So kinda late with this one. When the news broke that Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles were leaving after this show I was so bummed out that I had no desire to watch this show again. Or any wrestling really. Especially considering what the semi main event on this show was. In that light please cut me some slack on the timeliness front. I guess it’d be for the best to just pull off the band-aid. Here we go.
IWGP Jr Tag Team Championship 4 Way Match: reDRagon© vs. Young Bucks vs Ricochet and Matt Sydal vs. Forever Hooligans
Another four way Junior Tag Title match opens the Tokyo Dome. Much better than last year’s match. While there were a ton of highspots there was much more of a cohesive story to this match than the one at Wrestle Kingdom 9. The stand outs here were Ricochet and Matt Sydal. Once they got going the crowd, which in the Dome is usually dead for Juniors plus this was an all gaijin match not helping matters heat wise, became super hot for this one. Ricochet and Sydal are great additions, but with Lucha Underground’s status and Hunter raiding everyone I worry for how long that lasts.
Star Rating: ****
NEVER Openweight Trios Championship: Toru Yano and Jay and Mark Briscoe vs Bullet Club
Way too late in the day to give this a proper review. It was an okay match that had little heat and there have been several title changes since then. No one is gonna ever rewatch this match so who cares?
Star Rating: **
ROH World Championship: Jay Lethal© (w/Truth Martini) vs Big Mike Elgin
I watched this with English commentary because Kevin Kelly is the ROH pbp guy. The worked a very American mid card kinda match. It was good, but nothing like a blow away you’d expect from guys trying to look good on such a big show. Big Mike was the standout here with his power stuff. The one armed press slam in particular. Dome was not hot. Elgin has gotten much bigger reactions before and since in, well it sounds silly considering the where this show was but, smaller buildings. The Champion Lethal was solid here. This is the point of the rewatch where I remembered just how much outside interference there was until the last three matches on this show.
Star Rating: ***
IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship: Kenny Omega© vs KUSHIDA
I thought this was the best of their three matches for this title. Although the finish of the second match may have poisoned the well on that opinion. On the rewatch I really enjoyed this one. On first viewing I thought the Jr Tag had this one beat, but now I am all on board with this being the better of the two Jr title matches on this show.
Star Rating: ****1/4
IWGP Tag Team Championship: Bullet Club© vs GBH
Another meh match that is too old to get into that much. It’s a fine match. If you are doing a rewatch of the entire event you shouldn’t skip it. Honma winning his first title in New Japan is a big deal and a long time being built to. Anderson and Gallows have been working hard on their way out. It’s just that having already seen their rematch I just don’t have much energy going back to it at this point. Bottom line if you want to go back to watch Wrestle Kingdom 10 there is no reason to give this a skip. If you are just picking out random matches to watch there is no need to give this a watch.
Star Rating: ***
Special Singles Match: Hirooki Goto vs Tetsuya Naito
Going into this match this has been a fine show, but not really giving off the vibe of the biggest show of the year. From here on out that will change in a big way. This isn’t a MOTYC or anything, but it has a big match feel. From Naito’s entrance, the only really special entrance on the entire show, to Goto coming out for blood. The match is held back by some of the antics of Bushi and EVIL. The finish is really good, but not balls to the wall or anything. Two good workers having a solid match. There was just something about how the storyline, Naito mocking Goto and comparing him to Captain New Japan, and their personalities just mixed in the context of the biggest show of the year gave it the vibe I had been looking for prior to them hitting the ring. For the meat of this show this is a good opener is one way of looking at it. Things just go up and up from here.
Star Rating: ***1/4
NEVER Openweight Championship: Tomohiro Ishii© vs Katsuyori Shibata
They hit each other hard and it was awesome. THUNK.
Star Rating: ****1/2
IWGP Intercontinental Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura© vs AJ Styles
Sigh. Here we are. Actually I watched this after Tanahashi vs Okada because the whole thing is so depressing. I have watched Shinsuke Nakamura for more than a decade in NJPW. I watched him when he was a Super Nova, when he was new Inoki, when he came back as the supposed savior all jacked up looking like Scott Steiner when in reality Tanahashi had already come into his own. I remember Nakamura turning heel. I remember Nakamura going to Mexico and coming back as the Swagsuke the world came to know and love. Now he is gone.
I was never the biggest AJ Styles fan before he came to NJPW. Most of that can be chalked up to the fact I really never watched TNA. And the TNA I had watch was all pre and post Vince Russo. That Scott D’amore booking period which was short, but sans Double J really good. As with the Japanese fans who had no idea who he was he really had to win me over too. Especially since he was basically Prince Devitt’s replacement. I still miss Prince Devitt. AJ was so good in New Japan. He won the fans over during his first G1 where he was astonishing. Fought very hard not to say phenomenal right there. He became a big draw selling out Sumo Hall more than once and the Osaka Castle Hall. I mean he was right there with Tanahashi, Okada, and Shinsuke. That’s how over he got himself by being great. So this one is a double whammy of sad for me.
What I wrote there is really what I wanted most to write about in regard to this match. I think it is the best match on this show. The vast majority of opinions I have seen all go with the main event on that question, but to me these two were special on this night. Maybe it was knowing they had one foot out the door? I don’t know. Maybe they had great chemistry. Tough to know on that account since this was their first match against each other. Probably not gonna watch this one for a long time now. Being a wrestling fan has to be the weirdest hobby. It is supposed to be entertaining, but half the time it dredges up some negative emotion. Half is probably being generous on that too.
Star Rating: ****3/4
IWGP Heavyweight Championship: Kazuchika Okada(c) vs Hiroshi Tanahashi
The raging climax. Four years in the making. From Okada’s return at Wrestle Kingdom 6 he had been groomed to take over as Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling supplanting Hiroshi Tanahashi. For 7 years Hiroshi Tanahashi had been the Ace of the company restoring a business that had been left for all but dead by Inokism. These two have had five star match after five star match with each other. This is the best in ring rivalry of this century so far. All that was left was for Okada to finally put down Tanahashi on this stage. The biggest show New Japan runs. The thing with this match is you can feel the era ending. The Tanahashi era. That creates a kinda real drama to it that few things in wrestling have. The streak had it. Atlantis’ now annual mask match has it. That’s about it. Also they had the added pressure of following themselves. I mean last year’s Dome main event where they had a five star match following both their last series of match and the semi main event of the show between Shinsuke and Ibushi was just so amazing for so many reasons. I mean they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt, but it still strains credulity. Well then time to take a look.
Just want to say that even though I haven’t the slightest idea what he’s saying Jushin Thunder Liger is the best color guy in the business. A lot of reversals and callbacks early on. This match and the match Tanahashi had with Shinsuke to get this shot are both heavy with allusions to previous matches. My favorite one is Tanahashi being sent out over the barricade, and Okada coming over with a flying body attack as Tanahashi had done the year prior. The match really kicks into gear when Okada uses the Shotgun Dropkicks he used to beat Genichiro Tenryu in Tenryu’s retirement match. Tanahashi continues the tried and true method of Dragon Screwing and High Fly Flowing Okada to death. In the end he would die by that sword when he was dropkicked out of the air mid High Fly Flow. Listen, this match is great. I love the finish where the camera zooms in on Okada clutching Tanahashi’s wrist. I love the exchange of each other’s finishers. However, I gotta say their match at Wrestle Kingdom 9 is the better of the two. I’d put this one ahead of their Wrestle Kingdom 7 match. A great match to cap off their magical rivalry.
Star Rating: ****3/4
Much like last year this will probably end up being the show of the year. Efficient how New Japan can get that out of the so quick. Yet I am depressed now. May as well stay in this frame of mind. So let’s keep the tears a flowin’. Next Time: Bryan Danielson vs KENTA.