Guerrillas of Destiny’s brother, is in at #4 and grabs a lifting Downward Spiral for two on Kitamura.

Delirious and Bushi trade some kicks until Manabu Nakanishi, a former IWGP World Champion, is in at #5. Nothing of note happens for not (standard battle royal in other words) and Chase Owens (an honorary Tongan) is in at #6 as the intervals are already way out of whack. Owens gives Delirious a quick package piledriver for the first elimination to clear the ring out a bit. Nakanishi has Bushi in a torture rack before tossing him out as Yuji Nagata is in at #7.

Nagata and Nakanishi, current partners, do the old man slugout with the latter getting the better of it. A double pin gets rid of Tonga, Nagata rolls Nakanishi up for a quick pin and Owens/Kitamura get together to pin Nagata in the span of thirty seconds. A package piledriver eliminates Kitamura and it’s Taka Michinoku in at #8 to go one on one with Owens. Since Taka takes forever to get to the ring, Yoshinobu Kanemaru (Taka’s stablemate in Suzuki-Gun) is in at #9 in short order. Owens is double teamed until Desperado, also of Suzuki-Gun, is in at #10.

Chase actually hangs on until a shot of booze to the face is good for an elimination to leave Suzuki-Gun alone in the ring. That should mean a big name coming in and it’s Jushin Thunder Liger in at #11 (with the always awesome theme). Jushin gets in some palm strikes but tries the surfboard for some reason, allowing the triple teaming to start all over. Suzuki-Gun goes for the mask but it’s Tiger Mask in at #12.

Desperado goes for Mask’s mask, only to have Tiger switch places and almost get Desperado’s mask off instead. A tiger driver gets two on Desperado and it’s Gino Gambino, a rather large Australian, is in at #13. Desperado and Tiger lose their masks, which seems to be a double elimination. Liger, Kanemaru and Taka are pinned in short order, leaving Gambino to face Toa Henare, another Young Lion, who is in at #14. A Samoan drop gets two on Gambino as Yoshi-Hashi is in at #15. Hashi chops at Henare for one (Were you expecting anything more off a chop?) and David Finlay is in at #16.

Finlay wastes no time in Stunning Gambino for an elimination. Henare is put out again, leaving Finlay to roll Hashi up for another pin (despite his shoulder being WAY off the mat). Yujiro Takahashi is in at #17 with a rather good looking woman in a leather bunny mask. A clothesline gets rid of Finlay in short order and Takahashi is all alone. Cheeseburger is n at #18 because of course he is. The tiny man gets in a bulldog and a stomp as Satoshi Kojima (quite a legend in his own right) is in at #19.

Yujiro grabs a fisherman’s buster on Kojima but goes after Cheeseburger instead of following up. Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Kojima’s longtime partner, is in at #20. The rapid Mongolian chops have Takahashi in trouble and it’s Masahito Kakihara (a cancer survivor of UWFI fame) in at #21 for the last entrant. A 3D plants Yujiro and a lariat gets rid of him, leaving us with Kakihara, Cheeseburger, Kojima and Tenzan. Kojima shows Cheeseburger how to throw some machine gun chops but he’s smart enough to roll away from a splash.

Back up and Cheeseburger and Kakihara try chops to the chest with Cheeseburger’s having no effect (BECAUSE HE’S REALLY SMALL! LIKE MUCH SMALLER THAN EVERYONE ELSE BUT HE NEVER GIVES UP! DO YOU GET THE IDEA YET???) and a double low bridge eliminate Tenzan and Kojima. A quick STO ends Cheeseburger at 32:06 to give Kakihara the win.

Rating: D+. The ending was a nice touch with Kakihara being a feel good story after his illness. The rest of the match was the usual mess, though this isn’t the kind of match where you’re looking for a big story. People got their stuff in and were able to appear at the show, which is all you can ask for. I wasn’t wild on the multiple instances of people being eliminated in short order but again, that’s not the point in a match like this. It accomplished its goal, despite not being the most thrilling thing in the world.

Post match Kakihara puts on a shirt in honor of Yoshihiro Takayama, who was paralyzed in a match back in May. Cool moment there, especially for a cancer survivor like Kakihara.

The opening video runs the card down. There’s something cool about having the match order announced in advance. I like wondering what order some WWE shows go in but this does help a lot if you’re looking for a single match.

As usual, the Dome looks great with attendance up pretty strongly from last year. That’s always a good sign.

A female announcer seems to welcome us to the show.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Young Bucks vs. Roppongi 3K

3K (Ring of Honor’s Tempura Boyz, Sho and Yoh) is defending and has Rocky Romero in their corner. Nick shoves Yoh around to start and it’s already time for a Sharpshooter attempt (WWE did it so the Bucks can too!). Yoh actually grabs one of his own, drawing in the partners so Matt can put Sho in another Sharpshooter. That means a slap off for a unique spot, followed by 3K popping up for stereo dropkicks.

Romero actually calls a play (which is a further step than you see most managers take), leading to double flip dives to the floor. Yoh comes up with a bad back though and it’s time for a glorified handicap match in the vein of the Bucks vs. Roppongi Vice from last year. Nick dropkicks Sho down and Romero gets powerbombed onto the ramp. Yoh gets thrown inside and then powerbombed onto the apron as the announcers go over the Bucks’ history at the show.

Matt hurts his own back on a dive so it’s Nick stomping on Yoh at a fairly slow pace. A pretty weak backbreaker has Yoh in trouble so Nick takes Yoh to the ramp for a piledriver. Yoh backdrops his way to freedom and Nick dives onto his brother by mistake. The hot tag brings in Sho to clean house with kicks and suplexes. He even German suplexes both Bucks at once in a surprising display of power.

Nick’s superkicks don’t get him very far so it’s a leg lariat which knocks Sho into the ropes, only to have him lariat Nick down. Yoh and Matt have matching back injuries but Matt is still able to powerbomb him into the corner. A hanging DDT with Nick flipping onto Yoh’s back at the same time is good for two and it’s off to the Sharpshooter. Yoh grabs the rope and More Bang For Your Buck is countered into a rollup for two.

We hit stereo half crabs from the champs with Nick having to hold his brother’s arm up. Eventually Nick kicks his hold away to break up the one on Nick and everyone is down. The healthy guys take turns kicking at the bad backs before Nick superkicks Sho down, followed by a corkscrew dive to the floor. Back in and the Meltzer Driver into the Sharpshooter gives the Bucks the belts for the seventh time at 18:49.

Rating: B. I like this version of the Bucks, but unfortunately you don’t see them that often. This team was a lot more crisp and with only a handful of superkicks throughout a nearly twenty minute match, it was far from the usual drek. What I could go for is something slightly fresher than the same stuff they did with Roppongi Vice in at least two matches I’ve seen. It’s not lazy storytelling but rather long form storytelling and in this case they did change things up enough to make it work. A fresh idea is probably needed now, along with someone other than the Bucks and their opponents of the month in the title picture.

Never Openweight Six Man Tag Team Titles: Gauntlet Match

Bad Luck Fale/Guerrillas of Destiny are defending. Two teams start, the winning team keeps going, last team standing leaves with the belts. Suzuki-Gun (Zack Sabre Jr./Taichi/Takashi Iizuka with Desperado, Taka Michinoku and Yoshinobu Kanemaru) and War Machine/Michael Elgin start things off after Iizuka is lead to the ring on a leash. Suzuki-Gun jumps the simply named trio to start but run into the power of Elgin.

Somehow Elgin is still able to slingshot in with a splash for no cover. A not very delayed suplex on Iizuka is enough to bring in Hanson to rake the eyes a bit. Taichi gets in a few shots as well until a cartwheel gets Hanson over to the corner for the hot tag to Rowe. Everything breaks down in a hurry but Rowe misses a moonsault. Sabre grabs a quick triangle choke and Rowe is choked out at 6:05.

Next up are Beretta, Toru Yano and Tomohiro Ishii and the brawl is on in the aisle. They get in with the beating only lasting a few seconds until Yano gets in a low blow and rolls Taichi for the pin at 9:12 (including the time between falls). Next up is Taguchi Japan, consisting of Togi Makabe, Ryusuke Taguchi and Juice Robinson.

The brawl is on in a hurry with Robinson firing off right hands but having to catch the turnbuckle pad that Yano unhooked. Makabe runs over Yano with a lariat for two and now it’s everyone clotheslining Yano in the corner. A springboard hip attack gets two and Makabe runs more people over. Taguchi channels Shinsuke Nakamura with the gyrating before a running knee, only to charge into a rollup to give Yano his second straight pin at 14:06.

That leaves us with Bad Luck Fale and the Guerrillas of Destiny to complete the field and again the fight is on in a hurry. Tonga Loa gives Trent an AA on the apron but Fale misses a splash in the corner, meaning a hot tag can bring in Ishii to do what a monster is supposed to do. He can’t lift the huge Fale though and that earns him a big splash in the corner. A chokeslam is broken up and Ishii headbutts him backwards, followed by an impressive suplex.

The Guerrillas come back in and hit Guerrilla Warfare on Beretta. Instead of covering though, they try a belly to back superplex but get elbowed away. Beretta isn’t out of the woods yet though as he moonsaults right into a cutter for a very near fall. Fale and Ishii clothesline each other down but Beretta hits a quick Dudebuster to pin Loa for the titles at 21:46.

Rating: C-. I’m never a fan of gauntlet matches for the most part as there’s too much going on in too little time, which mainly means nothing has the chance to build or really go anywhere. They did manage to make Beretta look like a resilient fighter by making a comeback at the end, which helps push him up the heavyweight ranks, but that’s really the only thing that made an impact here. It’s not bad or anything but too much going on and too many people.

Ticket info for the Long Beach event is released tomorrow. That’s cool to see but they still need to do a lot more if they want to really expand into America (which isn’t exactly necessary).

Cody vs. Kota Ibushi

Not much of a story here, though there’s a good chance that it’s designed to help build Ibushi for an eventual mega match against former partner Kenny Omega. Cody has Brandi (sweet goodness) with him and still has the bleach blond hair. After Cody puts his ring in a box, we’re ready to go.

Cody’s headlock is countered with a nip up so Cody flips him off. That’s not the nicest gesture in the world and Ibushi is so disgusted that he gets caught in an American Nightmare lock. Ibushi makes the rope and Callis is wondering why he didn’t have that better scouted. Fair question actually as Callis shows how to be an intelligent commentator.

Cody gets sent outside and Brandi is down so Ibushi checks on her, only to be suckered into a right hand. Back in and the Disaster Kick starts working on Ibushi’s always bad neck and we hit a double underhook neck crank. Brandi takes Kevin’s chair and distracts the referee so Cody can get in some shots to the neck.

Despite that likely KILLING IBUSHI, he’s back up and hitting a moonsault press to the floor to take Cody down again. Back in and Kota’s rapid strikes into a standing moonsault gets two. Brandi grabs the foot to break up a suplex though (Callis: “She’s been watching her Bobby Heenan footage!”) and Cody hits Cross Rhodes off the apron to drop Ibushi HARD onto his head in a great looking crash. Somehow Ibushi beats the count so Cody hits his own springboard hurricanrana for a very close two.

Cross Rhodes is countered though and Ibushi lawn darts him into the buckle. Ibushi can’t follow up so they slap it out with Kota getting the better of it, setting up the sitout Last Ride for two more. A hard lariat (staying on the neck) gives Cody two and a straitjacket German suplex gives Ibushi the same. He doesn’t let go though, instead kneeing the heck out of Cody. The Phoenix splash is good for the academic pin on Cody at 16:08.

Rating: B. Another well done match here as Ibushi fought through the neck injury (with Cody focusing on the neck almost the entire time) and coming out on top at the end. That’s a great way to set up the eventual match against Omega and hopefully Ibushi gets a great run out of this. He’s incredibly smooth in the ring and that makes the matches very easy to watch. Good stuff here as you could get a sense of what they were going for, which is hard in any wrestling match.

IWGP Tag Team Titles: Evil/Sanada vs. Killer Elite Squad

Evil and Sanada are challenging after winning the World Tag League last year. Lance Archer (partner of Davey Boy Smith Jr.) is a cowboy so a lot of beer is sprayed over the crowd. The champs jump them to start and a Killer Bomb (full nelson slam into a sitout powerbomb) gets a very early two on Evil (as in less than fifteen seconds in). Evil is basically dead so Archer pounds away, allowing Davey to get two while posing.

That’s enough for the Squad as they head outside and beat up the young boys for fun. Archer chokeslams Evil onto everyone else before taking Sanada back in for a headscissors of all things. A side slam/middle rope splash gets two and Archer just blasts Sanada with a clothesline. Sanada dropkicks Davey in the knee but it’s still not enough for the hot tag off to Davey as Lance makes the save. The announcers declare this over so get the new nameplates ready for the belts.

Archer’s Rock Bottom gets two but he charges into a hurricanrana. The hot tag FINALLY brings Evil in for some clotheslines with the third finally taking Archer down. Smith misses his middle rope moonsault (because of course he can do one of those and land on his feet) but Sanada gets chokeslammed for two. Another Killer Bomb gets the same but Evil breaks up a third attempt. Archer gets sent outside and the Magic Killer gets two on Davey. A quick moonsault press puts Davey away to give us new champions at 13:17.

Rating: B-. Good come from behind win here as Evil (what a name for a face) and Sanada are good as the plucky rag dolls who get destroyed but still manage to come back in the end. The Squad looked awesome here and I was into their heel act, which really wasn’t something I was expecting coming in. Good match here and while it’s a step beneath some of the stuff on the show tonight, another solid performance and a title change that makes sense.

Never Openweight Title: Hirooki Goto vs. Minoru Suzuki

Suzuki is defending, no seconds allowed and hair/title vs. hair, which never sounds fair whatsoever. I’ve never gotten much out of Suzuki so hopefully this is an upgrade. Goto walks into a shot to the face to start but comes back with one of his own to get us back to even. An early standing choke doesn’t get Suzuki very far so he grabs another while standing on the second rope. That’s enough to bring the doctor in, only to have Suzuki clear the ring again.

Goto is sent outside which seems to wake him up, meaning Suzuki can hit him in the back with a chair because he feels like it. For some reason Goto decides to roll back in and a hard forearm to the head cuts him off again. A running knee in the corner rocks Goto but a running kick to the chest is caught….so Suzuki hits him in the head again. Goto does manage a spinwheel kick in the corner and a bulldog, followed by a Saito suplex for two.

Suzuki grabs his choke again but keeps trying the Gotch Style piledriver. Instead Goto reverses into a fireman’s carry backbreaker so here’s Suzuki-Gun to interfere (standard operating procedure). Goto fights them off but walks into a hard dropkick to keep Suzuki in control. A long series of rapid fire strikes to the face sets up the choke again but Suzuki again opts for the piledriver.

Goto reverses that as well but gets caught in a guillotine choke with Suzuki standing on the ropes. That’s reversed into a super fireman’s carry backbreaker for two (fair enough as the ropes didn’t really add anything) so Goto headbutts the heck out of him. The GTR (an Eye of the Hurricane onto the knee) is enough to end Suzuki at 18:04.

Rating: C+. I’m still not a fan of this beating each other up and hitting each other over and over until one of you can’t stand up anymore style. It’s never been my thing and it probably never will be. Goto is more interesting than Suzuki so I can get behind the title change, but at the same time I could have gone for a slightly different story than repeating what we saw in the previous match: champion completely overpowers the challenger until a few well timed shots give him an opening. It felt like the same layout in back to back matches and that’s a bit annoying.

Suzuki is carried away by his guys but walks back to the ring for the haircut, which he does himself in humiliation.

Ads for upcoming shows.

IWGP Junior Heavyweight Title: Will Ospreay vs. Kushida vs. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Marty Scurll

One fall to a finish and Scurll is defending. These four have been the only champions since November 2016 so there are a lot of stories tied together in the whole thing. Scurll and Ospreay are mortal enemies, Takahashi had Kushida’s number (though Kushida finally beat him to win the title back) and Ospreay took the title from Kushida a few months back. Marty comes out with WINGS for a heck of an entrance. The champ heads outside to start so it’s Ospreay flipping over Kushida to start.

Kushida flips over into a dropkick for two with Marty running in for the save. Back up and Ospreay moonsaults in to kick Scurll and Kushida down at the same time. Everyone heads outside with Ospreay climbing the set and moonsaulting down onto the other three. Back in and Kushida catches Ospreay’s springboard in a cross armbreaker but Ospreay comes back in to grab the chickenwing.

Kushida slaps the Hoverboard Lock on Takahashi at the same time and it’s a game of chicken (Wing?). It’s Scurll letting go of Ospreay to make the save with a superkick to Kushida. Back up and everyone hits everyone really hard for the four way knockdown. They strike it out from their knees until Ospreay kicks Scurll down, only to have the Oscutter countered into the chickenwing.

That’s broken up as well and Takahashi suplexes Kushida into the corner. Kushida gets caught upside down in the corner for a superkick (called the Chicky Nandos kick, a case where I doubt I want the backstory), followed by Ospreay going up. His shooting star is countered into a cutter though and Scurll gets two off a Last Shot. The Oscutter gets the same on Ospreay and Scurll heads outside to tape Takahashi to the barricade. He throws in a finger break, only to have Kushida and Ospreay break fingers on both of his hands.

Kushida triangles Ospreay but gets lifted up and powerbombed into the corner for his efforts. Now it’s Scurll grabbing some powder to blind Kushida, who is still able to hit the small package driver for two with Ospreay diving off the top for the save. Takahashi has somehow gotten free and catches Ospreay in a German suplex, followed by running sunset bombs to Ospreay and Scurll. The Time Bomb gets two on Scurll but it’s Ospreay coming in for the save.

Ospreay and Scurll take turns kicking the heck out of Takahashi and Kushida, only to have Takahashi missile dropkick Ospreay for two. Now it’s Kushida back up with a running sunset bomb on Takahashi. Ospreay hits an imploding 450 for two on Takahashi but a Time Bomb gets the same with Scurll making the save. Some umbrella shots have the challengers in trouble but the Oscutter takes Scurll down for the pin and the title at 21:22.

Rating: A-. Like I said, there were a lot of stories in this match and Ospreay FINALLY beating Scurll was probably the biggest of them all. On top of that this was a heck of a fight with all four stealing the spotlight for at least a little while. Ospreay looked awesome here and was only a few steps ahead of the other three. There’s not much to say here, other than they were rocking the house and that’s what a match like this was supposed to do.

We recap (first time tonight) Hiroshi Tanahashi defending the Intercontinental Title against Jay White. Jay had been a Young Lion who left on his foreign excursion (mainly to Ring of Honor, where I was a big fan) and returned in November at Power Struggle. White talked about watching Tanahashi for years and now he wants to prove himself against the best. He attacked Tanahashi and received a title shot, which is about as simple as you can get. Tanahashi is older now (41) and banged up but he’s still one of the best the company has.

Intercontinental Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Jay White

Tanahashi is defending. White has a cool entrance with a knife falling on the ground to play up his Switchblade moniker. They fight over arm control to start and it’s an early standoff with Tanahashi throwing in some air guitar. Not only will he wrestle you, but he’ll throw in some musical entertainment. Usually that costs more. A forearm White down but he gets in a shot to the knee to really take over for the first time.

The knee is wrapped around the barricade to make things even worse. Back in and Tanahashi has to fight from his back so White can pretty easily slap on something like an Indian deathlock. Kelly starts talking about Tanahashi’s history at this show as the basic leg work continues. Tanahashi finally escapes and hits a dragon screw legwhip for a breather, followed by a middle rope Swanton for two.

The Sling Blade misses but Tanahashi is right back on the leg to keep White at bay. A high crossbody to the floor drops White again but he’s right back up with a German suplex inside. White hits a brainbuster (not really) onto the apron before driving some knees into the corner (White: “Is this the Ace? Is this the Ace?”). Tanahashi’s comeback is countered with a suplex into the corner for two as frustration is starting to set in.

A twist of White’s knee takes him down this time but he catches Tanahashi on top. That just earns him a super swinging neckbreaker (Twist and Shout), followed by back to back Sling Blades for two. The High Fly Flow misses and the knee is banged up again. White’s Kiwi Crusher gets two but the Switchblade (looked like Sister Abigail) is countered into a dragon suplex for two more. High Fly Flow is good enough to end White at 19:44.

Rating: B-. You kind of knew they weren’t going to have Tanahashi lose three straight Wrestle Kingdom matches so the ending isn’t the biggest surprise. That being said, the idea of pulling the trigger on White seemed very, very intriguing though I get why they couldn’t go through with the title change.

However, this was little more than average with White’s offense not being anything impressive (he has a very solid look and presence though and the offense certainly wasn’t bad) and Tanahashi never feeling like he was in any serious danger. The Crusher only getting two and barely being treated as a near fall didn’t bode well and while the match was good, it was nothing compared to what Tanahashi has done in the past.

We recap the real main event of Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega. Basically Omega needed a top opponent and Jericho appeared in 2017, challenging him to a match. They’ve attacked each other in recent weeks and there’s actually a lot of hype for the match. Jericho used to wrestle in New Japan before he went to WCW so this is a homecoming in a way. But yeah, the entire story here is “Jericho vs. Omega.” Does it need to be anything else? Omega’s US Title is on the line and it’s about as important as Ric Flair’s Intercontinental Title when he fought HHH in a cage at Taboo Tuesday 2005.

IWGP US Title: Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega

No DQ, Jericho is challenging and he brought the light up jacket to Japan. His hair has also grown out a bit and is now close to what it was looking like back in 2004/5, which isn’t the best idea in the world. Instead of the Terminator, Omega has what looks to be a Loki helmet and a big freaking gun, along with the Young Bucks at his side. Not that they matter as they’re ejected almost immediately in a good idea.

Jericho jumps him during the entrances and shoves the young boys out of the way. They immediately slug it out with Omega getting the better of it and hammering away on the mat. Jericho grabs the referee for a cheap shot and chops away as Callis is WAY more excited than he….eh never mind. An early Walls attempt sends Omega to the ropes and for some reason the referee breaks it up. Know the rules chum.

Omega baseball slides him over the barricade but the big springboard dive only hits table for a great looking crash. Jericho grabs the Walls on the floor and shoves the referee before putting a young boy (referee’s son for a nice touch) in the Walls as well. A monitor shot cuts Jericho off but he knocks Omega again. Jericho: “ALPHA!” Nice touch to play up that Alpha vs. Omega idea.

Speaking of Omega, he puts a table on top of Jericho and climbs a structure for a double stomp as the announcers try to figure out if they’re on the air. Both guys beat the count back in and Jericho’s springboard dropkick to the knee cuts off Omega’s springboard. Jericho heads back outside and sets up a table. The powerbomb is initially blocked so Jericho powerbombs him on the floor instead. Hang on as Jericho stops to grab a camera for some shots (as in photos), including some of his flipping off the fans.

Back in and a chair is wedged in the corner but Jericho goes with the Lionsault for a delayed two instead. One heck of a clothesline puts Jericho back on the floor and there’s the big flip dive to take Jericho down again. Omega scores with the V Trigger but the snap dragon is reversed into the ropes. This time Omega goes to the corner but grabs the cold spray stored there to blind Jericho for the escape. The blind Jericho is still able to send Omega head first into the corner, meaning it’s time to stop for some posing. That gets some great heat from the crowd and Jericho sending Omega into the chair again makes things even better.

Omega is busted and you know Jericho is going to follow up on that. A snap dragon gets Omega out of trouble but it’s way too early (despite being twenty two minutes in) for the One Winged Angel. Another chair shot puts Omega down and some not great shots to the back keep him in trouble. Omega has to pull himself up and Jericho is nearly reveling in his pain. Jericho takes too long going up though and a V Trigger knocks Jericho off the top and through the table.

Back in and Omega knees the heck out of him, followed by a double underhook piledriver for a close two. The One Winged Angel is countered into another Walls and then the Liontamer for some extra mustard. Omega crawls over to the ropes and Jericho lets go with no orders from the ref. Two more V Triggers into the One Winged Angel is good for two with Jericho grabbing the rope.

Back up and Jericho is dropped face first onto the top turnbuckle but comes back with a Codebreaker for a delayed near fall. For some reason Jericho decides to lay a chair on Omega, who pops up with a shot to the back. The One Winged Angel onto the chair is enough to finish Jericho off at 34:36.

Rating: C-. And that didn’t work. Between the really stupid rope breaks (Jericho yelled about them earlier and then just let it happen twenty five minutes later), the lack of any, you know, wrestling, the V Triggers going all over the place and Omega not knowing how to do more than about five moves while being treated as some kind of wrestling deity, this was nowhere near as good as it should have been. I’m sure the “real” wrestling fans will drool over the whole thing without seeing what’s right in front of them because they don’t want to look at the actual details. Maybe Jericho can have one more WWE run, but this didn’t help things.

To really sum up the problem with the whole thing, you had Kevin Kelly telling the critics of Kenny Omega where they could go. It’s the standard slurping of the overrated guy who really isn’t as great as he’s built up to be, but that’s almost the case for Japan. Let me guess: 94.75 stars, which will be debated for years because some people saw it as 94.25 stars while King Dave chuckles the whole time? I give it four toasters out of ten lobster specials. Does that count?

Omega is helped out and looked happier than he ever has been over his win.

We recap the IWGP World Title match. Tetsuya Naito won the 2017 G1 Climax Tournament to earn this shot and I think I’ve typed enough now to sell the idea that I gave my actual thoughts on the previous match and wasn’t just putting that to see how many heads I could get to explode. Jericho vs. Omega was an A- with two guys beating the heck out of each other for about five minutes longer than they should have but it was still a blast. They hid Jericho’s physical limitations very well (dude is 47) and had a great match with some nuclear heat (almost Lana levels) from the crowd. Anyway, to continue the charade for those who don’t pay attention: Okada has held the title for a year and the guard needs changing.

IWGP World Title: Kazuchika Okada vs. Tetsuya Naito

Okada is defending but Naito comes out rocking that white suit as only he can. The champ’s entrance shows him flipping a gold coin and walking away, though I’m more curious about why the Japanese title has English writing on its plates. Okada is also wrestling in long pants (not tights) which is a look I’ve never seen from him before. The fans are WAY into this from the bell and the dueling chants begin.

No contact in the first minute and Naito backs up from a lockup attempt. Okada finally gets to him just under two minutes in but Naito dropkicks the knee. Some armdrags have Naito in trouble but he lands in his signature pose for a nice touch. We hit the stall button as you have to guess they have a ton of time here.

Kelly talks about betting sites having the over/under for this match at five stars. As my eyes roll back into my head, I catch a glimpse of Naito elbowing him in the head to take over but getting dropkicked off the top and out to the floor. Ok so my eyes roll rather slowly. Naito comes right back with a neckbreaker over the barricade (Okada has had a bad neck for the better part of a year) but the champ is back in before the twenty count. A missile dropkick gets two and Naito hammers on the head to work over the neck some more.

We hit the cravate to keep the champ in trouble but Okada throws him down and nips up. Okada nails a hanging DDT off the barricade but charges into a reverse DDT onto the knee. A flapjack cuts Naito off again as they’re kind of doing the Bret vs. Shawn formula from Wrestlemania XII with Bret having a planned offense to pick Shawn apart but Shawn making up whatever he’s doing on the fly because he’s just that naturally talented.

It’s WAY too early for the Rainmaker so Okada settles for a cobra clutch instead. Naito can’t flip him away but he can get his foot on the ropes (and now, it actually makes sense). Back up and Naito hits a hanging neckbreaker, followed by a super reverse hurricanrana for the first near fall. A corkscrew moonsault only hits mat though and both guys are down. The battle of the forearms goes to Naito and a Liger kick staggers the champ.

There’s a flying forearm (hey Naito is supposed to be Shawn) but Okada breaks up a superplex. He misses a missile dropkick though and Naito has another opening….which is rapidly closed by a Rainmaker for two. Kelly: “Naito kicked out of the Rainmaker!” Well duh. I mean, it’s the Wrestle Kingdom main event and there’s the whole it’s just a clothesline issue. The tombstone is countered into Destino but Naito is too spent to cover. The slow slugout from their knees goes to a draw so they slug it out on their feet instead.

A hard slap puts Okada down and something like a swinging neckbreaker gets two. Destino is countered into another Rainmaker but Okada picks him up instead of covering. That means another Destino for another two and we keep going. The dropkick into the tombstone looks to set up another Rainmaker but Naito reverses into Destino. He won’t cover though and tries another Destino, only to be reversed into the tombstone. Another Rainmaker actually retains the title at 36:37.

Rating: B+. Uh….ok then. I would have thought this was the biggest layup of the show but Okada winning does have some potential. The key thing here is that while Omega and Naito have failed, whoever finally DOES beat Okada is going to be the biggest kingslayer of all time. It’s an interesting way to go, though it’s also quite risky.

The match itself was quite good, though I really wasn’t feeling some of the drama near the end. I think given how much it seemed Naito was a lock to take the title here, a lot of the near falls didn’t really get me interested. There were some good counters and Naito’s neck stuff all made sense, but it wasn’t up to the highest level in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s not great (it’s just barely into the great level but it’s there) but it needed a little more to get there. Very good match, just lacking some of the emotion that it needed.

Gedo yells at Naito as he stumbles up the ramp. Okada says something to Naito, which seems to be about respect. The champ addresses the fans and since I have no idea what’s being said and since no one translates it, we’ll wrap things up here with me assuming Gedo gave a recipe for Mexican spaghetti while telling Okada they need to buy Christmas ribbons while they’re on sale. Okada likely sang the Kenan and Kel theme song.

Overall Rating: A-. As usual, it’s a heck of a show but this one felt like it was lacking something here and there. The main events were both very strong and there were some other outstanding matches up and down the card. The energy was great throughout and above all else (maybe), the show really didn’t feel that long. This might be the first time I’ve ever knocked the whole thing out in a day and I never felt like it was going on forever, which is almost always the case.

There are some minor problems with the show, including a lack of much feeling like it mattered. The three top titles all stayed with their original holders and there’s really no one fresh left to challenge Okada (you can imagine Omega and Naito getting more shots but we’ve covered both of them rather recently). Ospreay is probably the biggest title change and he held the title as recently as November. Bushi and Evil winning was a cool moment, though I’d hope you can have something a bit more impactful than new Tag Team Champions. Have one of those three big titles change hands and the show feels more important.

Overall, the show was a lot of fun but I don’t think it’s going to be up there on the list of all time greatest Wrestle Kingdoms. There’s a lot of stuff that felt like it was built up to be big but was there to move us forward to something else. That’s not to say it’s a bad idea, though I’d kind of like something to actually feel important at the biggest show of the year. It’s worth seeing, as long as you realize that it’s been done better before.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @kbreviews and pick up the Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Volume VI: July – December 1999 in e-book or paperback. Check out the information here:

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18 comments

  1. Stormy says:

    So this was my first Wrestle Kingdom. Thank you Jericho for making me want to spend $9.22 for NJPWWorld for a month.

    I was confused at first about the rating for the JerichOmega match, as I thought the match was way better than a C+ but then I saw the A- and the 5 minutes too long part (both of which I was in agreement with).

    Can somoene PLEASE tell me why Okada is thought of as being so damn good. He’s got a total shit finishing move, and Stupid Kevin Kelly hyped up him learning a Cobra (he never mentioned the word Clutch but he meant to), and that was even crappier. Based on the past 2 Wrestle Kingdoms, bell to bell Okada is a poor mans version of Cena (even to the extent that he holds the belt for too long), yet everyone raves about the guy.

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    Okada, really lame finisher aside (swap the Rainmaker and the tombstone and he’d be fine) is basically Randy Orton with motivation: tall, lean, in great shape, knows how to carry himself and has a great dropkick. He’s smooth in the ring and incredibly talented with some outstanding matches. I actually get the hype with him.

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  2. Dragon says:

    I have to disagree with your rating for Jericho/Omega….(and I too feel Omega is highly overrated)…..I was expecting to be disappointed with all the hype this match was getting but I was pleasantly surprised…..Jericho still surprises me how at his age he is better and far more entertaining than 95% of WWE’s current roster. Hope he gets one more WWE title run……as for the rest of your match ratings, I agree with em all. Good review KB.

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    That’s 1.

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  3. Bloodbuzz Bunk says:

    That’s a nice troll job/joke.

    However the context for the Okada/Naito match was under served as it’s one of the best multi year arcs in wrestling. In 2014 Naito won the G1 as well and was set to face Okada for the title at the Dome. However he wasn’t over enough for the spot which lead to a fan that resulted in Tanahashi v Nakamura for the IC title to main eventing. Kayfabe wise this crushed Naito and lead to his excursion to Mexico and joining Los Ingobernables( with Andrade Almas of all people). This shift in gimmick has freed Naito to become a Japanese CM Punk who blasts the fans and the company and the other wrestlers he thinks get preferential treatment like Okada. Winning the 2017 G1 was his shot at redemption in a Tokyo Dome main event. It’s nuts he lost but this seems like a WK9 situation where Naito has to be humbled before he gets his big win,

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  4. Aeon Mathix says:

    My eyes bugged out at the Jericho vs Omega rating. That was great.

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  5. Killjoy says:

    I ended up giving the Naito/Okada match a 10/10. The reaction from the crowd was amazing. I felt that even if it wasn’t to the elvel of Omega and Okada last year, it still felt like two megastars going at it.

    The rules of the Jericho/Omega match were kinda confusing, but then I heard that a graphic in all Japanese when the bell rung had the rules laid out. Ring outs still counted and ropebreaks save you from pinfalls and submissions, but you weren’t obligated to break the hold.

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    It would have been nice if they had, you know, mentioned that.

    [Reply]

    Killjoy Reply:

    My guess is they played a AAA and just didn’t tell Kelly and Callis.

    [Reply]

  6. Yaz says:

    I watched the main events. What I liked most about Jericho/Omega is that Jericho realized he is 47 and not able to go like he used to so they used the relaxed rules to great impact. I was worried he was going to try to have one of the go go go matches like he has tried and mostly failed at in his last few WWE runs. I do agree with the earlier comment that Okada needs to switch to the Tombstone as his finisher though. Not only is the Rainmaker just a clothesline, and not even a good JBL or Hansen clothesline, but it has been super devalued in the last year and half. How many did Omega take to put him down? Six?

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  7. Pickle says:

    The Jericho/Omega rope breaks followed the standard logic that I’ve always seen from other companies. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen both displayed so blatantly in one match.

    Obviously in a no-DQ match a wrestler can keep a hold on in the ropes to wear down an opponent without getting DQ’d for it.

    However, as far as I’ve always understood, pinfalls and submissions are interrupted by rope breaks in everything but falls count anywhere matches, because the rules classify rope breaks as one opponent being out of the ring. If the opponent is out of the ring, the fall doesn’t count, even when it’s no DQ. This is why there have been rope breaks in some WWE no DQ matches, triple threats, etc.

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    That still doesn’t make sense though. Even if the fall doesn’t count, couldn’t someone keep a hold on outside the ring, including in the ropes? If there’s no DQ, what authority does the referee have to break it?

    [Reply]

    Killjoy Reply:

    I guess Count Out counts as something else. It’s weird.

    [Reply]

    tanaka Reply:

    The ref could throw out the match entirely and declare a no contest.

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    On what grounds? Nothing they’ve done is illegal.

    Pickle Reply:

    Yeah, if there’s no-DQ then you can keep a hold on, which is why Jericho kept it on for at least 10 seconds, yelled at the ref and didn’t get disqualified. The ref could count all he wanted, but if Omega hadn’t broken out of the hold, Jericho could have kept it on all night.

    But if Omega tapped it wouldn’t have counted because it was in the ropes. Just like pinfalls didn’t count later in the match,

    [Reply]

    klunderbunker Reply:

    The falls not counting is fine. That always made sense.

  8. tanaka says:

    The referee throws the match out because he has lost control of it.

    I suppose he could also just allow Jericho to hold him there till the time limit expires and declare a draw, being the referee it would be at his discretion.

    [Reply]

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