A look at the biggest show in Japan.
Hi again gang! The snow has been blowing and we are in the midst of a bad cold snap up this way. The kind of weather to keep you indoors and writing. So, as many of you that read this know, I am a huge Wrestling fan and have been for a long time. One of the big events that occur every year that I look forward to is the WrestleKingdom shows from the Tokyo Dome on January 4rth every year. New Japan Pro Wrestling puts their ALL into this event, and it has a growing audience right here in the States too. I wasn’t able to see the show live, but I did get a chance to see the full event a little later on and it was a great show! I enjoyed all 65 1/2 hours of it and once again had a great time of it. So let’s take a look at the show huh?
New Japan Rumble: I always get a kick out of the pre-show rumble and this year was no different. For those that don’t follow, the rumble is basically all the NJPW guys not on the main card, so you had recent dojo graduates (Henare, Kitamura) some of the old timers (Liger, Tiger Mask, others), outsiders (Cheeseburger, Gino Gambino), and guys who just didn’t have a match on the show (Hashi, Bushi, Owens). It was a fun and unpredictable match with probably the best story for the winner Masahito Kakihara, who not only survived cancer but was helping to raise awareness for Takayama, who had medical issues resulting from an in-ring injury. Great way to kick off the show.
IWGP Jr. Tag Titles: Rapongii 3k v/s The Young Bucks: The Bucks are an acquired taste and I’m not necessarily their biggest fan, but NJPW knows how to use them well. Raponngii 3k (Sho and Yoh) have come quite a long way and this was as much a showcase for them than it was for the Bucks. Keeping this a regular tag match was a good idea and it made for a good showing.
NEVER 6 man Titles Gauntlet match: Yup. Another one just like last year. This year we had Chaos (Yano, Ishii, Baretta), Bullet Club (Fale and the Tonga Brothers), War Machine and Elgin, Suzuki Gun (Sabre Jr., Iizuka, and Taichi), and Taguchi Japan (Taguchi, Juice, and Makabe). It is not the stand out of the night, but with how New Japan is structured with so many groups and teams, this is perfectly logical. I would, however, try to shake things up next year as this felt just like the gauntlet from last years event. It was perfectly all right, but eh.
Cody Rhodes v/s Kota Ibushi: This was supposed to be for the ROH title but that changed, maybe for the better. I am actually a big Kota Ibushi fan and hope this would lead to something, we shall see. It was a good showcase for both on the big card, even if the title wasn’t on the line anymore.
IWGP Tag Titles: Killer Elite Squad v/s Sanada/Evil: It was an alright match, but I just didn’t get into it as much as the other stuff on the card. I guess it makes sense since Los Ingobernables is such a merchandise getter and has a big fan following, but this match just did not seem to click with me. The in-ring work was good, nothing really wrong with it, but I didn’t have much interest in the two heel teams clobbering each other.
NEVER Openweight Title: Hair V/S Hair: Hirooki Goto v/s Minoru Suzuki: THIS. All the stuff I wasn’t feeling in the last match, this one sure made up for it. This was incredible and not only was it a stiff match (as a board that Suzuki would probably hit someone with) but it told an amazing story with the desperate Goto putting up his hair to get another crack at the title. And holy cow did they bring it. These two both had to have been feeling it the next day. THIS is what I think of when someone says Japanese Wrestling. Damn good match and dare I say this was the match of the night.
IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Title: Marty Scurll v/s Kushida v/s Will Ospreay v/s Hiromu Takahashi: Normally I do not like 3 and 4-way matches, but that is more to do with the WWE than anything. This was another good one. It was inventive without being hokey and all four guys had a reason to be there and not just there to make this a chaotic spot fest. They kept the action going without making it unbelievable and I loved that they did spots in the match involving all 4 guys and not just two of them while the other 2 laid down on the apron (WWE). And interestingly, even though these guys all represent different teams, that didn’t really come into play here and all these guys can stand on their own. Great Job with this one.
IWGP Intercontinental Title: Hiroshi Tanahashi v/s “Switchblade” Jay White: This match also is another one that makes sense story-wise with Jay White coming back to Japan with a new image and attitude and going after the biggest guy they have in Tanahashi. Sure it’s not a “dream” match but it was still a good one. Jay showed he can go with the big names and still get people involved. And they both worked around Tanahashi as his injuries quite well. A good showing on his part and a big match for Jay White.
IWGP U.S. Title: Kenny Omega v/s Chris Jericho: Yeah, this was the “sucker the American fans in” match of the show, but you know what, it was another really good showing. The No DQ rule here helped, but it was still a good match and boy were those Japanese fans into it. If there was any knock against it, the title was a complete afterthought and I wondered if the belt was even being defended. But that is a minor gripe it was was a match that lived up to its hype. Don’t know if they will ever do another one of these but I’ll be watching if they do!
IWGP Heavyweight Title: Kazuchika Okada V/S Tetsuya Naito: I am so glad they ran with this match for the main event and not the previous one, but I think that was more of a thing to do with Naito than anything. I was a little worried this wasn’t going to be nearly as good as it should have and that Naito would just “Tranquillo” in the match all the time, but he didn’t and brought everything he had making this a worthy main event against Okada, who IS a big match player. If there was any knock against this, it never really felt like Naito was going to win, but maybe that is just me. The fans seemed really into this and it made for a great main event with both guys nearly killing each other. I’d not put it above Okada’s matches with Omega, but it was still an amazing match and a great way to end the show!
So there it is. My look at the biggest show outside the United States and one I recommend to any wrestling fan, especially if you are tired of the WWE Dog and Pony Show.
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I will see you all again next time!